Survival, day 7

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I skipped a day last week. I did not want to survive. I did not know how to survive.

I find it hard to describe the particular pain that is intense suicidality — the kind of suicidality that is so powerful, if somebody weren’t watching you you would definitely take your life. For me, it’s a heavy sack of tears inside my chest. It starts just below my throat and fills my entire chest and my upper stomach. I have called it a boulder of tears. The tears are so heavy. Letting them out doesn’t help.

I have moments that are very painful. I am not talking of the heavy sack of tears but of moments in which I feel acute emotional pain. It may happen when I am waking up, maybe as a result of a memory, often as a body memory. I feel as if a charge of a particular kind of electricity were running through my body, head to toe. This particular kind of electricity is a combination of terrible sorrow and terrible discomfort. I used to bolt awake; now I try to relax my body while the electricity traverses my body and stay quiet and still in the aftermath, till all the residue is gone. Sometimes it works. It mostly works if I am going to sleep rather than waking up because there is sleep on the other side and I can count on it — typically.

There are also moments of intense sadness. They don’t reach the level of “I want to die now” but they are still sad. I want to try something. I want to experience them like punches in the stomach. No one has ever punched me in the stomach so I’ll think of the pain of menstrual cramps. When you get punched in the stomach, or have bad menstrual cramps, there is an acute phase that can last even hours (hopefully less, with modern medicine). Then the pain ebbs and at some point it’s gone. When it’s gone it’s gone. With menstrual cramps the pain is blameless, no one has caused it, so you have no residual resentment, though you may feel under the weather for a few days. Regardless, it’s pain located in time.

This is how I want to think of the emotional pain I am experiencing these days. As pain located in time. In the thick of it, you are in agony. Maybe modern medicine can help. Maybe blander things like a cup of tea, or broth, or milk may help too. Maybe, if the pain is not too bad, distraction can help. Music, social media, tv. Sometimes, if things are bad, nothing helps. Except time. However agonizing, the pain will pass. You may be under the weather for a few days but the acute pain will pass. It may return, of course, but its return will pass, too.

This is something I want to try. To locate my pain in time.


Beautiful despair

In the background, sketch of a woman in B&W. In front, color wheel.
Zlatka Paneva, My Emotions Be Like… via Saatchi. Alt text available.

When you are suicidal — which is to say, when you are in pain so big you want to die — you feel ugly. You see yourself through other people’s eyes and you see ugliness: neediness, despair, pleading, immense vulnerability. There is nothing about these states our culture deems beautiful. They are all marked in the most negative way possible. All of them. We run away from needy, desperate people. All of us.

There are excellent reasons for this so I won’t judge us, the running-away-ers, but if we are those who are needy and desperate, it makes our pain infinitely more intolerable. Infinitely. We want to die to avoid the shame of this seeing ourselves like this. The rejection. The humiliation (it often comes to being preached at, condescendingly).

This is something we can avoid. Yes, we are needy. Yes, we are desperate. Yes, we are pleading and vulnerable and others treat us like spoiled and annoying children. All of this, yet we are beautiful. In the face of a culture that devalues pain, we are beautiful. We are the counterculture. We are the heroes. We are precious rocks and bird and flowers. We are fucking gorgeous.

psychoanalysis suicide

Survival, day 4

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I am here.

B. wholeheartedly reassured me. This is not going to happen. You will be okay. I will make personally sure this doesn’t happen. You have me.

Something as heavy as a boulder of tears dissolved and disappeared. She has reassured me before. This time I believed it.

I am here. I can barely believe it. In the morning I woke up feeling like death barely warmed over, now I’m here.

We survive together.

psychoanalysis suicide

Survival, day 3

alt text: fuzzy image with blobs of color, superimposed sentence "Today is a crawlspace of possibility."
Words freely adapted from Jennifer Egan’s Candy House. Nonsensicality mine. Alt text available.

I couldn’t sleep last night. I slept a few hours between 8 am and 12 noon, but that’s not enough for me. Yet, I am not tired. I am wired. Fear? Pain? Anguish?

One needs to live with all this stuff. Live. Live. This afraid, pained, anguished person is me, a much beloved creature of God, treasured by many, maybe a little precious to herself, too.

Childhood can hurt so much and for so long. When could things have been turned around? I think by age 5 there was no simple enough solution that could have improved things for me. Nothing short of serious help for me and my family would have turned things around. Unimaginable really.

I think a lot about my having died young, the relief of not having to live so long with this pain. My little body threw a lot of death at me. My little body tried hard to take me out. My little body also fought hard to stay living. Clearly the living bit won. I honor this. I won’t forget you, little body. You had everything against you and still, you fought for air. You believed in the sky. You swam up and up til, boom, your lungs could take in oxygen. Air, blue sky, the scintillating surface of the water. What a relief. Enough for a day.

psychoanalysis suicide

Survival, day 2

You do this thing one day at a time. Each day is a universe. Each day is its own lifetime.

I see my analyst everyday. I am not alone.

A lifetime of longing. So much longing. I think “longing” and see myself walking down a busy street, late 80s, everything so beautiful though I didn’t know it then (the US’s love for urban ugliness throws a powerful light on memories of other places), a street paved with marble, and me, thinking, I must die.

I see myself in a number of streets thinking this. Also, please help me.

I see myself at some community home to which I do not belong in San Diego, a stranger sitting on a porch, don’t know how I got here, feet on the railing, the sun lasering down, my motorcycle parked in the street, thinking, please help me. I get up and bike away.

You survive because you have survived so damn fucking much already. Because you have sat in your therapist’s office and felt a smidgen of love that addressed the specific longing that wants you dead. A love shaped the particular configuration of that hole. An impossible love, offered impossibly. The only love that can save you. You come back for more. You stay for more.


Article: ‘Ontological Psychoanalysis or “What do you want to be when you grow up?”‘ by Thomas Ogden (2019)

This is lovely and peaceful.

For Dora

In his 2019 paper, ‘Ontological Psychoanalysis or “What do you want to be when you grow up?”‘, Thomas Ogden describes two dimensions of psychoanalysis: epistemological psychoanalysis and ontological analysis. He is careful to point out that these dimensions frequently overlap, and neither ever exists in pure form, but that they do nevertheless involve quite different modes of therapeutic action. Epistemological psychoanalysis, as practiced by Freud and Klein, has to do with knowing and understanding; while ontological psychoanalysis, in Winnicott’s or Bion’s hands, is more concerned with being and becoming. The titular question, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ is the key (but probably often implicit) question posed by the ontological analyst, and Ogden implies that the analysis is only approaching its goal once the patient is able to answer the question truthfully and wholeheartedly: ‘Myself’.

Though he never states it explicitly Ogden leans very heavily…

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So many of us, struggling to stay alive. So fucking many. In trains, in refugee camps, at airports, in foxholes. In suburban houses, in city houses, in 10-bedroom houses. In the street, on sidewalks, on city benches. In cars. In quiet parks. On beaches.

Make the pain stop make the pain stop make the pain stop.

Make this intolerable situation stop please please please.

I don’t blame anyone who wants to die. I want to die.

I am staying. I can’t tell you what to do, but if you want to stay we can do it together.

Together. The word of this new century.



1. I suffer enormously from being ignored. Being ignored by those I love makes me feel I don’t exist for anyone.

2. I find this to be a paranoid state brought about by trauma. This knowledge gives me no relief.

3. If you are chronically ill, disabled, and home all day, the form acknowledgment takes is some kind of online recognition.

4. My sister A., with whom I communicate only through Instagram “likes,” has stopped giving me likes. She got angry at me at the beginning of the pandemic then (allegedly) stopped being angry, so at least responds to my IG comments. Still, she won’t like my posts or ask me anything about me.

5. The rest of my family, so active on Whatsapp during the beginning of the quarantine, has gone back to life as usual, which means no contact (I am in close touch with my mom; everyone else acts as if I don’t exist).

6. My mom told me that my niece had a fever. I wrote a Whatsapp message to my sister S. to inquire after my niece’s fever. She replied that it was all okay for now, it wasn’t high or anything. I said Ok good, love to everyone! No answer.

7. I go to a place where I think, I did this. They hate me because I am hateful. They don’t like me because I don’t make enough of an effort to be in touch with them.

8. I can’t let go of this massive sense of abandonment.

9. I can’t let go of this massive sense that people abandon me because I am bad.


A celebration

Dear G.

1. You died before the pandemic, missed it by a year, exactly. The way you were in the last few years, you would have found it exciting. But you would have found it exciting before the cancer, too, I think. You loved nothing better than an excuse to stay home, chill. Universal chilling would have been a gift for you.

2. You would not have been scared. You had a nice house in the woods and great faith in the love of God. I do too (have faith in the love of God; my house is smack dab in the city), but I am scared for all those who will die of neglect, because our country is built to safeguard the rich and the White.

3. You would have cared about others, too, but you would have found a way to help those around you, way more than I am. You would have been busy on the phone. You might even have risked your own health to make sure others had what they needed.

4. You might have taken someone in. Something tells you me you would have taken someone in. Those who are alone. Those who are scared. It was routine for you to put people up. You and I. were the most generous people.

5. You died way too soon, but I am happy you do not have to be here for the pandemic. I know I just said you would have been okay with it, even liked it, but still, it gives me peace to think of you safe and happy basking in the presence of Love.

6. I haven’t felt much of you since you died, G., I’ll be honest. I thought our conversation would continue uninterrupted but that didn’t happen. You and I, we talked so much. I know there is a plan of love for me in this, too, this silence of yours, or, rather, this deafness of mine, and this is why I carry on.

7. It feels strange to be left here. You and D. and many others, gone. Yet we talked about this, didn’t we? You said you’d help. You promised. I know you are helping me. You are not someone to break a promise — never.

8. What do you want for the anniversary of your death? I know you would like a celebration. I will celebrate for you, honey. I will have a feast here on my own, maybe get S. to join. We’ll have a cake, maybe, some cookies at least. We’ll sing. We do this a lot now. We sing together when we are happy. You would have gotten a kick out of it.

Painting by Beate Tuback, Leaf-Line.

love psychoanalysis

How not to be sad

1. Tell your therapist you love her madly.

2. Tell your husband you love him madly.

3. Tell your girlfriend you love her madly.

4. Call your mom and tell her you love her madly and forgive her absolutely for all the ways she fucked you up.

5. Call someone scared and tell them they won’t die of COVID19, then tell them again until they believe you.

6. Call someone who is going under financially or in other ways and tell them, “I am here,” and mean it because after this is over the world will be a newly communal space and we will be all there for each other and the silly things will no longer matter so you can definitely share a bowl of soup.

7. If someone’s car battery dies help them jump start it (stay at 6 ft of distance from them while you do this because no one needs to get sick while jump starting a car). If they need a car, lend them your car because this is not a time to hold on tight to a car or anything silly like that.

8. Tell your dog he/she is a good dog, such a good, good dog. Same to cat, pet rabbit, pet snake, etc.

9. Ask your friends, “What can I do for you?” and mean it because chances are they won’t need anything other than to hear you say that.

10. Forgive everyone.

11. Do your bit for a world based on decency, love, and cooperation. Do your bit to save the planet. Then, when you have done your bit, be at peace because this is literally all that is asked of you.

Art by Shepard Fairey, posted today on his Instagram, @obeygiant