(Author’s Note: What follows was originally posted in 5 parts in The Oakdale Chronicles very early on during my incarceration. It is the story of my attempted suicide and the week that followed while I was kept in a hospital psychiatric unit in south Florida. I post it now because the anniversary of that nearly successful violent attack is approaching.
It was my dear Son, Anthony, who was charged with typing each part of the original post, and in re-reading it, I can only imagine how difficult it must have been for him to do so. While I was incarcerated, Anthony was clear in his condemnation of what had brought my life to this point, but equally clear in his unwavering love for me.
It is possible to learn about love, loyalty, strength and courage from our children.
In addition to it being close to the ‘anniversary’ of my own attempted suicide, suicide has been at the forefront of many conversations and exchanged emails over the past 2 weeks. I heard from the parents of Ryan Loskarn, an individual whom I wrote about after his own suicide on January 23, 2014. I have also heard from a woman who is writing a book about a man she knew who committed suicide 5 years ago. Lastly, and very sadly, a man who I met last year through very dear friends of mine I met while working at Central Union Mission, committed suicide recently while living in Cypress.
Sad stories all. Are there answers for any of the people I just mentioned in the story that follows? Probably not, since each story is different in most respects. But each shares the fact that Satan won a victory on the day of that individual’s death. After all, his sole objective is the destruction of human life.
Maybe someone will read this who is struggling. If that is the case, I can say only this: Do not let him win!
Here then is the story of how my own personal battle was almost lost, and how God turned a horribly ugly day into a day of rebirth.)
August 18, 2009 began for me pretty much like any other day in recent memory. I had just returned from dropping off the dirty linens from the tiny, rundown motel where I worked and lived.
It was a typical day in south Florida for that time of year. It was warm early, the sun was shining, and I was looking forward to finishing my “tour of duty” at the front desk and enjoying the day. Perhaps a little afternoon kayaking, a hobby I had taken up about a month earlier and taken an immediate liking to.
After I had returned from dropping off the laundry, I walked to my room at the other end of the parking lot to do something, I’m not sure what. I had moved into unit #4 a couple of months earlier after my siblings and I had sold our parents’ house, where I had lived since December 2004.
I had moved into their house in December. “Pop” (our step-father) had a stroke the day after Thanksgiving while visiting one of my sisters and it was felt that they needed some help if they were to continue living in their own home. It worked out that I was available to move in and help, and I did exactly that for several years until they both passed away within months of one another–9 weeks to be exact–earlier in 2008. Selling their home had caused me to move into the motel I had worked at, which was inherited by a neighbor and his sister when their Mother was hit by a car crossing the busy street in front of the motel. I had decided to stay there until I could decide a new course of action.
Finishing whatever it was I had gone to my room to do, I walked out the door and turned the corner to cross the parking lot and return to the office, roughly 80-feet away.
As I turned that corner, I noticed activity at the other end of the lot, in front of the office. Apparently, a couple of vehicles had pulled in while I had been in my room and I noticed several people moving about. On the backs of two of the jackets, I noticed the letters “FBI”.
I knew then that a new course of action was about to unfold, and I also knew it would not be pleasant for me, my friends, or my family.
The FBI had come to arrest me, and I was about to let down everyone I had ever known or loved…
It took a moment for the reality of the situation to sink in. I had known for about a year and a half that the FBI would come for me sooner or later (more on that another time), but now that they were here and once it HAD sunk in, I did an about-face and returned to my room.
Fortunately for me–at least that’s the way I felt at the moment–no one saw me, as their attention was focused on the motel office where they must have determined I was going to be at that time, on that day.
It is extremely difficult to describe my state of mind at this point. I locked the door and threw the sliding lock. My heart was pounding, my mouth was dry, and I moved about my tiny room wildly–pacing–in a state of panic.
I moved into the small bathroom and stood in front of the sink, which was right next to the shower, looking into the mirror for what seemed like a long time. I am sure was mere seconds. It’s amazing the amount, and diversity, of information that the human mind can process in a very short amount of time.
It’s amazing, too, how afraid and completely alone a human being can feel.
I stood there, tears forming, staring into my eyes watching them form, trying to look into the depths of my soul where the darkness was. To that part of my being that had been–through the course of my life–so thoroughly seduced by evil. I tried to find a solution to the predicament I was in, and the only solution I could come up with was that the evil had to die.
That part of me that I had despised through the years but was small enough to be manageable (or so I thought) had grown and consumed enough of my soul that the little remaining that was good inside of me suddenly felt outmatched and death loomed as the only solution.
I felt that the predictions of self-destruction that had been made when I was in my teens had finally come home to roost. I also felt that I had betrayed the love and friendship of so many people, and I was unworthy.
For years, various people had told me I was my own worst enemy and now, today, at this moment, I finally agreed with them, and I decided that the only way to win was to defeat the enemy, and to defeat the enemy, the enemy must ultimately die.
Since the room was small and contained a bed, a dresser, an entertainment center, and a table with 2 chairs, there was only a small amount of space to walk in, but walk I did–to the door–to the front window–to the back window.
The windows were old jalousie type windows common in south Florida that had long ago stopped opening and closing, the panes of glass were frosted, and most of the panels were sealed with silicone to keep out dust and the warm, often hot, Florida air. There was one clear pane at the bottom of the front window, facing the parking lot, that I had put in when I had moved in so I could check the lot without going outside, but at that moment the curtains were drawn and I was afraid to move them to peek outside.
I knew they would shortly discover that I was not in the office and would then focus their attention on my room.
My heart was pounding in my chest as I returned to the bathroom. I was breathing heavily, in a totally panicked and desperate state, telling myself, “You’re f—-d, you’re f—-d, you’re f—-d! You’ve got no way out! You’ve got to do it! You have f—-d up your life you stupid, stupid ass. You’ve got to put an end to this now!”
I hadn’t contemplated suicide before, nor have I since, but at that time, in the state of mind I was in, hating who I was and what I had done to my life, my children, my family, and my friends, not thinking that anyone would understand, and not wanting to fight my demons anymore, the decision was made. Now the only thing remaining–and time was surely running out–was, “How do I do this??”
My mind was racing, going through its memory of what was in my room that I could use to end this madness, finally settling on the blades contained in a disposable razor. I grabbed one and broke it, back now in front of the sink. As it broke apart, the blades came free and fell into the sink. I picked them up–they were difficult to grasp because they were so narrow, but they were all I had.
The tears were coming faster now, flowing more freely, the accumulated pain of my life’s mistakes welling up and spilling out of my eyes and down my cheeks.
Holding a blade between the thumb and first 2 fingers of each hand, I raised them to the sides of my neck, lightly pressing on each vein. Standing there, I looked into the tear-filled eyes staring back at me in the mirror, trying to find an answer different from the one I had arrived at.
I no longer knew the person looking back at me, and I found no different answer…
“When you look long into the abyss, the abyss also looks into you.” ~F. Nietzsche
The image of myself in the mirror was blurred by my tears, but I could see where the sharp edges of the razor blades touched my skin.
Time, damn it! Time! I was running out of time!
I remember a sound escaping my lips, but I have no recollection of whether it was a word, or just a sob, but it was then that I clenched my teeth, pressed the razor blades down, and pulled them forward sharply. One time, then quickly again cutting both jugular veins at once, the vein on the right being cut more than the left.
The blood spurted through the breaches in the veins with a force that surprised me for some reason. I took a step backwards and then to my right, moving into the shower.
I turned, slightly dazed, I think–a little stunned, perhaps that I had actually made such a statement of self-loathing, but at the same time, momentarily relieved of the pressures bearing down on my soul.
I leaned against the wall, my blood pumping out of my veins, and slid down to a sitting position. I looked down at the front of my shirt and ran my fingers through the sticky wetness, the blood warm in contrast to the coolness of the tiles. A sadness swept over me–a sure sign that my life was going to end here–in this shower–today–in a few moments. And the sadness was for all the things I should have been, and could have done–for all of the good that I was capable of.
And I remember thinking how odd it was that I felt no pain from my self-inflicted wounds–indeed, there was a feeling that the intensity of my panic and anxiety was flowing down the shower drain with the blood that was leaving my body.
Trying to recount the thoughts and my overall state of mind at this point is difficult, because things seemed to be slowing down a bit. There seemed to be a quietness and a surreal feeling setting in.
I was still crying, but the tears had slowed somewhat. I do know that I started talking to my mother, my best friend in life, and now, it seemed, that she was about to become my best friend in death. She had passed away a little over a year before, and I spoke to her now because her faith in God was as powerful, and sure, as mine was not.
God had not been one of my favorites for many years–since I was a teenager, in fact, and my best friend was killed in a car crash.
I wasn’t sure if lying in a pool of blood from self-inflicted wounds presented the right set of circumstances for reconciling with God, but it looked as if that was what was about to happen.
Speaking to my mother, I also told myself that if I was to believe that she could hear me, I also had to acknowledge that she was with God as she had truly believed she would be. I told her tearfully that I was sorry, so very sorry for making such a mess of my life, and I asked her to help my children understand that their father was not the monster that circumstances would make him out to be, but that he had just lost himself for a time back there somewhere and simply hadn’t realized it until it was too late to fix.
It was at this point that I slid down further onto the floor of the shower, until I was lying on my back.
I was getting weaker, time was passing, and I could hear sounds that told me the FBI had turned their attention from the office to my room–voices–calling my name–sounds at the window–sounds at the door.
I know I asked God to look after my mother, and I thanked him for giving her to me. I also asked him to look after my children, and thanked him again.
Apologizing for being less of a human than I should have been, I then asked him for forgiveness.
I prayed for all of the people who looked up to me–who respected me–who loved me, and would now feel betrayed by and disappointed in me.
They should all be angry with me for not giving them credit for having more character than that, and for loving me more than I did myself, but at that particular moment, rationality had long since ceased to exist for me. In a few minutes, it wasn’t going to matter anyway, because I was slipping closer and closer towards death, a slow motion race to beat the people I could hear outside my door.
I read recently, in a Nelson Demille novel, a statement made by one of his characters that said, “Compared to shame, death is nothing.” To me, at that moment, drifting closer and closer to a point from which I could not possibly return–I’m sure that statement would have rung true.
I know differently now, of course, just as I knew differently in the days to come. In fact, I would have thought I knew differently about 15 minutes earlier, before this self-inflicted nightmare began. But at that time, and for that moment, I asked for death, and it appeared that I was going to get what I asked for.
My eyes were no longer open, nor could I open them. I was aware of my shallow breathing, but beyond that, I lacked the ability–or the will–to move.
Muffled voices and sounds could be heard through the walls, along with a metallic tapping–tap, tap, tap………tap, tap, tap. My mind hearing my voice encouraging death, “Just go. Just die. Just sleep. Just end it.”
But still there was that tapping–tap, tap, tap…tap, tap, tap. And other muffled noises and voices. And me, “Just go. Just die…” And then–a voice, clearer, yet still faint, and not mine–saying, “I’m in!”
Suddenly, I could faintly hear people nearby, voices calling to others, exclamations about what they had found, calls for an ambulance.
I felt something around my neck–a towel, perhaps–and felt pressure being applied. At once point, I slipped into total stillness for a few moments, then I heard the faint voices again. I was being jostled, dragged from the shower.
I sensed more activity outside the bathroom–more voices of people maneuvering in the very restrictive confines of my room.
Various sensations of being jostled, lifted, multiple hands on me, various voices issuing directives. I had slight sensations of movement and then what I guess would have been the sensation of being lifted into the ambulance. I must have been fading in and out, there was constant pressure on my neck, muffled voices, like I was listening to people talk with ear muffs on.
The ambulance came to a stop–at the hospital, I assume–I had the sensation of being lowered to the ground. I felt movement, heard new voices, then heard and felt absolutely nothing…
I did not wake up for about 24 hours, and when I did, I was in the intensive care unit, and I was conscious for just a moment, long enough to be aware that I was still alive, that I was connected to all sorts of machines, that there was something stuck down my throat, and my hands were encased in these really soft, really thick gauze mittens.
I was in and out of sleep most of the day, and when I was awake, people spoke to me, but I didn’t respond. Well, couldn’t, as I was still with a tube down my throat helping me breathe.
Towards the end of the morning, I believe, the breathing tube was removed, a wholly unpleasant experience, by the way–kind of like sticking your finger UP your throat. As unpleasant as it may have been, I was glad (yes, I was) that I was around to experience it.
I was moved to a regular hospital room later that day and was treated pretty normally except I had a 24-hour “watcher”, someone who’s only job was to sit and watch me.
Two days later, I was moved to the third floor, where the ‘psych’ ward was located. Until that point, I really hadn’t said much to anyone. People came and went, looked at me, did their assigned task, and left. I was pretty weak initially and had a lot of drugs in me, so I faded in and out of sleep.
Once I got to the third floor, it was different. People were going to seek answers, and I was going to be expected to provide them.
The FBI didn’t place me under arrest at the motel because–as they informed my sister, Kathy–they would have had to provide a 24-hour guard, and they “didn’t have the manpower”.
Once I had physically recovered enough to be moved near the psych ward, I was held under authority of Florida’s Baker Act, which allowed for a 72-hour observation period. The third floor was a secured level with locked doors and controlled access. There was a nurses station, a craft activity room, a day room, and half-a-dozen two-person rooms.
There was never an empty bed, and there were two units like this. I was in unit A. Most were there because they had said they wanted to die. A few had taken pills. A couple had had voluntarily entered. A lot of unhappiness in the world…
I would end up spending almost a week on the third floor at Memorial Hospital-Johnson.
The demons I had faced in the mirror seemed to have fled, leaving the naked truths that had been buried, or hidden, exposed for me to deal with, and for all to witness.
Everyone knows that in order to see something clearly, it must be viewed in the light. If you are talking about the flaws in an apple, or a pear, it’s no big deal. However, when you take the darkness in the human soul and bring it into the light, be prepared to call upon God for help in dealing with what you find there.
The time I spent on the third floor was time well spent. I uncovered things within myself–pain I had covered for years–and discovered little things in the past that had developed into big things over time.
I talked. I cried. I talked.
I examined myself and developed a sense that I could–and would–survive all my current problems and finally deal with all of my old issues.
I would be someone I could love, and I knew those who loved me would help.
At this point, I would like to apologize to my family and friends. I’m sorry to have put you all through this in the first place, and I am sorry for whatever pain reading these last few entries may have caused.
I do not delight in hurting those I love, but I do harbor a fervent hope that, over time, my words will reach out to someone who has been seduced by evil and, perhaps, will initiate a change in direction that will spare him–or her–and his family and friends the enormous spiritual, emotional, physical, and financial price that all of this evokes.
We have not even begun to scratch the surface, and I hope you all have the patience to bear with me as I ramble.
To my children, my brothers, sisters, other relatives, friends–I love you all, and I am sorry.
(Author’s note: Thanks for reading. May God bless each and every one of you and keep you and your families safe.)