I don’t remember how old I was when I first contemplated suicide. I think I was in my early teens during a time of endless sexual abuse by trusted adults and bullying by classmates.
It seems natural that anyone in that circumstance would consider ending their life. With anxiety levels immeasurably high there was many a time when I sat hidden somewhere – in my room, or in my hiding place in the woods a few kilometers from my house – when I would dream about the solace of ending myself.
The idea of all the external pressures ending seemed so attarctive. No more abuse. No more bullying. No worries about mum and poverty and how she would end up being able to care for herself. No worries about school, about succeeding. Everything done.
Often I thought about hanging myself.
I have never attempted suicide. Fear was a large factor against that. As I grew older and formed a tight circle of loved ones including my children fear was replaced by concern. Concern for those left behind. Concerned for how it would impact them.
Still concern was not enough to stop me from thinking about it. I will be 52 years old in less than two weeks and I can honestly say that as recently as today the idea, the consideration of suicide, continues to rear its head.
In the face of stress and anxiety and uncertainty I still drift to that dark place. I do not think a year or even a month in my life has gone by when the thought of suicide and how I would do it has not gone by. This seems sad to me but in reality I often do not feel anything.
Even as I type this I know I have flipped that switch I learned flip when I was six years old and had just been beaten up by a peer surrounded by other children. That switch that turned off the emotions so it would not hurt so much. That switch that left me sitting outside of myself looking in, knowing what I should be feeling but blissfully incapable of feeling it. Adrift in a numb, cold place protected from hurt. It is like becoming an emotional leper…no longer feeling the pain of emotion but still taking the damage.
The switch flips by itself now. I no longer consciously have to do it. It just happens and I become an emotionaless man mimicking the emotions people expect you to have in certain circumstances.
There have been many times I have been thankful I do not own a gun. It would be so easy.
But there is always pain. Pain of those left behind. Pain of all that would be lost and missed. Pain, worry and regret.
What this regular contemplation has done is to make me unafraid of death. Don’t misunderstand – in my default mode I desire to live forever. That mode which is that rare moment when I am the uncorrupted version of me, the me that was always supposed to be before those thieves of innocence came and stole my most precious attributes a little at a time like vampires slowly bleeding a victim so as to make them last as long as possible.
I dislike writing these things. They are so deeply personal. So not the image of the put-together man I try to present. I want the world to see me as strong, compassionate, loving, a good father and husband, a great employee and worker, a creative writer. I want to present only these things to the world but ultimately this image is not truthful because it lacks the truth of the darker more desparate parts of me. Like the part that wants to kill himself from time to time.
A continuity throughout my life has been the need to be liked. In the midst of that need comes the deep hatred of having hurt other people. I think the two are intertwined somehow. Even the smallest hint that someone might be upset with me sends me into great paroxysms of anxiety. This makes me incredibly easy to manipulate. I am telling you my secrets and this is both freeing and frightening.
I want only for the people around me, the people connected to me, to be happy. I want to play a role in bringing that happiness. I hate the thought that I have played a role in causing others pain (and I have).
In moments of emotional crisis I become immobilized. I want to do whatever the person or people around me want me to do and so I freeze for fear of causing more pain…and this inaction almost always creates more hurt. It is a terrible vicious cycle.
Ironically I almost live for external moments of crisis and chaos. In those moments my switch flips and I go into helper mode capable of navigating external horror and later feeling good about myself.
All of these things make me incredibly difficult to know. I am very hard to enter into relationship with and even harder to sustain. I am a man with many aquaintences but few friends. A man who has been rightfully accused of receiving other people’s pain but never willing to open up and share his own.
This is true.
I can write these things down because I am at my most vulnerable, intimate and truthful when I write. The act of writing is cathartic for me. It almost as if the black of the pixels that make up these letters is a small amount of the black that lives within me that I am able to bleed out into these words. The more black out the less black in.
There are times I wonder at who I would have been if not for the landmines that have exploded around me throughout my life. I know it is a futile exercise but I do it anyhow.
Who would I be if I had grown up in a stable family with a father? What if I had not been sexually abused for all of those years? Who would I have become? A better version of who I am perhaps. Someone more capable of sustaining healthy normal relationships.
I deeply hope I sheltered my children from the worst of who I am. I hope that they are products of a better environment. Products of better people.
I am incredibly proud of each of them. They are wonderful, compassionate, smart, intelligent, independent adults. Perhaps the greatest compliment I could pay them is to say I would be proud to be like any of them. I aspire to be who they are.
I could never write this when my mum was alive. Mum worried intensly about us and blamed herself for any pain we might encounter or feel. Mum was only ever responsible for building me up though…nothing she did tore anything away from me. I will be forever in her debt for the strength of her unquestioning and ridiculous love. I miss her terribly.
So here we are and it is thoughts of my mother that flips the switch off and now I feel all the horribleness of loss that I seek desperately to protect myself from. Mum always had a way of tearing through all of my armour to get at what was really wrong. She never judged. She never condemned. I rarely encountered a more caring person who was so painfully damaged at the same time.
Mum looked into her life and committed to making sure we were protected from the world that so brutally beat her (sometimes literally). She took all the pain, consumed it, and thereby kept it from us while it consumed her. If I could be half the person she was I would have done well.
It is out now. I feel better now. I know that if not for the other, if not for the small communities of family we build around ourselves the temptation to step off the ledge would be so much stronger and easier to succumb to. I am not afraid to admit that I am not strong enough alone to save myself. I need these small pieces of my heart I have torn away and sent into the world to remind me that I am needed and loved.
It keeps me alive.