The night I decided to kill myself, I didn’t tell anyone.

I sat up for a long time, thinking. Would it hurt a lot? How long before flies started laying eggs in my eyes? Would anyone know I was dead before then? I cried a lot, too. I was living with my grandparents in a trailer in Casco, Maine. The area is really nice, and at night I could hear the wind rustling through the tree leaves and not much else aside from the occasional passing vehicle and lots and lots of crickets.

I weighed my options. On the one hand, what had life ever given me? I was just out of high school. I was about to go to college, but for what? What was the purpose of my existence? I had grown up poor, very poor. We struggled for so much and got so little in return. We were dirty, unwashed, my siblings and I. We grew up with roaches crawling on our pillows, warts on our hands, socks dissolving in filth. I ate paper that had pictures of real food on it and also random donuts I found in alleyways, and I even stole things from stores – all for want of food. We had medical problems. Every day was just a struggle to get through. Who would bully me today, who would look down on me today? I didn’t know my father, he’d abandoned me like my own mother almost had – and then, I’d been forced to become a ward of the state and ended up in a foster home. I was disconnected.

On the other hand, how would my grandparents react? What if I didn’t die and was only hospitalized? What then? I’d moved to Casco because my grandparents adopted me. I was lucky. Still, that feeling of being disconnected resonated with me. It was like someone had cut the life cord connecting me to the rest of my family, from society even. I felt like I had absolutely nothing to offer to the world, and I wished above all else that I had been aborted before I’d been brought to life and before I had any conscious thought so I wouldn’t have to experience the daily humiliation, the daily hopelessness.

I walked to the bathroom, pausing at the doorway to my grandparent’s room. My grandfather was snoring loudly. I closed the bathroom door behind me and laid out what I thought was a lethal combination of various drugs from the medicine cabinet. So many pills. I sat on the toilet and looked at the pills on the sink. Would I at least pass out, first? I wondered how it would feel when my heart stopped – if there would be any real discomfort or if I’d just drift peacefully away. No matter what happened, anything would be better than what I was feeling. How could I make it to old age if the very thought of getting up the next morning filled me with disgust and sadness?

For four long hours I cried, I shook, I sobbed, I got angry. I put a few of the pills in my mouth. I spit them out. I put some in again and tilted my head back to swallow. I spit them out. I cried.

In the end, I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t be sure that the pills would kill me completely. I didn’t want to end up a vegetable, laying in some hospital bed and racking up bills.

There are other times I wanted to end my own life, notably around the time I was separated from my then-wife. I never did, though, obviously. Partly because I was scared, but also partly because it’s selfish. For one, you leave behind a burden on those surviving. Emotionally, financially, many different ways. We all have the freedom of choice so…yes, there is a certain draw to ending one’s life when it feels appropriate and there is no other option. But most of the time there IS another option. Many of them, probably.

People who want to die FEEL like there is no other option. If I could sit down and talk with myself from that time, I wouldn’t be speaking to a rational human being. I’d be talking to someone caught in the moment, unable to see any light at the end of the tunnel and only able to see the pitch black behind him. I feel sorry for past-me. The poor thing doesn’t have any idea HOW much worse it’s going to get for him. Divorce, hospitalization, debt, family deaths, life. The difference is that while terrible things DO happen, as long as someone is able to recognize the warning signs of suicidal behavior – suicide can be prevented. If I’d killed myself back then, I wouldn’t be able to experience my little sister having a wonderful little family. I wouldn’t be an uncle. I wouldn’t have gone to grad school. I wouldn’t have met so many amazing people and gone on so many adventures. I would have effectively cut my life short, right before anything COOL happened.

If you recognize this behavior in someone, get them some help. Talk to them. It might be just that one conversation that makes someone re-think what they’re planning on doing.