Non Fiction

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.

7 replies on “Suicide Essay #1”

Hi Sean, nice to hear from you. I have 100 Haiku, broad street line and the city of your mind. I was happy to see that you started posting some poems again. :-)

Sorry for the delayed response. I always appreciate hearing from you. There never seems to be a solution to the pain of depression at the time. You just got to wait it out. It’s hard to describe to people. It’s just a feeling, but it’s an overwhelming feeling. I love hearing what you have to say about creativity. I remember you have a copy of one of my books, but I’m not sure which one. If you don’t have a copy of 100 Haiku I’d like to send one to you. Let me know.

…Wo aber Gefahr ist, wächst
Das Rettende auch…

(line 3 and 4 of Hölderlin’s “Patmos”).

But where there is danger, emerges
salvation too

(I am unfortunately incapable of capturing the beauty of Hölderlin in English).

This is great Sean. I always found it hard to distinguish between real suicidal thoughts and the “I’m sad, life sucks, kill me now” thoughts. But I’ve come to find that when I start thinking, like REALLY thinking existentially, I get lost, but it’s something different. Its beyond sadness. Beyond human almost. Those are the thoughts that get to me. However, much like you, I use writing poetry to pull back into myself. It keeps me grounded, if only for a little while. I also find that I turn to music often to connect with reality. There is a connection between written word, music, and life that I feel strongest with. It’s an anchor I cling to when I feel the tide pulling me out. Thanks again for sharing. I know it’s not easy.

I cannot say anything about depressions because I have never experienced one. However, I have gone through some crises and I am not so young again. My general experience is that we are creative. Creativity means the ability to self-expand. We climb to higher levels. In hindsight, solutions develop in unforeseen places. The knowledge we have at a certain time of our lives is always limited. That means that we do not know everything and we don’t see the solutions to crises that later develop because they are outside the scope or horizon defined by our knowledge at any given time. We get there by creative thinking, as individuals or groups and it means generating something new, or turning into something new. I am not the same person I was with 20 or 30. Suicide means to stop walking because you do not see the solution. But the solution can always only be seen in hindsight, because a crisis is exactly a situation in which the solution is not yet visible because the restrictions of what we are and how we think and perceive at the time. The solution is a change of yourself and in hindsight, you see that you have expanded (for example, you started writing poems, something you might not have seen as a possibility when that episode happened).

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