US Army Master Sergeant (ret) George E. Hand IV
Admonishment: this essay will NOT be what many people want to ‘hear’.
“Suicide is a coward’s way out.” “When you commit suicide, you are only hurting the loved ones you leave behind.” “Suicide is for the weak-minded and selfish.” “Suicide is taking the easy way out.”
Those cliches were forged BY the living, FOR the living, make no mistake. The departed boast no controversy to those statements, for they can stake no defense in their own behalf. Therefore the cliches must be true, or…?
As I have always said there are three sides to every story, and I can speak to two of those sides.
Those cliches were wrought for the rest of the living, lest the living contemplate a like course of action for themselves. “Don’t you dare do it!” We tell ourselves and each other. “You stay right here with the rest of us and continue to persevere in your hell on Earth!” I get it; I will never drag you down into my personal hell.
What can go wrong?
At some point in my life I found the notion to spend hell in hell, rather than on Earth schmeckt me more fitting and decorus. At least then I might feel a flush of familiarity with my situation, and not guilty of any pretense. Only then would up be up, and down be down once again. There was a common sense of it all at one point for me, one that I was willing to terminally pursue. As a great friend and former Delta brother of mine, Josh Collins, once said: “For me, finally, the horizon stood still, and the world made sense again.”
What will go wrong?
Survivors of suicide will likely recognize what I describe as the perversion of being in a depression so utterly oppressive that you DO NOT have the strength to get up and kill yourself. If I were so pompous as to try to put it into words, at my best I could say it was the worst feeling you could ever feel. The pistol is downstairs; that would entail me separating my ponderous corpse from my magnetic bed, profoundly indented by the impression of my body where it lay for the past weeks on end. I would have to make it outside for fear of the mess… but that distance is unachievable in my state. I’ll lie here and contribute to the depression in my bed with my depression. A storm is a-brewing, I fear.
There is another notion that clumsily elbows its way into my conscious that has earned a place in my essay: people who do effectively finish themselves, at that critical fractional too-late moment when they ‘pull their trigger’ they regret it.
All that being said, I can assure you in all confidence and with all due conviction, that we who have committed suicide, did not give one tenth of a rat’s ass what people thought of our chosen path, or the feelings of those who we left behind, because we have reached our capacity to endure in the physical realm, and have reached it with no regrets.
Never at any division of a second did I ever regret how I had come to reach a suicidal state. Only that I was there now, and it was time to get it over with: no sorrow, no dread, no pining away over young children or spouse. I didn’t see the big picture, or the small picture, or any picture. What will my son become? How will my daughter turn out? There was none of that. Death was a simple mathematical equation for which I merely had to solve for X, then all of the unspeakable madness would go away.
To arrive at the resolution of suicide is a measure of a peace of mind one gains from accepting the inevitable. It’s a means to an end that has a finite timeline of execution. Seeing the end of many months or years of dismal anguish is a fully friendly site to behold. It is; yes, yes it is.
Once one arrives at the critical juncture of resolution, we will very methodically either execute a carefully calculated, pre-planned sequence of events that will guarantee positive submission to death, or, as in my case, recognize a sudden opportunity or resource that will trigger and escalate our resolve to engage in a suicidal solution. We will quickly formulate an impromptu plan of action that is logical and achievable with those resources that are suddenly at hand.
I said “those of us who have committed suicide” because in my mind, and from my aspect, I was mission complete. I accomplished all necessary objectives to ensure my attempt was a success.
So what went wrong?
There are those who feign a theatric episode of suicide attempt because they are merely starved for attention, or are exhibiting a measure of cry for help. In the case of those episodes the common denominator is the ‘victim’ will always give them selves an ‘out.’ By ‘out’ I mean an exit strategy that will prevent them from going through with the actual act of successful suicide. “Hello, mother… I’m home and I just swallowed a whole bottle of sleeping pills because I just can’t take it anymore.” My tiny imaginary violin wails for you, my darling.
In my instance, I hid myself and and left no clues behind. I rendered no possibility to pursue and find me and save my life. I was a man on a mission and I meant what I was doing. I killed myself. I am alive today by divine intervention, or out of sheer inexplicable dumb luck that to this day does not make sense.
So what went wrong?
I offer my own case: a failed marriage after 26 years. A mutual agreement to settle matters privately, away from the drama of court and exorbitant cost of legal counsel, was suddenly shattered by the appearance of papers served.
There was a divorce decree, a full year restraining order from seeing my impressionable young children, a court order to vacate the home I had been paying mortgage on for 15 years… to vacate my home the very next morning, or be forcefully removed by police. My sincere compliments to my ex, for meticulously adhering to our personal pact of devotion and resolve. My last trust in her completely sabotaged by avarice and hate.
It was my last night in my beloved house. I was scared and confused, hesitant and clumsy, wavering and stupid, numb with disbelief. I was horrified by the prospect of nightfall, as it would bid my depression to an even lower penchant toward a gruesome vortex doom.
I was terrorized with the lingering dread of further verbal lashings from my ex. More threats, more warnings, profanity, further stripping me of any vestige of self worth, self esteem, curb stomping any detectible trace of pride that might be desperately clinging somehow to my worthless affect. I could scarce lift my head, let alone utter any intelligible words to my young son or daughter that evening. Climbing the stairs was like trying to summit Denali without a breathing aid.
Time to put my two children to bed. My daughter of 12 years was mature and fended nicely for herself. My son of nine years required my usual assistance and some slight persuasion to accomplish his nightly routine.
I kindly invited him to doff his day wear and don his sleeping apparel. We men brushed our teeth together in the men’s bathroom. We brushed, picked, gargled mouth wash, and spat it into the sink. My boy vaulted himself into his bed and obediently began his 20 minute ritual of book reading. That’s my boy; a real chip, yessiree!
I slowly meandered sans rumbus upstairs into the master bedroom. I don’t know why I did, because I slept then in the guest room. I wandered in nonetheless. I stopped. There at my feet lay a prescription pill bottle. It must have fallen off of her dresser. I gathered it and squinted at the label. It was a sleeping sedative called Ambien CR, a hynotfic.
Prescribed to my ex-wife, it was a full 30 day fill. “Take one tablet before bed time… do not mix with alcohol” the label admonished. Here it was! I recognized this! Here was my sudden opportunity that triggered and escalated my resolve to finally engage in my own suicide solution with this resource at hand. What a windfall; this was truly meant to be. “Sir, thou art no craven”, I recovered the bottle from the floor as I scanned the room for witness.
I gave no thought to my 26-year wife, I didn’t regard my daughter as she passed in front of me, I didn’t consider my son just a few feet away reading, who I might have at least kissed on the forehead and promised my love. I soundly stuffed the pill bottle in my pocket.
If I had a son or daughter, this wasn’t the time to know that. What could one more good night kiss truly benefit them? How more could either of them prophet from one last “Night-night babe, Daddy loves you with all his miserable heart?” This wasn’t the time to debate it. That time had come and gone forever. “Kids… brush your teeth and keep your rooms clean… that’s all I’ve got, forever.”
I descended the stairs envisioning the two 24 ounce cans of beer in my tote bag down stairs by my computer. They were strong brews of 12% alcohol by volume. They could knock out a entire basketball team. I would use them to chase down the sleeping pills, finishing the two off in rapid succession. Just a few scant minutes separate my unmitigated misery from total release. There’s gold in them thar hills, boys!!