Suicide

There have been a couple of times in my life where I have felt suicidal and though I’ve briefly mentioned it before, I don’t want to talk about it in detail so I am going to. When I was a teenager, I observed that my favourite artists were so often brutal, awkward and unattractive in their honesty which had the effect of making me feel more comfortable in my own skin and less alone, so I challenged myself to be the same. I still try to. Enough stalling, here goes.

I don’t know what it takes to be part of the Totes Legit Suicidal Club because I never swallowed any pills or jumped off any bridges. Though, at about the age of 12, I became very fascinated by the warning message on my aerosol deodorants “Intentional misuse by deliberate concentration and inhalation can be harmful or fatal.” I only tried to misuse my Vanilla Kisses body spray a handful of times and don’t remember much more than dizziness and once, a slightly uncomfortable headache. I remember the emotions though, I remember the shame.

The shame wasn’t about my flirtation with mortality, the shame was about my inability to commit to my demise. At that point, I had been chronically ill for some time and felt myself to be a burden on my family and to have no purpose or future. I felt that I was nothing but a shadow of a person, heavy and stagnant and the gesture of self-destruction felt like it would at least be… something.

And of course it would be an escape. Perhaps the worst thing about chronic illness, worse than the humiliation, the pain, the isolation… the worst thing I remember is the boredom. The days that melted into each other, stretching endless and tedious behind and in front. Sometimes I fish about in my head for memories of those years and only get feelings that make me uncomfortable and vague memories of bedsheets and shitty TV shows. I know that this wasn’t the entire truth of those times because as an adult, I see the privileges from my childhood but I believe that being ill for so long made me perceive everything through a very deep depression.

Bored and caged animals will pluck their feathers out or chew at their flesh. I have an intimate familiarity with that impulse and for some years I was the cliché of teenage angst, late at night when the frustration, self-loathing or tedium became unbearable, I would take to my arms and legs with a kitchen knife, slowly slicing shallow red lines into my flesh. It is not in accord with popular opinion for me to say this, but it truly felt as if that behaviour curbed my violent impulses and I recall the ringing in my ears and the nauseous calm I felt as I watched bloody lines appear. It was like white noise, it blocked things out and focused my attention. Cutting is seen as an unhealthy behaviour and certainly mine was a symptom of a great unhappiness, however I think that channelling the violent emotions I was feeling into something that had no long term negative effects on my physicality was actually… helpful. I am not necessarily defending the behaviour, though I do believe it kept me from something more drastic.

I haven’t cut myself in years, having learnt more “constructive” and “adult” ways of dealing with my emotions. However, in 2014, when I turned 30, I was thinking a lot about how I wanted to be dead. My (then undiagnosed) Thoracic Outlet Syndrome was at its worst, I was in constant pain, unable to sleep, dependent on my partner financially and unable to do any of the things that made me feel valuable, excited, alive. It had been over four years since I first had problems with my arms and it seemed to only be getting worse. My future and prospects felt bleak, once again I felt like a burden, once again I was the thing I had been working so hard not to be, once again I was nothing.

It felt like a Chinese finger trap, the harder I struggled, the tighter the grip it had around me. I was bored, frustrated and just so sick of trying. And now I had access to the Internet, I thought about how easy it might be to just research the most painless, simple methods of self-annihilation. I was an adult now, maybe this time I had the willpower to follow through and…

And I thought of Wes. And I knew how I might ruin his life if I did this. And so, though it was incredibly hard to do so, I told him how I was feeling and he implored me to keep trying, he promised he would help. In honesty, I half hated him for it at the time, half hated him for the way his love meant I had to keep trying when it felt so hard and I was so tired. So completely spent.

But I kept trying. In honesty it was for Wes at first and not for me, but slowly things started to improve during 2015. I found mindfulness meditation which has helped me be gentler with myself and better tolerate the things I hadn’t control over, I found my cat, I did some volunteer work, I started working on a web series, I started learning to sing. I got a diagnosis. I fell even more deeply in love with Wes and back in love with someone else who I never thought I’d see again.

So this year, 2016, has been kind of incredible so far. The diagnosis of TOS has transformed my self-perceptions and given me a sense that my future is no longer hopeless. I have an abundance of love. And for the first two weeks of this month, we were filming the web series that I first conceived of in 2014 when I was thinking about how I would like to be dead. Filming was the most scary, exhausting, stressful thing I have possibly ever done and I was so ecstatically happy. I rediscovered a self that in 2014, I thought I had permanently lost and I felt like the poster child for an “It Gets Better” type project. I am struggling to express what those two weeks meant to me but there were so many times when I was thinking to myself “Remember this. Remember that if you had given up, you would not have gotten to do this.” While feeling, truly feeling, that it was all going to be better from here.

Two days after we finished filming, my body seized up with pain from computer work and I was blindsided by the sudden onset of old, morbid thoughts. I was devastated, my body felt like a trap again and the joy I’d been feeling felt like a sick lie. For just a little while, I resented how amazing I had been feeling for how hard I was now crashing. But the people I love helped pull my head out of that ugly place and though I am now feeling a little shook up, vulnerable and prone to moments of sorrow, I do believe things are improving.

It’s just… it’s not a straight line pointing upwards for the rest of my life. My body will always cause issues, horrible things will inevitably happen and there will probably always be many things I am unable to do. I may always be taunted, in my vulnerable moments, by the self I could have been if only my body hasn’t failed me so many times and I’ve now had to face the unpleasant reality that suicidal thoughts may not be something a person can permanently escape. This might be something I have to battle again because that is what life has to do, life has to fight.

But if/when these morbid thoughts reawaken in my head, here is what I will tell myself: Despite how seductive it can be, suicide is not the opposite of stagnation. Fight and be proud of yourself for doing so because life fights. And remember, when you wanted to die, you could never have known how amazing you’d feel when you moved to Melbourne, produced and starred in a stupid musical theatre comedy that would receive rave reviews, married your best friend in a pantomime unicorn outfit, roamed the streets of Berlin with a wonderful lover, lay on the side of the planet and stared into the stars with a man who makes you feel alive, spent two weeks in a studio filming the most ambitious project you’ve worked on up to this point, danced all night, played with your cat, painted for an hour without pain, baked a cake, learned to rap, laughed with your idiot friends… the list of good things far outweighs the negative. These things, these moments of joy and triumph are always worth it.

Always.

On an almost daily basis, I struggle with the feeling that I am nothing and it’s true. I am. We all are. Ultimately, we will all be helpless in the face of our own mortality, it’s just that people who have their body fail when they are young have to face that reality earlier than some. In the smallest fraction of time, everything we know will cease to exist. In the interim, I am taking the resources I have and making some fucking spectacular moments with them, like fireworks exploding in the cold and dark night sky.

9 thoughts on “Suicide

  1. Interesting reading . I indeed felt a self loathing for many years and flippantly risked my life many times when I was young. One time the choice was not mine and life was almost taken from me on the mighty Motu river. I fought for my life and was wanting to live. However it all came back. Those self loathing thoughts. As I have more purpose for life and living those opportunities don’t present themselves as often. Occasionally self loathing is merely self doubt and is not as dark or deep in feeling. So to keep it more at bay shall I say, I keep reminding myself and look at my purpose.

    There is always choice.

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  2. Uncle Paul … the reading was good for me, thank you the mindfulness meditation reminded me of the theravada buddhist training I received in 84 & 85 and when I heard of your conception and the joy I saw it gave your parents, grandad eddie, … indeed me [it brought me back from one side of planet to Te Ngae road Xmas 85…. to know that the female line of my mum, her daughter and then you ie that continuum continues …. suicide a choice, if it is a “choice” leaves behind so much devastation… your words reveal for me a soul full of love and compassion for the human situation and I for one say the worlds needs more of that , and less of greed, hatred and delusion

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  3. Thanks for sharing my caring friend! I get you I get you I get you, and I admire your courage and commitment to be. There is so much silence around the feelings of hopelessness that lead to suicidal thoughts and behaviours and addressing the stigma around these is something I have recently become passionate about addressing through my research practice. It’s hard to write about our perceived weaknesses, but your bravery to do so helps others – and what is your art but healing balm :). Love you glitterbomb x

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  4. It’s interesting to read the suicidal perspective from the chronically ill.

    I got no physical problems, but the psychological situation is taking its toll. The feeling of being trapped, the lack of sex, knowing I pissed away a lot of my life is too much. I know people will be hurt, but I really don’t want to live.

    I’m happy for you that these little moments are worth it. To me, they just remind me of how much I lost.

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    • “To me, they just remind me of how much I lost.”

      Oh I can completely relate to that. For example, when I was feeling my worst in 2014, I wished I hadn’t had the years beforehand of working my arse off on my main passion, painting, because it now felt like I was left with the passion without the ability to pursue it and that was unbearable. I had a therapist at the time who told me I needed to let myself mourn what I had lost and that hit me hard because I realised it did feel like a great love of my life was dead and that was devastating. Being inspired no longer felt good, it just reminded me of how trapped I was and what I could no longer do. In fact, I do still struggle with those feelings but they have eased off as I am fortunate that my life situation has improved. It’s still hard as fuck but it is no longer the hell it was.

      I am truly sorry to hear that you are feeling that way, I checked out your blog and it looks like you’ve been in the headspace for a very long time and have given it a great deal of thought.

      I read your posts about the clichés of suicide and the right to suicide and it does align with some thoughts I have had myself. I do believe that for some people, life is just unfairly, unbearably hard and so I would never want to shame people for a decision they might need to make.

      That said, I do believe there are headspaces a person can be in, sometimes for a very long time, that are the opposite of rose tinted glasses. So even the good things only feel negative, or seem less substantial somehow, or just really fucking burn. I do believe that a person can be surprised by unexpected joy and that if perhaps a person can learn to ride the pain, the hurt, the horrors of life, they can become some of the most compassionate, creative, wise people we have. So my reason for wanting people who are suffering to try, if they possibly can, is a little bit selfish I suppose. It does feel like an immense and devastating tragedy to lose the people who intimately understand the darkest aspects of life because they can teach us so much.

      Perhaps I’m talking out my arse. These are definitely half-formed thoughts I’m having after reading your blog. I’ve not come across someone who thinks or writes about this topic with the same eloquence and thoughtfulness as you are and that gives me the feeling that you are a person that it would be a shame for the world to lose, like so many of the artists, writers and such who we lose too soon.

      But as you have said, people have the right to chose what they do with their body. And of course, life doesn’t always get better and often gets far worse. So I would never judge someone for a decision they ultimately had to make, only hope that in the amount of time they are able to hold on, something will happen to make it worthwhile to them to keep trying.

      Oh boy. What a mess of words, sorry. My thoughts are with you, internet stranger. Thank you for sharing your perspective.

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      • It’s a good comment and thanks for it.
        Sure, I can stick around and contribute to the world but where’s my piece of my pie? Where’s my return on the investment?

        I’m all for contributing and volunteering, by the way. I think it’s important and more people should do it. It helps us feel a part of something. But if all I do is help a few people but I don’t get nothing in return, what’s the point really?

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      • Hmmm… I think the point, for me, is a sense of being valuable to someone or something but what works for me obviously does not work for everyone.

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