I Am Writing to Save My Life
Hello. Two weeks ago, I publicly announced my intention to end my life before the conclusion of the year. I started a blog here because I need to explore who I am and how I got to this point. It’s important for me to say these things out loud (or write them out loud, as it were). I have found I don’t really understand myself all that well, and this is part of my process. I intend to talk about serious things happening in my life in an honest way. I find the process of writing cathartic. This first post is both an introduction and an explanation of myself.
Depression has been a problem for me as long as I can remember. I don’t like myself. I cannot recall a time when I did and I cannot understand why anyone would. In kindergarten, I refused to wear a ribbon during Self Esteem Week because I didn’t feel like I had any. In third grade, I stabbed myself with a steak knife after a particularly harsh day of bullying. In sixth grade, I ate lunch by myself in the corner rather than attempt to interact with my peers. Feeling rudderless and hopeless, I dropped out of college twice before finally finishing eight years after I started when I used the very last of my student aid. To justify why I was around, I lied and said I was in graduate school. I wasn’t. I was a drop out. When I moved to Mississippi in 2012, I was laid off two months later and could barely leave my apartment for weeks. It didn’t matter my job loss had nothing to do with me.
I was always smarter than most of the kids around me. I knew this because I was told this constantly by adults. I learned to read way before others my age. I split time between kindergarten and second grade and there were discussions of advancing me early. This did not happen because despite my book smarts, my social-emotional development was retarded. A behavior soon emerged: If I didn’t want to do something, I wasn’t going to do it, and I was going to find something I would do. This wasn’t normal childhood defiance but my brain subconsciously opting out of something and finding something that interested in it. I didn’t refuse things as much as exclude myself. I don’t know if that makes sense, but it caused a lot of problems and it was often to my detriment. In winter, I didn’t want to wear a coat at recess, so I wouldn’t. After constant admonitions to put it on, they finally pulled me into the office one day and told me I could either wear my coat or sit here in the office. I chose to sit in the office, which got me in trouble. I wasn’t being defiant or making a point; I didn’t want to wear the coat and was given the chance not to.
I didn’t understand why I was getting in trouble for reading history books during math because I was keeping quiet and learning. Of course, I didn’t always keep quiet; I was on the GT track but I was also immensely unhappy in school, either because everything was too easy or too boring for me. I wasn’t mature enough to move up and I demonstrated that. I quickly became the kid who was isolated from the rest of the class because I was constantly disturbing others. In third grade, there was a side room referred to as my “office” because I was sent there so often. My parents’ number was on the principal’s speed dial. Teachers would warn the next grade’s teachers about me and what to expect from me.
My parents often yelled at me or had conversations with me about my behavior at school. They wanted to know why I did what I did. I couldn’t understand it, much less explain it. They didn’t believe that, which led to more yelling, accusations of only wanting the path of least resistance, of yelling. Not understanding what to do and unable to handle the stress, I often did one of two things: Laugh to relieve the pressure or black out. Laughing made me seem unserious; blacking out made me look dramatic.
I could handle neither criticism nor praise. A teacher praised me in front of the class once for getting 100% on a spelling test. I responded by crumpling the paper up and throwing it in the trash in front of everyone. I started loudly insulting myself in the middle of class. I could get by with a minimum of effort, so that’s what I gave. When things got even a little challenging, I fell apart. I barely passed my sophomore year of high school. I picked up the pieces for the second half, but I entered college emotionally unprepared and suffered accordingly. I would seek help haphazardly, but never stuck with it. The one counselor I liked left for a new job just a few weeks in. I got shuffled over to someone I really did not get along with or felt understood by. Instead of requesting a new counselor, I just stopped going.
My first few jobs, I would get reprimanded because I got bored and found something interesting to do. I finally found something that both engaged me and I could do successfully. This ultimately led me here to Houston to take a job with Playworks, where I flourished. I threw myself wholeheartedly into the job. I was happy. I was doing well. I got married. I got promoted.
I then started to struggle. My director and I had a hard time understanding each other and communicating. I worked as hard as I could, but it felt like I only heard about what I wasn’t doing well. I started forgetting things. I wasn’t able to fill out reports or answer simple questions. I couldn’t understand or accept criticism or discipline because I was demonstrably working so hard and trying so much. I was working 50–60 hour weeks. I didn’t take sick days. I didn’t take vacation. Things only got worse. My relationship with my superiors became toxic and I was ultimately fired. I thought I would be with Playworks for my career, and I found myself with nothing. I was devastated, and I could hardly leave the apartment. Hurricane Harvey hit soon after and washed away the job market. I fell further into despair but had no health insurance or way to get help.
I eventually got it together enough to find a low-stakes job. It goes OK, but I notice myself getting inordinately bothered by minor things, subconsciously ducking things. A few months after that, some people reached out to me to apply for a position with another organization. Rather than working with elementary students, I would be working with high school students. Because my resume is strong, I got the job. I walked into it with absolutely no confidence but with determination to make it work. I wasn’t trained for the position, which didn’t help. But I put in the hours and did everything I could think to do. But I found myself in my office, staring at the walls or my computer screen rather than getting things done. I knew what I needed to do. I wanted to do it. But I couldn’t make myself do it. Or I would start something and need a break or a distraction after 15 minutes (I’ve done it several times while writing this). Or the very thought of doing work would suddenly make me physically tired. People would ask me questions and my brain turned to vapor. I couldn’t come up with the answer. And I certainly couldn’t admit my problems, so sessions with my boss turned into me trying to figure out what she wanted to hear rather than the truth.
It didn’t go well. Leadership set me up to fail; I would be told I was doing things wrong but not told what they were. I pleaded to be informed but was refused. I would try different things only to be told that wasn’t what they were looking for. Panic set in. My problems became worse and I was accomplishing less and less. I tried myriad organizing techniques, but none of them worked. I was fired again this past summer and found myself where I was a few years ago, but worse. Having now been dismissed from a second organization, I concluded I wasn’t fit for the work I had dedicated myself to. If this wasn’t what I should be doing, what was? Where would my skills be useful? Who would put up with me?
Sleep has always been an issue with me. People in college probably recall my hours. I think I got away with it because I was young; I’m not as young as I used to be. Falling asleep, staying asleep, or getting up in the morning became incredibly difficult. Being on time, which I value, became rare. I couldn’t explain it. I couldn’t understand it. I was embarrassed. And I was tired all the time. But being unemployed, it got even worse. I couldn’t get out of bed before noon. When I did, I would just move to the couch and be half awake watching YouTube.
I started to feel useless. I cancelled job interviews because I was scared of failing again. Friends would ask for my resume to pass along for opportunities they knew about. I would agree and then do nothing, hoping they forgot about it. I knew how hard my wife was working, and sitting at home, barely able to get up and do the dishes, overwhelmed me with guilt. I felt like I was sinking and it got harder to dig myself out. Even things I should enjoy, like exercise or gaming, became a chore. I could barely look my wife in the eye because she would ask me about my day and I may or may not have gotten off the couch. I would promise to do a chore and not do it. I wasn’t doing things. There were things I wanted to do, things I looked forward to. When it came time to do them, I got tired. I decided to put it off for later. I haven’t fired up a videogame in months. I can’t bring myself to it.
My doctor referred me to a counselor, who took my sleep issues seriously, tying them to depression. I worked with another doctor to find medication that could get me through the night. I also started Prozac, which I was always resistant to. I never like taking substances that altar my state. In the course of psychotherapy, my counselor suggested I had undiagnosed ADHD. I was taken aback, though in conversations with others, they thought I had been diagnosed long ago. The sleep medication and Prozac were not working, so I started seeing a psychiatrist. I had a lot of trepidation; it felt like a big step that told me something was seriously wrong. The psychiatrist agreed getting me good sleep was the top priority before the depression of ADHD could be tackled. I’m on my third different drug just to put me to sleep and keep me asleep.
One visit, the psychiatrist said she diagnosed me with a personality disorder. You only ever heard about personality disorders when trying to figure out what led that dude to murder his family and throw them in the septic tank. I was completely gob struck. It came at me completely out of the blue, and I freaked out. It felt like every week, I was finding out something new was wrong with me. How deep did it go? How many disorders or problems would we find? I told my counselor and he informed me I needed a different kind of therapy than he could provide. All of a sudden, I was at the beginning again. This was all on top of physical issues; I found out last year my lungs and asthma were much more severe than I thought. We concluded the Prozac was ineffective and switched to a new antidepressant. My mood continued to darken. Instead of seeing a light at the end of the tunnel, it felt like I was going further underground.
My unemployment benefits ran out. I had no prospects and was completely unemployable. My wife talked about finding a different job that paid more money, and I felt incredible shame in her having to change her career to accommodate me and my problems. I value both being able to provide for my wife and contributing to society. I was doing neither. I wasn’t getting better. People suggested volunteering at various places, but the thought of any sort of responsibility terrified me. I could not think of what I was suited for.
One thing I could do was advocate and research for the upcoming elections. I have a zeal for justice and vulnerable people. Many like to mock “social justice warriors,” but it’s a title I like. It’s about giving everyone as level a playing field as possible and breaking down systems of oppression and exploitation. I’ve tried to make my life about helping to lift them up. I also educated myself on the science of global climate change. It became clear over the course of the campaign the stakes were both high and clear cut. I volunteered to the extent I could. And I tried to make my pitch, ignoring the vitriol, gaslighting, and anger I got in return. It seemed like, perhaps, the ship was turning around and a future we could actually be excited about was possible. Despite my problems, I knew I was a lot better off than a lot of people. I wanted nothing more for everyone to have the chance for a healthy, happy life.
Then, the rug got pulled out from under me. Everything changed on a dime. It was sudden, decisive, and strong. I felt like I got punched in the gut from someone I didn’t even see. Instead of hope, I saw a bleak future. I saw the inevitability of an uninhabitable planet, of injustice continuing to sweep humanity. And I tried to grapple with the reality that all the effort and organizing was completely for nothing, lost to another campaign that did none of that. It was the elite class asserting itself and making sure people stay in their place. It was too much, and I wanted no part of it.
So I made my intentions clear. In the past, when I’ve been suicidal, it was out of a sense of self-loathing, of hopelessness. This was different. It was logical. I wasn’t miserable, I was angry. I was guided by a seething antipathy for humanity. I wanted people to suffer. I wanted people to hurt. I hated people, and I wanted pain. Most of all, I wanted no part of this future. If this was what people wanted, they could have it.
I have to say, it felt good. Announcing my end was liberating. I was almost excited about it. I started thinking about exactly when I wanted to do it. I was pretty sure how I wanted to do it. I could think about it with certainty and clarity. I thought about being an organ donor. I always assumed I would be. But then I thought extending someone’s life would be an act of cruelty. I reflected and found that people who are good always come out behind. We get our faces rubbed in it. Those who care about themselves win. Those of us who care about others lose. It’s all the worse because you hurt for yourself and you hurt for others who you were trying to help, knowing they’re going to remain in the same situation they exist.
What was the point? Why do any of us care? I’ve always believed in God. I’ve for so long tried to follow the teachings of Jesus. Even if he wasn’t the Son of God, I reasoned, it’s still a good way to live one’s life. Low risk. But now, reckoning with the relentless evil assaulting us, it casts everything in doubt. Yes, philosophically, evil must exist because good does. Yes, Judeo-Christian theology is rooted in free will. But is this really a world left to us by an all-powerful deity? Am I to believe there is something waiting for me when I die? Why? What sense does that make? If no god exists, what are we doing here? Why do anything? What is guiding us?
Nothing. There is nothing. It’s all pointless, a waste. So I did everyone a favor by letting them know what I planned to do so it wouldn’t be a surprise. What did I do right after that? I went to see a new counselor. I don’t know why. I think it would have been rude to skip out on the appointment. People sent me messages or called. I resented all of it. People called my wife, which infuriated me.
Disdain. It was all driven by contempt. Then my wife came home. I calmly explained to her my thought process. I invited her to join me in leaving the world. She was the only one I cared about, the only one I felt anything for. There was yelling. There was crying. And then I felt nothing. Hollow, numb. I was out of emotions to feel and ways to react and my body started to shut down.
Then it was the next day, and I had to face what I had done, what I had gone through. My parents flew down. There was no plan, except (I assume), to distract me and not leave me alone. I had to apologize to my poor grandmother for scaring her. I don’t know who knows. I’m not asking, either. I couldn’t look at anyone. The numbness was still there. What could I say? What could I do? I couldn’t trust myself. And I knew nobody else trusted me. What if I really was just being dramatic, taking things to an extreme just to avoid responsibility? What would that say about me? They tried to find things for me to do that I would enjoy and I played along, but what I really wanted was to crawl into a hole. We went on a hike. I found myself getting ahead and thinking I could probably drown myself in that puddle before they caught up.
The whole thing was strange. We went around and did things, mostly for the sake of doing them, because what else was there to do? Just do something. I know decisions were made for me when I wasn’t present. We talked about it a little and thought about it the rest of the time, it hanging in the air as thick and heavy as the summer humidity.
I posted what I did on Facebook, and I told a bunch of random strangers on Twitter and Discord I intended on killing myself before the year is up. I don’t feel like I was asking for help. It was a weapon. People responded the way one might expect and I had parried it all. The stranger part is seeing people who have no idea who you are or why you look so disheveled and out of sorts. What would happen if I told them the reason?
Worthless. Pathetic. Useless. Failure. It always circles back to that. It’s the knowledge that you’re supposed to be things that you’re not. You’re not the person you thought you would or should be. You can’t live up to anyone’s expectations, especially your own. And instead of rising to the occasion, it crushes you. That knowledge makes me feel even worse, and the spiral continues. My parents left and my wife went to work, because they’re functional people, and I found myself alone. I barely got through the day. I spilled iced tea and reacted by screaming in rage, then breaking down in tears. At least it wasn’t milk?
I’m not OK. I haven’t been for a long time. I’m not capable right now of pretending I am. It really throws off people working at the store when they ask you how you’re doing and you give them the honest answer. Maybe it’s always been like this and the good times were just papering over problems. People say it’s OK to not be OK, but it’s hard to agree. I’m told it’ll get better. I’m told I’m sick and we will find a way. I’m also told I have to want to get better, which I understand. But how do I know what I want? I don’t think I’m going to get better. I don’t know what I’m going to do. I can’t deal with support. I want more than anything to be forgotten and ignored, because it’s what I deserve. I’m going to keep trying anyway, but I can’t tell you why. I can’t even promise I won’t again plan on ending my life. I don’t even know if this is bottom or if I have a ways to go. I want it to end. I want to stop feeling. Yet here I am.
One of the most daunting things for me to grapple with is the realization of how fragile I am. I am unable to cope with change or disruptions. I just fall apart rather than adapt. I always wanted to be tough, resilient. To admit I am the opposite is painful. And this process is rather strange in the sense many people are invalidating my feelings. No, you’re not worthless. No, you are doing positive things. No, you are capable. It’s almost like reverse psychology. My brain isn’t really allowing me to accept it, either.
I’m not asking for pity, I’m not asking for support, I’m not asking for anything. I wouldn’t even know what to ask for if I were so inclined. Stubbornness? Pride? Most likely, but this is who I am. As Walt Whitman wrote, “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself.” I’m not even asking you to read this, and I’d be shocked to find out anyone has made it this far. I know I wouldn’t want to follow someone’s recounting of depression and failure. But I thought it was important to write this, because if anything, I’ve always been a writer. Writing this has been hard, not because being honest about these things are difficult, but because of the things I’ve described. I keep getting up, tabbing over to another screen, going to pee when I don’t really need to. Finding the right words is incredibly difficult and chances are I’m going to think of things I forgot to add (note: I’ve done this about eight times before posting). Important things, knowing me.
I’m not asking for anything, but if you have any questions, I’ll answer them as best I can. I like doing that. I have no problem talking about this or just about anything else. If you’ve been where I have, or you’re there now, we can talk. I can’t guarantee I’ll be helpful. But I’m available. I don’t know the way forward or what progress looks like. I’m told to take it a day at a time, but that’s mightily challenging for me. I fail more often than I succeed, and I don’t know how to get off the mat. Progress have proven to be a mirage. I know something has to change, but I have no faith what will change are the right things. People want me to try, so I will. I love my wife, and that’s what keeps me going. Fair or not, I’m holding onto her. I made her a promise more than six years ago, and I intend to keep it.