#mylifematters Part VII

There’s something romantic about suicide. Maybe it’s the idea of killing yourself over a lover, that death may unite you. Maybe it’s the tragic helplessness of it all, seeing a life fall out of control, but taking control in the end by taking your life. That, you see, is the ultimate power. No one can take that away from you. It’s not God that has power over life and death, it’s you, and you alone. When all else is going wrong, when life spins out of control, when you can’t stand to face another day, when all hope is gone, you can seize control, take the power away from others and back in your own hands, and take you life, on your own terms, on your own schedule, in your own way. Depression leaves you feeling powerless and helpless. I had found the answer to that despair.

I can’t actually remember how it happened. I can’t remember how most of them happened. I remember taking the pills, I remember losing consciousness, sometimes I remember calling for help, sometimes help found me, at the last minute. I remember waking up in cold, sterile hospital beds, tubes shoved down my throat, IV lines draped every which way, pumping me with life-sustaining nutrients, masks place over my mouth, connected to machines that do the breathing for you, a plastic bag connected to me so I could urinate freely, all manner of equipment, all beeping and showing graphs and charts and flashing numbers and all of them looked so foreign, yet, after a while, they began to look comfortably similar. The machinery of life. This must be what we look like, on the inside, machines whirring about, constantly, going through the motions with no regard to anything but their own duties, all meshing together into one sustaining whole, breathing, pumping blood, taking in nutrients, all the things that humans do, except here the machines did it for me. And so many nurses and doctors, all asking me how I was doing, how good to see you finally waking up, do you remember how it happened, oh my poor dear, endless streams of questions by people I’d never seen, randomly rushing in to adjust some machine or other, refilling IV lines, checking vitals, cluck cluck clucking over some numbers a machine was spitting out, doctors running through, shoving yet more tubes into me, I don’t know even know where, it was all so foggy, I was drifting in and out of consciousness, not feeling pain, not feeling at all. This was my life. It became rote and routine after a while. Different hospitals, different doctors, different machines, but always the same damn color-coded tubes, the same IV lines, the same catheter, the same puke all over myself, can’t the clean that up?, it all just became familiar, comforting, like returning home after a long day.

There were a few memorable ones. I’m talking, of course, about suicide attempts. Oh, sure, some were more serious than others, sometimes I just wanted to numb the pain, other times I wanted it all to end. I always did it the same way: overdosing on my medication. I had a doctor at UCSF now, a resident, completing his doctorate in psychiatry, a brilliant man, a researcher at heart, but up to date on all the new medicines and treatment modalities, proficient in both medication and talk therapy, a one-stop-shop for all that ails your head. I saw him twice a week. He never showed desperation, he always appeared calm and confident, but I knew he didn’t want me to be his first death, his first lost patient. Not that any physician does want their patient to die, but I’m sure it would have looked particularly horrible when he was up for the medical boards. Anyways, he kept me heavily medicated, as much at my request as his. It was ironic, of course, since it was those same life-saving meds that I used at lethal doses. It was too risky to pull me off medication, but too risky to give me any tool I could use to end my life. So he monitored me closely, changing meds every time I overdosed on one, a slap on the wrist, as it were, for taking advantage of his prescriptions. I don’t know how I first got hooked up with him. I had him before the attempts started in serious, but not for long. No matter. He was my sole physician, and he was good. Looking back, I realize I had the best treatment, world class treatment, from a future clinical researcher, a doctor at the best psychiatric hospital in the nation, access to every treatment that could be thought up, no expense was too great, no idea too outrageous, it was all tried and done where any other doctor would have thrown up his hands long ago. He stuck by my side, and I stuck by his. As much as I wanted to die, I also didn’t want to lose him, so there was always some safety measure built into my attempts. I wanted him to know how much I hurt, the lengths I was willing to go to to numb the pain, but I didn’t want to lose him, the one person who stuck up for me, the one person to comfort me, the one person that cared. He’ll never know the difference he made in my life. I was the most unappreciative patient at the time. Resentful of every intervention, angry at being brought back to life, determined that the next time would be the art, that would show him, but of course, the next time wasn’t the last, nor the one after that.

At first, the attempts were because of Jason. I couldn’t get over the breakup. It was, literally, destroying me, eating me up. I felt invalidated, unloved, unlovable, a waste of humanity, a joke, sub-human, I felt all these things and I just wanted to end the feelings, numb the pain, switch off the racing thoughts, just get some peace for once. The nurses at UCSF Langley Porter, the psych hospital where I was most often hospitalized, grew sick of hearing about Jason. One nurse finally gave up and started yelling at me, saying I was stupid to let this one event control my life, that people break up all the time but, you know, they move on, they find someone else, they don’t kill themselves over every rejection. No one intervened while she lectured me. I doubt the doctors ever found out. I needed it, anyways, someone to finally hold me accountable for my actions. See, the hospital environment was so comfortable and cozy, nurses attending to your every need, three delicious hot meals a day, snacks all day long, hot coffee, as much TV as you wanted and, yes, therapy dogs. Oh I loved when the therapy dogs would come. I’d put down my crayons, I was trying to color some color-by-number, or make something out of origami, or anything else that involved a minimum amount of  creativity, I would drop all this and run to be the first one to meet the dogs, be the first object of their affection, be able to squeeze every last second out of their visit. Other than dogs and arts and crafts there were groups, oh so many groups, we had calendars on every wall so you know which room to go to, and when, and which group you were with, and so many other things that I just gave up and waited for someone to come find me and tell me where I was supposed to be going. It was a small hospital at Langley Porter. No more than 20 beds. And never full. This was a teaching hospital, first and foremost, and they only took the most challenging patients, patients that other hospitals didn’t have the skills to treat, patients that presented an interesting or novel challenge for the residents. I was one of those patients, not just once, but almost every time I was hospitalized. I didn’t realize how lucky I was. UCSF took pains to make the environment as comfortable as possible, after all we were research subjects as much as patients, and researchers always want the numbers to come out in their favor, so no expense was spared to keep us happy and occupied so they looked good on their reports. I was happy to comply. Except for one group: AA. Technically we weren’t required to attend, but nearly everyone did. Drug addiction and overdose was one of the primary paths to the hospital. But not for me. I confounded all the doctors. They ran test after test for any possible trace of drugs, no matter how uncommon or unlikely. But I had never even touched a cigarette, let alone a pipe or needle. I didn’t even know, literally, what those were, or looked like, or how they worked. I couldn’t come up with the name of a single drug, when pressed, it just wasn’t the route I was taking. So I was an interesting case, someone who never tried drugs as a coping mechanism, or an escape from reality, or just on a lark, but who would eagerly accept every pharmaceutical medication that existed, clamoring for more, then overdosing on them. What was I truing to prove?

There was a reason behind the madness, and a method, as we’ve see, just not one that was strictly rational. I was a club kid at the time, for what passes as a club in San Francisco, and, like I said, I at one point lived in the Castro, so it was only fair that I spent my time in Castro. I’ve noticed, by the way, that every neighborhood does the same; no one leaves their zone to venture out. On the one hand, self-sustainability is good, on the other, being insular is not. But that’s what San Franciscans are known for, living in a bubble. Castro was fun and quickly became my new “normal.” This marks the beginning of when I started to lose my friends; Castro boys are, by definition, only acceptable in the Castro. Sure, I didn’t parade around in my underwear down the street (not always, anyways), I didn’t go over the top with my makeup (although I wore plenty), but, ultimately, my heart was no longer in law school. I endured Kirk Bar Nights, often skipping out early on my own party. Over time, I threw fewer and fewer parties, and people started not showing up, so it worked itself out. My most crushing moment was when I invited everyone to a laid-back bar in Castro, a video bar, hoping to show my friends some of my new friends and have them see how I spent my days. I think that’s what scared them off, seeing more people like me, or maybe the whole idea was just too gay, like I was trying to force my lifestyle on them. Anyway, a small handful of people showed up, and most found an excuse to leave early, so it was that Justin and Abby and I headed across the street to go dancing. I don’t know how we talked Justin into it, everyone was trying to hit on him, but I swore I’d protect him, so off we went. It was just as well that it was only the three of us. We had fun, a lot of fun actually, and I acquired us all several free shots from my bartender, but, wouldn’t you know it, the “usual” happened.

Let me break it down. Every time was the same, with maybe a minor variation, but it started and ended the same way. See, I didn’t have a lot of self esteem back then (not much has changed on that front), so I relied heavily on others to like me so I could like me. I needed that validation to know I was wanted. That explains a lot of my outgoing behaviors at school; there, I wasn’t trying to meet dating partners, so the self esteem issue translated simply into outgoing, sometimes obnoxious, behavior, that attracted attention. I thrived on that attention. But, in Castro, it didn’t work out the same. There, I was trying to meet dating partners. Well, sex partners at least, but one of my issues was difficulty distinguishing between sex and love, or sex and attraction, as it were. When you put yourself at the mercy of wolves, you’re going to get chewed up, every time. I thought I was young enough and cute enough (I actually was) to be at the center of the dance floor. At least desirable enough to be a regular the bars, like at school, someone everyone knew and liked. But I was hyper sensitive to even the least amount of rejection. I felt like a fraud, at times, putting on these tight jeans, showing off my abs, painting my face; I worried that they, too, might see right through me, see me for the fraud I was. It never crossed mind that maybe they would see me as the person I was, instead of the fraud I was, and that they might actually like what was underneath. But what I spent so much time and effort to cover up was covered so deeply that no one, even myself, could make it resurface. The most flattering compliment from the hottest guy at the bar wasn’t enough. In fact, that’s where the problem comes to the forefront. I didn’t believe I was good enough to be there, let alone attractive enough to find a hot guy, so, one of two things would regularly occur. Either a hot guy did talk to me, and I felt like he was just taking pity on me, or talking down to me, or making fun of me, or just killing time while he waited for someone actually worth talking with; or, a hot guy didn’t talk to me, and I felt outcast, worthless, less-than, ugly, hideous. You couldn’t win for trying. No matter what, I would end up feeling rejected, and that’s when the problems occurred. Rejection took many forms: outright, real rejection; walking by without saying anything or looking at me; going on the dance floor with me but flirting with another guy. Then it got desperate. Rejection was as simple as not looking at me, or looking but not talking, or talking but not meaning it, or meaning it but… what? It didn’t matter what you said, my self esteem was so low that, instead of soaking up the attention, I negated the attention, I convinced myself that they were taking pity on me or making fun of me, after all, who would want to talk to me? And if you did, you probably weren’t anyone I was interested in, because only people in my lower league would cost me up, certainly not someone out of my league, and I was striving for Ivy League or bust.

So I would leave the bar or club, feeling depressed. I’d walk down the street, seeing all the guys with their hook-ups, their dates for the night, walking on by, looking, maybe laughing, probably at an inside joke but it sure felt like they were laughing at me. How come they always hooked up, found dates, had fun? Why not me? And the more  thought about it, the more the the thoughts raced through my head, the more depressed I became, the more worthless I felt, the more of a fraud I felt, the more of a waste of space I felt, the more embarrassed and mortified I felt. The more I had to kill myself. If no one liked me, who was I living for? Not for me, I hated myself. I needed someone to love me, love me enough that I wouldn’t have to love me, there would just be enough love. I needed someone to love me enough for the both of us. Without love, there was no life. Love, it turned out, could take many forms. But the most damaging form it took was that of sex. I couldn’t separate the two. Maybe it was my Christian upbringing. Maybe it was old-fashioned morality. Maybe it was desperation. Whatever it was, it devastated me. There were nights where I would find a guy, someone I liked, someone I thought was hot and witty and nice and sexy, someone I thought I was lucky to be with. I’d go home with him, or take him to my place, we’d fuck, usually, and then, every time, he’d say goodbye and leave, or make me leave. Was I not good enough to spend the night?

This next part gets graphic. I’m sorry. See, not only I could not separate sex from love, I couldn’t separate sex from politics. In sex, one person is the object, the other, the subject. Objects are passive and acquiescent. Subjects take advantage of the objects, treat them as if they really were objects, and discard them when the subject felt done, whether or not the object was done, or even enjoying himself. I’m taking about tops and bottoms, the inevitable gay question. Sure, when I first started having sex, I enjoyed both, I didn’t let it define me, in fact, I rarely thought about it. But something happened along the way. You and both know, at this point, that what happened was Scott. He made me feel like an object (bottom) , and made me feel that objects were dirty, but simultaneously made me feel that subjects (tops) were, well, rapists. I had no other word. And, going forward, I didn’t want to be a rapist, so, therefore, I must be the one who is raped. If there’s only two sides to a coin, I had to pick one or the other. Now, a person cannot be raped if they are not in a situation allowing for rape, namely, a sexual position. But that’s precisely the position I would put myself in, I would set myself up for, a situation where sex was expected and necessary. Because sex was love. And love was enough to keep me going, one more day. But, almost universally, when I had sex, I played the part of the object. I didn’t see myself as strong enough, outgoing enough, man enough, to be a subject. So I must be an object. I took on this identity, made it a part of my self, made it how I defined myself. I wasn’t Kirk the law student, I was Kirk the bottom. I thought everyone knew that and saw that in me. And the more I thought they saw it, the more I hated myself. The more I hated myself, the more I needed validation. The more I needed validation, the more I sought out sex. The more sex I had, the more powerless I felt, the more inadequate, the more objectified. The more objectified I felt, the more I hated myself. The more I hated myself, the more I needed validation…..  You see the problem. It was a self sustaining cycle, feeding on negative energy, placing me, always, at the end of the one who gets raped, not the one who gets to rape. Sure, you can tell by now that most, not all, of the situations were largely consensual. I needed the sex, so I would instigate the sexual exchange in the first place. But, inevitably, at some point in the exchange, when I began to feel like an object, my consent was withdrawn. But you can’t very well withdraw consent halfway through the encounter. Legally, I suppose you could, but it would leave me with such a reputation that I may never get laid again. Word spreads quickly in the gay community. I couldn’t risk that, so I tightened up, resisted but endured the pain, crying silently to myself, let the subject do whatever he wanted to my body, let him prove his manliness vis a vis my limp body, held up by his strength and virility. Oh, how much I hated him, any one of them, those subjects. And how much I wanted to be one. And hated most for that. And, occasionally, tried my hand at it, which was not common, and, wouldn’t you know but I felt like a fraud. I had so deeply convinced myself that, by being a bottom in a given sexual encounter, I must be the object in all sexual encounters, I must be seen as worthless by society (much like the subject found me worthless), I must actually be worthless. I was, after all, a reflection of what people say in me. So when I got the chance to be subject, I would choke, imagining myself to be a rapist, never, not even once, acknowledging that sex was a free choice between consenting men, that was pleasurable and fun. No, sex wasn’t something you did for fun. It was something you did for survival. Without that validation, I couldn’t survive. With that validation, I hated myself and wanted to die. There was no way out.

I sometimes had the presence of mind, as I stumbled out of the clubs, to call someone, usually psychiatrist, leaving long, drunken, rambling messages that I’m sure made no sense, but sometimes calling a friend or calling my mom. My poor mother. She couldn’t sleep at night, knowing, waiting, for that fateful phone call where all that came between me and a bottle of pills was her voice, on a scratchy telephone line. How weak she must have felt, how powerless! I was so convinced I was an object, powerless and revolting, that I gave the ultimate power, the power of life and death, to someone else! I couldn’t even claim that for myself. So, except for a rare occasion, I would proceed, like clockwork, to get home, rush to the pill cabinet, swallow every sleeping and anxiety medication, have a few more glasses of alcohol, then wait…  Sometimes I was in such a rush to get home and take the pills that I would take a cab instead of the 10 minute bus ride. The need to overdose was intense, visceral, all-consuming. I couldn’t be satisfied until I had swallowed the last pill. Then, finally, a reprieve. I could relax then, knowing that soon I would slip into a warm, cozy coma, that would slowly, but surely, slow down my breathing, stop my heart, and allow me to die in peace, feeling nothing at all. That’s how I seized back my power, by taking control of my life. My death, actually.

There were 13 suicide attempts. About one each month, for a year. I generally called for help before I slipped away entirely, sometimes placing responsibility on my roommate to find me in time, sometimes calling the crisis line and somehow babbling enough that they could pick up my name and address, sometimes calling a friend, forcing them to take care of the messy details themselves, sometimes actually calling the cops on myself. The ambulance drivers got to know me, after a period of time. This made everything so much easier. I could overdose in peace, knowing who was coming to get me, how they would treat me, where they would take, and what they would do to me. They never pumped my stomach. It was always too late once I called. I was forced to gag on a large quantity of charcoal on more than one occasion, in an attempt to inactivate whatever poison had not yet been processed, but most times it was just a breathing mask and a shock to the heart. Actually, most times I don’t remember, just a fuzzy blue of flashing lights, panicked voices, questions being shouted, being strapped down and rushed into a waiting ambulance, and oh the noise, the noise, pounding inside my head, seeping through to my consciousness, sometimes enough for me to yell out the name of the hospital I wanted to go to, or the name of my doctor, other times I just let the ambulance driver take me to wherever he deemed most appropriate. Like I said, UCSF had throat advanced critical care, aside from General, and I had good insurance, so they usually took me there, or, in at least one  case, stabilized me at  different ER then transported me to UCSF for psychiatric hospitalization.

If you’re adding up the times and costs of treatment, good for you. I never did. Actually, I take that back. I had elaborate charts and graphs and spreadsheets detailing my expenses, computing how much my insurance would cover, how much I had to pay, in deductibles, co-pay and co-insurance, for each step of the process (ER, ICU, standard hospital bed, psychiatric stay), how much my medication would cost for the month, and how much I projected I might need to spend on other medical expenses. I took these charts and graphs to financial aid, and was able to get all my expenses covered, since cost of living can be adjusted for medical expenses. By the end, I had racked up $250k in student loans, in one year, and I still owed the hospital almost $750k more. I was responsible for 30% of costs, and 100% of medication costs, and between the two, plus ambulances, ER doctor fees, followup care, etc., I had a total bill of several million dollars. I was lucky to only owe about a million. Just shy of a million, actually. Thankfully, and thank god for this, the financial aid advisor met with the dean, and they decided, a little late in the game but before it was too late, that I needed to drop out of school and try to get on state or federal aid to cover my medical treatment. Oh, and, by the way, as I noted earlier, there was also the time involved. Each hospitalization took 1-3 days in the ICU, sometimes up to a week, then 3-7 days of involuntary hospitalization in the psych ward. That was a total of up to or more than two weeks. Every month. While I was in school. I was barely in school, really. Molly and Christie, bless them, took notes for me, and I caught up on the readings myself, and every once in a while I was actually prepared for class. No one knew this about me, even Molly and Christie, though I dropped enough clues that they may have guessed. On more than one occasion, I was released in the morning from the hospital, wearing whatever I was wearing when admitted, having not shaved for days, my hair greasy and messy, my hospital ID bracelet still in my wrist, and I would go straight to class. With hospital ID still attached! I was determined to get through school, but ultimately that decision was made for me.

Second semester, 2L year, my doctor agreed to write another note allowing to go back to school. I had officially, thought not willingly, dropped out of first semester, and the school waived all charges, under the circumstances. Unfortunately, second semester proved no better in terms of my health and attendance, and I was forced to drop out, take a leave of absence, but this time they didn’t drop the tuition expenses since I had, against advice, knowing and willingly taken in the risk of attendance. So it was that my tuition expenses, the money that the federal government gave me through loan programs, totaled almost $350k by the end of my 2L year. I didn’t even have a degree yet.

The last chapter in my hospitalization came shortly after, when UCSF refused to release from the psych ward unless I went back home to my parents, in Washington. I suppose I could have appealed that decision, there was a judge that are a weekly visit to the hospital, but I think I knew, deep down, that it was the right choice. Besides, I was behind on rent and about to be evicted, so the timing was perfect. My parents drove down, I picked up a sunlit case of clothes, left a note for Joe to take care of my cat, and walked out of that life, leaving behind all my furniture and worldly possessions. I never would reclaim them.

all the lights are off 
its cold inside 
the power has been cut off 
roommate is gone, off to work 
i’m left here 
its dark 
its lonely 
its agonizing

its irresistable

had i just had a bad day? week? 
or was it just that i could do it now? 
the pills were all too accessible 
lithium, thorazine, trazodone, ambien, risperidone, clonazepam 
    (to name just a few) 
i knew it was a toxic combination 
i knew i wouldn’t feel a thing

so i did it 
for whatever reason 
or none at all 
i just wanted to 
    why not 
    what’s left to lose?

counted and sorted the pills, 20 of each, very precise 
laid down, my mattress on the floor 
    moving out of the house soon 
    everything else packed up, broken down 
        just like me 
i shivered and trembled in the cold darkness 

and i dreamt my thorazine dreams 
    fuzzy and sticky and sweet 
    calm and peaceful and encouraging 
whispering to me: 
    everything will work out now 
    this time 
    just rest, don’t fight it 
i felt myself slipping away 
waited for the glorious light

posted online, “goodbye world” 
shortly after, the cops come running 
my roommate had seen my posting at work, he knew what i was doing 
    he himself had taken his life once, only to be brought back 
    so he valued life 
        while i just wanted it all to end 
        here, in this sordid room

the rest is all the same 
pumped full of charcoal, IV fluids running, quick trip through the ER to the ICU 
you know this story 
at least, i know this story 
some things never change

and i’m left to wonder 
why did i do it? 
was it just a bad day? 
i miss my thorazine dreams

-Thorazine Dreams, personal writings, 2012

I think I’ve sufficiently explained my suicide spree. I hope, if you were there during my 2L year, that this helps to explain what happened to me, even if it’s lot entirely explainable. This chapter saw me go from student to patient to psychiatric patient, as a result of multiple suicide attempts, over multiple months, eventually culminating in taking an extended leave of absence and moving back home with my parents. Next chapter, we’ll see how I found a new solution to my problems, and just where that solution would eventually take me. Let’s just say, there’s no free lunch.


#mylifematters Part V


Part V


Dear friend, this is the point at which you enter the story, the point at which we met, the point that we experienced together. A series of points, really, of good times, of bad times, of highs and lows, of friendships lost and gained. I didn’t know what to do with my life at age 25, so I applied to a few law schools and took my LSAT. Studying gave me something to do. I had finished college, obtained my BA, dual majoring in philosophy and political science. Not the kind of combination for which the money just rolls right in. So I did what every other jaded political science major does, and applied to grad school. I couldn’t stand blood and guts, so I couldn’t be a doctor. Teachers were worked too much and paid too little. So I guess law school was the only other option. It would (did) make my parents proud. If only they had known what would happen to me. Anyways, my friend had told me about USF, University of San Francisco. I had already applied to Seattle University, a Jesuit college, some school in New York, Berkeley and now USF. I didn’t much consider it. You have to write some school codes in those boxes at the LSAT, so why not these codes? It’s not like it’s your only opportunity. For me, though, it was. I showed up late to the game. Berkeley had already closed their admissions process. I did get a letter of acceptance from the school in New York, but now I was second guessing that decision, whether I could endure a New York winter, or whether I could manage the city at all. So I waited to respond. Then a wonderful thing happened. Seattle U wrote back, offering me a full ride scholarship, expenses included. I had never dreamt of such a possibility. I knew I was a good student, not quite a 4.0 but a 3.89, without rounding. My LSAT score was 165, out of 180. That placed me in the top percentile at Seattle U, and they were courting me aggressively. So it was that I almost responded yes. All expenses paid? Yes. The day of my decision, I received one more letter in the mail. This one was a letter from USF, a thin letter, not the overstuffed generic letters with brochures, but a single, lightweight envelope bearing the USF logo, and handwritten on the front was my name. I nervously brought the letter inside, to the dinner table, calling for my mom and dad. I don’t know what I so nervous about. Two schools had already accepted me, one with a full ride scholarship. So I didn’t need this one. Maybe I should just throw it out. No sense tempting the fates. But, fate was, I opened that envelope. Just a letter inside, neatly typed, as if by one of the Mad Men typists. But that show didn’t exist yet. I read the letter, forcing myself to not skip to the end. It was a letter of acceptance, it said so right in the first paragraph. I hardly needed to read any further. Except, wait, what was this? A scholarship? A full ride scholarship? I could hardly believe my eyes. Two full ride scholarships was just too good to be true. Note, USF didn’t offer to pay expenses, but still, San Francisco, the city life, no more Seattle gray and drizzle, the chance for a new life, in California, the land of opportunity, where dreams come true. It wasn’t a fair fight. Both were Jesuit schools, which was important to me, but Seattle U, despite the generosity of their offer, didn’t hold a candle to the exotic paradise of San Francisco. I made up my mind instantly, though it was harder to convince my parents. I’d only been to the City once before, for a friend’s wedding, and wasn’t able to explore. I remember initially thinking, what a dirty city! Compared to the gleaming, mirrored skyscrapers of Seattle, these old buildings, scrawled with graffiti, surrounded by homeless people, this wasn’t what I had dreamt. I later learned that I was in the Tenderloin, and the rest of the City was truly beautiful and spectacular. I’d seen photos, so I took it on faith that, truly, the rest of the City was glamorous, with multi hued, multi level housing, parks, lights, trolleys, a mass transit system that worked, that went underground! How exciting.

So I moved down a few days before school started, with nowhere to stay. I met a guy at an orientation session meant for us to find other students needing housing, and he was there, and I was there, and we were the only two gay guys there, I think, so we did what gay guys naturally do. No, not that! We moved in together. More like lesbians, really. USF was very generous with the cost-of-living expenses, of course, it was all loans, but still, there was more than enough in the budget to afford a place near campus. Some people, those who didn’t know better, or perhaps they did know better, chose to live in other areas of the City, but Chris (my new roommate) and I stayed near campus, about 15 blocks. It was a little bit of a hike every day, but I didn’t complain. We rented a true San Francisco house, multi hued, multi leveled, an entire middle flat to ourselves, just the two of us! There was a living room with fireplace, a dining room with French doors, a kitchen with gas range, a split bathroom (what a concept!), two massive bedrooms, and a study overlooking a garden, all laid out railroad style. This was better than heaven, as far as I was concerned. I was living the City life, finally, something I had always dreamt of doing. I wasn’t a rural boy, or a suburban boy, I was a real, live, cosmopolitan, worldly, educated City boy. And not just any city. The City. These were heady times indeed.

I made friends quickly, you may remember. I’d never been outgoing in my life, but, hey, this whole experience was about change, right? So I opened up, gave a cheerful smile, a gentle touch, and soon found myself at the center of activities, day after day. In fact, I started to organize “bar nights.” The school held official bar nights on Thursdays, since the 1L schedule was light on Fridays. It was an opportunity to informally  meet our class representatives, other members of student government, 2L students who were open to being mentors, and occasionally an alumni. But Wednesdays started to be “Kirk’s bar night.” I don’t know how they became so popular. But on occasion we would have 50+ students in one bar, or club, no small accomplishment for a class of 250 students total, and an even richer accomplishment when the official bar nights only attracted a small handful, on the best of nights. Those were the nerds, anyways. Mine had all the cool, fun people. I’d never been cool and fun before, I was in awe and jealous of myself, how lucky I was. In fact, and I feel entitled to self promote here, when it came time to elect representatives for our 2L year, I ran and won the vote in the biggest landslide victory in school history. I can’t release the numbers, but the dean was impressed, as was his staff. I had made friends with one of his staff, Jillian, so I got special access, wink wink, nod nod. So I was happy, in a good mood going into the first summer. The The @@a

Well, I was only partially happy. See, my success in the social realm left me struggling a bit in the academic realm. I’m sure everyone student says they would never repeat 1L, and I can attest that is wise advice. No one knew but I often felt completely defeated, deflated, not at all like the type of student that gets a full ride scholarship. I should be able to answer every question, write the best papers, impress the teachers. None of that happened. In fact, by the end of 1L my GPA had dropped to a rock bottom of 3.0. I had never failed so miserably in all my life. This was exactly why I didn’t do new things, accept new challenges, because I might not do well. I was embarrassed to walk down the hall, couldn’t hold my head up high any longer. So it was great news about the election, since the school had just rescinded my scholarship for 2L since I had slipped beneath the requirements. I begged, I pleaded, I appealed to their Jesuit ethics, their history of tending to ları 
the weak, but to no avail. Rules were rules.

The summer was exciting. I had signed up to attend an international studies, overseas, trip. Mainly because I needed to attend class so I could get a summer living expense stipend, but I was enthralled by the opportunity to go to Dublin and Prague. I barely even got to Canada growing up, let alone crossed an entire continent and flown abroad. I still pinch myself, having not been able to get abroad since, feeling lucky and privileged at the opportunity. As 2L representative my primary responsibility, besides being a liason between the dean’s office and the student  body, was to plan, organize and attend all social events. This was something I could do, something I already excelled at, something in which I could get an A+. If only it counted towards something. Still, the joy and satisfaction was recompense enough. But that’s all skipping ahead. Time for a quick side note.

As always, I don’t remember how it happened, but I met a boy. He was attending business school at USF, on the other side of campus. I told you, earlier, that I hadn’t dated since I was 16, ten years prior. I figured it was time to let down my guard a bit, nothing that bad could happen, I already had a great social network, this was just icing on the cake. Only that icing ruined the cake, and the table it sat upon. I had no way to know what was coming. There was something different about how I pursued relationships. I didn’t dip in, didn’t test the waters, didn’t even bother to ask what the other was feeling. No, I went all in, all at once, all of me, all the love I could give, all the emotions I could spend. His name was Jason, as I mentioned earlier. We  only dated for about a month, longer if you count the on-again, off-again courting stage. I had signed up for those summer abroad classes and I only just met him a few weeks prior. So I had to leave him, with promises and assurances that he would be always on my mind, that I wouldn’t even look at other boys, that I loved him with all my heart and soul. I don’t know what he promised in return. Certainly he did not give up his heart and soul. I suppose one of us had to be reasonable. He did give me a gift, though. I had been trying to get my cell phone carrier to provide international coverage for me, but there were so many barriers that I couldn’t accomplish it in time. So Jason gave me his work phone, an international phone, with a prepaid calling plan, so I didn’t need to worry about a thing. I promised to call often, and thank you so much, and more I love you’s, then off to the  airport. I was so sad I had to leave him behind.

There was a group of maybe 20 of us, some attending only the Dublin trip, others, like me, who signed up for both Dublin and Prague. It seemed so exotic. Besides, summer courses were more about the experience than the education. This was actually a golden opportunity to quickly and easily raise my GPA, with just a modicum of effort. Besides, the company was fun, I was meeting new people and was going with some of my closest friends, there was nothing that could go wrong. Nothing.

I feel, in retrospect, a little like the Titanic. Built strong and beautiful, guaranteed quite brashly that she couldn’t sink no matter what the tempest may bring. I was like that. Thought I could survive anything, especially with a lover back at home waiting for me.

Well, briefly put, the Dublin leg of the trip was beyond fun. Even the classes were fun. And after class all of us, including the professors, would find a new bar to go to, even, once a gay bar. Everyone was having the time of their lives. I certainly was, at least. My main complaint, which I still complain about, is that shots of alcohol are pre-measured, even the bartender couldn’t override the system. I grew bored quickly with trying to make friends with the  bar backs. What was the point, if I couldn’t get a stiffer drink, free shots, anything special at all, really. But I had a good time regardless, perhaps more sober than I want to be, but still enjoying the frenzy of activities. When we weren’t busy at the bars, I would call my parents, or call Jason, or meet up for a Guiness factory tour, along other things. Yes, you do get free drinks at the tour. Unfortunately I gag on dark beers, so I gave my samples to my friends. They didn’t complain. I did get lost once, on my own, in the rain. I wasn’t even sure I was headed in the right general direction. Luckily I ran across a cute guy, exiting his hotel, who pointed me along the way, I wasn’t really that far at all. I tried my best to seduce him, I had the apartment free for a few hours, but apparently he was just being nice when he helped, he wasn’t coming on to me. I did meet up for sex once, though. It was a guy I met from Adam4Adam com, the newer version of gay com. It was internationally popular, so it didn’t take long to entice some boys out to play. I was the exotic one, from California, a bigger state than their entire economy, I was tan and cosmopolitan, sleek and suave, I was exactly the conquest they wanted. I met him at a luncheon in the botanical gardens, hosted in the greenhouse. It was an experience, looking out over the campus of Trinity College, one of the most beautiful campuses I had ever seen, with students frolicking in the grass, walking hand in hand down the cobblestone sidewalks, rushing to and fro. I sat there with my gin martini and savored the moment. I don’t remember with the guy I met. I remember introducing him to my friends, as if to legitimize what was going to happen. I must have taken him back to my apartment. I was staying in student dorms with five other guys. There were three bedrooms, two baths and a fully stocked kitchen. A far cry above America dorms, with three people squashed into a room, no kitchen or bathroom, in an old building never retrofitted for such use. Luckily I never had to stay in dorms, I always had my own apartment, near campus. I worked, so I could afford it. Anyways, I’m sure he and I had sex in my room, very forgettable, though that may just be my memory, not any failing on his part. Certainly no failing on my part.

It was about three weeks into the course, which was only three or four weeks long before heading to Prague. All the students were taking a train out into the countryside, idyllic Irish countryside, with castles and everything. I wish I had been able to go with them. Actually, I wish what happened next had never happened at all, that I could have still lived a normal life. It wasn’t in the cards. I got a call from Jason, or maybe I call him, either way, he wanted to break up with me. And he was turning off my cell phone service so I couldn’t contact him. What the fuck was happening? Did he have a new lover? Did I call too often, or not often enough? Did I not say all the right things, do all the right things, to show my love and devotion? I’ll never know. What matters to this story is my reaction. At the time of the call, I was alone in the apartment, getting ready to join the others as they waited for the train. Prof. Donovan was scheduled to oversee this trip, so she and her daughter were out on the lawn already. Excitement was in the air, like electricity, you could hear it and see it zipping back and forth. This was our first trip together, aside from getting here in the first place, and there was no homework assignment due for this visit, it was purely extra curricular. Optional, technically, though no one in their right mind would refuse the offer. While everyone else was killing around in the bright sunlight outside, it was a beautiful, cloudless, warm sunny day in Dublin, perfect for seeing the countryside, I was inside, silently breaking down, breaking apart.

Remember I said the I was too emotional, too quickly, in relationships? Remember how I said I had avoided them for ten years, scared of what might happen? Well, this is exactly what “might happen,” a textbook example, a larger than life example of what I had feared. Before, there was just a nebulous fear, I couldn’t pin down what I was afraid if or what, exactly, might happen that would be so awful. Now, I knew precisely what that fear was about, how it had protected me all these years, now surfacing, breaking through, breaking me.

I was violently shaking, convulsing, dropping to the ground. A million thoughts were flying through my mind. My vision narrowed, then went completely black. I couldn’t see. My heart was pounding through my chest, so hard and so fast that I thought it might just give out, then and there. Sounds were rushing all around me, rushing through my ears like waves crashing inside a seashell. I couldn’t breathe, something big was stepping on me, making me about to puke, only I couldn’t draw enough air for that. My eyes were bulging out, my skin clammy, no, sweaty, sweat pouring out of every pore to cool my overheated body, giving me chills. I was grasping, grabbing all around me for something to which I could hold myself, contain myself, stop myself. My brain was working in overdrive. I could literally feel the blood pumping through my body, up to my brain, whirring around, processing thought after thought in rapid succession, trying to protect me by shutting down. I didn’t want protection, though. I wanted it to end. All of it. So I reached out, under the bed, as best I could figure, where kept my medicine. You see, I’d been medicated all these years, but had never reached a point where I understood myself, never reached a point where the medicine started to give me some reprieve from life’s harshness, never felt that I could brave it alone, without the medication. There were a few strong pills, mainly sleeping meds and anxiety meds  I don’t recall how I obtained them, which doctor I saw. I think it was just the school clinic and my internal medicine doctor. I hadn’t been to a psychiatrist for a long time. Maybe once, yes, I think once, while I was in 1L, I made an appointment at UCSF. I was starting to come unglued, but didn’t know it yet. At any rate, I didn’t receive much oversight on my medicine, and certainly had no one to call in a psychiatric crisis. Anyways, I managed to grab a bag of pills and dragged them out into the open. I couldn’t see, my vision was black, I could barely feel, even, my body shutting down to protect the core, leaving the extremities without blood or oxygen. It didn’t matter. I knew what was in that  bag. The thought had never crossed my mind before, else I’m sure they wouldn’t have given me these particular meds. I’d never felt the need to take more than the prescribed dose, oh, maybe one extra here and there, but nothing unusual. So the sensation I had when I grabbed those pills was entirely foreign to me. There were voices clamoring, screaming at me, vying for my attention. I didn’t want to hear the voices. I didn’t want to feel this pain. I wanted, no, needed it to stop, using whatever means necessary. If one sleeping pill was good, a whole bottle is better. If one Xanax relieved anxiety, 20 of them would make me feel great. And popping a few extra Zoloft, well, that was pedestrian, but they were there, so I might as well. It’s not like I could see or feel to sort and count them anyways. I was in shock, in crisis mode, barely breathing, attempting to flee, not fight. I grabbed each pill bottle, reached for my water bottle, I know it’s here somewhere, just keep flailing and you’ll run into it, opened the pills, no one had bothered to give me child proof caps, and dumped bottle after bottle after bottle down my throat, finally finding the water to swallow it down. It took a second. I felt relieved, knowing that I had stopped the pain. Then I realized what I had done. My senses were coming back, I was re-entering reality, and all I could see were empty pill bottles and a strange feeling inside. I leapt up, still dizzy but determined, lurched towards the door, raced down, or maybe fell down, several flights of stairs, the outside, to the train station, where everyone was waiting. My mind was blank. All I could focus on was getting Prof. Do novel’s attention, somehow make her understand what had happened. I caught up with the group just as they were boarding. Prof. Donovan was in back of them, shepherding them forward, into the train, like little children who need instructions for the simplest matter. She had a heart of gold, but not sure she thought much of us. We were a little too carefree, this was a study abroad program after all, but she enjoyed her time as much as we did, joining us at bars, taking us out on field trips, telling us about the city, buying us rounds of beers. Beer was ubiquitous there, like coffee in Seattle. It was just unimaginable that you couldn’t like beer, the darker the better. Well, I didn’t really like beer, but it sure was a more cost-effective way of getting drunk than buying those miserable, measly shots they call a drink over on the other side of the bar. I mean, really, how do people get drunk off that? How much would you have to spend? This was no Castro 2-4-1 special, no dollar pitchers of cosmos, leaving you in a stupor, but asking for more, no, this was pre-measured shots in prepared cups, simply adding juice or soda to those glasses lined up, like McDonald’s used to do with their sandwiches, all pre-made, just waiting to be ordered by some poor fool. I wasn’t going to tip for the art of throwing soda into a cup, so I just took my very cranberry drink with a splash of vodka and joined up with the rest of the group. At least I was getting my vitamin C and antioxidants. Anyways, I found Prof. Donovan, about to board the train herself, pulled her aside making motions of urgency, and whispered to her that I needed to get to the hospital, right now. The poor lady. She never signed up to take care of suicidal students. Luckily for me, though, she remained absolutely professional, telling the group that something had come up and she would meet hem back here later, then she grabbed my arm and practically dragged me back to her on campus suite. It really was quite lovely, with two bedrooms, overstuffed chairs, a living room and dining room; this use be where they house the seniors, or student to with special status. What I wouldn’t give to have a place like that to myself.

In Ireland, you customarily call the doctor for a house visit, then he or she refers you to the ER if necessary. The doctor pulled up, wheels still spinning, in his black car, with a black suit and black briefcase. He hurried inside with Prof. Donovan, to those overstuffed living room chairs, where I was sitting at the table, slowly but surely losing consciousness. There was no point in questioning what had happened, Prof. Donovan had to fill in the gaps as I fell ever more comatose. He took my vitals, obtained a brief description of events, then placed a call to the hospital. Prof. Donovan was instructed to immediately take to the hospital, where a doctor was already waiting. I don’t know why they couldn’t call an ambulance, probably because it would have been no faster than her taking me, it was just down the street. We did get slightly lost, but still made it in record time. I went to the ER window, showed my passport, was met with knowing stares and glances, then the door to the ER opened and I was hustled in. Prof. Donovan followed.

I don’t know exactly what happened. Probably because I had lost consciousness  by that point. All I remember is walking up in a small vestibule with Prof. Donovan. I had survived. The psychiatrist was called as soon as I woke up. I knew Ireland was a Catholic country, so I stepped around the issue a bit, expressing my fear that their religion would affect my care, being gay. He had to assure me multiple times that Dublin was very open-minded, and I was receiving the  best care available. Unfortunately, the best care was inadequate. The doctor prescribed Zyprexa, a very potent, fast acting anti-psychotic. No one flat out told I was psychotic, but the choice of medication said it all. Prof. Donovan placed a call to the Dean at USF, to determine how to proceed. I wanted to pretend it never happened, and continue on to Prague. Instead, she was instructed to book me my  next flight back to San Francisco, where the Dean would meet me, and to buy me three doses of medication, enough for me to get to the States where better, more intensive care was available. So it was that I spent the night on the cold, hard floors of the airport, watching nervously as armed soldiers marched around the facilities. Air France had allowed me to reboot my flight for a small fee. Well, small in comparison to the cost of the ticket. My friend’s dad’s secretary had booked the tickets for us, and I was paying back my friend. Sean, if you’re reading this, I apologize deeply for leaving you on the hook for that expense. I hope that there is a future in which I can repay the debt. I boarded the plane the next morning, and arrived back on a non-stop flight at San Francisco 12+ hours later. I certainly took advantage of the free wine, even for coach passengers. I wasn’t going to go home sober. When we landed, and finally disembarked, I walked right into the expecting hands of the Dean.

I lost it all

One day, I woke up, and realized I couldn’t go on
One day, my lover broke up with me, while I was overseas 
One day, I overdosed, lay comatose, sprawled on the bedroom floor
One day, I wish it all would end

I was a star 
The envy of my peers
A socialite 
A student
A player, yes
But a body of the best


Something was missing 
Something felt wrong, deep inside 
Something went awry, somewhere, sometime 
And I don’t know what it was, and I don’t know why

I never let on 
No one ever knew 
If I couldn’t understand it, why should they? 
That’s my biggest regret today

And I had it all

The friends
The fun
The frolicking

The fates were on my side

Where did I go wrong? 
How did I stumble, how did I fall, 
Into this abyss, so deep, 
Even I can’t see the light of day?

It just happened, one day

My lover rescinded his love

And my heart broke

And I, 
Yes I,
Unknowingly, ungratefully, unexpectedly, 
I went insane

My heart beating wildly inside my chest, I was gasping for air, screaming but no one could hear, 
Watching my world turn bleak, no, turn dark, turn empty, my vision failing, my pulse pumping, 
The ocean racing through my ears, 
And I was 
I saw it happening, as if it were to another 
Crumpled on the floor, spasmodic tempo in my muscles, convulsing back and forth
I knew, 
That I couldn’t survive, that I didn’t want to survive, that without love there is no life, without him there was no me
In that second,

I lost it all

The will to survive
The desire to see another day 
The ability to move forward

And so I reached, excruciatingly, painfully, spasmodically, to the pills under the bed, 
Ambien, klonopin, xanax, god knows what else, 
Trembling, seizing, I unscrewed the fucking child proof caps (who decided I needed those?) 
Counted out a few… 
No, fuck it, I decided, somehow conscious enough, I’m not going to slowly slip away, 
I wanted my lover to see a grotesque image of a contorted body clamoring for air, swollen, spastic, eyes bulging out, shitting my pants, grabbing violently, puking blood… 
I wanted him to feel my pain and know, deep inside, that he was the one that caused it all, that his act of betrayal had sealed my fate, that the blood I spewed was on his hands 
I grabbed the full bottles 
Dumped them down my throat 
Gulping the poison 
And I was happy, blissful, knowing death was near 
There’s something so good and right about seeing your end approach 
I was playing God with my own life 
Sealing my own destiny 
Not afraid 
No more questioning

And then
Some half witted fucked up spawn of Satan, with his pitchfork not yet concealed away, with his stupidity scrawled across his leering face, with evil in his eyes, 
Oh if I could only describe
He came to me in my moment of bliss, as the sun was setting on my worldly existence, as the light at the end of the tunnel grew ever near, as I prepared myself to leave my body behind and enter a new world, as I was happy, for the first and last time I could ever remember, I lay convulsing but unaware, dying in this world, eager to fly to the next, 
He came to me 
And pulled it all away

I was destined to live

Fuck him, fuck my friends, fuck the doctors, fuck the establishment, 
Fuck me

I nearly had it all

And then I lost it all

-(No) Loss, personal writings, 2014

In this chapter we finally see where the chaos began, where my life forever veered off course, and how it happened. It was, yes, simply a breakup, unfortunate and sad, but nothing to cry over, let alone die over, but my mind operated differently. That abandonment was just the start of an inexorable cycle, in which I was whipped around by the vicissitudes of life, out of control, living (and dying) anew each day. Next chapter I explain what happened my 2L year, why it seemed so strange, looking in from the outside, and how life, and death, became more complicated every day. Dublin was just the beginning. Let’s watch now how the rest of me unraveled. Take a break and have a strong stomach before reading the next section. No, it’s really not all that graphic, I can’t remember the bloody parts. I can only real events to the point where I lost consciousness, and rely on doctors and nurses and friends to relay the rest of the information to me. So, here’s my story as I know it. This is the crux of the story, so please devote your time and attention. I’ll make it as brief as possible.

#mylifematters Prologue

I’m sorry.

I’m sorry i wasn’t there when you graduated. I’m sorry I wasn’t there at your wedding. I’m sorry I wasn’t there when you got your first job. I’m sorry i wasn’t there when you had your first child. I’m sorry I never call or visit. I’m sorry I never put you on my Christmas list. I’m sorry we’ve become estranged, strangers in the night. I’m sorry I scurry silently by when I see you on the streets. I’m sorry you think you mean so little to me.

Because you mean the world to me. I’m not sorry I ever became friends with you or shared my life with you. I’m not sorry I went to bars with you and danced with you. I’m not sorry I studied with you or came to your events. I’m not sorry. These are moments I’ll never forget.

But, I’ve changed. To you, to my family and to myself. I don’t recognize myself in the mirror anymore. Who is this man, ghastly thin, pale, teeth yellowed, hair falling out? Who is this man looking back at me? A hollow image of my former self, a look that doesn’t go away after Halloween, a permanent and poignant marker of my downfalls and failures.

It is for this I apologize.

But I want you to know, there’s so much more. I wasn’t always like this. You know that. I was happy, carefree, a smart boy, a good looking boy, a healthy boy, a fun boy. I may have grown older with time, then, but I never grew up. I loved that about myself. You did too. There were days when I couldn’t stop smiling, laughing, experiencing the joy, the friendship, the love, experiencing the experience! Sure, I studied hard, I worked hard, I was a serious student and worker. Sure I had a few bad days, don’t we all? But, you know, those didn’t define me. My smile did. Infectious, even to me. I was outgoing, popular, a socialite extraordinaire. Well, to an extent. Those parties I threw are some of my favorite memories, whether a small gathering at a bar, a night out on the dance floor, an intimate glass of wine, a  pants-off-dance-off in your living room. These are my memories, the good times, the good friends, the good drinks, the good bars and clubs, the good experiences.

It’s all gone. Even my memory is fading. I’m writing this so I can remember those days, those times, those moments, that made me happy. Those moments. Once lived, but never again.

Who am I? Me, I suppose. A facade, though, as if me was put on as a costume on myself. What I see isn’t what I get. A dashing young man, smart, successful, happy… It’s like a mirror showing me qualities I’ll never possess, the ultimate looking glass mirror. Because there, in that mirror, is the me that you saw and knew, the me that made it in life, the me that went on to grow old with a partner. But that’s not the me behind that glass. Pretty, but false. Who am I? Well, me. But not anything I’ve ever known or expected or anticipated or wanted or desired or for which I prepared myself. No, this me fell under the wheel and was tossed around, trodden upon, spit at, destroyed, used and cast aside. This me lives each day in darkness and despair and fear. This me, this is the real me. Maybe I was faking the whole time.

I’m writing this mostly for myself, so I know, as crazy as I am, that some things are not just in my head, imagined, but rather events I lived through, in fact, many of them events which I arranged. There was so much I wanted, so much potential, so much to live for, so much that I couldn’t take it anymore.

You were there. Really. You didn’t know but you were there. I remember the names and faces. I remember the time of day. I remember the sunshine, the frolicking, the good nature of mankind. You probably forgot, just another day. And it was. But not for me. It was a turning point that, little did I know, would forever alter my life. And so, I write this for you too. Because, as my friend, you deserve to know what happened. You deserve to know why I slipped away, turned my back on you, left you and never spoke again. You should know, it wasn’t you. 

I’m going to start where I remember and fill in the gaps as best I can. Names are real, events are real, dates may be all in my head, but I know what happened, regardless of when it occurred, and I need to put that down on paper so someone, someday, maybe, will read it and understand. I made poor choices, yes, but like anyone, I made the best choice under the circumstances I had, under the way that my mind saw things, under the way of what life threw to me. Under these circumstances and in that might, I made the rational decision. What followed was unforeseen, unforeseeable, impossible to imagine or comprehend. It was just another fucking day.

You can stop here, or skip over parts or jump straight to the end. What I need is to put my story out there, what you do with it is none of my concern. Of course, I want you to understand. But I’m not writing for your sympathy or your judgment. You will judge, I know. Because what follows is not the me that you knew or I knew, but the me that experienced these events and became the me of today. God, how I wish that me was not me.