Suicide is Contagious

“My brother ruined my life.” He stated it outright multiple times.

If you were 19 years old and your older brother, who was essentially your idol, shot himself in the head in front of you on Thanksgiving, I’m sure your brother would have ruined your life too. This is what happened to my brother-in-law/roommate Zach. Losing the person you look up to is hard enough in itself. Losing the person you look up to to suicide is even harder. Losing the person you look up to to suicide in front of you on Thanksgiving? Now that’s just beyond words.

Zach came into my life in December of 2012. He and my older sister immersed themselves in a very extreme relationship from day one; they were soon living together, probably by about day 20. Day 30 or so, they were engaged. This is how Zach lived his life, to the extreme. I spent quite a few nights at their apartment, acquainting myself with Jack Daniels and  stories of Zach’s childhood, both of which entertained me greatly; the more I had of one, the more I wanted of the other. Zach was a very bright guy with a dry sense of humor, and we got along great. He was massive in a lot of different respects: he was 6’4″, he was ripped, he was extremely poetic, his intelligence was deep, and his wit was wide. When we really became close enough to open up with one another, our conversations went down some very dark roads. He told me stories about his brother, David,  what it was like growing up with him, how funny he was, how much he missed him, and the day he killed himself. Being exposed to something like this is not something you can ever get away from, it’s not a memory that can be easily evaded or repressed, it plagues your brain, and it’s safe to say that Zach’s mind was infested.

Once I graduated high school, my sister, Zach, and myself all decided that it would be a great idea to move in together. The date was set and we would be moving in in August. Zach and I spent quite a bit of the summer together. In June we all went camping, my sister, myself, Zach, and my girlfriend at the time. This was one of the best times I have ever had with any of my friends. During that trip Zach told me some of the nicest things that anyone has ever told me, granted we were both drunk, but the things he was offering were genuine. If I could go back to that summer forever, I would.

August rolled around and, sure enough, we all moved in. Things were great at first, but by about September there was some strife among roommates. The standard of living that I like to maintain was different from that of my counterparts on the other side of the house, and I voiced my frustrations often. Zach was always one to criticize, but taking criticism was not necessarily his strong suit. So, as you can imagine, he did not take too kindly to my offering of issues. October went on and things began to improve. Zach was trying to do more to keep the house clean since my sister worked six days a week, and on her only day off she took care of his two beautiful children, so he was putting forth an effort and doing much better.

Things went back to shit thanks to alcohol and some messed up emotions late one night during mid November. I had quite a few friends over, and Zach had been drinking as well as all of us, but Zach was drinking much more than anybody else, by a lot. He got obliterated and embarrassed me, himself, and my sister, so she told him to call his friend and go stay with him for the night. Being the extremist that he was, Zach took this as my sister breaking up with him, and all hell broke loose. I heard crashing on their end of the house so I went to their room to make sure my sister was okay. Their dresser was tipped over and Zach was flipping out. Threats of suicide were running rampant, as well as drunken insults.  I mentioned earlier that Zach has said the nicest things that anyone has ever said to me, but he has also said the meanest. Again, this goes back to the extremes within his personality. I took everything he was saying on the chin, and did everything I could to essentially talk him down (he was threatening to go drive, after drinking practically a bottle of liquor on his own), but things escalated and he wound up choking me out, grabbing his keys, and driving off into the night. He was back the next day, alive and intact, somehow. The trauma of a past Thanksgiving was still alive within him,  and it didn’t take a giant mental leap to connect the behavior with the calendar and the past.

The episodes that night caused Zach to get sober, and begin counseling. He was doing great. He was doing better with his kids, around the house, and at work. Everything was going great, for the most part, all through Christmas. My sister said without alcohol he was amazing, with the exception of growing more jealous and controlling. In mid January my sister broke up with Zach saying they needed some time for him to find some stability and essentially get his shit together. Zach being Zach, overfatalistic and extreme, made the absolute worst decision I’ve ever seen anybody make in my life. He got a 12 pack, four shots of whiskey, a 9mm Glock, a dark lonely hotel room, and a swat situation before shooting himself in the forehead while on the phone with my sister at 11:30 PM on January 21st, 2014.

Zach left behind two precious boys, a three year old Max, and a two year old William. They are spitting images of their father. Zach was an extremely intelligent man who had a lot of promise. He could’ve been something great, and I believe that with time, he would have. Seeing his brother kill himself at 19 was too much for him to shake. He had often talked about it with me, depicting it in a way as if it were a fantasy. If Zach’s brother hadn’t killed himself, he’d be on the other end of my house right now and I wouldn’t be writing this. For that reason, I believe that suicide is a disease, and it is ferociously contagious. Zach caught what David had.

I wrote this in the aftermath:

When Giants Fall

Nobody else could make me feel so small,

it had next to nothing to do with you being so tall,

nothing to do with you choking me against that wall,

but rather the magnitude of when giants fall,

if I could go back I would give you a call,

in my mind I know I could’ve caused you to stall,

I would conjure the words to help cushion your fall,

I think I could’ve helped but I know after all,

if a person is like me-truly this small,

you can’t catch a giant when they’re ready to fall.

I love and miss you brother. I know you’re with David.  Can’t wait to see you again. RIP Zach.

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9 comments

  1. I know I had already mentioned you were a good writer…. But this made me tear up (granted I’m already a sensitive person). I know there’s no words to say “everything will be ok” but I can say that you do seem like a strong individual… Writing is one of the best ways to express emotions, who knows maybe one day you can write your own book :).

  2. You’re such an amazing writer. It’s crazy how you can move our emotions so well. You’re poem at the end was just so wonderfully perfect and tied the post together. Thank you for sharing such a personal and touching story. You’re amazingly strong.

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