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Posts Tagged ‘Suicide’

792ff0efca4a02382678eb238ac650adJust over a year ago I was standing on the far platform of a railway station, with crusted blood on my arm from self-inflicted wounds and trying to muster the courage to throw myself in front of a train. I nearly did it too. Standing so close to the edge of the platform that the side of one of the trains brushed and almost clipped the tip of my nose.

I couldn’t quite do it though. Not quite. Ended up going back home with my tail between my legs and trying to salvage the pieces of my broken brain.

I was in a very severe depressive slump anyway and then was kicked while I was down by life. One friend died and another, dear, friend turned out to be in a rather harsh home situation. I couldn’t help either of them in any meaningful way and was left feeling thoroughly impotent, even more useless than usual and selfish for feeling terrible. I was unable to ask for support and help when I felt other people needed it more.

Eventually, of course, people found out and were amazingly and wonderfully supportive, as they always are (depression lies to you about that) and while a dead friend can’t be brought back, at least the other friend now has an escape plan that I can – hopefully – help with.

My beautiful and lovely friend, and one-time unofficial, virtual housemate, Katie sent me a care package not long after my bout of suicidal ideation, and while some of the contents were an arcane mystery (a face pack? wtf?) amongst the goodies was The Book of You, a little diary/workbook of sorts with daily micro-actions for a whole year (there’s also an app). I just finished working through it (it was actually useful and not the hippy crap it might look like at first glance) and one of the things it tells you to do is to ‘report back’.

So, what’s there to report back?

I’ve made it 12 months without a relapse. No self harm in that time. No new suicide attempts. Only – relatively – mild bouts of depression and panic. I’m out of therapy but back on the drugs, on what seems to be a semi-permanent basis, constantly trying to anticipate and balance the dose. Summer is the worst time of year for my mental health, the heat I think – and the lack of sleep. I also tend to feel out of place at this time of year, it’s not really my ‘cup of tea’ and there are extra, physical chores that need doing.

I’ve been working hard to try and get back to the self-sufficiency I was at before the last few years’ heavy bouts of depression, but it’s tough. I’ve even been looking for supplementary part-time work but with the depression as it is I just don’t think I’m reliable enough for anyone to hire. This presents its own problems in terms of both self-esteem and finances, wanting to regain that full independence and being – seemingly – unable to. There’s not a lot of options to remedy that either. Seeking assistance or benefits is massively impactful to self esteem if you don’t feel you really need them and austerity has cut funding for such things to the bone anyway. An ‘invisible illness’ would be a tough sell to any assessor or board, especially the kinds that judge terminal cancer cases ‘fit for work’.

There’s no real prospect of ever ‘getting better’ at this point. Just varying degrees of coping. That puts a lot of stress on friendships and relationships, as does the aforementioned lack of independence. There’s things I’m good at, even very good at, but imposter syndrome is a bitch and even having talent isn’t enough in a very tough gig economy with a trashed reputation, caused by sticking up for what you know is right – no matter what. No matter the lies and aspersions. Even when some of the people you were sticking up for end up turning on you.

I’ve accomplished a lot, in spite of being sick. In spite of there being no prospect of ever getting better. These are things I should be proud of, but anhedonia – one of the symptoms of depression, look it up – makes it all but impossible to truly acknowledge and take it to heart even when you do something amazing and against the odds.

I’m still here, but the Reverse SAD is pretty bad, panic attacks are pretty frequent. The abuse and suspicion I’m used to by this point, and when you have severe depression nobody can hate you as much as you hate yourself anyway, so it barely registers.

All of that sounds really bad, but here’s the thing. It isn’t.

It’s just an acknowledgement of status. I’m coping. I’m plodding on. I’m working away on things – bit by bit. I’ve re-organised my work schedule and am much more productive. I have a large body of work on Youtube now. I’m at least looking for ways out of my problem situations and there’s slow but steady progress on every front.

That’s all much better than it sounds.

Thank you everyone who looks after me when I need it, stays friends through tough differences of opinion, doesn’t treat me like some fragile thing all the time and forgives me my failings while valuing my strengths.

Here’s where I was last year, for comparison…

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Noteworthy game designer and pundit Internet arsehole James ‘Grim’ Desborough was found dead this morning in his home in Hampshire. James had committed suicide killed himself, like some kind of pussy following a long struggle with depression feeling sad, and being a huge burden to everyone he knew and was discovered by paramedics in the bathroom of the home he shared with his long suffering wife having slashed his wrists under the influence of alcohol shitfaced because he was too much of a fucking gaylord to cut himself without some dutch courage.

Born in 1975 to Norah and Barry Desborough brother to John Desborough and husband to Donna Desborough none of whom REALLY loved him, James had no children because he’s a pathetic loser but is survived by his wife who doesn’t really like him, his extended family who never understood him and the two cats that he doted upon because he’s a fag.

James will not be remembered for his devotion to the art of storytelling, role-playing games, his strong defence of the arts and of free expression and his forthright and candid views on many topics including advocacy for atheism and sexual freedom. He will not be deeply missed by his many few friends, who were fed up to the back teeth of putting up with his shit to whom he was often a source of comfort and aid, even when he had little to give himself.

In accordance with his wishes, his body will be thrown into a ditch for crows to eat his head will be cryogenically frozen, but a small humanist memorial service will be held in the village hall and the rest of his remains will be interred at the local woodland burial site to the village where he spent most of his life.

Depression lies to you. It will twist anything good into something bad and it takes enormous discipline and willpower not to listen to that dark little voice on your shoulder undermining anything and everything people say.

Robin Williams’ death was a surprise to a lot of people and a lot of people cannot seem to understand why a man so beloved and successful could or would do such a thing. Many of those people are angry at him and they call him selfish, before the body is even cold.

Worse, many papers are reporting in lurid detail what happened. Many anchors, pundits and others are opining on why and how he did it and what a selfish act it was.

That is not good and not helpful and it is going to set off people like me who have depression and who suffer from bouts of suicidal depression. It’s overwhelming. When people talk about the ‘easy way out’ and how ‘selfish’ such an at is, they are talking bullshit.

Bullshit.

Depression eats you up like a cancer. It steals everything good from your life and perverts it into something bad. It’s not logical, it’s not rational, it doesn’t make any sense. You will never be good enough for that black little voice, you will never be successful enough. No amount of money, or love, or family, or friends will work.

Maybe you seek out substance abuse as a way to silence the voice but drugs and alcohol only make things worse in the long run. Cutting yourself makes the pain real, something that can be seen, felt, dealt with, healed, but people understand that even less than they do depression itself.

Suicide isn’t the easy way out. It’s the last resort after years, decades, a lifetime of struggle. It’s what you have when there’s no fight left in you, no spirit, no willpower, no ability to reach out to anyone and say ‘I need help’, and people aren’t going to know you need help because you get so fucking good at hiding it, at smiling through, at playing the clown or talking earnestly about your art. You get good at alchemy, transmuting this deep irrational hurt into rage, fixation, anger, righteousness. You pour it into your work – when you can work – as a way of getting it out of you.

Good things don’t penetrate and don’t last, while the slightest little snide comment lingers in your brain for eternity.

Is it selfish? It doesn’t feel like it when you’re sitting in an ice cold bath, swaying drunkenly and drying to keep your hand steady enough to cut a vein. It feels selfless. Nobody should have to put up with your crap. Everyone would be better off if you were dead. So cut…

Cut you fucking coward.

Free everyone from worrying about you.

Free everyone from being bummed out whenever you enter a room.

Do it.

Don’t do it though. It passes – eventually – even if it does come back. There’s drugs that can help. There’s therapy – even if it’s oversubscribed. People aren’t as pissed off with you as you think. The papers and news might be being irresponsible but the rest of us, we can use this opportunity to reach out, to help people, to show that this big black dog can be survived and that we’re better than this stupid illness that fatuous idiots only see as news or an opportunity for a controversial soundbite.

Here’s some stuff I’ve written before that might, hopefully, help people out:

 

 

 

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It’s about me, or whatever poor sod is contemplating it at the time.

Ian O’Doherty though, wants to sideline the victim of suicide though and wants to make it about the people left behind.

Yet even if we accept we are now living in a culture where suicide is more prevalent than ever before, we are queasy and reluctant to apportion blame to the perpetrator. And someone who kills themselves should be seen as exactly that – the perpetrator, not some innocent bystander.

Now, it is true that the people you would leave behind and understanding that they would be hurt, upset, confounded can pull you back from the brink. Even pets can do that as you wonder who would look after them when and if you’re gone. There are many reasons for suicide as well, dishonour, being exposed or shamed for a crime or behaviour, financial ruin, physical incapacity and then there’s mental illness.

In each and every case I suspect there is the feeling of being trapped, of being unable to escape and in that last moment with the pills in your hand, the cold steel against your wrist or the taste of gun oil swirling in your mouth it’s about you and only you.

O’Doherty is right that people would be hurt by your passing and that it is a horrible thing to do to people but it’s also an indescribable pain that goes right down to the very core of who and what you are. In your mind the world, all those friends, all those people, even those animals would be better off if you didn’t exist. You’d do them a favour by checking out. You’re trapped, there’s no way anything is going to get better again and you’re just going to drag people down with you.

The idea that your death could be a bad thing seems ridiculous and more than anything else, you just want the pain and hurt to STOP and surely anyone who cared for you would want the same thing, no?

Is there any more clear cut case of blaming the victim than doing it to a victim of suicide?

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arsefaceAs a cisgendered, melanin-lacking, imperfect female I’m often considered to have privilege and thus not to be worth listening to on any topic you care to mention. Apparently, and without irony, because society is designed to cater to my every whim – not that it feels that way. However, there is at least one arena in which I can be considered an oppressed minority and that’s the arena of mental health. I’m not neurotypical.

OK, I prefer to speak straightforwardly and I can’t keep that up for much longer, so let’s cut to the chase.

I am mentally ill, if functional, in that I suffer from moderate to severe depression. Having inadvertently seen my doctor’s notes I know that I’m on record as being much more at the severe end. This doesn’t mean I’m cuckoo for cocoa puffs, just that my brain is broken in such a way that I have an incredibly low self image (resistant to outside reinforcement and support), have trouble experiencing joy and happiness, have a naturally quite pessimistic outlook and am frequently indescribably miserable and unmotivated for no reason that makes sense to someone who hasn’t had a bout of depression. I have been depressed to the point of being suicidal a handful of times in my 37 years, though I’ve only been diagnosed and treated for a handful of years now.

Enter the controversy du jour in nerd circles. The Harley Quinn sexy-suicide competition.

Suddenly it’s not my whiteness, maleness, age, first-world geography or regrettable lack of obvious gender/sexuality minority status that’s important. It’s my broken brain and the fact I’ve been a victim of my own desperation (or rather, a ‘survivor’).

This is a fucking weird experience.

I’ve written about my depression but not so much from a position of authority but one of empathy and understanding. I’ve been there. I know what it feels like. This’ll pass, you just have to hold on. Tea and sympathy for other people feeling the same way. I’ve also written scenes of desperation and self-loathing in my stories, especially in the book that’s still in editing. In fiction, my experiences can lend writing about that sort of scene an authenticity and reality that improves the writing and draws the reader in. I’m not a huge believer in only writing what you know, but it can help.

The temptation is to thrust my mental illness into people’s faces while they’re talking about this, in a sort of vengeful ‘HAH! You have to listen to me now! I’m the victim! My opinion is the only one that counts!’ It’s also a rush to be in this position of… well, unlike claims of privilege made for being white/male/cis this genuinely does feel like privilege.

I’ve made a few comments here and there but I’ve also felt held back a bit. After all, my personal and deeply subjective experience creates bias in me and despite suffering from bouts of depression and having come to the point of suicide several times, that doesn’t actually make me an expert on the issue. I’m also uncomfortable with the way swinging the fact of my issues around like a club reduces me to that issue, rather than a whole person.

Personally I feel that I would rather have discussions and depictions of mental health issues out there in public, even poorly done, even comedic, even flippant. Anything to familiarise people with the issues, reduce the stigma and stop people feeling so isolated. In the few comments on this I have made people seem to have leant weight to my opinion simply because I’m a sufferer, not because I have made any particularly cogent argument.

So I stopped myself, took a deep breath and a step back and did a bit of research.

Turns out that the question of whether media depictions of suicide are helpful or harmful is still a bit up in the air. In factual media there is an effect, called the Werther effect, where information about methods of suicide or high profile cases (such as celebrities) lead to copycat suicides. With fictional media the effect is not so easy to discern and it’s unclear whether it has a genuine effect or not. It’s further unclear as to the effectiveness of media on de-stigmatising, provoking people to seek help, or directly helping them cope and find the resources to survive.

My opinion is now a bit better qualified due to reading up on genuine scientific research in the field and isn’t that much changed from what it was before. Still, I take a few lessons from this:

  • It’s dangerous to lend too much weight to someone’s opinion because of their victim status.
  • Victim status can be a more powerful and effective privilege than many others.
  • Having this privilege is an addictive rush and it’s tempting to use it aggressively to shut people down.
  • Having victim status can make people afraid to argue, even when you’re wrong or ill-informed.
  • Knowledge trumps emotion.

For the record, I don’t see the problem with the Harley suicide competition thing, other than that it seems an odd and difficult topic to run a competition around.

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