When I sink down so low all my rationality withers into nonexistence, the darkness can quickly swallow me whole and lead to untrue thoughts like “I cannot handle consciousness.” Two months ago, this thinking yanked me so violently—and rapidly—down into a black pit of despair, I decided to end my life…again.
My descent into this darkness started not long after breaking up with my boyfriend of nearly six years. Despite Horacio being a serious sweetheart, despite how much we have in common and how much he’s taught me about spirituality, he just never wants to settle down. Now, at 37, I’m ready to finally at least consider moving in with someone, and I’m even open to the “M” word (although this piece could surely scare off any of those potential suitors).
“Honey, I just want you to be happy,” he told me over the phone. “I don’t think you should stay with me if you want to settle down. You need to make a decision, and I feel you aren’t going to do it.”
He was right that I needed to make a decision—I was too chicken-shit to do so. It’s not easy to dump someone you love with all your heart.
Knowing that he was right, a few days later I told him we should end it for good.
For two weeks, I refused to feel sad, and whenever an uncomfortable emotion began to surface, I just shoved it down by binging on Louis CK and Bill Burr stand-up specials. Laughter, I decided, would be my coping strategy, and so I spit out wisecracks to friends about how I’d be single for the rest of my life instead of opening up and being vulnerable. In the past, when I’ve dealt with breakups, they’ve been unbearable, so I figured if I distracted myself enough I could coast through it without any pain whatsoever.
Words of wisdom: Don’t ever do this. Because after two weeks of refusing to even cry, one night I found myself sobbing, unable to breathe while trying to fall asleep at like 11 pm. Rather than following my doctor’s advice and taking Trazadone to help me sleep, I began blaring depressing music into my eardrums via headphones thinking the music—Tori Amos ballads and Little Dragon’s “Twice”—would make me feel better.
The negative thoughts started. “Horacio didn’t really love me.” “It’s not that he doesn’t want to settle down, it’s that he just didn’t love me as much as he said he did.” That morphed into, “I’ll always be alone. I’m unlovable. There’s something wrong with me.”
Despite being bipolar, I wouldn’t necessarily say I was in a manic or depressive state, although at the time I do think I was in the grips of a mixed episode, a combination of both depression and mania that experts claim is the state most responsible for suicide. After listening to my dark thoughts, and not trying to stop them, I decided that I just couldn’t go on.
I’ve tried multiple means to kill myself in the past, and since none had worked, I decided to attempt something different. Since the internet is a one-stop-shop for “How To’s,” I looked up ways to kill yourself painlessly, and a nice article called “How To Commit Suicide Painlessly” suggested over-the-counter sleeping pills.
So, in a zombie-like trance of disassociation (meaning I was sort of outside my body and walking around like a robot), I went to Rite-Aid and bought two bottles of generic Unisom (they were out of the brand name), a total of like 150 pills. Since I really wanted to get the job done and wasn’t sure if 150 would do the trick, and since I also didn’t want a store clerk to suspect I may be suicidal and 86 me from the store, I pulled the ultimate alcoholic move and drove to a different drugstore to get two more bottles. 300 sleeping pills had to do the trick.
I say my logic had dissipated, but it did occur to me—for about a half a second anyway—to just drive myself to the Kaiser ER and turn myself in. They’d take me to their mental hospital, but at least I’d be safe and my insurance would cover the costs. Then I thought briefly about just driving to my mother’s house, who lives 25 minutes away from my place in Los Feliz, or driving to my dad’s house in Orange County, or calling my aunt who lives in Pasadena, or driving to Horacio’s 15 minutes away.
Then the thoughts of, “Don’t bother them, it’s late” flooded my mind, along with, “You’ve already spent $80 on sleeping pills, so you might as well go through with it” along with, “It’s best if you do this now so they don’t have to deal with your ups and downs in the future.”
Yep, that’s the mind of a person on the brink of suicide—plagued with absurd and irrational thinking.
Since I have a roommate, the last thing I wanted to do was top myself off at home and have her find me. Not only would it destroy her, but if she found me there would be a high likelihood that I’d wind up in the ER, still alive. So, in that state of irrational disassociation, I decided to drive down to Huntington Beach, where I spent the first eight years of my life, before my parents divorced, and kill myself while parked outside my childhood house.
I figured it would be comforting. What a perfect and poetic way to die. Also, since I knew I’d be missing for some time, I didn’t want the cops to find my car and save me. In an effort to stay off the grid, I left my phone at home, so the GPS wouldn’t give away my location. I also left my phone because I knew myself—many times, I’d chicken out after swallowing pills, thinking, “Ahhhh! I didn’t mean it! I don’t want to die!” and then I’d call 911 and I didn’t want that to happen.
Not bringing my phone threw a wrench in the whole dying outside my childhood house plan, because I couldn’t find the street we lived on. The last time I drove down to HB to reminisce about my childhood, I was 18 years old. I drove down the dark neighborhood streets for around 20 minutes trying to find the house, but with time ticking away and it almost approaching one in the morning, I began feeling sleepy and decided to park outside a house that kind of looked like our house. Close enough.
The moon, a luminous yellow crescent that night, popped from the blue-black sky, filling me with a real sense of peace.
“I am just going to sleep,” I said out loud as I opened up the first bottle. “I just want peace. It’s the right thing to do for everyone.”
I poured half of the pills of the bottle, around 30, into my hand and took a big swig of the gallon of water that sat on the passenger seat. Yes, I can swallow this many pills all at once—it’s possible if you just gulp really hard, but then again, I have a pretty big mouth. After swallowing that whole bottle, I unscrewed the lid on the second bottle and poured more pills into my hand.
That’s when this blaring inner voice—not the voice of God or an angel but my own damn voice—screamed out, “Noooooooooooooo!” This has never happened before. In the past, I’ve always swallowed all of the pills that I’ve intended to swallow.
“This is a very final decision you are making. There’s no taking it back. You don’t want to die, Tracy. You just don’t want to be in pain.”
From there, I began saying, “No, I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die,” out loud, and with this revelation I knew I had to get to a hospital. All those pills could likely kill me, and if they didn’t kill me they could easily destroy my kidneys or liver.
Unfortunately, I had no idea where the nearest hospital was since I didn’t bring my phone. Knowing that at any moment I would pass out, I realized I had to do something fast. I contemplated knocking on the door of the house in front of my car and asking them to call 911, but I was too chickenshit.
“Don’t bother them!” I thought. Apparently, I need to work on this obsession to not bother people.
Then I remembered there was a DUI checkpoint that I drove through en route to my childhood house. So, I started my engine and drove toward the checkpoint, knowing that the cops could point me in the direction of the hospital. I just booked it as fast as I could. Yes, it was stupid to drive up to a DUI checkpoint with a system full of sleeping pills, but what can I say? I was desperate.
Unlike the streets of Los Angeles, those in Huntington Beach were essentially empty at 1am. I slowly pulled up to the checkpoint and the cop began waving me through. As he waved, I stopped my car, rolled down the window and asked this heavyset Asian cop, “Do you know where the nearest hospital is?”
“Make a right at Beach, then a left at Nelson,” he said, reassuringly. “It’s really close.”
Once I turned around and got out of the cops’ sight, I drove as fast as I could to get to that hospital before passing out. I figured that if the pills started kicking in I could at least pull over and just scream as loud as I could for help. No, this was not the smartest move, but, again, I wasn’t in the most logical frame of mind.
I found the hospital after about three minutes of driving and hauled my car into a slot in the emergency room parking lot. Then I ran like hell to the building and luckily made it before passing out.
Now approaching the nurse at the check-in window and telling her what happened proved painfully embarrassing. In the past when I’ve attempted suicide I’ve shown up to the hospital in an ambulance.
“What brings you in?” she asked.
“I swallowed 64 sleeping pills,” I said quietly, not wanting anyone to hear, so quietly she couldn’t understand me.
“I swallowed 64 sleeping pills,” I said louder, looking over my shoulder to see if anyone in the waiting room could hear me.
“Did you do that on purpose?” she asked.
Even in that state, I found the question rather humorous—how exactly does one swallow 64 sleeping pills by accident?
“Ok, have a seat we’ll call you right in,” she said after asking me to fill out a form.
Now here’s the one good thing about poisoning yourself—you skip to the head of the line in the ER. While sitting there in front of those few people waiting, my heart began to race. Suddenly, I felt my limbs go numb (something I’m used to—when you swallow some 300 or more pills, you become physically paralyzed). I grew lightheaded, all within just three minutes. Right after these symptoms began, I heard a nurse call, “Tracy?”
Good timing. I vaguely recall what happened after that. I remember I couldn’t walk and they carried me to a bed. I remember the voices of doctors asking me what I took and why. I remember people holding their fingers up and asking me to tell them if I knew where I was. But soon after, my consciousness went kaput.
It took me nearly 48 hours to wake up. I recall opening my eyes and immediately seeing that 80’s show Empty Nest playing on a TV attached to the wall. Scores of IV’s were stuck in my skin, a breathing tube was stuck up my nostrils, a bunch of round sensors were stuck to my chest monitoring my heart, a blood pressure wrap hugged my right bicep, nearly cutting off my circulation every five minutes, and I was hooked up to a catheter.
“Uh oh,” I thought.
“Do you know where you are?” a male nurse asked, almost yelling, the second I opened my eyes.
“Ummmm, Kaiser?” I could barely speak.
“No, you’re at Huntington Beach Memorial Hospital,” he said in irritation. “What day is it?”
I just stared at him, unable to think of an answer.
“It’s Sunday, April 24th,” he said.
Shit! I swallowed all those pills on a Friday evening. My family and friends and roommate would be worried sick! I immediately panicked.
“You need to call my mom,” I said, giving him the number.
He left my room and called her from the nurses station right outside, and I overheard the conversation
“Hi, this is Jason calling from the ICU at Huntington Memorial Hospital; your daughter Tracy is here.” Holy shit, the ICU? Again? It was the third time I’d wound up like this. I really didn’t think the 64 sleeping pills would do such damage.
I later found out that my friends and family and Horacio were “jacked up” for two days, as my dad put it, trying to figure out what the hell happened to me. A missing person’s report was filed with the LAPD, and my dad apparently convinced the cops to put out an APB on my car before 24 hours had passed since I’d gone missing. Seems my plan worked to go off the grid in the OC.
After healing up for two more days in the hospital and then spending three days in a useless psych unit, I came home embarrassed and horrified at how I’d worried everyone. But I quickly enrolled in a bi-weekly Dialectical Behavioral Therapy group at Kaiser, got a one-on-one therapist and took the whole thing very seriously. Thankfully, not one friend or family member (or even Horacio) gave me any shit. Everyone in my life has been super supportive, loving and has encouraged me to use professional help to get well.
I have to say, the DBT has been life-changing, and the mindfulness aspect of DBT proved so helpful I’ve begun attending Buddhist groups and meditating at least twice a day. What threw me down the tubes was that horrid “monkey mind,” the negative self-talk. If meditation can help me “train my mind,” as one of the Buddhist monks said, then hopefully I can prevent this from happening again.
Most importantly, I learned that I absolutely do not want to die. I’m sure plenty of people will read this and say “God stepped in” or some bullshit, but truthfully I stepped in. I decided to haul my ass to the hospital, even though it was probably not the safest thing to do with all those pills in my system. Regardless, I’m so glad I did.
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