The first time I almost killed myself was in January of 2009. In December of the proceeding year, I had been fired during the darkest days of the crash. I had no meaningful friendships in Portland, and spent my days alone in my apartment, trying not to look at my dwindling cash reserves and trolling Craigslist. A beautiful, smart, funny girl approached me online and we got to chatting with an eye towards dating. I have never been approached by someone who said I was attractive and worth dating, except for her. After two weeks of online chatting, I was deeply infatuated with her. Then she broke off contact. Simply stopped replying to my messages, except once to ask what this strange number she was getting texts from was. I still suffer from the emotional damage I received as a result of severe emotional abuse I survived as a child. The loneliness, the anxiety about my unemployment, and the painful way the girl chose to end our interaction all piled up on me. I began to suffocate. I despaired over ever improving my situation. I couldn’t imagine getting to the end of the week, much less the end of the year.
I lived on Barbur Boulevard, in the SW of Portland. There was a blind curve around which buses would come at upwards of 45 miles an hour. I began to look at bus schedules. My plan was to jump in front of one. There was a very convenient tree, which cast shadows I could hide in easily until the bus was too close to stop. The 12, the 54, the 56, the 48, the 8, the 1. Any of these would do. My bank account was about to run dry, but I spent forty dollars on two handles of whiskey that week, because when I was drunk I was something approaching happy and safe. My moods swung wildly, and my sleep patterns eroded until wakefulness and sleep no longer had a schedule. I smashed my head into the wall as hard as I could, several times. I should have called 911. I knew I had to. But I didn’t. I knew I was in danger, and I should call for help, but if I had called for help I would have been saved and I didn’t want to be. I wanted to be dead. I could not bear to continue living a life where I would be poor, and unloved, and lonely, and pathetic. I disgusted myself. At this point the fear wasn’t death. The fear was getting hit by a bus and surviving.
It was a very near thing. I am glad I did not murder myself in despair. I managed to build a life, make friends, and find hope again. But three years later, on the morning of December 18th, 2010, that life I had rebuilt died. In the space of four hours, every single facet of my life flew apart in a spray of shrapnel. I was woken up by a debt collector. I found out I failed classes. My roommate was threatening me with violence. My student loans left a huge gap over winter vacation I wouldn’t be able to cover. The apartment I was hoping to move into to flee the impending violence from my roommate turned me down unless I paid a bigger deposit than I could possibly afford. Stress from my gender dysphoria had been building and compounding with the stress of graduate school for weeks, and I found myself crouched behind a bush on the side of the street, sobbing in terror and sure I wouldn’t survive to the end of the week. For days I’d been playing the I’m Sorry game. It’s the game I play when things are so bad that I assume I must deserve it, and I begin whimpering “I’m sorry, I’m sorry” over and over to the Universe.
I skipped town. Hit San Francisco, stayed a few nights, and moved on south to Los Angeles. I ended up with my mother in her tiny, one-room condo. The stress started getting to both of us almost immediately. She made some mistakes. I made some mistakes. I started thinking about bus schedules again. She said I was a disappointment to her. Said she regretted that I’d turned out to be trans. I sobbed myself to sleep every night after she was snoring. I felt cut off from her, like I was unwanted. A burden. Worthless. Here I was, a quarter century old, and I had less to my name than I had even in high school. My academic career was in shambles, my resume was a sick joke, and my transition seemed hopelessly out of reach. I thought I was going to be an ugly, disgusting, pathetic wretch of a boy-thing who only brought pain to the people I care about for the rest of my life, and if that’s how it was I wanted to get it over with.
There was a pool, at that condo. I remember looking at it, and thinking how easy it would be. Wade in. Duck. A deep breath and it’s all over but the thrashing. I made the decision to return to San Francisco that night. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It was an admission that I couldn’t count on my mother anymore. Worse, that I couldn’t trust her. She may have meant well, although at the time it was hard to tell, but she was a danger to me. I had to cut her out of the dwindling circle of people I really trust, and that is something I have not yet recovered from. We I see her now, I can see how much she was hurt by this, too.
I don’t regret it at all. I would do it ten times if I had to. It saved my life.
Shortly before I left San Francisco, I considered taking a knife into a shower.I don’t want to talk about that one.
These days, I carry a suicide hotline number in my wallet at all times. I have a list of people I have promised to speak to before I kill myself. I have a standing promise to myself to call 911 before I do anything. There is no such thing as too many precautions for me now. These are things I need to have in my life to live now. In the first half of 2011, I was suicidal on such a regular basis you could almost set a calendar by it. Now I haven’t been suicidal in almost a year, but I am not free of thoughts of killing myself. That escape still lurks on my shoulder. On an almost monthly basis, it occurs to me I could solve it all with suicide. Every single setback in my life gives me at least a few seconds consideration about the merits of killing myself. Every single worry and care I have ultimately leads to an imagined scenario that ends with my death at my own hands. This will likely be true for as long as I live. It is something I struggle with constantly, and silently.
I will never be free. And I will never have the luxury of being weak. Not about this. Not ever.