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13 September 2012

suicide

It's National Suicide Prevention Week.

Did you know that? I didn't, until today.
Somebody mentioned it in one of my psychology classes.

~

I fear suicide.

For me, it isn't something that's implausible, or something that 'only happens to other people,' and that makes it a very scary thing. I don't want to die. The thing about suicidal ideation that most people don't get, is that it doesn't necessarily go hand in hand with actually wanting to die. It can, I suppose, but it doesn't always. I know, because like I said, I don't want to die. But sometimes, the impulse is very, very strong.

As I experience it, suicidal ideation not a thought or a choice; it's not a willful desire for death. Instead, it's a primal urge or an impulse that must be controlled before it can be acted upon, all while I know that my control is imperfect, and I'm always afraid of losing the race.

I don't know how to make that make sense to anybody who hasn't experienced it.

Tonight I was looking at various online sources to get an idea of general pagan viewpoints on suicide. I was disappointed by what I found; but then, I usually am in topics that require sensitivity to handle appropriately. It seems pagans are human, after all.

I found what I often find in comments, editorials, and other opinion pieces: a lot of catch phrases, and not a lot of thought. Suicide is one of those topics we humans don't like to dwell on. So we don't give it much honest thought, even those of us who venture out to shape our own religions. Too frequently, judgement was being passed down on those who "choose suicide over coping with live's difficulties," (I am not going to link or credit that quote. Cope with it.) as though suicide were a choice, and not a symptom of a terminal illness.

Depression kills.

That should be a tag line, somewhere. Maybe then people would start realizing that mental illnesses (not just depression or other suicide-related illnesses) are in fact illnesses. Nobody chooses to be mentally ill.

I feel like this should be shared

I wonder if people would give suicide more thought, if they considered it part of an illness, rather than a choice. I wonder, if those people were pagans, what they would decide.

~


There have been four times in my life, that I can recall off the top of my head, during which the suicidal ideation was so strong that I felt the need to close myself away from anything dangerous; I didn't trust myself. There is nothing more frightening, than yourself.

There have been times between then and now, and between each of these events, during which the ideation was very strong, but these were the worst:

The first time, I was living with my step-mother. My father was there too, but he wasn't very involved. My step-mother was verbally abusive. I was a teenager, still unable to cope with the sexual abuse I had experienced as a child, and unable to cope with my step-mother. I spent those four years, particularly the last two, locked in my bedroom, to keep her out. During the worst of those times, I found ways to inflict pain on myself, and eased the ideations with that.

The second time, my child had been kidnapped by their paternal grandparents, and the police were unable to help. My divorce wasn't final, and the grandparents lied, saying that my child's father was living with them. Because my child was ostensibly in the care of the father, there was nothing technically illegal about it. Except, the father was living in a homeless shelter 75 miles away, when he had shelter at all. When the helplessness of the situation hit me, along with the realization that I had been betrayed by the grandparents (whom I had trusted, previously), I crumbled. I had nothing left. More than death, I wanted pain - physical pain to match the chaos in my head. I wanted the kind of pain that would end my life. The most lethal thing I had then was my truck. My truck, which wouldn't start. That truck saved my life. With the keys still in my hand, I began shaking with fear. I realized what I intended, and it scared the shit out of me. Ultimately, I didn't want to die. I stumbled back into my apartment, threw the keys behind the couch, and locked myself in my bedroom. Just like old times.
[I did, after a long court battle, get my child back.]

The third time was in the summer of last year. I had done something horrible; I had lied to Archer about another person I was dating. He was angry, and I didn't understand why I had done it. I was disgusted with myself, and he was furious, wounded, and vicious. Even then, in the early and tentative months of our relationship, I knew that losing my relationship with him would be the worst mistake of my life (and yes, I have made many, many mistakes). I was, perhaps, as low as I had been at that point in my life. It was worse, knowing that I was the cause of all our misery. I had recently been given a revolver (ironically - if this were literature - it was a gift from the person I had lied about, to Archer). I looked at that gun, laying there on my nightstand, and I began shaking from head to toe. My thoughts went into a chaotic tailspin; I was gibbering, internally. The urge to use that gun was almost overwhelming. I ran from it. I couldn't even pick it up to hide it from myself. I ran outside and sat huddled on my doorstep, Archer still yelling into the phone. Eventually, I went inside; eventually I hid the gun. And that day, Archer and I came to a somewhat better understanding of each other.

The fourth time was last Christmas. Specifically, the day after, when all the things I had held back from Archer came around to haunt me. That's putting it very mildly, but I don't know how to say it accurately because my memories shy away from the event. Essentially, Archer was, again, justifiably angry with me because I had never been completely forthright with him, and in the course of his attack, I was forced to realize how fucked up I was, really. That was the event that forced me to finally face the reality of the abuse I had experienced as a child, and all the implications of that abuse, all the effects it had on my life and my behavior. And in that moment, when I finally faced those things, I believed that my psychosis had caused me to sabotage the best chance I had ever been, or would ever be, given to experience a real relationship, with someone who actually loved me. The full force of those two aspects of my epiphany (if you will) shook me completely. I believed my relationship with Archer was over. Not only had I sabotaged it, but he was rightly going to end it. At the time, I thought that if he didn't, I would - because I could not face the possibility that I might hurt him again. That horrified me.

I was frightened, then, to tell Archer that I was afraid I would kill myself. I was afraid of how it would come across. He was already angry with me; surely saying I was suicidal would sound like an attention-seeking, or "poor me" technique - that was how my step-mother viewed my depression. But in that moment, I was more afraid of keeping information from him, any information. So I told him. At first he did get more angry, but then he stayed on the phone with me all night, just to make sure I was ok, and he kept track of my state until I could see a doctor.

I had mixed feelings about telling him, even after I did so. I was sure it would look bad, like I was trying to divert attention away from my wrong-doings. I was afraid it would look manipulative. It felt like a catch-22. It still does. Archer and I are still together, though, so perhaps that was one of some right decisions. Trust was hard to come by, for both of us, but we did find it, when we found our understanding of each other.

~

And I wish we lived in a time and place in which admitting to having suicidal ideations, for whatever reason, were not viewed as 'playing the victim,' attention-seeking, or manipulation of any sort.

~

I don't profess to know what if the souls whose bodies die from disease experience different afterlives than those whose bodies die from other causes. I doubt it, but I don't know. If anything, I think of those who have died of suicide as those who have lost the most critical race of this incarnation, and I empathize, knowing I could be one of them.

~

For more empirical information, check out this site: http://www.suicidology.org/web/guest/home

9 comments:

  1. I've been suicidal. It has taken me years to admit that out loud (or in type even) to anyone other than my husband. At the time, telling him was the worst pain I had ever endured. I felt like a failure in every which way I could fail. I know where you are coming from, because the stigma attached to it is so large that it will swallow you whole if you let it.

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    1. Thank you for sharing Kourtney. Has it gotten easier to say, for you? It has for me. This blog has been cathartic, in that way, which I think is a good thing.

      I do wish we - as a society - could get to a place where it mental illness wasn't stigmatized. It makes it so much more difficult for us to get the help we need.

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    2. It easier for me to say... though only to those who witnessed it. I don't tend to tell many outside my close circle unless it is relevant to the situation at hand. But that is largely because of the stigma... unfortunately it has always been this way, and I don't see it changing. Even with all the science and medicinal explanations... But that doesn't mean we should try...

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  2. Thank you for sharing this.

    I, too, have suicidal ideation. I, too, have no wish to die. It is a great comfort to me knowing there's someone else who gets that.

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  3. What a totally raw and honest post but I relate to it 100%. I've been suicidal more than once in my life, and you know what? Sometimes I yearn for death...to take me away from the physical plane...that causes me so much pain sometimes, so much misunderstanding. Of course I'm always told that suicide is 'wrong' for loads of reasons that I'm sure you know already. But at times I get resentful. I have, like you, tried to find a pagan viewpoint on it but alas nothing forthcoming. I so relate to what you've said here. But the Universe is a wonderful thing...just as I want to end it all at times, something comes along to reinforce my joy of living. May you be blessed!
    Deep~Glade

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  4. Anonymous10:38

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. I know exactly what you mean. I've had suicidal thoughts on and off for years. In fact since I was about 12 or 13. I've never been afraid of death, but the act of dieing has always scared the hell out of me. The stigma is hard to deal with. I've told a few people that I have a mental illness, but stopped because I hated how differently the people who have known me most of my life treated me when they knew. Many people I haven't told know that there is something different about me, but don't treat me any differently than they did before my "new oddness" started. That isn't right, but it is the way it is for now. I've learned to cope with my problems on my own so opening up, even online, is difficult for me. So I just want to say thank you, thank you, and thank you again for this post.

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  5. May I recommend Kate Bornstein's wonderful book "Hello, Cruel World. 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks, and Other Outlaws" to everyone (and I mean *everyone*, not just the people who seriously consider suicide)? I've never seen anyone approach the subject the way she does, and I believe it's close enough to a Pagan perspective to be useful to people with non-Abrahamic beliefs and practices.

    Other than that, thank you for speaking up about suicidal thoughts and mental illness - I'm learning a lot here.

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    1. Cat, thanks for the suggestion. I've read two of Kate Bornstein's books and loved them, but I hadn't heard of that one. I'll check it out. :)

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  6. Anonymous13:35

    I so appreciate this post!
    Your words are a very thoughtful and an accurate description as far as I've experienced the "pull" towards an end of me. I too do not "want to die", but nonetheless have been in that place where I had to be scared enough to not continue and shocked enough about the place I was at with it all.

    Thank you for sharing so honestly and pointedly.

    an acquaintance

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