I think the title of this post is a pathetic attempt at cracking a joke about a pretty intense situation. As unhealthy as avoidance may be, sometimes humor is the only thing that gets me through tough emotions. I double-dog pinky promise (?), I will take a break from the whole suicide issue after today. I’m not saying it won’t arise again, but I’ll certainly hold off. I really do not intend to overload or over-unload on the issue.
All that being said, though, I cannot deny that today is an important anniversary. I think it is so important to reflect on where I was 2 years ago today, and just as much so, to revel in how far I’ve come since. It has been a grueling, enlightening, and incredibly slow two years. At the same time, I can’t believe it has been that long. I almost feel as though my life has been a broken record this entire time, and is only now moving on to another track. Or maybe I’m just trashing the record and putting on another album. Or hell, maybe I’m throwing out the record player and upgrading to an iPod. (I’ll just skip the 8-track, audio cassette tape, compact disc, and briefly promising, mini disc!)
This isn’t an easy read, so I’ll go ahead and drop that warning now. But maybe it’ll give you some insight into me:
The day was a pretty normal one, as far as I remember it. School. Work. It was the usual routine. Then he called, toward the end of the day. I don’t remember him saying much besides “we need to talk.” I knew what that meant.
Let me build this up adequately. We had been dating for 2 and a half months, not long, I know, but in that time, we had made some serious plans. I had started searching out venues for our New Years, New Orleans wedding. We had our children’s names picked out. Aurora Scheherazade and Nalani Esperanza. It was perfect, because we were going to have daughters, feminists. And he, was going to change his last name to my name. He hated his last name because it reminded him of his child molesting, oppressive, abusive father, anyway.
He had hooked me on that story. He still suffered severe insomnia from the nights he had to stay up as a child to protect his sister from being molested by his father. He would stay up all night, and when his dad would head into her room, he would get up and start a fight with his dad to stop him. On the one night he thought it safe to sleep, his birthday, he lost track of time, and lost track of dad. When he woke up, his sister had been raped. He never forgave himself. It is a dramatic story. One I fell for hardcore. One I imagine he uses a lot, especially on women who he intuits as having a history of sexual abuse. I’m not saying it isn’t true, maybe it is. Who knows. I’m just saying, that I, as a survivor myself, with fuzzy memories of my own, have grown ridiculously tired of people using their histories of abuse as tools of manipulation against me. That’s all. Yes, its a fucked up situation, but no one need make it more so, by utilizing said fucked up situation for personal gain.
He had me good.
So, here he is, calling me at work to tell me we need to talk. It was ridiculous. We had the conversation not two weeks before about how cruel it was for people to say that to someone without explanation. How it leaves you hanging. I didn’t know whether it was a joke, or I should be seriously concerned. I had a feeling it was the latter.
I immediately called my friend when we hung up and told her I needed to meet up for drinks. So we did. Dinner, and drinks. I had bacon cheese fries and alcohol for the last time that night. GAG. I told her about the situation and as she reassured me that there was hope for our relationship, I assured her that it was over and I need to prepare myself. It was St. Patrick’s Day. Irish Car Bombs were $5.50. I had 4.
Then he called. I sat in the car. He told me he wanted to come visit next weekend, but he had a lot to think about. I told him that if he wanted to dump me, he should go ahead and get it over with. So he did. And in true dramatic fashion, he just said, “Bye.” He hadn’t even attempted to attach a “good” to it, probably because of the blatant contradiction within the combination. I talked him into promising he’d talk to me after this night, but we never spoke again. I started to cry, despite being pretty numb.
I went into the bar, had two more drinks, then left with my friend to go on the hunt to retrieve her boyfriend’s car from a tow lot. After we did that, she and her boyfriend’s sister decided to drop me back off at my car. I quietly obliged. I knew my plan.
I had consumed 6 Irish car bombs. I was pretty wasted, but I found a way home anyway. Once home, I walked the dog, got the vodka and orange juice out of the fridge and feverishly started rummaging the house for all the sleeping pills I could find. It makes me physically ill to think about, even today, as I look back. But I will march on.
I went upstairs, took 3 gulps of the pear vodka, and chased them with orange juice. I then began to pop the pills out of their wrappers, one-by-one. When I was done, I got on my computer. I messaged one of my old friends I used to work in a restaurant with to tell her what I was going to do. She was the only person online. She got pissed, because, as I had forgotten, her mom tried to kill herself once, and she was VERY sensitive about the issue. I was an asshole. That only made me more convinced. I tried to text and email messages of apology, mainly to my sister. She’s always been the person I’ve been most concerned about disappointing. I did not send these messages.
I went back to my bed, sat down, and counted the pills. 102. I took all 102 pills in 3 heaping handfuls. Just. Like. That. It breaks my heart to think about this moment. The moment after I swallowed them. I can feel the sobs coming up in me now, as though I just swallowed them, just now. My first instinct was not quite regret, but almost. I thought, “What have I done?” Then I thought about the fact that so many people say that people who commit suicide go to hell. I went to my bed. I knew it was going to be over soon. Crying, I sat there, and prepared to lie down and let go. I started praying. “Please God, don’t let me go to hell. I don’t want to go to hell.” Over and over again. Soon, I was out.
There’s not much to remember after that. The rest is hallucination. And vomiting. I just remember sitting up at one point and vomiting all over myself, although, I did not realize this is what it was. I hallucinated it to be slugs and maggots slithering down my body. Even when I got up, I was hallucinating that when I stepped in the vomit on the floor, I was stepping in puddles of maggots.
I don’t remember at what point this happened, but I saw my grandmother, who passed less than a year before walking out my front door, waving goodbye. I don’t know what that was about.
Around 8 am, I awoke, groggy and disoriented. I panicked. I was alive. I needed to be in class and at work. Soon. I could not drive, though. Unsure of what to do, I got onto my school email to see that a coworker who lived near me was online. I asked if she was going to work. She was. I asked if I could get a ride. She called, and as funny as it may sound, I was so disoriented, that when she asked for my address to get to my house, I started to give her my email address. I was having a hard time getting my head together, but I managed to get her there.
I walked my dog, changed out of my vomit-drenched clothes, and climbed in my coworker’s car. At this point, I was regaining my ability to walk. When I had first gotten up, my knees would cave at each step. Honestly, I must’ve reeked of vomit. All morning I was rubbing my fingers against my ears and chest and trying to figure out what the stuff coming off my skin was. It was dried puke. I looked, smelled, and acted very out of character. She was disturbed by my presentation. “Are you ok?” She asked. “What’s wrong?” I knew I had nothing to lose after the night I had been through, so I just let her have the truth. “I tried to kill myself last night.” My voice shook as I said it, trying not to laugh or cry. “Do we need to go somewhere?” She asked eagerly. “No.” I insisted. I demanded that we go to my class. I couldn’t miss it. I had missed the previous class. I couldn’t afford it.
When we got to campus, I knew my knees were too weak for her to drop me off on the sidewalk. I would surely face-plant. I gave her a dollar to park in the garage. When we parked I realized I couldn’t find my phone. I was out of it, and realized also, that I would be this way in class as well, which would look bad if called on. I looked at her and resigned myself to going to the counseling center. She walked me there.
I told the receptionist that I wanted to see counselor on call. When he came out, he called me by my first name 3 times, until the receptionist told me that he was calling for me, and I snapped back into the moment. I went in and relayed the story. He sent me to the hospital. I refused to go via ambulance, due to cost, so they sent me in the back of a police car.
I stayed in the ER for most of the day. I stayed in the psych ward for 3 days.
Needless to say, I traumatized my coworker. She went to work and school that day, shaken. Today, it is still awkward to interact with her. She saw me at a very vulnerable point in my life. It is almost as though she saw me naked, and we don’t know how to act about it now. I put her through a lot.
She isn’t the only person I put through the wringer. Two of my very close friends came by to get my things in order, once they found out. They took care of my dog, and upon seeing the state of my bedroom, they cleaned up after me. This, too, breaks my heart. I think it probably resembles what it must be like to find a friend who has killed themselves, to find a friend’s home in such a condition after they have tried. One of them said to me, “I couldn’t let you come home to that.”
The first who helped was the friend I had drinks with the night before. She was very angry with me at first. Especially when she came to visit me in the hospital and I spoke frankly about the situation. Over time, and through talking, we are working on healing.
The second, the one who “couldn’t let me come home to that,” is no longer friends with me, in large part due to this entire situation.
I learned a lot from that night. I learned a lot about how much people love me and the lengths they are willing to go to for me. I learned that I do not need to drink. I learned that I can live life without bacon cheese fries, something I honestly did not know before that night. I learned that your perspectives change a lot once you’ve swallowed the pills. I realized how scary that moment is, the moment after you do that action and truly believe you are going to die and this is it. I also realized that deciding to end it is as difficult as asking for help; but asking for help is less traumatic and usually ends better.
I wish I could say that I came out of the hospital and rejoiced in my survival. It didn’t exactly work out like that. Two years later, I’m still getting to that point, though with cautious optimism, I’ll say I’m closer than ever before.
I am infinitely more grateful for everything good in my life, and I try to make that as clear as possible, as often as possible. I don’t want anyone in my life to feel unappreciated. I want really badly to be a better friend, but I do realize that being good to others requires that you are better to yourself. I recognize I need to have a healthy balance of helping others and taking care of myself. I’ve lost a lot of friends through the past two years. Luckily, I’ve recently gained many new friends, who I’m fairly certain God has handpicked for me.
The darkness certainly creeps in, but I’m searching constantly for the light.
Overall, at this moment, I am filled with gratitude. So many important people have fought for me when they were exhausted, frustrated, and testing their own limits. I’m definitely better at asking for help, even though I still do it begrudgingly. Every little bit of joy in my life is crucial. I hold to it with a tight grip, because I know my life depends on not letting go.
I’m going to share 3 poems. The first is one I wrote right after my suicide attempt. The second is one I wrote one year later. The last is one I’ll write today. You might not get to see that one until tomorrow.
I have so much love to share, and while I’m always praying in the back of my mind for people who find themselves where I’ve been. Today, I say a *special* prayer for anyone who finds themselves in the free fall between the decision, the action, and the anxious anticipation of morning, or hell.
On Friday or Saturday, I shall return with an exciting account of my anniversary day rituals and celebrations of life. Until then, I send my love and bid adieu! ❤
Canyon Dance (March 2009)
There’s a powdery film that coats my car
in spiky yellow balls
(a spring snow of sorts),
and the only thing that could baptize it
are storm clouds.
At night I can see the
breaking in the distance
and I don’t know whether it is
There’s something so simple in “hello,”
and riddled with vacuity.
It is far more distant
far more settled in its self-loathing,
far more dissociated
This something holds me tightly
releasing me and
till only our
fingertips are touching;
swinging me in and
dipping me so low,
my hair is
reaching for the floor.
It dare not drop me.
I dare not weep,
the air so thick between us
that love could fit inside.
Absolute Bearing (March 2010)
I don’t know how to tell you, without telling you
I don’t know how to say
that at first I counted the days like thick blue waves
crashing in rhythm on the shore
that at first they slithered by, excruciatingly,
the skin of a moistened worm
tearing as it accordians across the pavement
after the first fresh spring rain
and the days since have melted me into waiting
have mourned me into loss
rebirthed me into being
and inspired me to write
at night i can feel the walls shaking,
as though they could simply explode,
exposing me to the night sky
to the crisp winter air
a winking moon
and shimmering stars
and In my shivering slumber
I will unceasingly resign myself to the knowledge
that i chose this revelation
and I will lie in waking
a steward of this ship
‘till the morning sun warms me
and I can finally rest
(To Be Announced- March 2011)
This is why they say “kill your t.v.”:
I did it. I know I shouldn’t do it, but I did it anyway.
The news. Ok, well, Inside Edition. But really, any form of news can transport me into a chaotic space.
Honestly, I was hoping for something other than constant coverage of the devastation in Japan. It is heartbreaking, and so WAY beyond my capacity for comprehension. Unfortunately, the little things that are happening all over the world are like aftershocks, or even, small shifts that lead to earthquakes like the ones we’ve recently witnessed. Earlier, while on the phone with a friend, I mentioned how I just yearn, so deeply, for people to come together before catastrophes occur. Is that too much too ask?
Well, that’s a loaded rhetorical question.
So, before I proceed with my personal contribution to an effort to spread positivity across the world, I want to say the following:
I have very strong convictions about very controversial issues. I consider myself a feminist, not because I’m “for” or “against” one side or another, but because I believe people, all differences aside, deserve equally dignified and respectful treatment in all areas of life. That includes access to health care, equal payment, equal opportunities, encouragement, and overall safety. For this reason, I support many feminist, anti-racist, and LGBTQ organizations. For similar reasons, I am pro-choice. I actually recently came across a self-proclaimed conservative who summed up my beliefs on this issue better than I ever could. She and I shared similar beliefs on the issue. But we’ll get back to that. I’m an avid advocate for survivors of sexual violence. I don’t know what else to say about this, except that it is probably the issue I’m most passionate about in my life. It is part of the incurable hope that has simultaneously driven me and stunted me. Often times, the epidemic of sexual violence is so overwhelming to me. Between the epic silence that has protected perpetrators and re-victimized survivors; the simple misogyny in our daily lives that perpetuates such violence; and the judicial/systematic/structural abuse of victims… the issue can easily ignite to an atomic level of exasperation within me. The discrimination of fat people irks me, royally. Mental illness and the stigma attached to it, are issues that require much open discussion and mind-blowing testimony. When a lot of people are scared to bring it up, I tend towards feeling the tug of necessity about proclaiming its role in my life. The same goes for suicide. For the most part, I encounter little opposition on the issues of anti-racism (probably because it has become so taboo to be racist, not because racism doesn’t exist), fighting sexual violence, and even mental illness (half because people don’t know how to respond when I bring it up, and half because everyone has some sort of experience with it). Mostly though, on the approach of queer issues, abortion, details of sexual violence, suicide, and especially feminism, all are met with trepidation. This anxiety occurs on both sides, because these are issues that people either don’t want to talk about, or that collide in passionate and sometimes violent opposition.
I also think it is important to notice that these issues intertwine in many, many ways.
“At the end of the game, the king and the pawn go back into the same box.”
On that note, though, I’m starting to realize that we all share far more common ground than we realize.
“It is not fair to ask of others what you are not willing to do yourself.”
When I started to accept that I need to listen as much as I expected to be listened to, my eyes began to open. As proud as I am to be passionately political and shamelessly liberal, I’ve started to meet people who fall somewhere on a spectrum, rather than being drastically positioned at one extreme or another. I recognize now, that you can call yourself whatever you want, but chances are your a healthy mix of a lot of things. I used to be terrified of that concept. It felt safe to intensely oppose one side or another, by labeling and placing everyone in one of two boxes.
The world is so freaking expansive, though, you can’t fit that many people into 2 boxes. It gets cramped. I’ve had to drop the whole “if you’re not with me, you’re against me” idea, and honor the fact that we can oppose AND agree on all sorts of things. As important as community is, our life experience is very individual to us.
I think that was probably more long-winded that I was intending.
I mentioned the movie “Crash” in my post yesterday. I think this movie sums up my point. Basically, there is a potential for good and bad within all of us, no one fits into a box, and when it comes down it it… we may be living extensively multifaceted lives, but we’re doing it on the same f*ing planet. If nothing else, can we start with that commonality?
I know… idealistic and sentimental.
Well, bugger off… a woman can dream, can’t she? 😀
So, in yesterday’s post, I believe that I, with good intentions, referred to everyone who has ever helped me, as a TOOL. As true as that may be (i kid)… I meant it lovingly. All of those things/people are basically my foundation, my safety net, my loves, my crisis coping skills, first-aid kits, and my lights.
I’ma take it down a notch today and share something little that brings on a glimmer, or gently fuels my fire on the daily. I might just start ending each post with something like this. 🙂
Time to get silly.
I got this one from a friend today:
“Laughter is the shock absorber that eases the blows of life.”
*sigh* … big day tomorrow
I have been getting responses from my previous post that are inspiring me to clarify something.
First, I want to say, please… if you have experience with suicide, share your story. No matter the perspective, sharing promotes healing and understanding. I’ve heard from people who lost loved ones to suicide and even those who were in my shoes, but found their way out. You have to know that offering these perspectives is crucial to igniting hope and inspiring change. Doing so can, not only save lives, but also lend itself to improving the quality of life for those who are just getting by.
“I believe that life is a prize, but to live doesn’t mean you’re alive.”
Second, I want to add, as I humbly climb down off my high horse, that listening is as important as sharing. I told my experience, because I wanted to contribute an often unheard perspective, but I want to make it clear that listening is just as, if not more, crucial. I’ve been so angry at people for not listening over the years, but lately I’ve started to realize that listening is like respect… if you want it from someone else, you have to give it to them. I want to hear your stories as much as I want you to listen to mine.
“A friend is someone who helps you up when you are down, and if they cannot, they lay down beside you and listen.”
I want to thank everyone who has shared, and supported me.
I also want to offer my tools, the things that get me through my darkest of hours.
Tools, like flashlights, that can get me through the darkness:
I am a writer, and more specifically a poet. As much as writing helps, hearing or reading poetry that expresses things that I cannot, is so inspirational, and constantly reminds me that I’m not alone. I have the beginning of two different poems by Edna St. Vincent Millay tattooed on my flesh. I recently discovered a performance/spoken word/slam poet who has touched me in ways that are beyond my capacity of expression. His name is Buddy Wakefield. Nothing I can say will convey his God-given power, so I’ll just share video of him performing one of his poems:
Music, to me, is like poetry that you can dance to. Genius! I have an ever-growing hope/faith/love/survival soundtrack. One day I’ll share the playlist so you know all the songs I’ve collected. For today, I’ll share the one that has helped me most recently. It is my current anthem. Nicki Minaj’s “Fly” featuring Rihanna:
I love my pops, and I’m so blessed to have a dad who is worth a shit, because I know so many people do not. He has been my rock. I did not realize how much he loved me until after my second suicide attempt. When I started to bottom out 6 months later, I had to make a decision that was just as terrifying as the decision to end it: I asked for help. He was the person I called. He dropped everything, and drove me 3 hours to a hospital that I preferred for several reasons, and put down $5,300 for me to be admitted without insurance.
I believe dogs are cute, furry, messengers of God. My dog conveys unconditional love in a way I have never experienced from any other living being I’ve encountered. My opinion is that my dog is a daily reminder, a glimpse at God’s enduring love. I owe my life to her. At my LOWEST, she was the one thing that made me reach out to someone else. I didn’t want her to be uncared for, or left behind after I was gone, uncertain of how long it’d be before someone found us. She dances at the sight of me, which makes me laugh. Sometimes she smiles. She likes to curl up on top of me when I’m on the sofa, and we nap together. She needs me as much as I need her.
My Siblings, and Especially, My Sister:
I have 3 half brothers and 1 sister. My brothers have helped keep me grounded, because they’ve been where I am with my parents. They have experience and advice; and they relate. Today, my brother and I talked about his summer wedding plans. I was actually really excited to venture to San Diego to see him get married. Unfortunately, his wedding is the same weekend as the overnight walk that the American Foundation for Suicide prevention is doing (www.theovernight.org). Because he understands my struggle, and how close this issue is to my heart, he gave me his blessing to miss the wedding in order to do the walk. Love!
My sister is a psychologist. I have no doubt that her family experience drove her to this profession. She has offered honest advice, and has asked for mine. Both are so important. Her perspectives help, but knowing she trusts my input fertilizes my self-worth. I would do ANYTHING for her. We didn’t always get along. As kids we fought… a lot. She is the core of my life. When I look back on the most important moments and relationships in my life, she is at the top of the list. No one has gotten as close to my heart as she has.
This is my sis:
Friends have come and gone. Even the ones who left for good have left their proverbial footprints. There have certainly been times when I had no friends, but I’ve spent just as much time with friends by my side. I wouldn’t be here without the humor, support, perspective of my closest friends.
Sometimes it is so important for me to make small steps for pushing myself into another day, despite my uncertainty that the sun will rise again. Manicures, movies, walks in the park, staying up to watch the sunrise, going for a drive with windows down and music blasting, getting a new hairdo, making a nice meal, pretty much anything can help.
Honestly, prayer has been a consistent, though underused tool in my life. I think I use it as a last resort too much. I believe deeply in the power of prayer, and yet I turn to it far too little. Whether you believe in God, or not prayer helps. It may be God answering those prayers, but I also believe that putting positivity out into the world and focusing on recovery is healing. A friend of mine posted this as her Facebook status recently: “Instead of asking God for something, how about giving Him something this week? A great place to start is your heart.” That helped me so much because I realized that I can’t expect good things to constantly roll in, and never express my gratitude.
I’ve heard it said that prayer is talking to God and meditation is listening to God’s response. Meditation is powerful like prayer. It is so powerful to stop in silence, and allow your mind to empty while your heart fills.
One of my favorite quotations about prayer-
“Everybody prays whether you think of it as praying or not. The odd silence you fall into when something very beautiful is happening or something very good or very bad. The ah-h-h-h! that sometimes floats up out of you as out of a Fourth of July crowd when the sky-rocket bursts over the water. The stammer of pain at somebody else’s pain. The stammer of joy at somebody else’s joy. Whatever words or sounds you use for sighing with over your own life. These are all prayers in their way. These are all spoken not just to yourself but to something even more familiar than yourself and even more strange than the world.”
The Shawshank Redemption, The Bridge, Amelie, Magnolia, What Dreams May Come, Crash, Amazing Grace… these films have inspired me. Though, some may find most of the movies I listed to be very dark. It is what I relate to, I can’t help it.
A week or two ago, after coming out of my darkness, I got some clippers and turquoise hair dye. I had not taken on such a task in quite some time, mainly because doctors had managed to convince me that such behavior was “manic.” I realize that may be true for some people, but for me, I sometimes need to express myself. Sometimes I want to do something that makes me feel special, and expresses my individuality. Making that effort is actually a good sign for me. I have gotten so depressed at times, that I didn’t want to do something so drastic, for fear of what I’d look like in my coffin. Expressing myself, through words, through art, through music, through hair or clothes… all of these things remind me of who I am and why it matters. My hair has since initiated a few dirty looks from old people, but has mostly started conversations with strangers. Turquoise hair is not something you see everyday. It throws people off. And whether they’re laughing at me, or inspired by my “gumption” (that’s how my neighbor described it), at least it stirs something within them all the same.
I seek out groups of people like me. AA is a good example. Having people you can relate to is very important, and as you can see on my “About the Author” page, I fit into a lot of labels, so there are plenty of groups getting together out there that I could easily fit into. I suggest meetup.com.
I can often have a very politically incorrect sense of humor. At the same time, I’m often extremely sensitive about social issues. I think it is possible to have a healthy balance of both.
I think Philip DeFranco conveys this best. Last Friday’s post was heartfelt, and yesterday’s was intense. Most of them are a good balance of sincerity and hilarity. Check him out.
This show cracks me up more than anything ever… EVER:
I’m not at the point where I feel qualified to shove my beliefs down the throats of others. That being said, whether you believe in God or not, there is consistent evidence that spirituality can be an intense support in difficult times. Prayer, meditation, and God, though often vague, fluid, or altogether undefined, have been consistent supports in my life. If you see representatives of spirituality in your life who drain you of your hope, you’re probably looking at the wrong representatives. A lot of people claim God, while simultaneously having no clue what “God” means. As much as I respect atheists and agnostics, I do not feel, at my core, that believing in nothing, or denying the proof of God (as it has manifested in my life) is helpful or hopeful, for me. I have seen how deep the darkness goes, so I have to believe that the light reaches just as far.
When I had no answers, When I suspected God had abandoned me, When my loved ones came up empty, When I couldn’t keep myself safe; there were still places for me to turn. I have worked with A LOT of counselors, doctors, and even some support groups. Some have helped, some have not, but all were willing to try to help me get through, even when I had nothing. I know these things are not available to everyone because of the pathetic state of health care in our country. For that, I’ll default back to prayer. There are a lot of resources out there for people in crisis, who lack the funding or the insurance to get help. That is when churches, friends, google, and community are so important. I’ve actually discovered many other resources from people at church or in AA.
Listening. Being there. Helping find resources. Volunteering. Fundraising. Sharing your story. These are just a few examples of the numerous ways that helping others has actually helped me. I definitely believe in karma, or what goes around comes around, or putting in what you want to get out. Lending a hand to someone builds confidence. It makes you feel worthy, and like you matter. I know there are so many people out there who are going through, have gone through, or will go through, the same things. I believe that we’re on this earth together for a reason, so that no one has to suffer alone. As hard as I know it is for most of us, let us not forget that none amongst us are immune to horrible things happening to us, or are completely incapable of doing horrible things ourselves. I think Gandhi said it best:
”All humanity is one undivided and indivisible family. I cannot detach myself from the wickedest soul.”
If nothing else, begin by offering your assistance to others, to reassure yourself that someone will do the same for you in hours of darkness. Eventually, you will forget that motivation and you will act, not in hopes reciprocation, but the expression of true empathy.
If I didn’t believe there was a purpose, I couldn’t go on another day:
“Out of suffering has emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.”
NOTE: Do NOT skip a single word of this post, or you may be susceptible to missing the point.
Ok, honest to God, I am going to try to get through this without sounding judgmental or bitter. I also want to say, before I start, that this isn’t a reaction to any one person, but a response to the collective reactions I’ve received in discussions about suicide. I would like to add that open (non-judgmental) discourse on the issue of suicide is SO important. Suicide is like any personal experience that deserves discussion to help healing and understanding. I’m going to let that be the extent of my disclaimer, but I want to leave you with this before reading: Just sit down for a moment and listen to a perspective that you might not have heard before, either because the people who have this perspective aren’t here anymore, or because they don’t have the ability to share. Thank you.
We’ll get to the details of my own experience later this week. I have an important anniversary approaching on Thursday that closely pertains to this subject. With that approaching date, I have tried to open myself up to an honest discussion on the subject, because even if it is painful for me, I think it could help so many people. People do not like to discuss it, for fear of drudging up hurt or of being judged. In this way, I think people pass judgment as a shield against blame for the loved ones they’ve lost to suicide.
Wow. I’m so overwhelmed that I don’t even know where to start, so I’ma just let it flow.
Over the years, I have yearned to share my experience with people who have no comprehension of how deep into darkness one can wander. Unfortunately, these are the people who, more often than not, are not willing to listen, because they simply cannot fathom understanding my perspective. Also, having this platform is terrifying, for fear that I may not do it justice.
I think you need to know a few things.
First of all, unless you have seriously planned and attempted suicide, I don’t think you can comprehend what it is like to be in that moment. (I’ll get back to that.)
Second, I think most people need to realize that judging someone will not talk them off the ledge. Ironically, it is often the most spiritual and the least spiritual among us who pass the worst judgment where this is concerned. Often the most spiritual are on a mission to scare us out of suicide through Jesus, hell, or other forms of salvation/punishment for our actions. This won’t work. No one who commits suicide is in a rational and healthy state of mind, thus rendering them incapable of making the right decision. Basically, what is killing them is an illness, not themselves. Actually, quite similarly, the least spiritual often try to approach the issue from a very practical standpoint, but also fail to see the point. When it comes down to it, not only is there an illness, there is also a battle between good and evil going on within those of us who struggle with the thought/action of suicide. If you deny that, then like I said, you are probably incapable of comprehending the intensity of being in such a state. I say this because, if you’ve been to that depth, you understand more than most how expansive our universe is, and thus that there is something so much bigger than ourselves. I’ve often felt like I’m in a spiritual tug-of-war when I find myself in this darkness.
At the same time, though, as much as you think religion could save me, being preached at by people who have no comprehension of the struggle, really doesn’t help.
And on that note, when I say “comprehension of the struggle,” I mean, been at a point where you wanted to die so badly, that you: 1. made plans, 2. harmed yourself with honest calculation and the belief that what you tried would work, 3. honestly felt that these actions would help your loved ones more than it would hurt, 4. resigned yourself to an eternity in hell in the moments just before (what you thought would be) your death, and 5. struggled with the disappointment that you failed.
Don’t get me wrong. I in NO WAY intend to downplay the agony experienced by those who are left behind after suicide. As someone who has not personally experienced it, even though I’m close to many who have, I cannot say what that feels like. I am not claiming it is any worse to be desperately suicidal, because I know that it must feel equally awful to experience such a loss, and fear for the rest of your life that you could’ve done something to prevent it. I cannot comprehend what that is like. It is for this reason that I stress, that, unless you’ve been where I’ve been, you can’t understand the act of committing suicide. Losing someone in this way, undoubtedly angers and embitters a person. But I have to say that it must surely bias them as well.
I’m not saying that suicide is purely medical or purely spiritual. In my experience, it is a combination of both. I have often heard clichés about the act like: a permanent solution to a temporary problem. As accurate as this may be, I think it is awfully insensitive as well. Initially, it is insensitive because someone doesn’t even look within themselves to offer support, but defaults to a detached cliché; but also because the temporariness of the situation isn’t always accurate. One of the only things that has been consistent throughout my life is my urge to end it. It makes me wonder why, if people truly believe that, loved ones have often been unavailable to stay by my side through the night, so that I may see another day. I’m not talking hospitals, police, ambulances, or doctors… I’m talking about friends who are willing to drop everything to hold your hand and walk you into morning. Sometimes they don’t even have to actually do it, but in the moment, if they say, “I’ll be there right now, if you need me to be,” just knowing that person exists, has the power to eliminate a loneliness capable of pushing someone over the edge and into action.
I’m not saying that it is over in 24 hours either, though. Often the next day should be like a telethon of phone tag with doctors, counselors, groups, and treatment centers, so when the feeling arises again (as it undoubtedly will), there is a support system in place to cope. And yet, with all of those professional supports, it is also crucial to have an army of love at your back. You know how they say “it takes a village to raise a child?” Well, it also takes such a village to save someone from suicide.
One of the worst things I’ve faced after people have promised to walk me into morning, are these same people being unavailable, after they offered to be on-call. Don’t tell someone you’ll be there no matter what, if you won’t.
I also realize that loved ones can only take, and are only equipped to do so much. Along with professional supports, there always needs to be several people available, in case one truly cannot be there, for whatever reason. I have lost plenty of friends to burn out from my mental/spiritual battle, because they were not capable of holding my hand. As it turned out, I think I might’ve begun to walk them into my darkness, instead of following them into the light. I have complete respect for someone who is honest with me in offering prayer or healing energy instead of hand-holding. I know that some people are closer to the darkness than they may realize, and my reliance on them can hurt them more than it helps me. In this way, all of the resources build a net. As resources fail, or disappear, the net’s holes grow and allow more room to fall through.
I’ll tell you my entire suicide story later, but I want to highlight the most important part, for me. This is the part I want to share with everyone who has been in my shoes, or knows someone who has. Coming to the point of suicide, is not a path I walked down willingly. I’ve been fighting to live my whole life.
Unfortunately, most people have no idea what is like to fight a fight like that, for that long. That makes the final decision very lonely, and after all the judgment you’ve encountered, quite frankly terrifying. I had always been told that suicide was selfish and I would go to hell if I did it. When I found myself on the “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” stage, face-to-face with Regis Philbin, being asked that fateful question (ok, it wasn’t that big of a production, but you get the analogy), although I had arrived there in a clouded state, the answer was very clear. I honestly, at the core of my being, believed that the darkness I carried was a burden on all of those who loved me. I knew for certain that their pain could end with my death. Sure, it would hurt for a little while, but that would dwindle and fade. They’d forget my voice, my laughter, my smile, they’d start to think of me less and less, and hurt from my decision less and less. I have since learned that I do have people in my life who would go to any length to help me, not only to survive, but to want to survive. Although I now know my suicidal beliefs were misconceptions, that doesn’t keep me from revisiting that place, not because I want to, but because something drags me there. In my mind, I was doing this for them as much as I was doing it for myself, as illogical as that may seem. Also, i have to point out that a survival instinct is the most powerful instinct we, as animals, have. If you can try to wrap your mind, for a moment, around the idea of being in so much pain, that such an powerful instinct dies. I’ve lived for a very long time in that state. After a while, that becomes your instinct, and you have to be retaught something that is supposed to come naturally. In the past, I have come to a point where life and death were so unbalanced, that one was undoubtedly a better decision, even if it lacked true logic or defied instinct.
I believe that there are few things more terrifying than lying in a silent darkness alone and waiting for demons to sweep you away to hell. When it comes down to it, I can’t believe that my actions were weak, or selfish, or evil. Sure, those were certainly perspectives on what I did, but being in this place was not my choice. No one would choose such a thing. My thoughts were clouded by darkness, by illness. I survived. I didn’t survive for lack of conviction or for lack of effort. I can only speculate as to why I survived. Perhaps to share my story with the countless people out there who could in some way benefit from it, even if only in the capacity of starting or continuing the discussion.
I think that is all I have to say about my perspective at this point.
This morning, while reflecting on the issue during this milestone anniversary week, I saw a post on Facebook. Apparently, on June 4th and 5th, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is sponsoring an 18 mile, overnight walk in NYC called “Out of the Darkness.” It starts as dark falls, and ends at sunrise. For more information about the walk, Click Here.
FOR: YOU (you know who you are)
You deserve this. You are worth it.
*** If you are in a suicidal crisis, call: 1.800.273.TALK ***
Help Is Available. You Are NOT Alone.
Do Not Hesitate. Do Not Wait.
*** If you are in a suicidal crisis, call: 1.800.273.TALK ***
Over the past week, I have realized that logic and faith are not mutually exclusive. Beyond this, though, I have started to recognize that like God and the devil, good and evil, yin and yang, male and female, high and low, hot and cold, dark and light, right and wrong, etc… etc… Logic and hope do not simply occur concurrently in our world. As different as they are, as much as they oppose one another, the truth is that one cannot survive without the other.
So much has led me to this conclusion. Perhaps this isn’t a conclusion at all. It seems that with this realization, a journey has commenced. It is not a different journey, like changing lanes or starting new chapters. This epiphany leads me to believe that, though I have been breathing for almost 28 years, my life is just beginning now. Some Christians may refer to this experience as a baptism or being “born-again.” Buddhists see such a phenomenon as a rebirth or reincarnation. For me, it resembles being born for the very first time, because up until this moment, despite each breath, I was dead.
I will refer to my life before this moment as my “pre-journey.” It started roughly nine months prior to October of 1983, on a day that, despite my existence, I would like to pretend didn’t happen, mainly because the very thought totally grosses me out. Maybe that’s my first mistake.
When my mother went into labor on the day of my birth, I held tight and refused to budge. Not much has changed. Unfortunately for myself, armed with a degree, a scalpel, nurses, and drugs, a doctor took the liberty of cutting my mother open and ripping me from the dark warmth of being cradled in the womb, into this cold and savage world.
With that being said, I’m hoping you can sense my dissatisfaction with that agonizing moment being the beginning of my story. This moment began a long-standing belief that being brought from the darkness into the light, was actually a violent, and unfathomably painful experience.
My theory is that I had experienced a glimpse of this world before, and knew I wanted no part. I’ll let you interpret that in your own way, or as they say in AA, “take what you like and leave the rest.”
Through all of this, only two consistent beliefs have survived. The first being that I have something to offer this world. The second is that I am supposed to write.
My week-old epiphany is summed up like this: without hope, proceeding with life would lack logic.
I see no hard, scientific, statistical proof of purpose; and yet, without that, there is no valid reason for living.
I’ve always appreciated that logic worked like an infallible equation. Enter the variables, and watch the answer manifest. This is fairly ironic, considering I’m an emotional feminist who values the qualitative over the quantitive. Personal experience has always trumped science. At the same time, however, I’ve evolved to use logic to defend the subjective. In other words, I’ve manipulated mathematical perspectives to validate my experience of life. It is similar to a woman who emulates men, or black people assimilating to white culture, for the sake of succeeding. It is sad, sometimes, that this must be our approach to survival and success, and yet it is often the most effective technique. Maybe this is because changing the system would require a collective revolution, like the one recently witnessed in Egypt; while climbing to the top on our own requires that we rely solely on ourselves.
A lot of people believe that you can only rely on yourself.
My persisting dilemma has been that I simultaneously believed that I could rely only on myself, and that achieving positive change in this world would require some level of consensus and cooperation amongst people. These convictions led me to gigantic brick wall of hopelessness that read like so: trust no one, rely on everyone. How can you place faith in people you cannot trust? This lacks logic.
But I digress.
My life has been a pattern of blaring contradictions, like feminism and pornography, or the Westboro Baptist Church and their association to Christianity or freedom of speech. I mean, though I can understand the argument I’m left asking if these things honestly support each other at their core.
I’ve dabbled in religion, but found that it seriously compromised my faith. I’ve always believed in a loving, beautiful, non-judgmental God who manifests in all of us and in all living things. And yet, I’ve spent most of my life in a one-sided argument with a God who forsakes me; all the time believing that this bipolar divinity is one force, despite being in complete opposition with itself. It wasn’t until recently that I started to see that I was projecting. I created God in my image, so to speak. And this dude was a moody, vengeful, cruel, bully who demanded my love and devotion despite the absence of reciprocation. So, you can imagine my disgust with this hypocritical higher power who got off on pushing me around.
As far as I saw it, “God” was only useful for feverishly praying any time I found myself in a car with a drunk driver behind the wheel.
Over the past few months, I started experimenting with AA, after a few pathetically failed attempts at SA and NA. I’d never considered myself an alcoholic, but I did know that I wanted to stop drinking (or continue not drinking), and alcohol did have a record of interfering with my life. Within those membership requirements, I accepted the support I received there, and have since been battling with how I will approach the acceptance of a higher power and the admission that I am powerless over alcohol (or anything at all, really).
Yes, I am a control freak with a complete lack of control.
Overall, my journey has been dark, excruciating, and seemingly endless. It has also been enlightening, humorous, and entertaining. That, I cannot deny.
Over the past few weeks I have discovered that there is a purpose. I did so by asking myself, “what is it that holds you back from ending it all?” The answer was… hope.
Ironically, this had also been a large part of why I did want to end it all. I felt like I saw so much potential in people and in the world, but realized I would never experience the collective cooperation needed to enter into truth and joy. Hope crippled me. I had hope, a hope that was suffocated by the volumes of people in the world living in situations that were as, if not more, hopeless than my own. As much as I was disappointed, my hope remained. When it came down to it, I could let my hope wilt for the sake of survival, ultimately eliminating any reason to survive; or I could find a way to help perpetuate this stubborn flame, with the intention of warming and enlightening a cold, dark world.
I have to believe that there is a purpose to living, without that, survival is meaningless.
This blog is intended to chronicle my journey.
I assure you it won’t all be this intense. My life has a tendency to be unyieldingly hilarious.
Sooooo… sign the liability waiver. Strap yourselves securely in. Keep hands and feet inside the vehicle until we come to a complete stop. Enjoy the ride!
(I hope you like roller coasters.)