Friday, September 12, 2008

On Suicide...

I have had suicidal thoughts through most of my life. I don't even know how the idea of suicide as an option first entered my consciousness. I recall watching my mother worry over my older brother's teenage depression, concerned that he would one day take his life. My experience with my first boyfriend, who I met when I was 14, plunged me very viscerally into the world of suicidal thoughts. I remember many late night phone calls. “I’m going to kill myself tonight,” I would hear coming through the receiver. I would spend the next four years with the worry and sense of responsibility I felt to keep him alive.

After that period of my life, suicide became kind of a default setting in my brain. It was always on the table as an option when the going got tough. Perhaps it goes back even further to hearing my mother utter these words almost daily, “I just can’t take anymore.” She always seemed to teeter just on the edge of this life, one foot in, one foot out.

At the age of 19, I got married. I recall doing the suicide dance with my husband on more than one occasion. I would lock myself in the bathroom with a bottle of pills threatening to overdose. Looking back, I didn’t want to die, I just didn’t know how to live. I didn’t have the skills to deal with the stress I was feeling, nor the words to ask for the help I really needed. These suicidal gestures were the actions of a five-year-old packing up all her belongings and stating to her parents that she’s leaving home. I was that child for a very long time.

Some time in the past couple of years the nature of the suicidal thoughts changed, as did the depression that precipitated them. Rather than being hooked into any one event, there was a malingering existential angst clouding my world vision, a desire for death coming from the deep question of life, “Who am I?” I would look around at the life I had once called mine and wondered “How the fuck did I get here?” And by extension, “How the hell did any of us get here?” I would flip on the news and sink into a core knowing that humanity was in deep trouble, that this world we’d created while basking in our own glory was sheer madness. I longed for death to escape from my part in the collective insanity. I would spend days in bed not wanting to contribute any further lunacy to the morass, attempting to sort out who this “I” was and how she could move about life in an authentic way.

These suicidal tendencies I encourage. These wonderings and musings I respect. Where I used to think, “Why are so many people suicidal?” now I say, “Why aren’t more people suicidal?” Why aren’t more people waking up to the illusion we’ve collectively rested our laurels on? Why aren’t more people questioning the status quo? Dammit, why aren’t more people wondering how to leave the Matrix?

Last summer, when I hit the darkest point of my young life, I thought about death daily. For the first time, it wasn’t about escape. It was about finding truth, finding something real within my soul that had become saturated by an illusory existence. Almost everything I had held up as “me” was gone. There was pain. There was suffering. The ache in my heart went on for miles. I could have forged a river around the planet with my tears. I holed up in my apartment and really felt what I’d been running from my whole life. Grief, disappointment, anger, rage, despair—suffering in spades. The details of the story became meaningless. It didn’t matter who did what, or to whom or when. It was just this intense, raw emotion rising its way up through the core. And it was real. Finally, something real.

Almost a year ago, I hit a turning point, a fork in the existential road, where I made a conscious choice to live, to choose life every day and do my best with it. Over the past year, I have sunk deeper and deeper into the knowing of this moment as the only moment there is. There has been an unfolding into who I really am, a still place that we all share. And it is enough. Finally, it is enough.

tall penguin

8 comments:

Umlud said...

I hate to ask it (not because of the subject matter of your post, but because I might well be building a reputation of citing popular culture through links to YouTube), but have you watched Trainspotting? I only ask because I think that film is a really powerful story about why you should choose life (regardless of what Renton says in the beginning of the film).

Umlud said...

I also think Trainspotting a fecking great film because its one of the few that I can watch actually knowing where some of the shots took place! (Obviously, then, I had to have lived in Scotland.)

On a more sober note, though, living in Scotland made me realize a level of popular depression that I had not "thentofore" seen. I found out later that because I had that social realization, the dialogue, storyline, cinematography, and characters mean something very different to me than my current colleagues in the US. What's more I can't really tell them what it's like, since words cannot capture it.

On a tangentially related note, I had chosen many times in my life that I would do X or not to Y, with those decisions embedding themselves immediately into my psyche. In those cases, I knew that - with ultimate finality - I would be doing what I chose to do. Yesterday, I wondered to myself whether my ability to do that would mean that I was more prone to fundamentally changing my mind (i.e., 'brainwashing') than others. I hope not...

tempest said...

"Looking back, I didn’t want to die, I just didn’t know how to live. I didn’t have the skills to deal with the stress I was feeling, nor the words to ask for the help I really needed. These suicidal gestures were the actions of a five-year-old packing up all her belongings and stating to her parents that she’s leaving home. I was that child for a very long time."

i just wanted to say this had a strong resonance with me. It isnt wanting to die - its not knowing how to go on.

tall penguin said...

Hey umlud, ya I've seen Trainspotting , although it was some years ago.

"I wondered to myself whether my ability to do that would mean that I was more prone to fundamentally changing my mind (i.e., 'brainwashing') than others."

I'm curious about this comment. Can you tell me more about this?

tall penguin said...

Welcome tempest, thank you for your comment.

Umlud said...

It was just a thought that skimmed through my mind. Something along the lines of, "If I can so fundamentally change what I think and feel (from X to X'), is it something that is only internal to myself or something that others can manipulate?

If the former, then no worries on my part, since it is only a conscious decision that would lead to a change. If the latter, then it is worrisome, since I would have to be vigilant against any possible external attempts (peer pressure, organized religion, cultural norms, etc.) to change me.

Perhaps I didn't state what I was thinking very well...

Umlud said...

(Oh, and that's a change from "X" to "X-prime"; or a modified X. In the "leave your comment" box, the prime shows up much clearer than in the final version.) :P

John Davies said...

I attempted suicide aged 11. I was isolated by the Jehovah's Witness cult and my mother was on the verge of divorcing my non-JW father. Reasoning my way out of faith was like finding my winning lottery ticket was really forged. The overdose was not a cry for help. I really wanted to not be alive, but then became fearful of the pain the pills may cause me. My stomach was pumped out and the few days in the general hospital ward felt like the most peaceful I had known. Why didn't I try again? Curiosity. I couldn't see any way out or reason to go on, but there just might be something round the next corner...