Content warning: Suicide, Self Harm
I’ve struggled a long time in deciding if I wanted to speak about this stuff. I’m generally a pretty private person, and the idea of having my personal stories out in public is a frightening one to me. But after Alex Stratton’s sucide, my grandmother’s passing, suicide awareness week, and my 31st birthday, and finally #MentalHealthAwarenessDay I’ve decided that if my story can help even one person out there struggling, then it’s worth it.
I struggle with depression and anxiety. I was officially diagnosed when I was in my first year of college, but I’ve struggled most of my life, pretty much since I was about 6 years old and came to grips with my own mortality. Part of my depression is existential dread, the fact that we live and die and nothing really matters, so why bother suffering through everything when there’s no meaning to anything? Part of it was that I had low self esteem, a build up from my perfectionism inherited from my parents, and also years of bullying at school. My energy levels were almost non-existent, and my will to live was gone. I thought often of suicide, thinking of plans but never began putting any into action. Sometimes when things got really bad, I would cut myself to control my emotions. I can always look at the scars on my arm as a reminder of that time, and how I managed to get through it.
I ended up dropping out of school because of my depression at age 19. I would barely even leave my bed most days. I’d just read, write, and listen to music. At age 20, I made a deal with myself: I would stick it out until I was 30. I would give this whole life thing a shot to impress me. A chance to be happy. And if I didn’t feel that way, I would end it. Only really one thing ever made me feel good or got me to get out of the house, and that thing was Magic. I’d go to FNM every week, and interacting with people there who didn’t know any of my issues and who didn’t judge me for anything other than how I played the game was incredibly cathartic. I was going to therapy and trying many different medications at the time, but none of those things really helped me. I think Magic, and my success at it, is what helped pull me into a state where I could function. The depression wasn’t gone, it was dormant, and I thought that was as good as it was going to get. I would tell close friends that Magic had saved my life. I ended up getting so good at the game that eventually I top8ed a GP and even won a PT! But during that time I was still struggling with dysthymia, a lower level of depression that was like a little voice in the back of my mind always saying that I wasn’t good enough, that I needed to do better, that I was worthless. But surrounded by friends, with success at my passion, I could manage to drown out that voice.
I had some major episodes in the next couple years. One time, between Christmas and New Years, I had one very scary episode where thoughts of suicide raced through my head to the point that I felt I had to take all the sharp objects out of my room and lock myself away. I had a six month period where I felt so bad I used alcohol almost every day to self medicate. But these things would pass and I would be back to my functional baseline.
About 6 months before my 30th birthday, my depression began to creep back in. The voice in the back of my mind grew louder. Part of it was that Magic had become my job. It was no longer my escape, it had become my reality, and after 8 years of it as my job a lot of the joy had been sucked out of it. It affected the quality of my work, and I performed worse at Magic and struggled with my personal and romantic life. Eventually, the day of my 30th birthday came, and that night as my partner lay sleeping, I was awake for hours crying to myself. Why was I so unhappy? I should have had everything, certainly 20 year-old me would have thought I had it made. But I still didn’t feel fulfilled, joyful, or happy. I still felt empty, alone, and worthless.
A couple of months passed and things didn’t get better. I ended up breaking up with my girlfriend, being denied a visa to go and do a job I was actually kind of excited about, and betrayed by people I considered friends, all in the span of about a month. But I was managing alright from the outside. I had pushed down my emotions and they were just building up underneath the surface. It was an unhealthy way of coping. At about the same time, I was also invited to join the MPL, and since my other opportunity had fizzled, I accepted. The new year came and went, and I was still managing fine. But soon the stuff I had been containing began to hit me, and I sunk deeper into depression than I had ever been before. I tried to dive headfirst into my work, streaming 7 hours every day, but my mental health kept detereorating. The first Mythic Championship was coming up, and I knew I shouldn’t go. I should have checked myself into the hospital. But I went anyways, and it was hard. I don’t think before that trip I had ever just randomly cried in public, but I just couldn’t help myself. I was incredibly unstable. But by the time it was over and I was heading home, I felt calm and at peace. The reason was that, after having thought about it countless times without action, I had finally decided that I was going to kill myself. I had no more doubts, no more fears. Nothing could hurt me anymore. I planned out the when and the where. March 15, as soon as I was alone at home. I researched the best method, had a rope, and knew how to tie it to cut blood flow so that I would pass out before suffocating. I researched how to write a legally binding will, and I wrote it and put it somewhere it would be found. I recorded a few goodbyes to important people.
Did I leave warning signs? Yes, absolutely. My family and friends were very worried about me at this time. In the course of a couple months I had lost about 40lbs without exercise or dieting. Normally my depression ended up with me overeating, but this time not even that brought me pleasure. I would talk negatively all the time, and some friends would try and tell me things were going to be ok. Frankly, it wasn’t enough. When I was in that state of mind, people telling me they were available to talk was not a resource that I would use. Sharing one’s burden with others was not my way, and I didn’t think anything anyone could say would change my mind. I’m only still here because a very good friend of mine proved that I was wrong. After talking with me continuously over Messenger, he called me despite my insistance to the contrary and we talked for hours. This call (luckily) happened to be on March 14. After that talk, I ended up calling a suicide hotline, where I talked to someone who gave me some resources that could help me out. I went to see a variety of doctors, psychiatrists, and psychologists. I made a tweet explaing my absence from streaming, one that I hadn’t expected to ever be around to make. And I ended up going to the Mythic Invitational, despite being recommended against it by two of my doctors. I was only able to convince them to let me go when I promised I wouldn’t be alone at any point. And they were right to make me promise, because I was still so unstable that a moment alone in the bathroom with a razor gave me thoughts of doing something, even with a friend in the ajoining hotel room.
Now, I’ve found a medication that helps me, and through finding a therapist that is also helping me, I am doing much better. I have felt moments of joy and contentment that frankly I haven’t felt for over a decade. And I’ve turned 31, an age that I didn’t expect to see. I can’t promise anyone listening that I won’t take my own life in the future. I don’t know that, but I do know that I feel hopeful for the future. I think that things can get better, and I think I can be happy. I feel better than I ever have in my adult life. I’m glad I’m still here. I’ve even top8ed another PT and won a GP in the meanwhile, things that felt impossible to happen when I was in the depths of my despair.
I’ve never been good at talking about myself: the lesson I’ve learned from my male role models and my time at an all-boys high school was that as a man I was expected to be strong, to take my pain inwards, to maybe drink it away but to never share it with anyone. It was my burden and mine alone. So for some people, even those close to me, this might be the first time they hear all the details of my story. I’ve learned that this attitude is toxic, and that we are moving as a society to a place where men should be able to express their emotions and to be vulnerable. It’s a lesson that has taken me a long time to learn, but I don’t think I would be around right now if I hadn’t. I think it is a big reason why men disproportionately take their lives compared to women, and I want anyone listening to know that talking to someone doesn’t make you weak, that the fact you are hurting means you have been strong for too long. I’m not a mental health professional, but if you want to talk, feel free to reach out to me by DM on Twitter. I heavily recommend that anyone struggling asks for help, from either someone close to you or from a professional. I actually do believe things can get better. And for those of you worried about people close to you, please reach out to them. If they are struggling, having someone make the first move, make that effort to see that they are ok means the world. They might never tell you what’s wrong if the onus is on them. I know that many people have reached out to me when I was struggling, and I will never forget a single one. Even a small gesture can mean the world. So please, everyone, just be kind to each other. You never know what someone might be going through. And remember, that you aren’t alone, and suffering from mental illness doesn’t make you weak or a loser. It happens to everyone, even those of us who might look to be living dream lives from the outside.