I suppose it’s been long enough for me to be comfortable with the fact that i have tried to kill myself. Not once, not even twice, but several times.
As a poor kid from a depressed Appalachian mountain town I never expected much for myself. I excelled in school and to a small degree in athletics but never saw a world that wasn’t full of back-breaking labor. So I never really applied myself even though teachers and other adults would assure me that there was a different world out there. Let me reiterate that we were poor, slightly above the poverty line but not by much.
That fact gnawed away at me as a kid and I can remember thinking about putting a gun to my head a few times, although I don’t know why. Those formative years are weird.
By the age of 13 I was delivering newspapers for cash and I have held a job ever since, with a few minor lulls here and there. Escaping my reality quickly became something that interested me. By the time I was 16 I was buying cigarettes and pot regularly, this halting any forward momentum I had left at that point.
When I graduated high school I’d be lying if I even knew why I was alive. I had no basic conception of capitalism even though I made money. I was nearly intent on letting others provide for me. Fortunately my dad was an asshole when he needed to be and I signed 6 years of my life away to the US Navy at 19. Boot camp was a breeze and actually one of my favorite times in life. I met 80 other guys from all over the country who were all there for one reason or another.
Following boot camp North of Chicago I was stationed in Charleston SC to attend the somewhat prestigious Naval Nuclear Power Training program. A grueling year of classwork that is meant to teach you everything you need to know about nuclear physics, electrical and mechanical theory, chemistry etc.
I had never had a reason to apply myself before and never learned to study so I spent nearly 65-70 hours a week in the classroom just to keep up. All the while feeling like I was missing out on plenty of things in my life. Looking back on it now though, I was only missing out on love, something that I was bound to find anyway.
Needless to say, stress levels were running high. Compound that with the looming idea of spending years in a submarine.
The next step in the training process, after I had barely made it through the school work, was to put us into a land based nuclear power plant where we were to learn how to apply our newfound knowledge. This would end up being the lowest point of my life.
It started after my second month into this portion of my training.
Simulating life on a ship was the overall goal. Suddenly I found myself being rotated on different shifts every week with different responsibilities. I can’t recall every shifts start and stop time but one of them was from 8 PM to 8 AM, we called it the mid shift, or mids. Having overslept by at least 4 hours on the first night of mids, the only time I was late up to that point, I began conjuring up all sorts of punishments for my tardiness in my head. Instead of facing the consequences I got in my car, pulled some money out of the ATM and drove away. Eventually I ended up at my parents house, an 8 hour trip. The Navy had already alerted them to my absence by the time I showed up. The CO seemed to take sympathy and I returned a few days later. I actually handled it well at the time but couldn’t keep up with the curriculum.
This was tougher than the classroom. I had no idea what the hell was going on. The further I fell behind the harder the command chain scrutinized me. Eventually they punished me, knocking me down a pay grade and putting me on the Navy’s version of academic probation, which is to basically pair me with the biggest assholes on the base. The last part I could deal with, it was the stripping of my rank that really hurt. I had worked so hard to earn E4 and be called a petty officer at the previous command that it seemed to invalidate all the suffering I put myself through up to that point.
That next day as I pulled off my badges on all my uniforms it struck me hard. I vowed to prove them wrong, but I had really become a ticking time bomb.
Days later the command found a note I had left, ironically, about being suicidal. I was literally joking about it at the time and left it out on my work books. I had no intention of cutting myself at that point. The seriousness to which my superiors treated this was alarming. They sent me to a hospital and had me evaluated. I was released very shortly after.
This experience would stick with me for days.
Soon I had ended my abstinence which had began in boot camp. I started drinking hard and became more and more depressed as a result. The first time I cut myself I’m sure I was drunk, but I can’t remember exactly. It was just experimental. Two little lines across the top of my wrists which barely bled at all.
I had actually dated two cutters in high school so the idea wasn’t super foreign to me. I’d never had any intention of doing it before this time, however.
I began actually researching how to slit your wrists and it didn’t take long for me to put one very deep slice into my left arm along the vein. It required 8 stitches to put back together and I was hospitalized in a psych ward for a week. I’m sure they call those places mental health units or something politically correct but it was a looney bin.
The Navy was aware that I no longer wanted to be in the service and they terminated my service contract while I was in the hospital. A crushing blow. I had worked hard up to that point and felt like a man ready to take on the world, but depression is a bitch.
The psych ward was actually relieving. I met some people my age who shared my struggles and we really bonded having suffered through the same things, just like my friends in boot camp and in the nuke program. They helped me find acceptance.
A few weeks later I was back home but completely lost. My father wanted to use the same technique he’d used earlier, being an asshole. I had just escaped a thousand assholes and this wasn’t helping. He insisted I find a real job in a month or I would be homeless. Almost a month later on Christmas Eve I ate 24 Vicodin that my mom had on her nightstand. I spent Christmas in the hospital and ruined that particular holiday for my family.
Eventually I figured most of it out. I was too proud, having accomplished what I did in the Navy, and set back out to establish myself as a man some other way. That eventually led me to truck driving. I held two trucking jobs over the span of a year, but was run ragged at my second job and was fired after being late 3 times in 3 months.
Once again I had failed. I returned home and cut myself again. This time though, I felt like an attention-seeking asshole and vowed to never do it again. And I haven’t.
For a time, I was on pills. They did not work for me. They made me manic. I quit taking them after I was having conversations with people and thinking that I was channeling Bob Dylan. I even talked like him. I’m sure you’d be surprised to know that I still drink quite a bit but it hasn’t affected me negatively in several years.
I had a lot of things go right for me. An extended family that cared for me and helped me. A small but effective support network of friends. One of them even let me crash on their couch for a few months after my final attempt.
I still deal with anxiety in a big big way but I don’t let it affect my life or control me. Get behind me Satan. There are times where I still think about killing myself during some of my more anxious moments but they’re silly thoughts. I have a wife who understands what I’ve been through and two dogs that I take on hikes frequently. (The hikes are like natural antidepressants.)
I still drive truck and have held down my current job for over 5 years.
I have a family to take care of and support. That is cause enough to fight back against my demons in a struggle that I know will last my entire life.
Overall though, I still have massive amounts of hope and life in front of me and goddamn it I’m going to live it out.