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.

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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.

Make No Mistake

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I love this because its clever, however, there is no disconnect between the heart and the brain. The physiological state of your heart and its rhythms are closely tied to your state of mind. Though it remains true that when acting out of reason, we often seem cold. Whereas, when we act based on emotion, we often seem quite irrational or careless towards anything but how we feel. In either case, the coherency of our thoughts is likely mirrored in the variability of our heart rate. The more it fluctuates, the more flexible you probably are and the more you can bend and maneuver yourself around your troubles to the point of effortless resiliency.

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.

Resistance.

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As a child I had a strong resistance to growing up. I watched my three older sisters transform before my eyes from innocent young children to rebellious teenagers. I was afraid to be like them. I never wanted to be a teenager or an adult; to me they were evil and scary. They got older and they were meaner to me, because they got cooler and I stayed a little kid.

 

I got older too, though. It didn’t matter how hard I fought it, I couldn’t resist time. I was forced to grow up because I had to deal with some grown up situations. Once I got through all of that, I felt invincible. I hated that feeling. I wanted to feel vulnerable again, like when I was a child, or like when I thought I was in love. I wanted to have a light heart and to smile. Instead my days were full of anger and hatred. I hated everyone else and I hated myself. I hated the world because I felt alone and afraid. I wanted the rest of the world to feel as bad as I did, since I couldn’t feel as good as them. I would never be as good as everyone else. I had been mistreated throughout the years by many people who claimed to love me. I felt like love, too, was evil. I wanted nothing to do with any of it.

 

I resisted love for as long as I could. I had boyfriends who loved me and I could never love them back. I knew they would ultimately hurt me, so I wouldn’t let them, and instead I hurt them. I walked away and started over somewhere new. I always wanted that feeling but I was afraid of what would come next. I ran from the pain I knew was coming, but I craved the vulnerability.

 

Once an opportunity struck, I grabbed hold with all my might. There was a man who, when I met him, was just a boy. He was quiet and shy. He was brilliant and hard working. He admired things about me I didn’t ever recognize until he pointed them out. He was sweet and he loved his mother. This was very important to me; a man’s relationship with his mother says a lot about how he will treat you. He was defensive and loving with her. He wanted to guard her, but she was strong. She did not need his protection, she only wanted his love. He was not an affectionate person, and I imagine even his mother wishes he would be more open with her.

 

He resisted love, too. He wanted affection but he did not want to dish it out, himself. He ultimately ran away, just like I always did. We are more alike than I thought. I resist the idea that we were meant to be because, well, we can’t be.

 

I resist the feelings of emptiness that follow any memory of him. I resist the urge to reach out to him. Instead, I look blindly towards the future, hoping that he was never right for me. I hope for something better to come along, or not. I hope for isolation to become peaceful. I hope for my heart to someday be overflowing with joy like it has in the past.

 

I wonder if I will ever feel so happy as when I was gazing at the stars by your side the very first time.