June 24, 1997. The Last Day of my Life…

On this World Suicide Prevention Day, it’s time to get personal. Sit back because it’s story time, and this is one that I hope you all will read until the end.

I’ve only told this story to three people (two currently are Facebook friends, and one who does not participate in social media), so most of you will have no idea that this was even going on in my life in the summer of 1997. Frankly, I’ve thought about telling this story many times over the years, but decided that it was better left a secret held between myself and a couple close friends.

Today, I’m going to tell the story from beginning to end. A lot of you will probably be quite surprised. Some of you will probably be pretty pissed off at me for never saying anything. In fact, this will come as a shock to a lot of my family members, all of whom have never heard this story until now.

To my family, I’m sorry for broadcasting it to everyone at once, rather than telling each of you about it individually, but I feel that today is the day to do this and that this is the forum that I can tell it the best. Hopefully, after you read my entire story, you can take this, learn from it, and potentially help someone else who may be hurting.

The date was Tuesday, June 24, 1997. My first year of college had just completed and it had been an extremely difficult year. A year before, my parents had announced their divorce after a marriage that lasted the first 18 years of my life. I had reached a weight of nearly 275 pounds which was contributing to my self esteem issues. Fitting in at school, even though it was close to home, was still difficult. While I had hoped to make new friends in college, it just wasn’t happening. At the same time, I was too busy with school work to spend the time that I used to with my high school friends, except on the weekends.

For nearly 10 months, I had been experience bouts of depression and by the end of the school year, I was spiraling out of control. I had fallen in with a crowd of people that I never should have associated with. They were friends of friends that were leading me down a path that I simply didn’t care if I ever came back from. And, to be honest, I almost didn’t come back from. I was finding myself distancing myself from everyone. Long time friends. New friends. Family. Just about anyone who could have helped me.

For weeks, I had contemplated taking my own life. I was depressed. I had begun cutting myself. First, just a few cuts that didn’t leave much of a mark. But as the days and weeks went by, it got worse. First drawing blood. Later, going deeper and deeper until I needed to wear gauze and bandages. I started to wear long sleeves and sweatshirts, even in the early summer heat, to cover the marks. I felt ashamed. I felt scared. “Is this something I really wanted to do? Is this something I could actually do?”

Every night the answer to that questions was: I don’t know.

For weeks, I had been trying to talk to someone…anyone about it. Every time I approached the subject, no one seemed to take me serious. They either pushed back that they didn’t want to talk about the subject of depression, suicide, etc…Like I was just joking around with them. But I wasn’t, and apparently, I was the only one who knew that I was dead serious. I tried, unsuccessfully, for weeks to get help from friends. Each time, no one was there for me. At the time, I wanted to talk to my immediate family, or other relatives, but I didn’t want them to be disappointed in me, like I thought everyone else was. Looking back, I should have gone to them first.

I almost did. One night on the weekend before, I sat in the garage of our home. In the dark. Wearing all black. Listening to Pink Floyd in the dark. At one point, my brother made the walk down the ramp to look grab laundry (I think). He didn’t even know I was in there. But he heard the music. He looked at me and was like “WTF?”. He grabbed his clothes and walked back up the ramp, shut the door and I just sat there. Continuing to listening to Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here on repeat for the next 4 hours.

Finally, came the day that I had decided would be the end of it all. The weekend before had not gone as hoped. Trying to fit in at social functions was a bust. Typical adolescent “picking on” and “being ditched” by friends had left me all alone. When I woke up that Tuesday morning, I knew that I needed to make one final effort to reach out to anyone that I could to stop me. I set up a series of meetings with everyone close to me to try and talk to them. To get them to talk to me. To talk me out of what I was thinking. Or to simply say my goodbyes.

I started with breakfast with my mom who had finished another one of her overnight shifts. She was so worn out that morning. She was talking about how tough things were. With work. With housework. With everything going on with her life. We sat and ate Frosted Flakes and eggs. I just couldn’t bring up the topic because I felt that I was one of the burdens on her life. So I had failed (in my mind) to do what I had intended to do. I gave her a hug and let her go take a short nap while I carried on with my day.

Next came lunch with my grandparents. We sat at their kitchen table and I had a tuna sandwich. Afterwards, I went with them to their garden to help pull weeds and talk. However, I knew that if anyone would be disappointed in me in what I was thinking, I assumed that it would be them. I didn’t want to burden them with my problems, so I said goodbye and left. Without even approaching the subject.

Next came a quick trip to my dad’s house. Anyone who knew him, knew that he spent many of the first few years after the divorce depressed. When I arrived, his house was trashed. Covered in records, boxes, garbage. It was a hoarders paradise. From the moment I arrived, I became more and more depressed in conversation. Talking about how bad his life had become. That people weren’t visiting anymore. That he didn’t know what he could do to make his life better. If anything, I blamed myself because I had distanced myself so much from everyone that I was ruining people’s lives.

I said goodbye and headed to my final destination.

Pepperwood Lane in Petaluma had become a destination for quite some time to get away from life, and have a good time. The stories I can tell won’t be repeated, but we had a lot of fun in the years after high school. However, even the good times weren’t getting me through the bad. I had hoped that this might be the place where someone would talk me out of what I was planning that later that evening.

The whole crowd was there. The good…and the bad. That weekend, and that night in particular, it was a melting pot of all the good, the bad and the ugly. I must have gone up to everyone that night. Trying to talk. Trying to get their attention. I was wearing short sleeves so that everyone could see the pain I was feeling in the form of bandages and gauze halfway up to my elbow. Unfortunately, no one seemed to know. Everyone had their own things (and I’m sure problems). I finally sat there, sitting on the couch, thinking about my life. Was it really as bad as I thought? Was I really ready to do what I thought needed to be done?

As I sat there alone, I decided to take a walk. It was almost 10 p.m. on one of the longest days of the year and the sun had finally set. There was a park in the complex where we used to go hang out and drink, smoke, whatever. I found myself sitting atop the playground structure in the dark, thinking about my life. Thinking about the good times…and the bad. Trying to justify reasons for living. Why should I stay? Who would miss me? It kept coming back to me that I was a disappointment. To my family. To my friends. Would they miss me if I was gone? Would killing myself take away the pain I was feeling?

Then, as I had finally come to terms with my decision, I was getting ready to head home. I took a deep breath as I stood atop the structure, looking out across the complex where I had hung out with friends for the past few years. It was quiet. The early summer fog was rolling in. The temperature was dropping and I knew that it was time to go home. No one would be there so having the house to myself was ideal.

As I stood there, I saw a shadowy figure walking towards me. She called my name. Was she looking for me? I didn’t respond, thinking that she would either make it to where I was. She came close, but never made it. After a few minutes, she turned to walk away. It was then that in that moment I decided to call out “up here”, I said.

She climbed up and we started talking. First about the party that was taking place at the house. Then the people who were there. How we both were experiencing some of the same things. For me, it was a feeling of disconnect. That I was a misfit who didn’t belong. Unloved. For her, it was a feeling of trying to belong, even though she wasn’t being respected. People were spreading rumors, like teenagers do. But at that moment, I was starting to feel like I wasn’t alone.

That maybe, just maybe, this was just a passing phase and that things could get better. Still, I wasn’t sure.

As we sat and talked, I started to open up. I talked about the thoughts I had been having for weeks. She saw my arms. She was pretty shocked at the site. She asked me to remove a bandage, where she saw cut marks, many of which were somewhat deep. At that moment, she grasped the seriousness of the situation and whether or not she knew it at the time, she made a decision to help me.

At first, I thought she was upset. Angry at me for even thinking about suicide. For cutting myself. But then she started to tell me the things that I needed to hear. The things that I had been hoping to hear for a long time. That I was loved. That I was respected. That I needed to be there to be a part of everyone’s lives. That I had a lot to live for. That someday, I was going to get away from this town.

For the first time in weeks, I was thinking about living. I was thinking about getting help for my depression. Getting thoughts for my thoughts of suicide. I was thinking about getting better and living.

In that moment, my life had been saved. I wasn’t going to go home and take my own life. I was going to take my life into my own hands and do something with it. I was going to defeat the demons that I was battling…and I did.

From that moment on, I vowed that things would be different. We went back into the party and I re-engaged. For the rest of the night, this girl did not leave my side. We continued to talk. We laughed. We drank. We talked about how good things were. The cloud of sadness seemed to have lifted. But would it last? I hoped that it would.

Before I finish, I want to say one thing.

For 21 years, this story has been kept close to the vest. In fact, the girl who saved my life…has no idea that she did it. She knows that I was suicidal, however, she has no idea that I planned to do it that night, if not for her stepping in and stopping it with her words, her compassion and her understanding. To this day, we are Facebook friends, and we don’t talk as often as we should, but it may be time to finally tell her. To thank her. To let her know that without knowing it, she saved me and I’m still here today.

The rest of that summer was different. I cut ties with a few “friends” who I didn’t need in my life. I started a workout program to cut the weight that I felt was keeping my self esteem low. It took more than two years, but I finally got myself into shape and that helped. I also started talking to a psychiatrist who got me mentally fit to avoid falling back into a deep depression.

When the next school year began, I started hanging out more on campus with new friends who I am still friends with today. I branched out and joined activities and eventually, became the person that I always wanted to be. Looking back on the dark days, I couldn’t believe I had gotten to where I wanted to be in such a short time.

The point of this post is not shock value. I’m sorry for all of you who have been kept in the dark for so long. I’m sorry that I never told any of you this as it was happening, or even in the years following. I should have. But part of me was embarrassed, and part of me was ashamed.

The point of this post is that ANYONE could be hurting. We all have issues that can lead us into depression. But, there is help. Talk to someone.

I’ve said this before, and I’ll continue to say it…I’m always available if anyone needs to talk. Day or night. I WILL make time. As I see bullying in schools, in the workplace and online, I hate it. I know that it is one root cause of a lot of people’s depression which can, in turn, turn to suicide. But, it doesn’t have to.

Keep an eye on your friends and family. Your children. Your parents. Depression knows no age limit. There are plenty of phone numbers you can call to talk:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1‑800‑273‑TALK (8255)

Trans Lifeline: US (877) 565-8860

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1−800−799−7233

Crisis Text Line: Text HELLO to 741741

Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1

We only have one life to live…and we’re all in this together.

Thanks for reading!

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