The Lives of the Dead

Some of the most interesting people I meet are dead…

Archive for the category “suicide”

The Choice of No Choice

first published 7/29/15

 

drought-cow

Ka

When you’re poor you do not have a lot of choices. The poorer you are, the fewer choices you have. We were so poor, I had only one choice.

I had seven to care for…my wife, my five children and myself. I had no work. The soil was so barren, nothing grew. We were starving to death.  We had already lost two little ones, but we didn’t have the luxury of mourning. Poor people living in such dire conditions know better than to become too attached to infants until it’s clear they have the strength and will of spirit to survive. Life for us was difficult and precarious. Chances of living to an age of self-sufficiency were not high.  This is not to say we did not do our best for our children, but we were philosophical when they did not survive. So many died young. That was just the way of life.

Of course, as they got older, as their personalities developed, they became more precious to us. My oldest daughter was 14, born during better times, when we had some hope. She was quite lovely and graceful, a very sweet child.  She was strong and smart. To look at her made me happy and proud, and yet sad and ashamed that she had been born to me — I who could do nothing for her. I wished I could have offered her more.

One day, I was approached by a man from the city who offered to give me money for her. He promised to take her to a place where she could have a better life – lots of food to eat, pretty clothes. My wife wanted to do it. She knew the promises were hollow but she would have sacrificed her for the benefit of the rest of us.   But I was not naïve. I had heard about what they did to the girls from the small, poor villages. Stories came back, in bits and pieces. They were horrific. I  had heard of the kinds of things they made the girls do. I knew the kind of lives they were forced into. It was said these girls were usually dead of drugs or beatings or suicide in just a few years.

I couldn’t do it. I could not sell my daughter like a goat, to be slaughtered. I could not condemn her to a life – such that it was — of slavery and abuse. It was not her fault she was born to such a useless father.   As desperate as I was, I knew it was immoral to sell my child. I could not bear the guilt, even if it meant saving my other children, at least for a while.

So, I did what I had to do. This was discussed with my wife who finally agreed that my plan was the only way.

I knew of some plants that would put us all to sleep so we would never awaken. We fed them first to the youngest, then the older ones, then my wife and I took ours.

There was no pain and at least we died together, in our own hut, as a family. It was more loving and peaceful and compassionate than watching each other die, one by one, from disease and starvation, counting the days until finally Death came for us, too.

————–

If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey!

 

Never-ending Tears

first published June 29, 2014

pool-of-tearsTan

Once the crying started, I couldn’t get it to stop. I’d held it together for months, confident I would be OK in the end; biding my time until the nagging pain stopped nibbling at my soul; waiting until the day came when I could forget about everything I’d lost. And then one day, after a series of small disappointments that wore down my resistance, I succumbed to self-pity. Wave after wave of tears washed over me.

I thought I would cry it out; purge myself of the last of it; begin anew, all fresh and clean. But the tears kept coming. I cried until my eyes were swollen shut. I cried and stopped eating.   I cried and didn’t bathe or dress myself. I cried and didn’t communicate with anyone. I cried and withdrew from the world. I cried and relinquished all responsibility. I cried in lieu of sleep, and then I slept in lieu of crying. I had nothing left inside for anything or anyone else. The tears flooded through me like a tsunami, washing everything away and leaving only destruction in its wake.

I stayed like that for a long time, steeped in that ineffable sadness, wondering obliquely if and when I would ever turn the corner, if I would ever see the sun again. But it seemed this path of desolation never ended. It just led me deeper and lower into a dark and lonely place from which there would be no redemption.

I didn’t even have the motivation to kill myself, at least not in a purposeful way. That would have taken too much thought and planning. I was barely functional. But I was already weak. All the humanity had drained out of me. I didn’t care about anything, including whether I lived or died.

Finally, I got up, left the house, went for a walk and simply stepped into traffic. It was quick.

I’m sorry I did that to that poor driver! Even though it wasn’t his fault, he never did (and probably never will) get over it. At least not during this lifetime. It was selfish of me, I know now, and I will have to pay for that; but at the time I wasn’t thinking of others. I wasn’t even thinking of myself.

I don’t know how I could have done it differently. I was just too weak in the face of my anguish.

 

 

Note:

Normally, I’m not a moody person. Emotionally, I’m quite even-keeled.   I am finding, however, that I am tending to internalize the emotions of the narrators or of narrators about to come.   The question is: Am I channeling their emotions first, thus priming me for their story? Or, am I only feeling my own emotion and thus writing from my own psyche?   Or,  are my own naturally-occurring emotions just an entry-point for the narrators?  (i.e. since I’m already feeling those feelings,  I am more able to interpret theirs.)  Again, I don’t know.  Reasonable arguments could be made for all these possibilities.

Today, before writing this one, and apropos of nothing, I couldn’t stop crying.  Things which haven’t bothered me for  a long time suddenly bubbled up and left me feeling emotionally fragile.   Then I wrote it down and it was all over.  Back to my normal stable emotional state.

I do know enough from my reading on the subject of psychic channeling however,  one must learn to let negative emotions  flow through without holding on to them.   Apparently, (according to the literature) holding on to them can be a danger.   I guess I should ritually “shake out” the bad vibes, just in case.  I hate to get all  “woo-woo” but maybe I ought to burn some sage?

____

If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey!

 

The Engine of Progress

New!

hill-steam-engine-patent-drawing-from-1883-vintage-aged-pixel

Ipo

We want every moment that which we do not have… a thing, an experience, a feeling. This need propels our lives forward. It is the engine of growth and progress. Yet it prevents us from the peace of being content in the present.

____

If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey!

 

The Veteran

Originally posted May 3, 2014
http://www.stripes.com/news/latest-va-estimate-of-veteran-suicides-comes-from-limited-data-1.206614

image:  stripes.com

Matt (I have an impression of a big, buff guy)

I knew it was going to be over soon when I started getting the night terrors. Everything spooked me…every creak of a floorboard; a branch blowing against a window. When a plane flew low over the neighborhood, I’d start shaking and sometimes couldn’t stop for hours.

During the day, I went to the Center, where there were other guys like me. We joked around, played cards, told jokes. Smoked a lot of cigarettes. We held it together in front of the others with the one gram of pride we had left. But when I went home alone to my small room over an old lady’s garage, that’s when the fear started to come back. Too jumpy to sit still, sometimes I’d work out until I dropped from exhaustion.

In the beginning, with a little luck and a pill, I could sleep through the night. Towards the end, nothing helped me stay asleep. Through it all, I was terrorized by memories of the things I’d seen and the things I’d done.

I always had more questions for myself, but no matter how many I asked and answered, I never came to a satisfactory enough conclusion that allowed me to resolve things and make peace with myself. My thoughts were haunted by a million “what ifs”, all of them unalterably in the past.

Regret, guilt and terror. These were all I was capable of feeling.  When I first returned,  I thought my emotions would eventually normalize and I’d go back to the way I used to be. But I was permanently damaged. Eventually I came to understand that some things change us so cataclysmically that the core is literally ripped from our soul. Reunification comes only with death.

This dawned upon me slowly. For a long time, I was in denial. I told myself I would get better — I’d just have to work harder. Ultimately, though, I recognized there would never be healing for me. This was my only option. Eventually, I would have to do it.

I walked around like an oozing sore, pustulating with malignancy and anger, infecting those around me. I was angry that killing myself was my only choice. I was angry that at 24, it had come to this. I should have had a long, happy life ahead of me; a wife and kids. Instead, I was just a husk of a human being. Killing myself wasn’t really going to destroy anything that wasn’t already completely destroyed.

After I realized that this would be my inevitable end, I still managed to hang on for nearly another year. In that time, I turned over every rock in my soul,   looking for progress, looking for a reason to hope. Under everything there was nothing but dust.

There are those who say suicide is the coward’s way out, but that one act took more courage than anything I’d ever done before in my life.

I thought about it seriously for a few weeks, wondering how I would go about it. I didn’t want to leave a mess upstairs for the old lady. She’d been nice to me. It didn’t want her to be traumatized by finding my body. I didn’t want anyone to have to find my body or clean up after me. I just wanted to be gone, quickly, quietly, painlessly and with the least amount of fuss.

One night, I packed up my things in a bag, left out whatever money I had on the bed for the landlady to find, and walked out to a place I knew would work. I threw the bag off the bridge first, then followed it into the dark icy water below.  Nobody saw me fall. The current was swift. I was out to sea before anyone missed me.

I didn’t leave a note. No one would bother to look for me. They’d all assume I’d just left town.  If anyone did eventually figure out what happened, they would know the reason why.

 

____

If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey!

The Measure of a Man

New!michelangelo_david

Ke

I was the youngest of four brothers. My father had been a great athlete in his youth and he expected all of us to travel the same path. From the time we were old enough to walk, we were encouraged to run and swim and climb and throw and fight and do all the things that strong, powerful, masculine men do.  There was no sympathy or indulgence of weakness of any kind.

We were raised to carry on his legend by becoming  the kind of men other men admired. As children,  we were expected to be braver, smarter, and more well liked than other boys. It was impressed upon us from the time we were very young we must never do anything to tarnish our family name or reputation. There must never be even a whiff of controversy or disagreeability about us. We were raised to be kind to those weaker than ourselves. We defended injustice when we saw it.  We were helpful to those in need.  We were generally peaceful but strong and able enough to win a fight should someone else throw the first punch. We were raised to be real men, good men, admirable men.

I never doubted that my father’s values were well-placed. His moral compass was infallible.  I understood his reasoning in everything.  I lived to make him proud of me. And he was proud of me.  I was handsome, popular, smart, a champion athlete. I didn’t have to be coerced to adopt his values.  I did not stay the course merely to please my father.  It was obvious to me that this was the right and proper way to be.  I felt fortunate to have his guidance knowing that others floundered with no beacon to light the way.

When I was about 13 or 14, an uncomfortable stirring began to nag at the back of my mind.  Other boys my age were thinking about girls.  In fact, that’s all they thought about.  I kept waiting for that same fascination to arise in me. I expected to wake up one morning and find myself as lust-driven as my classmates.  I worried that I did not share this irresistible biological urge.  I told myself I was just a late bloomer.  Or maybe my glands were afflicted in some way and not producing enough hormones.  Perhaps I needed to eat more masculine foods. (I began a diet heavy in red meat, certain that would solve the problem.)

Meanwhile, I kept a low profile. It was not in my nature to lie, so instead I was reticent and shy. I didn’t want anyone to examine me too closely, to ask too many questions. My athletic skills were valuable to the various teams I played on, but I rarely socialized with the boys outside of practice.

When I was 17, I started dating a girl in my class.  This was done for the sake of appearances; to stave off the inevitable questions.   I did not want to have to explain why I didn’t have a girlfriend.  The answer was too complex and I didn’t even understand it, myself.   The girl was also shy and from a religious family.   Our relationship was respectful and chaste, which was ideal as neither of us were interested in anything sexual, each for our own reasons.

When my friends started bragging about their conquests, I held my tongue. Even if I had been having sex, I still would not have shared my exploits. Such behavior was unseemly. They grudgingly admired me because I didn’t kiss and tell.

Eventually, I went off to university, far from home, away from the inquisitive eyes of anyone who had any preconceived notions about me, where I could start again with no preconceived notions about myself.

I had long harbored suspicions about myself, and they haunted me.  Such thoughts were terrifying and when my mind alighted upon them, I quickly changed the mental subject.   Eventually, however,  the feelings, the desires, the need,  were too big to deny.  They screamed and barked and howled.  They would not stop, would not be silenced.  They could no longer be ignored.

Here was my dilemma: if I could not face the truth about myself, I was a coward, and that I could not abide.  But if my suspicions were correct, my life was a ruin.

But the truth could no longer be denied, and so it was there that I discovered what I was.

This knowledge ripped my sense of self right out from under me. It went against everything I’d ever believed I was, everything I’d spent my life preparing to be.   I’d become that thing that brings shame on the family; that thing that can never be accepted; that thing that made a mockery of my father’s fine lessons in manhood.

I could not be my true self and remain part of my own family.  They would never accept me as now knew I was.  And now that I knew, I could not pretend to them to be otherwise. By deceit,  I already put myself apart from them,  even if they didn’t know.

And so, I was cast adrift with no moral anchor. What did it matter if I was brave and strong and true? I was still a mockery of a man.

But then, who could I be? I needed a new identity, a new way of being, a new skin.  I tried on many, but nothing felt comfortable. No matter who I tried to be, it all felt like a costume, a pretense, a role that wasn’t at all natural.  I had been taught to be a certain kind of man, and now all those lessons were moot.  What was left?  Who was I?  What was I?  I spent several wasted years adrift, searching but not finding the answers. I did things that, had they known, would have disgraced my family.  I was not always honest nor brave nor true.  Even crying filled me with shame.

I couldn’t be myself anymore and I couldn’t be anyone else, either.  I was nothing.  Nobody.  Nothing about me was true or real. There was no reason for me to exist.

And so, at 24, I hanged myself.  I did not leave a note. I did not reveal my secret. The act of suicide, itself, I knew, would be shameful enough.

The pain was ultimately intolerable but from this side I can appreciate the understanding that has followed from it. This loss of identity, the complete denial of ego, and the accompanying torment provided the most valuable lessons I have ever been shown in any lifetime.

There needs to be a balance between feeling the importance of the self and realizing how unimportant we really are.

 —

If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  Think of others who might enjoy it too,  and help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have just started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey! 

A Catalyst for Change

NEW!

power-to-the-people

Dra

I wasn’t happy to die so young but my death was a catalyst for big changes in social and political strata. I believed in the cause, certainly. I worked towards change.  But while alive, I was a mere cog in the machine, no more useful than anyone else. My voice was not heard above the others; my actions alone brought no more attention to our goals.

But my death!

It was not my intention to be a martyr. I was not that brave. But I also knew that there was not much future for me in the status quo.

When my death was imminent, I welcomed it, knowing it would amplify my voice, give it power which had been lost in the cries and shouts of the movement. I was no longer a cog. My death became evidence of all I’d worked to change. I was more useful as a sacrifice.

—-

Thank you for visiting.  If you enjoyed this post, please follow the blog and/or sign up to receive email posts. New posts every three days, and they are getting more and more interesting. I promise! Comments are welcome here or at https://www.facebook.com/livesofthedead.   If you know anyone who would enjoy or relate to this,  please forward and/or share on Facebook or Twitter.  Thanks!

 

Robin…Was That You?

first published November 2, 2014

Robin_Williams-3

 

Last night I had a very vivid dream about Robin Williams.  In the past, I would have simply assumed it was merely a dream but these days, I’m not so sure.  I figured I’d let the readers decide:

He came into a dream version of my apartment.  I met him near the door.   He immediately let me know he had one line of coke left and that was it…forever.   Then he graciously offered it to me.  I debated seriously whether to take it or not. I’ve never been  a fan of the stuff. I’d done a few lines here and there, back in the 80’s when it was all the rage, if it was offered to me at a party, but it was never my thing. I never sought it out or bought it for myself. I haven’t even seen the stuff in decades.

I looked at Robin and realized that if HE did that line, it would destroy him. It would likely re-trigger his addiction and take him down a dark path. If I did it, however,  it would likely be a pleasant but ultimately insignificant experience for me.  So, I accepted it as graciously as he’d offered it in order to save him (although in the dream, I never actually did the line.)

He was very hyper anyway,  and was walking around my apartment,  scoping out the place.  He started to look through the CDs in the shelves and drawers under the stereo.   Now, most of our CDs are in a 400 disc changer,  so any albums NOT in the stereo are the rejects.    He somehow made himself very small and crawled deep into the cabinet.  He kept calling out names of CDs and chastising me for my bad taste in music. I kept trying to explain that yes,  those albums ARE awful.  That’s why they’re not in the player!

Finally, he crawls out, still  bitching about my music but now he is naked.  He is NOT an attractive naked guy. He’s kind of barrel-chested and very hairy.  I give him a towel to wrap around himself, but he doesn’t seem interested in covering up.

“Ya got any Pat Boone?” he asks.  “The early stuff.  I just discovered it and I’m really into it.”  (And HE has the nerve to comment on MY musical taste!?)  I do not, but I’m wondering if perhaps I should have a listen. Who knows, maybe I missed something good.

Meanwhile,  Robin is running around my apartment completely naked,   checking out everything (and in my real apartment there is quite a lot to check out!) He’s opening doors and going into all the rooms; poking through drawers and closets.

Finally, he goes over to a door which opens into my neighbors’ apartment (like in adjoining hotel rooms. But this is a dream door, only.)  I try to stop him.  I doubt my neighbors would be happy to find a hairy, naked guy in their living room… but he plows ahead, unstoppable.

Now we are in the living room of a real life couple friend of mine (who are NOT my neighbors.) They are initially taken aback,  but I introduce him and they seem OK with having him there.

The end.

***

What does it mean?  Did he visit me within my dream or was it all a just a function of my sleeping synapses?  I have no idea.

Anyone know if he was into Pat Boone before he died? 😀

________

More on dreams, next time…

The Choice of No Choice

first published 7/29/15

drought-cow

 

Ka

When you’re poor you do not have a lot of choices. The poorer you are, the fewer choices you have. We were so poor, I had only one choice.

I had seven to care for…my wife, my five children and myself. I had no work. The soil was so barren, nothing grew. We were starving to death.  We had already lost two little ones, but we didn’t have the luxury of mourning. Poor people living in such dire conditions know better than to become too attached to infants until it’s clear they have the strength and will of spirit to survive. Life for us was difficult and precarious. Chances of living to an age of self-sufficiency were not high.  This is not to say we did not do our best for our children, but we were philosophical when they did not survive. So many died young. That was just the way of life.

Of course, as they got older, as their personalities developed, they became more precious to us. My oldest daughter was 14, born during better times, when we had some hope. She was quite lovely and graceful, a very sweet child.  She was strong and smart. To look at her made me happy and proud, and yet sad and ashamed that she had been born to me — I who could do nothing for her. I wished I could have offered her more.

One day, I was approached by a man from the city who offered to give me money for her. He promised to take her to a place where she could have a better life – lots of food to eat, pretty clothes. My wife wanted to do it. She knew the promises were hollow but she would have sacrificed her for the benefit of the rest of us.   But I was not naïve. I had heard about what they did to the girls from the small, poor villages. Stories came back, in bits and pieces. They were horrific. I  had heard of the kinds of things they made the girls do. I knew the kind of lives they were forced into. It was said these girls were usually dead of drugs or beatings or suicide in just a few years.

I couldn’t do it. I could not sell my daughter like a goat, to be slaughtered. I could not condemn her to a life – such that it was — of slavery and abuse. It was not her fault she was born to such a useless father.   As desperate as I was, I knew it was immoral to sell my child. I could not bear the guilt, even if it meant saving my other children, at least for a while.

So, I did what I had to do. This was discussed with my wife who finally agreed that my plan was the only way.

I knew of some plants that would put us all to sleep so we would never awaken. We fed them first to the youngest, then the older ones, then my wife and I took ours.

There was no pain and at least we died together, in our own hut, as a family. It was more loving and peaceful and compassionate than watching each other die, one by one, from disease and starvation, counting the days until finally Death came for us, too.

————–

If you enjoyed this post, please follow the blog and/or sign up to receive email posts. New posts every three days, and they are getting more and more interesting. I promise! Comments are welcome here or at https://www.facebook.com/livesofthedead

Never-ending Tears

 

 

first published June 29, 2014

pool-of-tearsTan

Once the crying started, I couldn’t get it to stop. I’d held it together for months, confident I would be OK in the end; biding my time until the nagging pain stopped nibbling at my soul; waiting until the day came when I could forget about everything I’d lost. And then one day, after a series of small disappointments that wore down my resistance, I succumbed to self-pity. Wave after wave of tears washed over me.

I thought I would cry it out; purge myself of the last of it; begin anew, all fresh and clean. But the tears kept coming. I cried until my eyes were swollen shut. I cried and stopped eating.   I cried and didn’t bathe or dress myself. I cried and didn’t communicate with anyone. I cried and withdrew from the world. I cried and relinquished all responsibility. I cried in lieu of sleep, and then I slept in lieu of crying. I had nothing left inside for anything or anyone else. The tears flooded through me like a tsunami, washing everything away and leaving only destruction in its wake.

I stayed like that for a long time, steeped in that ineffable sadness, wondering obliquely if and when I would ever turn the corner, if I would ever see the sun again. But it seemed this path of desolation never ended. It just led me deeper and lower into a dark and lonely place from which there would be no redemption.

I didn’t even have the motivation to kill myself, at least not in a purposeful way. That would have taken too much thought and planning. I was barely functional. But I was already weak. All the humanity had drained out of me. I didn’t care about anything, including whether I lived or died.

Finally, I got up, left the house, went for a walk and simply stepped into traffic. It was quick.

I’m sorry I did that to that poor driver! Even though it wasn’t his fault, he never did (and probably never will) get over it. At least not during this lifetime. It was selfish of me, I know now, and I will have to pay for that; but at the time I wasn’t thinking of others. I wasn’t even thinking of myself.

I don’t know how I could have done it differently. I was just too weak in the face of my anguish.

 

 

Note:

Normally, I’m not a moody person. Emotionally, I’m quite even-keeled.   I am finding, however, that I am tending to internalize the emotions of the narrators or of narrators about to come.   The question is: Am I channeling their emotions first, thus priming me for their story? Or, am I only feeling my own emotion and thus writing from my own psyche?   Or,  are my own naturally-occurring emotions just an entry-point for the narrators?  (i.e. since I’m already feeling those feelings,  I am more able to interpret theirs.)  Again, I don’t know.  Reasonable arguments could be made for all these possibilities.

Today, before writing this one, and apropos of nothing, I couldn’t stop crying.  Things which haven’t bothered me for  a long time suddenly bubbled up and left me feeling emotionally fragile.   Then I wrote it down and it was all over.  Back to my normal stable emotional state.

I do know enough from my reading on the subject of psychic channeling however,  one must learn to let negative emotions  flow through without holding on to them.   Apparently, (according to the literature) holding on to them can be a danger.   I guess I should ritually “shake out” the bad vibes, just in case.  I hate to get all  “woo-woo” but maybe I ought to burn some sage?

 

The Veteran

Originally posted May 3, 2014
http://www.stripes.com/news/latest-va-estimate-of-veteran-suicides-comes-from-limited-data-1.206614

image:  stripes.com

Matt (I have an impression of a big, buff guy)

I knew it was going to be over soon when I started getting the night terrors. Everything spooked me…every creak of a floorboard; a branch blowing against a window. When a plane flew low over the neighborhood, I’d start shaking and sometimes couldn’t stop for hours.

During the day, I went to the Center, where there were other guys like me. We joked around, played cards, told jokes. Smoked a lot of cigarettes. We held it together in front of the others with the one gram of pride we had left. But when I went home alone to my small room over an old lady’s garage, that’s when the fear started to come back. Too jumpy to sit still, sometimes I’d work out until I dropped from exhaustion.

In the beginning, with a little luck and a pill, I could sleep through the night. Towards the end, nothing helped me stay asleep. Through it all, I was terrorized by memories of the things I’d seen and the things I’d done.

I always had more questions for myself, but no matter how many I asked and answered, I never came to a satisfactory enough conclusion that allowed me to resolve things and make peace with myself. My thoughts were haunted by a million “what ifs”, all of them unalterably in the past.

Regret, guilt and terror. These were all I was capable of feeling.  When I first returned,  I thought my emotions would eventually normalize and I’d go back to the way I used to be. But I was permanently damaged. Eventually I came to understand that some things change us so cataclysmically that the core is literally ripped from our soul. Reunification comes only with death.

This dawned upon me slowly. For a long time, I was in denial. I told myself I would get better — I’d just have to work harder. Ultimately, though, I recognized there would never be healing for me. This was my only option. Eventually, I would have to do it.

I walked around like an oozing sore, pustulating with malignancy and anger, infecting those around me. I was angry that killing myself was my only choice. I was angry that at 24, it had come to this. I should have had a long, happy life ahead of me; a wife and kids. Instead, I was just a husk of a human being. Killing myself wasn’t really going to destroy anything that wasn’t already completely destroyed.

After I realized that this would be my inevitable end, I still managed to hang on for nearly another year. In that time, I turned over every rock in my soul,   looking for progress, looking for a reason to hope. Under everything there was nothing but dust.

There are those who say suicide is the coward’s way out, but that one act took more courage than anything I’d ever done before in my life.

I thought about it seriously for a few weeks, wondering how I would go about it. I didn’t want to leave a mess upstairs for the old lady. She’d been nice to me. It didn’t want her to be traumatized by finding my body. I didn’t want anyone to have to find my body or clean up after me. I just wanted to be gone, quickly, quietly, painlessly and with the least amount of fuss.

One night, I packed up my things in a bag, left out whatever money I had on the bed for the landlady to find, and walked out to a place I knew would work. I threw the bag off the bridge first, then followed it into the dark icy water below.  Nobody saw me fall. The current was swift. I was out to sea before anyone missed me.

I didn’t leave a note. No one would bother to look for me. They’d all assume I’d just left town.  If anyone did eventually figure out what happened, they would know the reason why.

 

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