I lie in bed and, as my sleeplessness winds into the early morning hours, I think of my friend, Sam, who took his own life about eight years ago.

I met him in 2007 when I went back to school to study professional writing and editing as a mature-age student  – he was fifteen years younger than me, infinitely more talented than me at the same age (although he probably was regardless of age), intelligent, and funny (with a dry sense of humour).

Once school had finished, we kept sporadically in touch over the years, and I always enjoyed his company. But I’m a misanthrope when it comes to everyday conversations, so fell out of the habit of many friendships. I enjoy talking to anybody about writing and storytelling, because that’s where my head functions. Everything to me is story. If something doesn’t relate in some parallel way, then I’m immediately at a deficit.

The last time I spoke to Sam was at a dinner just a couple of weeks before his death. It was us and another former classmate. Sam seemed fine, outside of a despondency about relationships. He’d finished his novel. He was working. From the outside looking in, he seemed to have so much going for him. He couldn’t get past this relationships’ thing, though.

I know what it’s like to obsess. I know what it’s like to grow fixated on one thing. I know from my own experiences how ruminations can whirlpool into hopelessness, and how easy it is to start thinking that surrender is the last, best option.

Then … what’s left?

I think about suicide lots. Lots. Some of it is carry-over from Aropax (and the suicide ideation it caused), some of it has always been there in some tenuous form, and some of it is current.

In my teens, I imagined how my life would unfurl – I’d picture it each night as I lay in bed. I don’t know if other teens think similarly, if they visualize their futures so vividly, if they map it out so exhaustively.

That’s what used to blitzkrieg through my mind on such a regular basis that if manifestation was a real thing, I would’ve willed it all into reality.

But yesterday’s fantasy is not today’s reality.

While friends were dating and fooling around, I was dealing with the mental health stuff. When friends were graduating high school, pursuing study or jobs and relationships, I was dealing with a shit psychiatrist for over a year, his terrible treatment (that, retrospectively, my older, wiser self knows would qualify as malpractice) and all those escalating mental health challenges.

Just a few years later, as friends married, progressed in jobs, built careers, etc., I’d become a shut in and could barely make it to the mailbox without hyperventilating. That took five years to overcome, but led to another explosive mental health episode and the horribly horrible Aropax.

None of this is meant to engender sympathy, or is me feeling sorry for myself (although it might sound like that). It’s an itemization of history as it happened, a cold, emotionless recall that’s become rote. The truth is everybody has their own stuff to deal with.


And many people have it much, much worse.

I learned that when a car hit me and broke my leg. My surgeon kept telling me, “This is a really bad break.” But eighteen months later, when my recovery had exceeded his expectations, yet left me with chronic pain, numbness, and restriction, he kept assuring me to get it this far was a win – that my leg could’ve been hurting so much (worse) I would’ve begged him to amputate, or that the nerve damage to the foot might’ve seen it hang uselessly there. Nothing I achieved (in terms of recovery) was on his radar.

Every person lives their own private hell. Some find their way out. For others, it becomes their purgatory.

And, for a few, it becomes too much.

I think about Sam and see the boundless potential that awaited him, and his own self-reflection that it was nonexistent, and there was no choice but a permanent action, an exit from which there was no return.

I think about him often, as I’m lying in bed, and wonder what went through his head toward the end.

He overdosed on something, and I can only extrapolate (although it might be furthest from the truth) that it was sleeping tablets or sedatives, two medications I’d had in abundance in my twenties, and which were often what I would’ve considered using.

Did Sam drift off as if it was just any other normal sleep? Were the thoughts that ambled through his mind random, if not errant, as they often are before sleep, until they were no more?

Or, as he drifted off, did he feel a sudden alarm about what he was doing?

There’s a documentary, The Bridge, that looks at people who’ve jumped from the Golden Gate Bridge. One jumper said the moment he stepped off the bridge, everything that seemed unfixable in his life suddenly became fixable, and he shrunk into himself to make the smallest impact possible in the water below in hopes of surviving.

Did Sam have that sudden, explosive regret, only to reconcile it was just too late to do anything? Was that the final anguish that accompanied him?

Or did he feel the sleep coming, and know it was an end to all his earthly problems? Did he embrace the finality of it all with warmth and relief? What would that feel like? Would there be euphoria from the freedom of it all?

I think about it as I lie there, struggling to find sleep.