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
Posted by Blog Staff at 11:04 PM