Cowardice became me.
It was slow, at first. Days spent constantly trying to wake up, and feeling instead a deep, vague personal revilement, became months and then years. Despite this, there was always the dull throbbing, a heartbeat miles below the cold fog of my psyche, that kept me pressing onward. I have always been a vagabond in life, in spirit if not in reality, but that ember had always scored hope and purpose into otherwise aimless drifting. I kept my job. I paid off the debts I owed. I became stable. Responsible, even. I persisted
. But I never stopped drifting.
In October 2008, I injured my shoulder. Bicep tendonitis, the doctor said. Because it wasn't a workplace injury and was of nebulous origin, I was incapable of receiving workman's comp. I sat out for a month. In spite of the financial hardship, I felt a deep sense of relief.
For months, my personality had slowly begun changing. I have only been particularly talkative during extreme cases of mania or drunkenness; however, where before I was content to listen and speak carefully, meeting eyes clearly, I became completely silent and took to staring deadly into empty space. Coworkers who were once people with whom I could crack a lewd joke became people to be avoided. Occasional post-work social drinking with people I began to think of as friends became hasty retreats back to my apartment, where I would drink vodka alone and stare at blank sheets of paper--pens and markers, with caps still on, were arranged with exacting order that blared frantic disuse any time my eyes would twitch towards them--until I was drunk enough to pass out. I'd wake up, and repeat it again the next day.
Waking became anathema to me. Upon waking came the realization that, as the day before, that familiar dread still stalked the murky bog my mind had become. I took sleeping pills and melatonin supplements--never with the vodka, though--just to stave off the inexorability of consciousness. With waking came a permanent, permeating anxiety that people who knew me might look closely and see my lifeless eyes. I became all too aware of my heart crashing into my ribcage as one would a timer steadily approaching zero, and with it the panic that it would stop and my life would truly be wasted. Even still, I did nothing.
Hence, it was no small relief that I could retreat from life for a bit, with my injury, and just sit free of responsibility doing absolutely nothing. That first month of doing nothing came and went as I sat around atrophying my muscles and waiting for hope, but the deep, sluggish terror remained. As November died, my sister paid December's rent for me, but still I did nothing. On December 10th, I finally received the doctor's note I needed to return to work. I handed the note into management during the day, went home, and slept. I slept through the night I was supposed to work, woke up, took more sleeping pills, and went back to sleep. Upon waking was the anxiety, that icy, vague fear, that I refused to face.
I never returned to work. I was fired. I didn't care. I ran out of money buying alcohol, as I'd sit at home stewing, and staring blankly at a computer screen and trying to forget life. I had already decided. I was just going to wait.
On December 16th, I posted here. I truly had no intention of updating this journal again. I began depersonalizing my sister's emails about that time, also. "Just email me back so I can make sure you're still okay," she'd write. I'd respond with flippant, monosyllabic blurbs. I waited. My father and mother both sent me $50 for Christmas. I stored it away, except to purchase alcohol and smokes.
On December 31st, I woke up at about nine in the morning. I went to the store and bought an 18-pack of cheap beer. At 10:00 AM on December 31st, I started drinking. At 8:30 PM, I ran out of beer, so I went and bought another 12-pack. I drank all of them from between 9:00 PM and midnight. At 12:08 AM, as people were celebrating New Years, I topped off the alcohol with about 30 sleeping pills. I sought death the same way I lived, as a coward. I was petrified of living, but even more horrified at approaching my end head on, so I tried to put myself to sleep before I died. I figured all the alcohol and 900+ mg of sleeping pills would do the trick. After tossing two palms of pills down my throat as casually as one waves to an old friend, I went to bed and waited for sleep.
I was wrong.
I tried to pass out, but despite all the sleeping pills severe chest pain kept me awake and aware. Tachycardia does not make for restful pre-suicide sleep, in case you're curious. I lay in bed for the first six hours waiting for my heart to stop. God knows it was certainly trying to. It would pump with exacerbating strength, seeming to build to a precipitous crescendo, only to stop and suspend me over an abyss that even now fills me with terror. It would pick up again, with lurching weakness after about five seconds of motionlessness, and in fitful arrhythmia when it did. Every time it stopped, the black would press at me in oppressive, silent waves and I could feel my mind creeping inwards. There were times I'd black out completely, only to jerk awake an indeterminate amount of time later and realize I hadn't been breathing.
The breathing was
the worst. Ragged, shallow, halting, like the air in my room was trying to drown me. The back of my throat tightened as my lungs trembled uncontrollably with each gasp, all while my mind was screeching at me to just close my eyes and go to sleep.
I started to hallucinate. It was the obligatory "bad acid trip" hallucination you read about in countless books and see in "cautionary tale" movies, where my walls and ceiling started spawning thousands of spiders. I'd occasionally see a black widow on my shoulder skittering around my neck, and others in the corners of my room eating the other spiders, which were long, spindly, small, and yellow. At one point I imagined a lit cigarette into my hand; it was no small irony I was petrified that I'd pass out and drop it, setting my apartment on fire.
I slept off and on the following day, forcibly getting up--my limbs weighed thousands of pounds--to drink water and piss before going back to sleep for another few hours. Psychologically, I didn't feel any better. There was no catharsis, no flash of bright light restoring my will to live, nor my laughter. The spark inside me that I never noticed dying months previously was not miraculously restored. I never thought about trying again, I just accepted that if thirty beers and half a bottle of diphenhydramine didn't kill me then I just had to live. At about 1:00 AM on Jan 2nd, I started suffering chest pain again, and my upper body felt like it was on fire while my legs felt like ice. It was only then that the dull, cancerous paranoia evaporated; it had remained with me even after I 'survived'. In its place was fear. A coward dreads, but a person fears, and I'd had enough of cowering. I called an ambulance.
In the emergency room, hooked to IVs and connected to an EKG that remained normal in spite of the aching pain that remained over my heart, I became tired. I don't know how long I sat propped on that lumpy, uncomfortable bed, but at some point or another my eyes closed, and I think I dozed off. When they opened again, I knew I was alive, and more importantly, I wanted to be alive, craved
it. I don't know why it happened then, it just did.
I spent the next four days in the hospital's detox/behavioral health center.
Blood tests came back perfect. Despite the amount of antihistamines, my immune system and my thyroid never skipped a beat. I had muscle spasms, confusion, and very minor amnesia for the first couple of days, but those wore off. In spite of heavy drinking for nearly two months straight--it was either a whole bottle of vodka or a twelve pack of beer a day--my liver tests came back as near-perfect too, only suffering from a bit of malnutrition; one of the first things that go when you enter a severely depressed state is your appetite, so I hadn't been eating much. Truthfully, the only casualty from the last two months of my downward spiral has been my muscular fitness. 3 months ago I hovered between 170-175 lbs, very little of it body fat. One week ago, I weighed 156.
For all intents and purposes, the person who wanted to die on that night may as well have succeeded, because since then I've felt better, psychologically, than I have in close to two years. I almost feel like my old self again, which is a good thing. The world, rather than seeming crushingly oppressive with all of its anxiety-ridden choices
, now seems light with opportunity. I still regret that I will die long before I've seen everything this world has to offer, but rather than giving up and deciding that nothing is worth it I am content to live what life I have left and enjoy it for what it's worth. It's sad that I had to nearly die to understand something so simple, but at the same time I stood at the edge of death and felt true Emptiness for the first time. I don't think I will ever confuse my depressed states as "insurmountable" after encountering, in just an infinitesimal dose, the black void I saw right at the edge of my own mortality.
What I did was a mistake, and an infinitely stupid mistake at that, but I can't go through life beating myself up anymore over the things in the past that I no longer have control over. I took my near-death in stride the very first day after escaping it.
You all, however, have some claim on my life, great or small. So, I apologize. I'm sorry. * * *
A little over a year ago, a sad fool once wrote, "When you die, everything becomes the purest white, as the sins of Consciousness and Knowledge are swept clean from your mind and you are granted the same reprieve of quiet innocence that all beings have at birth." However, I have known death intimately. Dying drags your consciousness, knowledge, and sin with you towards the Abyss. Everything important
, every moment, idea, and thought of value, every person you love is left behind. Dying is the vanguard of loneliness, the vorpal edge that sunders you from every last experience and person you hold dear before dragging your corpse into the Unknown. Everyone faces their death alone. This is the only revelation to be had when dying
: life is the only seed of happiness, of relief
, that exists, and only a great fool would discard their own salvation.
I'm still afraid and somehow equally...joyous, but I'll be damned if I remain a coward any more.
That said, forgive me for some Ye Olde Time phoenix_blade
nostalgia: I know this post is long, but fuck you and your LJ-cut. You can take my mile-fuckin'-long post on your friend page, and like it
I also reserve the right to interpret stunned silences and/or scorn as mutual consent to my otherwise untoward sexual advances. You've been warned.
"Zarathustra" - London Philharmonic (Comp. Yasunori Mitsuda)