Alcohol and Sobriety,  Depression is a Bitch

I’m Going to Talk About Suicide

I woke up on my 27th birthday on a shitty mattress in rehab. The December light speckled in through the gritty window, and I lay there for a few minutes and thought about him. Of course I did. He had been 27 when he died. He had been an addict too, like me. So was Jimi and Janis and Brian and Jim, all dead at 27, but I mostly thought about him.

When I was a young teenager, Kurt Cobain was very important to me, like I suspect he was to a lot of teenage kids. He wasn’t just a rock star who killed himself. He was a mythological figure. A poet. An advocate for the underdog. Someone who experienced the same kinds of torment I did, the dark kinds that lives in corners of your mind and spreads out like a black fog until you can’t see anymore.

At nine years of age I first thought about suicide. In my creatively dramatic way, I thought about going up in a hot air balloon and jumping out (never mind my lack of access to hot air balloons). Sure I was teased a lot as a kid for my social awkwardness, but mostly what drove this idea was the black mist in my brain that thought it might be nice to go to sleep and never wake up. The part that hated myself, that thought the world would be a better place without me.

I thought about it again at thirteen. At that time, I considered taking a lot of Tylenol and never waking up again, because at thirteen Tylenol was the strongest medicine I had ever taken. Truthfully, it was the only medicine available to me. I had never done drugs, had only taken a few swigs from my parent’s stash of liquor and got in huge trouble for it, prompting me to not drink again until age 23, so my realistic options were few.

At that age, there was no reason for my sadness other than hating myself.

I didn’t think about it again for over a decade.

This time, at age 25, I went through a progressive series of terrible events. Layoffs, a heart broken seemingly beyond repair, untreated depression, loneliness. I didn’t make plans to do it, but I became extremely reckless, hoping I might die by accident. Hiking alone. Leaning over the edges of cliffs to gaze at the jagged rocks and swirling tides. Driving too fast. Drinking to alleviate the pain. People would half-heartedly pray for me, which would make me feel worse because it felt like the depression was my fault. A character defect that I could fix if only I tried hard enough, believed hard enough that God would heal whatever it was that was wrong with me.

I got laid off again. I got into debt to pay the bills. I took a job as a barista, at a 48 percent pay cut. I could not catch up, so the debt just sat on my credit card as I paid the interest every month. This was 2008, and there were no jobs. I lost all my friends. The only bright spot in my life at this time was drinking, so I did it with increasing frequency.

Life got worse. I became an addict.

By the time I poisoned myself at the age of 26, I should have died. Listening to The Beatles’ “In My Life” on repeat on my Discman, I wished I would just die already. Certain it would be over soon, I would finally be free. Everyone would be better off without me.

One night, I blacked out. The first thing I remember as I came to was so much white. A white room, white curtains, white walls. My breath smelled antiseptic, as if they had washed my mouth out with rubbing alcohol. Disappointment. I hadn’t died.

“Why am I here?” I didn’t remember anything. It took what felt like hours before anyone answered any of my questions.

“You ingested a large amount of rubbing alcohol yesterday,” a nurse told me. Ah yes, now I remembered. The desperation for a drink. Rummaging through the cabinets for mouth wash or cough syrup or something, fucking anything.

Water, water everywhere / Nor any drop to drink.

“Why did you try to kill yourself?” the nurse asked.

“I didn’t.” I insisted. We went back and forth several times, before he gave up and left me. So hollowed out, I couldn’t even cry. I was dead inside.

I walked out of the hospital with nowhere to go. I was not 5150ed because technically I wasn’t trying to kill myself.

But really, I was.

That morning in rehab, my 27th birthday and about three months clean, I knew I should have died. Just like him. I didn’t put a bullet in my head, but it was only a matter of time.

People who commit suicide are not selfish as a rule. It’s a common proclamation, a casual judgement passed by people who do not understand. But until you’ve lived with the pain, the constant pain, then you have no right to pass that kind of judgement. You don’t know what it’s like inside that black fog. It’s not that you don’t care about anyone but yourself. It’s that nothing can penetrate the darkness in your mind. Everyone would be better off without you, the blackness insists.

No amount of scripture or prayer or positive thinking or friendship or family can pierce the shroud of blackness particular to someone who is contemplating suicide. I think of my own cries for help, usually met with derision, disbelief, or admonishments that all made me feel guilty for not being able to “pull myself out of it.” That made the urge to end my life stronger.

I’ve been thinking about it again lately. Wishing I had died that day. The darkness seeps into my brain with its familiar fog, and it’s tough fighting it off. I take medication, I see a counselor, I continually frequent AA. But times are fucking hard right now. I get tired of fighting it.

Do you know what kept me from going through with it, from forming an intention to kill myself, each and every time?

No matter how bad my depression gets, for some reason I am an optimist. Tomorrow might be better. What if I were to kill myself, and miss the happy ending? You’d think I should know better, that there are no such thing as happy endings, but I can’t help it. Along with having depression, I have a child’s heart. One that knows that tomorrow might be better.

I live for that hope. Tomorrow might be better.

Kurt Cobain On 'MTV Unplugged'


  • Dawn

    My heart was empathetically heavy reading this. That dark haze you describe is almost tangible for me. I have battled with it since I was very young too. Commenting on this is tough for me because short of the scripted shit I know you (and I) have heard hundreds of times, there isn’t much one can say. I’ll just say I’m sorry you have to muddle through the shit. It’s hard and it sucks. And you’re not alone. I have to say thank you too. Not too many people are willing to talk about this so candidly. …When people actually do, it gives the rest of us just a little piece of hope.
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  • Jen Brunett

    What can I say.. what can i say? I’m grateful you didn’t take that plunge. Grateful that you are still here gracing us with your words, lifting our blogging spirits, and being a bad ass yeah write editor. I wonder if we all go down that road at one time or another. I’ve had that tendency myself before–moons ago.

    Tomorrow will be a better day. And right now isn’t so bad. Chin up and listen to happy stuff! xo
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  • Chris Plumb

    Oh Cat Lady, oh Natalie…a long time ago this would’ve made me upset. I hate the S. word, as it was too close to home with the people who I knew who used it (or threatened to use it). Some of those people never truly saw how us “outsiders” saw them. They were isolated in their own mind, and couldn’t allow the love, respect, friendship and admiration we offered them.

    I also know, now, that brains are complex things, and don’t always work the way we want them to. Sometimes medications help, sometimes not.

    But hope? Optimism, that’s what keeps good artists creating. Tomorrow may be your masterpiece, tomorrow may be your Jane Austin moment. And we, the outsiders, want that. We need that from you. And not just because we know the talent that resides inside you, but because we are invested. We want you to succeed. But more importantly, we want you to be happy.

    I’ll pray, not as a judgement, or as a way to break through the black fog, but because it is my duty as a believer and friend.
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  • Author Catherine Lyon

    Man oh man….
    We sure have a lot in common my dear! We must be “Kindred Spirits” as I battled the same issues, failed at Suicide twice, and got hooked into gambling addiction and a wee to many cocktails when I gambled. 2 Mental black outs with the suicide attempts, in a crisis center twice…..

    Thank goodness for Recovery!! It has been 7yrs now in recovery, and I now know that GOD was with me each step of the way to show me my real purpose in life. It’s why I’m still here! I still battle mental illness & disorders, but went undiagnosed for years since a kid. I wish you much LOVE & SUPPORT in your journey….ODAAT!
    *Catherine* 🙂
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  • Ice Scream Mama

    oh my god. i want to cuddle you up and spoon feed you ice cream, and i’m also afraid to say the wrong thing. i am so sorry for that horrible blackness. i understand only as an outsider but as someone with a addicted, at times, suicidal, chronically depressed and in pain parent. it is so awful. i know that life is so not easy, but please hold on to your child’s heart. it’s true. tomorrow could be a better day, a happy ending, a really good laugh. it’s all waiting. it really is. you’re so brave. xoxox
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  • Lance

    Thank you for letting me read this. The more I see your child-like heart, the more I admire who you are.

    We have similar experiences. I woke up on my 27th birthday on the 4th day of a bender.

    Remember this post of mine:

    I let people read into what they want, but I intentionally left out that I went to the Keys on Thanksgiving 2007 to not come back.

    I think Kurt was selfish because his talent was so immense and I miss him. It’s a different kind of selfish.

    I appreciate you for putting this post “out there”. Therapy and rehab makes folks like us just tell things. I want you to know I’m here to listen.
    Lance recently posted…Drain YouMy Profile

  • Beduwen

    Somehow I think that most creative people flirt with the idea of suicide at some point. I know I have, and I know so many others that have, too. It’s that deep, seemingly bottomless well of FEELING that overwhelms us, but that is also the very thing that feeds our creativity. Hang in there my friend. You are touching many people. Hugs to you!
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  • Kim at Awkward Laughter

    Natalie – This kind of honesty in your writing is exactly why I said you were inspirational in response to your comment the other day about Judith. I hope that sharing your stories helps you work through the struggles you’ve endured and continue to face, and I pray that the optimist in you wins out every day.
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  • Ericamos

    So well written. It’s that. It’s exactly that. And I needed this today. To remember that I’m not alone…that *we’re* not alone.

    I’m so glad that you are staying optimistic. Like Chris said, you have so much to offer. I love your writing so hard, and I’m looking forward to what you will create in the future.

    Love you, girl!
    Ericamos recently posted…New BeginningsMy Profile

  • Considerer

    No. It’s always selfish, unless you are utterly alone – a tree falling in the woods with no-one to hear it. But from within that darkness, you are dealing with a deeply twisted rationale, from which there is only one logical conclusion.

    I’ve lived both sides of it.

    Neither is pretty.

    I was saved only by a lack of strength within my own character to do it, and so I live, knowing that I am weak.

    He was saved, only by knowing I needed him at that crucial moment, and he bore a responsibility to me.

    And then I’m not sure what saved the pair of us, but it involved a lot of apathy and twisted reason on his part, and much anger and stubbornness on mine. And we’re getting through it now, but living it is awful. Awful.

    And it’s so impossible to fight.

    Because the truths of our world – that you’re a valuable, wonderful woman, with an incredible talent and a poet’s heart, who (if life were less unfair) would spend each day in gainful employment and still writing to cause our hearts to dance – are incomprehensible to the point of irrelevance when you’re down there in the Abyss.

    But you have your child’s heart.

    And you know you’ve made it out before.

    In two weeks’ time, you’ll be 14 days past this feeling. And in the meantime:
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  • Ellen

    In my 20s I often wished something would happen, some accident or other, to keep me from having to wake up and face another day where I hated my life. I knew I would never have the guts to commit suicide but I believed everyone would be better off without me. I got through it by distancing myself from everything I cared about. I stopped thinking I was somehow special and meant for better things and just existed.

    I used to think people who were able to kill themselves were really justified and anyone who thought they were selfish just didn’t know that level of pain. Now that I have kids of my own I don’t see it that way. You can be in the blackest place but killing yourself only spreads that blackness into the hearts of everyone who loves you. You won’t feel it anymore but they will, forever.
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  • lisa thomson-The Great Escape...

    You are amazingly courageous in your writing always but especially this one. Telling yourself and your readers your hard truth takes guts and balls both of which you have. I’m sorry for your struggle. Sharing your truth will certainly help others. I remember the news when Kurt Cobain took his own life. I was so troubled by it. I was 29 with a 1 year old baby. I should not have related to Nirvana at my age but their music struck a chord. My nephew had attempted suicide at that time and I felt helpless. Hang in there.
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  • Christi @ EditMoi

    Oh, Natalie, this is such a brave post. I like to think that when I’m brave enough to write something difficult and share it, that thing can never hurt me again. I hope you feel the same way. Yay for optimism!
    Christi @ EditMoi recently posted…DistilledMy Profile

  • Samantha Brinn Merel

    I just want to hug you and I’m not sure what to say, but I do know that there ARE such things are happy endings, don’t ever let anyone tell you that there aren’t. Just keep holding on to that, and I know that for you, there are brighter and happier days again. Thinking of you, friend.
    Samantha Brinn Merel recently posted…Memories of a 24 MarathonMy Profile

  • Laura Zera

    Natalie, this is the first time I’ve visited your site, and I’m just blown away by your courage to speak your truth. Suicide is like the penthouse suite in the taboo mental illness topics apartment building. You’re doing a great thing by sharing your story, and may your child’s heart always, always see you through the dark days.
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  • Jen

    You know what keeps me going? I don’t want anyone to find me dead. I know that whenever I die they’ll find me dead, but I have no right to cause that. I’ve found too many people dead. I don’t care what my specific black mist might have to say, it’s not more powerful than memory of finding someone else.

  • Twindaddy

    I read this the other day and was at a loss for words. I’m still not sure what to say. I suffer depression, but I’ve never had suicidal or self-harming tendencies, but I can certainly understand why those who have them do.

    I’m happy that you’re being treated and seem (from what I can gather) to be doing well. ((hugs))
    Twindaddy recently posted…Locked In… EpilogueMy Profile

  • Naima

    Holy shit balls, this post made me cry. Thoughts of suicide are so hard to digest inside one’s own skull and skin, and then, to try to put them on the outside, for others to see….that takes courage, or….well, I’m not sure. I’m sure that I’m appreciative that you did. I too, come to the thought that tomorrow might be better. Here’s to tomorrow.

  • Naima

    Holy shit balls, this post made me cry. It is so hard to talk about suicide inside one’s own skull and soul, and it takes something else to talk about it outside of those…to others. Courage, or something akin. I too came to the thought that tomorrow might be better. Luckily, like you, I come to that thought over and over. Here’s to tomorrow. Thanks for writing.
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