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.


Yet here we are

1. I write silly words to comfort myself.

2. Once someone said to me she lives with terror all the time so she understood me and my terror entirely and I said well the kind of terror I feel could not be lived with all the time because it is literally unendurable.

3. She became angry that I was invalidating her terror.

4. When we endure the unendurable we die and the person who keeps living is a dead person.

5. My therapist has started seeing the dead little girl and she has started taking to her so maybe there is rescue yet.

6. I wonder how much terror I gobbled up as a kid. Must have been a lot.


How therapy helps with fear

Naomi Shalev Detail.

1. Many of my friends are scared. I am scared. We have a terrible, cruel president who portends more and more pain, insecurity, and death for all of us.

2. And then we have COVID-19, and a government that will make it all but impossible for an epidemic to be managed anywhere near decently in our country.

3. Already people are charged ridiculous sums of money for COVID-19-related hospitalizations. Already, we know, people won’t come forward for fear of enormous bills, lost wages, lost jobs, deportation.

4. And then there are all the captive populations, mostly poor, mostly minorities, mostly abandoned (we still have concentration camps; we have bigger concentration camps; they are places of genocide and torment).

5. In the early 2000s I felt great despair over Guantánamo. Guantánamo is still there. Its population will die out, unfreed. Guantánamo is now all over the US. Children are in it. We are too exhausted and too frightened to do anything.

6. Analyst A gave me a mug once for my birthday. I have loved this mug. Last night the mug broke. I have put the broken mug, its two broken pieces, one inside the other on the shelf in front of me.

7. Life breaks irreparably but then we all — all of us find ways to be happy, at least sometimes, after the wreck. We find ways to be happy. We may not always be happy, but sometimes we are happy.

8. Maybe if we count all the moments we are actively miserable and all the moments we are actively happy, they even out.

9. How can therapy help when the world is so horrible?

10. First, you ask yourself how much of your pain is pain you are actually feeling your own self in this moment and how much is pain you feel because of uncertainty about the future, empathy toward others, or fear of what might happen.

11. Fear has deep roots. The capacity to feel the pain of others also has deep roots.

12. I go back to a time when I was afraid and no one helped me. My parents had no capacity to reassure me in any way. My parents could not even see me. My fear was annoying, negligible, or funny.

13. You learn to keep your fear to yourself. You learn to be tough. You never learn to modulate it. One day, tough is no longer enough and fear spills over the confines of your body and inks the entire universe. You float in terror.

14. No one ever helped me develop a containment system. I don’t have a decent one. My therapist and I have to start from scratch.

15. When your emotionally remote parents experience pain or distress, these feelings become yours.

16. Except you are little and your parents’ troubles are too big and scary and everyone is going to die. Pain evades the confines of your body and inks the sky.

17. You try to help your mom and dad.

18. You cannot help them.

19. You become a child of sorrow.

20. Therapy takes me back to when these injuries happened. My therapist looks with me into the wounds and the chasm. Then we have a do-over, the two of us.

21. Scary things are realistically scary when the confines of your body hold.

22. The pain of others, just like yours, is marbled with good days, resilience, even joy. It is not yours to carry. They are not carrying your pain.

23. You talk and talk and the past loosens its grip on you. Your body grows stronger confines. You hold the pain and worry in small places you can leave and distract yourself from.

24. You allow yourself joy. You allow yourself life.