On September 4, 1980, I made a pact that could have cost me my life. I decided that if I didn’t see any progress in my life and still felt horrible, I’d die by suicide on September 4, 1990.
You see, that is my birthday.
My Life Was Messy
I was so sick inside from the powerlessness I felt to change my life that I had decided to die. I didn’t understand at all the strange things that kept happening to me.
The angry outbursts that came seemingly from nowhere and the powerful terror in my dreams that haunted me.
I knew I had been sexually abused when I was a kid, but I didn’t know the extent of that trauma. I had told on my worst abuser in 1976 a few short months after my father died and been summarily disowned by him and that entire side of my family.
The pain I felt in losing these people I loved was palatable.
I loved them very much and just couldn’t reconcile their turning away from me like they did. Even his wife, someone I loved very much, wouldn’t acknowledge that I existed.
I think part of me died that year.
So, it seemed natural that I would do as I was taught to do by my abusers and self-destruct. The day I chose was my birthday in 1990.
Starting Therapy Saved My Life
It was that promise to die by suicide to myself that kept me alive. During the ten years between 1980 and 1990, when I would feel the overwhelming urge die, I would remember my promise. The knowledge that it would end then spurred me forward.
In February 1990, I began therapy with Paula. She had no idea of the suicide pact I had made, and I did not tell her.
I had only seven months to live.
I was sitting in her office for a therapy session on my thirtieth birthday. We had just completed our time together and were wrapping things up when I looked at her and decided I trusted her enough.
I told her my secret.
With one hand on the telephone to call for help, she asked me what I was going to do.
I told her I had decided to stick around for a while. When she asked me why I had decided to live my answer shocked her. I stated that for the first time in my life I felt that maybe, just maybe, there might be hope for me.
Paula and I had been working very hard for those seven months in 1990. We had established a partnership in my healing and I trusted her more than I had ever trusted anyone. The therapeutic alliance we had formed filled me with hope.
I had decided to live, at least for a while.
I’m not going to sit here and lie to you.
I went through many years of turmoil and hell after that birthday. In fact, I almost lost my life in 1995 to a serious attempt on my life.
I think it is easy to see why I titled this piece the way I did.
Every year on my birthday since 1990 I’ve marveled at the miracle of my existence. I had planned to end my life and yet I am still here.
I won’t lie about this either, sometimes I regret that I did not carry out that pact. Some days I feel so overwhelmed by life that I just want to end it all.
So, what keeps me going?
Curiosity. Plain and simple.
If I die by my own hand what will I miss?
What will be the next invention?
Will we go to live on Mars?
How will my little nephew look when he’s grown?
Is there a wonderful career just waiting for me around the next bend?
How can I leave the world without making a huge impact?
What can I do to make that happen?
I’m a very curious person and I think that has been the driving force behind my survival.
Yes, life itself is a miracle, but my birthdays always are even more so.
So, wish me a happy birthday. I’ve lived a whopping 28 years longer than I had planned three decades ago.
I may not be happy all the time, in fact, some days I’m downright miserable.
But by god I am still here, I am alive!
I wrote this poem today to commemorate my birthday and the many yet to come. Enjoy.
Life is a Miracle Not to be Ignored