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.



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.