Suicide as a Symptom

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As a teenager, I didn’t understand how ‘suicide or thoughts of suicide’ could be considered a symptom of depression. To me, those things were the result of depression; how it ended. If you had those thoughts then you were already doomed. I did not understand that the content of those thoughts is made up by a part of our body that does not know the content of our life. The most objective part of us is our subconscious. The subconscious can tell when we are struggling even when our conscious selves can’t. The subconscious decides when its time to fight or time to flee. The subconscious regulates the rise and fall of our breath, the beat of our heart, the digestion of our food. The subconscious knows everything going on in our body; even the stuff outside of our awareness. When we are struggling on an emotional level, our rational thought tells us to get over it, its not so bad. We know that being sad or angry is not life-threatening. The subconscious, however, doesn’t realize this. The subconscious can feel the pain and can not tell why its happening. It is constantly working to find a solution to ease the discomfort. When things get really bad and we ignore our feelings and needs, our subconscious is forced to address the issues head on. The brain knows that something is wrong but it doesn’t know WHAT is wrong. It can not make a well thought out plan of action without the help of the conscious self. If we don’t pay attention to what our body is trying to tell us, we might behave strangely. This is when we do things that we “wouldn’t normally do” things that seem drastic or uncharacteristic. The thought or the actual attempt to end one’s life is not always a way to end suffering, but rather an irrational attempt to escape that suffering. Sometimes people don’t realize that the things that are plaguing them can only be fixed by addressing those issues. They often feel like they shouldn’t dwell on them. By ‘not dwelling’ we push things aside and since our brain has rationally deemed our problems not worth our time, we don’t return to the thought. The thought then sits in your mind, unattended to. It lingers in the background, meanwhile your subconscious is trying to figure out why your heart rate is unusual and your sleeping patterns are all off. It searches for the reason but can not detect the context of your thoughts, but rather infers that you must be in a life-threatening situation since your body is acting so out of whack. When the subconscious fails to identify the issue, it begins to seek ways of escaping the physical condition that is causing you harm. The more deeply rooted the issues are, the more life-threatening they seem. If you can not attend to the problem and search for rationalized solutions, the subconscious will drive you to a point where the only way to escape the life-threatening suffering that you are experiencing (possibly without even being aware of it) is to literally end your life.

To The Troubled Souls:

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It wrenches my heart to hear it said
That the mentally ill are sick in the head
When it goes unknown what it is they feel
And whether or not their pain is real

Who can say, with certainty, that
Anything’s real? We’re just a ‘brain in a vat’
Experiencing the world subjectively
Allowing things to pass unexpectedly

There is a notion onto which I cling
That allows for anything you wish to bring
Into existence to finally be seen
By you and whoever else believes.

The world is cold and harsh out there
Bravery is the only mask you can wear
Your scars convey more than they conceal
But their stories are still only yours to reveal

Don’t let them know you without your consent
They will never know truthfully what you meant
When you dragged that blade across your skin
But, please, don’t believe when they say ‘its a sin.’

These actions, you see, are not from your heart
They were not part of you from the start
The pain you inflict is but an expression;
An outward display of your auto-aggression

Know that when you feel displeased
There are other ways to get release
From the clenching hold of condemning words
Trust me, I know how much it hurts.

Then again, don’t trust a single soul
You’ll see that you can’t as you grow old
Everyone hides their true intentions
That’s why I strive for prevention

The Light Inside

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The moment when I loved myself the most, was the moment the whole world turned to look at me.
I had spent so very long simply waiting for them all to see
Hoping, naively, that they’d all be accepting
But stares and whispers made way for over-thinking
Turned backs and broken hearts left me wishing
Holding onto the past
Wishing I could go back
So I could know

The moment when I loved myself the most, was when I had to stand up for myself.
No longer did I want them to see a broken little girl –
Someone who feels so alone in this world –
I hoped for a new brand of clarity
To allow me to open their eyes to see
What I had been hiding
All along

The moment when I loved myself the most, was the moment I had to accept myself as I was
There was no more lying or pretending I was more or less
There was no longer anyone around me to impress
I was left on my own to claim my scars
I was knocked down, so I began counting the stars
And when the numbers were fleeting
So, too, was the darkness

The moment when I loved myself the most, was the moment the light ignited inside of me.
I was no longer available to be consumed by the dark
I sought high and low for that which I must embark
On a mission of self-discovery
To locate the real me:
The light inside.

I See Your Struggle, I Feel Your Pain

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One of the worst things is recognizing a suffering in someone who you care about and knowing there is nothing you can do to sooth the pain. You may be able to open a door and shine some light on the situation, but nothing will ever make it better.

Its even worse to have learned this first hand, through experience. I suffer in a similar way, but it was far worse when I was younger. I see my pain in his eyes and I wonder if he will survive. I wonder if he has someone so important and so close to him that he would promise his life for their sake.

My person, my cousin, my best friend, was the one who was so important to me that I made my promise. I held on to that promise until she died. Through the grieving process, you sometimes stumble into resentment towards your loved one for leaving you, and this caused me to disregard my promise. After she was gone, I no longer felt a need to hold up my end of the bargain.

I regret breaking that promise more than anything, but at the same time it saved me. I needed to have a brush with death to remind me of the value of life. To be perfectly honest, the only value I was reminded of was that of family and friends.

To this day, I crave the relief of un-existing. I lust after the satisfaction of self-punishment and the release of auto-brutality. These are things all of us (with depression and the like) face on a daily basis. The presence of the thoughts does not condemn us, but rather our actions regarding those thoughts.

I may feel an urge to rip my skin open, but I don’t do it. The feeling passes and I recognize the fact that those kinds of feelings, just like their positive counterparts, are fleeting. Nothing lasts forever, it only lingers as long as you let it. It took me a long time to figure any of this out. I have felt so alone for most of that time and I don’t want to watch another person, who I care about, go through that kind of life.

I want him to know that the feeling that stings deep in his chest is, too, present in mine. I want him to understand that NO, I do NOT know what you’ve been through, but I promise I’ve been through something that allows me to relate. If I  haven’t, I promise I can be a judgement-free, listening ear. Don’t you ever, not even for a second, feel alone in this world when you know you have a friend, a cousin, a person who cares more than you are able to fathom.

Don’t you dare break my heart the way I’m sure you’ve wanted to before; the way I’ve wanted to break others’ hearts before. Promise me you will take the life you have and cling to it as if it were just as fleeting as the emotions that ebb and flow like a constant stream of rushing water.

They come on strong and hard; a force I’ve never seen before. There is passion present in almost every word uttered from your mouth and THAT is a true sign of life. That is a sign of resilience and strength; to find yourself filled with energy and emotion charged in any direction is better than finding yourself empty.

Empty is something I have felt for a large portion of my lifetime. Empty is something I do not wish upon anyone. Empty is the absence of life, of substance, of people, of love. Empty is a waste of precious time.

As Jamie put it, “There are some people on this planet, who know they only have so long… and there are others who think they have forever… I would give anything to take my death sentence and trade it for the possibility of forever. That’s what you have, Jillian, you have the possibilities of a lifetime.”

And that’s when it clicked for me, though I needed reminding later on, that life is precious and it is insanely selfish of me to throw it away. I need to cherish it for the sake of the people I love who don’t have a choice about their fate. Its not right to take control of your life like that; after all, you aren’t the only one who is hurt by your bad feelings. The people who care about you hurt by seeing you in pain, and if you were to end your life you would only leave behind more suffering. You won’t be there to feel any sense of relief you anticipate.

My point here is that, there is nothing wrong with suffering and feeling pain inside. The only wrongness that emerges comes from the action taken to express that pain and suffering. The wrongness of those actions is not “wrong” in the sense that I don’t think its right. It is “wrong” in the sense that you are doing yourself a disservice. You are diminishing your own worth and failing to recognize that you deserve to feel pain and to express those feelings. You deserve to know that your feelings are justified and that you are not alone in feeling that way. You need to understand that the bad stuff is normal. The bad stuff is important. The bad stuff is necessary to offset the good.

 

If you don’t struggle, you will never appreciate the happiness that comes from conquering your personal demons. If you don’t fight then you will never know that victory, and if you need help but don’t ask for it, you will go down in flames.

An Unexpected Visit

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I sat, slouching in my chair. English class was the bane of my existence. My teacher, Mr. Andrews, was really cool, however, my fellow classmates were not. I had a real issue with one kid, in particular. I did my best to ignore him but sometimes I had to leave the room to keep from getting angry at his stupid comments and wisenheimer attitude. I couldn’t wait for class to be over so I could book it to the art building.

My next class would be Ceramics, my favorite. It took a lot of energy that I didn’t have to move so quickly, dodging between oblivious teenagers straggling at their own pace. I had to get from the top floor of the main building across the street to the Unified Arts building. By the time I arrived at my seat along the studio bench, I was completely wiped out. I took a moment to catch my breath with my head down in my hands. My concerned teacher approached me, requesting confirmation of my current state of well being.

“I’m fine, just tired; need to catch my breath.” I let out between gasps of air.

“Alright, dear, just relax.” He said, soothingly. His genuine concern for students was endearing, but I was eager to brush him off — lest he should figure out what’s been going on.

He walked away and I did my best to heed his instructions and breathe. Air came out, but getting the air to go in was proving more difficult. Eventually my breathing steadied and I was able to join the class in creating masterpieces from within our souls, as Dr. S would have described it.

I was smoothing over a form that was intended to resemble a giraffe, but I just couldn’t get the feet right. The legs were too skinny to hold up the heavy body. I imagined real giraffes might experience similar issues due to gravity. I was getting lost in my thoughts when the room fell silent. I hadn’t noticed the scenery change, but the busy bodies around me slowed down and the sounds of their chatter drowned out.

I looked up from my half-giraffe and peered around the room, unsure if what I was experiencing was really happening. In a flash, almost like the blink of an eye, everything returned to its normal state. Sound returned to the vocal chords of the many students around me and all movement appeared in real time. I was confused but reassured myself that I was just tired. With that in mind, I began to relax a little bit. I looked away from everyone, towards the storage shelves. No one was usually over there. I often found myself gazing out the window on that side of the room.

I noticed something moving in the corner. I adjusted my position to see around the ceramic sculptures blocking my view to reveal a bizarre sight. In the corner of the room, beyond anyone else’s recognition, there was a young girl, drenched, wearing a soggy sundress, rocking back and forth in the corner of the room. She sat in the fetal position with a bewildered look on her face.

I stared onward with a stone face. I knew that what was happening was not real. I knew that I was the only one who was seeing this girl and I knew she wasn’t really there. I swallowed every ounce of fear I had and I looked the girl straight in the eye.

I was shocked to see her lift her gaze to meet mine. She locked eyes with me, not saying a word, just rocking back and forth. Her eyes were sad, icy and glazed over. Strands of her wet, dark hair fell alongside them. She was afraid or angry, or both. She stared at me until I couldn’t take it anymore and I looked away.

Staring back down at my hands, fiddling with the giraffe-like form, I assured myself that I was not insane. While I may be seeing things that are not happening in reality, this does not indicate insanity. In the back of my head, though, I felt like I was lying to myself. I didn’t dare look around to see if anyone else noticed how out of it I was.

I glanced back toward the corner, where the little girl had been sitting, to find her standing by the window. She stood with her back to me, peering out at the world that hurried by. It seemed that her presence evoked a stillness. When our eyes locked the first time, moments turned to days.

She stood, frozen in time while I sat, frozen by fear. The girl turned once more to face me and I braced myself. I don’t know what it was I expected her to do, but she simply reached out her left hand towards me. I looked from side to side; surely someone else was seeing this…

No one else saw. The little girl’s gaze never strayed from my eyes while she waited patiently for me to take her hand. Instead, I quickly reached for my backpack under the bench and turned my back to the little girl. I ran out of that room as fast as I could and out into the fresh air.

Deep breaths, I tried to shorten the panicked huffs of air into long, drawn out breaths. Pacing up and down the road, I eventually regained composure. When my breathing was steady once again, I checked my cell phone for the time. I had spent the entirety of class starring in the corner. I returned to the classroom to clean up after myself.

Without making any progress on my giraffe, I spritzed him with water, wrapped him in plastic to be stored until next class. I turned to face the storage shelves, afraid of who I might find. When the coast appeared to be clear, I made my way over towards that window, next to which was a shelf with my name printed on masking tape.

My shelf was adorned with half-finished works of art. I would begin each project as it was assigned, but somehow fail to finish them in the set time frame. Dr. S didn’t really mind how much time we spent on each piece, he just wanted us to do our best work.

Without saying a word to anyone, I placed my giraffe on my shelf and made a quick exit. I never told anyone about the little girl. I never confessed to feeling guilty for leaving her behind. I never even took the time to think about why she was there or what she was symbolizing, if anything.

In a therapy session, several years later, I was prompted to consider this experience and its possible implications.

I thought about how the little girl looked a lot like me. She was in a physical state that somehow mirrored my mental state. She was an external projection of how I was feeling internally. She was the vital message that I needed to recognize my suffering. If I never noticed how bad things were getting, I never would have taken the steps to make things better for myself.

If that little girl never came to me for help, I would still be that little girl.

Try

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When the world starts spinning out of control; so, too, does your mind.

Even if you aren’t aware; your thoughts mirror the world you find.

The things you think create the world you see; thought and experience combine.

For the ones we label “crazy,” thoughts and experiences do not always align.

They see a world, in which they function, but we can’t see it from the outside.

There is only one way to communicate between worlds, and that is to be kind.

We are not privy to the knowledge of what the others wish to hide.

We can only extend an offer of something we know we can provide.

And that is to understand, or at the very least, to try.

Do you want to see the most beautiful part?

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I tell my stories because, unlike my sulking face and my slim frame, they are truly beautiful. My stories are not made better or worse by passing trends and they are not played up with accessories or pops of color.

I have been told all my life how very beautiful I was. I was assured that I should feel no hatred towards myself, that I shouldn’t harm myself, because of this beauty. As far as the outside world has always been concerned, sadness and beauty are mutually exclusive.

I wish I could tell you how many times it was revealed to me that my sadness simply could not be: I was far too pretty. I wish I could tell you that it made me feel better, but it never has. I have always been one to look upon my reflection, finding comfort in knowing I was stronger than they knew. It didn’t comfort me to know that I was nice to look at, if anything it made my skin crawl. I didn’t want to be beautiful to the world. I wanted to be tragic…

The abrasions on my skin were never enough to turn me ugly. No one even noticed them, really. If they did notice, no one said anything. I was fooling the whole world with my award winning smile.

The part of me that has been so vastly overlooked, the part I find most beautiful, is the part inside that you can not see.

I am most infatuated with the words that flutter from my lips like liquid courage falling from the lip of a bottle. It comes in bits and pieces so small you can’t separate them from the whole. The “whole” is a massive contortion of the English language that bends around the drums so as to avoid being detected by undeserving ears. The true beauty is in the meaning of the linguistic nonsense spewing from the semantic centers of my brain.

You want to see the most beautiful part?

Well, then, close your eyes.
Listen to the stories that have shaped me in the most abstract sense of the word. If you could imagine shaping a mound of clay without ever physically touching your skin to the re-hydrated ball of sand particles and other microscopic minerals, then you can imagine being formed from the indirect touching of people and places and events going on around you. None of it physically grasps you, but it tosses you about.

Feel with your fingers, the fleeing formation of the clay, as you hold it beneath the water. Feel the particles disintegrate as they reintegrate with the di-hydrogen monoxide. Strain the water to find the dissociated particles that are once again forming a solid mass. Feel as the malleable mass mutates as you mold the molecules to fit your form.

Now open, watch with your eyes as your own hands take this product of the earth, and with it, create something useful; something beautiful; something worth keeping.
Interpret the infinite possibilities of these peculiar particles. You have the capability to create; to understand; to transform anything into being. You have the ability to think and to think about thinking. You have these powers inside of you that you must learn to harness.

I find the most beautiful part of myself to be the deep, burning passion that I feel in my heart. The tingling of excitement when I know I am approaching home. The comfort I feel in seeing my mother’s smile. The release of the clenching in my throat to see my sister breathe fresh air; with a smile on her face, no less. The smile on my nephew’s face when he sees me for the first time in months, my father’s embrace: these are the things that make me beautiful.