14 Years Ago, I Tried to Kill Myself


Fourteen years ago, during a difficult divorce, I tried to kill myself. Over three weeks I had lost 52 pounds because I could not eat. My hair had begun falling out in chunks. Narcolepsy, insomnia, and night terrors took over. Panic attacks would force me to the floor. I had no money and was about to be homeless. I felt like I was sinking in hopelessness. I thought the only way out was to kill myself. I had chosen the method, time,  and place. I was ready and eager. It is hard to explain how desperately I wanted out.

The experiences that saved my life are sacred to me. Acting on an inner prompting, my cousin, Suzanne, bought me a plane ticket to her home in Washington D.C. That ticket convinced me to put my suicide aside temporarily. In D.C. I was given a gift by a stranger which convinced me that I might have something to contribute. When I got home, my cousin, Joy, tearfully told me that her children needed me, and that if I killed myself, they would suffer. My friends Branden and Lance took me on five-mile sledding runs in the mountains -- and for the first time in weeks I felt a thrill, a thread of living. Seeing light in my eyes, they took me sledding over and over. Branden made me come to dinner, and I began to eat. Their kids took no notice of my gloom -- they just wanted to play with “Uncle Caleb”. They were a bright light to me.

Today, it is hard to connect that crippled life to the happiness I know now. I’m grateful I didn’t kill myself.

As I began to find my feet in a new life, I saw the world differently. I realized there was nothing and no one who could hurt me more than I had already hurt. So I had nothing to fear. Without fear, I felt free. I could try anything. There could be no meaningful failure. I vowed never again to work a job that did not make me happy. I vowed never to think about money. I knew what had real value, and it sure wasn’t money. I lost the fear of saying no, and the fear of being told no.

With my new ambition, I called the local university and asked to teach a writing class for their adult continuing education program -- my dream. I’ve been teaching ever since. And in that first class, I met the love of my life, my wife Charmayne. She had pixie hair, black leather boots, and a force of presence. She was a tiny sexy little thing, sauntering into class late on the first day,  mysterious and beautiful. She had the confidence and ease of someone who had lost her fear.

Turns out, she had also suffered. Her story is not mine to tell here, but I’ll give you one sentence. She had been left unconscious in a pool of her own blood on her kitchen floor as her children watched. She had suffered more than me.

Today, she has chosen to free herself and her daughters by forgiving the man who did this. She had seen anger cripple other people. She wanted to show the kids that, as she puts it, “you don’t have to sit in your own garbage.” This created space in her life for me. Her decision to let help everyone let go of the past humbles me.


Charmayne had six daughters. I had no kids. We had both vowed never to marry again, considering what we had been through. For the first time, fear was part of my life again. But this time was different. I married Charmayne because, while praying out loud while driving alone on the freeway one day, a voice said “This deserves a chance.”

That answer to my prayer was powerful. I obeyed. But I was scared, and so was she. A few days ago we celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary. We are not scared anymore.

Every good thing in my life has come with Charmayne. Six step-daughters who welcomed and embraced me. Two weeks ago, they gave me and Charmayne our sixth grandchild, a girl. Today is my fortieth birthday, and I have six grandchildren. There is no step between me and them. This love is a new experience for me. Our oldest grandson lived with us for the first five and a half years of his life. This changed me.

Over the past decade, I have lived every dream I ever conjured. I have become a bestselling author. I love my work. I am a full-time journalist with a voice. I am a writer, a teacher, a renaissance gardener. I have made it my goal to be a useful person. What if I had killed myself?

For my fortieth birthday, I have given myself two gifts I thought I could never achieve. For thirteen months my wife and I have been doing yoga at the local gym. If you know anything about me, you know the words “Caleb” and “gym” go together like the words “righteous” and “Monsanto”. (I couldn’t resist). Yet, 13 months later, yoga has changed my life. Because of yoga, I was able to learn to ski. Every person in our family skis. When my oldest grandson learned at age five, I saw opportunity slipping away -- I’m not getting any younger. This fall I graduated from Brighton Ski School.

My fortieth birthday in particular is a moment to take inventory. I’m a big guy at six-foot-four. People my height statistically don’t see age 70 very often. I am two-thirds done with the useful portion of my life -- if I’m lucky. My clock is ticking. All our clocks are. Fourteen years ago, I didn’t see the joy ahead. I’m grateful for the people who helped me see a future.

At least one person kills him- or herself every day in the state where I live. My family has suffered a loss in recent years. Our town has suffered what seems to be an unfair share. If you are thinking of killing yourself, don’t do it. You are needed. There are people you have not met who will need you. You will change their lives. Your decisions will have influence in the future beyond your understanding.

That whispering voice that encourages suicide is not the voice of love, nor the voice of God. Be careful who you listen to.

There is life after this world. But emotional pain is solved more easily here -- where you can make changes. Don’t give away your liberty to choose and change.

If you hurt, ask for help. “And God shall wipe away all tears from [your] eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”

This is what happened to me. I’m grateful I lived to find out. -Caleb

31 comments:

  1. What a powerful reminder that each life has value. Thanks for sharing!

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  2. This is a beautifully written post. I couldn't imagine a world without having you as a friend.

    PS- you and your wife are such a darling couple!

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  3. Reading this brought back to mind that time, during which I remember Sally telling me in a kind of frantic way that you wouldn't return her calls. Maybe she knew how bad things were...I never suspected, but am so grateful you're still here fulfilling all those dreams we barely dared to even admit to back then. -Julia

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  4. This is a book that needs to be written especially for our youth that we are losing...

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  5. Thank you for sharing your story, Caleb. Again, happy 40th birthday, and congratulations to you and Charmayne on celebrating 10 years of marriage. I'm glad the two of you walked -- together -- away from suffering.

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  6. Beautiful and heart felt, thank you for sharing. I have been practicing traditional yoga for 7 years, it is an energetic force that creates such ease in our lives. Happiest of birthdays to you and happy anniversary, may you be blessed.

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  7. An absolute treasure. Thank you for sharing this. I was deeply moved. I would have never known this about you had you not shared it. Thank you. Bless you.

    Melanie Wilkes

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  8. Thank you for sharing your incredible story! Such a beautiful, needed message.

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  9. Wow. I'm really glad you chose to stick around, too. You have taught me so much. I agree with Russo - you and Charmayne were meant to be.

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  10. Thanks for sharing this, Caleb. As the widow of a suicide, I understand what you spared the people who love you. And I'm glad that you and Charmayne found each other and were willing to take a chance with it. The statement that 'suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem' is very true.

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  11. Wow ... thanks for sharing this, Caleb.

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  12. Such an inspiring post Caleb! Thank you so much for sharing about your experience.

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  13. I am so grateful that your life did not end 14 years ago! I don't know you personally, but your contribution to my life in the form of a book has been a blessing. I am sure there are so many more lives touched by yours even more in the past 14 years, and in the years to come. I hope this message reaches many people, especially those who are in need of it.

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  14. I needed to read this today. Thank you.

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  15. Thanks Caleb, you know, for being alive. I think for me this is why every day of "good" life I have to try to be aware and strengthen myself, because the really bad times come for all of us sooner or later and if we haven't spent a lot of time figuring out why we're living then it can seem pretty pointless.

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  16. What a powerful message--and one I hope gets read by many. Thank heavens you had people in your life who followed promptings and helped you step away from that cliff. You have accomplished many great things in your life and will continue to do so!

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  17. I don't know you, but you have blessed one more life by staying alive--mine. Thank you for hope.

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  18. Beautifully and bravely lived. Beautifully and bravely written. Caleb, it's been a joy to know you. As one of your students from ten years ago, I consider you the primary inspiration for my interest in writing today. A passion for art and life is probably what I wanted and I'd seen you grabbing that like few I'd seen before. Congrats on your birthday, anniversary and upcoming book release. Here's to living to see the dawn!

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  19. What an amazing message, with so many blessings. Thank you for sharing and for all you do. I love your book and now that I see your site I am looking forward to all you have to share. God Bless You!!! :)

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  20. Thank you for sharing your personal story. It's inspiring!

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  21. I admire the courage and concern it took to share that. Thank you!

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  22. At age 24, things seemed hopeless - I'd been molested growing up and also had a series of losses when we emigrated to the U.S. There were no extended family members or friends of the family to turn to.

    However, something told me that I should give life a chance. Through therapy and 12 Step programs, I was able to work through all the temporary problems and pain, move forward and thrive. If I'd ended my life at 24, I would have missed out on an amazing husband and two lovely daughters, as well as numerous rewarding life experiences...

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  23. Caleb, this is such a moving and heartbreaking and then heartsaving post. Thank you for sharing your deepest feelings with us. I have been reading your websites all day today and have only stumbled upon them while researching self sufficiency. The importance of the issues you write about are like the bedrock of life. Thank you for all you do and for bringing a light to that dark place that so many visit and many are lost to. Your personal story is an example of how much each one of us can touch the lives of generations through the ripple effect. I wish blessings of love, peace and abundance upon you and all those you love. All the best to you! Mary

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  25. What a beautiful testimony to life. Thank you for sharing!

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  26. Glad you decided on life. We're all walking wounded and if we all had empathy and charity, it would be a better world. You certainly helped me in my writing and I am grateful.

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  27. Glad you decided on life. We're all walking wounded and if we all had empathy and charity, it would be a better world. You certainly helped me in my writing and I am grateful.

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