Suicide Essay #2

I often think of killing myself. There’s pills that I could swallow to slowly and painfully end it. Or I could hang myself, which is quicker and easier. I don’t own a gun because that would be way too easy. My suicidal ideation is not something I’m public about, until now. I hide it all the time. The desire for suicide can be seen as an irrational solution to a feeling of suffering. It can just be a feeling. That pit of doom stuck deep inside the chest. It’s hard to describe, especially for something that is so prevalent that it constantly hangs over like an awning of death.


There’s two ways to get rid of these thoughts. There’s the cognitive behavioral therapy approach, which can work, if you get good at it. Logically, suicide is a stupid solution. It doesn’t seem like that to your feelings, but objectively, there are almost always better alternatives to ending it all.


Then there’s the praying option. I am an atheist when it comes to the brain. I’m a believer in God when it comes to the heart. When I think about God and the afterlife philosophically I posit that it’s all make believe. Nothing divine can be proved. We’re all just cells in a complex but straightforwardly dialectical material world. But then I pray because there’s nothing else but death and nothingness facing me, and I feel in my heart the love of something that I know shouldn’t be there. God is love. Love is God. It’s so simple that it sounds stupid. We’re all just so jaded that we can’t see through the pain and hatred half the time.


The atheism creeps up on me. I find myself thinking about death so often and the logical conclusion is that there’s nothing after it. I spiral down a hole of depression and suicidal ideation and forget that I can choose to believe in something better. That grace is a choice which is the stepping stone to faith. Then I say Hail Mary’s over and over again in my head. And I feel the comfort of love coming from seemingly nowhere. Do not be afraid, a beautiful power says. And my pain starts to evaporate.


I do not want to sound like I’m evangelizing. I understand the skepticism of faith and everything that comes with it. I listen to criticism of institutions like that Catholic Church and other Christian churches and agree with many of them. The Catholic Church has many problems, pedophilia, corruption, authoritarianism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, the list goes on…. I guess I just identify as Catholic because I was raised Catholic. I don’t go to mass currently, but right after my mom died I was attending mass and it helped me feel better.


I pray and I feel better. I feel love coming from somewhere mysterious. I feel spiritual. And it can sometimes be the only thing standing in the way of me killing myself. The part of me that’s a relapsing atheist can appreciate that I guess. There are times where I am 100% an atheist and happy. Then the depression sets in and my mind spirals out of control until I need something to cling to, and I’m hanging by a fingernail, until I give up all of the arrogance and just pray. And then I feel love. And I don’t want to kill myself anymore.

Suicide Essay #1

I’ve written a few suicide notes. If we’re talking about poetry, well, then I’ve written hundreds of suicide notes. That’s a dumb poetry joke. On days that I am feeling especially depressed, the existential dread is so intense, that not even an offering of the best artisanal cup of coffee straight from the cold hands of Albert Camus himself would be able to urge me through the day, and not end it all on the edge of a noose. I have had no interest in being one of several billion Sisyphus’s, all of us pushing our rocks up hills dreadfully alone. No, I’m alive because I now choose faith in believing in something beyond dialectical materialism. That and because I’m a poet.


In reality I’ve only ever written one serious suicide note. It’s still sitting in my desk drawer to remind myself that I once mulled over jumping off the Ben Franklin Bridge for several hours. Ah yes, suicidal ideation is what the shrinks call it. The note was written on the back of a staff contact sheet for the Rutgers Camden school newspaper, of which I was the copy editor. Even though the suicide note is sitting in my desk drawer I haven’t read it since I wrote it five years ago, up until I started writing this essay. After reading the suicide note it turns out my then suicidal self convinced myself not to kill myself in the third paragraph of the suicide note. That’s good. I remember that the feeling was serious though. All because I was a rudderless, broke college student who couldn’t see that there was a future for myself. Maybe being a copy editor does that to you. That’s another dumb joke. When you’re depressed there is no future. There’s only the pain of the present. A seemingly arbitrary psychological pain that’s so intense that the only way to end it is to end all brain function. The ironic part is that the two times I actually came closest to killing myself I didn’t write notes.


There’s two occasions of what someone may call attempted suicide that stick out the most in my mind. The first was when I was in my early teenage years. This was significant because it’s when the chemical imbalance that is depression first started pounding it’s way into my mind. That sense of doom and the need to end it was fresh to me. I was depressed and alone in my small, suburban bedroom when I tied a belt tightly around my neck. I’m not sure what happened next, but I’m still alive, which is good.


The other moment was later in my teenage years, and it was much more dramatic and drawn out. I had gotten insanely high and ridiculously drunk with friends. Apparently I was found by my dad passed out on a bench by the creek down the street from our house. Still inebriated, I proceeded to run away from him several blocks to the train tracks. My dad caught up with my nineteen year old self who smoked a pack of cigarettes a day. I attacked him. Then I ran down the tracks. Later on my dad told me all of this while we were sitting in his car after he picked me up from the crisis center. An overnight stay in a Camden crisis center is kind of like the movie Jacob’s Ladder. The hospital said I was on PCP. Not sure if that’s true or not.


Ticking time bomb. That’s me. A suicide. That’s what people think of people who want to die. An inspirational quote written by a non-depressive to end the desire to end one’s own life. Ah yes, that fixed everything, thanks. Someone who thinks they’ve been depressed once because they were sad once or because something bad happened to them and they didn’t like it. That’s fine. Back to the story.


The cops dragged me out of the bushes. There was a town-wide manhunt for me. I ran down the train tracks and collapsed. They thought that I was going to jump off the trestle bridge, which wasn’t very high up, but the rocky, shallow water at the bottom may have broken my neck. Instead I only had minor scrapes as they led me to the ambulance and forced me to take a $500 ride to the hospital because I apparently told a cop that I didn’t want to live anymore. I still have a couple thousand in collections because of that escapade.


I got into writing poetry not long after that. Writing poems, regardless of the outcome, whether other people like reading them, is great therapy, even when I don’t realize that I’m doing it as a therapeutic activity. Is writing an alternative solution to killing yourself? Yes. Sometimes you’re too depressed to pick up a pen, and you think anything you write is going to suck. Force yourself to do it anyway. You don’t have to show anyone. Just write for yourself. I’m still here, many years later, writing poetry that may or may not be any good. It doesn’t matter, at least they’re not real suicide notes.