Note: The following is a journal entry written over 20 years ago in a dark time when I was depressed and suicidal. I do not feel this way anymore, thankfully.
Part of the backstory is that I was in therapy, fairly intensive therapy, that morphed into analysis as my therapist became an analyst. Analysis is tough – you are intensely focused on yourself, your motivations, your demons, your dreams. You look at every little snippet of thought and wonder “why?” that thought, or thoughtless remark. Everything, and I mean, everything, is up for review. I highly recommend it for anybody who is willing to do it, but it is difficult.
Not surprisingly, as the onion skin is peeled closer to the core, oftentimes you feel exposed and naked, pure sensation or pure nerve without a covering. For me, I probably needed to allow myself to feel my terror and sadness and anger at the level that I began to feel despair.
I don’t know if I was actually in true danger of suicide, but I will say I lived in a town that had a high bridge connecting it to another town and the thought of veering sharply off the bridge into the water below was a constant fantasy. I never tried it, obviously, primarily because I wasn’t sure it was foolproof and I feared being seriously injured more than dead.
All of these words are to say – I don’t want what I wrote over 20 years ago to be triggering to anybody else so if you feel at all vulnerable to suicidal thoughts, please don’t read this post. This will probably be the only trigger warning I would ever make, but I certainly don’t want you to feel somehow worse than you might feel right now.
So with that, my journal from March 12, 1993:
I have always considered killing myself to be ‘ridiculous’ but tonight it – the idea of it – begins to make sense.
In a way, what difference does it matter dying at 36 or 86? Do I really miss anything, really? I begin to think I cannot stand being in my rotting body much longer – and what is the point thinking these pointless thoughts?
Loving myself is a joke. One I cannot laugh at anymore. My neediness – my grandiosity and inflation – my hopelessness and despair – all of my life lacks meaning. I know my mood will change – be more upbeat – but then it will go down again.
Progress? I’ve seen none – I’m more in debt than I’ve ever been – I’m less challenged in the work I do, it’s not satisfying. Now I’m old and fat [where] before I was young and fat. I have no sense that anything gets better. It just is.
What pleasure I have is like [sex], hard-edged and furtive, and fleeting like the thief.
I can’t even be a proper mother or householder. My son, who I know is gifted, is not accepted into the program. No matter my feeling – the universe he lives in screams, “Not Enough!” And if I’d only read that book to him instead of zoning out or talking on the phone or compulsively eating – if I’d been there for him instead of narcissistically frantically saying I never got proper mothering, so why should he get what I didn’t? Why does he get it, not me?
My maternal urge does come over me – and I lovingly whisper “be there for him and you heal that part of yourself.” Half truth, half lie.
“I cannot and will not,” my suicidal part screams, “tolerate not knowing.”
I cannot tell you how hard it is to read what I wrote about myself and my life, especially my harsh words towards myself for my (lack of) mothering, and how I was treating my son during this time. It is clear that I wasn’t able to be there very much at all. I hope my son has forgiven this, but that’s a bit unclear, even up to today. But to suggest that I would leave a little boy, not yet 9 years old at this writing, is grotesque.
Yet this is depression.
Depression is narcissistic, and selfish. Suicide is the ultimate expression of this and I almost went there. Or at least I thought a lot about it.
Although I do not have writings that reflect this exactly (these are the closest I have that I could find), I remember thinking, “he’ll be better off without me as his mother.” I thought this a lot during this time.
It was what scared the bejeesus out of me, frankly. If my son couldn’t even be the thing that stopped me from considering non-existence, I was in trouble.
But later, when I was much better, the thought that I would abandon my son as I had been, made me feel the hot curls of shame. After all, I had been abandoned by both of my parents. My parents divorced when I was 6 and my father moved out of state within a year or so, then remarried to someone who could not even bother to like me. He also left me with a woman who had an undiagnosed mental illness. She couldn’t be a mother to me, anymore than I could be to my own son. So abandonment is pretty much what happened to me twice over, although only once in the physical sense.
In Part 2, to follow, I’ll give you another journal entry but also tell you how I somehow managed to get out of this pit.
Until then, though, during this time in the early 1990’s, I became acquainted with the poetry of T.S. Eliot. Not easy to understand, the words themselves evoked my mood and mind state clearly.
Here, a portion of a poem from T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets, East Coker:
O dark dark dark. They all go into the dark,
The vacant interstellar spaces, the vacant into the vacant,
The captains, merchant bankers, eminent men of letters,
The generous patrons of art, the statesmen and the rulers,
Distinguished civil servants, chairmen of many committees,
Industrial lords and petty contractors, all go into the dark,
And dark the Sun and Moon, and the Almanach de Gotha,
And the Stock Exchange Gazette, the Directory of Directors,
And cold the sense and lost the motive of action.
And we all go with them, into the silent funeral,
Nobody’s funeral, for there is no one to bury.
I said to my soul, be still, and let the dark come upon you
Which shall be the darkness of God. As, in a theater,
The lights are extinguished, for the scene to be changed
With a hollow rumble of wings, with a movement of darkness on darkness,
And we know that the hills and the trees, the distant panorama
And the bold imposing facade are all being rolled away –
Or as, when an underground train, in a tube, stops too long
And the conversation rises and slowly fades into silence
And you see behind every face the mental emptiness deepen
Leaving only the growing terror of nothing to think about;
Or when, under ether, the mind is conscious but conscious of nothing –