With my letters safely tucked away, now all I had to do was wait for the right time and for the motivation to hit me enough to walk downstairs, drill a hole in the cross beam, install the large metal eye hook, double up the metal corded dog leashes, stand up on a five gallon bucket, and do what needed to be done. I went about the next days of my life, ready at a moment’s notice to do it- with a smile on my face for everyone I met. I saw people I knew at the gas station, I held open doors for those I crossed paths with. I greeted them all with positivity and good cheer. No one would have known if I had’t told you what was going on inside my mind.
All I had to do, was wait for the time to be right- when the wife and kids would all be gone for a couple hours, shopping or something and I would have enough time to get this done.
I truly believe that God does for us what we cannot do for ourselves. Because that moment didn’t come, at least not in the time frame of my suicidal window which was many days long. They never went anywhere for long enough and they never all went together. At the time I was beyond frustrated. All I wanted was about 3 hours time where I could just quietly check out without being disrupted. But it never came. I remember having mixed emotions about this, I was so mad that they wouldn’t all leave and let this happen, but I was also relieved that they hadn’t, and then I was pissed off again because now I knew I was gonna have to go on living still. I was such a head case for a while. All I wanted to do was run, get better, or die. It wasn’t really a whole big list of asks. I needed some relief. I was just too damn ego driven and prideful to just open my mouth and say “I need some help here, please help me.” I think I did and said everything on the planet but those words.
I was edgy, my moods switched from moment to moment it seemed. I was an asshole one day, and then the nicest guy in the world the next. I loved my wife so much and then I wanted a divorce. I felt so blessed and grateful on wednesday, and on thursday I wanted to sell the house or burn it down. My mind was a mess. I would spill guts in love and adoration to my family, and the next day not say one kind word. I couldn’t seem to speak the words of defeat and surrender, or accept the fact that I needed to. The more my mind spiraled out of control, the less in control I felt on the inside, the more I fought for control on the outside. I didn’t even have control over making enough alone time to take my own life and that made me feel really powerless and out of control. I was a festering ball of mental unwellness and the proverbial powder keg. My wife had no idea what to do with me.
But what’s weird, is that looking back on all of this, the writing was very much on the wall. The music I was listening to at that time was very much sad sounding, with just overall negative messages about life. Sad country and bluegrass songs, rap songs about poor mental health, the movies and shows I watched were dark and ominous. My whole overall energy was just black. Dark and hostile. It’s fascinating to me, how I was able to convince other people that I was okay. I certainly was not.
There wasn’t any kind of “A-ha” moment for me, there was no booming voice from the sky that appeared and convinced me not to follow through with taking my own life. But there was just a long drawn out coming and going of little subtleties along the way. I would hear Connor emulate me, or ask for a meal that I showed him. Luke would ask me to play catch with him, Logan would volunteer to help me around the house, Tiffany would want to set some time apart for date night. My friend Doug would call just to talk. These little subtleties I noticed. And they kept me hanging on, one day at a time.
It’s weird how when we are with our families, our coworkers and friends so regularly that things can become so hidden in plain sight. But when we get around new people or those without any types of attachment to us, things are more visible. An old friend of mine and myself were setting up a canopy and tent at a music festival one weekend. We had made a long journey by vehicle to see some of our favorite bands and drink too many margaritas. We brought everything that we would need for the weekend away, including my large speaker, which was playing my “On Repeat” playlist on my Spotify as we set up our camp. It took about an hour and half to get everything the way we wanted it, and then we took a quick break to enjoy an IPA and our newly founded home away from home. Not long prior to this, we had met the neighbors, a group of about 6 dudes from up in Milwaukee, who had gotten there about the same time as us. My old friend and I were sitting in our camping chairs when one of the guys from Milwaukee called me over to their site. “Hey, Herb, right? Come here for a minute would ya?” So I did. I like meeting new people and shooting the shit with people from different places than me. “Hey dude, um, (he motioned me to walk around the side of their tent so he could ask me something quietly, almost in secret) I heard you jammin over there man on your speaker. And some of that music man, um, I gotta ask you brother- Are you okay man? Who hurt you?” I was really taken back by this. I was also really impressed by this young man’s ability to see something, say something, his empathy, and his compassion for a stranger. But of course, I had to take on a defensive type of a stance with him. “Nah, you know man, just life brother. No big deal.” Or some shit is what I said. But the moment stuck. It meant a lot to me. And it also caused me to feel even more resentment towards those people in my life who supposedly saw me every day, but yet never had any kind of mention for me like this stranger had. But I suppose that that was because I had spent the last year staking major dividers in between me and my people, to avoid vulnerabilities and had made myself quite unapproachable Which was what I had always done to protect myself from having to feel and allow people truly in.
But something else happened to me during this chance encounter, and another one later on- but we will get to the second one later. What happened here, was that it dawned on me, that people could see me. Even a passing stranger at a concert, could see and hear me for what I was- a soul in intense pain. And he did so, in a matter of minutes, just by listening to the music I was listening to. The little subtle things.
Little subtle messages had been trying to work on me for a while now, the messages from my wife and kids, from my buddy Doug. But nothing was really having any kind of profound impact, because I wasn’t quite ready to admit defeat. I still had some kind of semblance of control, and so I held on to that with white knuckles. The more I wrestled with control, and the more out of control I got, the more spiteful I became. The whole “I’ll show you, I’ll kill me” mind set. I was very volatile and ugly. I was condescending, I was paranoid, I was bitter, I was controlling, and it was all self inflicted. The result is always nill until we let go absolutely.
But what’s interesting, is that looking back, I had subtleties of my own. I would get vulgar and snarling with people, I would get bitter and ugly. And the actual words I said might have been something like “I fucking hate you, leave me alone.” But what my soul was saying, what my insides were actually saying was “Can’t you see how hard I am hanging on here? Can’t you feel how awful I feel on the inside?” But I just couldn’t get the actual words out. My ego wouldn’t let me. I had survived the depths of hell on earth before, and I knew I was strong enough to survive this too. And I was bound, set, and determined to thug it out and get through it. I would push people away and tell them I was fine, and then I would proceed to drink in the basement for days at a time and blare all kinds of sad and depressing music. I was spiteful, I was drowning in my own sorrows, all I wanted was some peace in my own mind, and I didn’t know how to get it it. And because I was so god damn stubborn and so foolish as to not just surrender and open my mouth, I place bread crumbs of indecipherable riddles all around me indicating that I needed help, but when the topic came up I would deny it all away. I was sick.
Pride does in fact come before the fall.
What I realized, once I had come out of my suicidal season, was that I didn’t want to kill myself in whole. I wanted to kill parts of me. I wanted to kill those ugly secrets and shitty experiences, the trauma. The being molested, being mistreated, being left alone, hurting all the time from its active and live presence inside my mind. That was what I wanted to kill. And if I myself had to die as a result, then I would just have to be collateral damage in the process of snuffing the pain out. But since I was no longer willing to actually take my own life, I had to find a way to keep going and get through this.
One day not long after the music festival talk with my friend from Milwaukee, I was sitting at home. I was still depressed and I was still in the process of bottoming out and hurting people. But i decided to get up, grab those letters, grab a beer, and walk out to the back yard. I cracked the top, sat down in the camping chair, and used those letters to start myself a little bon fire. I was going to live. I was going to get through this one way or another. I knew deep down inside that there would be more suffering ahead, sure. But I was gonna live. I wasn’t going to roll over and just let this thing beat me.
My wife walked outside onto the back deck, looked down at me and was pissed that I was drinking again, and so early in the day. Which I understood, but what she didn’t know at that time, was that I had just finally made the decision to not take my own life once and for all. How could she have known? I hadn’t come out and told her, I just did my best to speak in subtleties. But when we love people, often times we miss those things, and often times, those are the very things that keep us going, and keep us alive. Sometimes we pay attention to what people are saying, and sometimes we need to pay more attention to what people are not saying.
If you want to truly help someone, the most important thing you can do is listen to them.