I was driving my 1988 Buick Skylark as fast as it would go, the gas pedal pressed hard to the floor. I was followed by a string of police cars while the news media and police helicopters hovered above. I didn’t want to hurt anyone so I dodged and weaved through cars until I found the straight away I was looking for.
There it was… A stretch of road which leads to a big drop off. I had created the “blaze of glory” moment I wanted before ending my life. There was no going back.
I could barely see where I was going due to the tears in my eyes, but it was over… there was no going back. With the engine screaming at full throttle I would take off my seatbelt, kick open the door, violently rip the steering wheel to the left, and send my car into a barrel roll careening to the bottom of the valley below.
I was 16 years old the first time that scene ran through my mind. I would lay in bed replaying it probably 300 times or more during my teenage years. It was so vivid, I feel nauseous writing it on paper because it brings back the emotions along with the pictures.
I was deeply depressed and felt like I didn’t fit in at school; scared, hurt, and felt powerless to the circumstances in my life. Suicide was my ticket for two things. First, I would take back power; even if it was just for a moment and would cost me my life. Second, I would be seen; people would actually see the reality of the pain I was in.
The whole world was going to see me one last time, or at least that’s what I thought.
Unless you’ve struggled with suicide it’s hard to understand why something like ending your life would feel so appealing at that moment.
Fast forward 20 years…
I haven’t struggled with suicidal thoughts since I was a teenager, until this year. As recent as last month I found myself lying in bed in the middle of the night researching my life insurance policy to see if it covered suicide. Thinking about where I have my gun and where I need to go so my family won’t find my body.
I honestly believed my family would be better off with the money than with my mess. Nothing could be further from the truth but it was where my depression had taken me. Knocking on the door of death decorated as a way out of my torment.
Everything from the outside looking in would say I have an amazing life. I have a gorgeous wife, three amazing children, a home, nothing majorly wrong with my health. I was a life consultant helping others navigate through their hard times, and the list goes on.
All of which are true, but I was stuck telling myself a different story. The lens I was seeing through said my marriage was falling apart (we were fighting more than usual), I’ve failed at providing for my family (our finances were in a tough spot) and I’m a fraud because I help others with their life but I can’t get mine together.
I had learned how to present a certain life while feeling trapped by depression and a sense of hopelessness at the same time. My wife didn’t even know the truth about where I was at. The one person who knows me better than anyone else.
I was bombarded with thoughts like “who am I to bitch and moan about my life?” or “telling people is a weakness.” or “I can’t keep my life consulting practice and image as a leader in tacked if I’m struggling,” or “I’m a former Marine… shouldn’t I have the ability to fight this thing and win??”.
The shame and self-hatred only grew with each day and drove me into a deeper place of isolation and hopelessness.
My turning point was talking about it. I reached a point where I couldn’t shadow box the surface-level problems while spiraling into a darker place. Something had to give or I was going to find my breaking point, the one you don’t come back from.
I’m one of the richest men on this planet because of the depth and quality of relationships I have. I have people who know how to respond with unconditional love and remind me of who I am when I can’t see it for myself. Without hesitation, they are willing to help carry my burden in times when it feels like the weight is too much for me to bare.
It’s taken years of cultivating the relationships and building trust, but it’s been worth it. Now I can say it has literally saved my life.
I was on the phone with a trusted friend lying on the floor of my closet when I told him. I felt weak, embarrassed and like a failure.. but I told him anyway. He said several things I needed to hear, but the biggest was “I want you to know you’re not alone. You are surrounded by people who love you.”
That conversation fundamentally shifted things for me. My circumstances didn’t change, but I wasn’t alone anymore. That gave me enough courage to tell another person, and another, and another.
I slowly began telling more and more people whom I trust with the reality of where I was. Each time it chiseled away at the lies I found my mind trapped in and gave me hope for where I was headed. I began to be proactive again in areas I didn’t have the capacity to before.
I currently find myself in a state of rebuilding, with each day bringing more hope. I wrote on my whiteboard “The best days are yet to come” as a daily reminder. I got back on my antidepressants and am seeing a counselor on a regular basis just to name a few. Two months ago doing any one of those things would have felt pointless or impossible.
I’m actually able to receive the love from people in my life. I find myself just watching my wife and children play and can’t believe I was going to leave them. I’m more open to my wife’s input and less combative. I cry a lot more and feel excited about the rebuilding process rather than overwhelmed by life itself and am more grateful for little things I used to overlook.
My story may be unique to me, but the vicious cycle of shame, isolation, and hopelessness takes the lives of far too many people. I only hope my story will be the catalyst for one person to find the courage to break it. It can be done.
If you find yourself at a place where ending it all feels like the only option please talk to someone. Anyone. You don’t have to fix everything. You only need to muster up the ability to talk about it with one person. And keep talking until the attraction of death loses its appeal and you begin to crawl your way out of the pit you may find yourself in today.
Even if it means getting on the phone with a stranger. There are people who want to hear what you have to say and just be with you in your mess.
Suicide hotline number: 1-800-273-8255
The truth is, no matter your circumstances today… you are not alone.