Man in a dark tunnel with no light at the end.

Dispatch from the Tunnel (21.01.30)

My contribution today to my healing and to our shared experience is to write even though my chest feels heavy and my mind feels uncertain and I don’t know exactly what I want to say and I don’t want to be writing at all because it feels stupid and repetitive and negative.

Even though it feels stupid and repetitive, and negative, I am sharing because sometimes witnessing someone else’s pain makes us feel less alone in our own.

I woke up today and all I wanted to do was go back to sleep because I don’t want to feel what I am feeling, which is deep despair because today feels as bad as yesterday and I believe all of the tomorrows will feel like today.

Why do I believe that? Because so many of my yesterdays felt like today from as far back as I can remember. I have spent a lifetime trying to just feel good as I am and I have spent a lifetime failing at it. I have spent a lifetime “faking it” without ever getting to the part where I make it.

The story I told myself each day when I felt this way is the same: just make it through today and tomorrow might be better. Perhaps I’ll figure it out. Every one of those days — just like today — I put one foot in front of the other and kept going because I hoped that the destination I would reach would not be the exact same place I started from, and yet it is. I have been in constant motion and still, I stay in place.

In the months it took me to find (more like force) my way into treatment despite all the hurdles that treatment centers put up, I’ve been asked numerous times about my suicidal ideation. It’s part of the labyrinthine intake process. “Have you formed a plan? Do you have the means? What keeps you from following through?”

I explain that I have been suicidal since I was 11 years old. It is like a constant companion, a friend that I walk around with rather than an intruder that appears from time to time unexpectedly and without welcome. I appreciate this friend because he offers something that no one else can: control and end to the pain and the hope of an enduring rest.

I know why they are asking. If I tell them that I had a plan and I was going to act on it, I could be involuntarily committed to a psychiatric ward where my life would get measurably worse.

A woman in my group explained what it’s like: you have to press your entire body against the wall to take a shower because there is no water pressure. You have to press your face against the wall to talk on the phone because the cords are so short. She demonstrated what it looked like, pressing her body against the wall of the room as she shared the story and laughed at the absurdity. “There are no locks on the doors and they don’t fully close”, she continues. “There is no privacy. No control. It is an experience that I wouldn’t wish on anyone.” Were they trying to treat her or punish her? Why would any rational thinking person admit to having a plan if the result is that you get forced into a worse, dystopian reality?

The (Ir)rational Mind

Is suicide irrational? It depends on the circumstances and our value system. We seem to attach a lot of significance to just existing, no matter the state of our existence. Why is existence — just the act of living and breathing and occupying space — an end in itself? In a logical sense, suicide is irrational only if there is a genuine possibility for a better future.

What if there isn’t?

Since we don’t have a crystal ball, of course we cannot know if tomorrow will be better than today, but if the past is prologue we can do a statistical analysis and arrive at a reasonable probability. Perhaps based on an analysis of our history the likelihood of a sunny future is just 10% with a 90% chance that every tomorrow will look about as dark as today.

Obviously, suicide is permanent and forecloses completely any possibility of a better tomorrow, so that’s something to consider as well.

By the reasonable person standard, suicide is irrational to me for a circumstance that truly is transient, assuming a person is lucid enough to recognize it is transient. I think the frustration I feel is that others don’t validate that sometimes the circumstance isn’t temporary.

I don’t know that I’ve ever heard someone say about a person who committed suicide that they knew that person’s life would get better. It always seems to be about the profound loss for the living rather than the experience of the departed. How could they know that person’s life was going to get better? Were they planning to personally take charge to make sure it did?

When I think of my history and my internal psychic experience, I wonder how much time I think anyone else can commit to propping me up. It’s not a one time job, like propping up the leaning tower of Pisa with concrete pillars that permanently correct the structural flaws. It is a daily effort, like how the heart needs to beat. Who can I expect to metaphorically open up my chest every day and massage my heart with their hand so the blood can flow? I know I can’t do that for someone else. Why should I think it reasonable for someone to do it for me?

It feels like my full-time job is to survive because we are told that survival is what we are meant to do. It is an expectation that society forces on us without necessarily offering a palliative in the present.

So what then?




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The world's most intersectional man.

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