Pokémon GO, With a Side of Suicide

When I go to one of the nearby parks with my husband to gather pokéballs and other items, we bring activities along to fill the time. Basically, I walk in a small circuit to activate all of the pokéstops, then we settle down at a table to read books, write emails, sketch, or whatever. Every 5 minutes, I get up to walk another circuit, and he stays at our table. Lately, I’ve been reading essays for my Book Club posts.


Yesterday, I was preparing for a few upcoming posts, and I encountered a piece about suicide. From the very beginning, I wasn’t entirely comfortable with reading the essay, because I’ve had multiple active suicidal periods and long-lasting passive ones. (Active suicidal thoughts come from the planning phase: how, when, etc. Passive suicidal thoughts come from the contemplative phase: the nature of suicide, the essence of pain, one’s profound isolation, past failures, evidence for or against one’s existence, etc.)

While reading, I kept playing Pokémon GO. I would spend 4 minutes reading about despair and 1 minute walking and checking for Eevees. Normally, Pokémon GO helps make me happy, providing me with a simple, enjoyable activity. I tend to use this type of saccharine-saturated entertainment to help to offset the pain from broken relationships, unequal rights based on petty and inconsequential personal traits, tragedies on the news, political tirades, and other things that make me lose faith in the world. It helps a bit, but it never takes away the sadness completely.

Yesterday, however, Pokémon was not enough to protect me from the dark grip of suicide. As I said to my husband, it was a bit like being a recovering alcoholic sitting outside of a bar; the longer you stay there, the more you remember about why you used to go there so often and why you could stay inside for so long. I felt my tension building, but I pushed on and kept reading.

I push past my discomfort in order to grow. If I stop trying every time that something gets difficult, I will never learn new ways to approach things, and they will never get easier. So, as a general rule, I push myself a little farther than I think I can go, in the hopes that I will discover that I can handle more than I thought.

Yesterday, I stopped reading the essay with only 4-5 pages left, because I couldn’t take it any more. My chest was tight. My throat felt constricted. My shoulders and arms were tense, like I needed to punch someone or break free from restraints. My mind was a weird hybrid of surface calm (my practiced numbness) and deep distress. I couldn’t continue.

So I stopped.

And I gave myself assurances that it would be ok. Because the world will not end as a result of me finishing or skipping the rest of this essay. And I asked my husband to walk around the pond with me. We held hands. I tried to focus on the sights, smells, pressure on my fingers… To come back to the present and regain feeling. It went ok, over all, but I probably shouldn’t be so accustomed to involuntarily shutting down during my day.

Oh well. It is what it is.

This week, I need to play Pokémon GO without interspersing in large chunks of pain. I need to let myself just enjoy living in a world with augmented reality (which is really cool technologically). I need to make time to relax and enjoy my life, because it is important. I am important.

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