My Suicide Attempts.

When I was 16, I tried, on two occasions, to kill myself.  While this isn’t news – I talk about it on the “My Story So Far…” page in very broad strokes – it is a period in my life that I haven’t really addressed on this blog.  And lately, it’s been a period in my life that I’ve been thinking an awful lot about.  I thought about it as I wrote and practiced the motivational speech I gave last week (although I ultimately decided not to mention it during the speech).  Then I watched a wonderful episode of Anderson Cooper’s new daytime talk show where he interviewed his mother, the legendary Gloria Vanderbilt, and I burst into tears when they talked about the day that Anderson’s brother, Carter, killed himself (watch a clip here).

All this activity has created these waves of memories, some that I haven’t thought about in a decade, that keep splashing around in my brain.  Last night, they kept me from getting a good night’s sleep.  I need to process some of these memories, and to do that, I’m going to write about them.  I don’t know where this post is going, but I’m just gonna write, and hope that it’ll help.  Somehow.

Me and my pet ferret, around 1995 (age 16).

Thinking back 15 years, to my junior year in high school, before those two suicide attempts, what strikes me is how terribly afraid I was and how terribly alone I thought I was.  A darkness was quickly settling in, and I was powerless to stop it.

I can’t pinpoint what, if anything, started this mental descent, but I started thinking, as my junior year began, that people didn’t understand me.  That I was different.  I couldn’t articulate why, because I didn’t understand it myself.  Knowing what I now know about myself, I’d say it was probably due to a number of things.  Because my own developing passions, for creative endeavors and the arts, were different from the emphasis on academics that my parents stressed.  Because my lack of interest in team sports seemed so bewildering to others (I had recently quit playing water polo, which everyone seemed to have an opinion about).  Because I had a body raging with hormones, yet girls weren’t popping up on my radar (it would take me another year or so before I figured out that other boys caused the radar to light up).  At the time, I wasn’t able to recognize any of this.  I just felt different.

My self-esteem was also low.  I didn’t think much of myself to begin with.  I already thought I was ugly, weak, and that my excess weight was hideous, and then I started realizing, on top of all that, that I was different, and I didn’t like it.  Different was shameful, different was embarrassing, different was bad.  Different meant I didn’t belong.  I didn’t fit in.

At first these feelings were occasional and merely confusing at worst, but they soon increased with frequency and strength.  I was sure that something wasn’t right – that I wasn’t right – and there was nothing I could do about it.  I couldn’t even describe what was going on, let alone have the wherewithal to ask for help.  As these feelings increased and become more pervasive, the confusion they brought gave way to dread.  Why am I constantly feeling so shitty about myself?  Why won’t this ever stop?  I don’t think I’ll be able to overcome this.

As I spiraled downward, the fog of depression got thicker, and my self-worth plummeted.  I convinced myself that normal people don’t suffer because of their own thoughts, that I don’t deserve to be happy, that this is something I must soldier through alone.  After all, who would sympathize with someone as weak and worthless as me?  I was sure I was beyond help, a lost cause.  Because I felt so alone and certain that no one would understand, I started focusing on making sure no one knew.  I had to keep this private.  I couldn’t draw attention to myself.  When I was around other people, I smiled and laughed and pretended to have a good time, but I grew to both look forward to and hate being alone: I looked forward to dropping the act that I was happy and things were fine, but I knew the second I was alone, these terrible thoughts would instantly began swirling again in a vicious tornado that would wreak havoc within seconds.  It was downright terrifying.

1996 or 1997 (age 17)

My own mind was poisoning me.  I didn’t love myself, and before long, I convinced myself that no one else loved me either.  I told myself that my family’s love was obligatory, and therefore didn’t count and wasn’t true.  I had friends – good, close friends – but they all had lots of friends, so they couldn’t possibly care about me.  I internally spun everyday conversations into evidence that I was right: anyone’s compliment became back-handed, any gesture of love towards me became an outright lie.  Sometimes it felt like a puzzle, and I would relish replaying someone’s kind words in my head over and over until I could figure out the malicious and hateful intent behind them.  Most of the time, though, it felt like a beating, like I was continually being pummeled from all sides with these ideas that I wasn’t worthy: worthy of friends, worthy of family, worthy of kindness, worthy of living.  I cried myself to sleep many nights, often ruminating on a new thought:  Maybe I’d be better off dead.

Death.  I don’t remember exactly when the thought of death first entered my mind, but in the throws of a major depression, it was something I could latch onto, a beacon of some sort, a way out.  At first, the thought of dying terrified me, but it kept popping up in my head, often in dreams that involved car accidents or falling from high places.  My thoughts on death evolved, as all my thoughts did, and over time I started comparing death to the life I was living.  Was death so much worse than living, when living meant wandering through my days, feeling alone, haunted by the thoughts in my own head?  So much of my life felt out of my control, but suicide… well, I’d be in control then.

The first time I tried to kill myself was by swallowing 200 extra strength aspirin tablets.  It was late at night, and afterwards, I laid down on my bed, not sure how my body would respond, and hoped that I wouldn’t wake up.  I did wake up, violently ill, and puked all over the bathroom.  It took me forever to clean up.  It was clear the next morning that I was ill, but my mother presumed it was a flu of some sort, and I didn’t correct her.  I stayed home from school that day, spending a good deal of it hunched over the toilet, and in between the retching, I became resolute:  I was going to have to try harder.  This was one thing I couldn’t fail at. 

The second time I tried to kill myself was by poison.  I found a bottle of pesticide in the garage, and it was potent stuff: you were supposed to dilute a tablespoon of it into a gallon of water, and that was all you needed to spray a whole acre of land.  I drank what was left in the bottle – around 6 ounces.  I laid down on my bed, and my memories of the next few hours are fleeting and incomplete, like a series of polaroids that provide details but not the whole story.  My sister found me, convulsing and unable to talk, and she got my parents, and they called an ambulance, and at the hospital, the ER team pumped my stomach and stabilized me.  I spent three days in the intensive care unit, and then was transferred to an adolescent psych ward, where I stayed for another three weeks or so.

June 1997 (age 18)

I can’t begin to describe all that I learned during those three weeks and the months that followed, when I was seeing a psychiatrist.  It was a lot of work, but being around other kids with similar problems and learning even the basics about depression were enormously helpful.

Compared to that year in my life, the fifteen years that have passed since then have been relatively smooth.  I’ve had a few rough patches, and I expect the occasional rough patch ahead of me, but I’m armed with so much more knowledge and so many more resources (especially in my own head), and I know I’ll figure out ways through them that don’t involve resorting to the drastic measures that I once resorted to.  That shows a confidence in myself that I didn’t have when I was 16.  I’m a lot of things now that I wasn’t at age 16.  And for that, I’m proud.

I’ve spent most of the day composing this post – thinking, remembering, editing, crying – and I do feel better.  I’m not sure why all this was so important for me to share right now, but after thinking about it for the past couple weeks, I feel a weight has been lifted off my shoulders.  I also feel pretty vulnerable, but that will go away as soon as I click the ‘publish’ button.  I’m sure for many people, this wasn’t an easy read – but I can assure you it wasn’t easy for me to write, either.  But I felt I had to, and I’m glad I did.

Keep it up, David.

PS.  If you need help, there’s always someone who will listen at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

43 Responses to My Suicide Attempts.

  1. Sheilah Lowe says:

    Wow, what a touching story. It must have been horrible to be in that place from which you so wanted/needed to escape. You’ve certainly come a long way and you should be so proud of yourself. It sounds like, from your blogs, that you have a good support system of friends who love you. I hope writing this blog was cathartic in some way. Thanks for sharing. Keep it up, David!!

  2. I know how hard this was for you… I don’t think there’s a single person on the face of this earth who hasn’t entertained at least one serious thought of suicide in his/her life. It takes a lot of intestinal fortitude for you to put yourself out ‘there’ day after day in your blog; double that for a post like this. I hate that so many young people succeed in killing themselves, no matter what the reason. Just remember… You’ve never been alone, David. You never will be.

    And to those young folks tuning in with similar thoughts… neither are you. Hang in there! It gets better.

  3. David, I think it’s soo brave of you to write about this. I know you’re in a better place, and I’m so thankful for that, because I couldn’t imagine not “knowing” you at this point. And I hope that by your sharing this, that it not only helps you, but other people who are going through something similar. Love you.

  4. Laura B. says:

    Thanks for sharing, I know that was hard. My first attempt was almost identical to you. I did aspirin too and woke up real dizzy and couldn’t hear or see well. After twelve hours I told my brother who told my mom and I was also put in for three weeks in the same type ward as you. When getting out my school walked on eggshells and put me in the special Ed class! Our first language arts assignment? One flew over the cuckoos nest! I argued it’s inaccurate portrayal of a psych ward. Like you, I look back with anguish and hide it yet talk freely at some times. One thing I never tell is that after that and another attempt three years later, I have never taken the option off the table. Perhaps your sadness comes from fear that you will see this low again and you don’t know how you will react. None of us know, all we can do is give ourselves more tools to deal with those times we will have. You’ve taken giant steps not just in your weight loss but in how you stay normal and deal with life changes in healthy ways. Thanks for your blog which I read each time and see glimmersof hope for us who haven’t yet succeeded or seen the light at the end of a path we need.

  5. Tavi says:

    thank you for sharing, David. You’re beautiful.

  6. DidoCarthage says:

    Thank you, David, you are so special for being so open, about this and about your life in general. I am a 63-year old woman, but I remember my adolescence in a very similar range of emotions. Being a teen is very tough; I recall my daughter looking at me incredulously when I emphatically said I wouldn’t want to be a teen again for anything! She later said she was relieved to realize that her teen years were NOT necessarily “the best years of her life” – ha!

  7. jess0135 says:

    Very touching story. I can relate to the feelings you’ve shared here.

  8. Stephanie says:

    I know as a teen I had those thoughts too. You are such an inspiration in so many ways. If you saved one person by sharing all of this(which I know you did) you have done a great deed. I love reading your posts- helps me stay focused on my goals and to keep a clear perspective. Thank you!

  9. Thanks for sharing David. I think it is important for people who suffer from depression — and those who have suicidal thoughts — to share with others. Out there is someone struggling, someone who feels that she or he is alone, and hopefully that person is reading this, understanding that they aren’t. There is hope. You are an inspiration.

  10. SusanM says:

    Thank you for sharing this period in your life, David. As usual, you are articulate and inspiring. We’ve all felt as you, to one degree or another. Life is tough and I’m so glad that I found your blog to help me through it! As your good friend Tavi said “thank you for sharing, David. You’re beautiful.” Keep it up 🙂

  11. Anonymous says:

    I’m a regular reader, but today I feel anonymous 🙂 I never attempted suicide, but many of your descriptions feel painfully familiar. I was very depressed through much of college and had days I called “permanent marker days”, because I felt like writing all over my face with black marker so everyone would know how bad I was feeling. I used to believe that everyone was friends with me based on a dare. Depression is an awful thing, and I’m so proud of you for sharing these painful memories. You are so strong now, and talking about it takes away its hold on you. Clearly you are meant for so much more than that, and I am very grateful that you’re here!

  12. David,

    Thank you so much for sharing your story with us. Stories such as this are so very deeply personal and I feel honored that you chose to share yours with all of us. As I mentioned earlier on Facebook, I’ve been there as well and I know those feelings all too well. I’m so thankful neither of us succeeded!

  13. Kathy Freund says:

    oh David, I cried reading your pain. The teenage years are the hardest of our lives I think, I wouldn’t repeat them for all the money in the world.
    I’m so glad you got the help you needed then, so many people, myself included, would be worse off for not knowing you.
    So many people see the light in the darkness because of people like you who find the strength to speak of it
    Know that you are loved David
    Kathy Freund

  14. Felise says:

    The moment I met you I felt your energy like a long lost brother that I had not seen in a long time. I respect you so for your sharing your story and glad you are the strong handsome man you are today. Also know how proud of you I am of you that your spoke your truth publicly. My mother passed away last month and I have felt kind of lost. Your story touched me very much and know how many people you have helped by being so selfless. I’m honored to call you my friend David. Happy New Year (ok I know you aren’t Jewish) but every day we are alive we get to celebrate a new day.
    With Much Love, Felise, tu amiga!

  15. modernest says:

    oh david, what a beautiful, brave and generous soul you are! i am so happy our paths crossed. i cannot even express my feelings right now, i am so moved by your courageous eloquence. i just want to take a moment to let your readers know about a very worthy non-profit that helps troubled lgbt youth.

    you truly are, and continue to be, an inspiration to me.

    xoxoxo, joyce

  16. Cindy says:

    Thank you for sharing your story. As a teacher I need to be aware so much of my students and try to look for any signs that they may be feeling some of these things. Thank for educating us a little more and helping me to keep watching my wonderful students and caring even more for them.

  17. Dianne Worley says:

    Wow. This is beautifully written David, so honest, so thought provoking, so gut wrenching. I know many people will identify with your revelations. As difficult as this was for you to process, be assured it will help many others to face their own demons. Thank you David.

  18. Heidikristen says:

    Your words are heartfelt and, oddly, heartwarming at the same time. I shared your story with my 13 yr old daughter who hugged me after she read it… because you made so clear to your readers that as far down and desperate you felt, you learned from your childhood experiences and used them as you evolved into the most wonderful man. Thank heavens that despite your over-achieving nature, you failed on those days. Much love, Heidi

  19. SKM says:

    Hugs. That’s all. Just big hugs to who you were and who you are today. May your story help others.

  20. Ryan says:

    The world is a better place with you in it, thank you for sharing…

  21. Barbara J. says:

    David…………. You truely are an inspriration……….. please know that God Loves You… & So Do I………. thanx for sharing…….. It touched my heart and many others……… Kudos kiddo

  22. Sharma Conant says:

    Thank you for sharing david. A very touching story I can relate to even if just a little bit. You are an amazing person and the world is a much better place with you in it. So glad you are here to inspire us and help us.
    Take care and remember there are SO many people out here who care for you and support you. 🙂

  23. Lauren Schefman says:

    As someone who was friends and neighbors with you during that dark time in your life, I wish I could go back in time and give you a huge hug and tell you this: you always made me feel like I could be myself and your friendship was one of my favorites! Great post as always.

  24. Lori says:

    Thanks for sharing this story. If even one teen reads this and realizes that they are not alone, that other people have similar feelings to them, you will have done a great service!

  25. nanasu says:

    You should talk to teenagers in High schools! I am so proud of you. And so so grateful for you. I think you need to tell this story to teenagers/High Schools. You are a very very successful Man! In so many ways. I am so glad I was watching Ellen the day you and Richard S was on I have followed your blog everyday since. You live a fantasy of mine I have always thought being friends with RS would be like winning the lottery of fun! I don’t mean just fun to diet with just always fun! I see that in you too, LOVE your blog.And you.
    That nana in Indiana/ Susie

  26. Alex says:

    after reading this post, i felt the need to give you a big hug but since i can’t, know that you have touched my heart. you have described perfectly what a lot of adolecents feel and think about life. as a mother of an almost 13-year-old girl, it freaks me out to think that she might be feeling as you did. thanks for sharing your story because it will help us (parents) to have a better idea of how out children might be feeling.

    P.S. you are a beautiful person!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! and you are not alone!!!!!!!! none of us are!!!!!!!!!!!!

  27. Sylvia says:

    Thank you for sharing. So many people are glad that you didn’t succeed in your suicide attempts. You were meant to help motivate others to lose the weight that depresses them.
    My mom took her own life..and it left such a still does. The world is a better place with you in it, Thanks for hanging on. You inspire me.

  28. Kenlie says:

    I adore you David, and I firmly recognize that my life is richer because you’re in it. I cannot think of you without a giant smile appearing across my face, and youre the kind of person that I aspire to be in so many ways.
    You’re beautiful inside and out, and I’m so thankful that you’re a part of my world. ❤ ❤ ❤

  29. Dacia says:

    It took me some time to think up what I should write here. First, I want to thank you for sharing your story. I know it couldn’t have been easy. When I read your post it made me think of my similar suicide attempts and my hospitalization but more than that it made me think of my best friend Jed who committed suicide January 2nd, 1998. I thought about if he hadn’t would he have been where you are today, writing this post, raising awareness? Would he have ever defeated his demons? I always thought that if I was a better friend i could have saved him. From your perspective I see that probably isn’t true. Regardless of why, I know I will always feel guilty for what happened and i will never forget my friend who left this earth far too early.
    Thank you David! Your strength is inspiring.

  30. Debbie says:

    I think what makes your story so interesting is that you didn’t fit the stereotype of a depressed teenager. In high school, you were loved by so many. You seemed to get along with everyone; you were smart so you got along with the academics, you were in drama so you were friends with the creative kids, and you were on water polo so you were good with the jocks too. I think so many, when they think about the boy who kills himself pictures the kid who was bullied and stuffed in lockers. I think we were all shocked because you were always so happy and fun in high school. You had so many friends. We didn’t know that you were confused and depressed.

    Since I have started teaching, every year, I have been affected by a student who has either attempted suicide or had someone very close to them commit suicide. It breaks my heart because, like you, the signs aren’t so apparent.

    I’m sure purging all this out has been somewhat therapeutic for you. Thank you for sharing your story. I know it wasn’t easy.

  31. Christina says:

    Your honesty is inspiring. Thank you for sharing your story. Do you read every Sunday morning? I think you would enjoy it.

    I was never suicidal but I experienced depression in college. I didn’t realize at the time that’s what it was, but I am thankful I worked my way out of it somehow.

    Congratulations on all your success, and on your decision to use your experiences to help others.

  32. matt says:

    Wow. Some people (including you, I think) told me that it was brave when I wrote about my own depression. That was nothing. This is what brave looks like. Good work. Keep it up.

  33. Tracy says:

    You are such an amazing person David! I am so glad to know you. I am so thankful that you are such a beam of positive light in this seemingly dark world. People like you make me regain faith in someone or something that good is still alive and well. Thank you for being you!

  34. Nurse Karen says:

    I cannot imagine this life without you in it. You are one of my Heroes, for you are a person with a rare fine character, one who exemplifies Fidelity and Honor. You stand by me in spite of those who shunned me. Your loving emotional support lifted me Up when I was contemplating suicide because it was all just too much to bear at that time, coupled with someone I loved not staying true to me, all the illness and death that was occurring in my home life, so much upheaval–yet you came and compassionately shared your sweet, intellectual, fascinating self with me. As for your story: alot of depression is now found to be biochemical disturbances in the brain and gut. There is a huge debate over why that occurs: toxins in the environment, heredity, hormone imbalances, etc. Whatever the source: I am glad you eventually received medical/psych treatment. Anyone who has “the blues” for longer than 2 months, need thorough baseline medical check-ups and blood work. Example: my son started suffering depression. He couldn’t focus, dropped out of college; Blood tests revealed he was extremely low on Vitamin D3, Selenium, and B-levels. He also had low serotonin levels & low thyroid hormones. He now takes Omega three fish oil capsules, B-complex, Vitamin D3 2000 IU, Centrum sans iron, daily, skipping junk food & artificial chemicals which contribute to hazardous inflammatory changes at the cellular level, plus he has thyroid supplements; after four months of therapy with his bike rides to the beach, [at least 45 minutes of exercise daily is necessary to a healthy mind] says that he feels better. A healthy diet is critical, too, for without food of high biological value {such as what you eat from Whole Foods, your friend’s gardens, & Sprouts} we wouldn’t have the appropriate building blocks to make what our bodies need to be healthy. As for preferring men: that, too, is a biological brain function. There is no shame. It just is, what it is. I pray that someday you have a good person to adore you, for you are worthy of being Cherished. I Thank God for you, David. I Love You. We will always be ‘family’.
    Thank you for your bravery in sharing your story, as I know it helps others to know that there IS a Light at the end of the tunnel, and it is not an oncoming train. It is the Light of Life!!! Each day is a Gift, and you are so very, Very Precious, David. You are a Treasure!!!xoxoxo~

  35. annie f. says:

    Thanks for sharing this powerful time in your life. Thats brave.
    I love you

  36. jcangirl says:

    Very eloquent and honest post! Thank you for sharing it, and hopefully you will be able to use those tools and other loved ones when any tinge of sadness surfaces. God Bless! (sorry to respond so late, just want u to know that another person was touched by your bravery).

  37. Suicide and Thinking All Hope is Lost, What Really Happens….

    A suicide is confronted with the exact same feelings of depression out there as they had on the earth; therefore, nothing is gained but there is valuable time lost. Those challenges or obstacles that depressed us were put in our paths by our guides to be overcome, not to have victory over us!

    Eternal Blessings to you!

  38. amymv says:

    Thank you for sharing this David – I love reading your blog, and it helps me so much to hear about what you’ve gone through. Thank you for being brave! 🙂

  39. auntiekim says:

    Wow. I’ve been reading you for awhile now. How did I miss this post? I’m so glad you referenced it in your post today. I’m very glad you weren’t successful. You are one of my favorite blogs and have provided me with so much inspiration. I hope you feel the love from all of your readers. This hits me at a particularly difficult time as I have been struggling with depression for the past couple of months. I’m not gay and I’ve never been suicidal but I assure you that everything else you’ve written here could have been pulled directly from my life. No lie…I thought all of this stuff this morning and cried all the way to work. I wonder if everyone thinks this stuff or if those of us who’ve been depressed are the only ones. I’m 46, successful, loved…and yet it hit me out of the blue recently after several good years. It sucks. I do hope you’re making good progress. It sure can be debilitating. Wishing you peace and healing.

  40. Heather Kaye says:

    I just saw this now. OK – so I’m a little behind on your posts. 🙂 Thank you for sharing that David. I love you a lot and I’m so proud of you. I remember when I got the phone call from your sister (Sarah) and she told me that you were in the hospital. She told me what happened. I can’t even imagine you not being here. You are such an amazing friend, and such a good person. You deserve so much happiness. I’m happy that you have found it!!! There are a lot of people who love you.

  41. Mandy L. says:

    I know this is an older post but I am just now reading it and wanted to say thank you David for sharing! I have a 15 year old daughter who seems to be having alot of the same thought processes as you. Just this weekend she cried uncontrolaby as she expressed to me that she feels she is not a part of our family and feels I favor her 10 year old brother more. Every time I gave her evidance of my equall love for her she turned around as just me feeling sorry for her or simply said it was a lie. She is not over weight but like you she has always been painfully aware that she is different from her peers,She is very smart and creative and feels thing so much more deeply than most people do. On the out side she has some differances as well, she is dyslexic and over the years despite her ability to remain an A student other kids would pick up on the fact that she sees the world differently. She struggles to read aloud but can grasp lesons just from hearing them once.She also suffers from a rare type of migrane syndrome where her “aura” causes numbness in her legs and feet. I felt I had done a good job of helping her see these things as strengths and that being different makes her stand out in a good way. Reading this post put things in perspective for me. Also I am more aware now that her rantings this weekend should be taken seriously, she realy may think she is all alone in this world despte her many good friends and her familys attention to her.

    • David says:

      Hi Mandy – Thank you for sharing. I’m sorry your daughter is having a tough time, but she’s lucky to have a parent that’s paying attention, aware, and trying to find solutions. I wish you (and her) the best of luck. Thanks for stopping by and reaching out!

  42. Jeff Dinkin says:

    Had not read seen this before, but glad you linked it in the Robin Williams blog. Thanks for sharing your experiences and mindset of a dark time. Sure glad you failed in your efforts!

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