Saturday, January 4, 2014

The Agonizing Last Words of Programmer Bill Zeller

Three years ago I came across a blog post that resonated with me deeply. At the time I shared it on this blog and with friends, but as we start a new year I'd like to take a moment to share this story again.
The Agonizing Last Words of Programmer Bill Zeller
Bill Zeller was a talented programmer whose work was featured on Lifehacker. He took his own life on Sunday and left an explanation that I think it's important you read.!5726667/the-agonizing-last-words-of-bill-zeller

His story is about an inner demon, a life that was tormented. In the end he felt the only option was suicide. It is hard to sometimes discuss how I feel about suicide. I attempted more times than I like to think about, but in the end suicide is the one thing that I am truly terrible at. My first attempt was around 13, at 16 I overdosed on prescription medicine and ended up in the hospital in coma, the first thing I remember was waking up in a mental hospital. And feeling very sick. I sometimes relive the experience in my dreams (more like nightmares). At 18, I attempted again but was stopped by my boyfriend (who also saved me at 16). And then at 24 I hit a wall. I had been depressed and was put on Paxil. every time I told my psychiatrist I was still depressed she raised my antidepressant. I was put on a dose that was higher than recommended and the consequences were drastic.

After a month on Paxil I become hypomanic. The hypomania and mixed state lead me to attempt suicide again. This time I picked up a gun and tried to shoot myself, but the gun jammed and I was once again found by my husband who broke down our front door to get to me. And then I became manic. And next came 8 full days of no sleep. Severe sleep deprivation lead to psychosis. I was lost. I was lost in my own world. I experienced hallucinations and grandiose thoughts. I can't begin to explain what it is like to lose touch with reality. After about 5 days I had a moment of clarity and realized I could not go on like this and something was very wrong. So I checked into a psych hospital. Well, I tried to check in and then I was involuntarily placed in the hospital on the Baker Act. What I discovered was the mental health community is not really nice to people who have been put in the hospital by a doctor. In fact, some were abusive to those of us waiting for a court or doctor order for our release.

The hospital put me on so many drugs to control the mania that I couldn't walk. And then some staff made fun of me. Next I had a seizure and then the staff told the ER that I was faking. I'm not sure what kind of health care professional would treat someone like that, but they did. My husband and therapist fought for 3 days to get me released.

My world was forever changed. I lost trust in almost everyone. I had a tremendous amount of despair, but the worst part was how I felt about myself and my place in the world. For years I had suicidal idealization. I thought about death every hour, but I lacked the follow through to try. After my stint in the hospital I thought about it more. I wanted to fall asleep and not wake up. I wanted to run away and never come back. I feared that life would never get better but most of all that my family and friends were better off without me. And that feeling has never truly left. I worry that my illnesses will have a terrible impact on my daughter. I worry that in 6 short years she might develop early onset bipolar disorder and I don't know how I would feel if she did.

There are both good and bad things about a life of struggle. The good is that the darkness gives a different perspective to life. And I value the experiences I have had both the good and bad. And the bad have been really, really bad. But most days the good outweighs the bad. Three years ago I was put on Topamax (also known as Dopamax). My time on that medicine wasn't easy. My amazing hyper-memory has been lost forever. It is much more ordinary. I did discover the benefit is that I finally let go of bad experiences. I stopped having nightly vivid dreams about the bad things. I stopped having flashbacks in the day. Now I very rarely relive the past. And I am grateful. But I think at times I have also lost some of the good memories. I finally realized I had to recreate those memories with my daughter. And I think it has worked. I have even regained my flashbacks about happy childhood events and the bad ones, they just disappeared.

So tonight I sit here and contemplate what could have been. Why was I unsuccessful at suicide. What was the impact on others from my previous actions and how do I use the experiences to make the future more positive. I don't have all the answers, but I do know that I wish that Bill Zeller would have talked to someone about his demons. I wish that I had known him. I wish we could have talked. I hope that his soul was at peace and he was reborn in the land of pure light. (This is a Buddhist reference).

I still struggle with the torments of the past and the demons they have left. But every day it gets better. And one day I hope that my story can help someone else. I know that others have similar issues and I hope that you have someone to talk with. And if you want a virtual friend, I can be reached at

I wish you all the best for 2014 and beyond.

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