"We are all of us living in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars." ~Oscar Wilde
"Adventure is worthwhile in itself." ~Amelia Earhart

March 31, 2008

Ack, I'm 35 years old.

Ack, I turned 35 yesterday. I'll be absolutely shocked if I hit 70 years old so I figure half my life is over. Don't worry. There'll be no mid-life crisis from me. It doesn't spark sobering thoughts about what I've done with my life up to this point and what I'll do with it from here on in. It probably should but it doesn't. That's the one fabulous thing that came about after having walked through a period of my life where I was completely determined to kill myself. I stopped feeling like I have to accomplish certain things in order to view myself as a 'worthwhile human being'.

One of the categories of blogs that catch my attention are personal blogs written by people with mental illness. One of those is by Untreatable, a former mental health counselor who ended up being diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, among other things. A few days ago, he wrote an entry about the warning signs of suicide. The first one was, "The person all of a sudden goes from being completely depressed to eerily calm." I can attest to that one.

The first psychotic break was an absolute shock to me. The loss of control over my mind was terrifying. One minute, I was a fairly normal person. The next, I was one of 'those people' with a stint in the psych ward behind me. That'll cause a lot of people, including myself, to become suicidal. Obviously, I never did it. Most of the methods had their drawbacks. Getting a gun would've been difficult for me. Pills and slitting your wrists have unbelievably high failure rates and the last thing I wanted to do was fail and end up in the psych ward again. Gassing myself with carbon monoxide seemed plausible but it had too much potential to harm whoever walked into the room next. Jumping off a building or bridge was unthinkable because what if I failed? Ending up a paraplegic with a bashed-in head and completely dependent on others was the worst possible fate I could imagine. The only real option was hanging myself. I found a way that I thought might have been less painful. I won't repeat it here since I don't want to help another to commit suicide even if it's just through information. And, besides, any reduction in pain was insignificant. I'm an absolute wuss about pain so the three or four times I seriously tried never worked. It almost did once. I blacked out and woke up on the floor with the noose still around my neck. During my last psychotic break, that's the main reason I thought I may have been dead and wandering around as a ghost. Even though I'm an atheist, I believe in the possibility of an afterlife and it certainly would've explained the weirdness I was surrounded by. Eventually, I just quit trying because I couldn't find a suitable method.

Anyway, back to the point. During the time I was planning and researching, a calmness swept over me. The concerns that had previously worried me faded. Who cared about planning for a career when I'd be dead soon anyway? Finances didn't worry me because, really, you can't collect from somebody who's passed on. I've never cared much about having a fabulous social life but, if I had, any concerns about that would've faded away. If anything, I would've distanced myself from friends to lessen any emotional impact on them. But, even after I quit trying, that calmness remained and I realized I was worrying too much about things that I may not be able to change.

One of the phrases that's used by counselors and others who are trying to sway people from suicide is "Things will get better." Rarely have I seen an explanation that goes along with that. On its own, it's the least convincing phrase they could ever use. It may be true in some cases. People mourning the loss of a loved one or the end of a relationship, for example. The emotional pain will fade eventually. But, for people worried about finances or an incurable illness, it's not really true unless some miracle occurs. But, they can be right. Even if the problem itself doesn't go away, the person's perspective can change. Maybe a better phrase to use is, "Nothing really matters as much as you think it does." Granted, most of them will find that just as unconvincing as I view the first phrase but, once I came to that understanding, I stopped being suicidal.

Geez, I'm long-winded sometimes. :p


Xavier MunguĂ­a said...

You're right,"Things will get better." doesn't relate well to a person with suicidal thoughts. I think it's better to focus on the small details. Little jokes, pictures, songs, etc. Find the joy in those little things, and then move on to bigger tasks. Hopefully then we might realize how all these little things can change our state of mind and we can fall back on them again if need be.
Great post!

CarmenSinCity said...

Awesome post! I'm about to turn 35 myself and I've been in rehab once, detox 3 times, I've been arrested 4 times and my life is pretty much still a mess. Oh, I've overdosed about 8 times and lived to tell about it. So, I guess I'm not that worried about what I haven't accomplished, as where I am today.

Untreatable said...

Thanks for the mention. Great post. I think people say "Things will only get better" because they believe it can not get any worse.

By the way we share the same birth date as I hit 34 yesterday.

take care

goldmourn said...

I'm checking out the blog you mentioned because I too, have that diagnosis and I'd like to see his perspective.

Wow, this was a very open post. I have been thinking of writing something along the same lines but have kept it to my paper journal, not quite ready or able to find the eloquent words for such what is still an either misunderstood or over-glamourized subject.

Re: "One of the phrases that's used by counselors and others who are trying to sway people from suicide is "Things will get better." Rarely have I seen an explanation that goes along with that. On its own, it's the least convincing phrase they could ever use."

Yeah, I've heard this one too. I've even said to myself over the years. I mean, there comes a point where you have to believe it will get better because when things are at their worst, what else is there? But then this too became an empty statement, a cliche phrase. Things don't always get better. And even if they will, they're not better at the time so it doesn't make you feel any better at all. When you're just trying to make it through one day, one hour or minute to minute, you're not really thinking much about a brighter future - especially if you can't see your way through the darkness of it all.

I can relate to your post although I haven't personally figured out a phrase or mantra to sum up how to keep going, except to just keep going until it's done. Now & then some great things happen and if I hadn't survived the worst times, I wouldn't experience the best of them.

Gah, I'm rambling like crazy here! Your post touched me.

I hope that you had a good birthday. I, personally, have simply said to after surviving a few attempts myself, was, 'well, I'm still here.'

best regards.

FerdC ~ Crazy Medical Cases said...

Yeah, now that you're 35 you sure got chatty!

Happy B-day, btw. I hope you got some cake and at last one good present.

I've heard some people say, "Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem." Would that make any sense to a suicidal person? I would think that someone who is suicidal wouldn't think her problems are "temporary," even if they were.

diamond said...

Happy Belated Birthday!

Charles Sapp said...

Happy Belated Birthday. I am glad you are still with us, as selfish as it sounds, I really enjoy reading your blog. I also suffer yet writing about things larger than my life and human involvement surely gets me through the madness.

Berryvox said...

Xavier - Yeah, I think you've got the right idea. The big things just seem so overwhelming when you're suicidal.

Carmen - OMG! I knew you had a drug addiction in the past but I didn't realize how much you went through. Just beating all that is more accomplishment than most people will see in their lives.

Untreatable - Happy Birthday! I meant to say so in your comments but I blanked it out.

Goldmourn - Personally, I don't think I would've been able to write that post if I weren't years away from those feelings.

I don't think just one phrase is enough to keep anybody going. A lot of it is just attitude changes, I guess.

Ferd - I have to get chatty! I'm preparing for old age when I'll accost 'handsome young gentlemen' on the bus and bore them to death with stories from my childhood while they nod politely and wish the annoying old bat would stfu.

I doubt there's a single phrase or reason that would work for everybody. I heard that one too and thought, "Well, that's good. I'd hate to think I'm doing all this work for nothing!" But, I think the popular phrases became popular because somebody somewhere saw the logic in them.

If I had children, that would've stopped me dead in my tracks. Making a 5 year old lose a parent is just a little too cruel. But it didn't stop my uncle (who had pretty good reasons for doing so after Vietnam)

Diamond - Thanks!

Charles - The writer's block might be a good thing in my case. Gives me a bit of motivation to do things worth writing about here. :)

Travel Betty said...

Thanks for the very honest post. I lost someone close to me to suicide and I don't believe there's any one phrase that could talk someone down. I'm sorry that you've had to go through what you did, but I'm very glad you came out of it and are a stronger person for it.

Happy birthday!

Berryvox said...

Betty - Yeah, it's such a complicated issue. I don't envy suicide counselors their job, whether volunteer or paid. I'm sorry about your friend/relative. :(

The Fearless Blog said...

Happy birthday!

I am amazed at how manay Aries I have met on BC these past two months. Everyone is celebrating a birthday these days... :) hehe Includimg me.

"Nothing really matters as much as you think it does."

As I have aged, I have begun to realize this quite well.

When I start to worry too much or make myself sick, I remind myself that in the end I will die, return to the earth and no will remember me anyway after a hundred years. :) Believe it or not this makes me feel so much better; it relieves stress and brings me back to reality and the things and people that really matter.

Thank you for sharing.

sarah said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed

reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



Purl Crossly said...

Happy birthday. I think you bring up a very good coping skill. It wasn't until I hit my forties that I realized that nothing was really that important enough to kill myself over. I agree with Xavier too. It's all the little details in our lives that we can we can use to distract ourselves.

Reading the beginning of your post takes me back to how it feels when your in that really suicidal state. Most of the time one needs someone to listen instead of coming up with pat answers. After all it's how you feel "now" that's important-not how your going to feel at some vague time in the future. When someone says something like "you'll feel better soon", it negates, the seriousness of how your feeling "now". It makes you feel like they don't realize how seriously unwell you're feeling now. I think therapists need to acknowledge or validate your feelings before you can move on.