I’ve tried to kill myself seven times, and, according to statistics, I should really be dead. Typically the sixth attempt puts you out for good. But, to quote Sylvia Plath, “like a cat I have nine times to die.” I’m crossing my fingers I don’t do something stupid again, because today, I definitely want to live.
The truth is, I’m a likely candidate for suicide. Those with bipolar disorder have the highest chance of putting a gun to their temple and pulling the trigger out of all other mental illnesses. The stats are THAT one in five of us end up dead by suicide.
Couple this with morbid alcoholism and I win the award for “Most Likely To Commit Suicide.”
The first time I tried to off myself was two weeks into my freshman year of college, which is no coincidence. The stress of leaving home, meeting new people, attending difficult classes where I was no longer the smartest person in the room and often got B’s or C’s instead of A’s, all the while drinking hard, triggered my first severe incidence of depression. One particularly dismal Friday night when my roommate was gone, I swallowed a whole 60-tablet bottle of Advil. Knowing nothing about toxicology, I figured it would put my mind at rest for good. Of course it did not, but after the RA found out about my overdose and took me to the emergency room, the ER doc told me that if I had taken aspirin I definitely would have died. So the next time I made an attempt, just a few months later, I swallowed a bottle of aspirin.
The doctor at County-USC Hospital told me if I had taken Tylenol I would have definitely died. I learned that these medical professionals are morons, because the next attempt, one year later, I swallowed a bottle of Tylenol.
Still lived. Thankfully, I had no liver or kidney damage.
After that, I just sort of gave up on suicide altogether. I wasn’t about to do something painful like slit my wrists, blow my brains out or jump off a tall building—I don’t like pain. I just wanted to fall asleep peacefully to turn off my despairing head when I entered those black depressions.
But then May 21, 2007 rolled around, when I crashed after a six-month hypomanic and manic episode. I was working full-time at the USC Fisher Gallery to pay for grad school tuition, a job that had me producing lectures at the Getty and LACMA and coordinating exhibit receptions. But that wasn’t enough to satisfy my high. In addition to my classes for grad school, I took drawing classes at Santa Monica City College, pumped out oil paintings to put in art shows, completed a novel and produced the student and alumni reading series for my grad program.
Ahhh, the joys of bipolar disorder.
Of course, it caught up to me, given I had to take the edge off the high every evening with more and more vodka. And after destroying my bright yellow VW Beetle when intoxicated by hitting a speed bump at 140 miles per hour, which demolished the oil pan and then the engine, I’d had enough of life.
Because of my tumultuous state, my best friend Matt invited me to stay with him for a few days. I slept in his roommate’s bed since she was out of the country. And one night, while trying to fall asleep, this wave of loneliness and desperation and blackness overcame me. Then the chatter started.
You’re a mess, you’re a drunk, you’re a chain smoker, you’re a complete embarrassment to your family, no one loves you, you’re a failure.
Then I sort of snapped, and entered a complete state of disassociation.
Nothing was real anymore. Nothing mattered. And I had to die. And that night I’d only had one glass of wine. I was sober enough to make sure I was successful.
I walked to the nearby 24-hour CVS pharmacy and filled my prescriptions for Ativan, Adderall, Klonopin, Celexa and Lamictal, then I bought two super-sized bottles of Tylenol and Advil—300 pills in each, because surely that would do it! Then I grabbed some wine, a container of cookies and ice cream to coat my stomach so I wouldn’t puke up the pills, and—I shit you not—I bought about 10 “In Sympathy For Loss Of Your Loved One” cards to fill out for my friends and family, along with a “Congratulations on Your Engagement” card for my cousin who’d just gotten engaged. I also bought shaving cream and a razor to shave my legs so when the firemen found me I wouldn’t look too unkempt, and I topped off my spree with at least six dozen roses, in all different colors, as a parting gift for everyone.
I also withdrew $300 from an ATM to give to Matt as an apology for killing myself in his apartment.
I had completely lost it.
It’s apparent that I’d lost it because I went out into the patio behind his apartment building and swallowed as many pills as I could, which had to be at least 500, with the wine while sobbing hysterically. It didn’t occur to me to fill out the cards and shave my legs first. I guess I figured it would take a while for the pills to kick in. Unfortunately, when I got up, entered the apartment and picked up some of the cards to start writing in them, I blacked out completely and crashed hard against the counter, falling to the floor.
Apparently I had a massive seizure, because hours later, Matt found me in a pool of blood having chewed through my tongue. For some reason, he’s still a close friend, even though he had to deal with that terrifying situation. When the fire department arrived, they told him I’d damaged my brain and would never be the same again.
But I still didn’t die! I woke up late that day, at least noon, so I was out for a good 11 hours. Still, no kidney damage, no liver damage, although I was unconscious for five days in the Cedar Sinai ICU.
I’d like to say that was the last attempt, but it just isn’t the case. Instead, after trying to get sober and relapsing, I attempted suicide three more times, still nothing.
Nope. No death for me.
The truth is I never wanted to die in the first place. I have a huge passion for life, a bazillion places I want to travel, and a bunch of goals. But I just don’t enjoy being in complete psychological agony. I’ve discovered this in sobriety, whenever I start thinking “Ugh, I just want to die,” another thought counters it: “No, you don’t want to die, you just don’t want to be in pain.” And this awareness keeps me out of suicidal ideation. I’ve got enough time sober and out of the psych unit to know from experience that the darkest lows will always pass.
If, that is, I stay sober one day at a time. If I don’t, all bets are off and I may wind up in the Rose Hills buried next to my great-grandmother. No offense to my great-grandmother, but I’d rather remain among the living for a few more years.