Patient Belongings

I always forget that I will feel good again
When I feel bad
It seems unlikely that my mind will be untroubled
It seems impossible that I will feel at ease

 

I saw the moon cover the sun

And my daughter thought it was cool

And that was good

because I don’t want my kids to lose their sense of wonder

I really felt poorly about my job these past few weeks and I think I understand why. It’s like I adjust and them readjust and flex and compromise and in between the flexing and compromising, during the transitional periods when I am getting used to some new stressor in the occupational role, some new scarcity of time and faltering of purpose, I am bitter and confused and exhausted, knowing that the thing I am doing with so much of my time is not the thing I set out to do, and wondering if I really want to continue to do the thing I am doing, if it is worth it…and I sit with the dissatisfaction, and weigh it out…and it settles in me, fouls me…

I started feeling better last week. I went for a run up a big hill in the forest and I celebrated my daughter’s birthday, hung balloons in the trees in the early morning, stayed up late wrapping gifts and was not tired, just like I was not tired during the afternoon of the eclipse …like sleep was not even an option and today I was not tired and I feel excited to make flyers for events at work, excited to fold and photograph more paper cranes made out of cloud photos. Excited to plan an event to say thanks to the people who provide services to folks in the county I work in.

Excited to tell my kids that I ran up that same big hill tonight, and – again – it wasn’t even hard and I ran even faster on the way down through the tall tree forests than I did last week, when I did the run for the first time. I feel so happy in those tall Pines, with the sunlight bright green and feathery so far above me and the ground that rusty slick of fallen needles. The dirt and stone and dead leaves smell. “Figure out what makes you feel like you felt when you were your most joyful as a child.”

For me, it is being out in those woods, running down a dirt road, surrounded by pine trees.

True, the smells and sounds and heat are different here than they are at home, back in the Pines where I grew up.

Still, it’ll do…and these mountains are my home, too…are my home now, and were my family’s home a long time ago.

Aug 24

to me

It’s silly to me, that I would stay stuck waiting for a beginning…trying out beginnings…and then faltering, feeling the nag of other possible beginnings…none of them good enough, or inclusive enough, representative enough, whole enough…to carry on with.

So, all these beginnings I have tried to figure out, all the beginnings that I have waited to come to me…they were all…

Wait. I am noticing a distraction. My co-workers faces drift into my mind, the look of a computer screen, that dull-ish incomplete and edited self that I inhabit at work.

I haven’t been feeling much magic lately. Not too many sensations of awe and wonder. Or, it’s possible that I have become habituated to (auto-correct keeps trying to change awe into see and I don’t understand why) awe and wonder…so that sitting with people in the mess and raw love and anger of their lives, noticing the green in their eyes, the Gray of their hair, the landscapes of teeth and beaten hands…it doesn’t amaze me like it did? That strikes me as a problem…that I could swear I see a snake in the sky. Right down to the eye and the precision of curvature, a herpetological spine…that I could find figures twisting above…that I could breathe the scent of woods and pine…and…okay, fine…i do feel awe when I am breathing hard in the woods, that sweeping euphoria and stunning hugeness (auto-correct just tried to change hugeness to huge mess. That seems about right. Huge mess.)  That is where the awe comes in…wonder laced with fear…running and exalted because I feel young and alive and yet am I am getting old and – like everyone – imminently dying.

I am running through the woods and my heart could stop at any minute. A copperhead could strike my leg. A tree could fall in the forest. People are dying and places are dying. All around me, but far away…too far away to see, too far away to smell…and, yet, I am somewhere beautiful and I am alive and my life is so, so good.

It thrills me that awe…that brief encompassing singularity…

It’s probably anandamide, an endogenous neurotransmitter that binds to cannabinoid receptors and makes me feel bliss…tinged with the adrenaline and cortisol of running and being a little scared as I race-pace down a hill covered in jagged stones and loose rocks and burled up roots, knuckles in the ground…and whatever else is in the mix, the meaning I give to it, the content of my thinking, the joy of big ideas. The dopamine of running up that hill and of running at all. The cheap thrill of small goals being accomplished.

I am not numb to awe. Throughout the day, I keep a running list of things that inspire awe and wonder in me. I notice.

That was my aim, in my effort to collect beauties. I failed in that endeavor, at least in the recording of witnessed beauties aspect of it, noting them, perhaps cataloging them.

The challenge I encountered in my brief foray into being a collector of beauties is that there are, quite simply, too many things that are beautiful in the course of a day.

The fact that I am alive at all amazes me.

When I occasionally lapse into the luxury of forgetting my life and everything that has led me to this current moment, into the luxury of forgetting I will die, forgetting that anything dies…I am stunned when I remember…it is a lead-weight of knowing.

I think that if I can figure out how to suspend the present, I might be able to elongate my experience of time…and possibly enjoy my life of being alive a little more.

I try not to talk about my fear of death, or the heaviness of death, much here…though recognize that if I did a content analysis of the themes within these writings, death would probably be in the list of primary themes, or at least a secondary theme, a tertiary theme, something that I might connect non-death related stories or experiences to.  Depending on the significance that is read into portions of this work, this could be called “Me and My Fear of Death”

Have I mentioned that I grew up around old ladies who casually conversed in the dark cavern of the living room about cancer and operations and surgery, and that at night, trying to sleep, these words “cancer” “operation” “surgery” would run through my mind on auto-repeat.

For a long time, I did not know what cancer was, and I wondered about what made it different from an operation, what made it different from a surgery.

Were operations and surgery the same thing?

What is cancer?

Pensive staring into the dark, how the darkness itself took shape in squiggles and blotches against the wall and around the room. My vision was bad, but I did not know it yet. I hadn’t gotten glasses yet.

Ugh. Those words. I picture my cells healthy and full of a well-synchronized vitality, perfectly timed and targeted cell growth and cell death. Ineffective or rampant cells are swiftly disposed of, toxins are removed, DNA and cell genetics are corrected.

“She so wanted to not be afraid of death anymore, to find a way to think about death in a way that didn’t tighten her throat or fog her mind in wariness, that she concocted a whole new way of seeing the world. She figured out a way to believe that she could live forever.”

…of course, from that, within that framework of understanding basic physics and electricity and the likelihood that the electricity in our bodies, as it flies out upon death and slowly disperses with decay, simply rejoins with the electricity that exists everywhere, all around us . . . everywhere, all around us…

Maybe my fear of death is the beginning. It wouldn’t be unusual, that reckoning with mortality led to a person losing their mind, and then, ultimately, to figuring out – just a little – how to live a joyful and alive life…even if I’m dying.

 

Aug 25

to me

She didn’t feel anymore clarity after her walk than she had before it, sitting on her porch in a tight-jaw freeze, her headspace all jostled. Tense hands while she was on the phone with the last person that she spoke to, the final call of the workweek…during which she utterly failed to be present and compassionate, to know the right thing to say, the right voice to use.

Five ‘o clock came and went and the speaking went on, a litany of sorts, the reasons to die, the disease of the brain. Unacceptable.

“Do you have back issues? Knee issues? Can you just go run?”

It feels stupid to her now, that she said this. She imagines the jeering of unnamed Internet masses if they learn that she told a suicidal person to go run.

“No. Really,” She said, “if we sit in a flight reaction and our response to the impulse and sensations of fleeing or wanting to flee, of being scared and of being trapped, of wanting to run away or flail wildly, but the thing – the feelings and experience – that we want to run from is us, in us, imagined in our brains as a disease, but running through our bodies like an instinct.”

She didn’t really say all of this, only the first part, about sitting in a flight response, getting frozen and trapped, and then hurriedly rushed through a fumbling description of nervous system impulses accumulating. She did not say that they create an imbalance, all those neuro chemicals that are part of our survival system. It was not useful to try to talk with the person about that stuff. They couldn’t hear her.

They were listing reasons to die and ways to die.

If a person can’t figure out how to escape from something horrible in their experience, suicide can make a lot of sense.

She doesn’t know if she told the person that, that it makes sense, to want to die if you see no way out. Maybe that strong will to die is like the escape hatch, the eject button?

Or maybe those sensations in the body, that creeping and slithering dread in the dark early morning, the strangeness of the bed sheets, the suffocating dawn, breathless near-panting heart tremoring and clamped, calves knotted and a seering burn, almost a twisting, all the way down to the bones. The writhing and whimpering dread…of course it makes a person want to die…and to think of death, to seize upon it, to imagine all the ways that death might feel, whether it would be or could possibly be worse than what is happening right then.

These are reasonable calculations to make. The thought is bound to occur to a person who is desperately trying to figure out how to not feel like they are dying in this everyday effort of living.

She didn’t say any of this.

While she was walking, trying to get clarity and noticing only that her headache, the one she had started her day with, had begun to come back in the base of her skull, seeing the clouds and hearing the birds, the night insects coming out…she thought about the person and what she would tell them to do, if she could tell them to do something.

“Wake up first thing in the morning and put your face in a bowl of ice water. Do it. Put your feet on the floor, make your arms move. Roll off of the bed if you have to. Slowly rise. Do not get distracted by any sensations other than your knees on the floor. Breathe. Stand. Go to the toilet. Urinate. Do not stop to look in the mirror. Wash your hands. Go into the kitchen, open the freezer. Take out the cold metal bowl filled with ice. Put your hand on the ice, and then fill the bowl with water of an adequate depth to cover your face to your hairline. Gently lower your face into the water. Allow yourself to feel the surprise, focus on the sensation of your breath on hold, your feet on the floor, the chill of the water that feels almost good. After a few moments, take your face out of the water. Wipe your eyes, look around. Repeat as needed.”

“Have your shoes by the door. Go outside. Listen to the world waking up. Stand with your hands on your hips, straighten your spine, breathe deeply for four seconds, hold for a few seconds, exhale fully. Repeat. Notice any small sensation of calm awareness and attention to the world outside, any small quelling of the sensations of fear. Focus only on the aspects of experience that are not distressing. The tiny tingling on the tip of the pinky. Hold your own hand, think of someone or something that makes you feel strong, that bolsters your spirit.”

Sep 9 (4 days ago)

to me

The man’s laughter sounds like a cackle

Coming from across the street

I can tell he is old, because of the sound of his laughter

Last week, dodging mud slips and old roots on the trail back from the summit

Where the people took turns

Taking pictures by a sign and the mountains

All that land, trees sighing into the distance

There was laughter, loud and louder

And I don’t know why I was bothered

Why I wished they would be quiet

Those people laughing

Or why it bothered me less when I saw that they were

Old, the laughing people, and that they were not American

And in between their laughter they were speaking Japanese

And I liked the laughter then

Delighted in it, even

The sound that is the same

In any language

 

Nobody laughs the same way

But most laughter is recognizable as laughter

Even when it sounds like a cackle

Or like weeping

 

As the wind blows in from the south

Geese have been flying north the past few days

Heading back into the cold

To avoid the storm

A difficult choice

That, for the Geese, probably isn’t a choice at all

It is simply what they must do

 

I cried at work yesterday, unexpectedly

A ripping tearfulness

Like a little kid

Hot salt on my cheeks

My breath catching

Voice splitting

 

It was stupid, to cry like that

To feel so hurt and angry

By a simple acronym

At the top of a resume

And the prospect of working with a person

Who believes that whole lives and a million reasons can be reduced to

Four letters

And it drove me crazy

Sitting there crying

That my sitting there crying

After bursting into my supervisors office

Sputtering about how I did not want to interview the person next Thursday afternoon,

that I could not

Made me feel like a baby

Like a spoiled little brat

And that my sitting there crying

With the lamp turned off

Because I had started to leave

Had started to just walk out

Could be seen as a symptom of a —-

and that they really didn’t get it at all

Why I felt crazy and sad

And not good about myself at all

And that they probably could not understand that this too,

that all of these things

Made me feel crazy

And I wanted to leave, but there was nowhere to go

Except home at 5:10,

After I cried some more

Sitting in front of supervisor

Naming that it hadn’t felt good

To be told that it was disappointing

That I was disappointing

That they were disappointed

That was all they had said

But not all that I heard

I told them I wanted to leave

And then told them

About seeing the old woman dance

About dancing with her

And how could I ever find somewhere else

To work

That would pay me for dancing

On the way home, excited to hear the marching band play,

to sit in the stands on a cool late-summer night

And root for the team

Hear the drums

See that smiling young man on the cheer team

Whose smile lights up the whole fucking world

Go see the game

Meet up with my daughter

On the way home, driving the drive that I had decided that I could not stand anymore

I understood that I would not leave yet

That maybe it wasn’t time

After all

And I told my mother,

“You know the biggest thing motivating my resentment is this myth, this entitlement myth, that I should be earning more money, that I should be making more. What is that? I am already so lucky, and why should I think that my worth is measured by my pay, why do I think that should come from a job? Maybe it is me who is selling myself short and not creating opportunities for myself? Maybe that’s me.”

I have nothing to complain about, other than the fact that 20th century middle-class American values and the necessity of money in a violently capitalistic culture and economy have ripped me off my ability to be grateful that I have a job at all, that I do not have to work in a septic field. That I earn enough to buy hot chocolate and sparkling water. What is my fucking problem that I should be so petty as to think I deserve more…and yet I do, but so do we all…and some more than others.

So, my anger and disgust and agonizing over occupation and purpose, all that bullshit deliberation and anxiety and bitterness and waking up with the blaring thought, “My labor is being exploited.”

…which it is, my labor is – in fact – being exploited. Because my labor utilizes my humanity, my thoughts and feelings, my cognition and communication, my headspace and heartspace…i am being exploited.

Work that is externally compelled by a power-holding entity, rather than internally compelled by one’s own innate industry and priorities in exerting personal resources of action and energy toward an end that serves one’s highest personal potential and is in keeping with one’s most core values, which nurtures individual strengths…any work done because you have to do it, lest you suffer the consequences of unemployment or underemployment, homelessness and other harms, other scarcities, denials of human rights…is exploitative. Forced.

It is a human right to have shelter.

“I do not understand why it is so hard for me to get a place to live. A place to live. Everybody should have a place to live.”

It had been raining for days and people live in tents in the forest.

She had gotten up, gone upstairs for tobacco

Her children were at the fair with their father

Things were chill, copacetic

It has been 7 years

Since all that bad stuff happened

And she thinks that maybe that means something

That maybe it is over

Whatever that was

These strange long years

She feels like weeping

But it is way below the surface

That feeling

And she is sitting on the porch again now

And the man across the street is still laughing

And it still sounds like crying.

As she walked down the stairs she scratched her side and felt her ribs

She could feel them all the way across her chest

The ridges in her sternum

She’d always been thin like that

Even when she got big

Pregnant with her first child

Her bones were apparent

She pictures them alive, her bones

Not like a skeleton at all

The slick of blood, the grain of marrow

Yellow blue in the cartilage

“it’s like I forget who I am, and forget what I need to do. I become a person who is not excited to paint. Who doesn’t even want to paint…and who doesn’t even care that she doesn’t want to paint. That it doesn’t seem fun. in bed in the late-morning, Saturday, she imagines herself as an old woman, an old woman who stopped writing, who used to write, but then stopped, an old woman who does not paint and who does not make music, and she thinks, ” ‘Maybe in the next life it will happen? Maybe then I will get it right, will keep on, will make something that matters. Will finally write a book.’ She feels a familiar sad disgust, that frustration.”

Maybe it’s not dead. Maybe it’s just dying. I think that’s why, I know that’s why, I started this project to begin with. Because I knew that a part of who I am was dying, and I don’t want it to die.

Thursday night, I came home to find a wounded young dove huddled in the driveway. It was still alive. I briefly wondered if I would have to step on it, if it was mortally wounded, death inevitable. If I would have to consider breaking its neck. I picked it up. Its tail feathers were missing, its back was bleeding. It was gasping, eyes dull. I held it, made my palm like a nest, and put it into the big square pocket of my jacket, carried it while I walked the dogs up the street on their brief walk.

(There is a cardinal, there is a blue Jay. Two jays. It is cold and the sun is already setting.)

I put the bird in the old parakeet cage, gave it water and blood worms borrowed from the neon tetras, made it a bed of pine shavings, left it alone.

It was dead in the small huddle I had left it in when I woke up the next morning.

It was probably cold.

I do not know if I was kind or not, to try to help that dying bird.

To me, it seemed like the right thing to do.

I have no way of knowing if the bird would agree.

I sat down tonight with idea that I would write a free verse prose poem about everything that I could remember since the last time I wrote. My writing voice has been so dead lately, with all the worries about work and money and schedules and sleep, the grocery list, the cross-country snacks, the various fees of adolescence in the American public school system and popular recreational activities. The new calendar on the kitchen wall, hanging over the heart I painted a while back.

I should working on that heart.

I am going to close the windows for the first time in weeks.

2:37 PM (7 hours ago)

to me

Heh. Weird. My automatic address population did not offer me the option of emailing myself. It offered me the option of emailing my work address, and some random people . . . but, the familiar little circle, with a boat adrift, Me as the name-word in the little pill shape of digital grey…it didn’t show up, at least not until I typed out the whole email address…the one that is my name…

I might have taken this reluctance in digital functioning to suggest that I ought not email myself, that I should do the thing I have just sat down to do, which is to start a new blog…no…i will use, I’m Fine. Thank you. I will make a page there. It will be called Patient Belongings, which is the name of the book I am putting together over the next — months. Not years. Not eventually. Not someday. In the matter of months.

I had a couple thoughts. One on the topic of trauma informed parenting and how I am going to learn more about it, the language and practices of it, the research. This is professionally relevant, and personally relevant – worth thinking about and learning about.

Peculiar, how the most obvious things – a phrase, a reality, an option, a possible series of meaningful events – can be totally off my radar, or even things I know about, have learned about and studied…are sometimes just not in my consciousness at all. I am not thinking about so much that I want to be thinking about, and probably should be thinking about, and I am not integrating existing knowledge into perspectives, actions, behavior, worldview…

It is important to me to be learning and adapting in ways that create growth or momentum.

If this blog were a personality test, I would check that box without a moment’s hesitation.

I still have not gotten onto the computer to make the page, to start the twitter account, which will probably only follow myself for the longest time.

This is what always happens, often happens, tends to happen…the writing about writing and this process of writing, part of which involves thinking about writing, my perpetual struggle to figure out:  what I am supposed to be doing with this constant nag that I want to write, I should be writing, why aren’t I writing, after I write I love writing. It is the most fun ever.

(Someone once called me the anti-fun. That’s not true. People think different things are fun.)

I am working on, as I usually am, some strategy to be doing more of what I love in addition to all the other things I do that I love, and that I have to do.  I have come up with options. The most viable and least complicated being to simply write whenever I can, outline the book.

Patient Belongings: A Random Lot of Reflections on Mental Health, Human Experience, and the Things We Don’t Ever Forget

This last time I was in the hospital, holy shit, tomorrow is the day. The 7th anniversary. My heart is pounding so hard. It feel like an animal in my chest, pounding, pounding. The tattoo of a bird with a ribbon in its beak, aiming right to where my heart is vibrates when I get a rush of adrenaline, when my nervous system is stimulated to produce a stress response. Oh. So, if dopamine is integral to the motivation system in keeping animals alive (taking care of tasks, seeking food, grooming) it is probably also involved in the fight / flight response, to get us moving, to help us pay attention, to keep us positive yet urgent . . . so, if – in addition to our reactions to objectively threatening events in the 3d realm – simply thinking about something, believing in something, experiencing a reality powerfully enough to make it seem real, that produces a stress response…and maybe, in addition to the adrenaline and norepinephrine and oxytocin and cortisol…maybe there is some dopamine in the mix too…probably so…maybe fear and wonder – shock and awe –  huge realizations…maybe dopamine gets released.

The relationship between schizophrenia and terror and awe. Dopamine antagonists dampen the dopamine reward that comes about in believing, stops reinforcing the thinking/perspective/behavior that causes the dopamine release…makes it seem less real, the idea…?

This may seem like random or jumbled thoughts, but really, they are just notes to myself, connected to other fragments of notes, so that I don’t forget. I write these things out in the way that do so that I remember the connection between ideas, or some small detail that is emblematic or vital.

I was going to say, that the last time I went to the hospital…wow, lotta feeling in that, thinking about the significance of seven years. Last year, I didn’t think about it at all. I didn’t even notice the day, until late in the evening.

I was going to say…that the last time I went into the hospital – oh flood of remembered images, that whole gruesome experience – I had a copy of the book The Names, by Don Delillo, but only part of it, because the spine had broken the night before. I don’t know what else I brought. Or if I even had the book. I know it was with me at the Resident Inn, a few days prior.

There is a lot I don’t remember, there is a lot I do remember.

I don’t know if brought Frazer, my bear. The one I have had since I was 7. I saw him in the window of the gift store downtown, when I was kid by the waterfront, shrimp boat smell and gritty sidewalks, Marsh and river. The store was decorated for Christmas, and looked like somewhere colder than south Georgia. The bear was wearing a striped pajama top, with a striped pajama hat, pointed at the end.

I took that bear, Frazer, my mispronunciation of the company that he was manufactured by, with me to the hospital the first time I went. It wasn’t a hospital though, that first time. It was a Treatment Facility. No emergency room, more locked doors, longer stays. Not a hospital.

I got the Frazer the year after I ruptured my spleen on Christmas Day.

This last time, I kept the bag Patient Belongings, blaring blue letters a plastic handle. Crinkly sturdy. Non biodegradable. I liked the sound of the phrase. Patient could refer to the adjective used to describe something or someone who is tenacious in waiting, something or someone that doesn’t give up easily.

Belongings . . . well, we have all sorts of belongings…things and memories and beliefs, bodies…statures and inclusions, burdens and prejudices…hopes…

To me, it is a beautiful phrase. Patient Belongings. It is what I am going to call my book.

I like that there is a part of me that still believes that it is a little bit magic, that I should start a book on the 7th anniversary of the worst day of my life, a life with more than a few really bad days.

…and a lot of lovely days, blessed days…all of them are blessed days, in that even the terrible days had some beauty, some small kindness or strangeness or aliveness that mattered, helped me through…all blessed days because I am alive, and still a part of the livingness in the world, weird as it is.

Fortunately for me, I have been writing, at least semi-regularly for the past 8 years or so…so, it’s not like, “Oh, and now I’m going to write a book!” (Been there, done that, oh the dopamine of a grand exclamation, a strongly stated intent, a big idea.) I have also been working out how to actually write a book. Writing is not writing a book. A book is a construction of content, the content is conveyed through the writing…but, if jumbled up a thousand beautifully composed paragraphs, it wouldn’t make a book, necessarily. I mean, it would…but not a book that would serve the intended purpose of the book that the content, otherwise arranged, may have served. It wouldn’t do the same thing, teach the same thing…show the same thing, tell the same story.

I mean, I could – and have [briefly] attempted to – copy / paste this whole fucking mess and call it a book.

Or I could work out the parameters of the content and structure, the form of the story, the arc of narration, the balance between reflection and experience.

9:37 PM (1 hour ago)

to me

My phone is at 25 percent

Soon it will notify me

Of imminent loss of power

I should take my own advice

She thought

About the conversation

What a weird conversation

Driving home in the first

Good sunset in a long while

The fair spinning and whirling color

And heat

Animal stalls dung brown wood at the east end of the midway

Dark, but still there

Dance music pumping

People shrieking

Such a din of noise

That she drives by, asking

Is your friend at the fair

with her friend

It makes sense that you feel tested

That pressure to do the right thing

Agonizing really

She knew this pressure well

She was projecting a little

She knew this

That’s what people do

We project

And connect

Give some sense of understanding

That we understand

That we fucking get it

And sometimes we project things that are only ours

That have nothing to do with the person or scenario we are witnessing

And it falls flat

Gets strange

Awkward

A palatable disconnect

But she didn’t feel that

When she said

Yeah, it’s like a rock and a hard place and , really,

When are you gonna get a break

She had her own version of that feeling

Her family was not in crisis

Nobody was dying

(There are people dying)

 

My phone is at 13 percent

I had to stop

Writing here

For a minute

To send a late text to a person that I ought not be texting though in this case

It makes total sense

And was super appropriate

Culturally competent

Informative

Very informative

A bit of daredevil multitasking

Art with service

In allegiance with my humanity

The impulse to do something

That might be helpful

To someone

Purposeful

Why do I doubt myself so much

Why does fear creep in

I worry that if write a book, I will lose my family.

That is a stupid fear to have.

I wouldn’t write that kind of book.

Still, I have the fear.

 

Like that dream that I had when I was a kid

Walking down the dirt road

Just past the two trees

And we are all there

My parents and my brother

Me

And it is sunny like the

700 sunny days

I’d had when I was around that age

Happy and walking down the dirt road

In the dream I paused

And turned to look into the trees at the edge of the pasture

The tall oaks that breeches the long lines of pine leading out to the east Marsh

And in the tallest branches of a very tall oak

There was a mirror

And it was oval like something in my great grandmother’s house

And just hung up there, shining

My family was gone when I turned back to them, and the day was an entirely different sort of day. An eclipse light. It was the most terrifying feeling, to be suddenly and deeply alone in the woods.

There is some myth there, in that dream, about narcissistic tendencies and fascination with the edges of dark places, and the predictable alienation and ostracized, the utter aloneness that comes about with persistent preoccupation with oneself and one’s experience.

I never claimed not to be narcissistic. Maybe it was not the look of his reflection that Narcissus was admiring. Maybe it was the fact that there was any reflection at all, the water could make our image gold, that we could ripple at the edges like that, be splashed away. Maybe he was trying to figure out how that works, how that is, that the sun could be in the sky above him and also held in the water he stared into. Maybe that’s what he thought beautiful?

Nonetheless, fascination of that sort – regardless of the object or subject of one’s fascination – will wreck a person’s life, if a person happens to share a life with other human beings, has a job, has a family, has things they need to do, a dog to walk. Showers to take. Meals to eat.

If anything, it was the naivete and entitlement evident in Narcissus ‘ insistence that he do the thing he desired to do, that he should be able to while away his days in such a manner, staring into a pool…that was the tragedy…I don’t think vanity of a purely self interested nature had much to do with it. Other than if Narcissus was trying to see how he could be connected to the sky, on a flat plane of water, and thought that he was beautiful because he was a part of a reflection, a shimmer that could hold the whole world.

Resume:

This more important than that. That is more important than this. If all things must be done, how is one to do them?

Funny, I got just a couple points shy of a perfect score on the logic and analysis portion of the late-90s GRE, but I can’t figure out how to have enough time in the day.

Last night, I couldn’t solve a simple number line problem from 8th grade math. Not much has changed there. Apparently, I am not so great with math. I am okay with that. I am good at other things.

I am avoiding adding to the document I opened last night. I feel like that is something I ought to do, that it is important for me to establish, re-establish this habit.

Sep 16 (2 days ago)

to me

Why they say to not say that suicide is selfish…because the suicidal person already feels selfish, and like a total piece of shit.

I get this, but I really can’t get around the simple math of what is gained and what is lost when someone takes their own life. It feels almost like a taboo, to believe that suicide is selfish. I tried to commit suicide.

…and I am trying to remember what it felt like, to want to die so badly, and it is right there, that feeling, in images and ways I described it, things I have written . . . but, the feeling, the sheer agony of wanting to die and not wanting to live and not being able to figure any way out of it, and to have all the possible means of dying flashing through the mind, thus ding and lurching, bursting and exploding, slicing and fogging, a macabre procession of ways and means, end results and aftermaths. The sorrow of it, the dull grey of not even caring any more, the mourning for oneself and one’s family, the utter grief of it, condensed into a balled up figure, crying on the bed, curled into itself, quiet and dying and pitifully trapped while the world is busy and mowing and laughing and bright, getting things done, being alive…that feeling is a little distant now.

I do recall that I already felt dead, immobilized by all the ways I’d let people down, all the ways I’d broken their hearts, all the ways I was failing myself. That it didn’t matter if my body continued to live, that I was already dead in all the ways that really mattered.

So, yeah, you don’t tell a suicidal person that suicide is a selfish thing to do. They already feel like shit, already feel ashamed and ugly. There is something taboo about selfishness. It is a bad thing to be. Selfish.

The vast majority of suicidal people that I have known, including myself, really truly and desperately wanted to help other people, to be a good person. To not hurt people. So, the state of being suicidal, of wanting to die, the sensations of not wanting to live anymore, of not being able to live anymore. Oh, the killing dissonance of it all.

You don’t tell a suicidal person that they are being selfish. They are not selfish. They do not want to hurt other people. The fact that their pain is enough to make them feel that suicide is not a selfish thing to do, that the ending of their pain is worth the cost of the pain that their death will cause . . . well, that ought to speak volumes about just how much it hurts to want to die.

However, rationally, I have a hard time figuring out how suicide is not selfish, because I also know that – dammit – the world needs you. You have to keep living, because the world needs you.

The echoes of my suicidal self whisper, “Fuck the world. It’d be better off without me. I cause so many problems, create so many failures. I already cause pain. I hurt people. If I am gone, they will hurt for awhile and then they will move on and be free, and I will be free. They don’t even really love me.”

Ugh. What a load of lying vitriol.

…and even if this is all true, because sometimes people don’t love the person who wants to die, and sometimes the person who wants to die is, in fact, a person who has made grievous mistakes, has caused sleepless nights and the financial ruin of a family, who can’t seem to get it together . . . well, I still can’t get around why suicide would not be kind of a selfish thing to do…because we don’t keep living g for what is happening now, we keep living for what might come about as we continue to live…and, I guess, therein lies the problem, the trap of suicidality…because one cannot imagine any sort of real and possible quality life for themselves. There is a death of hope that occurs prior to suicide?

If a person cannot imagine crawling off of the bed to get to the bathroom to brush their damn teeth, and hasn’t been able to wake up without dread for weeks, they cannot conceive of being able to create and enjoy a quality life for themselves.

Suicide messes up the math of weighing out whether to continue living a life that, in their estimation, will only be painful and exceedingly problematic or to just be done with it all.

Wanting to die makes continuing to live feel almost impossible. Within the body, in response to the graphic images of death that plague nearly every waking moment, the nervous system enters into a profound reaction, activating our amygdala and hippocampus regions, flooding our systems with hormones and transmitters. We only see what is terrible and bleak, threatening, and the feeling of terror in living becomes stronger, deeper, consuming.

How can I help them how to help people break out of this, so that they are able to have the neutrality of resilience which allows for them to see and feel and believe in all the reasons to live. The simple sunlight, the still at night. Your dog, somehow smiling, always there with you. Your kids. Your parents. The streets you live on, the clerk at the convenience store, that little kid down the road, the look of the mountains in fog, that song, that person, the feeling of doing well, of overcoming, of being strong and capable and peaceful in your humanity, moments of being at ease and even joyful…

The other night, I was responding to a person who is struggling to support a friend who wants to die…and I was thinking about how our poor confused nervous system, which is supposed to help us to live, reacts to the trauma of wanting to die by making a person feel so freaked out and overwhelmed and in pain, reinforcing the desire to die, because living feels terrible and impossible.

I talk a lot with people who want to die, and talking doesn’t seem to do anything much, because the person can’t hear what I  saying, their mind is freaking out, their brain caught in the feedback loop of fear and shame and distress, a singularity of focus. Sometimes, my voice seems to help, seems to provide some comfort, and sometimes we are able to make a list, of things to do to get through it, to live with wanting to die, and sometimes we can find one thing, maybe two, to look forward to…and maybe, for them, the feeling, the urgency to die, recedes a little, quiets down, can be put off.

I think that what calms it down is the nervous system regulation that occurs when people experience comfort, a kind voice, a calm person, the touch of a hand, the sensations of being held, when they think about and visualize positive or neutral things, engage their list – making and planning components (the pre-frontal cortex).

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