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.