Depression, Suicide and Death of Identity

I’ve been struggling with depression and thoughts of suicide recently. This has been a blow that feels uncomfortable to talk about, because 1) I thought that whole mess was behind me and 2) it is extremely difficult to admit, both personally, as well as in terms of my “content” or image. I’m also a Leo, so image is extremely important to me. Showing weakness is generally forbidden in my social psyche. Also, I’m pregnant, so there’s an unfathomable guilt accompanying my desire to walk in front of a fast-moving bus, or throw myself from a precarious ledge. Probably like most who experience depression and suicidal thoughts, I spent a bit of time really figuring out some details over how it would all go down. Of course it would need to look like an accident, because then I would at least be able to give something back to the people now burdened by my existence, through my company’s life insurance policy. Even while its happening, even in full awareness of what I’m doing, it is almost impossible to pull out of this morbid form of entertainment. Because it is entertainment, in the sense that it occupies the mind and keeps it intensely engaged.

Now, I’ll back up a bit because actually the way I overcame my desire to end it all was through thinking about death in the first place. I was pretty miserable as a teen and young adult. I was “goth” and a Wiccan (practitioner of witchcraft) and had gotten myself into some pretty dark places in my mind. When I was 18, my father committed suicide. So, I struggled. For years. But I also read, studied and practiced various spiritual traditions, philosophies and rituals. In high school, I read The Stranger by Albert Camus. I also read a lot of Buddhist philosophy. Buddhism was the first school of thought which ever seemed to say that it really didn’t matter if you chose to live or die, that you were part of something infinite, vast and always changing. Existentialism, in its part, enabled me to see that life was about our choice to be here. That every experience was like a page in a book we choose to open up every day, that if we chose to close the book, that was a choice, as much as our choice to carry on. Something about these concepts freed me. I started to see the choice to die as an Ultimate Freedom. One which was up to no one but myself, under control of solely me. I like to imagine that this is how my father felt, how Robin Williams felt, and a few others who I like to believe chose liberation over continued suffering.

This is hard to talk about because I don’t want to seem encouraging. I absolutely am not advocating suicide. The thing is, it is a choice. It is a Last Resort kind of choice, the last dash of your Will. The one thing entirely in your power. There is a freedom in that. But there’s also a burden. Because it is a burden to stay here, to chose life. We like to gloss over it and make life seem so beautiful and full of potential. But that isn’t what a depressed or suicidal person sees. They see the world as grey, soggy, dense, heavy, and without hope or potential. They can’t see past the devastation of whatever’s got them down. (Sometimes there isn’t a “something,” anyway, but a state that feels encompassing.) Anyway, let’s be honest: Life is freakin’ HARD sometimes. Like, unbelievably, unconscionably hard. Profound cruelty and indifference are experienced by millions everyday. And while there is also profound beauty, love, forgiveness, etc, you can’t TELL anyone to simply see the world differently, just because you want them to feel better. Sometimes, feeling like absolute shit is the point. It is part of it. Suffering is 100% part of life. That can be extremely difficult to accept.

Now, back to the most recent personal devastation. I was feeling trapped. When your life changes in unexpected ways, and your normally sunny disposition isn’t strong enough to keep you coasting above the pit of doubt, fear and uncertainty, and you feel so guilty that you can’t even talk to a friend because you know, you just know that the way you feel is wrong, but there’s nothing you can really do: you’re stuck now with a life-altering decision and a yawning mouth of a lifetime’s regret. “Positive Thinking” can only do so much when your little adjustments and concessions don’t resolve core issues, or really improve anything beyond the cosmetic. Cycling through the same problems and patterns can literally drive a person mad. So, I gave up. I gave in. I let myself absolutely shatter. I was completely broken and devastated. If I didn’t care about getting fired, if I had anywhere else to go, if that bus had been there, I might’ve done something differently. But instead, I dragged myself with total animosity through the motions of caring for my child, myself and my partner. I went to work, dejected. I cried about every 15 minutes and wished buses drove through the 15th floors of building. Mostly, I remained quiet and tried to hide my misery, simultaneously hoping it would go unnoticed while equally desperate and enraged that not one person asked if I was okay. I must be one fantastic actor, I thought ruefully. The truth is, almost everyone is completely consumed by their own suffering, their own dramas. So, no one is really paying attention to our highs and lows.

Interestingly, I’m currently re-reading this book, Sit Down and Shut Up, by Brad Warner, and that very morning, before I shattered into a thousand sharp and weepy pieces, I had read the chapter on Death and this is what it said, “…if death is defined as the end of consciousness, then you are dying constantly.” So, I started thinking, am I just afraid that I am losing myself in this situation? Is it actually physical death I want, or is my ego simply trying to control this situation by seeing this massive life change as the death of all my plans? I was trying to understand it. How hard it is to surrender the will. How empty and deflated and useless I felt because of this loss of control.

Then, something interesting happened. I asked myself: If I already want to die, what does it matter if I surrender to this situation completely? So, I did. I gave up. I fell deeper into collapse and surrendered not only my will to live, to fight, to stand up for my rights, but also the will to die. I gave it all up completely. And I instantly felt better. I even laughed at a lewd joke. And I realized, a few hours later, I had been absolutely caught in duality. I was completely attached and psychologically identified with my plans. Seeing a loss of control meant a loss of self: Death of who I thought I was, who I thought I was going to become. The hilarious irony, which I could only see after the storm had passed, was that absolutely nothing about my goals and ambitions had changed. It was all waiting for me to have the energy for it again. And after some calm and honest conversation, the issues which started it all were easily resolved, or at least addressed. Nothing between people is easy unless you, yourself are easy. Getting to the neutral place, beyond duality, is for another post, but the clues are there throughout this website and if anyone is truly ready, get your butt into a meditation class and get ready for a freaking roller coaster ride through a hurricane straight from Hell, because that’s exactly what it feels like when you stay still and sit with all your drama and your ego crises for the first several times. But eventually, you will start to see the ephemera of your own identity, your feelings and thoughts. And gradually, the eternal you, the part of you who is always “here,” will start to feel curious again. And you might even laugh at yourself and the urgency and intensity which seemed so important and all-encompassing, when it was all you could see. You might even start to see yourself differently on the other side. But wherever side you’re on, you’re never alone. Don’t be afraid to reach out.

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