Editor’s Note: I read an article that explored the fact that suicide among the younger population was at a ten year high. I felt compelled to bring back a few pieces that have been in the magazine before about the subject.
It’s an important topic. I want to be sure you have some tools to combat it if you should come into contact with a youth you suspect is leaning in that direction. It is combatable. You can help them win the battle. You can make a difference. You can save a life. I want to help you accomplish that.
I remember what it felt like. I can remember why I did it. I remember the sting, the immediate regret, the emptiness, the hopelessness. I remember it all.
Yeah, I remember when I felt so desperate that I put a towel over a light bulb and smashed it with a sneaker. I remember when all the pills I took started to take effect. I remember going numb, the feeling, both physical and mental, just disappeared. I remember the blood. I remember getting nauseous when I saw the inside of my wrist. I remember the drunken-like walk down the steps to the living room from my room in the attic.
I remember the look of terror on my Mom's face and the look of disappointment on my Step Dad's. I remember the ambulance showing up at my house. I remember the embarrassment I felt when they carted me out to the flashing lights. I remember the bumpy ride to the hospital. I remember the EMTs working furiously around me as I lay there in the gurney waiting to die.
I remember the harshness of the charcoal the Doctor made me drink. I remember my body convulsing as the pills and charcoal exited my body. Then nothing. When
I awoke in my hospital bed, I knew what I had done. I knew I just altered any chance I had at a normal life. I knew they were all looking at me now. I knew I was going to be the one they were whispering about in school, on the basketball court, in my house whenever I'd leave the room. I knew I'd be on the Children & Youth radar. I knew I had explaining to do.
What I didn't know was that the next time I would open my eyes I'd be in the mental ward of the hospital. I didn't know where my belt went. I didn't know where my shoelaces had gone either. I didn't know how to deal with the gentleman in the bed next to me screaming at people that weren't there. I didn't know the proper etiquette when propositioned for sex by a much larger man. (FYI, my response was to throw a punch and run away shouting for help)
Above all I didn't know why things had gone so awry that I couldn't see another way out.
This happened in the months before I would ultimately find myself in foster care. This happened at a time in my life when a future didn't seem like something that was worth the effort. It happened to a kid who was tested as a genius. It happened to an athlete. It happened to a Boy Scout. It happened to everyone's buddy. It happened to a fairly popular student with average grades. It happened to me.
What I learned was I didn't need to go to those extremes. I learned I was worth more than I had considered. I learned more people cared about me than I thought. I learned that some of the people I trusted weren't worth the paper shoes they give you when you arrive at the psych ward. I learned that certain people in my life were more valuable than I could have imagine.
How did I pull through? Humor.
The humor in my life had vanished during that dark period. It was resurrected by friends who had the courage and loyalty to visit me in the ward. They came bearing gifts. Cigarettes, soda money and a toy. That toy put everything into perspective, it snapped me right out of my sadness.
It was an Animaniac. Animaniacs was a spinoff cartoon based on the Warner Brothers characters i.e. Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck etc. as kids.
The absurdity of the gift, but moreover, the name of the gift; Animaniacs. Made me see the ridiculousness of my actions.
Suicide is no joke. My response to the gift was purely an offshoot of my personality and my friends knew that about me. Not everyone can be brought back to reality with a toy, I was fortunate.
That desperate kid turned out to be a pretty good guy. He became a friend worth having. He became a husband, a father and a business owner. He still feels the sadness on occasion but has a better grip on how to deal with it. He found value in himself and the world around him. He also found a way to help others who still have feelings of emptiness. You just read it.
This is the first time I've ever addressed this in public. Most people would just tell some friends nut I'm an Animaniac, so a national magazine seems like a more appropriate venue.
I'm not sure what you can take from my moment of darkness. What I'd like you to take away from it is that it can happen to ANYONE. No one would have guessed that I'd be the kid in class with bandages on his wrists but there I was. Keep your eyes open.
Even though my incident happened before foster care, care is a breeding ground for feelings of loss and emptiness. Desperate lonely kids populate foster care. They are susceptible to feeling that suicide is the way out, just like I was. They are stubborn and when they feel defeated they will absolutely follow through with their bad intentions. They/I are/was screaming for help. They/I need talked down, out of our sadness. We/I don't/didn't want your help but we desperately need it.
Stay diligent if confronted by this. It won't be easy but that kid might just end up being the kid that helps the next generation of lost souls.