Posted by: scintillatingspeck | July 6, 2008

Writing before I decide not to.

I am tired, feeling unwell, and emotionally depleted today, but I feel like it is very important that I write anyway.  It has been a while since I last wrote on this blog, and I’m feeling all kinds of resistance to saying what’s really on my mind.  I think I need to go ahead and do it anyway.  In the past few weeks, I have come up with all kinds of excuses not to write on this blog, mostly because I’m afraid of being judged.  I need to set that fear aside now, or rather, be fearful and write anyway.

My inner critic/editor is already scanning that last paragraph, frowning about how many times I used the word “anyway.”  And I am steadfastly refusing to modify it.  Let it be messy.  Let it be just the way it is.

I am really exceptionally sad today for a number of reasons.  First, I learned a few days ago about the death of a former neighbor by her own hand, whose ex-partner and daughter still live at Rocky Hill.  I am saddened beyond words.  She had such fierce depressions.  I understand how it feels to be that miserable from my own experience.  It will take some time for her death to completely sink in.

The last time I saw her, maybe a month or two ago, she was walking around Rocky Hill, looking despondent.  I asked her how she was doing, and she said things were hard.  I don’t remember exactly what we said during that brief conversation, but I remember saying to her emphatically, “I’m really sorry that you are feeling so bad.  Please remember, it’s not your fault, and you deserve to feel better.  You deserve all the love and support you need.  You really do.”  Her eyes filled with tears and she thanked me.

Now I just feel bad that I wasn’t able to offer her the support she needed.  I feel so sad for her suffering.

One neighbor expressed to me that at least she isn’t suffering anymore–she released herself from her suffering and is free of it now.  This is bothering me quite a lot.  I know that most people who survive suicide attempts are later glad that they lived.  I know that most people who commit suicide don’t really want to die, they just want to make the pain stop.  I know that being deemed mentally ill with a major mood disorder does not have to be a death sentence, even though it can hurt like hell.

Basically, I am taking this logic of “she is free from suffering now” and applying it to myself.  According to this logic, I should be dead right now, and people should be relieved that I am free from suffering.  Now, please understand, I am very fond of being alive, but there have been times when I have experienced excruciating emotional pain and wanted to escape it so badly to the point that suicide seemed like a good idea.  I am profoundly grateful to be alive today.

My former neighbor could be challenging at times, in cohousing meetings (when she lived here) and in various interpersonal interactions.  She was not necessarily easy to relate to.  She rubbed some people the wrong way.  I am worried that in the wake of her death, some of my neighbors might seek to assuage their guilt at not liking her or not reaching out to her by claiming that, really, she is better off now because her suffering was so bad.

I don’t buy this, not one bit.  She deserved to live.  She deserved to be supported by a loving community.  I am not saying that that community should have been Rocky Hill necessarily, and in many ways I think Rocky Hill was not a great fit for her.  But nevertheless, as a fellow being on this earth, she deserved compassion and support.  Of course, deserving something is no guarantee of actually getting it.

By saying this, I am not seeking to absolve her of the ultimate responsibility of self-determination.  She made a choice, and we will all have to deal with the consequences.  I am especially sad for her young daughter and angry that she would inflict this kind of anguish on her.  But I also know that she probably wasn’t thinking especially clearly.

Although she made this choice to end her life, I don’t think it would be fair to her memory to just dismiss her as crazy and call her death a blessing.  She had gifts.  She was a spiritual seeker.  She understood that we live in an insane culture, and I, for one, am not willing to let that culture off the hook for the ways it contributed to her suffering.  I will never forget that she always took me seriously; when other people were dismissive or hurtful when I would express my concerns about peak oil and the converging crises of our time, she always let me know that she was concerned too, and glad that I spoke up.

The context of her death, for me, has been jarring, to say the least.  There was another sudden death at Rocky Hill not long ago, a renter who mostly kept to himself.  That was also a jolt although I didn’t know him well.  This weekend Tom, Lily and I went to Boston because my sister and her husband and their four kids were in town; we hadn’t seen them in a year, since they live abroad.  In the midst of the weekend, with all these kids bouncing around, I saw the email about the most recent death.  On top of everything I’ve been having abdominal pains and headaches all day.  My body and mind are confused and don’t know what to focus on.

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Responses

  1. My dearest. You know that you are loved, appreciated and cherished on this earth by myself, your family and scads of others in other places. Never let go of that.

    I am sorry for the losses that have touched you, and the pain – physical and mental – that are occurring. Don’t forget to take the hands that are offered to you when you offer so much of yourself!

  2. I have also gone through major depression, and I’m certainly glad to be alive now. I’m also extremely glad that you are alive. I think when you are suffering it’s easy to feel more alone than you really are. You are a beautiful person and a wonderful friend and I think you have no idea how much you enrich the lives of those around you.

  3. so many things can be true at once… that she made the choice that was hers to make, that she made a choice she might have taken back if she had the chance… that we are going to feel anger and loss and try to find a way to make it all make sense and not hurt so much. bless you for being willing to lean in to where it hurts and not shy away. you are precious to me, to our family, to your family, to your community and to the universe!

  4. oh sweet
    your words are so honest
    i love them

  5. Kristi, Gary, Rosemary, and Carol:
    thank you for your loving words and your friendship. Precious beyond measure.


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