"Any History of Suicide Attempts?"

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 8.442% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

“Any history of suicide attempts?” the doctor asked.
“1987, 88, and 89,” I replied, hiding the fresh gashes on my arms.  “That was when I discovered my seasonal affective disorder.”
“How did you try to kill yourself?”
“Pills.  All three times.”
“So I probably shouldn’t give you any large prescriptions.”
Crap.  I hadn’t thought about that.  “…no.”
“Do you have suicidal thoughts outside of those times?”
“Once or twice a week usually.  Constantly now.  That’s why I’m here.”
“You said you don’t own a gun because you’re afraid of killing yourself.”
“364 days, I’d be okay with it,” I told him, feeling the full depth of my crazy quiver through me.  “But I can’t take the chance of that 365th day.”
“Well,” he said, typing my history furiously into his laptop, “If you feel suicidal, can you promise to call me first?”
“I will,” I lied, “But I’d have to call three other people first.”
He stopped typing.  “You have three people you’ve promised to call before you kill yourself?”
(Actually, I had made promises over the years to about eight people that I would call them before I killed myself, but I only had three of their numbers now.  Though if it came down to that, I probably could contact some of them on Facebook.)
“…yeah.”
More notes.  “Actually, if you’re ever suicidal, your first call should be to 911,” he explained.
“Yeah,” I scoffed.  “If I called 911 every time I felt like killing myself, I’d be in the hospital three days a week minimum.  And you don’t just go for three days.  Once you’re in, you stay in.  I don’t have that kind of time or money.”
“Should you be in the hospital now?  For your own safety?”
He said it gently, but it was a gun being slid onto the table.  Convince me, it said.  If you can’t, you’re going to be going for a lovely little vacation whether you want to be or not.
And the thing was, under the doctor’s kind-but-stern glare, I wasn’t sure whether I shouldn’t be in the crazy ward.  I realized that I’d built my entire life as a cage to hold this rampant insanity – having a safety net of multiple failsafes I’d promised to call if ever my will weakened, making sure I had habits to keep working and writing even when I was so depressed I could barely get out of bed, the warnings to friends about What Happens In May, the way I know to stay away from the knives in the kitchen when I’m down.
Sometimes, in discussing depression rationally, I have been obliged to get into stupid “My pain is worse than yours” debates, wherein I have to pull out my credentials of years of suicide attempts – because nobody who’d really felt this agony could be rational about it, man.  Which is always irritating.  But it washes off.
But that doctor?  Made me realize just how fucking crazy I really am.


….so I didn’t post for a while.
What right does a crazy man have to post about anything?


Then I got to thinking about my appendix.
When my appendix burst and I almost died, and they sliced me open to pressure-wash my insides, it was a point of pride that I was out running the obstacle course in the bouncy castle the next week.
Thing was, yes, my insides were stitched up and my guts were still healing.  It was very painful, sliding belly-down in a child’s playground… But it was my birthday.  I had to play on my birthday.  So I kept going, even though I was broken.  I did the things I wanted to do, and my friends thought that was somehow admirable.  Bold.
My brain is broken.  Don’t try to tell me otherwise.  I spend days locked in depression, barely able to function, and it’s only thanks to two decades’ worth of habits that I manage to get anything done at all.  I’m pretty fundamentally fucked up, with a lemminglike part of my thought process that keeps urging me to cut myself, to overdose on pills, to leave my loved ones because they’d be better off without me even if they wouldn’t be.
My brain does not work properly.  I’ve kluged together some extensive work-arounds, which passes for wisdom sometimes, but I know its true name: experience.  But if my underlying architecture wasn’t so poor, I wouldn’t have to think so hard.  I’d just act in healthy ways.
Yet even with this shattered psyche, I can hope there’s something fundamentally brave about continuing on.  About speaking.  About continuing to stand in public, talking, and sharing the handful of things that I know.

10 Comments

  1. ChiaLynn
    Jan 19, 2012

    I’m not going to try to tell you anything except that I care about you.

  2. Jasmine
    Jan 19, 2012

    There is value in continuing to speak. Yeah.
    And thank you for this post, particularly the part about time and money. I feel like the issue of MONEY when depressed is something that never gets touched on, and it feels even more isolating to not be able to afford treatment, etc, even if I could find someone I trust for them.
    Yes, there is something fundamentally brave about continuing to speak. So thanks for the bravery.

  3. Lyn Belzer-Tonnessen
    Jan 19, 2012

    “…I can hope there’s something fundamentally brave about continuing on. About speaking. About continuing to stand in public, talking, and sharing the handful of things that I know.”
    Damn straight, there is.

  4. Terri Jones
    Jan 19, 2012

    Thank you. My brain is not so broken, but I know and love people with similar tribulations who I understand better directly because you write about your depression and workarounds. You are helping everyone, you are doing good work. Thank you.

  5. Gill Daniels
    Jan 19, 2012

    Thanks for posting this. Be safe.

  6. Kellie Lynch
    Jan 19, 2012

    These days medication keeps me stable–or stable-ish, anyway–but I definitely remember those days. Yes, I know I’m on the verge of doing something stupid. Yes, I want to get help, and I know the smartest thing to do would be to get myself locked up somewhere safe. But if I called 911 every time I felt this way, I’d be broke, which would just be one more thing to be miserable about. Better to just soldier on, and hope I can keep from actually harming myself. It’s a horrible byproduct of our horrible health care system that people who need help are afraid to get it.
    Is the doctor you speak of here a psychiatrist? If not, I would really recommend you see one. Those pills can literally save your life. Everything I’m taking now has a generic version available, and most generics are $4-10 at Target. It’s a small price to pay for sanity. I still have ups and downs, but I never end up in that awful dark place, where I’m trying to figure out the most painless way to solve my problems once and for all.
    There’s still so much stigma surrounding “resorting to” psychiatric drugs. But you know what? If the price for living is having to take medication every day, I’ll take the medication gladly. Diabetics do it, people with heart disease do it, and my brother-in-law with cystic fibrosis took more medication as a child than I will ever see in my lifetime. You wouldn’t ask a diabetic to “tough it out,” or go without insulin just because money is tight. Why should mental illness be any different?

  7. Ariel
    Jan 19, 2012

    No comment, only hugs.

  8. Jim
    Jan 19, 2012

    I do not know you personally. I have been a fan of yours for some time though. A fan of your M:tG articles, your web comics, and your wonderfully personal blogs. I am sorry to hear that you suffer as many great artists before you have suffered. Ive had times of depression, never clinically diagnosable perhaps, or maybe thats because Ive never taken the time to go to a clinic. I am not here to compare scars though as mine are only mental and have healed over the years.
    I am sorry that your thoughts so easily slide into darkness, a place I have never wished to delve. I can say the only reason I dont is because of my gamers philosophy: Life is a game. Because of that view, I can never take life too seriously (sometimes to my detriment). Like any game though it can be won and lost, but like any good games there are highs and lows to every turn.
    All I can say is that it never pays to just scoop up your cards and concede, you never know what youll top deck.
    Know that the world would be diminished by your absence and please know there are those of us rooting for you to continue to sit at the table with us for another hand. Good luck in your struggles and God bless.

  9. Dan Bressler
    Jan 19, 2012

    Brave? You, sir, are the bravest person I know. I noticed that you hadn’t posted in a while, and figured that you were probably wrestling with a brain chemistry issue. Thanks for coming back, and letting us know you’re still ok.

  10. Adrian P
    Jan 21, 2012

    The things you write often cause me to smile, and often cause me to think.
    I know enough about depression to know that nothing that anyone types in this little box is going to make a huge difference, but hopefully this comment and the many others you’ll get will give you some small boost at least for a moment.
    Depression is a bitch. Don’t let it beat you. It’s not real. It’s just your brain chemistry fucking with you.

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  1. Inaugural Link Roundup | Research to be Done - [...] Any History of Suicide Attempts: An excellent piece by the always-excellent Ferrett, on having depression and suicidal thoughts. [...]

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