in response to pain
This is a response to a couple of articles, well written, also responses, to the death of Robin Williams.
Carmille Akande writes about suicide and pain for Sojourners - in particular about how we don't know what someone is going through on the inside. She includes the beautiful call for us to be safe spaces for each other to be vulnerable, open, honest, with our pain. Her words remind me of words I have spoken about how we are not only tellers of stories, as humans, but also story hearers, and find the fulness of our humanity, in healed wholeness, when we offer both gifts to each other.
Dean Burnett writes a rebuttal in The Guardian to those dismissing suicide as selfish. He talks about how when one is depressed, your thought processes are out of whack, you're not thinking clearly enough to process pros and cons of suicide as an option. He also mentions the feelings of worthlessness that can lead to suicidal actions.
And it is mostly in response to this that I have opened my computer to write.
Fifteen years ago I sat in my kitchen considering the ways I could end my life. For some reason, I was paralysed in a way, so that I did not make any actual attempt but sat in the chair, until the thought of my housemate coming home moved me from chair to bed to cry myself to sleep.
I sat there considering ways to end my life after a year of sitting in my car in the driveway almost every time I got home incredulous that I was sitting in my car in the driveway. Each time I drove past a particular tree on the corner, it was my intention to 'drive straight into it' (as in my poem 'On not hitting a tree').
I wanted to die not because I selfishly thought of myself only and how this would be an easy way out of whatever problems were getting me down. Yes, I was not thinking of anyone else. That is because I was in a dark, dark hole, alone. There was no one else to think about.
I wanted to die not because I thought I wasn't worth the life I had been given. In the background, I had self-esteem issues, but they weren't the reason I wanted to stop living.
I wanted to stop living in order to stop hurting.
It was the pain. The pain of despair. Despair that, really, had no cause other than the illness of major depression with its mysterious origins - 'In sooth, I know not why I am so sad', Shakespeare has Antonio say at the beginning of The Merchant of Venice.
I wanted to stop the pain. It hurt - I hurt, all the time, physically, with an aching that was crippling. Emotionally, I hurt to the point of a despair that is empty so that you feel nothing else but despair in a vacuum of darkness. How that hurts.
There was nothing and no one else but the pain. And I wanted it to stop.
Akande speaks of the harmful response of some people of faith to those living with depression and considering suicide, that there is a lack in their faith in God somehow. Burnett talks about the harmful selfishness of the accusations of selfishness in the act of suicide.
And I have said that there was nothing and no one else but the pain. Until, waking from that evening of paralysed longing for death, and the crying myself to sleep, I found I was still alive and wondered why. In the days and years that followed, I came to understand that I had chosen life because I was not alone in that darkness. The one other I refused - actually, did not even consider - to shut out was God. For me, that was a choice for life.
But it will be different for everyone. Depression is a common - far too common - experience, but for all the shared symptoms of physical and emotional pain, it is unique each and every time.
So even I, with almost 20 years of living with this illness, have no idea, really, about the pain Robin Williams was experiencing. And if it was by his own hand, I have no idea, though I have been in a similar place myself, what caused him to end his life. None of us do.
What I do know is that depression hurts. A lot. I know that depression cuts us off from just about everyone else. And I know that God/Divine/the Sacred is there in the darkness, with a Holy mystery all of their own, and here, in our grieving as we continue to live.