Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Suicide: The End of the Line

This is never an easy subject to talk about, but I have some opinions that I'm gonna make known. Many of you likely know someone or know of someone who has chosen to take their own life. Many see it as a poor soul no longer able to cope and ending the hurt. The rest of you see it as the final selfish act of an individual who thought of no one but themselves. It is to the latter of you that I make this post.

Back in high school, I remember hearing of a fellow student that had killed himself and heard a teacher say to some students who were discussing it with him, "That is the single most selfish thing he could have done!". It was then that I realized that my views differ from some...maybe even a majority. It took everything I had in me not to light into this teacher with both proverbial barrels. It's my belief that anyone who says something like that, upon learning someone took their own life, has never been through the hell it takes to even consider it. I have.

It should be noted that, according to The World Health Organization, over one million people commit suicide each year. It's one of the leading causes of death for teenagers and adults under the age of 35. There is still 10 to 20 million attempts that do not produce a fatal result every year. I found it interesting that in the Western world, males die much more often by means of suicide than do females, although females attempt suicide more often.

Granted, some deal with crisis better than others. I'll be the first to admit I'm not exactly known for my strengths of dealing with stress, hurt and more. However, I do consider myself of pretty darn sound mind. Thoughts of suicide can present themselves to people of all ages. I remember my first thought of it was around the age of 14 or so. I don't remember the situation(s) that made these thoughts arise, but they were pretty serious to me at the time, and "at that time" is what matters. When I was trying to remember that first time, it reminded me of the story of Megan Mejer. This poor girl was the victim of something that wasn't around in my days at her age; cyber-bullying. She was just 13 years old and was the target of Lori Drew. A twisted, sadistic mother of one of Megan's former friends. Ms. Drew, along with one of her employees, created a fake MySpace account and posed as a 16-year old boy named Josh Evans. Ms. Drew and others had access to this account and used it solely to gather information on Megan to use later in humiliating her. All of this occurred because Megan had supposedly spread gossip about the woman's daughter.

Megan found this boy attractive and they exchanged messages constantly. The "boy" claimed to have just moved to the area and didn't even have a phone number yet. Megan's family started seeing her spirits lifted. She suffered from depression normally, so this was likely some comfort for them. Eventually, the messages from "Josh" began to change tone. On October 15, 2006, Megan received a message that said, "I don't know if I want to be friends with you anymore because I've heard that you are not very nice to your friends". Megan replied and similar messages were sent back and forth. Megan decided to tell her mother about all of this and it caused an argument between them because of some of the vulgar language Megan had used in her replies and because she hadn't logged off when her mother had told her to. Megan then ran to her room. The last message from "Josh" was, "Everybody in O'Fallon [Megan had attended 7th grade in O'Fallon Missouri] knows how you are. You are a bad person and everybody hates you. Have a shitty rest of your life. The world would be a better place without you.
" Megan replied, "You're the kind of boy a girl would kill herself over." She was found hanging by the neck in her closet 20 minutes later. Ms. Drew has since been indicted on three counts of accessing protected computers without authorization to obtain information to inflict emotional distress, and one count of criminal conspiracy. She was found guilty on three lesser charges (reduced from felonies to misdemeanors by the jury) on November 26, 2008. The jury was deadlocked on the fourth federal charge of criminal conspiracy. The case has caused several jurisdictions to consider legislation prohibiting harassment over the Internet.

My point for including that story was not only because it touched and saddened me, but to emphasize that suicide is not confined to an age group. It knows no limits. Be it escape from sorrow, from the law, from bullies, from being a burden or a multitude of other things, it is a huge problem and both the young and old resort to it.

Now, before I continue, some of you may be saying, "Talking about suicide and attempting it is just a cry for attention or help." Well, you'd be right at least 50% of the time. However, until you've been in the mindset of wanting to end it all, you won't know which yours turns out to be...or what theirs was.

Since my first thoughts of it back when I was 14, it has come and gone many times. Some times more seriously than others. One would assume that, at a higher age, more rational thought would take over and anything resembling suicide would go by the waste side. Well, it didn't and it hasn't. In 2006, after going through a divorce, losing a home to foreclosure, going on social security disability for an anxiety disorder and coming within hours of being homeless, I gave up. Between my feelings of uselessness in society's eyes and the utter failure I felt I'd become, I could cope no longer.

I found myself lying in bed at night with absolutely nothing but the many different ways I could kill myself, running through my head. Tears flowing, some of the most horrid methods entered my mind. "I have swords! I could fashion some kind of contraption with weights to plunge them into my heart" or "Wait! I live near train tracks! Quick! Painless! That's it!" Some hours later, I fell asleep. I awoke remarkably calm and quite literally resigned to the fact that I was going to die that day. I lived with my (twin) brother at that time and I had become so outwardly depressed that each and every time I left the house, he tried his best to prepare himself for the fact I may not be coming back. Yes, he had tried and tried to change my ways of thinking every time this kind of thing came up, but he knew he couldn't stop me short of calling the police or tying me down. By trying to put myself in his shoes, I assume he didn't call the police because of how it may make things worse for me...if not only emotionally.

Anyway, later that day, the tears started flowing again and I finally rose up and walked out the door. There were train tracks not 100 yards away from the house that we rented. Wiping my eyes enough to see where I was going, I headed that way. In no time, I was there. I walked along the side of the tracks just waiting for that fateful sound. A few minutes later, I heard it. As the train's horn grew louder and louder, I cried harder and harder. I knew I was about to make my own twin brother's life a living hell. I hoped he wouldn't find me, that some stranger would. I couldn't figure out who to care most about....them or me. It was then that the train was now there. I made one step toward it then froze, dropped and bawled harder than I ever had. I was now crying harder because, 1) "Why do I always have to care so fucking much about everyone else?!?" 2) "I'm so lame I don't even have the balls to do this!" and many other reasons. I had already felt like a failure in life and now failed at having the courage to end it.

I went to the small park very nearby, sat at a picnic table, laid my head down and cried myself to sleep. I don't know how long I slept and it's irrelevant. When I awoke, I headed home all cried out. Somber, but sans tears, I slowly walked home. I don't remember much else about that day but a few days later, I found myself depressed yet again but, surprising even myself, not crying. I was hurting just as bad, but not a tear fell. Again, the thoughts entered my mind. "You obviously don't have the courage for something so messy, so what now?" I asked myself. I was surprised at how calm I was while thinking of such a serious thing. I believe it was because I had again resigned myself to the fact that I was going to die. I didn't know right when or the exact method, but knew it would be by my own hand. After a considerably short time thinking about it, I decided I was going to strangle myself. I took the long, strong, laces out of my boots from my Army days, laid on the bed, got comfortable and lay there. My eyes open but not looking at anything specific. I don't even remember what was going through my head at that exact moment, but I assume I was trying to come to grips with what I was about to do.

As I lay there, I found myself twisting the two laces together as I stared off into space. I remember letting out a heavy sigh, lifting my head slightly, wrapping the laces around my neck then through themselves, laying my head back down, swallowing and then pulling the laces tight. The bedroom light was on and the door was closed. The fan was the only sound in the room now. As each moment passed, I would consciously pull the laces even tighter. I remember thinking, "I never realized these laces were so long." They were partially wrapped around my hands and once around my neck. My arms were laying to my sides on the bed. Each time I got the nerve, I'd pull them tighter.

I, after what seemed like 5 minutes, but more likely one, started to notice the changes happening to me. My face felt extremely tight and flush...much like when you're upside down, but multiplied a few times. My vision started to fade in and out and I remember thinking, "Wow! I'm actually doing this! I'm actually going to die soon!" As my vision darkened more and more, I took note of how the sound of the fan in the room was changing. It was now silencing and loudening in rhythm with my now-slowing heartbeat. Silent, loud...silent...loud....... ......silent...................... ...loud. "I'm actually dying!" I remember thinking again. The sounds changing and my vision fading, I told myself that this was taking too long. I regripped the ends of the laces and prepared to pull as tight as my strength could muster. As I did, the laces shot out of my left hand. I quickly pulled back on them again, half sad and half angry at the thought of having to "start this whole process over". I never did get the laces as tight as I had the first time and eventually started to cry, released them, turned onto my side and cried myself to sleep.

The next day, I remember my brother and I were looking for something to eat in the kitchen and I muttered, "I tried". Not hearing me, he said, "Hmmm?" A little louder, I said, "I tried last night". He said, "Tried wha...", turned around and saw my face and knew exactly what I was referring to. He hugged me. I had tears in my eyes but wasn't crying per se. I don't remember much else about that day but do remember that night I was watching TV and was alone in the house. My brother, I assumed, was out in the garage doing his woodworking hobby. Then there came a knock at the door. It was an odd knock. It didn't sound like knuckles, it sounded like a flashli.... "No. No way!" I thought. I opened the door and there stood three police officers. In a very calm and reassuring manner, one officer said, "Are you Cliff?" I said I was. "Cliff, I understand you're not doing too well, buddy. What's goin' on with you?" he asked. I don't remember how I answered, if at all. After a short pause he asked me to step outside. It was then that I saw my brother. He, my sister and her husband and kids were standing at the street in the background. The officer asked me to turn around, spread my feet and interlace my fingers behind my head. "I just need to make sure you don't have anything that you can hurt yourself with, okay Cliff?" In just above a whisper, I replied, "Yeah". I had a pocket knife and some nail clippers that they took from me and then let go and asked me some more questions.

I don't remember his or my own words after that, but I do remember that some sort of "victim counselor" came out and talked for a short bit but, because it had been more than so-and-so hours, he couldn't force me to go anywhere. Eventually, law enforcement left. They had given my knife and nail clippers to my brother. Then me, my brother, sister, brother-in-law, niece and nephew, went into the house. I don't remember much about that either except my niece hugging me with tears in her eyes and, at some point, me going to get the laces and handing them to my brother-in-law. The rest is kind of a blur.

Since then, I have thought of suicide again, but not as seriously. Seriously, but not as imminent. I guess you could say I've wanted to die many times since then but haven't attempted it. I've done a lot of crying over these years since then and have made myself physically ill at times from it. I have come to know some very special people in that time and one of them, I actually talked out of suicide. Ironic, huh? Her friendship and mine is impenetrable and will hopefully last forever. I'm on medication for depression now but it only does so well being that much of my depression is situational rather than chemical. The medication takes the edge off of it, I guess you could say.

As per usual, my post is long-winded and seemingly never ending. I do that when pouring my heart out. Therapeutic? I don't know. Informative? I can only hope so. My point for writing this was to open the eyes of some and simply explain to others. Please know that suicide can be a very, very deep hurt that all rational thought loses out to. If a loved one of yours took their own life, please don't see them as selfish. See them as at wits end and knowing how very hard it is to deal with the "Who's gonna find me?", the "How will this affect so-and-so" makes it all that much harder and if they still went through with it, I can assure you it was no easy undertaking.

I admire any of you who have ever let it run through your mind and pushed it out. Please just remember, people deal with crisis in different ways and some are stronger than others. Please don't harp on what they did to you or other loved ones but see and remember the good times you and they had together. They would want that. More than anything, at that time, they would want nothing more.

Until next time...

I have implemented a new commenting system. Sadly, in doing so, I inadvertently lost all comments made prior to December 28, 2011. My deepest apologies to those this adversely affected. If it's any consolation, it makes my blog here look pretty darn unvisited over the years.
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