Major trigger warning on this one. I’ll be discussing suicide casually, perhaps too casually for many. You’ve been warned. And don’t commit suicide. Please don’t. Hopefully this story shows that it can be a misinterpretation of what’s happening around you. Don’t kill yourself.
I don’t remember where I first heard it; maybe it was on TV or at my doctor’s, or perhaps even my first therapist visit, but I took it seriously. The message was something to the effect of “we have totally confidentiality unless I feel that you’re a danger to yourself or others.”
The “others” part I understand. If my wife goes to see her doctor and says she’s going to murder me, I say please intervene. When it comes to myself, I can read through your state board of health mandated language: If I tell you I’m going to kill myself, you have to tell them to take me away.
Now to me, this is counterintuitive. If somebody actually is suicidal and you want them to tell you, you can’t first threaten them with involuntary hospitalization. The serious ones are going to keep their mouth shut.
I was always afraid to ask the question: “How far do suicidal thoughts have to go before they actually become dangerous?” I thought the men with the jackets would come and get me just for wondering that aloud.
I think since I was a kid I always wondered how I would kill myself if I was going to do it. Would I have the guts to hang myself or would I try something more passive like carbon monoxide poisoning? Could I slit my wrists or even in my last moments, would that pain be too much to handle and I’d just swallow a fistful of pills? It’s dark, but I figured everybody had those thoughts.
I can’t quite explain this, but when I was 19 years old, I went to Amsterdam and when I managed to pull myself away from the Red Light District, I visited the Van Gogh Museum. It instantly became my favorite museum on Earth. Something happened within me that just connected. Maybe it was that we shared red hair and a beard. Maybe it’s that we are both destined to never sell a painting while we’re alive. I can’t tell you what it was, but a feeling washed over me that told me like the great artist, my life would come to an end at my own hand at 37 years old.
This plagued me for a while. Suddenly, I was convinced I knew when I was going to die. I didn’t know how, but I knew that it was suicide. I brought up the “have you considered how you’d kill yourself?” question to a few people over the next decade and found that they have never asked themselves that question. I started to keep my mouth shut about it and never mentioned it to a health professional.
Wouldn’t you know, my personal and professional worlds started crashing not long after I turned 37 years old. I couldn’t figure a way to save my businesses or relationships with those around me. The addictions exploded. Bad memories came flooding back. It wasn’t a good scene. I was falling fast and nearly circling the drain.
On Christmas night 2013, about six weeks before I was to turn 38 on February 8, after everyone else had gone to bed, something washed over me. It was a feeling of calm warmth that I’d never felt before and it came with a message: Now is the time to kill yourself. There was no debating how to do it. No finding pen and paper to write a note. I knew it was time and it would be by hanging in my garage.
The only thought of worry was if the beam would hold me. I walked out to the garage and looked up the beam when I realized that both cars weren’t in our driveway. We’d only taken one car that day to my parents’ house for Christmas dinner. If I was going to hang myself in there, I’d have to move the car. If I did that, the garage door would need to be opened and the car moved. I’d have to then shut the garage door so nobody passing by saw me. All of that would have been too loud and woken up my wife and kids.
And then, like air shooting out of a balloon, that warm feeling left. I was cold, in the garage, in my pajamas. I knew how I got there, but I suddenly felt very removed from the out-of-body experience I just had. I didn’t want my kids to discover me and I didn’t want them to grow up feeling like they lost the DNA lottery because their dad couldn’t handle things. I left the garage and went back to the living room, scared that I was capable of having such a clear message to take my life. If that feeling is what people have before they commit suicide, I can see how it happens.
Thankfully I’ve never had that feeling again, in my last few weeks as a 37-year-old, or otherwise. Keep in mind, this was about 12 weeks before the police showed up at my door. Even during the entire legal ordeal, I never felt this way again and hope it never reappears. There was a calmness and finality to it that is scary in retrospect.
Fast-forward about two years to 2015 and I’m between the time I was arrested and sentenced, becoming mentally stronger every day, starting to understand how I became an addict, and learning how to live a life of recovery. I finally decided to share this story with my therapist because I wasn’t having any suicidal ideations, almost for the first time, in my life.
“I think you were about six weeks off predicting the end of your life,” she said.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“You turned 38 on February 8. You were arrested March 20 and let’s be honest, that life, the sick life, came to an end. I don’t think you subconsciously planned anything, but it’s interesting that nearly 20 years ago, you knew something was going to happen when you were 37. You just got the fine details of timing a little wrong,” she explained.
I liked that conclusion and have adopted it. The rush that my life was going to end didn’t mean my physical life. It meant that the illness of addiction that was enveloping me came to an end. I have pictures and plenty of memorabilia from that other guy’s life, but I’m not that other guy anymore. He died, and every day, I make sure he remains dead.