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Jacob’s Story: Why I Killed Myself

Hey, this is Jacob. My mom has written about how my suicide impacted HER … but now, it’s my turn to explain why I killed myself.



I Had a Happy Childhood

Really, I did. You’d never suspect that I would grow up to kill myself. My mom tends to focus on all the abuse–and I’m not going to deny that–but I was a happy little kid. My mom never stopped telling me how she “just knew” that one more little soul belonged with our family, and that she yearned for me ever since my two older brothers were born. As for my dad, well, I was pretty much his favorite. He called me his “little buddy.” He could be really f-ing cruel when he wasn’t happy with my behavior or my grades, but I’m the only one he never actually hit. Weirdly, in fact, after I killed myself he broke down sobbing and said I had been his “best friend.”

My earliest memories are of sitting on the swing in the backyard. We had a big backyard with a high wooden fence all around it that made it feel private and, to me, magical. There was a sort of fort attached to the swingset and trees all around. I spent a lot of time out there, I think partly to get away from everyone else, but mostly because it was just so peaceful.

My brothers–hmm, long story. I pretty much worshipped Zach (and still do) but Adam, the oldest, scared the crap out of me. He alternated between beating up on us and threatening to hurt himself. We were all still pretty little when Adam got diagnosed with a severe case of bipolar that they said he’d had since birth, and I guess that was supposed to explain why he was always angry and pounding on us. Every Tuesday my mom would pack us all in her big SUV and drive us to his therapy, with snacks and books and toys for Zach and me to keep us busy during the hour, but we just ended up making forts under the waiting room chairs and jumping all over the place.

Eventually, Zach and I learned how to gang up on Adam, make fun of his weight and weirdness, and block most of his attacks on us. But Zach got mean. I don’t think he would have if we had a different family, but he ended up bullying me too … The confusing part was that we were also best friends, and I never laughed harder than with Zach but he also almost killed me a few times.

Our dad was angry pretty much all the time (when he was home, that is) and had grown to despise our mom, who cried a lot and begged us all to stop hurting each other. She finally called the cops on Dad when he was choking the sh– out of Zach, and she ended up divorcing him.

But I’m telling you, we still had good times. When Adam was calm, like after dinner when the four of us would cuddle on the couch and Mom would read to us, sometimes for hours; or when Dad was traveling for work and we’d have picnic dinners of chicken nuggets and juice boxes; or when we’d drive to the beach with my aunt’s family and dig in the sand and body surf all weekend. Zach and I would tinker in the garage, rigging faster bicycles and illegal explosives, even making our own moonshine.


The Beginning of My End

There were a lot of drugs in our neighborhood, and everyone seemed to be using, and it was all too easy to get.

It started off that my buddies and I would cut school and smoke cigarettes, and then weed, and before you know it we were sneaking out of our houses at night to get so drunk we’d still be wasted for school in the morning.

My dad was long gone, except for the occasional weekend visit to his house with his new family where I had to be on my best behavior, but you couldn’t believe now naive my mom was and how much sh– I got past her. Adam was gone; he did some time in juvie and then just said FU to my mom and left home. Zach started college early, as far away as he could get, and never moved home again.

Somewhere during high school, I guess I got lost. There were two sides of me that were doing battle–part of me wanted to get good grades and get into a good college, make something of myself and do something important in the world, and the other part just wanted to get f-ed up and say f— it all. The boxing match continued, and I’d get all As and then a D, have a good long chat with Mom and then bypass the house alarm to sneak out to a party later, show up for a mountain-bike race hungover and puke my guts out.


My Brain and Body Start to Break Down

I probably gave myself an ulcer from all the really bad, cheap alcohol I drank. And I should have known that with a lot of mental illness in my family, I should not have been messing with any drugs. My girlfriend begged me not to smoke weed, because she’d read it could trigger psychosis. But I did, and it did. And then I needed to try acid, which I really liked, and I tried some harder stuff, too, that really messed me up.

Somehow, I got into a third-tier college but once I got there, I needed uppers to study and weed to calm down. It’s hard to say why one person will pull it together (Zach always has) and another will just spiral. It’s like I could see it happening but I couldn’t stop, I just didn’t care enough about myself.

I got really skinny, started cutting classes at college, and spent a lot of time alone in my room. Eventually I convinced myself that there were spies everywhere–my three housemates, people lurking around campus, even A.I. beings that controlled my phone and laptop.

It got so bad I had to drop out and go home “on medical leave,” they said, but I knew I wasn’t going back. Nope. No med school for me after all, no career in biotech inventing cures for global diseases, no wife, no kids, no future. At that point I knew I was pretty much done. But even then, that other side of my brain would sometimes rally and say yes, you can take these new anti-psychotic meds and do therapy and take walks in nature and maybe you can come back.

But it didn’t work that way. I kept getting worse. My head was pounding so hard with horrible voices and thoughts about the dangers all around me and the ways I should die. I started wandering around the park near my mom’s house, late at night, even in the rain, thinking about where and how I should kill myself.

I actually did stop drinking a few months before I died, and I cleaned up all the other stuff too. But it was too late. “I broke my brain,” I said bluntly to my mom, but she refused to believe there was no cure.


Why It Had to Be Suicide

Even though on the outside, I made an effort those last few weeks to talk to my friends–and Zach was calling me every single day–eat bites of food in front of my mom, and show up to therapy, on the inside I knew it was hopeless.

The psychiatrist said I’d developed schizoaffective disorder, which basically means the worst of my brother Adam’s bipolar along with my drug-induced hallucinations. No cure. And I’m not an idiot: I was already beginning to lose hours just sitting in a chair in a catatonic state, and I knew that would just get worse. I’d lose my ability to take care of myself or even feel or express affection for my family. I would be a vegetable imprisoned inside an immobile body, always and forever a burden on my mom and her partner and my brother.

I’m not a martyr. I’m just saying I didn’t want to live that way. I realized too late that I had a lot of rage inside me all along, too, but that I had pointed it inward–like the time I pointed my pistol to my head–wanting to hurt myself instead of anyone else.

It’s so much more complicated than I’m making it sound here, and next time I’ll say more about how I got up the nerve to do it …

It’s not that I believe in suicide. I wish no one ever, ever gets to the point that I did. All I’m saying is that in the end (my end), I did what I thought was right for me and the people I loved. And they couldn’t have done a thing to stop me.



Cover image courtesy of jeremiah-lawrence-K2pdjXsuhs0-unsplash.