On September 10th, 2015 I almost killed myself. (A story about a prescription drug)
I’ve been anxious my whole life. I’m an only child and I’ve always been neurotic and kind of a loner but not at all because I love being around other people. I’m a weird artist but, i mean well and most people that know me know that about me. This is just some of my bio before we dive in.
As a naturally anxious person, I can keep the impression that I am alright even when I am not. I subscribe to the idea of if I am crazy and weird all the time that weirdness will always be cool/fine. It’s a part of my personality. I was diagnosed with Depression and anxiety in september 2001 a week or so after 9/11. 9/11 was the end of the snowball effect of a shitty summer where 3 people close to me died including a grandparent. From september 2001 onwards til about August 2009, literally the rest of high school through college and the beginning of my time in NYC, I was on xanax and paxil at a low dosage to not get addicted. Of course as a nautrally anxious person, sometimes i thought i was having a heart attack and made numerous trips to the ER as a kid. Eventually, I got weaned off and I was ok. I was able to talk to myself and be like, “Mark, you are ok…you are having an anxiety attack. Mark you will be fine in 15 minutes, maybe a half hour tops.” It works. It’s been how I’ve been able to do what I do in this city and be a mostly normalish 30 year old. This is all incredibly important for what I am about to reveal.
In early september of last year, I was working at Trader Joes on 14th st. The busiest location in the city and the world. If you’ve never been to Trader Joes everything you’ve heard about it is true. And the good things people mention are actually better. The staff is actually happy for the most part and it is a solid job. It’s hard as shit but it’s good. At my store also 60% of the staff was actors/musicians/artists/dancers etc which is a huge population just great as I can use them for plays, or whatever.
So, i was working on register and had a series of pretty big purchases. That means 2 tiered carts. Upper and lower and as a tall guy who has suffered back issues this was hell on me. I thought i was fine but the pain got so bad I had to leave work and go to citymd. I don’t have a real doctor. Citymd is as real as i get. They do good, most of the time. At the citymd on 14th st the doctor, whom I had a few months earlier in May when i had heat stroke, accused me of being on drugs at work as I am a naturally very sweaty person. I don’t like this doctor. He checked me out and gave me a prescription of Robaxin and told me to get sleep. He gave me a week’s prescription. I’ve never been on pain killers before, this can be fun. I get it, take it when i get home and literally pass out til the next day. I wake up and i feel great. My back doesn’t hurt much and I feel great.
I’m naturally off of work for a few days to let the prescription work. And I feel good. I stick to my prescription and I feel like life is going great. I started seeing a chiropractor and she fixed me up. Days start getting cloudy but i’m feeling better. It starts raining on september 7th and doesn’t stop all day. I start to think, why I’m sad. I had no idea i was sad. Was I sad because missing work? Definitely, i’ll swing by and see my work friends. I visit and feel off. I see a comedy movie and I feel sad. Well, it is around the anniversary of when I was diagnosed with depression. “Why am I not acting?” This thought crosses my mind. I should be happy. I just did 2 shows back to back. Whatever. Mark you are fine you are just down. Next week will be great.
The morning of Thurdsay september 10th starts off normal enough. I take my last pill of Robaxin and am happy to not have pain killers in me much more after the next few hours. It is a cloudy day. I think I will try the Hamilton Lottery as I tend to do that on days when I can. But, might as well lounge around the house and nap because I felt down. I call my parents. I tell them that I am sad and can’t explain why. They say they love me and know I’ll feel better soon. Maybe I will win the Hamilton Lottery (A show they know Ive tried to see too many times at this point and this has been documented on FB on “Will Mark Levy ever see Hamilton?”). I order Thai food for lunch. Nothing makes me feel better than a good pad thai…but today it isn’t working. The noodles fill me but don’t do much more. Oh well, time to head to the lottery I get to my train and it runs normal and then stops by that weird nickelodeon style art installation near the Manhattan Bridge in brooklyn. We stay there for 10 minutes. I start thinking, will I make it. I start getting sadder than i have been in a very long time. The train moves. We eventually get to rockerfeller center and I run as hard as i can and I get to the table and then i see it was the time of the lottery drawing. I tell myself well, there is tomorrow. I feel a drop of rain on my head as I walk to the train tired and defeated. I’m going home to sleep this off. I feel terrible. I feel my skeleton shake slightly from saddness. I call my parents and say I lost the lottery. Midway through them talking to me I just start saying thank you. I can’t stop saying thank you. They realized this thank you was more serious than just thanking them for being there. This thank you was me realizing I was in an incredibly dark spot. I am an only child and my mother had issues with other kids after I was born. I am incredibly close to my parents and I basically through tears said goodbye to them. I hung up the phone. I entered the 49th st train station and then laughed to myself that I could go to an improv jam at the Pit loft in like 30 minutes. Nah. sleep is good. I’m sad and not in the right headspace. I start thinking why? I see a train light coming. And this is the hardest part of this whole story for me. I gave myself permission to kill myself. I gave myself permission to throw myself infront of that train. I was so incredibly sad. My head was so cloudy and i couldn’t stop crying. I had no idea why I was so sad. If i am going to do this i have to do this now, i tell my defeated self. I get right up within 6 inches of the ledge. Nobody notices in a crowded trainstation. I’m going to do this. I need to do this. I take a breath in and whoosh. The train pulls in and I am barely able to see straight from the tears. I enter the train and the tears stop for a second. I feel so cold from the train. I tell myself, what the fuck is wrong with you…you can’t be alone now. You cannot be alone now. I get off the train on 28th st. At this point i have 4 missed calls from my parents. I tell them I chose to go to the jam. I stumble to the Pit loft and decide fuck it….I open my phone and type in 2 words in the browser: Robaxin and Depression. Robaxin causes severe depression and suicidal thoughts in people that have depression. And this is ALL OVER THE INTERNET. I start laughing. Literally this is the worst combination. I felt like someone took a pin to a balloon and all that shitty air was coming out in that slow way where the balloon makes that crazy hiss noise.
The rest of the night got better. And this is where you realize how crazy I am. First scene I do at the jam, my character is suicidal. This is 45 minutes after the train. And after the jam, I go up to times square because plays make me happier and I want to see a broadway show. I go to TKTS and see a show I’ve wanted to see for over a year is on the board for the first time in my personal knowledge, Fun Home, a musical where a major character steps into traffic and kills himself. I still laugh about that detail more than 6 months later.
I hide my sadness a lot as a person. I got home and saw my roommates on the couch watching TV after the play and tell them what’s up. They said if they knew how bad things were they would help. I say thank you to them. I go in my room and realize that I had no idea how bad it was til like 3pm, essentially too late but, if I did have any idea how bad things were, I am incredibly fortunate to have a strong support circle. I also know how to limit saying THank you to my parents. And also, if you suffer from depression don’t take Robaxin.
I have shared this story onstage and it is incredibly weird being this vulnerable. Talking about this horrible day and how my body reacted to this drug. I noticed after everytime I shared it onstage people would come up and say, “thank you” and hug me. It was always nice. It’s one f the scariest stories I’ve ever told because even though I just hit a year since this happened, it still feels so new and fresh and terrifying. This saturday, September 10th, i had to make sure I had a good day as I was afraid to have anything feel like it would set me off. I mean, I haven’t been on this painkiller in a year at that point but, it still felt so fresh and that cold sadness was nearby. Always tell people you love them if you do, and hug them. Live a life of love and light because sometimes that light can help.
Again, thank you for listening to my story.