Suicide: The Great Equalizer

This post is my foray into National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo) and National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). For the uninitiated, I do believe the goal in NaBloPoMo is to post once a day for a month. The goal in NaNoWriMo is to write a 50,000 word novel by 11.30.13. I'm cheating a bit. I'm going to use this month of blog posts to try and get me toward my memoir and book about mental illness. We'll see how it goes, right?

Suicide. It's like alcoholism, only the fast way. It doesn't discriminate as to race or creed or wealth. It matters not if you have a lovely wife and children. It cares not if you have access to every possible luxury. It disregards if you were kind and generous or terrible and cruel. If you are mentally ill and stuck inside the maelstrom of the disease, suicide can seem like a viable option. And at some point, a singularity that I have not yet been acquainted with, ending it all seems like the only option.

I cannot say I have never contemplated suicide. I do know that I have never considered it a real, practical possibility. When writing this post, I wanted to know what the word contemplate *precisely* meant; if recovery has taught me some very basic, humbling things, it taught me the simple act looking up words in the dictionary like I did when I was a child. Contemplate comes up like this:

Merriam says: 1. to view or consider with continued attention : meditate on. 2. : to view as contingent or probable or as an end or intention.

Free Online Dictionary adds: 1. To look at attentively and thoughtfully. 2. To consider carefully and at length; meditate on or ponder. 3. To have in mind as an intention or possibility. rounds things out: 1. to look at or view with continued attention; observe or study thoughtfully. 2. to consider thoroughly; think fully or deeply about. 3. to have as a purpose; intend. 4. to have in view as a future event. 5. to think studiously; meditate; consider deliberately.

And that seems fair. I've contemplated. I've come to places where I just don't want to BE HERE ANYMORE. Where I just AM TIRED and think the idea of NOT EXISTING would be JUST FUCKING GREAT. But it's just cloudy, hazy, vague. It's not completely real in any way. I just wish I could put my life on pause and take a life break. Where the things (how will I pay my rent? why am I so old and so alone? why I am I so old and so broke? why am I so unable to change?) that get stuck on repeat (why won't anyone help me with my health stuff? why am I in such physical pain? why am I so fucking fat? my parents must be so fucking disappointed, right?) won't fucking quit (how am I going to ever pay off my debts? god knows I never meant for it to be like this, right? how did this fucking happen? why can't I ever fucking finish anything?) and I just want to sleep for a long, long time.

There are times when I go a little further with the "ideation," as the docs like to call it, and I think ... if I were to actually go for it, what would I do? In suicide terms, I'm such a loser. I was never a cutter -- I couldn't put knife to skin. I'm weak. I don't believe in guns, much less know how to obtain one and then put it to my head. I couldn't have something like that in the house. Hanging ... no. I don't know how to tie a noose like that, plus there seems like there could be so much that could go wrong. No. No.

Eventually, it seems like the only options that have ever seemed remotely palatable were pills (I'm sober, never seems like I would have those lying around or would know how to get them -- do people do long-term suicide plans?),  some sort of dramatic 18th century slo-mo drowning (walking out in full clothes until I succumb to hypothermia and the enormity of Lake Michigan -- however, I used to be a pretty good swimmer, and I'd like to think some sort of instinct would kick in and I'd fight that one), or head in the gas oven (it took years to dawn on me that you killed yourself car in the garage-style with the oven; I never could figure out how people could manage putting their heads in blazing hot ovens, how badly they must have wanted to die -- but again, it seems like you might get sick before you'd die, and what if ...).

Upon coming back to edit, I realize I've forgotten the transportation options -- the jumping in front of a train (oh, you definitely get labeled "selfish" for that one, mucking up everything for hours, not to mention no one ever thinks of the poor conductors), ramming a car into a tree or off an embankment (would I really ruin my spotless driving reputation for this?), or swan diving off something high (there is always that chance for living in a shell of a body, taking up precious resources and becoming a burden to everyone).

I say all of that not to make fun of anyone who has died in those ways. I tell you exactly how my brain goes through the machinations; mining the procedures for faults and ways that they would trip up and fail. It is the curse of the Pisces, I tell you. Why I sit in front of a cereal aisle for minutes or between two options, desperately trying to decide what will be the better -- what if this? What if that? But then what if that makes that happen and that? And then what if I forgot to calculate this? But what if that and then this and then that and then this? I don't know if that's OCD or what it is, but it's paralyzing, and maybe good for one who has minor daydreams of ceasing to exist sometimes. Because I wouldn't want to miscalculate and still be here, more miserable than ever, trapped in my body or deprived of my brain, dependent on others for my existence.

It just becomes a twisted fantasy sometimes -- a way to think of how I might just take a permanent-semi-permanent vacation. To put my soul on pause. To just leave my body for awhile, with all its twisted thinking and depressive grief. But even as I write about it, I want to shout to you -- IT'S NOT SERIOUS! I DON'T MEAN ANYTHING BY IT. I STILL CAN'T UNDERSTAND THE LEVEL YOU HAVE TO GET TO TO ACTUALLY CONSUMMATE THIS REALITY. Because I don't. I really don't.

When doctors ask me if I have suicidal thoughts, I almost always answer, "No." Because I don't want to give them the wrong idea. And I definitely don't want to end up back in the psych ward ever again. And honestly, these sorts of mind games can be terribly lonely, because the few times I've let on to "normal" friends, they get freaked the fuck out. They suggest I call a hotline. Or someone that isn't them. They don't understand. It's not like that. And I get it. If I were in their shoes, *when* I've been in their shoes, I've done the same.

Let me be clear: Any time someone is talking about suicide or killing themselves, it's nothing to play with. But sometimes, it would be nice to talk about this stuff with someone who "gets it" but who doesn't think I'm really ready to go do anything. I mean, again, I get it. How do you really ascertain these things, if you've never really been in this weird world of pain mixed with apathy? How is one supposed to tell the true from the false?

The day I checked myself into the psych ward in May of 2001, I was on the phone with my outpatient counselor/leader dude. I think his name might have been Jonathan. I'm not positive, truth be told. But I remember toward the end of the conversation, he asked me if I were "safe." It was at that point that I remember thinking about the bottle of Klonopin that I had been prescribed for sleep and how great it would be to take them all and go to sleep for a VERY LONG TIME. But again, I was in the livingroom on the phone, and the bottle was in the bathroom, and the space between the couch and the hall to the bathroom seemed like it might as well be a mile long. And I wasn't even sure I had enough energy to get up off the couch and then it seemed as if I'd have to crawl that mile, fighting through a thick cloud of haze the whole way. I knew that I wasn't even close to doing anything with those pills. So, I said, "I don't know." I just knew I needed some help, and if the idea that I had an idea somewhere, somehow in the back of my brain was going to get me that help, I thought I might as well go with it.

Somehow, through some sheer force of will -- and probably the grace of God -- I managed to get up and walk (? I don't think I had any money left on an el card? The things we do in moments of desperation are quite amazing, when I won't even walk down the street to pick up something from the grocery store on a good day today) from Balmoral and Sheridan to Gunnison and Sheridan to the hospital where I sat down with an intake worker and things seemed to proceed (unravel?) from there. Questions asked, papers signed (the only time I could find room to smile was when they told me I was giving up rights to a gun for five years -- okay!), bracelets issued, pictures taken, things forfeited.

It was then that I started to realize the gravity of what I had done and what I was admitting to. I was already caught between extreme depression and extreme irritation/mania, but realizing that I had to give up belts and shoelaces and other things because they might end up to be weapons against others or things used to harm myself -- hmm. Maybe I had gotten myself in a little deeper than I thought. And to start, I ended up on Lakeshore Hospital's *third* floor. Lockdown. Checks on you every 15 minutes. The people most likely to.

But even when you graduate to the 2nd floor, where you have more agency and there's more freedom and less hawking, you still have to ask for a disposable razor to use in the shower, which must be promptly returned. You know. Cause ... it's a razor, and you might ... I kind of remember thinking, "Shit. I never meant anything serious. Clearly I don't belong here. I never even tried to kill myself, much less even remotely succeeded at anything. This isn't where I need to be. I fucked up good."

Because I knew that I didn't mean it. I knew that I didn't really want in that club. I knew that I was lost in that neighborhood, but I never meant to end up in that building.

Here's my best analogy for how people end up killing themselves. It's way too simple, but sometimes I think we have to go simple with things that are unknowable and untouchable. The things which we really don't and can't ever understand. Why someone ends up taking their own life, for instance. Why they go against the prime directive and end it all. So, I'll explain it the best I can, which is terribly.

Mental illness is a state of mind -- so let's just extrapolate it. It's a state, like Illinois or more than likely, Florida. And everyone who has one lives there. And people sometimes move there and leave. And sometimes people move there and never leave.

To avoid this getting really messy, I'm going to skip trying to make sense of correlating mental illnesses to cities or counties or what-have-you. Cause you can have more than one, and I'm just not willing to work that out right now. I'm talking about the suicide analogy.

I think that actually killing yourself resides in one building in a really shitty neighborhood in a really rundown part of town. Maybe different cities (okay, I guess I have to go there) have these buildings -- manic-depression, schizophrenia, alcoholism, etc.

The way it works is this: when I've considered the idea of suicide before -- I've just been in the county or the city where the building is. I know that it exists, but I don't really know how to get there. I don't have directions to the building and I'm not really asking anyone how to get there. I don't have plans to get in the car and search it out, and even though I might think about the best routes to take me there, I don't really have the faintest clue about how to get to the building, much less IN the building.

I think other people get to the neighborhood. They see the building. They know where it is and live closer to it, every day. They walk past it, they case the joint. They do recon and think about what it would be like to live in there. They have a much clearer, concrete sense of the building and its relation to the town. They might even decide to move in to the neighborhood so they can be closer to it. But there are people who go there, talk about what a shitty neighborhood they live in and people help them get the fuck out of there before anything bad happens.

And then, I think there are people who get into the building -- some of them manage to get out after they get in -- they're rescued or they call for help or some other act of providence occurs and they don't stay in the building long enough for it to consume them. But they get close. The building is filled with death. And if you stay there long enough, you die.

Lastly, there are people who make it in and cannot find their way out. They get lost in the halls. They cannot see any way out -- no doors, no windows, no exits. They cannot seem to figure out how to make anything work once they get in there. And worst of all, they can't seem to remember how to call out. Sometimes drugs and alcohol are involved, and complicate matters. Sometimes, people have hallucinations and they are so real they believe them. And sometimes, grief and depression and mental illness are so strong they overcome all other senses of reality so that what might seem like an easy task for some -- walking out of a building -- becomes virtually impossible for someone else.

It's a stupid, simplistic analogy. But it's one of the little ways my mind makes sense of it. It's also one of the ways that helps me make sense for the people left behind when they wonder why they couldn't do more or couldn't help or couldn't figure it out in time. No matter how much pain someone is in, sometimes it just looks like someone in a building in a neighborhood. You can't always tell what goes on inside when you're just walking by, you know?

Suicide. It's a tetchy subject. I have more friends that I'd like to count that have relatives who have killed themselves. I have more acquaintances than I'd like to count who have killed themselves. I just want to talk about it because I think no one does. It's just not okay to talk about. It's truly one of the last taboos.

I've also struggled with this post, because it's hard to talk about in a knowing way without people worrying. I have no intention of killing myself, and have not been thinking about killing myself. But I guess I just understand people from that neighborhood. I get the general attitude. I get those people more than I don't, and I don't understand people who completely have NEVER, ever driven down the road for even a little bit.

Of course if you ARE thinking about hurting yourself, the
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255. Be well.

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