Diary of a Suicidal Cop
Before I begin, let me state a few facts. Yes, I am suicidal. By that I mean I often think about how I could kill myself, wonder how many people would care, and feel like it would be best for everyone I know if I wasn’t here. I do not, however, want to die. Yes, I know those two statements are complete opposites – but such is the mind of a suicidal person most of the time. There is a constant battle inside their heads between good and evil, life and death. One of these combatants will win the battle. Which one wins depends on the will of the person.
Technically, we can say that death always wins. There is one constant in life – and that is death. You are never promised anything else. You can be rich or poor, successful or homeless, saved or sinner, but death will one day find you. That is where the battle inside my mind starts. If death is certain, and the people in my life will one day have to accept my death, why not now? Why not when everyone is still young enough to move on and still have a happy life? The happy life that I have deprived them of while here?
That is where people want to say things like, “but they love you and want you to be here,” or “you don’t know how many people you positively impact.” If you are looking at the statistics behind those statements, then you may be absolutely right. We are not talking about the mind of a person who is capable of statistical reasoning at this point.
I am highly emotional. That impacts things tremendously.
There is a reason that “heat of passion” is a legitimate defense in crimes. When emotion begins to take over, then you can’t use reasoning to battle against it. You have to reinforce the proper opposite emotion to battle it. Even in this you have to be careful.
Generally speaking, the way to fight against feeling bad about yourself is to find ways to feel good about yourself. Too many times that path takes you to alcohol, infidelity, or addiction to pornography. These are evils that we have to battle as well, yet we invite them in.
I’m not in a bad mood. I’m in a dark place.
Once we realize that, it makes us feel even worse about ourselves, and the next battle begins.
You read “battle” often. I say “enemy” a lot, and “war,” and probably a few other terms that you don’t expect to hear it relation to someone’s feelings or state of mind. If you get only one thing from this, please get this. Inside the mind of a suicidal person – it is war.
It is bloody, it is violent, and it is ugly.
There are battles being fought in this war every minute of every day. Some days, I am withdrawn, quiet, and wanting to be left alone. I’m not in a bad mood. I’m in a dark place. I lost a battle, and I am trying to regroup my army. Inside my head, I am in a war room reviewing the day’s battles and trying to figure out where I need to send my troops because I will not yet lose this war.
Another thing we are told often is that we need to seek help. We need to see a therapist, or a psychologist. This is where the suicidal mind of a cop differs from that of anyone else.
I say, “cop” because that’s what I am – but this really should be read as any first responder or military person.
You see, we are already wired differently. We have chosen a path in life where we give ourselves to people that don’t always want us. We sacrifice daily, so others don’t have to. That sounds a little bit like I am putting us on a pedestal, but I’m really not. I am stating a fact. It takes love for our fellow man to strap on 60 pounds of armor and gear and walk a desert, or put on a duty belt and Kevlar and stand between fighting spouses.
Evil is seeping into our minds.
As a first responder, I see and do things almost daily that people should not see or do. Someone may have a traumatic experience like seeing a loved one murdered. I am not taking anything away from that at all – it is horrible. We, however, see it all the time. We see the depravity of man on a daily basis. There are things that we can’t go back and not see. I’ve seen murder victims, car crash victims, and accident victims. It’s never easy. I’ve seen 80-year-old people die, and I’ve seen 8-week-old children die.
Through it all, I have to be detached. I have to focus on the law, and make sure that if someone else other than God is responsible, that I am meticulous in my job so that justice can find them.
So I have to do what we like to call “compartmentalize.”
I am supposed to put it all in a little box in my mind, store it back on a shelf, and not look at it again until I need to.
Compassion almost always gets trapped behind the wall.
For the most part, I do pretty good at that. Most cops do. Or so we think. The reality is that while we think those boxes are stored neatly on a shelf in the back – rats have chewed through and all that evil is seeping out into our minds. It slowly begins to change a person.
It changed me.
You start trying to contain it in larger boxes, and in doing that – you end up trapping other stuff in there too. Compassion almost always gets trapped behind the wall. It begins to manifest itself as a short temper, or poor memory, or dark humor. Physically it can show up as headaches, insomnia, or aches and pains that weren’t there before.
I chose to take my life, and place it at the gates of hell.
Let’s go back to seeking help now. Let me paint a picture for you. I speak only for myself in this, but this is how I see it.
I chose to take my life, and place it at the gates of hell. I do my best to keep evil in, and good people out. But there are times that I have to lace up my boots a little tighter, push open the doors, and go in to battle evil head on.
I have to take that evil and lock it back in its cage, then go back out to guard that door, until I have to go back in again. I have chosen to do that with my life – so you don’t have to. It’s not just a movie catch phrase. I don’t want my children to be faced with the evil I see. I don’t want my wife to be faced with it. I don’t want my friends to be faced with it.
So – I face it for them.
I face it for people I don’t even know – because I believe in order, not chaos. So when I am told that I need to see a therapist all I can think is – no. I am not going to take the hand of an innocent person and drag them through those doors to see what I have seen and done. I am protecting them. It’s what I swore an oath to do.
That, my friends, is why cops and military don’t seek clinical help. It’s not because we don’t think we need it. It’s because we feel deep down in our bones that we have to protect everyone from what we have stored in those boxes.
If you are reading this and say at this point, “well that’s not very rational,” then remember this – we are talking about emotion driven decisions. They aren’t all rational. Some cops seek professional help, and God bless them for finding the courage. To me, that is true courage. I am not that strong. I am stuck in the mindset that I won’t willingly bring people in to my war.
Remember, there is a war going on in my head. Don’t expect it to be pretty. Don’t expect it to make sense. Don’t expect it to be anything but bloody, violent, and senseless.
Every moment is another battle, another enemy combatant trying to take my life. This is what the world looks like to me. So don’t expect me to be able to think rationally all of the time.
A beautiful life enters the world, and that alone holds the demons at bay for a while.
So that is the ugly side of it. Now let’s look at the beauty.
I stop a car driving erratic, and the driver is trying to get his pregnant wife to the hospital, but they are just passing through town and they don’t know where anything is. I lead them to the hospital where she delivers a healthy baby boy. A beautiful life enters the world, and that alone holds the demons at bay for a while.
A horrific accident scene where the driver of one vehicle shouldn’t even be alive. Against the odds, she is alive and alert – praying to God for help. I pray with her. Despite having multiple arm and leg fractures, punctured spleen and liver, head injury, and massive blood loss – she goes on to make a full recovery.
I visit that memory in my mind a lot. If nothing else good ever comes from my life that was enough.
There is an expression in cop world – I am going home at the end of my shift. I’ve told my wife many times that I will come home.
If I find myself in a fight for my life – I will not play by the rules. I will scratch, and claw, and bite, and kick. I will gouge a person’s eyeballs from their skull with my pinkies.
I WILL NOT LOSE.
Obviously, I am talking about a physical life or death fight. If you are thinking “Well then, why don’t you use that same resolve in the war you fight in your mind?” Folks, I do. I am still here to write this, aren’t I? Every day I say in my mind – I will come home today. I will not lose. So, the war rages on.
My brothers in blue – in a world of mankind, there are giants among us. I am not worthy to wear the same uniform. I often think – if they only knew the battles I fight, they would run away from me.
But then I wonder, how many of them are fighting similar battles, thinking the same things? That alone is my reason for writing this.
Nothing I have said in these pages will make a difference up until now. Up until this point – I have only tried to describe what goes on in the mind of a suicidal cop. But at this point right here I want to make a difference. I want this next sentence to mean something – if just to one other person:
You are not alone.
You are fighting your war. You are fighting your battles. Your enemies are yours alone. I cannot help you with those, I am busy fighting my own. That doesn’t mean I am not here to lift you up when you get weak. I am here to meet you at the end of your battle and have a drink with you.
We can write songs and stories about the dragons you’ve slayed today.
All I ask is that you do the same in return. Some days I win big. Some days, I am broken, battered, and torn. I need to be reminded that even though death seems like an acceptable outcome – I have still won today’s battle, just like you have.
Don’t make me drink alone.
And don’t worry, I will win tomorrow’s too. I may have these battles raging in my mind that tell me death would be best for all, but I am a fighter. I don’t give up. Neither should you.
Epilogue – I have read many articles about the suicide rate among first responders and military, and I feel that what has been missing is the story of what is going on through the mind of that person. I don’t know if this is anything anyone wants to read, but it felt good to write it.
(As I submit this), I have to say that I am ok. It may not sound like it from this, but truly I am. I have been fighting this battle in my mind since I was a child, and I will continue to survive. I have the proper support structures in place to ensure that I am ok. I think we tend to tiptoe around some of the truths of this problem when we should be facing it head on. I just hope that this gives an understanding, and that someone out there realizes that they aren’t alone in the way they think or feel.
(Photo courtesy DanSun Photo Art)