It was Memorial Day Weekend, 1996.
I had just stormed out of my house after an argument with my parents. The topic of which has escaped me but I would imagine it was not as dramatic as I made it out to be back then.
I had recently been put on Prozac to combat some feelings of depression I was going through at the time and it wasn’t working.
In reality, it was making me worse.
As I recall, it was raining hard that day. I got in my car, hopped on the expressway and drove.
I didn’t know exactly where I was going, I just knew that I had to get away from my family. I had reached a point where I no longer felt I had any value to anyone. It was as if all I needed to do was erase myself from whatever life I was living and just end it all.
So, I drove faster.
I was getting more and more anxious trying to figure out how in the world I could end my life in the fastest, most painless way possible. I was already in pain (or so I told myself) and I was convincing myself that my parents would be better off without a worthless son like the one they had.
Not coming up with any foolproof conclusions, I pulled into a convenience store.
Crying, rattled, and angry, I walked into a phone booth, called 911 and told them I wanted to kill myself.
I don’t know how the police handle those calls in 2018 but back in 1996, they didn’t screw around. Several police cars pulled up to the booth within minutes and it scared the hell out of me.
I asked “Why are so many of you here?”
The officer who came to me first said, “We don’t take suicide calls lightly. For all we know, you could have had a bomb strapped to you.”
I was escorted to a local hospital and put into a room by myself while my parents were contacted with my whereabouts.
This would be my first of four hospitalizations that year. All under the threat of, or the attempt of suicide.
I couldn’t seem to get the appropriate medical help to fix whatever the hell I felt was wrong with me. I was in and out of different therapists offices, prescribed a mountain of different medications (none of which worked) and I could no longer function at college so I dropped out in the fall of that year.
I still have this faint scar on my left wrist that sits conveniently under my watch strap from a failed attempt. I am thankful it is faint but I am also thankful it’s still there.
I need that reminder.
Over the years, I have become more open and vocal about what I went through that year and what I would continue to go through with episodes of depression for a handful of years to come.
Fortunately, I found a doctor to set the record straight on what was going on with me. It was mostly that I was undergoing some circumstantial problems that I didn’t know how to cope with. Relationships (both intimate and social) would determine my value and worth in this world so if the relationships failed, my faith in myself did as well.
I’m an only child, so if I had succeeded in taking my life, it would have removed the one thing my parents brought into this world with the exception of their love for one another.
As I write this post, I am twenty years removed from my last hospitalization (five in total.) I have not been on medication for about as many years as well.
The end of 1996 marked the beginning of my very lengthy drug addiction which would carry me all the way until 2006, so while I was not on prescription medications, I did successfully self-medicate because I still had not developed coping skills to manage my emotions.
I talk about these things openly because there is much of my past that I can’t hide behind. It is my life. It is what shaped me to be the person I am today, for better or worse.
I know that many people in this world need to be on medication to stay functional. It is my hope that they are in the right hands and on the right medications. If not, please seek further help and do not stop until you get it.
On the heels of recent suicides like Kate Spade’s and Anthony Bourdain’s, I see many of my friends post the number for the suicide hotline. I guess that’s a good thing. I never called it. I never figured they could help me.
I write about my past troubles because it’s cathartic. I also write because I don’t expect my memory to get better with age and I want these words for posterity.
While I believe that many people who have suffered through similar problems as mine would benefit by having an outlet like writing (or meditating, exercising, etc.) to uncover their own demons, I also am aware that many need to keep those demons behind doors lest they reveal something that becomes a trigger for more trauma.
It took me years to understand that my perceived value in this world would be determined by me and me alone.
Coming to that conclusion was hard. It was also necessary.
In fact, I didn’t come to that conclusion until around the time I met the woman I now call my wife.
On the heels of the dissolution from my first marriage, I had a son who I loved dearly but I mistakenly put my value of self into his hands. This was a short-lived mistake.
Around the time that I met my wife Marissa, the switch had been flipped. Never again would I put my health, my well-being and my emotional stability into someone else. That’s not disservice to her. It’s to her benefit…my boys as well. I had spent too much of my life wondering why in the hell I couldn’t find happiness and solace that was worth a damn.
It turns out, it was just like the adage implies: it starts from within.
I would love to wrap this open letter of sorts up with some tidy tips for getting out of the hole you might be in. I don’t have tips. Not on this subject.
What I can say is this: if you’re at a point in your life as I was with mine, walking into the phone booth hoping for resolve, you have to keep fighting. Your battle won’t be won by opting out of life. You’ll simply be putting more of a load on the people in your life who care about you. And yes, no matter where you are and no matter who you are, someone cares about you enough to be devastated by your loss.
What I’ve found is that many of the people who feel alone in their suffering are not alone at all, they’ve just closed themselves off in isolation, choosing to suffer alone rather than ask for help.
That I had a father who refused to accept that I was broken and kept looking for better therapists when I didn’t have the wherewithall to do it myself was huge. In 1996, I saw no fewer than 5 different therapists in two different states before we stumbled on the one who worked. And even when he did “work”, I still had more issues to sort out. It wasn’t as simple as flipping a switch and voila I was healed.
It took months for that doctor to wean me off medication, it took more months of trying to establish a base level of coping mechanisms to understand that I couldn’t use bad relationships as the impetus for suicide.
Someone once claimed I was lucky I didn’t have to be on medication anymore. I say, you’re lucky even if you’re on medication if it allows you to be the best you can be around the ones you love.
But I cannot impress this one thing enough: Change took time.
These are things my wife cannot relate to. Of the many things she and I have done with our lives prior to meeting one another: our backgrounds, our struggles, my wife cannot begin to understand how someone can be so down on themselves that they just simply can’t go on. I am grateful she doesn’t have an inkling of knowledge about that.
I have a past. It’s not pretty. I had to learn about myself through it. I HAD to have an outlet. I am fortunate that these outlets have not betrayed me.
But I also have an open door here at RevFit. If you’re struggling and you need to talk to someone who’s been through shit in their life, the door is open.
The conversation is free.
“We Make Great People Greater”
P.S. And besides, if I had left this world when I wanted to, how on earth could I have ever experienced the joy and beauty of my wife and the two incredible gifts I hold in my arms below?