Winding Back Down

Ok, I’ll be honest with you guys- I write these posts in advance and schedule them for future dates. I really want this blog to grow into something and consistency is important for that. So, I usually take a day and write 3-5 entries and schedule them out on alternating days. Normally, it’s fine.

Yesterday, though… Ok, honestly, yesterday, I wrote the entire Deafening Silence series. The three entries about the topic and the fourth one, which was intended to help me wind down so I could sleep. (It didn’t really work for that purpose, honestly, but what it turned into instead was fine with me.) I told you that I took breaks in between the entries, and I did, but they were measured in minutes and hours, not in days. It was a very heavy day for me.

So, after I finished writing, I ended up crying and bringing the most difficult questions to my husband. (Am I a bad person for not being the friend that my neighbor needed? Am I a bad person for not being able to mourn her death? Am I important- would people really miss me if I died?) He is a very kind man, and he answered me well. (With my depression in full-on strangle mode, it’s not reasonable to blame myself for not reaching out to others. Likewise, it’s understandable that I didn’t have energy left to feel pain when she died. And, yes, my life and death both matter.)

It’s still hard for me to weep around people- not to cry a little, I can do that just fine- but to genuinely, honestly mourn. There’s a story there, of course, but maybe that’s for another time. Yet, I am learning  how to do it, and in turn, how to allow others to genuinely mourn in my presence. This is important, because without this, I cannot be the compassionate, warm person that I want to be. I need to be comfortable with my pain to be comfortable with other people’s pain.

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Debriefing Deafening Silence

It’s been a little while since I finished writing what turned into a 3 part series on a specific encounter with suicide that occurred in my life. I say “a little while,” but it hasn’t really been so long at all. I suppose that you know I haven’t exactly taken a month off to ponder this or anything. To be honest, I have tried to write about other topics already, but it just feels like this one was unresolved. Left raw.

Suicide is just such a difficult topic to discuss! People who haven’t been suicidal don’t understand what it feels like (but who could expect them to understand an experience they haven’t had?!). At the same time, the pain that some of these individuals feel over the suicide of a friend or relative is very, scathingly real (and I don’t understand their situation either, as it has never happened to me). People who have been suicidal do understand what it feels like to be in that state, but they may not know how it feels to watch a loved one retreat, diminish, and then die. These people also have real and visceral pain, but often the sources of it are invisible, making it very difficult to discuss or defend.

So how do I do it justice when I am just one person who has experienced one or maybe two sides of the issue? All I can ask of you is that you take my words for what they are: the description of my perspective and my experience. Nothing more and nothing less.

They aren’t going to be true of everyone’s experience. They may not even be accurate descriptions of my own life! (After all, drawing in a hurricane of emotion doesn’t really allow one to see current events very clearly.) At the end of the day, all that I have is my experiences as I remember them feeling at the time, the perspective that I have gained in the last several years, and the hybrid created by fusing the two.

In these last 4 entries, I haven’t been trying to diminish the value of the young woman who killed herself- The fact that I was incapable of mourning at the time says more about my abysmal mental health during that period than it ever could about her. So when I do things like infer that no one invested in her, it’s only because I can’t imagine a suicidal person who truly believes that he or she has a real friend close at hand… but then goes through with it anyway. When I was last actively suicidal, I had a friend that I knew cared about me, and I went to her instead of going through with it.

Maybe it’s not like that for everyone, and if it isn’t, I sincerely apologize to the people who serve as exceptions or counterexamples to my point. I really am sorry about this. No one’s experience should ever be diminished or written off for any reason. If you don’t fit into my box, then I need a new box.

So, here’s my giant disclaimer. I can’t understand every aspect of this phenomenon, and I can’t explain why any specific person killed him or herself rather than continuing on. All that I know for sure is that for me, when I was in that dark and lonely place, all that I wanted was  for the constant agony to stop. I didn’t want to leave anyone. I didn’t want to hurt anyone. I didn’t think that I was valuable enough to be capable of either of those things.

I just wanted to be at peace. At the time, on October 8th, 2005, I could not see any other way.

“The Silence is Deafening” Part 3 of 3

I need to push through this, or I’ll end up marinating in it forever. I’m going to just jump in; please read the first two parts for context.

When my neighbor jumped out of her window and died, I didn’t mourn her or feel much at all. Instead, I just watched everything from across a vast emotional rift. It felt odd, like a ghost being surrounded but not affected by the events of the world. It was a unique chance for me to collect data regarding the manner in which people respond to suicide. For my safety and my future, I needed to capitalize on this event.

So, as I went about my schedule, I observed the changes in others, and I took notes. I needed to know if one person really matters to the world. I needed to know what happens when they die. I needed to know if I mattered and what might happen if I died.

It was important.

My neighbor was not in my classes, so I had never really interacted with her much. This is what I wrote about classes on that first day after her death:

The silence is deafening. She wasn’t in this class. I’m not sure if these people actually knew her, but it is still quiet. Like her voice echoed through the halls. Like it was her heartbeat that kept the people alive. She was never in this room with us, but she is missing. We know it. We feel it.

It was bizarre; I had never seen these people interact with her, and I could not find the hole that marked her absence anywhere. These were not, as far as I could tell, the woman’s friends. They may not have known her name or recognized her face. They didn’t even seem to be connected, and yet, here they were… mourning. How strange!

For a depressed person, this type of experience can easily be a powerful one, for better or ill. I was prepared to learn from it, and so I did. In this horrible, dark time, I learned that everyone makes ripples out from themselves. That everyone connects in some way to a community around them. That life matters.

It’s still hazy to me, honestly. I saw that she was connected, but I never saw how. And just because I saw people grieving, it doesn’t mean that I understood why they did so. Was it because they knew her personally and missed her? Was it because they are opposed to the vague concept of death? Was it because her death upset their perception of what college should be like, or how much time people should have to live, or some other abstract idea?

Why did they mourn? Why didn’t I feel anything? Maybe it’s too complicated for me to nail down after all. They, the crowd of hundreds or thousands of students, staff, faculty, etc., probably had hundreds of thousands of reasons for feeling pain at this young woman’s death. I, likewise, had one or maybe a handful of reasons for not feeling anything for her.

Life is just messy like that.

“The Silence is Deafening” Part 2 of 3

Hello again. I started this earlier, but it felt like… like it was enough. Too much, even. It’s hard to admit these things- hard to say that you didn’t know your next door neighbor’s name until she threw herself out a window, hard to say that you didn’t care. Even when it’s true. Especially when it’s true.

Right, so here’s the gist of the last entry: before my neighbor killed herself, I didn’t think that suicide, or more honestly, that my suicide would affect anyone around me.

After my neighbor killed herself, I wrote this:

The silence is deafening. She wasn’t in this class. I’m not sure if these people actually knew her, but it is still quiet. Like her voice echoed through the halls. Like it was her heartbeat that kept the people alive. She was never in this room with us, but she is missing. We know it. We feel it.

It was so odd to me. Surreal. The campus was mourning her, this one random student that no one had cared enough to invest in or connect with while she lived was now super important because she was dead.

It’s really strange to me that I’m angry about this. I mean, I am not even mad about her situation, not really, because I don’t know her situation. I have no idea who she was friends with or if she had friends or what clubs she was in, or if she went to the counseling center like me, or if she connected well to her family or if she had a family or anything. Because I know so little about her, it makes sense to assume that I am not angry about the events of her life. In order to be angry about this woman’s life, I would need a concrete event to react to, like watching a friend or family member check out of an emotional conversation or tell her that “she needed to get better faster”or something.

Instead, I’m trying to talk about the campus wide response (again), but this time, I’m just getting angry about something in my life. About how I felt so alone. About how the people around me let me believe that I could just fade away like smoke without affecting anyone. About how no one waded down into the fetid swamp that I lived in, just to be sure that I knew that I could never be too messy to love.

It sucks. It just does.

Hang in there, everyone. I will finish unpacking this mess soon.

“The Silence is Deafening” Part 1 of 3

I was going through more files, and found another old one that seems worth talking about. This one I remember. This is something that I wrote during college after my next door neighbor jumped out of her 7th story window and died. I know that was a really abrupt  intro, and I’m sorry, but there is something about death that makes it difficult to  justify small talk.

The silence is deafening. She wasn’t in this class. I’m not sure if these people actually knew her, but it is still quiet. Like her voice echoed through the halls. Like it was her heartbeat that kept the people alive. She was never in this room with us, but she is missing. We know it. We feel it.

This was a very difficult time for me. I have had depression for the bulk of my life, so it has been very difficult to recognize what is “normal” in many situations. I don’t have a “before depression” period to look back on for comparison. Consequently, when I come into rough patches, like active suicidal thoughts, my perspective is markedly different than most people’s. Or it was; I’ve been in process for several years now, and I’m closer to normal than I have ever been before.

Now, in the aforementioned instance, my previous experience with suicide was all theoretical- I was considering it, and I was surrounded by pain, low self-esteem, my failures, and more isolating factors that kept me from connecting with others… at all. So, the viewpoint from within my festering, stagnant pool of insight was: “If I die, no one will even notice, and everyone will just be subtly happier as a result of my absence, but they won’t even realize why.” As I just mentioned, I did not have meaningful social connections, so there was absolutely no contradictory evidence. I wasn’t “selfish.”

I was alone. Terribly, anguishingly alone.

 

But I digress. We were going to talk about my neighbor. I don’t know her name, honestly. Living in a depression-based stupor does not permit time for socializing. It doesn’t provide time for survival, even. I just fought to get up, to bathe fairly often, to use hygiene products, to put on clean clothes, to eat more than once a day, to go to class, and if I was really feeling energetic on a given day- to do a little homework. And then I fought through that again. And again. And again in a horrible drudging war of attrition against the minimal requirements placed in my life.

I was not her friend. I never learned her name. I only shared the left wall of my dorm room with her. So, when they brought up counselors and stuff for my floor, I didn’t talk to them. I wasn’t mourning, not really. How can you lose something that you never had?

I’m sorry guys. I need a break.