bearthinking

About recovering from depression and suicide.

Note about Suicides

I am so sick and tired of hearing that suicide is the ultimate act of selfishness, or ingratitude, or cowardice.  Maybe that is true of some suicides; the ones who blow their brains out because they have suffered one major defeat and think the world is ending.  Maybe; heck, in a case by case examination I would probably grant the assertion’s validity.  But I argue that this is not the case in the majority of suicides and suicide attempts.

The majority of suicides and suicide attempts are carried out by people with a history of on-going severe clinical depression, Post-traumatic Stress Syndrome, Bi-Polar Disorder, schizophrenia, and paranoia, as well as other mental disorders.  The initial cause can be genetic, environmental, or both.  Over time, the disorder is a combination as the brain adjusts neurochemically to environmental stress, or the personality adapts to altered perceptions of reality brought on by neurochemical imbalances until the mind is caught between the two and unable to cope any longer.  The altered perceptions and imbalanced neurochemistry that are now the ‘baseline’ state of the mind become less and less effective at shielding the mind from the stresses of everyday life and indeed exacerbate them.

It is a catch-22 bringing on a situation strongly reminiscent of alcoholism.   Behaviours and neurochemistry intended to cope with stress become counter-productive.  To cope with the increased stress, the behaviours and neurochemical imbalance intensify; then the stress gets greater because the coping techniques are no longer as effective, so they are intensified.  A feedback occurs that lock the mind into a ‘tail-chasing’ cycle until it can no  longer take the strain of stresses.

The mind, the person, is cornered, trapped and seeking a way out of this unbearable situation, any way out that can be achieved.  This is where mental illness takes its most terrible form.  The person wants help, but perceptions are so altered that nothing promises a way out, they don’t know how to reach out anymore, nothing will work, shame is felt because they have gotten so far down this road, the situation is too much to solve, but the stress is no longer bearable and there is no way out, but the stress is worse, and there is no solution, nothing, nothing…

except…

death.

I’ve attempted suicide.  I’ve faced the moments just before the act; moments where you try to think of another way out that is not worse than death, moments trying to find another way out of the pain that has become too unbearable.  Moments recounting the course of your life, seeing if there is something that might work, that might offer hope, that might be a way out, a way through.  Then the moment before death.

Then comes another moment, one that should not be: the moment after death.  The moment you realise you failed, for whatever reason.  An sickly amusing failure, you could just die… oh, wait, no, you tried that.

What the suicide lacks is not courage, nor gratitude, nor selflessness.  What the suicide lacks is hope.  We live each day in unbearable pain, grateful for those small moments of oblivion that pain cannot reach, trying to help others like us find a way through the pain.  But hope does not ‘spring eternal’ with us.

We hopelessly hope that somehow, some way, one of us will make it out without dying.  That they can reach back and hold out a hand to help us out, so we can turn and reach out a hand.  That we can help each other out of the desert pit of suicide.

Then someone does make it out…  by dying.  Their meds failed, or therapy no longer could reach them, or worst… both failed.  It is not hope we feel but loss and even more despair, but we fight in our own ways to overcome it still.  Sometimes, though, it overwhelms us and we try to die.  We feel then that life has no options anymore aside from death.  So we face it, knowing we may not succeed even at this.

Try sometime waking up in your own vomit, or with an exploded garbage bag on your head, thinking “great, yet another thing I failed at”, knowing you have to face people again.  It is worse when you leave a note, or are discovered before completion.

Loved ones are hurt that you would try to leave to leave them behind not understanding that you weren’t trying to leave them, but trying to leave the pain you could no longer take.  Not understanding that you did not like what you were being forced to become by staying and enduring unendurable pain.  Not understanding that  you now live with the ultimate failure while still in pain.

But we go through the motions again, try new therapy and new meds, wake up each morning wondering if we will ever make it through, make it out, be able to live without constant pain again.  What many fail to understand is that we endure this for months, years, even decades.  I’m 49 and have dealt (or not) with severe, suicidal depression ever since I can remember, since at least the age of 4.

Tell you what, you try living with our problems for even half the time we do, then tell me we are cowardly, or ungrateful, or selfish.

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May 8, 2011 Posted by | autobio, depression, recovery, suicide | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Intimacy Pt. 1

This post has been edited and revised from its original form.  It seems that I was not clear that these posts, aside from where I quote, are nothing more or less than the expression of one person’s perceptions and experiences.  Also, it seems this is nothing more than an attention seeking device.  um, ok, whatever.  – andartos

A thought struck me just now. I was emailing back and forth with my sister, explaining why yesterday I did not emerge from my room. It was not the isolating with the onset of a down-spiral, but because I was very irritable and likely to react poorly to things.
Anyway, as part of it I mentioned that I missed emotional intimacy. It is all very well to talk to friends and family or a therapist or pshrink, but it is not the same as sitting, cuddling with a lover/partner/spouse and sharing.
I followed that thought, thinking about the sharing I had lost when my ex suddenly decided to divorce. It dawned on me then that I could feel the true loss starting when I began to actually get help with my depression; when I was becoming less vulnerable, less malleable. My ex seemed to like it better when I was depressed – and therefor more tractable, and was unable to handle the idea that she was not the only one with health issues.
The fact that I was now formally diagnosed as having depression seemed like it was a threat to her.  She had frequently mentioned over the years that she hated it when people, even jokingly, alluded to her being crazy.  I think my depression was a threat she was not strong enough to handle it; but I could, of course, be wrong
I know this indicates we were not truly intimate, at least in the last years of the marriage. I still miss even the illusion of intimacy, though. Knowing that there was one person who I could say anything, literally anything, to.

I do not blame her. I honestly think she did what she felt she needed to in order to protect herself psychologically and she was smart to do so. I think she no longer loved me as she had and could not remain in what she saw as a dead and potentially damaging relationship. Our spiritual vows did not include ‘for better or worse’ or ‘until death do us part’, so there was no violation of them. There was nothing more for her, and so she moved on.

I think she did the right thing. I only wish that when I had thought of it, I had done it.  A lot of grief would have been avoided for all concerned.

I think we need emotional intimacy. We need someone we can be vulnerable to, who can be vulnerable to us; someone who can be strong for us, and who we can be strong for. When I lost that, my world ceased to exist.
I am fumbling my way to getting that intimacy back. It has not been easy. I might have had it sooner, but I became afraid of my instability and so, pushed the developing relationship back into friendship. I did something unforgivable in that; I decided for her that she was not strong enough to withstand my illness. I removed the option from her, because I was afraid that she would abandon me (as I felt that my ex had done) when she would be exposed to the full extent of my depression. And worse, I used my ex as a measure for someone else.

July 8, 2010 Posted by | autobio, depression, intimacy, love, recovery, trust | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Choice of judgment.

It was a hard night, last night.  The moon was out, the stars shone bright, the heat of day gave way to a not unpleasant muggy coolness.  But I came up against the “very firmly held belief” of one I had counted as a friend.

Very firmly held beliefs are wonderful things.  They allow you to make up your mind without ever needing to deal with facts.  They allow you stop feeling, stop attempting to understand those around you, allow you to blame them when they give up and walk away.  In a sad way, it is their fault; they now have the very firmly held belief that you do not care, and are they wrong?

But there s something else very firmly held beliefs do.  They allow you to not face yourself.  They allow you to live in denial.  They allow you to ignore the consequences of your own behaviour.

I came up against it last night.  My roller-coaster ride of dealing with depression has actually been going fairly well of late.  There have been a few set-backs here and there, but over-all I have been making progress.

As part of this, I have been reaching out to people that have fallen away from my life.  In a few instances, some have reached out to me.  I have been upfront about having depression.  It is a central fact of my psychology, one that influences my perceptions and reactions.  I have said and done self-destructive things without being aware of it; I figure if my friends know this about me, they can help me before I spiral down too far to reach again.

The major part of how they help is simply by being there; knowing that I can get help when I need it.  This actually makes it easier to NOT call them at 3:47 AM because I don’t think I can make it through the night without putting a bullet through my head.

So when a friend reached out, I reached back.  Then she said her husband would like to hear from me as well.  I took me a few days to email him.   I was nervous, dealing with other issues (aftermath of ‘Sailing’ {cf.} among them), and had already sent a message via her.

Now, I’m glad I waited.  If I had read his reply earlier, it would have been much harder to dig myself out of a down-spiral I had hit.  “I think it is stupid and selfish for a person to choose to wallow in a masochistic funk that feeds on itself when all that is necessary is for that person to CHOOSE to not follow that path.”  Seems OK on the face of it.

But what about those of us who are not aware of depression or the effect it has on our thinking and perception? This is especially bad with teens whose symptoms are usually masked or explained away by changing hormones.  There are those of us who spend years not knowing why things are always bad around us.  Or why it is so hard to get out of bed, to have an interest in anything at all.

Even after we are aware of the situation, it is hard to get help – for so many reasons.  Not all of us can hang tough through it, either; hell, not even Ernest Hemingway managed it.  And for some of us, the help has to be fairly radical even after we have committed ourselves to it.

There are two main forms of Depression proper: Situational Depression, a temporary downturn as a result of things such as job loss or ‘holiday blues’; and Clinical Depression, a permanent but treatable condition.  The basis of Clinical Depression is not choice, but hard neuro-chemical fact.  For a varied combination of reasons, there is a flaw in the neuro-chemical cycles that regulate mood.  Sometimes, things go wrong in our lives and overwhelm us; for most people, that can be dealt with as the neuro-chemical cycles kick in to help keep us positive.  For others, that does not happen.

Our perceptions are that things will not get better, that we have no real positive effect on our circumstances, that there is no point in trying even.  The world sucks, and we get to have the shitty end of the stick.  There is no choice, that’s just the way it is and it can never change.  We have a ‘very firmly held belief’ in that.

Then there are those of us who really are beyond help, who are so firmly held by the grip of a vicious neuro-chemical imbalance that we cannot get out of even with radical help.  Well, they are stupid and selfish for choosing to wallow in that, aren’t they?

Given a choice we can actually see, given an opportunity to stop feeling this way – helpless, isolated, and worthless – we try to abandon our very firmly held beliefs and come out of The Pit.  I will not go back into The Pit because of his very firmly held belief, but it seems to me that he has made a choice, built his place of judgment.  As have I.

June 20, 2010 Posted by | autobio, depression, recovery, suicide | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

remembering to create: day zero

day zero

For years I lied.  Everyday, to everyone, I told a lie.  A deep, pervasive, insidious lie that tainted all my life, my hopes, my plans.  It blighted and consumed every aspect of my life.

I told one lie for seventeen and a half years.  I lived it, in spite of so much evidence that it was false.  I was married for just over 19 years; do you count the time you are separated, if not then it was almost 19 years.

I told myself that in spite of the problems we had, that it was a happy marriage.  People who did not know us well assumed it was too.  Apparently the divorce did not come as much of a surprise to people who knew us.  It seems that what came as a surprise was that I was not the one who initiated it and that we had lasted as long as we did.  This is the power of a lie.

This lie was just one of many I was living.  (I can just hear my ex now… and she is neither wrong nor right, such are people)  Some of the lies, I’m still living.  A list?  Well, here’s a partial of the more socially acceptable ones…
1) I am basically a happy person; 2) I’m a horrible writer; 3) I’m a horrible artist; 4) I have a good opinion of myself; 5) I am solely responsible for the ruin of my marriage; 6) I had a happy childhood.
I know my ex would never believe that I think #5, but it is true.  I do blame myself, completely.  I ‘know’ it to be true, and try to compensate.  I also know it is not true as nothing is ever that simple; we both lied to ourselves and each other.

These lies, these self-delusions are just part of what led to my suiciding.  Several times.  Why?

Why?  Why did, and do, I buy into them?  Part of it is neuro-chemical, part is habit, part is believing what others have told me, and, oh my, how many other factors can I list?  In the end, though, I must bear the ultimate responsibility.

I am fully aware, and have been, of my depression.  I was fully aware, on one level, of the falsity of my marriage after that first year and a half.  I know I am a talented artist and writer.  I know I have low self-esteem (see depression).  I know my childhood was not happy.  But being oblivious is so easy.

I lived in that warm, comfortable oblivion.  I let myself allow depression to take hold of me.  I did not seek help before, during, or after my suicides.  And, actually, after one suicidal ideation episode, it was my ex who encouraged me to get help.  Well, threatened me more than encouraged me, but I did get help, so that is forgivable, I think.

But (it is always there, isn’t it?), nothing like that can last long.  Reality crashed the party, put cigarette butts in the fish tank, smeared cake on the ceiling, and set fire to the couch.

See, when she told me she was divorcing me, I went into an auto-pilot mode.  I agreed to things that are going to end up damaging my life further, I made poor decisions for my future, forgot to trust my instincts, and went into a numbed emotional state.  I don’t think anybody noticed because of the worst decision I made; I isolated from my family and friends.  No-one I was around for the next year actually knew me.

I could not afford either good insurance coverage, a therapist, nor my meds.  That last did not seem to be a real problem, because long before I ran out they stopped working.  And the only therapists I would have been able to go to, well, it would have been public assistance therapists, and they are way overworked.

The house of cards started falling apart.  First the meds stopped working, then a person I thought was a friend turned out not to be with a vengeance.  I hit a creative wall at a million miles per hour and now had no expressive outlet.  I lost my job and could not get another one.  My plans for Father’s Day a year ago got nuked with no warning, no negotiation.  I stayed alone in my apartment for days on end, money was running out, my lease was ending.  I had nothing to live for anymore.

I had no desire to live of my own and it seemed to me that no-one else had any constructive use for me either.  Everything was gone.  I had nothing, not even emptiness.  Not even oblivion.

and the evening and the morning were before…

June 16, 2010 Posted by | autobio, depression, suicide | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Ninth Circle

OK, this is more or less stream of consciousness.  I have put the Seven Day project on hold indefinitely.  I have too much to work through before it can come to fruition.

Suicide is still something I live with everyday.  Memories are triggered by the smallest things and I cannot seem to break or re-channel the cycles.  It is worse, because I cannot stop thinking about either of two women; my ex and “Babycat”.

I am torn between the past and the future; my present has been one of limbo and looks to remain that way for awhile.  Ideas form, plans start, then a crush of painful, blighted memory and Sisyphian hope traps me, sapping my will, my strength, my spirit.  Only when I draw, or write, or create my digital works, or paint do I have anything resembling relief.

I think I have given up trying for happiness.  And forget about love.  I can no longer contemplate inflicting my life, my self like that upon another person.  I yearn for it, burn for it, need it so badly.  The unconditional sharing and commitment entwining two souls into one.  But, having felt it once, or at least thinking I had, having fooled myself that I shared that way with another, I no longer trust it, no longer trust myself.

And to my ex, NO!  This is MY fault, not yours.  If you think I am blaming you, well that’s your problem, not mine; so keep it to yourself, please.  I am the one who did not question my relationship to you sufficiently.  If I had then I would divorced you before we had been married two year.  Of course, then our son would not have been born.  *sigh*  It truly is an ill wind that blows no good.

What it comes down to is that while I am precluded from completing suicide, I have no real reason to live.  Desire to?  Yes, inasmuch as I have a fair survival instinct.

As much as I want to, as much as my instincts tell me to trust in Babycat, I can’t permit myself to reach out that way.  I started to, I started to come out of The Pit.
I began to reach out, knowing that the least that would happen would be the gaining of a new friend.  Which did happen; I am profoundly grateful.

There is always a ‘But’, right?  One comment and I cracked.  I had no defense, no sense of self worth sufficient unto the day.  I failed, spiraling down again.  Down into The Pit, into the Ninth Circle.  Frozen in my betrayal of Self, glimpsing past Lucifer to reflections of Heaven’s Gates.

How do I forgive myself?  I cannot get past my subversion of self-preservation, my instincts screaming at me to flee a bad choice in marriage partner, my failure to recognize the worst threat to my Self: myself.

One of my people, the Bear people, was sitting on a rock in the hills after a particularly satisfying round of mating followed by berry-eating.  The sun was warm, the breeze just cool enough, and he slept.

He dreamt of his otherself; the cabin, the family, the days of toil and the nights of rest, the times of joy, anger, contentment, and sorrow.  As he dreamt, a branch snapped loudly by his ear.  He awoke, startled and afraid.  He reacted to protect himself and clawed out at the shape that loomed in his eyes.  He roared his pain and fear, smelt the blood, and felt his Self leak away into nothingness.

His life ended then.  He still ate, slept, shat, toiled and rested, but it was meaningless.  There was no more contentment, anger, sorrow, or joy. His home was empty, his days and nights an endless endurance of pointless activities.

I don’t wish to die, but I have no true hold on this life anymore.  It has leaked away into nothingness.  I fear knowing it will always be so and fear hoping it won’t.

May 26, 2010 Posted by | autobio, depression, recovery, suicide | , , , | Leave a comment