Disclaimer: I almost didn’t post this, due to the subject—but the fact of the matter is that I find some sort of closure by hitting the ‘post’ button and just letting my thoughts hang out like dirty laundry. Therefore I will say, never fear my friends. I am not at risk. K? K!!
I had to answer that question again. You know the one, you get it every time you have to get a behavioral health referral from you insurance company, or when you’re being assessed for disability insurance, or going through intake with a new psych.
Do you have thoughts of suicide?
With all of the above, except the psych, I do something I almost never do. I lie. They have to ask the question, and they’re interested in determining if you need emergency support. They’re not interested in my own complicated existential relationship to the concept. And I’m not interested in sharing it with them.
That’s not the whole truth though. The whole truth is that every day I have at least one moment of cowardice, and these impersonal voices on the other end of the phone have not earned the right to be trusted with my shame. I don’t want them to know that I tremble in fear when alone with myself and have a fleeting thought of bowing out of the staring match. They know what they need to know, the answer to the real question that tact doesn’t allow them to ask: "Can I trust you to be alive tomorrow?"
For me, the answer will always be yes. They haven’t invented the delete button for humans yet, and therefore, suicide will always be an act of violence against those you love instead of yourself.
On really bad days, I resent that truth. Oh, how I resent it. Please stop caring about me so I can be free of this. But willing it to be different doesn’t change the reality that the act of killing yourself is a form of communication. I love my people too much to give them the eternal middle finger.
But there’s more truth down deep as well. The process of death doesn’t sound so appealing. I hate pain. I hate the pain of living, and I’m not so sure I’d enjoy the pain of dying either. And damnit, what if there is a soul? I’m not too sure that the hereafter is a place I can handle: the local coffee shop sometimes overwhelms me. And what if there’s nothing? Nighttime scares me with the way it writes my sins large. SAT pros know that nighttime is to nothing as a dime is to the national debt.
So the little-death of depression doesn’t sound so bad, in those terms.
It’s funny though, thinking about these things, what pops up. A therapist once asked me ‘how are you managing to do this?’ He went on to explain that I was beyond the point where he was accustomed to seeing patients either institutionalized, or delving into the reality of this blog’s subject. (Don’t get angry, it wasn’t as irresponsible as it sounds. He’d been working with me for a very long time, and knew I wasn’t going to take his words as permission to lose it.) I didn’t have an answer for him then, but the question has stuck with me for years. In reality, the question really is ‘what makes life worth living?’ Or, perhaps it’s just that both questions share much of the same answer set.
It took me an embarrassingly long time to find one of the pieces of the puzzle: there is someone in this world whose sanity is worth more to me than my own. My brother doesn’t know he fills this role, and I hope he never will. That’s too big a weight to carry, but just knowing he’s there makes me want to protect him. Thank the gods for love, when you’re not swearing at them.
But there’s little things too (he’s too big a guy to be one of the little things). I like swimming holes, and standing under a waterfall. Complex problems with simple solutions. Coffee. A clean set of sheets. A thank-you from my dog (dogs can TOO talk), or a sunrise observed from the kayak. Photosynthesizing like a plant in the full sun of summer. The noisy silence of the woods.
And now the silly joys of cyberspace: throwing three-dollar words at Baggs, getting Omega over a fence, and Gemma seeing right through my bullshit. People in colored fonts with storybook names, who give me room to rediscover play. And who are polite enough to let me just close the browser when I get fatigued. A true source of comfort that is simply not communicable to people outside this narrow world.
The little things are hard to remember, when the universe turns black. But they are, perhaps, the most powerful. Who can feel like ending it all after a great shower, an excellent cup of coffee, and good friends with silly monikers just a click away?