Nonfiction by Tim Drugan-Eppich
“I’ve got a lot of regrets in this life,” he says. “But none greater than the woman I married.”
This is what my therapy sessions often regress to. Around the 20-minute mark, the attention switches from me to him. Or that’s when he’s honest about where the attention really is. Any discussion about me is just obligatory until he finds an opening to place the spotlight back on himself.
“Goddamn ice queen if I ever saw one,” he says. “Why I married her, I’ll never know.”
I didn’t realize an important part of the therapeutic process is finding a compatible therapist; not only are we not compatible, but my therapist doesn’t even seem interested in my problems, let alone helping me solve them.
“I had a list of credentials a woman had to fill to be wife material,” he continues. “And I’ll be damned if she didn’t meet every single one. Probably should’ve included ‘likes me’ on that list though.”
After saying this, he closes his eyes and lets out a violent wheeze. Decades of smoking cigars and blunts have yellowed his teeth and tarred his lungs, making his laughs painful to watch.
“Good pussy will ruin your life,” he says, chuckling.
I started today’s session by telling him about my brain’s enthusiastic encouragement to leap from high places. But what concerns him are his own stories—his own problems.
“Where the fuck was I going with this?” he groans, clenching the bridge of his nose with his fingers.
My trips down the depression rabbit hole started a few years ago while living in a basement in Boston during a particularly harsh winter. I moved to the city for stand-up comedy, which, turns out, I don’t have much patience for. Not only that, but my new college showcased my abysmal ability to make friends, and my bed was a futon that made it a daily necessity to relearn how to walk upright. I awoke most mornings with the thought, “If I’m just going to wind up back here at the end of the day, why bother getting up?” My landlord, a woman with whom I shared the kitchen, liked to make the observation, “You don’t have many friends, do you?”
Every day, crossing the Charles on my morning run, my brain said “Just jump in. It’d be so easy.” In the middle of winter, with the river covered in ice, a fall from the bridge would likely be fatal—which, of course, was the point. Then, while waiting for the T, my brain decided to frame suicidal thoughts as curiosities. “How badly do you think it’d hurt getting hit by that train?” it asked. “Would you have time to regret your decision? What do you think the conductor’s expression would look like?”
I tried to drown these thoughts in fake joviality. But even my best efforts were depressing. “At least I didn’t piss on my shoes today,” I thought, after breaking a streak of days spent wearing dribbled-upon footwear.
Instead, I indulged in suicidal fantasies. Hypothermia was my favorite since I’ve always enjoyed the outdoors, as well as the cold. The problem with hypothermia, however, is that your body is preserved in its final position, waiting for someone to discover it. This puts tremendous pressure on which position is chosen and maintained. Not a problem for normal people, but with severe ADHD, sitting still is a constant battle against the need to fidget, scratch, and pick myself. I’d likely get somewhere deathly frigid, settle into my final resting position, and have my anus begin to itch.
I’d be found, a look of concentration on my face and a finger up my ass. Not ideal.
Because of my financial state, my suicidal daydreams were always cheap. Even as fantasies, I wanted something feasible, something I could afford. This made me envious of the wealthy. Not only do they ignore the call of the void better than the rest of us, but when they decide to listen to it, funds are there to make the departure interesting. Wouldn’t you rather die jumping out of a helicopter? Or crashing a jet? Into the Alps?
Hanging yourself by a belt in the closet just doesn’t give you the same kind of adrenaline rush.
Prompted by this desire to avoid a lackluster suicide, I decided it was important to institute rules for my fantasies. The first was that I couldn’t make a mess. I’ve always found myself empathetic towards those in close physical proximity to suicides. Think about the mental health of the maid cleaning up after a guest who slit his wrists in the hotel bathtub. She just got her kids to school, resigned herself to a day of changing sheets, and instead, this. Consider the custodian scraping the chunks of eyeball off the pavement after a Venture Capitalist’s fifteen-story leap. Consider his paycheck—tragic. This rule kept me from jumping in front of that train—just think about the disgusting job of chiseling my splattered body off the front window of the locomotive.
A second rule was that I couldn’t involve others. I’ve never bothered anyone with my depression—other than perhaps my mom with frequent and lengthy phone calls. But while in Boston, I read an article about a man driving into oncoming traffic, attempting to kill himself. He didn’t die, but the person he hit did. Even if the victim of the wreck was suicidal, they should’ve been allowed to die as they pleased, not on somebody else’s time. If I was going to kill myself, I wouldn’t take anyone with me in the process.
My last rule involved the suicide note. The rule denied the option of a sappy apology, assurance that it wasn’t anyone’s fault, or any talk of a cruel world. My rule dictated that if I ever wrote one, it would both entertain and confuse.
“Derek Klein,” a section of my letter might read. “In middle school, you sat next to me during a math test, frantically trying to remember what four times six is. You were borrowing my pencil at the time, as you had forgotten your own. I know what problem you were on, since I was cheating off of you—but that’s beside the point. In glancing at your sheet, my eyes followed your pencil, my pencil, up to where it was thoughtfully scraping away the dredgings of your nostrils.
At the end of the test, you returned my pencil, graciously thanking me for the favor. Perched on the eraser, however, was a grey booger with a nostril hair sticking out of it. I looked at it, then back at you, then back at the booger, with the hopes that you would see what you had done. But you didn’t. I want you to know that this booger has haunted me for years, and is one of the many reasons I am unable to face another day. You and your booger killed me, Derek.”
I didn’t know a Derek in middle school. Entertain and confuse.
“I’d never forgive you if you killed yourself,” my girlfriend told me.
“That doesn’t mean I can’t think about it,” I replied. “I’m allowed to fantasize at least.”
“No, you’re not,” she said. “What about me? What would I do without you?”
“You’ll be busy not forgiving me,” I said, smiling. “That’ll take up at least a portion of your day.”
She glared at me, “You’re an ass sometimes, you know that?”
Enough of my relatives have tried to kill themselves that calling it a family tradition wouldn’t be entirely inaccurate. Of course, most families base theirs around presents, but rushing to the medicine cabinet to eat your fill is our thing. Take that, Hanukkah.
Because of this, my suicidal tendencies weren’t an unexpected arrival, and I knew I needed help fighting them. I’ve heard you should solve your own problems before entering a relationship, but I need daily reminders that I’m not crazy, and Aimee—her name is Aimee—is perfect. But Aimee doesn’t like my suicide jokes.
“Would you mind holding up the shower rod so I can hang myself from it?” I like to ask, and then upon receiving a punch to the chest, “Oh, come on, I was kidding.”
“There’s a bit of truth in every joke,” she always replies, glowering at me.
A few days after moving to Colorado for an internship, I toured a room for rent. Aimee showed me the room in a house her parents own. And so it goes. She, by the way, was the one that urged me to look into therapy.
“It let’s you open up without fear of judgement,” she said. “It’s someone who can provide comfort and support.”
“But I have you for that,” I said.
I met Aimee’s parents after she convinced me to come up for a family dinner. Let me remind you, not only were these my girlfriend’s parents, but also my landlords. Not the most relaxing of evenings.
“Every civilization crumbles, and you want to be ready when it does,” said Aimee’s father, a former Navy pilot, while showing me his collection of guns—his idea of a genial after-dinner activity. My parents are academics, and don’t like guns. So I don’t like guns.
“They’re just tools,” he said, sensing my unease with the firearms. “Tools to protect you and your family.”
“They have other uses too,” I wanted to say. “Let me tell you about depression.”
As he handed me guns to hold, all loaded, I felt the urge to tilt them towards myself.
“Very cool,” I said, quickly handing back each weapon. “Really neat stuff.”
With guns, only a small exertion of one finger is necessary to blow your education onto the wall behind you. Juxtapose this with a depressed caveman, who—to end his life of chasing rabbits and running from lions—had to pound his head repeatedly with that huge club he always carried around. Not so easy. To protect myself, I can’t make it easy.
Without a gun, my options for death are less enticing. For example, I’ve never been able to swallow pills with much efficiency. In the amount of time it’d take to swallow enough to kill me, I’d decide it wasn’t worth it.
“I can’t own a gun,” I told Aimee.
“Of course not,” she replied. “You shouldn’t own one until you’re trained in gun safety.”
“Or stop thinking about my own death on a daily basis,” I said.
“You were talking about your wife,” I remind my therapist, pushing my own depressed thoughts away.
“Ah, yes,” he says. “The bitch.”
A box of tissues sits on the couch next to me. I almost offer the Kleenex to my therapist, wondering why he isn’t paying me.
“The day she left me was the greatest of my entire life.”
This strikes me as ironic, since its Aimee’s—my future wife’s—therapeutic ability that’s costing him a client. I don’t tell him I’m not coming back and will instead confide in her. I just sit patiently, helping him remember the story of how his ex-wife was, and is, a cunt.
Tim Drugan-Eppich (@timdruganeppich) is mediocre—statistically, the most probable thing to be. He lives in Colorado with several dust bunnies and a toilet that doesn’t quite flush.