This week, sadly, brings news of the suicides of two celebrities: Fashion designer Kate Spade at age 55, and Anthony Bourdain at age 61.
I watched Bourdain’s TV work only sporadically, but he certainly seemed to enjoy what he was doing. I admit I was barely aware of Spade until this week’s news. But I am always sorry to hear of any such news, especially regarding people who seemed to have everything going for them. My heart goes out to their families and friends.
I have long hesitated about telling the story of my own suicide attempt. But after reading this news, as well as the news that suicides and attempts at it are increasing in nearly all 50 states, I feel that if my story can help even one person, it’s worth telling.
In 2003, I had been a public school teacher for 10 years. At first it had been quite satisfying, but little by little, the micromanaging and the unruly students chipped away at my self-confidence. Finally, I ended up with a house administrator who, for some unknown reason, had me in her sights. She made a point of observing me and writing me up, right in front of a class of my best students.
As it happened, the day before, I had gone to see a counselor and had been prescribed Xanax for depression. I had duly taken the first four pills on schedule, just like I was supposed to.
But the next morning, I went to talk to my principal about the write-up I had received. I had hoped he would see things my way. Instead, he sort of shrugged his shoulders and said that things would be this way from now on and I might as well get used to it.
When the meeting was over, I nodded my head, went to the nearest restroom, and swallowed the remaining 56 Xanax pills all at once. Then I got in my car and left the school, intending to go directly to my counselor’s office.
As it happened, I got only halfway there before I passed out. Luckily, I had at least enough presence of mind to pull over to the side of the road and shut the car off. A passing policeman noticed me, found the pill bottle beside me, and called for an emergency. I’m told that he found me muttering that I just wanted the pain to stop.
When I came to, I was in a hospital room, facing my wife and my kids (then ages 7 and 10). My wife later told me that she was furious when she got the news. She immediately pulled our kids out of school, telling them that Daddy had been in an accident and that they all needed to visit him in the hospital.
As I recall, my wife said very little and just allowed our kids to crawl all over my bed and all over me. She later said that this was her way of showing me just what I would have been leaving behind had I succeeded.
The next three years were not easy, as I pretty much had a nervous breakdown and then regularly attended counseling sessions, which made me feel like I was an onion getting peeled away at, layer by layer. But I knew it had to be done if I was to get any further in life.
In the 15 years since my suicide attempt, I have gone on to write, direct, and star in several local plays; created this blog and a podcast, both of which have many followers, for whom I am very grateful; and have found the job of my dreams, after so many decades when I was certain I wouldn’t find satisfaction in any job. My kids have long since learned the truth about that day in the hospital, and while it might have been more difficult for them to deal with than it was for me, we seem to have a very good relationship now “on the other side.” I would have indeed missed out on a lot if I had killed myself.
I have previously written about suicide here on this blog. It is the most maddening of subjects, because it’s nothing you can truly get a handle upon. If you cut your finger, you can put some ointment and a bandage on it to heal it. If it’s cold season, you can get a flu shot and take Vitamin C to help prevent getting sick. The relentlessness of suicidal thoughts ensures that they cannot be controlled or prevented so easily.
I can only say, please find a reason to live. Even if it is only for the purpose of surviving for another day, you will have accomplished something. Get help however, wherever, and whenever you can. Trust that somebody, if not a lot of somebodies, will be sorry if you attempt suicide and succeed.
Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255