You’ll forgive my absence last week; it was my birthday, and I was busy celebrating my march towards the inevitable while simultaneously preparing for my holiday trip to the east coast, where my twelve-year-old son lives. What a jam- packed week I had!
Now I am here in MA, enjoying time with my bud and watching a lot of ID Network. This will be a strange Christmas, as I am not currently on speaking terms with any family, and it feels awkward and strange. But I am looking at the silver lining: on Christmas, I won’t have to really do anything after my son opens his gifts and heads to his dad’s house. I am planning on taking two baths, eating a Tombstone pizza, and watching a whole bunch of movies. It’s going to be great.
I covered this at Thanksgiving, but I will remind you that the holidays can be very difficult for people. Familial and financial obligations can have one feeling as low as possible. If you need to reach out to someone, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is available by calling 1-800-273-8255.
Q: I have been giving a lot of thought to committing suicide, and did a “dry run” the other day by taking way too many pain pills in a short period of time just to see how terribly sick I might feel (not at all sick, as it turns out). I have a couple things that are nagging me:
1. They say suicide is the ultimate selfish act, but isn’t it more selfish to suddenly bemoan the fact that someone is gone when you could’ve been a better person to them the whole time? My friends and family are “good” people but I could die in my house on a Friday night and no one would know until Monday afternoon when I didn’t show up for work. I’m told I’m well-liked (and I more or less believe it), but I’m very often completely alone. I don’t think my passing would change much of anything for friends and family other than the one day pang of sadness at a funeral, so should I even factor in their feelings?
2. Am I sad enough? This is a weird one. I sometimes don’t feel sufficiently depressed, like I’m a suicide poseur. I’m not really crying about it (though I have, when sad). I feel much more pragmatic. I’m getting older; I’ve accomplished a lot of my dreams to some satisfying degree, and now I have less to look forward to and with no retirement and no children, my twilight years are going to blow. I don’t want to be “forever alone.” I don’t want to live in Trump’s America. I don’t want to worry about bills, etc.
I just feel done. I can’t see past the end of the week, every week. I’ve reached a nearly zen-like “what’s the point” feeling that’s been as valid a reason to me for leaving this mortal coil on my terms as anything else.
The fuck is my deal? Will, this too, pass?
A: First of all, thank you for entrusting me with such a heavy question. I do appreciate that you feel you can reach out to me for advice.
I will tell you that I myself have attempted suicide twice in the past, obviously neither attempt was successful. I do not suggest getting your stomach pumped; it is a literal nightmare. It concerns me so much that you attempted to see how you would feel by taking too many pills. I do not like that thought at all.
I will be honest with you: I also do not see suicide as a totally selfish act. I feel there are so many gray areas with regards to suicide, you can’t just say “Welp, this person is super selfish!” and be done with it. It’s not like that. But, while it’s awful to live a life burdened by depression, it’s also hard to say “Go ahead, we’ll understand”. There are so many layers to it.
I do agree that we all need to be kinder to each other, and often the people left behind have a hard time reconciling the fact that maybe they didn’t reach out more, or do enough. This is why people go on and on about how they “should have seen signs” instead of actually acknowledging the signs. When I was anorexic, no one ever brought it up to me, even though I was only 72 lbs. Denial is an incredible thing sometimes.
I think you would be best served to have someone you can confide in, who can check in with you daily to make sure you are doing ok. Often, people are so wrapped up in their own lives, they forget to check in with people. I do not think this is necessarily a selfish thing, I think it just happens.
I don’t think you can completely dismiss others’ feelings. I believe that everyone is important, and is important to other people. There are people in the world that love you, that would be devastated by your absence. There are so many things to see and do in this world, so many experiences that would be incomplete without your presence. Sometimes we have a small duty to stick around for others. I stick around for my son, even though I have had moments where I felt he would be unburdened if I took a hike. I can’t bear the thought of not being present for the milestones he has in front of him. I know you must have people in your life like that, too.
Suicide poseur! There is no requisite to being sad or having suicidal feelings. I understand the malaise you are feeling, but I do want to point out that apathy is a symptom of depression (I don’t think ANY of us have retirement funds, for what it’s worth. I certainly don’t). And while the current political climate is a fucking CHORE and very uncertain and scary, you’re not alone in feeling that way. The thing is, you may not have anything to look forward to now because you’re depressed. Your mind is not letting you see what else there is to do and experience. There are thousands of things you could get involved in– especially volunteer positions and activism, stuff we will need in a Trump USA. Your “twilight” years don’t have to blow; you just need a focus, something to be involved in.
I want you to stick it out. I want you to find things that make you grateful to be alive. For me, some days it’s just that I have a pillow to lay (lie? The one grammar rule that I can’t keep straight) my head on at night. Or gummi worms. Some days I can’t see past eating some raspberries. But there are things out there I am trying to do. I allow myself those feel bad days, and I want you to allow yourself them, too. No sense in feeling guilty over depression. Get a piece of paper and make a list of 5 things you are grateful for and 5 things you’d like to do, no matter how trivial or how extravagant (if you’ve read my column you’ll know I am a big champion of lists). Can’t think of 5? That’s ok. Write down 3. or 1. Write down anything. Then, try to focus on feeling grateful. Try to achieve that goal.
Above, I have included the National Suicide Prevention Line number. I urge you to use it if you have to. And I am a big believer in therapy, if that is an option for you.
This is a long response, and I apologize. I guess the TL;DR would be: there is more in this world than you know, and you should stick around to see it all.
Happy holidays, everyone. Be good to each other.
I publish all questions with a veil of anonymity. I would never want to expose someone, especially if their question is a sensitive one, such as domestic violence, sexuality, and the like. Therefore, I may edit questions down if I feel they are too specific, but please keep in mind that I am considering the whole picture when responding to you.
The advice given is for informational purposes only and is not meant to replace the legal, financial, medical, or professional advice of trained specialists.
Kolleen Carney is a Boston- born, Burbank- based poet with a B.A. from Salem State University in Salem, MA, and an MFA in Poetry from Antioch University Los Angeles. She has served on the editorial team for Soundings East, Lunch Ticket, Paper Nautilus, and Zoetic Press. Her poetry and other writings have appeared or will be appearing in Currents, Vision/ Verse, Lunch Ticket, MassPoetry.org, Golden Walkman, The Watershed Review, Incredible Sestinas, Uno Kudo Vol. 4, A Quiet Courage, Yellow Chair Review, Drunk Monkeys, Odyssey, and Five 2 One. She is obsessed with California, Pez dispensers, and macarons. Her website is www.kolleencarney.com.