naamah_darling: The right-side canines of a wolf's skull; the upper canine is made of gold. (Default)
Yes, you may link to this entry. I'm fine with that.

A good while back, I did a couple of entries about suicide. They're right here:

My personal history. In that entry I establish that I have never attempted suicide, but that suicidal ideation is very familiar to me.

On suicide being a "selfish" act. In that entry I attempt to take down the idea that suicide is a selfish, cowardly act.

After I posted those, one commenter remarked: "But not everyone who commits suicide is mentally ill. And the ones who are could get medicine. Most don't bother to try."

I promised that person I would respond to their comment when I was through wishing I could bite them in the face. I hope they are reading, because this is that response. It's long, it's difficult, it's not pretty, but something another person of my acquaintance said today made me think it might be a good time to link to those old entries again and finish up that little bit of unfinished business by dragging out this entry, written a while ago, cleaning it up, and posting it.

Disclaimers:

I am screening comments for at least the first couple of days, here, because I'm stating the obvious and that always pisses people off. If you don't want your comment unscreened, say so, and I will not unscreen it. I don't plan on approving inflammatory remarks or responding to them, nor will I necessarily debate anything. If you're looking for that kind of attention or feedback, you can write about it in your own journal and probably get better results.

As I said in one of the other entries, my intent is to clear up some basic misunderstandings about depression and suicide, with the hope that if people have a greater understanding of this truth, they will be better able to offer support to people who need it, or maybe be willing to offer it, you know, at all.

If someone you love has committed suicide, you have my utmost sympathy. If that kind of thing didn't break my heart, I would not write entries like this. That said, I am centering the experiences of mentally ill people for this conversation, and unfortunately that means I cannot also center the experiences of those who have lost a loved one to suicide. This is not meant as an invalidation of others' feelings and experiences, but I personally cannot talk about the two together like that, and think it would be a bad idea for me to try. I have no desire to judge individual instances of suicide because I'm not qualified. If you are hurting a lot in that regard, it might be best if you skipped this entirely.

Moving on.

"But not everyone who commits suicide is mentally ill. And the ones who are could get medicine. Most don't bother to try."

That one utterance, that single comment, is a distillation of almost everything that is wrong with how people view mental illness and suicide.

So that everyone reading might be enlightened, and so that anyone inclined to do so might link to it, I would like to dismantle a few of those myths by dismantling that comment, point by painful point. It's a bit like taking a hammer after a fruit fly, but sometimes it needs to be done.

Why 'just getting help' is problematic. )

The whole statement stinks of someone trying to minimize the suffering of others because it is just too scary for them to contemplate the ugly idea that we live in a world where mentally ill people routinely seek help and either don't get it or get help and then commit suicide anyway because mental illness can be just that horrible, and some help is just that unhelpful.

It's more reassuring to believe in a just world, where everyone who kills themselves is someone who deserved it on some level, someone who had every chance and threw it away, someone who had access to exactly the right therapy at the right time and chose not to take advantage of it, someone selfish and thoughtless and stupid, someone we are better off without.

If you genuinely believe that shit, I wouldn't go pointing fingers at people without whom the world would be a better place. Pot. Kettle. Look into it.

So, in short:

"But not everyone who commits suicide is mentally ill. And the ones who are could get medicine. Most don't bother to try."

Bull. Fucking. Shit.

Thank you and good night.
naamah_darling: The right-side canines of a wolf's skull; the upper canine is made of gold. (Default)
Yes, you may link to this entry. I'm fine with that.

A good while back, I did a couple of entries about suicide. They're right here:

My personal history. In that entry I establish that I have never attempted suicide, but that suicidal ideation is very familiar to me.

On suicide being a "selfish" act. In that entry I attempt to take down the idea that suicide is a selfish, cowardly act.

After I posted those, one commenter remarked: "But not everyone who commits suicide is mentally ill. And the ones who are could get medicine. Most don't bother to try."

I promised that person I would respond to their comment when I was through wishing I could bite them in the face. I hope they are reading, because this is that response. It's long, it's difficult, it's not pretty, but something another person of my acquaintance said today made me think it might be a good time to link to those old entries again and finish up that little bit of unfinished business by dragging out this entry, written a while ago, cleaning it up, and posting it.

Disclaimers:

I am screening comments for at least the first couple of days, here, because I'm stating the obvious and that always pisses people off. If you don't want your comment unscreened, say so, and I will not unscreen it. I don't plan on approving inflammatory remarks or responding to them, nor will I necessarily debate anything. If you're looking for that kind of attention or feedback, you can write about it in your own journal and probably get better results.

As I said in one of the other entries, my intent is to clear up some basic misunderstandings about depression and suicide, with the hope that if people have a greater understanding of this truth, they will be better able to offer support to people who need it, or maybe be willing to offer it, you know, at all.

If someone you love has committed suicide, you have my utmost sympathy. If that kind of thing didn't break my heart, I would not write entries like this. That said, I am centering the experiences of mentally ill people for this conversation, and unfortunately that means I cannot also center the experiences of those who have lost a loved one to suicide. This is not meant as an invalidation of others' feelings and experiences, but I personally cannot talk about the two together like that, and think it would be a bad idea for me to try. I have no desire to judge individual instances of suicide because I'm not qualified. If you are hurting a lot in that regard, it might be best if you skipped this entirely.

Moving on.

"But not everyone who commits suicide is mentally ill. And the ones who are could get medicine. Most don't bother to try."

That one utterance, that single comment, is a distillation of almost everything that is wrong with how people view mental illness and suicide.

So that everyone reading might be enlightened, and so that anyone inclined to do so might link to it, I would like to dismantle a few of those myths by dismantling that comment, point by painful point. It's a bit like taking a hammer after a fruit fly, but sometimes it needs to be done.

Why 'just getting help' is problematic. )

The whole statement stinks of someone trying to minimize the suffering of others because it is just too scary for them to contemplate the ugly idea that we live in a world where mentally ill people routinely seek help and either don't get it or get help and then commit suicide anyway because mental illness can be just that horrible, and some help is just that unhelpful.

It's more reassuring to believe in a just world, where everyone who kills themselves is someone who deserved it on some level, someone who had every chance and threw it away, someone who had access to exactly the right therapy at the right time and chose not to take advantage of it, someone selfish and thoughtless and stupid, someone we are better off without.

If you genuinely believe that shit, I wouldn't go pointing fingers at people without whom the world would be a better place. Pot. Kettle. Look into it.

So, in short:

"But not everyone who commits suicide is mentally ill. And the ones who are could get medicine. Most don't bother to try."

Bull. Fucking. Shit.

Thank you and good night.
naamah_darling: The right-side canines of a wolf's skull; the upper canine is made of gold. (Helpless)
Part 1: Personal History

Today, part two on suicide. I've put it off for a long time because it's just tremendously difficult to talk about, and I still don't feel like I have my words right, and I still haven't responded to some of the best, most important comments on the last entry, but this needs to go up.

We're tackling selfishness in this one, but first, let me make a couple of disclaimers.

Firstly, I do not want anyone to take anything I say, ever, as a validation of their personal decision to commit suicide. The purpose of this is not to foster despair in the already depressed. I am not telling you to kill yourself. I would, in fact, quite prefer it if you didn't. Stay.

Second, I also don't want people to take any of these entries as an assertion that I believe suicide is inevitable for anyone, and that depression should therefore not be treated or fought, or that any depressed or suicidal person should ever be written off. I don't think suicide is an inevitability for anyone. I believe recovery is possible. Depression gets more difficult to treat if it is left to fester, but I always believe there is hope.

The purpose of this is to clear up some basic misunderstandings people have about depression, suicide, depressed folks, and suicidal folks – and thereby hopefully reduce some of the pressure that keeps people who are hurting from opening up.

It is tempting to withdraw sympathy from the suicidal, especially the less-than-virtuous. It's tempting to regard their suffering as a just punishment for their fast living, drug use, infidelity, etc. If we feel that they deserve it, that they brought it on themselves, then we can believe that it will never touch us or anyone we love.

It's easier to dismiss and blame people than it is to sympathise; easier to say that a thing is unfathomable and inexcusable than it is to admit that there must have been a compelling reason to do it and a human motive behind it.

It's efficient to dismiss all suicidal people as people the world would be better off without. Saves you the trouble of trying to help them.

It's a lot less frightening to call suicide "stupid" and "overreacting" than it is to acknowledge the terrible, terrible pain that our fellow human beings feel, and the responsibility that suffering may place upon us.

It is tempting to call suicidal individuals selfish, moreso when they leave loved ones and/or children behind – especially if one is one of the loved ones or children. Condemnation comes easier than understanding, and anger is a natural part of grief.

And all of this . . . it's all part of the problem. Part of why people in pain don't always ask for help. "You don't mean it." "That's not worth killing yourself over." "Your problems aren't THAT bad." "You brought this on yourself." "Don't be stupid." "You must be weak." "You're just being selfish and only thinking of yourself." "If that's how you feel then go ahead and do it, because the world would be better off without you, anyway." Blah blah blah.

And I'm here to tell you that no, I don't see suicide as a weak, selfish act.

Cut for length. )

I am not saying that we must regard suicide itself as a positive act, and I am not saying that we must approve of it or refuse to intervene when a person we know is suicidal. Death is not a happy thing, and we absolutely should try to protect those we love from it, even when it is self-inflicted.

I'm simply saying that we cannot regard the person, or their feelings, as morally bankrupt. And that means using words like "selfish" with extreme caution. I do not believe that "selfish" is a word that has a place in any compassionate discussion of suicide.

As I said before, used neutrally, and applied solely to the effects suicide has on those left behind, yes, suicide is selfish.

The view from within alters this irrevocably. The suicide's anguish and suffering alter it. It is a tragic act – unfortunate, devastating, horrific, terrible, ruinous, dreadful – to those who remain, but we must not forget or discount the torment suffered by the suicidal person in life. We must not brush it aside. We must not weigh their pain against our pain.

To reduce an act of such bitter desperation to simple selfishness is to reduce the suffering of a depressed or suicidal person to nothing more than the effect their death has on others. That is not right. It completely negates the individual's agency and humanity.

Suicides, and suicidal people, are not to be held in moral reproach for their feelings or their actions. It's a morally gray act, a thing too big for anyone to judge, because almost no-one who makes that decision is in a right state of mind. An otherwise loving and caring individual would have to be truly tormented to cause their loved ones so much pain. Anyone who would do it is not healthy. They are ill, or at the very least they are desperate, and suicide is a horrible symptom of that.

Morality and illness are very rarely connected. The fact that our culture believes the exact opposite is one of the most deeply hurtful myths that any sick person has to deal with, whether they have cancer or arthritis or major depression.

Condemning and dismissing the mentally ill only increases the burden placed on those who are suffering. It creates and validates feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, and despair. It contributes to the aura of shame that surrounds mental illness. It fosters pain and spreads misery. Laying blame, treating mental illness and its symptoms like a moral failing, makes open, honest, life-saving dialogue impossible.

We must treat the depressed and suicidal with compassion and respect. It is not necessary to approve of the act itself in order to do so, any more than one is obligated to regard cancer or pneumonia as a positive thing. It is only necessary to acknowledge the validity of their suffering, attempt to understand their feelings, and alleviate their pain if that is possible. It is necessary not only to talk, but to listen.

Pain, all pain, would be easier to bear if people would simply agree to that.

Please feel free to link to this entry, or any other, from your own journal; you may quote passages from it if you provide a link back here so that people can read the whole piece. There's no need to ask for permission. Hi. Pleased to meet you! Friend away!
naamah_darling: The right-side canines of a wolf's skull; the upper canine is made of gold. (Helpless)
Part 1: Personal History

Today, part two on suicide. I've put it off for a long time because it's just tremendously difficult to talk about, and I still don't feel like I have my words right, and I still haven't responded to some of the best, most important comments on the last entry, but this needs to go up.

We're tackling selfishness in this one, but first, let me make a couple of disclaimers.

Firstly, I do not want anyone to take anything I say, ever, as a validation of their personal decision to commit suicide. The purpose of this is not to foster despair in the already depressed. I am not telling you to kill yourself. I would, in fact, quite prefer it if you didn't. Stay.

Second, I also don't want people to take any of these entries as an assertion that I believe suicide is inevitable for anyone, and that depression should therefore not be treated or fought, or that any depressed or suicidal person should ever be written off. I don't think suicide is an inevitability for anyone. I believe recovery is possible. Depression gets more difficult to treat if it is left to fester, but I always believe there is hope.

The purpose of this is to clear up some basic misunderstandings people have about depression, suicide, depressed folks, and suicidal folks – and thereby hopefully reduce some of the pressure that keeps people who are hurting from opening up.

It is tempting to withdraw sympathy from the suicidal, especially the less-than-virtuous. It's tempting to regard their suffering as a just punishment for their fast living, drug use, infidelity, etc. If we feel that they deserve it, that they brought it on themselves, then we can believe that it will never touch us or anyone we love.

It's easier to dismiss and blame people than it is to sympathise; easier to say that a thing is unfathomable and inexcusable than it is to admit that there must have been a compelling reason to do it and a human motive behind it.

It's efficient to dismiss all suicidal people as people the world would be better off without. Saves you the trouble of trying to help them.

It's a lot less frightening to call suicide "stupid" and "overreacting" than it is to acknowledge the terrible, terrible pain that our fellow human beings feel, and the responsibility that suffering may place upon us.

It is tempting to call suicidal individuals selfish, moreso when they leave loved ones and/or children behind – especially if one is one of the loved ones or children. Condemnation comes easier than understanding, and anger is a natural part of grief.

And all of this . . . it's all part of the problem. Part of why people in pain don't always ask for help. "You don't mean it." "That's not worth killing yourself over." "Your problems aren't THAT bad." "You brought this on yourself." "Don't be stupid." "You must be weak." "You're just being selfish and only thinking of yourself." "If that's how you feel then go ahead and do it, because the world would be better off without you, anyway." Blah blah blah.

And I'm here to tell you that no, I don't see suicide as a weak, selfish act.

Cut for length. )

I am not saying that we must regard suicide itself as a positive act, and I am not saying that we must approve of it or refuse to intervene when a person we know is suicidal. Death is not a happy thing, and we absolutely should try to protect those we love from it, even when it is self-inflicted.

I'm simply saying that we cannot regard the person, or their feelings, as morally bankrupt. And that means using words like "selfish" with extreme caution. I do not believe that "selfish" is a word that has a place in any compassionate discussion of suicide.

As I said before, used neutrally, and applied solely to the effects suicide has on those left behind, yes, suicide is selfish.

The view from within alters this irrevocably. The suicide's anguish and suffering alter it. It is a tragic act – unfortunate, devastating, horrific, terrible, ruinous, dreadful – to those who remain, but we must not forget or discount the torment suffered by the suicidal person in life. We must not brush it aside. We must not weigh their pain against our pain.

To reduce an act of such bitter desperation to simple selfishness is to reduce the suffering of a depressed or suicidal person to nothing more than the effect their death has on others. That is not right. It completely negates the individual's agency and humanity.

Suicides, and suicidal people, are not to be held in moral reproach for their feelings or their actions. It's a morally gray act, a thing too big for anyone to judge, because almost no-one who makes that decision is in a right state of mind. An otherwise loving and caring individual would have to be truly tormented to cause their loved ones so much pain. Anyone who would do it is not healthy. They are ill, or at the very least they are desperate, and suicide is a horrible symptom of that.

Morality and illness are very rarely connected. The fact that our culture believes the exact opposite is one of the most deeply hurtful myths that any sick person has to deal with, whether they have cancer or arthritis or major depression.

Condemning and dismissing the mentally ill only increases the burden placed on those who are suffering. It creates and validates feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, and despair. It contributes to the aura of shame that surrounds mental illness. It fosters pain and spreads misery. Laying blame, treating mental illness and its symptoms like a moral failing, makes open, honest, life-saving dialogue impossible.

We must treat the depressed and suicidal with compassion and respect. It is not necessary to approve of the act itself in order to do so, any more than one is obligated to regard cancer or pneumonia as a positive thing. It is only necessary to acknowledge the validity of their suffering, attempt to understand their feelings, and alleviate their pain if that is possible. It is necessary not only to talk, but to listen.

Pain, all pain, would be easier to bear if people would simply agree to that.

Please feel free to link to this entry, or any other, from your own journal; you may quote passages from it if you provide a link back here so that people can read the whole piece. There's no need to ask for permission. Hi. Pleased to meet you! Friend away!
naamah_darling: The right-side canines of a wolf's skull; the upper canine is made of gold. (Alpha Female)
I said a while back that I'd tackle the subject of suicide; I'm going to take a couple of posts to do it, but first I want you to understand where I'm coming from, so you'll know that I understand what I'm talking about.

When I was younger, and a lot stupider, I used to say crap like "I have no sympathy for people who kill themselves. The world's better off without them anyway. Weak, stupid, selfish, giver-uppers."

I thought of suicide as selfish, as just another way of trying to get out of a problem you're too chickenshit or lazy or dumb to solve and too weak to live with. I allowed exceptions for terminally ill people, but that was about it. Anyone who tried to kill themselves and failed was a complete waste, because they were clearly only doing it for attention.

Needless to say, I didn't know anyone who had committed suicide, and at the time I had not ever been suicidal.

I changed my thinking somewhat after a friend attempted suicide. Her attempt was a "cry for help," and she admitted as much. She didn't want to die. I didn't think what she had done was stupid, though. I thought it was sad. I knew this girl. She was surrounded by people who would not listen to her or take her seriously. She could not get help. I watched her try time and again. I watched her go to her mother, her counselor, her doctor, her teachers, only to be told that what she felt wasn't important, wasn't serious, and was only inconvenient and annoying. If her attempt on her life was a cry for help, it was clearly the only one these people were capable of hearing. I don't approve of what she did. I wish she had not felt driven to it, and I am very glad that she survived. But, knowing the circumstances, she was in no way behaving in a stupid or selfish fashion. I do not blame her for doing it, certainly; it worked. It worked, when nothing else had. Again, I certainly wouldn't recommend this as an attention-getting ploy, so please don't try it, but I am glad she got the help she needed.

It was still not something I could ever do. Despite my sympathy, I still considered it, on some level, as "giving up." Oh, sure, I had thought about suicide a lot. Ever since I was twelve, in fact. But suicidal thoughts and suicidal urges are two different things. I did not, at the time, appreciate that. I think, on some level, I still regarded it as "weak." As the mark of a flawed person. I knew I wasn't that kind of person.

Discovering I was wrong was like having the world yanked out from under me. I thought I'd known myself, and I thought I'd seen the darkest my life could get. I didn't know myself at all, though, and I truly didn't know how bad it could get. Now I can admit that. And as bad as I've seen it get, I can now admit that it gets a whole lot worse.

It took last year to take me right to the edge. I was having a major depressive downswing, worse than anything I'd ever experienced before. Finally I was diagnosed as bipolar, but help was a long time coming and slow in working, and I found myself not just idly wishing I were dead, but feeling an actual drive to finish the job. To my surprise, I found that I was capable of contemplating – genuinely contemplating – suicide. I had decided I wanted to kill myself, had decided that one day would be as good as any other, I was just trying to think of a way to do it that would not cause a horrible mess or horrible suffering.

The place I was in was completely foreign to me, the landscape unknown, and utterly unlike anything I had expected.

People imagine it as a histrionic place, a place full of wild winds, of hair-tearing and screaming, of nails raking across flesh, of violence and passion and fury. They imagine it as a forest so tangled with emotional vegetation that it is impossible to see a way out, or see the future past the very next painful step.

Hey, perhaps for some it is. No doubt plenty of suicides are committed in passion. It wasn't like that for me, but I can't speak for anyone but myself.

For me, it was not a place of wild emotions. Violence, passion, fury, histrionics, these are all very much part of wanting to live. To scream or cry you have to draw breath, and keep drawing breath. It takes hot blood to make hot tears. Feelings are a part of the urge for life. I had run out of pretty much every feeling but exhaustion and despair.

There came a point where I didn't scream or cry, where there were no more tears, hot or cold. I wound up going past the rage and fury into a place I'd never been before.

It was a cold place, and it was flat. It was open and empty. I could see a very long way into my future, almost forever.

And ahead of me, all ahead of me, was nothing but more pain.

It's not that I couldn't see that things would eventually get better. I knew that they would. I had total and complete faith in that. Every shred of experience accumulated over thirty years of life told me that things would turn around and improve, that I would have good days again. I could see them ahead of me, wandering like golden shafts of light between cloud shadows. I knew this darkness would pass.

But for the first time I saw with perfect clarity the fact that I would never be free of it. I have spoken of that several times here, the knowledge that "this, too, must pass" applies to the good as well as the bad, and the anguish that knowledge brings.

I saw I would never be free, that I could never expect it to be over forever, that I could not expect rest and reward, and I said to myself, "This road is too long. I cannot do this."

For a while there, I was ready to give up.

I did not, because . . . well . . . you know, I can't exactly say why. I can't say why I decided it would be better to wait a day, a week, a month, and then another and another, even when "help" was taking its sweet fucking time bringing relief.

Perhaps it was knowing that my death would destroy my husband and my cats. Perhaps it was for love of my imaginary people, and all the untold stories in my head. Perhaps it was the simple kindness of my friends, which reassured me that even at my worst I was still worthy of their love. Perhaps it was this place and all of you here. Perhaps it was nothing more than the fear of pain.

I was lucky. I was lucky to have these things to hold on to. It was almost not enough. For someone else, it may not have been.

I'm glad I didn't kill myself. I am very glad I didn't. Yes, I'm still afraid of the shadows, and yes, on some days I still would like to give up. But I am not ready to actually die. So I'm here. Living.

I want to say all this so that you have some small insight, so that you can see and understand that smart, strong people can and do feel this way.

Tomorrow or the next day, I'm going to take apart the idea that suicide is "selfish." I will post some quotes I feel are relevant. After that, I'm going after the idea that recovery is as simple as "getting help," and that anyone who really wanted to could get help and get better.

It's not a cheerful subject, and these entries have not been easy to write, but I think it needs to be talked about. If we don't talk about it, we contribute to the shame and silence that surround depression and suicide. We participate in our own marginalization by refusing to make our voices heard. And saddest of all, perhaps: when we do not speak of our loneliness, pain, and shame, we leave others to feel as alone, hurt, and ashamed as we felt.

I don't think we should do that anymore.

Part 2: Selfishness
naamah_darling: The right-side canines of a wolf's skull; the upper canine is made of gold. (Alpha Female)
I said a while back that I'd tackle the subject of suicide; I'm going to take a couple of posts to do it, but first I want you to understand where I'm coming from, so you'll know that I understand what I'm talking about.

When I was younger, and a lot stupider, I used to say crap like "I have no sympathy for people who kill themselves. The world's better off without them anyway. Weak, stupid, selfish, giver-uppers."

I thought of suicide as selfish, as just another way of trying to get out of a problem you're too chickenshit or lazy or dumb to solve and too weak to live with. I allowed exceptions for terminally ill people, but that was about it. Anyone who tried to kill themselves and failed was a complete waste, because they were clearly only doing it for attention.

Needless to say, I didn't know anyone who had committed suicide, and at the time I had not ever been suicidal.

I changed my thinking somewhat after a friend attempted suicide. Her attempt was a "cry for help," and she admitted as much. She didn't want to die. I didn't think what she had done was stupid, though. I thought it was sad. I knew this girl. She was surrounded by people who would not listen to her or take her seriously. She could not get help. I watched her try time and again. I watched her go to her mother, her counselor, her doctor, her teachers, only to be told that what she felt wasn't important, wasn't serious, and was only inconvenient and annoying. If her attempt on her life was a cry for help, it was clearly the only one these people were capable of hearing. I don't approve of what she did. I wish she had not felt driven to it, and I am very glad that she survived. But, knowing the circumstances, she was in no way behaving in a stupid or selfish fashion. I do not blame her for doing it, certainly; it worked. It worked, when nothing else had. Again, I certainly wouldn't recommend this as an attention-getting ploy, so please don't try it, but I am glad she got the help she needed.

It was still not something I could ever do. Despite my sympathy, I still considered it, on some level, as "giving up." Oh, sure, I had thought about suicide a lot. Ever since I was twelve, in fact. But suicidal thoughts and suicidal urges are two different things. I did not, at the time, appreciate that. I think, on some level, I still regarded it as "weak." As the mark of a flawed person. I knew I wasn't that kind of person.

Discovering I was wrong was like having the world yanked out from under me. I thought I'd known myself, and I thought I'd seen the darkest my life could get. I didn't know myself at all, though, and I truly didn't know how bad it could get. Now I can admit that. And as bad as I've seen it get, I can now admit that it gets a whole lot worse.

It took last year to take me right to the edge. I was having a major depressive downswing, worse than anything I'd ever experienced before. Finally I was diagnosed as bipolar, but help was a long time coming and slow in working, and I found myself not just idly wishing I were dead, but feeling an actual drive to finish the job. To my surprise, I found that I was capable of contemplating – genuinely contemplating – suicide. I had decided I wanted to kill myself, had decided that one day would be as good as any other, I was just trying to think of a way to do it that would not cause a horrible mess or horrible suffering.

The place I was in was completely foreign to me, the landscape unknown, and utterly unlike anything I had expected.

People imagine it as a histrionic place, a place full of wild winds, of hair-tearing and screaming, of nails raking across flesh, of violence and passion and fury. They imagine it as a forest so tangled with emotional vegetation that it is impossible to see a way out, or see the future past the very next painful step.

Hey, perhaps for some it is. No doubt plenty of suicides are committed in passion. It wasn't like that for me, but I can't speak for anyone but myself.

For me, it was not a place of wild emotions. Violence, passion, fury, histrionics, these are all very much part of wanting to live. To scream or cry you have to draw breath, and keep drawing breath. It takes hot blood to make hot tears. Feelings are a part of the urge for life. I had run out of pretty much every feeling but exhaustion and despair.

There came a point where I didn't scream or cry, where there were no more tears, hot or cold. I wound up going past the rage and fury into a place I'd never been before.

It was a cold place, and it was flat. It was open and empty. I could see a very long way into my future, almost forever.

And ahead of me, all ahead of me, was nothing but more pain.

It's not that I couldn't see that things would eventually get better. I knew that they would. I had total and complete faith in that. Every shred of experience accumulated over thirty years of life told me that things would turn around and improve, that I would have good days again. I could see them ahead of me, wandering like golden shafts of light between cloud shadows. I knew this darkness would pass.

But for the first time I saw with perfect clarity the fact that I would never be free of it. I have spoken of that several times here, the knowledge that "this, too, must pass" applies to the good as well as the bad, and the anguish that knowledge brings.

I saw I would never be free, that I could never expect it to be over forever, that I could not expect rest and reward, and I said to myself, "This road is too long. I cannot do this."

For a while there, I was ready to give up.

I did not, because . . . well . . . you know, I can't exactly say why. I can't say why I decided it would be better to wait a day, a week, a month, and then another and another, even when "help" was taking its sweet fucking time bringing relief.

Perhaps it was knowing that my death would destroy my husband and my cats. Perhaps it was for love of my imaginary people, and all the untold stories in my head. Perhaps it was the simple kindness of my friends, which reassured me that even at my worst I was still worthy of their love. Perhaps it was this place and all of you here. Perhaps it was nothing more than the fear of pain.

I was lucky. I was lucky to have these things to hold on to. It was almost not enough. For someone else, it may not have been.

I'm glad I didn't kill myself. I am very glad I didn't. Yes, I'm still afraid of the shadows, and yes, on some days I still would like to give up. But I am not ready to actually die. So I'm here. Living.

I want to say all this so that you have some small insight, so that you can see and understand that smart, strong people can and do feel this way.

Tomorrow or the next day, I'm going to take apart the idea that suicide is "selfish." I will post some quotes I feel are relevant. After that, I'm going after the idea that recovery is as simple as "getting help," and that anyone who really wanted to could get help and get better.

It's not a cheerful subject, and these entries have not been easy to write, but I think it needs to be talked about. If we don't talk about it, we contribute to the shame and silence that surround depression and suicide. We participate in our own marginalization by refusing to make our voices heard. And saddest of all, perhaps: when we do not speak of our loneliness, pain, and shame, we leave others to feel as alone, hurt, and ashamed as we felt.

I don't think we should do that anymore.

Part 2: Selfishness

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