Can you run?
Since Ralph dropped the news on our blog (although that lede was certainly buried, because the post was not really about me), I’ve been deciding what I should do. Since I’ve addressed it openly on our podcast — that has about 6 listeners — I feel it deserves an open discussion here. That aired on Cazador Radio today and you can find it streaming on their website. Ralph and I were extremely honest about suicidality on Podcast to the Past. Go listen.
I’ve talked a lot about my mental health. I think it’s healthy: I’m out. I started writing post this with an intellectual focus: quoting abstracts, citing my sources, like a good little technical writer. But that’s not what this is about. This is personal, and it’s universal. This is a journey, and it’s a journey that never ends.
Falling into the abyss happens faster than you can imagine.*
On May 10, 2012, I purposefully overdosed on prescription medication and top-shelf whiskey**.
It’s not the first attempt. It’s not even my best work. (No, will not tell you a nearly flawless Plan that I screwed up and later learned why and how to avoid it.) The last two years have been, bar none, the worst of my life. Grief isn’t depression, but it can hide there, or turn into it. There have been so many losses — more than I can count in the last six months alone — that I am drowning in them. My organs have been replaced by glass. I wish I could crack my ribs to feel a different, manageable, pain.
I am poured out like water, all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax and is melted within me***.
And I’m not saying this for sympathy’s sake. I value the empathy of my friends and even strangers, but sometimes sympathy makes me embarrassed, because I’m already embarrassed. Nobody wants to admit this kind of thing. Severe mental illness is like diabetes: it never, ever goes away. Or maybe like MS: it is frequently degenerative and never really goes into remission, though it can be lessened. You always have to fight. It’s not like cancer. There’s no chemotherapy. There’s no real “beating” it. You don’t get to be an ad on the side of a bus with a pink ribbon. It’s always there, no matter how you’re handling it: it’s the wolf in the woods.
But you can’t run. There it is, at your heels. But here’s the trick, and you should learn this:
Mental illness is a lie your brain tells you. You can’t run from it. You have to turn and face the lie. You have to get help, find the truth, or the wolf will consume you. Discover what the lie is. There are lots of different ones. Become the hunter.
Pick a date. Pick an event. Say: I have to get to this point. I first chose my best friend’s wedding that happened a week after the overdose: I had to get there. I was the maid of honor. I couldn’t bear to think of the pall my death would have cast over the whole thing; I’m friends with the whole family.
and I will go downtown, stand in the shadows of the buildings
and button up my coat, trying to stay strong, spirit willing.
and I will come back home, maybe call some friends,
maybe paint some pictures,
it all depends.
and I will get lonely and gasp for air.
and look up at the high windows, and see your face up there.+
And I made it there. It wasn’t easy. But I made it. Now I’m sometimes picking the dumbest events. Next week I have an eye exam, and my friend is driving me. So I have to be there for that. I have to be there for our next podcast recording session. I have to be there to have tea with my friend later this week. She also has a wolf at her heels, and our mutual support and the support of my IRL friends and even Twitter friends is why I’m still here.
I LOVE YOU, I LOVE YOU!++
You’re never alone. Have someone to walk through the woods with you, and you can fight the wolf together.
i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
not fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you
here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)+++
**If you’re going to go, go in style.
***The Bible. I don’t remember which verse, sorry.
+Mountain Goats, “Get Lonely”
++Kurt Cobain’s suicide note
+++ee cumming, “i carry your heart with me”