Tag: suicidal ideation

Suicide Contagion

the furry hat

I haven’t been able to truly write in ages. I don’t even know how long it’s been at this point. I just started to write again before my brother died. I was starting to work on Suicide for Beginners and then I was thrown into such a terrible wave of my own shock, depression, and grief that I couldn’t wade through without getting lost. So I drifted further away from the page until it felt dangerous to try to access this project.

You can retreat from things that call to you for a while, maybe even for years, but eventually their noise gets to be so loud you can’t hear anything else above them. I don’t feel ready to write about suicide and all the people who opened up their veins to take my survey and yet I feel an incredible responsibility to my tribe to sit down here and find my way because it isn’t just my thoughts and experiences needing sharing, it’s so many other people’s voices and experiences that need to be held up to the light of love and empathy.

I just heard the expression “suicide contagion” for the first time and it makes me feel incredibly angry and protective of my tribe. This is the same ignorance that made people believe that listening to heavy metal could make you commit violent crimes. It implies that people are so suggestible that a song or a tale of suicide can inspire a person to do something completely out of character that they would never have done if it weren’t for someone setting the example for them first.

Let me tell you that no one, NO ONE, commits suicide to be cool or make a point or to cease to exist unless they already had the urge, the impulse, or lacked the self preservation of mentally healthy people. So check yourself and your fucking dreams of contagion to explain away your heartbreak at losing a loved one to suicide.

I don’t honestly know if finishing my project will make a difference but what I do know is that I can’t sit back and not fight for all of us who struggle with depression and anxiety. So many of us are more scar than flesh. So many of us are hanging onto thin threads for lifelines even though we have, collectively, such an incredible long list of people we’d give our whole selves to protect and love.

Not sure I’ve ever truly deeply loved a person who wasn’t mentally compromised to some degree and brilliantly lovely.

There are so many things to fight for. None of us can fight for everything every day. What an overwhelming burden it is to live in such a broken world. What an overwhelming thing it is to live at all. What a terrible burden it is to be born and have to carry this heavy mantle of imposed expectation to make of this abbreviated time on earth matter to other people.

Suicide isn’t contagious. Mental illness isn’t contagious. If someone you love seems to “suddenly” succumb to the influence of some depressed person or is inspired to kill themselves because someone they admired killed themselves – you need to get honest and understand that this person you love was already dreadfully conflicted and haunted.

“Contagion” is an ugly word. “Suicide contagion” is a hideous and ignorant expression.

I don’t know how to safely access enough of myself to work on Suicide for Beginners but it’s abundantly clear that the work needs doing.

Tonight I tried to open my Scrivener files for “Suicide for Beginners” and there was nothing. I have to start all over. Maybe this is for the best even though it makes me want to punch things.

Good night, tribe. I won’t abandon you. You’re always here in my heart. We meet in strange dream landscapes experienced sleeping and awake.


Tomorrow Isn’t Every Day

spring skeletons

I’m watching my alpine strawberry seed tray nervously every day, ogling the great nothing that’s happening in it, wondering what deity’s ass I’ve forsaken (all of them, no doubt) for my trays to exhibit such barrenness. I wish my own reproductive organs were this shut down by now, but the machinery keeps churning on with depressing regularity.

Thankfully a few of my zinnia and tomato seeds have sprouted, so all hope’s not lost.

Except that El Drumpf* is looking more and more like he’s going to win the primaries and I can’t fathom a world in which such a hideous post-script of the human species gets to make rules we all have to follow. Mostly I can’t abide the thought of having to listen to him and see him for the next 4 years. I thought I couldn’t be more ashamed of my country than when Bush was leading it, the fact that my country elected his father and then him for 8 long torturous bloody devastating years still stings.

So maybe all hope really IS lost.

It has rained triumphantly all weekend. The northern California reservoirs are all full! This is cause for joy, truly, in this drought-prone chunk of land. I have done nothing but watch garden shows on youtube all weekend. It’s a minor miracle every day that I get some dishes done and get dressed when I don’t technically have to, because my inertia continues to drag out into a thousand damp dark sunsets.

I watched SNL tonight and I’ve come away obsessed with the idea that Leslie Jones should have been cast as Maria in the Sound of Music skit because that would have been hilarious. I don’t think she was in any of the sketches tonight. I love her.

I’m feeling my kittenlessness this week.

When I woke up this morning the first words in my head were “Don’t be a scary Barry, be a harry cherry” and I thought “this is my brain without caffeine!” but then I remembered that my coffee has very little caffeine in it and this is just my brain pretty  much ALL THE FUCKING TIME. So, you know, business as usual.

Something I’ve been thinking about is the irony of writing a book all about depression but having to struggle hard against the inertia and exhaustion of my depression to get any work done on it. I’ve logged 542 people’s responses to the questions “What are the 5 most important things you do to manage your depression?” and “What are the 5 biggest pitfalls to managing your depression?”. I’ve got 42 more to go before I sort through at least 3 other very important sections of the survey before I really dive into the meat of the book. So sometimes I find myself wondering what the fuck I’m doing to myself trying to write this thing.

But every time I sit down to read the survey answers and catalog them I’m reminded to take my medication, to remember that depression is a lying son of a shit, and I’m with my tribe when reading the survey responses and I feel less alone and I remember that this is what I want to share with everyone else in my tribe. This connection, this sense of normalcy in an alien world, this sense of shared torture and the demand that the world listen to us, accept us, understand us, and help us when we need it.

So maybe it’s going to take me a long time to do this thing, or maybe the sudden bursts of energy will propel me farther and faster than I imagine possible, but I know that this is the thing that I most need to work on besides my own self care.

Sometimes I think if I had a perpetual soundtrack of Gregorian chants and pre-1900’s choral music in my head I’d always be okay, that the world would have a timeless context. A kind of serene meditative simultaneously uplifting vocal expression that would over-ride all the hate in the world and fill it with meditation and love.

But the legacy of such music that I find so soul-soothing is actually founded on a religion responsible for so much violence and evil and – dammit – it’s this shit I want to keep my mind from pinning its wings to all the time. Nearly everything humans have done in the world is evil except for art, music, and storytelling. I  need to shout this until my lungs burn with the truth – that no matter what bloodshed humans across the planet get up to, (and they get up to a lot), the love expressed in music and art most often reflects our better wishes, our truths (both dark and light, but honest) and honesty is where enlightenment begins. Whether the inspiration is from Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, or from secular mediation – music and art is where we most often find true humanity.

When we were in Israel, the morning prayers of Islamic families were so hauntingly beautiful to me, I could see into the human heart through their worship. When I’ve listened to Christian choral music I have felt so full of light and peace I can see into the best instincts of humans. When I listen to gospel I hear such a mix of pain anchored in faith and hope I see straight into the human spirit.

On and on the world goes, whether or not I care to share the ride with it. Whether I live or die, it will all keep spinning. The evil will continue to jostle the good for space. Light will muscle through the dark and the dark will turn the lights off, over and over and over.

So what does any of it matter anyway?

I may be terrified for my country, feeling the stranglehold of bigotry continue to consume it, and I may despair for humankind – all these terrible things. Yes. All these terrible things. But I want to be here tomorrow to hear a little more music, to tell a little more story, to smell the sun evaporate the wet winter. I want to be here for that because even though I can’t illuminate all the darkness, or even a fraction of it, the inch I can light will help someone else see. I want to be a small torch in the darkness for others.

If you’ve never struggled with suicidal ideation or the obsessive thought that to not-Be would be infinitely better than Being, then you might not appreciate how important it is to be able to say, at any given time “I want to be here tomorrow”.

I don’t always want to be here tomorrow.

Often when I’m driving around town on my Vespa I consciously think “I don’t want to die today” and every single time I can honestly say that, it’s a gift. Every single time that thought comes into my head I remember the thousand times I didn’t really care if I died or not, which isn’t the same as wanting to be dead but is its insidious cousin. To care is worth celebration.

This isn’t something I generally express to anyone because this is scary to people not like me. The idea of being cavalier about whether one lives or dies is anathema to most humans.

I don’t wish that everyone on earth stay alive just for the banal sake of being alive. Life is cheap, ultimately. The universe doesn’t particularly depend on any single one of us to be alive to keep on keeping on. We’re all just tiny specs in the great earth eco-system.

What I wish for everyone is that as long as they’re alive they find light, however small, in their existence. That they feel loved, even for a while, to know that they’re lovable. That they experience the desire to wake up tomorrow morning, because it’s such a good feeling to go to sleep hoping that tomorrow will be worth getting up for.



*El Trump-O.

Menopause is Punk

the beautiful eggsWomen make eggs from puberty until middle age, like hens, except our expelled eggs don’t make for good eating.  For years we are in the human-production zone.  Sex has a biological purpose whether we let it express itself or not.

My human-production facilities are packing it in, a moment I have been waiting for for years and I want to CELEBRATE!

So the first thing I wanted to do was announce the news that I’m perimenopausal through the gramophone of social media so that everyone would know.  I’m not embarrassed to discuss life stages.  Why should I be?  People announce their pregnancies constantly expecting everyone to be EXCITED and JOYFUL and CONGRATULATORY because it’s such a great moment (if it’s a moment you actually want in your life.)  Everyone is so happy for you (unless they are crusty old baby-hating Angelinas*).  Everyone cuts ribbons and pastes puffy hearts to your name.  I can count the number of times I’ve heard people announce that they are beginning to go through menopause.

Big fat fucking ZERO times.

Why?  Are women embarrassed to tell others that their womb is shutting its doors to make room for other possibilities in their lives?  Do they think it’s too private an event?  As though announcing that you had sexual intercourse that resulted in the creation of a fetus in your womb isn’t super private?  I guess if you can’t hide your pregnant state you may as well announce it to everyone but since menopause doesn’t give itself away we should be silent when it comes?

A friend of mine pointed out that many women don’t make their menopausal state public because they’re up against agism when seeking employment.  She makes a good point that deserves validation.  I can respect a woman protecting her ovarian status if it might hurt her opportunities.  There are few enough of those for us as it is.

But I say that being at this stage of life makes us more valuable assets to practically everyone and to hide ourselves under a shimmering ambiguity of age is a crime.


Menopause is PUNK

I want to throw a menopause party.

I guess there is this idea that when a woman goes through menopause she loses an essential part of her womanly power – the power to make babies.  I find this perplexing.  My power isn’t really anchored in my ability to make babies.  I made one single baby and I’m happy that I did because I love him best of all people but he is not the thing that defines who I am.  He is an important part of my life but isn’t what makes me purposeful, full, or complete.

I make myself complete.  Period.

Period.  Haha!

I have resented and hated having periods since the very first one on my 14th birthday discovered by some girl in the Junior High locker room while I was changing into my gym clothes and later amplified by my parents who may as well have announced the arrival of my menses on the local Ashland radio station.

I have referred to my “MEN – STRU – A – TION” as being “on the rag” for as long as I can remember and someone was recently shocked when I used that expression.  What?

Oh.  I’m SORRY I don’t like leaking blood.  Rags is what women have used to soak up the flow for a couple thousand years until we got industrial.  Most mammals don’t drip blood during their reproductive cycles anyway.  How have humans not evolved to do this thing better?

I have been looking forward to the end of my cycles for exactly 29 years, 5 months, and 28 minutes.

Menopause is PUNK

I’m only at the very beginning of it all.  When I was 15 I planned to kill myself.  The thought of turning 30 seemed mystical and improbable because I mapped my death as carefully as a cartographer measures mountains and valleys.  I wasn’t even going to see the windy side of 20.  I think suicidal ideation can be a gift.  It teaches you things if you live through it.  If you live through it again and again.  It teaches you the impossible.  It teaches you the power of hanging on.  It teaches you detachment from outcome when the chips are melting into one heap of toxic plastic in the devil’s barbeque.  Every day you don’t kill yourself has the potential to be a blessing.

To have been a suicidal 15 year old and become a 43 year old peri-menopausal woman is something to celebrate.  To have experienced suicidal ideation at the age of 41 and 42 and once again manage to wait out the darkness long enough to still be alive is something to celebrate.  Having to grapple periodically with suicidal fixation gives me a detachment from living that is sometimes uncomfortable but has the side effect of giving me an appreciation for very small details.  I don’t live for large concepts, I live for the sound of mourning doves on warm mornings.

Once you’ve skirted suicide for several rounds it’s hard to believe menopause has real teeth.

I’m the one with the real teeth.

Young girls have nothing on me.

Menopause is PUNK!

*This Angelina loves babies as long as they aren’t hers and though she understands you continue to be excited every single time you give birth, she just can’t get worked up over any baby but your first because she is pretty  much PURE EVIL.