I want to start by getting rather stereotypical about the way I might be perceived because I believe stereotypes and perception play a big part in how the taking of ones life might come about, and also in how society views how someone might reach such a point in their life.
People have described me in the past as a ‘man’s man’, a ‘bit of a lad‘. I could probably be described as a bit rugged, shaving isn’t my favourite pastime, I’m partial to getting too many tattoos, and there’s part of me that still wants to be seen as a bit of a ‘tough guy’. I like to go to football and have a bit of a shout and have even been known to drop the odd swear word…
Trust me, that was more painful to write about myself in such a stereotypical way, than it was for you to read. But I feel it’s important, and it’s important because despite any of that, today I still have to put a bit of work in to manage my thoughts, feelings, and emotions. It’s important because I have spent a lot of my life completely imprisoned by the way I felt inside, in spite of what the world thought of me. It’s important because not much over 4 years ago, when everyone around me was telling me just how great I was doing, I came extremely close to taking my own life.
According to ‘Children of alcoholics: the largest survey’,
- 28.6% of COA’s consider suicide as children.
- A further 42% of COA’s consider suicide as adults.
So perhaps it’s no surprise that I remember suicide as being something I considered on a daily basis ever since I can remember. Looking back now I can see how distorted a view this would have been for a child of 12. Of course at that age most have that fearless attitude but for me it was slightly different.
I didn’t have a direct thought of wanting to take my own life, but I saw death as a rather valid option, an almost attractive one at that, and that never felt strange to me, in fact rather normal.
But I was aware I shouldn’t talk about it, and as a COA, talking about how I felt was something I did not do anyway. By the age of around 15, I was a lot more aware of the way I saw life in that I had days where I thought ‘I don’t want to live‘. By this age I was getting involved in a lot of trouble, and I never feared any consequences because my thought process was ‘well if I get caught I will just kill myself’. This may sound flippant, and it should. Because it was.
But that was the relationship that I had with suicide.
It was always a valid option.
By that time I was aware it probably shouldn’t be like this, but I had no idea where it came from, and not feeling connected to anyone on the planet, I never believed my suicide would have an effect on anyone else. By now I was fully aware that feeling this was not really ‘acceptable’ and was some form of weakness. At this stage I never reached a place where I ever came very close to actually taking my life. But I was finding life overwhelming and would often cry at night, huge unsqueezed tears, like a hadn’t cried for years. The release was incredible. I can see today that this was all my emotions I had try to bury bursting out of me. But at the time I had no idea why, or where they came from.
By 18 years old the constant thought of suicide as an option was stronger than ever, and was now often a desire rather than an option. On a good day it was a constant niggling feeling that wouldn’t go away.
I wouldn’t wear a seatbelt because surviving a crash would be an opportunity missed.
At its worst I would have days where it consumed me. From the second I woke in the morning to the second my head hit the pillow it was there. The thought of not wanting to do this any more was strong, but even more powerful was the belief that I didn’t belong here anyway, that I didn’t deserve the life that I had, that I had no right. I attached my feelings to different things, but they only ever felt like excuses.
I had no idea why I felt the way I did, but something deep within me told me I was simply defective. I told no one. Instead, the worse I felt, the more I put into being the opposite. You saw me as a tough guy, a happy go luck party animal, fun-loving and always laughing. Some even expressed wishing they could be more like me. If only they knew. It was at this time my first daughter was born, and I wish I could say it instantly gave me a reason be alive, but that just wouldn’t be honest. Intellectually I knew I loved this girl more than anything on the planet, intellectually I knew I wanted to give her everything. I just wished I could feel that. After a brief honeymoon period where I found hope, my desire was back. Except now the feelings of guilt were stronger than ever.
I thought I must just be an evil man.
Why wasn’t my daughter enough? My head grew quickly more loud and fast and my thoughts became more unfathomable, and as time went by my obsession to do, what increasingly seemed to be the most noble thing of suicide, became harder to combat. As I trudged on through the years the act of the happy-go-lucky man disappeared.
I became a pitiful and selfish man.
Completely unable to get passed the noise in my head, I sought escape from everything, whenever I could, hurting anyone who got in the way. By the age of 24 I had 4 children.
I was a broken man.
I had done many inexcusable things and most people didn’t want to know me. There had been some pretty pitiful attempts to take my life, but none that wound me up in any worse way than what I already was. I was sleeping on the floor at my mum’s, but somewhere in me I still had a glimmer of hope.
The one small speck of hope, however faint, that I had kept throughout this whole time was that if I stopped drinking I would be OK and at the point of having nothing left to lose I decided to do it. With help, I began notching up days of not drinking. Slowly that happy-go-lucky chap began to reappear. People began to come back into my life. I looked to have turned it around. Family and friends talked about me in the same sentence as inspiration. By 9 months of not drinking, externally my life was better than ever. But I knew the laughing, happy go lucky person I was again being perceived as was just an act.
Inside I was dying quicker than ever and despite another brief honeymoon period, the desire to end my life never left me. It gained momentum at a pace I had never experienced.
Alcohol had offered me escape and hope.
Escape from my mind, and hope that it was alcohols fault. Now without the only solution that had ever seemed to work I was in panic. I frantically tried anything to escape my mind but nothing worked. I had believed that I couldn’t get any lower than my life being in the pits, hating myself, and no one wanting to know me. But 9 months later, this was worse.
My life was seemingly OK again, I had people around me, I was seeing my children regular and I still hated myself. For the first time ever I was completely devoid of hope.
I could not make sense of my mind, or the world. I was in complete darkness, and I believed I brought nothing but darkness to the people’s lives that I touched.
Suicide can be perceived as selfish, but to me at that time it felt like the ultimate act of selflessness.
I was to end my life. I was to free myself from the world as I saw it and free the world from me. The crazy part is that there were times in my life when suicide for me would not have been much of a surprise to the world, but now I was seemingly at my highest point. I wanted to spend one last weekend with my children and then I was to end it.
There’s a feeling I believe people try create all the time. I believe it is at the heart of a lot of drink and drug use and anything from speeding in a car to extreme sports. That feeling is that of being present. When I knew my life was going to end, I, all of a sudden, felt at peace. Everything that had clouded my mind so drastically no longer held any value.
I suddenly become very present.
There was a strange freedom in that. It may have been that very freedom that allowed me to feel my love for my children that weekend more tangibly than ever. But somewhere in those few days hope re-entered my life. I cannot fully explain this.
Obviously, I did not end my life. I’m not quite sure where the hope came from, but it came. I think the feeling of being present may have played a part. But I took the hope and I ran with it. In the 4 years since then I have had to do some extensive work on myself untangling the chaos in my mind but it’s working.
I can honestly say, since that weekend, my relationship with suicide has ended and I feel incredibly grateful for what feels like a second shot at life.
I have found myself, and continue to find myself, and enjoy the wonder in that. I work hard on working through my emotions as opposed to suppressing them as I hope to never have a relationship with suicide again. I am extremely lucky and live an amazing life today. My life is my beautiful wife and children and they are more than enough for me. But the mind is a powerful thing and I know how easy it can get a hold on me.
What’s different today is my perception of the world. I know who I am today. I try my best to deal with my emotions as and when they come, whatever they are.
I accept the past as it is and see where I have grown, and the future is now something I create, not something imposed on me…. Oh and I still sometimes hide from the world how I feel with a front, but I accept that too, and make sure I share with someone how I truly feel, so I still get that freedom.
Everything I have written in this has the benefit of hindsight. Most of my life I just felt pain and loneliness and I couldn’t make any more sense of it than that. I did some bad things during those times and I do not wish to be excused from them. I write in hope that we may understand. For me there was a relationship with suicide that started when I was young and is common in children of alcoholics everywhere. I hope that in me sharing what happened for me it can go some way to removing the stigma around all these issues and some people may end their relationship with suicide long before suicide ends their relationship with them.
5 Comments Add yours
Powerful post Josh. Hey, it’s great you’re alive. The ambivalence about living or dying you describe so clearly, is familiar. Anorexia’s been my addiction since I was 12 and there were many times were I passively hoped it would do me in. Living through my father’s alcoholism, mother’s codependence, poverty and sexual abuse (which is still the hardest part to heal from) has often left me searching for the eject button. Staying present in my body requires ninja focus, haha. Some days are easier than others. There are many things I’d rather spend my time and money on besides therapy. Oh well. I wonder if trauma-focused therapies were more widely available, along with the awareness you’re helping to raise, whether early intervention will mean less people battling suicidal thoughts? We know trauma is at the heart of wanting to die. I’m inclined to believe love is the cure.
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Totally agree love is the cure and trauma informed approach is vital. I believe we need give children the power back! Simple early interventions like the sharing of stories to children could have a huge affect!
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Thanks for letting me know, this has happened a couple of times. Trying to get out them deleted
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