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  • I have written previously about a couple of periods in my life in which I grew suicidal. These were periods in which everything just seemed and felt so overwhelmingly bleak, I could see no hope for going on. These were both periods of deep, dark depression that followed brief periods of grandeur and wonder. The depressions felt numbingly endless. Both periods were punctuated by actual attempts at ending things, ineffectual as they were.

    One attempt actually played out in an endless reel, stopping at the end and rewinding, a numbingly repetitive exercise of futility that went on for about a month. I would drive to the top of a mountain in a Massachussetts forest each night after work, turn around and drive at high speeds down the descending road that had a hairpin turn in the middle that would send me out into the air, with a good thousand feet or so descent from there.

    Each time I got closer to keeping that car going straight at the turn, to fly suspended in the air as I glided down to my death. Each time, something seemingly involuntary caused me to swerve away at the last minute, and continue down the road, feeling once again defeated and useless.

    The other period occurred after my run to freedom from the Navy, my jaunts across country and back, at the end of which I just wore out, and came to my first full realization that I had a serious addiction problem. After several attempts at addressing the addiction – a couple of brief stabs at Rehabs, going to AA meetings where I didn’t see anyone who appeared worse than I felt, because they could interact and socialize while I was just trapped in this shell of what I once was, I just wanted to lay down and die.

    I would go into the city in Philadelphia, go to my brother’s apartment while he was at work or at meetings, turn his gas oven on, and stick my head in. I did this about 5 times. Each time, the thought of Ken walking in smoking a cigarette, setting off an explosion, stopped me from following through. I can still smell that gas, though. I do remember that sense of being close to actually going there. It actually was my only ray of hope at the time. I really wanted to go there. I wanted out. It wasn't a cry for help. I just wanted to go.

    Having failed at that, I was still determined. The Ben Franklin Bridge spans the Delaware River, taking one from Philadelphia to Camden, New Jersey. I walked that bridge at least 10 times over a several week period, each time with the intent of leaping to my death from the middle of it. These failed attempts would always be followed by just endless wandering through the streets of Philadelphia, in a complete mental fog. I hated that I couldn’t get out of this life. I just wanted to be gone.

    I’ve also written about my “out-of-body” experience, 33 years ago, when I am fairly certain that I was actually leaving, halfway there, and it felt wonderful. It hadn't been intentional - I had just taken too much of something that caused some of my life force functions to shut down, temporarily. It felt better than anything I had ever previously felt. It was totally peaceful, and warm, and part of something much larger than my self.

    But I was brought back. Not by choice. From that point on, I have never gone through the suicidal feelings again. I have never felt like that was my only, or last, option. It doesn’t really make logical sense. One would think, if it was so wonderful, if it felt so good, why wouldn’t you want to go there if life was so miserable?

    Well, maybe because life never got that miserable again after that. Why? I never thought about it in this context before, but it recently occurred to me, as I read Rabab’s piece, that from that point on, I had lost my fear of death.

    Once I had actually tasted it, and felt it, I no longer feared it. Don’t get me wrong – I still went through more than my share of difficult times, and even had a moment of surrender that was preceded by a terrible feeling – but, the “exit” option was no longer a viable one for me. It was almost like I knew that I wanted to be ready when I went there, so I could fully appreciate it. That makes no logical sense, but I understand it, and it is what it is.

    Today, even if I go through a lousy period, which being human I am as prone as the next person to going through, I know that there are many options available to me, and suicide is never a consideration. But, I do remember what that felt like, the hopelessness and bleakness. I think part of it was the feeling of being "trapped". I no longer feel that way.
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