How to Commit Suicide

Martin O'Toole
10 min readSep 8, 2019
Kintsugi image: @constant.arrival

If you’re actually considering doing this, please read on. If you’re not, read on anyway. This is my account of almost doing it, but thankfully giving life another chance. And now I’m in a whole other space, my friend.

A good buddy and coach came to visit me in Bali last week. We hadn’t actually seen each other in 6 years, and it was Instagram’s algorithm that assisted our reconnection. Right at the time when I needed Sarah’s brutally honest perspective and advice — there she was. Coincidence? No chance. Those who know me well often hear me say: “There’s no such thing as a coinkidink”, as I have absolutely no doubt that the Universe puts people and events in our paths at exactly the right time and place. Sarah had her own need for space and sunshine to reflect, and with all this in mind, I invited her to come to visit! Last-minute and most welcome plans were made as we both surrendered to the flow of life, and my pal bobbed over to the Island of the Gods for a spot of mutual healing.

During our first “What’ve you been up to?”, I rather nonchalantly told Sarah that a few years back, I’d come very close to committing suicide. Sarah was the third human I’d come into contact with in five whole days, and so my delivery was rather manic, clumsy — and poorly timed! As the waves crashed and the crickets chirped, I spewed my dramatic tale of woe as if it were fuelled by a bowl of bad mussels — all in the unsuspecting face of a woman fresh in-country after 24 hours of trans-continental travel. I simply couldn’t help myself, even though I could plainly see the heady combination of tropical humidity and jet lag washing over her like an exhaustion tsunami. I must work on my timing.

I rather nonchalantly told Sarah that a few years back, I’d come very close to committing suicide.

The following day, Sarah told me how shocking and saddening my admission had been to hear and how sorry she was that things had got that bad for me. It got me thinking about how dark and guarded those days were — and how little of that darkness I shared with anyone around me. For me, feeling depressed and suicidal was counter-intuitive to the usual warrior-comedian persona I worked so hard to present to the world. I wanted everyone to see water running off this duck’s back. I wanted everyone to be impressed with my resilience, my ability to laugh at harsh lessons, to spit in the eye of depression. Despite quietly and regularly considering my own suicide, putting on a brave face had become one of my very best skills. After all, opening up was a weakness, right? Plus, on the rare occasions I did open that door, more often than not, people would say, “It’s just a phase!” or “Pick yourself up and dust yourself off”, or (my own personal favourite) “You always land on your feet, Martin….” Fucking lol. I always landed on my feet because I was always in fight or flight mode and running away from shit. One foot in front of the other at high speed was the only way I knew how to operate. Half the time, I ran so fast that you couldn’t even see my feet — like that old Roadrunner & Coyote cartoon.

I’ve Made a Mess

I’d ruined an amazing business partnership because I lied to my partner; I’d mistreated and lied to a wonderfully pure soul, whom I married, cheated on, and divorced — all in under six months. My mum had died; my girlfriend (the one I cheated on the wife with) had left me after my alcohol and cocaine issues went too far, and she caught me red-handed, providing digital orgasms to some busty stranger via the miracle of Twitter’s Direct Message feature — all in a twisted attempt to seek intimacy. And all the while, I was under criminal investigation for tax evasion, money laundering, and fraud. It’s safe to say that I’d brought a great deal of drama to my own table, and my plate was well and truly full — and covered with extra gravy.

I’d already self-harmed during this time. I’d got blind-drunk and slashed my arm with a kitchen knife I sharpened for this very act. Not content with that, I put my head through a thick glass window pane in the back door of my cottage, leaving a nasty, deep gash in my forehead — the searing pain and warm gushing blood all over my face instantly ceasing the emotional pain that seared through me. Albeit for a short while at least, until I could no longer see due to my newly decorated face.

It had been a long time since I hurt myself like this. Though I had self-harmed a great deal in my youth and young adulthood. So I made a silent, solemn promise that that would be the last time.

No Way Out

And then, one night, I couldn’t pick myself up. Or dust myself off. Nor could I run or fight anymore. I drove home from my local bar a little high and a lot drunk, and in a fit of deep despair, I drank a whole lot more. I sat in my kitchen and hammered a bottle of neat gin — crying and incoherently moaning at an empty space in the corner of my kitchen.

And then it occurred to me to clean my shotgun. And then it occurred to me to load my shotgun.

And then it occurred to me that I’d ruined my miserable life beyond all belief; that I’d fucked over and screwed everyone I ever came into contact with; that my toxicity had the power of a military-grade air-born virus; that I had taken this life too far down the wrong path and made far too many mistakes to fix. I was all alone in the shit-stinking dark — right where I deserved to be. For me, the light was far, far away — too far away to get back to in this lifetime.

Beyond Self-Loathing

It was time to do everyone a favour and end it all. Blow my brains out right then while sitting on the sofa in the dark. I would feel nothing. And even if it did hurt, I deserved it. Besides, I was so drunk it would only be fleeting pain before ending the constant noise in my head, the incessant and whirring vortex of guilt, worry, stress and shame. The endless fractal thoughts and faces of the people I’d mistreated, disappointed, and left by the wayside — gobsmacked and broken.

I swayed due to being so pissed and heavy with sadness. I didn’t see a way out. No one could help me — least of all myself. The gun butt sat proudly on an oil-covered newspaper. The barrel was pointed squarely at my forehead. Darkness and silence crept around me like an insidious influence.

And then the lounge door hinges squeaked and creaked, letting light in as the door slowly and slightly opened. And my little baguette-nosed mate came ambling in. Macy (my Beagle) had watched me skulk off into the lounge with a bottle and a gun and had heard me mumbling and spitting. Clearly disapproving of my plan, she walked in, plonked herself right next to the gun, and looked right at me. When I looked down at that little sandwich nose, I immediately moved the gun from my face and safely unloaded it the way I would in the field or in the presence of others. “Safety first…” I whispered as I chuckled through my snot and tears.

And like that, my mind was changed by the unconditional love of a Beagle. That was all it took for me. If she wasn’t there, I wouldn’t be here. And you wouldn’t be reading this— it’s as plain and simple as that.

Have I thought about suicide since? Oh yeah, but I never got that close again. As we all know, there’s a big difference between thinking and doing. And thankfully, it’s been a very long time since I even thought of such things.

Doing the Work

So at the ripe age of 39, I began my long journey of self-awareness and personal development. I reached out for help. I found a therapist and did as the therapist suggested. “Seek care”, he said. That is to say, I shared my shit with a chosen few whom I realised loved and cared about me. My friend Jane was a key player in that process. I told Jane how bad things really were, and she listened — intently and lovingly — distraught yet determined to help me. She was more than familiar with the famous ‘brave face’ and knew I could take a lot of flack. But she also knew that for things to get so bad, the situation was indeed serious. No more warrior-comedian. Time to work on being real and honest. Time to chip away at years of facade-building. Time to admit I needed help…

I’ll never forget that time, as it was a time of great realisation and awakening for me. And that dog saved my life, for which I am now so unspeakably grateful.

An idea

Last month, 614,000 people researched ‘suicide’ online. 51,000 used specific terms, including how to commit suicide and how to commit suicide painlessly. The US, India, and the UK rank high in the league table. I wonder: do you or I know any of these people?

This problem is not going away. It’s getting worse. We’re encouraged to be in debt; to work 60-hour weeks, to binge-drink on Fridays, and max our credit cards on Saturdays. We’re all being conditioned to be ‘perfect’ — to be ‘successful’, and to live our ‘best lives’ — whatever the fuck that means... And as the layers of narcissistic fakery are piled onto our frail and utterly confused yet screen-addicted psyches, we doggedly continue to chase the utterly pointless wonder of materialism. Or simply numb the pain with banal distractions. We focus less on being mindfully kind to ourselves whilst turning an apathetic, blind eye to what’s happening to those around us. Society is sick, and our own internal and external programming continues to stigmatise and marginalise mental health issues. This is not OK. We are not OK.

According to the WHO, around 800,000 people take their own lives every year. That’s one suicide every 40 seconds. In addition, there’s hard evidence to suggest that for every person that succeeded in killing themselves, another 20 tried and failed. The ripple effect is vast. Perhaps you were involved or affected? Perhaps a family member or a close friend or colleague? Or someone you went to school with? Or perhaps just a total stranger you passed in the street — your eyes meeting for a nanosecond, and then they were gone.

Then they were gone. Four simple words with devastating ramifications.

800,000 people take their own lives every year. That’s one suicide every 40 seconds.

Picking up the baton: it really is OK to not be okay and to share how broken we truly are with each other. It’s OK that we’re not bullet-proof, and it’s OK to freely admit that this business of life often breaks us all in so many unspeakable ways.

What’s not OK is that none of us talk about this openly enough and that ‘putting on a brave face’ has become a universally accepted and positive trait.

All too often, we simply don’t see people’s behaviour as a sign of mental illness. The ‘damage’ is a stigma or flaw, which is to be marginalised and more likely dismissed as an attitudinal dysfunction. This needs to stop. We need to start seeing mental illness as a depressingly (shit pun — sorry) common aspect of today’s society. It is all too prolific to be anything else.

I read something recently that ended with the following: “Know that the depth of your pain is an indication of the height of your future”. I agree with this, but that doesn’t mean that we all have the same capacity to manage that pain. Nor do most of us have a Beagle in the next room (more’s the pity).

So this issue needs to be cracked wide open by as many people who are willing to have this conversation. With the right help reframing it, perceivably negative aspects of our rich life stories can indeed become a part of our uniqueness — and a positive part of our development. Though not if it’s suddenly and meaninglessly ended.

One of the only ways for us to counter this is for us all to become far more aware. To be less focused on individuality and more on community. For us to listen more to what our intuition says about what’s really going on with those around us — looking past the ‘brave face’.

Ever since shotgun night, I’ve worked hard on using new methodologies to think, feel, and live better. To be better. It hasn’t been a walk in the park, and it’s far from over. I’m a work in progress. We’re all a work in progress. And we should be freely encouraged to forgive ourselves and to openly share the things that have damaged us. Only then can we help ourselves and be helped by others. Only then can we heal. But that doesn’t mean hiding our flaws. After all, they’re part of our history. Part of what makes us unique. Part of what makes us beautiful.

[POSTSCRIPT: if you — or anyone else you know — are currently having suicidal thoughts or notions in any way, shape, or form, please contact me directly. Better still — if you (understandably) would rather not contact some random writer (unqualified as a counsellor), then please contact one of the organisations below.

Know this: you are not alone. It’s not as bad as you currently think it is. You are loved. You are cherished. You are life. You will be missed.]

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Martin O'Toole

Psychedelic integration coach and counsellor, How To Die Happy author, podcaster, and mental health advocate writing about healing and the Anatomy of Happy.