The unthinkable. The unspeakable. The un-understandable. For some, the unforgivable.
The big check out. The big chill. The ultimate F you.
The scariest of the scariest.
I am going to talk to you about it.
I am going to talk about the WHY.
And I am going to talk about what it means for the survivors.
I am going to talk about a better way.
It’s not a laughing matter. But if you can laugh at it, with it, or in its general direction, well it becomes examinable. Because it turns out that suicide is a lonely, ‘hidden in the dark cellar with the rats and great great grandma’s wedding dress circa 1878’ kind of affair, for everyone involved.
Christianity says that suicide is an unforgivable sin, punishable by damnation of the soul to hell for all eternity. Let’s take a moment on this one. I think what we all need when we are feeling that we are a FIFTEEN on the one to ten pain scale, is to add to the shame and confusion and distress of our circumstances, the promise that relief from this pain has ETERNAL DAMNATION and family punishment on the price tag. It robs your fam jam of that consolation that you are “in a better place” and pretty much ALL of the other platitudes. You simply want to plan your sweet sleep in peace, but you can’t even have this much, because just as you get to the part where you can close your eyes on all of the things that are unfixable, on the constant state of ill-health or struggle that ails you, and slip away from deeply mournful emptiness, there is Mom’s face taunting you with her betrayed bewilderment and Satan making a jinx sign over her left shoulder. Umm, that’s just kinda mean, if you ask me.
And on top of her shame, you know there’s also gonna be a healthy dollop of Guilt, Shame’s more glamorous sister from the better side of the tracks. Shame says you’re a sinner. Guilt says she’s a bad Mom. I mean a bad Mom at the highest possible level of bad, because all the things she ever did, were not enough to keep you around.
But that is not really what it’s about.
Suicide, the taking of one’s own life, is an act of fear. That is not to say it is cowardly. Though some of us “left behind-ers” feel this way, and certainly while our despair over losing a loved one may scream cowardice, I am not making that evaluation for us today. Suicide is a retaliation against pain, and pain engenders its own spectacular fear; the fear that IT WILL NOT END.
What is my authority on the topic? Well it’s not an academic authority, although I have certainly studied it from a socio-economic, social justice perspective. Let’s touch for a moment on Emile Durkheim’s theory of “Anomie”. Durkheim posited that separation from the means of production in factories lead to increased suicide. This is intuitive, to some degree —that when we no longer see the product of our efforts, when our labour is specialized, the lack of connection to our work and lack of meaning attributable to specialization will cause apathy and disenchantment. Putting a screw in a 1000 wheels over the course of a day is less rewarding than making one car from beginning to end, according to the laws of purpose and meaning.
My greater “authority” is that I work with emotional pain. Every day. I walk with humans through their most devastating heart aches. I walk with them out of endless sadness. I walk with them through the labyrinth of emotional knots that manifest as numbness, apathy, despair, rage, and the sometimes angry, sometimes apathetic, sometimes numb desire to get the eff out of dodge.
I hold a lot of hands through the “I can’t seem to get out of bed” level of despair, and we work out the way forward.
Pain can overwhelm us in different forms:
It can crash land, sudden and drastic, leave us reeling and desperate for a path out. Something terrible, awful and shocking has happened. A catastrophic loss. And the thing fires in our brain and it says “Hey babe. I’ve got you. You don’t have to suffer this indignity. You don’t have to try to live your already maxed out existence without this really important person, or with this extraordinary problem on top of all of the other problems, you just barely had under control. Scottie will beam you up”.
Or it can simply shrink us a few centimeters, year by year, under the crushing weight of EXPECTATION; the burden of falling short of what they demand, the ones we love, the ones that depend on us for sustenance, or worth; the shattering expectations of my favourite villain “The World”. And then the worst OF ALL —the expectations that WE place on ourselves. We are the worst bullies! After all of this gradual shrinking, we end up small.
And the voice of pain kicks in to tell us we CANNOT. We can’t be pushed, or kicked again. We can’t do any more. It evokes a giant “NO!” or sometimes more gently the desire to just lie down on that grassy knoll over there and never get up. It comes looking for a way out of having to give 300 percent on a bad day, because our worth, or our very emotional and physical survival, depends on it.
Then it comes as grief, or sadness —viscous and endless, calling us deeper into itself. Unanswerable.
For the teen, it’s often a trifecta of burden, unresolved pain, and catastrophe.
And suicide, the kind we are panicked and devastated by (not the assisted short-cut on terminal illness), self harm in general, confuses those of us who invest a lot of our mojo into avoiding harm, and avoiding pain at all possible costs. Because we struggle to see it as just another form of pain avoidance—a short term physical act to escape a greater mental and emotional agony.
Beyond the researcher’s academic take, and the daily emotional take, I have looked through another lens at life, death, checking out, and the great hereafter; the mystical, intuitive, spiritual lens, if you will. I have chatted with some of the fine folks on the other side of the veil, so to speak. Don’t knock it until you try it. Simply put, you can be confused, and scared and you can doubt and you can wonder, but when you experience firsthand, well then you know. And there are some things that I experientially know, because of this side of my world.
The knowledge that I will share with you on this, is that it’s not all hell and damnation over there, but also, checking out doesn’t get us any higher up on the Snakes and Ladders of the “afterlife”, by which I mean, it doesn’t actually solve for pain after all, it just provides a coffee break, and maybe a new set of problems.
And this would be a total bummer, if there wasn’t a better way out.
I have also heard some controversial opinions on the matter of suicide that I don’t necessarily THEORETICALLY disagree with. Like it’s all euthanasia. We deserve to be able to run some math and determine that our best years are behind us. Stick to our best before date. Less strain on the health care system. Or simply call “uncle” on how much suffering we are willing to endure.
Or what if the person is ACTING OUT? What if their act is a complaint against those that love them, that a ball has been dropped? What if someone feels unheard, or unloved, or misunderstood? Aren’t they allowed to punish their under-performing loved ones? (Yes, but it doesn’t help). And if they do does that make us culpable as loved ones? (Not for their death) Or responsible? (Not for their life). Does it make them right or wrong, or just confused? (Right to feel their feelings, confused to act out on them).
Sometimes “in life” we feel absolutely unsympathetic. And that just sucks. Sometimes we just want to exercise control over our own personal limits. It’s not up to another to decide which straw is going to break this camel’s back or constitute a hard pass on our series of unfortunate events.
I’m not here to say it’s the worst choice. I am not here to say that you or I “should” endure. I am not here to say the indignity of suffering is acceptable. I am not here to tell you that they aren’t assholes who have failed you miserably (because maybe a jury of your peers would say, yeah they are assholes and yeah, I wouldn’t live through this and obviously they are to you).
But I am against the circumstances that lead us to desperation. I am against the way we do LIFE that collectively calls for DEATH as pain relief. I am not for or against, the ACT. BUT, and it’s a big BUT, I cannot lie, there is a sticky wicket in the self check out department. And I am concerned that, well, we aren’t really solving the problem at its root when we simply cancel our subscription to “I BODY”.
I am here to say:
You may not be getting the TRUTH. The VOICE for fear, for pain, can scream so loud, that you hear nothing else. But noise isn’t truth, and the voice of pain is the emotional equivalent of FOX News. You may not want to base your decisions on it, or take it to the bank, or make it the authority. Or listen to it’s stupid, plastic-haired, poker-faced, liar-head, Faker McFakersons. I mean I am obviously neutral on the topic.
I have a dear, dear friend who has struggled life long with depression. She cruises along through the year, a totally joyful, productive, engaging, delightful member of “society”, making the world a better, sweeter place. And then for two months, she cries. And during this time, she is convinced that she has only ever been sad, and that she will only ever be sad. And that life is a blurry, soppy, snot laden tissue that needs to be discarded. I am grateful for few things more than that she has never acted on the recommendations of SADNESS, that it has remained a theme park, not the final destination.
Long story short (well short is relative) I am not gonna tell you what to do. But I will venture to say that there IS a better way. We can decrease the sadness. We can unburden ourselves. We can learn that our worth isn’t tied to WINNING OVER THE WORLD.
And we deserve that. NOW, not in the next lifetime, or the afterlife, or the black void of nothingness if you’re an atheist. Let us think twice before getting drunk on tomorrow juice, because “Tomorrow” is a cute song by a girl in curly pig tails and it ends there.
You’re not going to hell. I forgive you already for what you do, or don’t do. But Baby, before you throw yourself out with the bathwater, the reason to make it better, is YOU. Just you. It’s all for you.
— Love Erin
P.S. Hey, if you are in a life and death emergency, or are having suicidal thoughts please reach out to a medical professional. I love you, you are worthy, and you deserve help. It’s also easier for me to help you if you are not in fact an actual ghost.
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