What do you do when your life starts to feel like a chronic illness?
It’s not a rhetorical question and I have no wisdom to impart. It’s one of the toughest questions I’ve had to face recently and I can’t say with any confidence that I am even close to manufacturing an answer I just might believe or convince others of. In many ways, mine is a very common story. I’ve struggled with a depressive disorder for fifteen years (I am 28 now). I’ve had an extremely difficult childhood. I grew up in a house with an alcoholic and abusive parent. I’ve had issues with confidence, self-worth, identity and simply, my own right to exist. I have no educational qualifications to speak of and my career can be barely called that at all. These issues have been going on for a long time now. I’ve wanted to be dead, consistently, for most of that time, more or less. On top of all this, I lost my mother (a saint and my savior) and developed a chronic physical illness in the last 18 months.
This is a story about my depression, illness, a failed suicide attempt and the non-life I lead now.
As a result, I’ve been thinking a lot about death, and life as well. I’ve always been a hobbyist sort of an existential nihilist, albeit, with hedonistic overtones. It has been glaringly apparent for most of my life, the fact that purpose is non-existent and at best, a necessary prop in the grand narrative of the primacy and sanctity of human life. I believed that, for my part at least, life did not need to culminate in a legacy. All lives are full and devoid of worth at once, simultaneously and perfectly. I believed that the only purpose of life was to seek ephemeral states of happiness, however they may be achieved. In my case, it was through the heavy use of intoxicants. The onset of my physical illness hit me there. I couldn’t abuse my body any more without immediate and uncomfortable consequences. In my head, I had hit the lowest point of my life. I couldn’t escape my reality using alcohol and my reality was just too intolerable to live through, sober. I made up my mind to die last month.
I had it all planned out. After consuming three books on the topic of effective suicide and countless other articles on the same subject, I realized that I wanted to hang myself. I ordered rope as a first step. Then I began to draft letters and documents filled with instructions vis-a-vis reasons for suicide, distribution of possessions, general thoughts on life and the like. I scheduled all the emails and using Hootsuite, I even scheduled a general suicide note to be posted to Facebook on a day which I envisioned to be a week after my death. There was a nervous energy in me but it was comforting to know that I was finally going to end my misery on what seemed to be my terms.
I spent the last few days before the day I planned to kill myself, with my girlfriend. She was going to leave the city and it would be the end of our relationship as we had grown accustomed to it. After I saw her off at the airport, I felt like there was nothing left to live for, any more. I came back from the airport in a cab and I had a boisterous conversation with the driver on the way. The idea of death had become so mundane and almost quotidian that there were no jitters left to experience. I had to merely carry out an errand, one that I had put off for too long.
My plan started to unravel when I came back. The rope that I had ordered went missing and well, it seemed like an unfortunately tragic and comic setback. I remember laughing when I realized that I’d have to improvise. I thought that a bedsheet would work just as well and I settled on a night to take my life. I went out and bought whiskey because I felt that I couldn’t go through with it without reacquainting myself with my beloved poison. I had everything I needed, now all that was left was to go through with it.
I used simple slip knots on both ends of the bedsheet and tied it to a window grill which was built right into the wall. I’m a hefty person and I didn’t want the anchor point to collapse and fall on my head. It is pertinent to the story to point out that I had chosen partial-suspension hanging because I believed it to be a gentler way to go. I won’t go into detail on this, Google it if you want to know more. Getting back to the story at hand though, I drank the whiskey heartily and I stuck my head through the ligature and I tightened it around my neck and I stood there waiting to let my knees buckle and fade away into oblivion. I had chosen three songs to play on loop as I tried to die.
- Josh Radin — Winter
- David Gray — Forgetting
- Jump, Little Children — B-13
The songs had already repeated themselves for a couple of times when I finally decided to just do it and I lowered myself slowly and felt the ligature pull tight around my neck. I continued to let myself slip down and I felt my body start to tingle and heard my heat beat in my ears. Then, in a most unceremonious and anti-climactic manner, the knot gave away and I fell to the floor. For a few seconds, I didn’t understand what had happened. I was very drunk and I had managed to compress my carotid artery just enough to cause confusion and a light-headedness. When it dawned on me that I was very much alive and unhurt, my heart started pounding and for a few minutes, I felt that it was a sign and that I should abort my plan.
The giddiness caused by this thought was short lived and as I began to regain my bearings, I realized that my life was still the same and that everything that had made me want to kill myself was still exactly the same and there was not a single good reason not to try again and this time, finish the job. Once I accepted that I needed to die, I swiftly tied the knots again, stronger this time and I also wrote a note for the police stating unequivocally that this was a suicide and there was no-one to blame, as it were. I stuck this note in my pocket and stuck my head through the ligature again and this time pushed down with renewed gusto and a fervent vindictive anger that only a wronged person feels. This time, my body started to go numb almost instantly, the music began to fade into the distance and my vision started going dark. I still kept pushing and I was just about to let go of my feet and drop. I don’t know what happened next but I stood up in an instant. My heart was pounding and my head was completely devoid of thought or feeling. I just knew that I couldn’t go through with it this way. I loosened the ligature and I stepped away from the window quietly.
It is one of the most confusing experiences to have, the moment after you decide not to go through with a suicide or you fail at it somehow. You have no idea what to do next. I felt like I needed to reach out to someone and explain to them exactly what I had done, but given the people around me and the kind of relationship I shared with them, this seemed to be quite out of the question. So, I settled on halting the imminent future departure of all my letters and documents and I went to sleep. My best laid plans to die were shattered and I had no idea what to do next.
When I realized that I wasn’t going to die in the manner I had chosen, I decided to move past it by wrapping up my affairs in the city and expediting my return to my family. I knew that I had lost the battle and there was no sense lingering over the corpse of my suicidal plan. Right as I decided to temporarily abandon my plans of suicide, something happened that made me want to go through with it again.
At 12 AM a few nights after my attempt, I started getting frantic calls from people who I would not expect to receive calls from at that hour. The minute I answered one of the calls, my heart dropped as I realized that the suicide note I had written had posted to Facebook and that I had forgotten to delete it, in the aftermath of everything that had happened. It was only up for five minutes before I deleted it but the situation had already spiraled out of control. Family members were contacted, friends panicked and tried to intervene in horrendously intrusive ways and the irony of the situation was not lost on me. In their desperate attempt to try and save me, they were pushing me towards wanting to really go through with ending my life. A suicidal person’s mind is not rational and it felt like I had lost my dignity and it felt like I owed the world a suicide now that all the shenanigans had taken place. I felt gutted.
I was fortunate, though, to have a close friend around me who ushered in a sense of calm and kept me from doing anything to myself. In that moment, as my mind was telling me that my peers and my friends were possibly viewing me as a freakshow, I felt strong enough to jump off a building and I might have if it weren’t for my friend’s presence. In the days that followed, I spent some time with my closest friends and I moved back home, all the while completely unsure of what I wanted to do with my life.
Now, I’m at a slightly better place than I was. I still struggle with my mental and physical illness tag teaming me at will. I still have no reason to be alive. I’m fairly certain that my health is only going to get worse and my freedom, in every sense of the word, has been stifled under the weight of the changed and limited life I lead now. In the days to come, my autonomy will be ripped from me and my life will not be mine to live or do with as I please. In this climate, finding reasons to live has become extremely difficult and I catch myself constantly fantasizing about leaving. For now, I have halted my suicidal aspirations by convincing myself that I’m needed by my family and that I still have a semblance of my old life left. It’s a very flimsy shield against the raging forces of self destruction within me. I know that death is a certainty and that there is no purpose to life. Nothing matters, so any delay in my death does not really matter. There is no right time to die. I continue to live merely because I have somehow managed to keep the raging darkness at bay by simply accepting it as gospel that I just need to live, no matter what. I don’t know how long that reasoning will last me. I can already feel the chinks and they’re widening.
There’s really no purpose or meaning in anything I’ve written. For the longest time, I’ve committed myself to absolute honesty regarding my distorted processes of thought and all the negativity that plagues me and this is just an attempt to articulate everything that my mind is going through. I don’t know how long I’m going to be around. I have a feeling that my exit from this world will definitely be a result of my own, deliberate actions and there is nothing that I can do to change this impending outcome. My ideological allegiance does not allow for any other possibility, if things progress the same way. My life feels cancerous and one day, it needs to be excised. The only comfort I have derived out of this entire agonizing process is the fact that I have my affairs in order and that nobody will speak on my behalf, after my passing. I’ve left enough of my voice behind to have it speak long after I’m gone.
Now, I wait. For either death or my will to claim it.