Because I Didn't Die

surviving shooting myself personal story
In the fifteen months since my most serious suicide attempt, I can say that I am learning more about myself everyday.
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In the spring of 2015, I tried to die by suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning. I went around my house, collecting framed pictures of my (soon to be) ex-wife. We had been through some rough patches in our marriage, and she had decided she wanted to leave the marriage. I was devastated. I wasn't ready - I wasn't ready to give up on it, or on us. I tried everything to get her back, but nothing was going to change her mind. I hadn't slept in my bed—our bed—in months. I didn't want to disturb or remove any last traces of her scent on the sheets. After weeks of anguish, I decided I had had enough, and the only way out of my pain was to end my life.

I collected pictures of her, and placed them in the passenger seat of my car. Next to them, I carefully placed a shotgun as well as my phone. Tears were streaming down my face as I turned on the engine. I sat in that car for a long time. Did I really want to do this? Would this get her back? I placed a call to her, pleading with her to call me back. I waited, and waited some more. Just as I was starting to feel woozy and relaxed, my phone rang. I pulled myself back from the edge of consciousness and checked the caller ID. It was her. I had told myself that if she returned my call, that that would be my sign to continue living.

The next few months continued to be very challenging for me. My depression and hopelessness did not relent—in fact, they started to take over more and more of my daily thoughts.

As the days and nights seemed to crawl by me, I began to feel that my life, as it was, was not worth living. I thought that I would never be happy again. I had been through two divorces, and had what seemed to be a life long string of unfortunate luck. I believed everyone in my life would be better off without me.

What I didn't realize then was how absolutely ridiculous that solution was. 

On July 18, 2015, I woke up in a very peaceful mood. I had a plan for the day. And that plan included shooting myself. 

I had taken a gun from my mom's house a couple weeks prior. While she was out in the kitchen making lunch with my two sons, I went back in her bedroom, found her gun, and carefully tucked it in the belt of my pants. When I came out to join them, I sat on the couch with an odd mix of feelings. Guilt? Relief? Sadness? Curiosity? She noticed my facial expression wasn't typical of me, so she questioned me. "No, Mom. I'm fine. Yes, really."

So, on July 18, I made a cup of coffee, washed my car, chatted with my next door neighbor, and sat down to watch TV. An old episode of "Friends" happened to be on. To this day, I couldn't tell you what that show was even about. I sat on my couch with my gun next to me. It was almost like I was living outside my body looking down on myself from above.

Once the gun went off, I was immediately in shock - that sound was so much louder than I had imagined it would be. It deafened me. I fell to my knees, and my main thought was that my head hurt so much. So much. I managed to think quickly, and realize that I needed to call 911. I made out a few words before passing out. 

 When I woke up in the hospital, one of my first thoughts was "Damn. It didn't work." Then, after seeing, hugging and crying with my friends and family members, a new thought began to take hold. Each day, it grew a little stronger. And, as it grew stronger, I began to listen to it more. This new, fledgling thought was simple - "I want to live."

The next few weeks consisted of many ups and downs. I was "trapped" in the hospital. I had so much healing to do - physically, yes, but also mentally and emotionally. There was only one way I wanted to do it - by getting back to my life, making some changes, and learning how to live again.

I had many surgeries during that time to repair my face - the forehead area above my eye, my eye socket, my jaw, my nose, my palate. I was breathing with a trach. I felt like I would take two steps forward, and one step back. But, I kept at it. I walked the halls to get my strength back. Back and forth, back and forth. I dreamt up positive scenarios for how my "new" life would take shape when I was released. I had become bound and determined to rebuild my life—but  I knew it was not going to be easy. 

Through work and time spent at a mental health facility, I learned I had been living with major depressive disorder and severe anxiety. For a few years I had known they were a part of me, but had not fully realized the full extent of the negative ways they were currently steering my life. Later, it was discovered I had borderline personality disorder. And, through my own research, I realized that my past circumstances (failed relationships, unwise purchases, etc.) were directly correlated to my natural brain chemistry.  

In the fifteen months since my most serious suicide attempt, I can say that I am learning more about myself everyday. I am learning how to take life's normal ups and downs more in stride. That is something that has never come that easily to me. But as I learn more about mental health, and why it is so important to take care of yourself, I know that I am a work in progress. I have bad days, and I have good days—just like everyone else. I am learning to be easier on myself. There's only one of me in this whole big world. I need to take care of myself. I am learning how to tune out the lies that depression likes to try to make me believe. I am bigger than depression. I am better than depression, and yes; people would miss me if I were gone. 

Today finds me in a happier place. I am looking to buy a new house soon. One where I will someday paint the walls, tile the floor, build a deck and be happy. I am learning to take joy in the smaller moments of life—walking my dogs and hearing their sloppy wet breath as they run to keep up, my two sons' laughter when they hear a funny joke, and of my family who has been by my side from day one. I know life will continue to throw me curve balls…it wouldn't be life if it didn't. How I handle them is up to me. I will continue to try to be grateful each day when I wake up, and I will continue to learn how to live again, because I didn't die.

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