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My Suicide Attempt

One year ago, the culmination of years of struggle against mental illness appeared to finally come to a head. In April 2022, I attempted to take my own life, after years of degradation to my emotional state and ability to handle myself.

It’s been very hard for me to say what I’ve wanted to say with this, so this is my best attempt to pour out my feelings. It’s kind of a long read, and goes a lot of different places. I’ve had to rewrite it three times.

A Sickness

For the longest time, there’s been a poison living inside of me. It manifests as a voice, composed of anxious, knee-jeek reaction, guttural rage, and screaming that shakes my bones.

Portrait of an American, a self-painting of my very weird mind.

Within this poison lies a deep hatred for everything that I am, and calls for nothing less than my annihilation. When I make errors, it calls me an error. When I fail, it calls me a failure. But never in those words.

No, it opts for the vocabulary of a true sadist, and the worst part is that it’s my voice, telling myself that my mother should’ve gotten an abortion, that my father should’ve strangled me in the crib. That my entire soul has been rejected by God, that I was designed simply to be damned forever. It tells me that my genes are weak, my mind diseased, and my heart unlovable. That I will wallow in mediocrity and failure all my life, and everybody will cheer when I finally die.

Gosh, you say, this guy must be a riot at parties!

These thoughts and words come and go. For some periods, I’ve been able to find an element, and thrive in it. I’ve experienced love, joy, passion, and belonging. I’ve explored the world, and parts of my own consciousness, and have taken chances and accomplished things that maybe not a lot of people have.

But, none of those things can stave off my fixation on the past, the kind of person I used to be, and the long shadow of my failures. My imagination constantly pulls me into a long chain of thinking of all the paths I failed to take. Even now, I have to admit that I still have a lot of baggage to contend with.

The Fall

I think one thing that I fixate on a lot is the collapse of my previous career. I moved across the country to a place that I only had rosy assumptions about, got my foot in the door working in exciting places, and gradually realized with horror that the ladder I seemed to be climbing was only a treadmill, painting me into a corner with no escape.

My entire dream of success and prosperity seemed to be false, and ran me into the ground so badly that when I finally got fired, all I could do was drink and party and get high for nine months straight. Oh, I looked for work. But the long cycles of interviews and rejections only made me lean harder into my vices.

When the money finally dried up and I was facing homelessness, I surrendered. I picked up the phone, called my father, and moved across the country to follow his proposed path of joining the military.

I moved to the middle of nowhere, got a job in a factory, and starved myself until I lost a third of my body weight. At the height of COVID, I waited for the ride to basic training. My job changed three times. I fell in and out of love with someone during that time. She kept our relationship a secret from her kids, despite the fact that at one point we were all living together.

The Spiral

I maybe had two braincells left, when I got to basic training. My higher brain functions basically told my lower functions:

Sayonara! I’m taking a vacation! It’s up to you to get me through this!

I was bad at everything, for a while, and it didn’t stop at basic. Well into my career on the operational side of the military, and I’m a nervous wreck with everything described in the above paragraphs tacked on. But now, I’m working on multimillion dollar military aircraft!

The day I left basic training!

After a while, everything became too much. Every mistake was a full-blown panic attack. Every person seemed to hate me, even though they really didn’t. I became obsessed with failure, and started to develop an unhinged view that I was simply the worst piece of shit airman.

My panicked thoughts began reflexively focusing on ways to kill myself: jumping into oncoming traffic. Piping exhaust into my truck’s cabin. Hanging myself.

The weird thing about wanting to end my life was that I was terrified of dying. I was afraid of the experience, afraid of making a final commitment, afraid of what may or may not happen after. I wanted to destroy myself, but only so that I didn’t have to feel like I was in Hell anymore. I can’t fully explain it, beyond the fact that I felt incredibly awful every single day.

I found a piece of rope, and began tightening it to see how it would feel as I choked. I loved it. I leaned into it. I pulled it over the hangar bar in my closet, and experimented with pulling on it in different ways.

Some part of my brain eventually realized what was going on, and snapped out of it. I had finally passed a major threshold, after all these years. I felt disgusting.

The Recovery

I could go into all the details of this part, but I’d rather keep it short. I made a cry for help, and some people in my leadership that liked me immediately noticed. My flight chiefs and a Sergeant close to me saved my life that day. I am forever grateful.

A lot of things happened very quickly. I sat down and talked to my flight chief, who took me to Behavioral Health for a screening. They asked a lot of questions, and I nervously talked about everything that I had been going through. After about an hour of conversation, a verdict: I was going to be hospitalized and placed on observation for a time.

They took most of my belongings, took my shoelaces, and I was asked the same questions over and over again by all sorts of different groups of people. Inprocessing dragged on forever and ever, as I found myself endlessly repeating words to new people.

Text message from my Dad, one day after

I got help, and was hospitalized for a while. I went to a lot of therapy sessions. Jesus Christ, the therapy sessions. There were so many. Some were profound and emotional, some were shallow and extremely hokey. I don’t recommend Dialectical Behavioral Therapy at all.

I’m on antidepressants now, and still in the military. No, it’s not a cure-all. I leaned that the hard way that Zoloft doesn’t just magically take all your bad feelings away. I also leaned that higher dosages just put me in a fog and make me feel stupid.

A lot of amazing things happened since then. I married someone wonderful that’s extremely supportive, and we’ve moved in together with two beautiful dogs. I still struggle with bad thought patterns sometimes, and I kind of just have to accept that I’ll have good days and bad days. But, there’s much more bliss.

I’m still trying to figure out what I want to do with my life, and sometimes wonder whether anything I accomplished really meant anything. But, as long as I’m still around, and have the willpower to keep trying new things, there’s hope.

7 Replies to “My Suicide Attempt”

  1. sikkdays says:

    It’s incredibly hard to explain that voice that chimes in on the smallest of things. “Did you forget to feed the dog? You’re worthless and should probably die.” The power of that voice is incredible. I thank you for sharing. It definitely makes me feel heard.
    I want to say that I’m always a call or a chat away, and yet that voice comes in to remind me that I would be a bad influence. I am certainly struggling and I don’t want to infect you.
    I suppose I need to take one moment at a time. This may not be my best, but in ten minutes I might just run into some joy.

    1. Sean Tilley says:

      Yeah, for a while I was having full panic attacks for really minor things, like forgetting my badge for work. I have some issues with memory, and everything falls apart when I can’t rely on concrete mental proof that I did or didn’t do something.

      It’s a lot easier to handle now, but under full-blown depression, it’s miserable.

  2. Jk says:

    I ran into this from Mastadon…glad you found help…I tried pills and was gone for a bit and came bac long story but interesting..reenlisted in the Army in Nov. 2001…yell sometime if you need talk or rant…

  3. MSK says:

    Hello Sean
    It’s been two months since your blog post. How are you doing on the holiday week ? Has your wife support helped you ?
    was looking at peertube, bounced off to, to about, to deadsuperhero to this blog post of yours.

  4. Liz says:

    I ran into your site from WeDistribute which I enjoy a ton! I’m glad you’re still with us ❤ I hope you’re doing better these days. 🫶🏽

    1. Sean Tilley says:

      Thanks, Liz! 😁♥️ I’m doing a lot better these days. There are still times where I have to live with raw negative emotions and intrusive thoughts, but my day-to-day quality is infinitely better.

  5. Strypey says:

    I hear you brother! I’m really glad you endured the darkness long enough to see the dawn. Not only because I have massive respect for you and your work, but also because I wouldn’t wish clinical depression on anyone, and it breaks my heart every time we lose one of our people to it.

    I’ve struggled with bouts of deep depression all my life, and I fell into a similar hole over the course of 2020. Boy do I know that self-loathing inner Chatterbox, as well as the feeling of being unwilling to die, but equally unwilling to go on living in constant psychic agony that feels like it will never end.

    I’ve probably said this before, but if you ever find yourself struggling and needing a friendly ear, I’m here. I won’t judge you, or try to fix you. I’ll just listen to anything you need to be heard and do my best to remind you that as surely as day follows night, this too shall pass.

    That goes for anyone out there feeling overwhelmed by depressive feelings.

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