OK folks, here is the big reveal: I am currently a patient for ECT, also known as Electroconvulsive Therapy. Sit down, sit down, this is the 21st century, it's voluntary, and my hair didn't catch on fire.
After over 15 years of therapy, my therapist mentioned it almost in passing earlier this year. After an initial feeling of creepiness, I let myself seriously consider it, and we moved forward. That process itself has taken about two months. There have been doctor's appointments, consultations, tests, and an EKG. All things considered, I'm pretty healthy and a good candidate for ECT, so I was green-lighted last week. Today was my first appointment.
It went very well, actually. Per usual, the thing that I was most fearful of was the IV insertion. My needle phobia is very real, and very annoying, so Eric stayed with me and showed me a little slideshow of pictures of Kailea. That plus the lidocaine were sooo helpful. In fact, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that lidocaine may be one of the most amazing medical advances of our time. Seriously. I hardly felt a thing. I still felt like I was going to sweat myself away into a puddle if I didn't vomit on someone first, but very quickly recovered from that and it was on to the next - No, actually, it was on to more waiting. Why is there always so much waiting with doctors?
Eric did not stay for the procedure, something we agreed was a good thing because neither of us thought he should have to see me in that state. I have seen him pass out and it's one of the most disturbing sights I've ever witnessed, so I was not about to let him see me have a convulsion.
Fun fact: it's actually the convulsion itself (caused by the electrical current) that they believe helps the brain, not the shock. So with muscle relaxants, anesthesia, and very low level electricity they can do a world of good without negating it with so many horrific side effects that gave 'shock therapy' a bad, scary name in its first decades. That and informed consent. Thank the gods for informed consent. I knew almost exactly what to expect going in, which was a big part of my decision to consent.
After everything was wrapped up and we left the building, I had a nice "guilty pleasures" lunch of a corn dog and jo-jos (I never got that corn dog I was dreaming about Saturday when we went to the fair!). Eric quizzed me off and on about the weekend and last night and earlier today. I seem to remember everything just fine. Wow!
So why am I telling you all of this? Because it's a big deal and kind of scary and I want you to have all the facts, but my depression this year has taken a scary turn and become a big deal itself and it's easier to talk to you about the ECT than the facts of my depression. Know that I didn't come to this decision lightly.
Today was day one, and I have another 4-6 weeks of treatments to go, every MWF. It's going to be a full schedule for me for awhile, so if I seem even more elusive than usual, that's why. And also, I'm not allowed to drive during the entire 6 weeks. I would insert a "grr" here, but I rarely drive these days as it is (thanks sciatica!).
That's it for now. I'm not sure how much I'm going to want to reveal here. Part of me is tempted to just data dump, but (a) this is long enough, and (b) I want everyone to be able to read about my decision without anyone getting TMI right off the bat. I am perfectly happy to discuss it with anyone who may be curious about details, so feel free to PM me on Facebook or shoot me an email.
I just want everyone to know that this is a positive thing, I feel really good about it, and I have hope for the first time in what seems like forever. Those are all huge pluses to outweigh any possible side effects, and now that it seems there won't be much in that department, it's looking like a win/win situation! Keep your fingers crossed for me!
I finally put my thumb on it. I figured out what happened that started my current downward spiral. I wrote about it at one point late last year in a document on my desktop called "hopeless". I even published it to my blog for a time before deleting it from there. It takes a lot for me to delete a blog post, but there was so much anger there. Too much, and too widely swashed around. Sloshed? Is swashed a word?
Anyway, two major heart crushes happened in 2015. I was really sad after the first one, but the second one changed me. Changed me in a way that I can't get back. I lost my hope. Apparently, I lost all of it. I've always felt that hope was my worst enemy, because no matter how upset or depressed I get, it's always there, tormenting me. But not any more. It's just gone. And apparently, after that I just kind of withered away.
I was going to talk about the appointment with Dr. Bess, but I can't right now. I just don't fucking care enough. Apparently there is some hope in me, because I'm going to have these procedures. I'm going to shock myself into better health. Things are extreme when you have to introduce an electrical current to your body to feel better.
Let's do this, here is an excerpt from my Letter of Surrender, otherwise titled Hopeless.txt:
I've never quite understood the phrase "to wear your heart on your sleeve". Oh, I know what it means, but why your sleeve? Wouldn't it make more sense if your heart was visible on your chest? If your love was tattooed on your forehead? Telegraphed through your handshake?
I've always worn my heart... on the outside. If I care about you, I let you know. If I love you, I've said it. If I have a crush on you, it's been in my fierce blush and my wide eyes and my hushed stammer.
It may be difficult to guess what I'm thinking about, to understand my passions and nightmares, but I've never really been able to mask my heart.
And I'm not going to change that.
But I thought maybe someone should know that there has been a change, nonetheless. Somewhere it should be noted that things have finally gone too far. Life has trampled on me and my pathetic little heart a few dozen times too many.
It's been some time since anyone has reached in my chest, torn out my heart, thrown it on the ground and stomped all over it. But it's familiar. Very familiar. But what You have done to my heart this time was so subtle, I've hardly noticed it.
I've run out of hope. It's left the building. Flown out a window?
One thing I've always had is hope. I've cursed it, actually. It's a vile thing when you are on the ground and someone is kicking you in the face and you still feel some hope that you will see the sun again. You'll still have snow days and cat cuddles and brownies and music and art and forests and beaches. There might even be a nice person or three to walk beside you from time to time. Wow, I can even imagine another person to hold my hand, maybe even to help pick my heart up off the slaughterhouse floor.
But that left some time ago. The last one out the door turned off the light and snatched my heart and my hope and discarded them outside somewhere that I can't even begin to think where to find them now.
When they swept around the corner following their leader with a selfie-stick like a parade, I groaned. I sooo did not want to end up on Youtube. They were young, so young. And loud and chatty and happy and laughing. "Youth is wasted on the young."
I had been trying to keep the aisle around me somewhat organized, but given how many pairs of shoes I have to try on before something fits, my stuff was still scattered everywhere. I quickly tucked my purse and shoes under the seat, then they were on top of me. A tidal-wave of giggly snark, they stopped right next to me. Because of course they needed the shoes just opposite me. And they plopped down on the floor around me.
I half grinned and half groaned. They were invading my personal space, but I was very amused at the unconscious way they unceremoniously planted themselves on the floor the way I had been doing all my life. I wondered if they were truly oblivious to the opinions of those around them or if, like me, they liked to act bold while secretly wondering who around them was shocked at their unladylike behavior. One of the girls almost smacked into me, trying to weave her way between her friends and all my crap on the floor, and that annoyed me further. But I still kind of liked them for just taking over the place like that, despite the social anxiety buttons it was pushing.
Were they all going to try on the same pair of shoes? Dear Lord. Best get out of here. Just one more pair to try then I could move on. Maybe I would grab the last pair and re-situate down the aisle a bit on another seat. I stood to do just that, reaching for my purse underneath me.
The girl who had almost knocked into me wanted to be the third one to try on the shoes, but something in her voice said she was not happy about something. I half looked at her as she bemoaned, "I don't want to sit on the floor." Her eyes happened to meet mine at just that moment. I made an internal sigh, and stopped reaching for my purse, instead standing up.
"Please," I said, gesturing at the seat. "Go ahead." As she began to reweave her way back through the chaos at her feet, I turned to head for that last pair of shoes.
And then my mouth just kept flapping.
"Just don't steal my purse and we're all good."
I was smiling at my own stupid joke. An odd smile was on her face as if... as if she couldn't wrap her mind around the absurdity.
Did I mention they were all black?
Why did I say that? WHY? Whywhywhywhywhy?
Because as I get older, I have less control over the things that go from my brain straight to my mouth, combined with a tendency toward the absurd and inappropriate and illogical. And because 95% of my conversation on any given day is with a 3 year old. My wits are being dulled, not sharpened. My speaking skills devolving into monosyllabic phrases. I miss my run on sentences and dry, sarcastic humor. It comes out in public like some odd invisible force I've kept locked up for too long.
Earlier this week I had made both bizarre and inappropriate comments with a shoe salesman. He was awesome and rolled with it. I felt mortified each time I found myself saying things like, "My long toenails are catching here, but is that better than the other size where my toe just falls out and flops around to gross everyone out?"
It's common for me to turn to my daughter, strapped in her seat, to tell her not to go anywhere.
I say stupid things to people all the time because I'm trying to make fun of myself, not them. The absurd part is that I'm wondering why anyone would care about my toes, why I was worrying about my daughter being snatched because I was walking 20 feet away instead of 10, and why was I uncomfortable turning my back on a bunch of young people while one of them sat over my purse?
I'm the dumb one, not you. See? See how weird my mind works? Isn't that funny?
Why do I have to share every time I think of a crazy thought? Why do I think everyone else will be as amused as I am?
Of all the things I've wanted to say about race in America since Trayvon Martin's and Michael Brown's killers were absolved of all wrongdoing, why this?
But this isn't about me.
This isn't about the way she trash-talked my teeth or how little money I probably had to steal. This isn't about them agreeing that they hoped I didn't have kids, cutting right to that constantly exposed nerve that is my conviction of what a terrible parent I am. This isn't about the way she publicly announced that I had seen a black person and instantly thought "steal", causing me to attempt to explain. It's not about the way they refused to see the comment as reasonable, so I became offended and was only too happy to walk away when told "get away from me." This isn't about the name she called me after we managed to all walk out of the store together - after I had held the door for them and they had each graciously (ironically? sneeringly?) said "thank you" - and how that made me feel like I was in the 7th grade again and afraid of the local girls who were going to beat the shit out of me if I looked at them wrong.
It's not about how crazy I am, how stupid I feel, how hurt I am to be misunderstood, or how I couldn't help but crying after realizing that my mouth had hurt other people.
It's about her. It's about them. And us. And America. And Ferguson. And racism and privilege and government bullshit and the police state and prejudgement and our racial filters and our parents and our upbringing.
Intent is not magic. Offense is defined by the person offended. Explanation of miscommunication be damned. Why do I feel the need to be forgiven by someone I've just wounded? Why do I feel the need to be declared unracist by someone whose lifetime of experience tells them that is exactly what I am? Why do I feel the need to demonstrate that I would have said the same thing to anyone else sitting there? Why do I feel the need to bemoan that white people shouldn't have to weigh their every word before spoken so that innocent speech does not cause offense? Why do I feel the need to self-flagellate myself for not knowing how to properly parent my child so she doesn't repeat my mistakes?
When you try to turn your car and accidentally jump the curb and mow over a pedestrian, is it appropriate to get out of your car and jump around flailing your arms so that no one can concentrate on the injured person while you insist it was an accident?
Why can't I just own up to the fact that I'm in this situation now. Who cares if it's inadvertent? I hurt someone, angered someone, pressed their buttons, and caused all this. I did damage. I should apologize.
I can't believe I didn't apologize.
Laying down to soothe my stomach, I've just spent the last 10 minutes (ok, ok, it was 15) trying to think of the perfect come back line for a boy attempting to humiliate me when I was 12. You know, in case I ever get that moment to alter my past by taking over my younger body to rewrite the bad moments. "The Butterfly Effect" meets "Being Erica".
My first instinct is something that would blow his mind, "I had no idea you knew that women could get wet, since all your experience is either with your own hand or unwilling girls."
Mentioning masturbation and following it up with accusing a guy of rape is bound to get me suspended from school. Let's switch tactics.
"You're just compensating for your small stature by belittling everyone around you so that you feel bigger. And in 30 years -"
No, too many big words. He's 12.
"You're just making up for the fact that you're short by making other people small so you can feel -"
Wow, what a mouth full. It would take me 5 minutes to get all this out, and he might be punching me in the face within 30 seconds. And teacher would be right behind him to shut me down if that wasn't effective. So...
"John," I would drawl playfully with a small, coy smile (John is a sufficiently generic name, yes?). "Everyone here knows that you need to humiliate people so that you don't feel so short. Meanwhile, no one gives a shit about your height. But you're so obsessed with this that you'll spend the next 30 years completely unsatisfied, because you'll be too busy being mean to ever take the time to get to know women and what it takes to satisfy them."
I really like this one. Really, really, really like this one. But I'm afraid it may get me jumped a week later and beaten/raped. Humiliating a man in public, surrounded by his friends, by mentioning his height and then implying sexual incompetence? That tends to bring out the wife-beating caveman in a guy, not to mention a teenage boy roiling in hormones. And I wouldn't want to completely break him so that he spends the next 30 years hating me the way I've spent it hating him. *sigh* Let's try...
"Everyone here knows that you need to humiliate people so that you don't feel so short. Meanwhile, no one gives a shit about your height. People don't like you because you're vile to others. Grow up."
It works, but it's not very satisfying. Why am I so concerned about breaking the fragile ego of a 12 year old? Because I don't want to be a bad person? Because he's just a kid? Because I'm afraid there will be strong repercussions that would hurt me? I just want to make the guy re-analyze his life, so that 30 years from now he isn't so ashamed of his 12 year old self that he can't reveal any of this to his wife, or have a decent conversation with his kids when they hit puberty. How to make him feel like a jerk, and enough so that it will stick with him, but only enough to be a warning of what not to let himself become?
Does that make this altruistic in nature? Because fear of backlash and/or of being a bad person is kind of the opposite of that. Maybe they will even themselves out?
But was he innocent? Was he just a boy?
Kids are mean, period. I spent my entire childhood convinced that I was both fat and ugly, the two most egregious sins a little girl can allow herself to demonstrate in public. Everything else was fair game too, however. My clothes (always in pants and with no fashion sense), my hair (I had nice enough hair, it was mostly unshaven armpits that gave people the willies), my skin color ("Hey Sharkbait! Be careful you don't go in the water and get eaten!"), my height (I was taller than all the boys until 8th grade), my quiet shyness that made me smile when I was uncomfortable...
And then sex came along. I'm always amazed at the people around me who freak out at the idea of anyone under 16 (God forbid they're under 10!) seeing a naked human body. My mother once told me an embarrassing story - never to be repeated again - proving that I was curious about sex when I was about 3 years old. By Kindergarten I knew what boys I "liked" and wanted to... be with. It was in 2nd or 3rd Grade that I started to wonder about girls. By 3rd Grade kids were secretly dating, holding hands, kissing, and bragging about having sex - I was crushed when it came out that the boy I liked had "gone all the way" with his girlfriend (it was probably just exaggeration, but you never know). By the 4th Grade I was masturbating regularly and trying to watch "adult" movies on cable when my parents weren't around. By 5th grade all the girls were talking about the boys they had kissed at this weekend's parties. By 6th grade you were a NOBODY if you didn't have a boy to hold hands with during recess, when all the couples would sit on the rock wall between the parking lot and the basketball court.
Then things got really weird in Jr. High, when suddenly we were on the same campus as 8th graders who all smoked, drank, and made out or had sex every weekend. Nobody was just a kid anymore. Nobody was innocent.
It was annoying when John called me "sharkbait" because I didn't tan. It was humiliating when he called me "watermelon", because I figured he meant I was big and fat. Then came the day on the baseball field in PE, in full view and earshot of our teacher (not to mention all the other snickering boys in the class), when out of nowhere came the one that would haunt me for 30 years: "Hey watermelon, I bet you're wet." All the boys laughed, and the girls giggled. I just stood there and blinked, What was he talking about? He cleared it up later, as we all filed out of class.
I remember him leaning over the ball field's fence, waiting for me to get closer as we all marched down the stairs. He waited, watching the horror come over my face at the dawning realization that I had to pass under him just to get away from him, grinning maliciously. At the very last moment, he leaned as far down towards me as he could from the height of the elevated field, then muttered, "I bet you're all wet inside, aren't you?"
He had enjoyed it so much when he saw I didn't know what his first comment had been about. I had no idea he could laugh any louder until the moment he saw it on my face that I had figured it out.
He was talking about my vagina.
And when he'd started calling me watermelon weeks ago, he had been talking about my vagina all those times too.
My humiliation was finally complete. He had finally found the one place no one else had bothered to criticize or ridicule: my sex and my sexuality. As if my body shame could have been any deeper at the time.
Why am I not building a time machine right now to nail his little dick to a wall?
Probably because I'd have to then go back and nail a whole lot of other dicks to walls, and I don't want to think about how to accomplish something similar for the girls who tortured me. The girls were usually the worst, because they were louder, shriller, and loved humiliating other girls daily just for sport. With the boys, they were usually just part of the pack laughing at the scathing remarks of the other girls. Unless I got too close to them and they had to make it publicly clear that I was gross, or they had to complain loudly about being paired with me in class. Maybe that's why John stands out, because it wasn't common for the boys to be the ones actually saying the remarks that hit home.
High school was different. It was so nice to be able to breathe and worry about things like school and tests and boys who actually liked me and hanging out with true friends who laughed with me. Just like that, teasing dropped off by about 95%. Why bother, when you had cliques to hang with your own and ostracize the "other"? So was it the decrease in being forced to socialize with people you didn't like, or was it something else?
I was a Senior in high school before I realized that guys had been checking me out since at least the 9th grade. Because when I caught them, they would immediately look away. I know I hated it when I was bored in class and in my desperate attempt to find any sort of stimulation I found myself looking at some cute guy - just as his bored eyes looked my way. I always averted my eyes instantly. I never stuck around to see if anyone would curl a lip or just keep on turning their head, and it certainly never occurred to me that they might smile at me.
Until one day I caught a boy spacing out while he looked at me, his eyes glazed over. Who knows what he was actually thinking about. But the moment he realized what he was doing AND that I was looking back at him, he was the one who instantly averted his eyes. And blushed. He was embarrassed.
A cute guy blushed and averted his eyes from my gaze. A mildly popular guy who could get just about any girl he wanted.
My mind kept hitting rewind to re-analyze the scene. When something clicked. I had seen this before.
It had been happening to me since 9th grade Algebra class, at least. Boys' eyes darting away, or down, or to the person next to them to chat. Except all those other times, they had been subtle/quick enough to play like it hadn't been a stare, but instead a moment in a longer time spent swiveling their head to take in the whole room or turn towards a friend. And all the times I was even quicker than them and averted my eyes first.
To this day, I don't know how to feel about the revelation. As ever, part of me is thrilled, part of me feels justified that I was good enough to look at all along. But most of me is bitter. Because these boys are the same ones who made me feel like shit on a regular basis.
Cute girls may get the attention of boys and then get thrown away like toilet paper. Meanwhile, I was treated like shit on toilet paper because of my body, and my body was secretly appreciated by the same group of people.
It reminds me of that thing that guys do, how they like to turn things around if their advances are rebuffed. I think there might be a hashtag about it, something like "why so conceited? I wasn't hitting on you". Because there are some men that can't stand humiliation to the point that they would rather humiliate the woman they were just admiring.
"Oh, you thought I was asking you on a date? You? No! I meant the whole gang should go out on Saturday."
Or the woman who "experimented" with online dating conversations, where she simply accepted compliments instead of denying them.
"Yes, thank you."
"Wow, you sure are conceited. You're not that hot. Bitch."
People actually accused her of not having the right to perform social experiments on unsuspecting men. Because how dare she change her behavior just to see if men react differently? Also, women who wear makeup are lying whores...
Or my personal favorite, which came up a lot in the YouTube video made by the woman who secretly taped all the guys hitting on her during the course of one day while walking through New York, "Just because I called you beautiful from 50 feet away and we've never met before, doesn't mean I was hitting on you. I was just saying hello. Bitch."
So was John evil? Or just typical? Did he secretly covet my breasts, thinking about my wet vagina?
I'll never know. And I hate not knowing. But more than that I can't stand the audacity of a man who can't deal with embarrassment, so instead he humiliates someone else. Or blames them.
"Well it's your own fault that I've spent the last 10 years having anonymous sex with people that I meet online. You didn't jump on my dick 5 times a week like you did before we had kids. And no, I couldn't talk to you about that! I'm not going to beg a frigid woman to have sex with me."
And what kind of man thinks it's so important to stay in a relationship, one that he can't keep from straying from, that he will resort to accusing his wife/girlfriend/partner of being crazy when she finds clues to his betrayal?
"Of course I'm not into her. She's just a friend. You're being paranoid. That sexy note you found was just a joke. She was actually mocking you, because she thinks you're too clingy. Maybe she's right?"
It's a wonder that the human race bothers to date anymore, let alone enter into "permanent" monogamous relationships.
There have been so many moving things written in the wake of Robin Williams' suicide, it makes it a little easier to accept his death. Who knew Robin Williams had made such a large impact on the American psyche? I certainly hadn't suspected how much his death would affect me, let alone my friends and family on Facebook.
A lot of people have taken this time to relay personal stories of depression, and that is incredible. I feel the need to add my own voice, but I have no idea what to say. I get the impression that most of my blog posts are reactions to other people's ideas, responding to other people's take on things and focusing all my energy on proving myself right and their position so clearly in the wrong. (Gods forbid I ever find something to blog about that I agree with!)
So I told myself, this time, I need to write something that's just me. I'm going to talk about what depression and suicide have meant to me.
Depression is terrifying. Sometimes, in moments of clarity, I will sort of become "awake" within my own mind, the rational part of me seeing my thoughts and actions, knowing they are incorrect and/or harmful and/or dangerous. This doesn't happen very often, but when it does, it makes everything so much scarier, feeling trapped within my own mind. I have, however, had some success with using this part of myself to overtake the rest, and at the least get me out of an especially dark or dangerous situation. Part of the painful and yet more successful parts of my treatment for depression has been tapping into this rational area, so that I can notice when I'm having the downward spiral and talk myself out of the endless loop of self-hatred and self-pity. Painful because the two parts of my psyche resent each other. Truly. "Sane Me" resents having to deal with this crap, resents that we're here *again*, resents how hard this fight is going to be. "Crazy Me" resents that someone wants to take away the pity party. Sanity always wins once I get to that realization, because it's just so easy to see how silly the Crazy has become at that point.
But Sanity doesn't like to pop up until things have gotten too close to the edge. So most of the time, Crazy has free reign. She has some wicked tricks in her bag.
The soul-sucking, color-leeching, joy- and love-banishing Giant Invisible Suffocating Wet Blanket is her stand-by. And it's the most effective, the most insidious. Because she just creeps in when I'm not looking, and slowly pulls the wool over my eyes and my head and my soul and suddenly the world looks like crap. Sometimes it's months before I notice. I'll start trying to trace my mood backwards when I realize I don't have a reason for feeling this way. And I never find the beginning, not the moment that it crouches behind me, not the moment it starts to cover me, not the moment that I am finally swallowed whole. If I'm lucky, I'll find a "before", a moment of happiness that has enough information and emotion connected to it that I can realize that not only was I happy in the moment, but I had been breathing easier before the laughter and saw things just fine immediately after. This can be a good tool to use against the blanket. For a moment, or an hour, maybe a day.
Oh, I guess I left that part out: everything in Crazy's Big Bag of Nasty Tricks is indestructable. Sanity and memory and good friends and happy moments can push the blanket off, halt a downward spiral, pull me back from the brink.
But nothing makes them quit. I think eventually they wear out for some reason that I'm not privy to. There is no pattern to it. It certainly has nothing to do with anything that I do. But when that happens, I can find myself without the blanket and blinking at how bright and beautiful everything has become. And I ask myself, when did this start happening? And again, I can't recall. But I quickly tell myself to forget it, because I don't want to lose or destroy or waste this moment.
No, it's not medication that does it. Medication is a life-saver for me. The support of friends and family is immeasureable. Training myself to halt my natural thought processes has been helpful now and then. But nothing overcomes that Blanket. Nothing. All of those things mentioned help lighten it, make it a little less opaque, a little less heavy. Medication helps the other things help more, if that makes sense, a sort of boost to the power of outside support. It makes it easier to find the Sanity voice in my head. It makes it easier to find a reason to get out of bed in the morning. It makes it easier to leave the house to meet people and share joy.
But nothing I've ever done or experienced has bested the Blanket. Ever.
So let's talk about suicide now. I'm not a fan. If we're not talking about me, I have somewhat different responses to it.
My mother has attempted to take her own life on more than one occassion. The first terrified me, then angered me, and now leaves a bitter taste in my mouth when I recall it. I still have her, and I console myself with that, but she still hurt me deeply, and there's still a chance she'll try it again and this time succeed.
When Kurt Cobain did it, I was devestated. He had touched something in so many people, and now he was gone. He had been in so much pain and couldn't take it any more. He would never see his daughter grow up. This all made me so very, very sad. But not angry or hurt. As much as he had touched me, as important as he was to the world and his family, it wasn't about us. It was about him. I was sad for him.
When the singer of Blind Melon died from a heroin overdose, I felt rage. I still can't listen to their music. I cannot forgive him for accidentally killing himself. In my mind, every hit of heroin is like a gamble with your life, but a gamble that you take willingly yet with almost no thought at all. If a person is in so much pain that they need to end it, I feel for them. If someone is in enough pain to do something stupid that may or may not have any impact in either direction, I feel contempt for them. I have a feeling this is blaming the victim. But there it is: I would rather you kill yourself out of pain than seek out a way to just play with the idea that can backfire permanently in your face.
When Michael Hutchence died... I was even more devastated. The fact that there are so little facts is a problem. They have not to my satisfaction proved that he died intentionally or by accident. This makes it easier not to feel anger. There are the circumstances of his life, his wife's death, the custody disputes over their children, and recently the death of one of those children now grown (who is always referred to as Geldof's daughter and not Hutchence despite his hand in raising her). The whole thing makes me miserable. Then there is the personal aspect. I can't explain it, but he meant more to me than Kurt Cobain did. So it hurts more. It hurts the most. It's hard not to cry when I hear some of my favorite songs, even though he's been gone for so long now.
Robin Williams has been hard, because it was so unexpected. The event itself, and the effect it's had on me and most Americans it seems. None of us were very prepared to face just how much he had meant to us, and then he was gone and now there will never be any more magic for him to create for us. But also I find it to be ironic, in a rather horrifying way, that he would kill himself after his film "What Dreams May Come" made such an impact on me. Granted, I never bought much stock into the idea of a special Hell for suicides to go after they die, but the message and beauty of that particular Heaven resonated deep within me. There are some versions of an afterlife that I yearn to discover are true, despite being an atheist-leaning agnostic, and that one is pretty near the top.
But I said this was going to be about me, so I might as well get it over with. Do I have a more personal experience with suicide than these? Yes and no.
Yes, because I have had suicidal thoughts at multiple points in my life. No, because they were usually fleeting.
There have been... less than a handful of times that I have given it any serious thought. I can't and won't talk about them here. That's not fair to my family. But I can explain that just about the biggest reason why I am still here today is because I cannot stand pain. I am more terrified of causing myself pain than I am of living through whatever anguish has driven me to those thoughts. The physical pain I've accumulated over the years has been good for something, at least.
I'll tell you what kind of bothers me more than those moments, are the countless times that the thought has popped into my head and had to be dismissed. Countless because they are all so similar, the all blend together.
Yes, I managed to talk myself out of it, usually rather quickly. But the mindset... it's harder to shake the memory somehow, so maybe that's why it's scarier. I guess because I was rational enough to talk myself out of it, I have a better memory and understanding of it after the fact than the times when I was crazy enough that it was serious.
The utter hopelessness that births these thoughts is soul crushing. There is no other way to describe it. I can only speak from my own experiences, but these thoughts usually come from a very specific place: fear of being alone. I already have so little steady connections in my life, the idea of losing those last, most basic pillars in my life is more terrifying than death or pain or nuclear holocaust.
How to describe this in a way that an outsider can get some glimpse? Do you truly understand what a downward spiral of negative thoughts is like? The real pity party, the kind you can't control? They say that in a near-death experience, your life flashes before you. Well, what if it was just the bad parts? The really bad parts. And it was by no means a flash. You are somehow capable of bringing to life the perfectly preserved feelings of pain and anguish, physical and mental (usually mental) of these moments. And you play them back-to-back, going in circles to revisit them. And each moment seems to carry on for a day, so that it feels like you've always been in this place and you always will be. There is absolutely no hope for you, because the only thing in your life that ever was, ever is, and ever will be is the most excruciating pain you can imagine. When suddenly, you've had enough. Either your brain snaps you out of it, or you come to realize the only way for it to stop is to end everything. If your entire existence is pain, the only solution is to end your existence.
People put pets to sleep who are in too much pain. We put murderers to death for the pain they cause. The average person would eventually kill themselves if they were in enough physical pain for long enough, each one of us just has a different breaking point. It's why torture is so effective, because eventually, everyone has a place where, if pushed beyond, they would rather die to end the pain than continue. Even if it means betraying everything and everyone they love. Pain reduces you to that lizard-brain place of survival-of-self over everything else. It's only a matter of finding the depth of pain that will turn death into a better version of survival than living through any more pain.
Someone with depression is very, very good at finding that place. This is where the "depression lies" concept comes into play. Because it's not enough to feel pain or to feel worthless, no, there is The Voice that compounds everything by constantly confirming your worst fears. You really are that insignificant, that stupid, that miserable, that evil, that fat, that lost, that hopeless. On a daily basis, The Voice convinces you that sitting on the couch will feel better than going for a walk. It will convince you that talking to someone will make you feel worse, or make them feel worse, and how can you burden another person with this? It will tell you you're selfish. It will tell you you're not selfish enough, that you deserve to reward yourself with something harmful. It will tell you that you deserve the pain caused to you and that you cause to yourself. It will tell you every single last lie it can think of, and then think of new ones.
It's hard enough to get off the couch or out of bed or pick up the phone when that's going on in your head. Can you possibly fathom what it's like to listen to that while you are stuck in an infinite loop of feeling all the worst pains of your life all at the same time? The Voice is sometimes your own, sometimes your mother's, sometimes the one you love the most, sometimes the one you hate the most. The pain is mental and physical, in your head and your ears and your skin and your gut. And you can't breathe. It is too much to breathe or think or move, what else can you do but use everything in your power to MAKE IT STOP!?
And this is what it feels like for just a moment in time, and the more you fight it, the more moments of eternity you will feel, when all you want is for it to stop.
I have been lucky. Something has stopped the onslaught of infinite pain and loathing before I acted on it.
Some are not so lucky. For them, The Voice and the pain together were just too much to take any longer. Their own minds convinced themselves to end it.
How do you fight that? How do you fight yourself? How does sane fight crazy if sane doesn't exist?
Feel free to judge. That's just giving The Voice more ammunition. Do you think we're unaware of what our death will do to those we leave behind? Do you have so little grasp of the power of The Voice to not understand that the moment those thoughts pop into our head, they are used against us to convince ourselves we are horrible, rotten human beings who don't deserve what little we have left?
There is no understanding the unexplainable. There is no way to comprehend insanity because you have to be sane to even attempt it, at which point you're no longer insane enough to be insane. Questioning your sanity is a sign of sanity. The fact that you're capable of questioning means there is hope for you. If you can't even question yourself? You're lost, utterly lost.
I think the difference between someone who contemplates suicide and someone who attempts it is that sanity is just completely gone in the ones who act. At least, I think that's why I'm still here.
I imagine there are some people who still have rational thought, who are still making decisions at the time of their suicide. They leave notes, they settle affairs. Maybe they are the majority. But is it any less awful? To be so desperate to end it, that you overrule your own sanity while there's still some left?
What is worse, to be so utterly hopeless that you kill yourself to end the pain, or to have enough hope to actually realize how little is left, and still feel there is no better choice than death?
Neither is selfish. Both are irrational. Both are devestating. Both are final, if you do it right.
And who does it help to blame someone at that point, now that it's over? Maybe it helps you. Maybe it scares away some of the shadows. Maybe your anger and blaming shouts out the Voice a little. I wish you well with it.
ps: no, there is no happy ending or revelation or lesson to take away. Because life is not a half-hour sitcom. It's not even a Saturday Afternoon Special. It's life. And life is messy and unexplainable, with no instruction manual or reward or even a moral to learn. No wonder I never finish any of my fiction or publish my non-fiction. Because I end things when I'm out of words, not when I've tied a finishing bow. The fact that I use so damned many of them before I run out probably doesn't help though.
Why, oh why didn't I write about "Stranger in a Strange Land" when I had actually just finished reading it? It's been at least a year (two?), and although I know it moved me and changed me and set me on a new path, I feel as if I can only talk about its points in relation to what other people are saying about it. Because I didn't capture those personal responses to the work immediately. I'm going to regret that forever, I know, because you can never re-read a book for the first time.
I know that it changed me in two ways: it returned some of my hope about life and humanity, and it put me on a new path that has reinforced that hope time and again. This book set me on the path to devour all things Heinlein. And with very few exceptions, each of his works has brought me to that place of "Oh my god, yes!" again and again. I don't think I'll ever be able to adequately describe the effect that Robert A. Heinlein has had on my life, or my great sorrow that I've only discovered him so long after his death.
This book moved me because it expressed so well my core beliefs about myself and humanity, beliefs that I have never been able to properly name, beliefs so slippery and elusive that I forget about them and have to be reminded. What does it say about me that I have to be reminded of a personal belief in hope?
Something that has bubbling to the surface over the years, the same something that caused me to start a new blog, was momentarily brought to the surface and shown in a shining light. A connection with and hope for humanity. The realization that yes, it may be paradoxical, but it's time to face the truth that although I am an atheist-leaning agnostic, I seek out and yearn for and suspect there is meaning to life. There is enlightenment to be had, if only we can let ourselves open up to it. Life can be chaotic and random, but somehow serendipity and fate can still occur. Without some overlord or god or grand designer. I can't explain it any better than that, maybe because I haven't been enlightened. I suspect it is merely the journey to enlightenment that *is* enlightenment.
But I was going to talk about this book, about Valentine Michael Smith, the human raised by Martians who became a sort of messiah. As I said, because it's been so long, I can't remember the details well enough and have to describe my reactions to the book as a response to what others have said.
I'm going to attempt to respond to the GoodReads review written by "Christy".
1. She has a strong response to the ugliness of the word "grok". I can sympathize with this, truly. I definitely feel like there are words that sound or feel "ugly", and "grok" is definitely one of them. But at some point I got over that, possibly at the point that I actually figured out the true meaning of the word. Something I suspsect that Christy has defined in a slightly different way than I have, which could explain a few things.
2. She sees a bit of hypocrisy in Heinlein's critique of religion and his use of religion to get his point across, saying that using religion as manipulation is too cynical for her taste and goes against the "Thou art God" philosophy. This is where I begin to suspect she has a different definition of the word "grok", as well as the concept of "thou art god", but I want to get to that later, as it's the meat of everything.
3. "The sexism of the text, which is inseparable from its heteronormativity and even homophobia." Yep, she's got me there. I still can't get over that line, "Nine times out of ten, if a girl gets raped, it's partly her fault". shudders But it's easier for me to give him a pass on the sexism than it is for homophobia. I just don't understand where the homophobia comes from. It is so very much against everything that I've come to love about Heinlein as I've read more and more of his work. Which makes me wonder about it. A comment on Christy's review by "Stew" suggests much of the book's offenses are contrived to be offensive, as their own commentary on things wrong with society. Speaking of the sexism, I don't think so. But the homophobia? Maybe. I can't recall much, if any, homophobia in any of the other works that I've read by him. I just don't know what to do with these sentiments. They will probably always be the most disturbing thing to me about Heinlein.
Why is it less disturbing when confronted with the sexism? Mostly because it's pretty much in all of his books. It's difficult to stomach, but you eventually have to roll your eyes and move on. Because at some point you have to remember that no one is perfect, and it's ok to recognize someone's contributions without letting their faults overshadow their good works. Do you point it out? Hell. Yes. Do you ruminate and question and let it frustrate you? Yes. Then you set it aside and move on. One does not judge the Constitution by the way it sets up how to count slaves. Critique it, yes, but don't throw it out. It being a living document, in fact you work to change it, while keeping the historical records as a remembrance of how times have changed.
One does not ban Huckleberry Finn for its use of the "N-word", but instead focuses on its message that black people are human. One does not judge the sermons of Martin Luther King Jr. for its heteronormatism or religious content, but for the message of overall equality. One does not throw out the contributions of Margaret Sanger for access to birth control because she support eugenics. To be clear, I'm not suggesting that Christy has done this. No, this is me explaining part of my reasoning for giving Heinlein a slap on the wrist rather than a beating for his sexism.
All of that aside, I have a more slippery reason. I think it's part of Heinlein's sexuality. Yes, I will go so far as to say that I think Heinlein himself was sexist. Time and again, Heinlein's male characters physically dominate the strong women they are drawn to. The scenes are like an eroticized breaking of a horse: the two fight for dominance, the man uses physical force to still the woman into true submission until she stops fighting and listens, he tells the woman how maddeningly feisty she is and how she is never to do "x" again and by the way she is the most amazing woman ever and so beautiful and intelligent and awesome and lets have babies now, she melts into his arms and their relationship is instantly transformed into one of loving hen-pecking and hot sex and adoration and baby making. The man and woman instantly understand everything about each other and all the conflicts from before this moment become silly endearments. The woman can be as "uppity" as she likes until the man raises an eyebrow, then she instantly knows she has crossed a line and with contrition she acknowledges that of course it is her duty to defer to his judgement in the matter.
Bleck. But... I can't ignore how very much this sounds like the relationship between a true Submissive and his/her Dominant partner. Yes, I'm talking about "BDSM" culture. I'm talking about a very real, valid, and contemporary (as in it's not just 1950s prudish patriarchy) form of sexuality.
Feminism is still divided strongly between sex-positive and sex-negative views. I am strongly a pro-sex feminist. Some of the anti-pornography and anti-dominance arguments I can understand, even occasionally agree with. But overall, I see sex as a positive human endeavor, pornography as a way to enjoy it, and submission/dominance relations as valid forms of sexuality. In light of that, I strongly suspect these scenes are exactly in-line with Heinlein's personal views. His work is filled with social commentary, much of it along liberal lines, but by no means is he a "flower-child". The man is pro-military and anti-democracy for crying out loud. These are just facets of his world view that we must accept as part of Heinlein, and move on from there.
Also, I am very frustrated with the entire second paragraph in the 3rd point of Christy's review. I don't see the problem with Jill's leap to the conclusion that appreciating poronography makes sense. It about sums up how I feel on the matter: it's ok to want to be looked at and it's ok to look. Pornography as an industry may have issues of power, and I have a big problem with the everyday objectifying of women as sexual objects in order to sell products, but I don't think pornography itself is wrong or anti-feminist, nor do I feel that seeing a person as a sexual object is wrong. The quote about Jill's relief at not having lesbian tendencies is troublesome. Part of me ridiculously holds out hope that we can take the comment at face value - that Jill wasn't ready for that much change, but that it isn't necessarily commentary on homosexuality. But of course, there's all the rest of the anti-homosexual sentiment to quash this. *sigh* But where does Christy get the impressions that Jill thinks "women are the spectacle, never the spectator" and "women's role in sexual behavior is essentially passive"? I find this whole paragraph to be too close to the sex-negative view point for my comfort.
4. Christy's response to the "emphasis on self" is where she completely loses me. She says "but if feeling good and being happy are the primary goals of life, then that opens the door for abuses of others in the name of love or happiness and seems a rather meaningless goal in and of itself. Hedonism alone is not enough for me."
Well damn. Crap on toast, woman, hedonism is basically the core of my entire life view. But for the love of all that is unHoly, how does any of this "open the door" to abuse and make life meaningless? Christy ends her review contrasting Heinlein's view that God is in all of us with Vonnegut's view that there is no god anywhere, saying that she finds Vonnegut more appealing. I've yet to read any Vonnegut, but I can see how someone can believe that view is more realistic or true. But more appealing? She faults Heinlein's finding meaning in the physical as too meaningless, but favors Vonnegut's view that life is meaningless? How can you prefer meaningless but fault someone for being too meaningless? It makes no sense to me. It makes me scratch my head so much, I wonder if I've misunderstood it somehow. (She thinks Mike duping people into knowledge via false religion is "too cynical", but Vonnegut's no god scenario is "appealing"? Huh???)
But this is a good transition back to my feeling that Christy does not define "grok" the way that I do, and that the definition goes to the core of my beliefs.
Christy bemoans "philosophy that believes that YOU are the center of the universe, that everything will work out for the best." She mentions The Secret, something that I haven't read (because I suspect I won't like it and there will be much eye-rolling), so I don't understand her "name-it-and-claim-it" comment. Working out for the best... huh?
As stated, Mike's lesson for humanity isn't religion. Christy doesn't see that although the word "God" is in there, "Thou art God and I am God and all that groks is God" has nothing to do with any "God".
I'm not Heinlein, and I'm not the character Michael or any other Martian, but I have always understood that to "grok" is to understand the existence of something completely and implicitly. And essential to this understanding is that there is no one thing to understand, there is no God or creator or meaning, there is no me and there is no you. Everything just is. Everything is Everything. There is no chair or you or Martians or books or God or... I suspect no love or hate or fear or action or movement or... anything. Because all there is is everything. There is no ONE thing. There is just EVERYthing, which is one thing. To grok is to understand this. To use Michael's mind powers, one simply taps into Everything, to be One with the All. It's that simple. This isn't religion. It is fact. The meaning of life is that life and unlife and existence is... existence.
Everything is Everything.
It's not cynical to dupe people with religion. It's using religion to bring them closer so you can whisper to them that there is no religion, there just is. The lesson is not religion. The lesson is that we are all part of a single existence. It's easy to say "single entity" here, but I don't think that's right either.
I was in tears when Michael told the ant "Thou art God", not because the ant is part of God and so is Michael and therefore everything will be ok in the end. No, "God" is merely a human name for something unnameable. "God" is the name for the realization that everyone and everything that ever was and is and will be is All. He was saying hello and goodbye to himself. He was acknowledging there is no death. I believe the only reason he uses the word "God" at all is because it is the closest word in the English language that comes anywhere close to covering it.
And this is as close to something that I can believe in as I've felt since I realized I didn't believe in God when I was 18. It's how I can be an atheist and say there is meaning to life. Do I believe that if I can truly transcend, to somehow actually BE the concept of everything is ONE, that I could then manipulate the things around me? Make my own reality? No. Maybe. It would explain some of the unexplainable phenomenon. It would explain afterlife and quantum physics and ghosts and non-linear time. Because there is no time either. There just IS. Psychic phenomenon*, all of it. Because everything just IS.
Maybe when I die, all of me will just BE everything else, and everything will sigh in relief that everything is finally one Evertyhing again, and I will know that it's all ok. I'll know how it all ends, I'll know the meaning of life and the universe and god, because I always will be and always have been Everything. Or maybe not. Probably not. But I like this idea better than anything I have ever heard. And it sounds much more probable than anything else too.
*Heinlein's book "Beyond This Horizon" and Arthur C. Clarke's "Childhood's End" both imply the psychic phenomenon can be explained by the fact that time is non-linear. If there is no time, or if everything that happened/is happening/will happen all happens at the same time, then having fore-knowledge of something is just that person having tapped into non-linear time.
So apparently I am behind on an internet bandwagon. Again. This is what happens when one decides the internet is a cesspool and it's time to take a break. More crap bubbles to the surface, everyone yells about it and moves on, and then I show up and see the end results and am left wondering what the fuck happened.
Well, this happened: more young American women are being sucked into anti-feminism, this time through a "feel good" campaign of posting selfies on Facebook that are all about attacking other women, and they don't even realize that the thing they are the most upset about is exactly what they are doing to other women.
I wanted to write about one of the official "Notes" there by the Page's owner, and who knows when I'll find time to do that. Instead, I'm going to tackle this single point made over and over again on the page that I woke up this morning obsessing about.
Here is the shortest, sweetest example, posted in a selfie:
"I don't need feminism because...
I have been shamed by them for not fit in their ideas"
It seems that if you scroll through the page to see the Selfies, read the posts, peruse the comments, a consensus emerges: "I don't need feminism because feminists aren't like me." Actually, it's usually something closer to "I'm not a feminist because feminists are bitches."
Where is the insert-Neon-Sign-of-Irony-here button? For those of you who didn't catch it, these women are posting again and again and again that feminism is bad because it's mean, while they themselves are doing what they allegedly "hate": judging other women.
Almost a year ago I wrote something that desperately needs to be heard by the current generation of women in this country. Alas, I don't think my 3 readers made much of an impact. Oh well. I can only try. I titled it You, Dear Reader, Are a Feminist. Here's the gist, "If you are reading this, there is a 99% chance that I know and respect and love you. And everyone I know and respect and love is a feminist. Some of you just don't seem to realize it."
But none of the women posting on this Page seem to be aware of any of the irony, or of the facts. They are tied up in their own emotions. Which is understandable. Which is reasonable. Which is feminist. Which is human.
I would like to ask these women a few questions, to see if I can lead them with logic to a realization which their emotions seem to have left them blind.
First, when was the last time you stopped liking chocolate because you stumbled upon a bad dollar-store-quality bar of the stuff? Don't like chocolate? How about coffee? Pizza? Beef*? Carrots? OK, you don't like any of that stuff? Fine. My point being: when did you ever let a single bad experience with your favorite food make you hate that food for the rest of your life?
This analogy is lame though, because food just doesn't rise to the level of this debate. Also, it's silly of me to think these women are anti-feminists because of a single experience. I get that. I really, truly do.
So on to my second question. "Did you stop liking men because you had a truly noxious guy hit on you once or thrice or fifty times?" Think about this, ok? If you are into guys, surely you are still into them even after the inevitable "toad" has come on to you. Surely you still want to hook up with the opposite sex even though Jimmy in 4th grade pulled your hair. Surely you love or hope to fall in love with a man even though you dated 5 guys in a row who turned out to be complete jerks. Because one man or fifty, those guys can't change who you are at the core: a heterosexual.
And still lame, I know. Not 100% true. Our experiencies do change us, even at the core. My experiences with men have made me fear them. But I still like them. I still desire them*. But I know there are those whose fear goes beyond mine. Women who have been violently assaulted or raped by a man may find themselves too changed by the experience to have the same relationship with sex and/or men that they did in the past. Oh, also, you might be gay. But I really think that if you are same-sex oriented, you can figure out how to translate the previous passage into something more relevant, ie "Did a bad date with a girl ever turn you off of girls for good?"
So now I'm going to step it up a notch. Ready girls*? When was the last time you let some other person who claims to share your religion drive you from your faith? Are you pro-life? You do know that there are pro-choice Christians out there, right? Are you a Muslim who has nothing against Jews? I'm sure you've heard that there are Muslims who hate Israel. Are you a Southern Baptist who hopes to some day see your sister marry her lesbian partner? I don't think I have to tell you that there are plenty of people who share your faith who would actively work to keep your sister from such a happy day.
When was the last time you let someone else's faith dictate your own? Never? Good. Welcome to feminism. Still not buying it? OK, ok, maybe you're an atheist. Or worse, you're like me, a "recovering Christian". I'll be the first to admit that my experiences with people of faith had a HUGE impact on me and my decision to turn away from religion and faith in general.
That leaves me with one final question then. Oh, I think I could have found other levels between "faith" and this last step, but I think it's time I just came out and said what was really on my mind.
When was the last time you let another human being convince you that you are not human?
Hitler was a pretty poor excuse for a human, am I right? Jeffrey Dahmer comes to mind. I personally loathe Ann Coulter and Newt Gingrich. Maybe you hate Annie Sprinkle and that chick that wrote the Vagina Monologues*. Your 3rd grade teacher? Your step-dad? The guy who stole your virginity? The girl who broke your heart? It doesn't matter.
Nothing any human ever does to you or to others will ever change the fact that you are human. It is who you are, period. Short of some Frankenstein-level science, there's no changing it.
So by all means, hate feminism. Tell the world you don't need it. Tell the world you're not a feminist. It's your right. But at the end of the day, try to remember that you're human. And I'm human. And that bitch who bullied you because you want to be a wife instead of a lawyer is a human. Then close your eyes, take a deep breath, and remind yourself that more importantly, you're still a feminist.
Because the definition of feminist isn't bitch. It's not bully. It's not abortion. It's not gay rights. It's not anti-men. It's simply the belief that women are equal to men. Period. Welcome back to the fold!
*Yep, I'm a feminist. Even though I'm not vegan, I am attracted to men, I still call women "girls" and I'm not offended when anyone else does it, and I don't know the name of the writer of The Vagina Monologues.