The Consequences of Surviving a Suicide Attempt

People commit suicide because it’s a way out. A way out of the gloom that has encased them. They see it as a way to finally achieve peace; little do they realize that they leave behind family, friends, and other loved ones who have to carry on with the enormous amount of grief weighing on their hearts.

Being a way out is the reason why I attempted to end my life last summer. Had I been successful (and I still don’t see how I wasn’t), it would have put an end to my suffering — or so I believed. But who’s to say the afterlife doesn’t have its share of problems? Hmm. Maybe it depends on which afterlife to which one goes.

Individuals who are trapped in their mental illness don’t/can’t stop and say, “Hey, what if I don’t die? Will I be paralyzed? Will I suffer permanent brain damage? Will I be hooked up to feeding tubes, my brain a worthless vegetable?”

When I was being checked in to my first mental hospital, the nurse and I began to chit-chat. Normally I don’t like to make small talk; it’s a waste of time. However, she brought up a topic that immediately drew me in. “You know,” she began while filling out the first of numerous pages of forms, “you’re lucky.”

“And why is that?” I asked bitterly. I was ticked off that I was still on planet Earth.

“Well, because some people live through their suicide attempts.”

“Really.” I didn’t ask in a typical shocked or interested tone; it was more like a response to her telling me what she had to eat for dinner the night before.

She began to tell me about a young man, a former patient at the same hospital, who shot himself in the temple and actually lived. The bullet passed through his head, somewhere between his brain and his eyes. It missed his brain but severed some nerve systems leading to his eyes. He was perfectly normal except for permanent blindness.

She said that another person at the county hospital (where I was initially taken) survived after jumping off a five-story building. He was in pretty bad shape, as you can imagine, with permanent damage to his back and legs.

She proceeded to explain why I was so fortunate: I didn’t have any lasting damage (at least at that time I didn’t; the overdose may have affected my memory and so forth).

So, to summarize a bit, it basically sucks to live through a suicide attempt because most people suffer physical and other lasting injuries.

However, at the time I didn’t know, but I wasn’t off the hook.

Luckily my parents helped my wife and me pay off the thousands of dollars in hospital, ambulance, and “miscellaneous” (i.e. doctor visits, blood work) bills. Psychiatrists and medication that they dispense are not free: They cost a lot. As do therapists.

My paid-off car was damaged beyond any hope of repair, so we suddenly had a car payment again. Plus, my insurance went up. Way up.

After the horrible accident which I don’t even remember having, the police mailed back my driver’s license without a single note attached.

I was finally free!

Months went by, and as each one passed, I prayed hard. Six months after the accident, still no word from the police. Lawyers began telling me: You’re in the clear. Nothing to worry about. Go on about your life. It’s all behind you.

Nine months after the accident, nine months, I received an ominous envelope in the mail one day from the police department. My first thought was that I had run a red light and one of those intersection cameras caught me.

I opened it and almost fainted: It was a warrant for my arrest.

“Why did it take nine months for them to send me this?!” I remember yelling to my wife. For crying out loud, they even told me my blood alcohol content was 0.00% after the accident.

So, it was not the end of the story; in fact, there were quite a few more long chapters that I had failed to notice.

I turned myself in and was booked like a common criminal, including the infamous mugshot and fingerprinting. I had to scramble to get a bail bondsman and pay the 20% which turned out to be $200.

Then I had to get a lawyer who charged $4,500 whether we would win or lose the case.

Then I had to start missing work due to psychiatrist appointments, counseling appointments, and court dates. The first several court dates were pretty much a joke: I had to be in the court with a bunch of other offenders for roll call, and then, one by one (i.e. whenever the lawyers got around to it) the lawyers would saunter in. Some would appear with their clients in front of the judge, and others, like mine, would take us out into the hallway and tell us the lowdown before releasing us.

By the way, if you have read any John Grisham novels or have seen the movies, um: He doesn’t embellish a whole lot. I would say not at all.

The lawyers that walk in and out of county criminal courts are the most eccentric, goofy-looking lot. Okay, okay, some look and act normally (like mine of course), but, but…

I know this is Texas, but do some of them have to wear their ten-gallon hats to court? Some lawyers look like they wear the same suit day after day, and others don’t seem to own any hair brushes or combs (or soap).

I swear, one guy came stumbling in, a small black bag in his hand, and almost tripped over some of the benches. His eyes were bloodshot, matching nicely with the color of his face. Yep, he turned out to be a lawyer.

Anyway, it’s a circus in the court on any given day. People milling about the spectator area, conducting business, while the judge hears cases at the same time. The second time I went to court, I made sure to get a seat in the very front row right behind the rail.

This is so embarrassing for the defendants, I thought as the judge heard cases while the circus was in full swing all around her.

Another thing I was surprised to witness was that the judge carried on emotionally and admonished the defendants like a drill sergeant mother, not that much differently than Judge Judy and all those other reality show court programs. Who would have thought?

Today I was actually glad that my lawyer was running three hours late because I got to witness several cases. The first one was a 40-something man who got his second DWI conviction. The judge had no mercy on him because, for some reason, he hadn’t even bothered to start an AA program that he was supposed to. Plus it was his second DWI charge in two months, bumping it up to a class B misdemeanor (that means hello jail and goodbye driver’s license).

Another lady looked strung out and was dressed in light blue county jail attire. She didn’t seem to understand why she was before the judge. Her charge was public intoxication for the fifth time. I’m not kidding. She got sent back across the street to corrections just as quickly as she had entered the court.

One case really pierced my heart, though: An 18-year-old pregnant woman went before the judge for an offense which I didn’t really hear. It could have been DWI or drug possession (seemingly most of the cases in County Criminal Court (CCC) #6). The judge went through questions about her life, and for the first time, I saw the judge’s compassion for certain offenders: She was asking the defendant what kind of future she imagined for her and her child because the father had abandoned her. The young woman had recently quit her waitress job and was living with acquaintances. Even the stone-faced bailiff looked softer as he fetched a box of tissues for the young lady.

The judge cut her a break, only adding on an extra six months to her probation and telling her to complete her GED program. Since I was directly behind the bailiff area, the young lady had a seat inside the court and was just inches away from me. I wanted so much to tap her shoulder and tell her everything would be all right because there were strangers who cared about her and who were going to pray for her. She could have been my daughter.

However, I didn’t dare attempt to reach over the courtroom barrier. I had already had enough excitement a few hours before.

Earlier in the morning, as I passed through the metal detector downstairs to come in, of course all the bells and whistles went off even though I had taken off my belt and wedding ring. Well, I had totally forgotten that the rosary ring that I sometimes carry in my pocket could be considered a weapon in a county courthouse. I had to leave it with one of the sheriffs. Talk about embarrassing: I was whisked away and separated from the general area while the rosary ring was examined and while I was yelled at.

Rosary ring: a weapon for spiritual warfare. In a county courthouse, though, just a straight-up weapon.

Anyway, after several initial appearances, the trial is finally set to begin in September. My lawyer told me it will more than likely be moved back due to the state having to assemble witnesses and experts. So the end to all this is still nowhere in sight.

A whole year after my suicide attempt, the consequences of that fateful night are still popping up like ant hills in our backyard during the long summer months.

Here is the moral of my story: Don’t try to kill yourself.

Just don’t even try.

Besides forever hurting those who love you, you just might live through it, and your problems would then be multiplied. And, believe me, it sucks.

~topaz

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About Topaz

I'm a college teacher, writer, and faithful Catholic. I do my best to juggle all of these while dealing with my mental illness -- a constant thorn in my flesh. View all posts by Topaz

6 responses to “The Consequences of Surviving a Suicide Attempt

  • farfetchedfriends

    Linked over here from the other post.
    1. You’re still here for a reason, which is why you were unsuccessful. You were unsuccessfully successful, I’d say.
    2. The prayer ring: Prayer is always a weapon…for good.
    3. Ugh…the red light cameras. 🙂

  • Topaz

    I agree with all three points! 🙂

  • Laura P. Schulman, MD, MA

    Glad you’re still here, and sorry for all the mess….what were the charges, anyway? Hope life is looking up for you.

    • Topaz

      Thank you, Laura.

      I didn’t expect to survive my attempt, but I did. There was so much Xanax in my system that I don’t remember starting my car and getting into an accident. I was charged with DWI even though there was no alcohol in my bloodstream at the time.

      My lawyer and I are fighting the charge in court. I will post updates as they happen. I didn’t realize how drawn-out the court system can be.

      • Laura P. Schulman, MD, MA

        Oh, so the “intoxicated” part of “Driving While Intoxicated” was from the Xanax. Gotcha. Oh, I wish you success in your case! Court is such a drain.

      • Topaz

        Thank you. Yes, a DWI doesn’t necessarily have to involve alcohol — as I found out the hard way.

        Court really is draining. The case has been open since May, and we haven’t even gone to trial yet! Ugh.

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