‘Karen didn’t make it.’ My heart dropped. The day I planned to kill myself, I lost my friend to a motorcycle wreck.’: Man battling suicide vows to ‘keep going’ after friend’s unexpected death

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“My suicidal thoughts started when I was just 10 years old. My 5th grade year was when the bullying got worse. I could never concentrate enough at school simply because my other classmates were calling me names or throwing things at me whenever the teacher was looking away. My grades were slipping and I was scared to go home to face my parents because I just felt like I was a disappointment to both of them. Every day, from 5th grade and up, was just torture. I was scared to go to school, but yet, I dreaded going home at the end of the day.

My mother ended up taking me to a child psychologist some time when I was in middle school. I was then diagnosed with some depressive disorder. I didn’t fully understand what was going on. How could I?

Courtesy of Benton

Things were starting to look up a year after high school. I was living with my two best friends in an apartment complex. However, all good things always come to an end. My friend, Becca, had a sudden tragedy in her life and had to move away. My other best friend, Krissy, and I couldn’t afford the rent with just the two of us, so she ended up moving away with her boyfriend in Texas. It was just me, again. I felt like I had absolutely no one. I knew I had my family, and I do love them all tremendously, but I felt like I had a reason to live when I was living with my two best friends who made me feel special. Every day, I sunk lower and lower. I went without eating anywhere from three to four days. I was horribly underweight.

Courtesy of Benton

On Friday, December 13th, 2013, I was headed to work when the alternator in my car blew. After I got home, I went to my room, and I just knew that this was it for me. I couldn’t go on anymore. My mom came into my room after she heard me sobbing. I was telling her, ‘I’m not continuing with life any longer’ and ‘I’m ending it.’ I mostly blacked out after that. My brain just shut off. My dad also ended up coming into my room. They convinced me to get in my mom’s car so that she could get me help.

My mother drove me to an emergency room at Vanderbilt Hospital in Nashville, TN. The paramedics took me through a back hallway, and then to a door with a keypad. We were in a special unit that had a long hallway with doors on each side. It looked like a dark prison to me. They took me to one of the rooms and locked my mom and I inside. There were no windows, and the one single couch that was in the room was bolted to the ground. Eventually, my mother had to leave the room so that a psychologist could evaluate me. I can’t really remember much of what we talked about. Just that I was on the verge of suicide, and that I needed help.

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About 7 hours later, I was emitted into the Vanderbilt Psychiatric Facility. My first two days were just so horrible. I didn’t eat, I only got up to use the restroom, I and cried myself to sleep every other hour. Eventually, I was pretty much forced to get up so I could get on some proper medication. I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder Type 2 and Borderline Personality Disorder. Another patient saw me in the hall, and we began to chat. He then introduced me to two other patients. The next four days were amazing. I was with people I could relate to, and I started to feel like everything was going to be okay.

I was finally discharged after one week and a day’s stay. I weirdly felt sadder leaving than I did when I was emitted, but at the same time, I felt relieved I was going home.

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Throughout the next year and 4 months, I was slowly starting to sink back down. My parents couldn’t understand why I was so depressed. It seemed like I needed to have a reason to be this low.

Sometime in March or April of 2015, I had gotten into a huge argument with my father about suicide. He just didn’t understand. No one did. I left their house and stayed the night at a friend’s apartment. The next morning, I got a steak knife and cut my wrist (which, later in life, I covered up with a  semi-colon tattoo). My friend found me, dragged me to her car, and took me to a nearby ER.

I was placed in a room with a hospital gown, and my wrist was bandaged up. My parents were eventually contacted by the hospital. We had to wait for someone who worked with Mobile Crisis to come to speak to me before the hospital released me. I faced the possibility of going back to the psychiatric facility. I explained to the mental health specialist how I felt about everything, and how I thought my parents wouldn’t understand. She tried to explain to my parents how Bipolar Disorder works. She compared it to other illnesses. ‘Telling someone with bipolar to simply cheer up is like telling someone who has epilepsy to stop having seizure attacks.’ After she saw how my parents and I were interacting that day, she thought I was safe to be released. My mom started educating herself by doing lots and lots of research and then educated my dad. Things between my parents were starting to get better.

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In November of 2017, I had moved into my own place by myself. I had never felt so alone in all of my life. It just wasn’t my home. I had built great relationships with both of my parents, but I ended up having to leave, just like when Becca and Krissy had to leave. It was happening all over again.

At the beginning of 2019, I secretly started drinking on a daily basis and abusing my prescription pills. I also started to cut my inner and outer thighs. I was having meltdowns at work, and my manager told made me to take three days off. I promised myself that I would never kill myself at my home, but I wasn’t at home anymore.

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On Wednesday, August 21st, 2019, I went into work like normal. I put on my ‘happy face,’ and made my normal shady jokes just like I did any other day (with the exception of my two meltdowns earlier that year). Nobody knew what I had planned after my shift. I didn’t have anyone to stop me this time. I lived alone. But nobody, including myself, knew the tragic news we were all about to receive that day.

One of our beloved co-workers, Karen, was killed in a motorcycle accident that morning. She was an employee there for 40 years, and I had been working with her for the past 10 of those years. It took an absolute toll on everyone there. We were all completely devastated by how she had unexpectedly died. I was working at the service desk that day. About an hour before I was getting off, another fellow co-worker who worked the third shift called and asked me which manager was there that day. I replied, and she asked me if I’d heard anything about Karen. I didn’t know what she was talking about, and she said, ‘Karen and her husband were in a motorcycle wreck this morning.’ No one at work was talking about it, so it perplexed me a little. She told me that she’d call back. I went to tell my department manager, Pam, about Karen since they were best friends. She didn’t know anything about Karen’s wreck either. She went upstairs to talk to management.

I went back to the service desk, and the phone rang right when I got there. It was the same co-worker, again. She confirmed that Karen was in a wreck and she needed to speak to management. About 20 minutes later, I went upstairs to ask if Karen was okay. Pam was there with one of the managers. Both of them had their heads down, and I could tell that Pam had been crying. I asked if Karen was okay, and she looked at me. ‘Karen didn’t make it,’ she told me. My heart instantly dropped. I fell up against the wall and my throat became insanely dry, to the point where I couldn’t breathe or swallow. We both started contacting other co-workers that had been there as long as us, to break the news. Each phone call was horrible. Everyone’s reaction was the same. I truly hated every second of it.

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I couldn’t go back to my place. I had to go see my mom. I really needed her. I couldn’t be by myself any longer. I already called and told her everything before I got there, to give her somewhat of a heads up. When I got there, she put her arm me and said, ‘Let it all out.’ I just lost it right after that. I cried for what seemed like forever.

After Karen’s funeral and just being around all of the sadness, I never truly realized how much of a family all of the people I worked with are to me. Seeing them this devastated over someone we loved was opening doors for me. It made me think about how I couldn’t leave my real family or my work family like this. Even though my parents now understand that suicide is not a choice, but an illness, I still didn’t want to leave them this way. Not after seeing and feeling this kind of devastation. Not after seeing how losing a loved one can affect you.

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That night, I was sitting on my porch, thinking about Karen and everyone else I work with. All of a sudden, without even thinking about it, I just blurted out loud, ‘I don’t want to die anymore.’ As soon as I said those words and heard myself say them, this huge amount of pressure was just taken off of my chest. I felt like I was taking a huge breath after being drowned underwater. I felt, for the first in 15 years, that I was going to be okay. I had to keep going. I seriously never had this much hope in my life. Yes, it’s sad and even pathetic that someone dear to me had to pass away for me to realize this. But it was what I call my ‘wake up call.’

I know I’ll still have my down days just like any other normal person, but I know my parents are just a few minutes away, my friends are just a phone call away, and God is just a prayer away. It’s taken me 15 years to get to where I am now, but I’m finally happy!”

Courtesy of Benton
Courtesy of Benton

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Benton of Springfield, TN. You can follow him on InstagramDo you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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