The fantasy of escape takes up a lot of space in my imagination. This borderline obsession has resided in me for at least three years. I’ve made non-committal efforts to dislodge it, and had short-lived success here and there. Those little pushes aren’t significant though, because in truth, I know it will always be a part of me.
It might be different for other people, but my gut feeling is that because I’ve been down that road, it’ll never be completely off-limits. Research backs that up. If you’ve attempted suicide, or experienced parasuicidal behaviour, you’re statistically a lot more likely to actually end up killing yourself. Even if it’s decades later.
It’s a sad fact, but I can’t tell you how many overdoses I’ve taken. I’ve lost count. Not all of these were serious suicide attempts. On some of those occasions, I wanted to communicate how terrible I felt. Or I had an uncontrollable urge to damage myself. The fantasy of death always came into it though, as I knew it was possible I could die. I enjoyed that thought. On those occasions, I was more careful. I struck a balance that meant there was a chance I could die, or a chance I’d be saved.
Maybe what I really wanted was the feeling of being rescued. It’s hard to say, because I don’t remember any of the rescuing. My memories are of despair, excitement, guilt, retching as I swallowed pill after pill, a sense of peace, and then blacking out. After that it was always the same. Coming to and realising I was in hospital. Feeling more guilty. Feeling ashamed. Feeling extremely sick. Feeling disappointed I’d survived.
There have been a few times I really wanted to die. Those are the incidents that play on my mind the most. I re-watch what I can remember of them like movies. Especially the most recent attempt, when I took a huge overdose of codeine and lorazepam with a lot of alcohol. I settled down in a churchyard, tucked out of sight, and waited to die.
Waiting to die sounds like it should be a miserable, frightening experience. But I think that’s the part at the centre of my obsession. I can’t describe the feeling of pure calm and relief I felt when I thought my life was over. And yes, it could’ve been to do with the cocktail of opiates, benzos and booze I had on board, but the thought of death was so beautiful.
Anticipating the end of my existence made me feel like I could breathe again. I felt truly free. And it was incredible.
It isn’t that I believe in an afterlife. I wasn’t expecting to float away to some other place and start over or live on forever looking down on my loved ones. It was essentially about the simple feeling that my suffering was about to end. I didn’t have to struggle anymore. I could achieve freedom from emotional pain, and there is no price too high to pay for that.
This has all been brought back into focus for me in the past week because of a dream. I dreamed I’d decided to commit suicide. I was running through the town I used to live in; running toward my planned method, running toward the knowledge that when I arrived it would all be over. My heart was bursting as I ran. I was so excited, relieved, even hopeful. I was finally allowing myself the thing I’d wanted most in these past few gruelling years.
When I woke up, I couldn’t help but feel deeply disappointed. I wanted to have that feeling of relief and excitement for real. I wished I could grab and hold that felt sense of knowing I didn’t have to fight anymore. That’s what I remember, crystal clear, from the times I thought I was going to die. And I think that is the feeling that makes me keep returning to the fantasy.