The Upside Down See-saw: a poem about depression and suicide
When depression slides into the dark realm of suicidal thoughts, the secrets deepen.
The process of withdrawal into the safety of the personal interior began in the distant past and the idea of self-annihilation pushes you further into the abyss.
Therein lies the dichotomy. On the one hand, there’s the deep yearning for understanding and compassion, while on the other hand, there’s shame, confusion and the desire to shield your secrets from prying eyes.
Those eyes belong to the ones who shake their heads in disbelief, disgust and disdain.
The ones who either have no idea about what it’s like to fall into the hidden and hopeless chasm or who are so afraid of being sucked into the vortex that they resort to ridicule in order to keep a safe distance.
Even when someone takes the time to try and understand, it takes a small forcing to share those dark thoughts, which are usually sanitized and censored.
There’s so much that begs to be revealed, but to utter those black pearls means to bring the subterranean tentacles to the surface.
How do you share the concept of losing the will to live to those who only want life for you? How do you explain the way the horrors of the world plague your thoughts at night or how nothing holds any delight, pleasure or happiness like they did before?
What can you say, when only a void filled with the ghosts of tumbleweeds and a lonely, howling wind come to mind – blocking all the fulsome things you want to convey?
In the depths, the only thoughts swirling around are the ones that remind you that nothing matters. In the scheme of things, we’re all distracting ourselves to avoid the inevitable. No matter what, we all die.
It doesn’t matter how many pills we take or how much effort we put into preserving what we call our lives. Time marches on until we slip away into the darkness and for some of us, the dark reaches out to greet us beforehand.
It’s a taste of things to come.
Try telling that to someone who tries in vain to impress on you that it all matters; that you have a duty to keep on going for the sake of others, if not for yourself. Like trained monkeys, they beseech that you have to get back on the horse, keep your chin up and get back into it.
If nothing else, it’s to make them feel better themselves, not necessarily to help you deal with your darkness.
However, one question is hard for the depressive to ignore: Why choose to focus on doom and gloom when it’s just as arbitrary to focus on joy and light?
If focusing on joy and light is only a distraction from our inevitable demise, then surely the act of focusing on doom and gloom is only a distraction from our possible liberation from darkness?
It’s all about choice.
What do we choose to dwell on, when both avenues are equal distractions? Are both points of view equally valid? Were the Buddhists right when they advised to find the Middle Way?
Depression and thoughts of suicide are like Venus fly traps; dripping with the blood of their victims. They hold us in their cold, black hands – clenched and slimy – blocking the light and clouding our vision.
This is a place where hope is crippled. Any promise of escape is blocked by the heavy drapes of despair, loneliness and self-loathing.
Why not wrench them apart and bathe in the shards of light?
Why choose to wallow in the pit, when the lightness of the soul begs to soar?
Like riding blindfolded on an upside-down see-saw, the only way out is to let go and fly.
To sink is to fail.
Trying to find the missing piece of writing for my last chapter for the Parallel Portals – which is driving me batty. In the meantime I’m having a grey day so if you’re not in the mood for a downer, don’t read my angry rant! I decided to get back into some poetry to take a break. If I can’t find the piece I’m looking for then I’ll have to rewrite from memory, so I hope to have the final chapter (for book one at least) soon.
Here’s my rant/poem/whatever it is!
Oscillating between Bodhisattva and Hungry Ghost while the guilt demons weave in and out of this wretched soul. Throwing into the mix: an assortment of overwrought piety, anxiety and regret to complete the tangled mess.
Sidestepping this monster every now and then, I become the dutiful wife with a beautiful life; earnestly striving to maintain the façade and going through the motions. Obsessing about unnecessary details, wasting time making lists and planning for events which rarely eventuate.
All this to evade the internal monsters, while projecting the angel who is oh so concerned, helpful, compassionate and mostly trite.
All the lost souls ask, “What is the meaning of life?” There are only two possible answers to this pointless question: to create a meaningful life – or – there is no meaning. The latter is to say, we are an evolutionary mistake; a blight on the earth, teeming like maggots as we destroy the world and each other.
I say this with a mind full of despair at growing older; therefore – some would rest assured that this is my motivation for such darkness. Anger at the ever-encroaching demise which looms on the horizon like a black hole. All levels of existence rely on the state of mind over matter. If I maintain a sunny disposition, then my life will be a happy one.
This veneer of positivity is a cruel trick. The world is on fire and we fiddle like Nero. We smile, laugh and joke our way through life to fend off the inevitable doom; turning a blind eye to chaos and horror. Good luck the activist spirit, which hopes against hope that all the protests and petitions will shift the paradigms.
It’s easy to gnash your teeth against the world, but much harder to grin and bear it. Has it all been for naught? As long as one soul destroys another – in my mind – there is no hope.
Hope wrings its hands together and prays a futile prayer to the empty ether. All is as it’s always been: a swarming, writhing comedy of errors. While catering to the lower self, humans take their souls to a dark place; rarely elevating their acts to the level of holiness.
The donkey is always there, no matter how hard we strain for nirvana. This is the inevitable fact. We are material beings with scant understanding of the immaterial world – if it exists at all.
Doubt and hope occupy the same side of the coin. Both are empty, even though they materialize as the impetus for change. Sadly, psychological imperatives and motivations fall short of completing the task. This is the same whether the micro or the macro; as a whole or as an individual, we cannot ensure that everyone is on the same page.
Evolution drags its knuckles while the cancer eats away at our planet. What was the point of a “higher consciousness” for humans?
Did the Christians have it right when they said that to eat the fruit from the forbidden tree of knowledge would be the downfall of humankind? Would it have been better to have remained as an animal or an obedient slave to an invisible god?
We can try to prove our greatness by pointing to great works of art, scientific discovery and philosophical thought. Where has that taken us? While the earth burns under the feet of ignorant, greedy and savage humans; while children and animals are starved and abused, we continue marching towards the greatest lie – that we will be redeemed and rewarded.
As everything stands right now in my mind’s eye – there is no light at the end of the tunnel.
Let’s say that miraculously – tomorrow – everything changes from disaster to joy and peace. If a god or an alien were to come along and wave a magic wand or point a laser-beam – repairing the whole world and changing the inhabitants to angelic beings – what would it be like?
Would life have meaning then? Would some of us become bored with the status quo?
If I break that down to focus only on my own state of mind, would I find peace?
I try to surround myself with good experiences and positive people. I try to generate only happiness and do my best not to react negatively to those who are “less evolved” than I assume I am. I go with the motions, putting one foot ahead of the other and try to make time to create; to write. I find myself wondering about who will care – if anyone at all.
Does it matter? Probably not. Even if I write to only make myself happy, I still feel like a two-dimensional drone. Why am I posting this? Maybe to see if I’m the only drone who feels this way.
I guess I’ll keep dragging my knuckles and see what happens.
Existential Crisis in a Teacup
I haven’t posted for a while – on any of my blogs. I felt bad for it – but I felt worse for not writing my own stuff – being bogged down in freelance work. Then I felt bad for feeling bad – as I should be grateful that I had the opportunity to leave my full time job to be a writer. I am grateful – and my husband is a saint for encouraging me to do so. I couldn’t complain to him about my internal predicament. Getting the flu in between and going down for the count didn’t help any.
I then found myself plunging into a strange fog which I am still trying to fight my way out of. I became immersed in a spiraling whirlpool – doing my best to grasp onto whatever debris or beams of light that showed up here and there. They slipped out of my hands so quickly that I wondered if they existed at all. My dreams have been intense – and hopeful. When I get the chance I’ll post them on my Collective Unconscious blog.
I also veered away from my Shapeshifting blog – neglecting to chronicle my “progress” on healthy living. I’ve been sleeping a lot and doing my best to drag myself to the computer every day to complete my freelance writing wherever possible. One thing I know for sure is that – for the most part – this fog or “crisis” has to do with my impending 50th birthday in September. I am not happy about it – at all. It’s not so much the fact that I’m ageing – but rather that I’m losing time.
My identity has become a mist, or a vapor that has no form. All that I projected about who I thought I was and what I was doing has cleared to reveal the truth. There is nothing. I am nothing. Nothing matters. It’s all pretend. We keep on kicking along just to save face – to make ourselves feel that it’s all – somehow – worth it. Worth the struggle. One day we’ll get there. But where is that? And who says that it’s “somewhere” – the destination we’ve been working towards?
It seems to be a collective grudging towards the only definite element in life: death. I don’t even know what that is – or what it means. The ceasing to be. That sounds awful – and I’m sorry to be so down. Please don’t let it infect you. If anything – I’m writing this out to chronicle my dark patch. I see myself posting tweets etc about my novels – begging for people to buy my books, blah blah blah. It seems so pointless. The emptiness is swallowing me up – but I have to write about it. I have to “sublimate” it – in order to make sense of what is happening to me. Maybe it might help someone else out there – or maybe they can help me.
I stopped writing last night – due to plummeting further downwards. I could see that I wasn’t doing myself any good, even though I thought at the beginning that writing about my “malaise” would make me feel better. I went to bed – with the start of a panic attack looming on the horizon. I was breathing shallow and on the verge of tears that wouldn’t come. I got into bed and focused on my breathing – in a kind of forced meditation. After about half an hour I fell asleep.
When in the clutches of despair, it’s important to remember just to breathe. The only thing in the world that matters is breathing – at that point. I told myself that – if nothing else in the universe mattered – breathing was all I could do. The knowledge that everything would make sense – eventually – kept me going, even though the thoughts in the back of my mind kept bubbling to the surface from time to time. Thoughts such as: “what’s the point?” or “what then?” as well as “I’m just prolonging the obvious.”
I pushed them away and continued breathing. I dreamed about having different cars. First – a red one – which I parked seamlessly in a tight spot. Twice. I amazed myself. Then I had a blue convertible. It was under a dirty blanket and I had to tell a friend to keep her son from playing in it. Then I had a huge, thick branch of marijuana buds. Each bud was intricately wrapped in foil. I wanted to smoke it but people kept showing up so I had to stash it somewhere. Then I woke up.
There are a lot of symbols and related meanings which I will explore in my Collective Unconscious blog soon. The main messages I take from the dream include reserved energy, hiding depressive thoughts and the desire to lose myself. Today I’m getting myself in gear. I have decided to create a roster or weekly agenda for myself. I need order and direction – to pave my way out of this crisis. I’ll post an update later in the week.
I took some photos of myself last night – in an attempt to preserve whatever fading looks I think I might have before I hit 50. I used some photo editing and filters – but for the most part – it’s me. They make me laugh – now.
When I’m feeling like this – I have to remind myself that there are others in the world who are living wretched lives. They would do anything to have a fraction of what I have. Therefore – it seems that I have no right to complain or feel depressed. But what is that thought supposed to do – comfort me? Isn’t that wrong? Does pulling myself up by the bootstraps help them any? Do I owe it to the less fortunate to live a fulfilled life? Isn’t that rubbing their noses in my fortunate life?
What is humbling is the huge smiles on their faces – in the middle of a war zone or filthy, hopeless conditions. The fact that they can make the most of a horrible situation; that they can find the silver lining. Clean water or peace would mean the world to them. In my little corner of the world – I do have access to clean water, a peaceful home and food. I should be grateful. My own mind is the enemy.
Time to whip it into shape.
Dream Blogging – Falling Birds
This is a short dream I had recently, where I was walking down a city street and saw grey birds falling out of the sky. I saw two land in separate trees and something told me that there was an ecological disaster causing them to fall. When I went up to the first bird, it was limp and laying on a branch – but still moving a little. I picked it up and held it in my hands, wondering how to help it.
When I went to the second tree, I saw that the bird was a little more alert. I got close to it and it opened its beak – to reveal a tiny, grey, 3D printed cube inside its mouth.
I saw that the other bird also had one in its mouth and tried to carry them both into a building – to find a work colleague to help the birds. As I walked along, I worried that the birds would die, and when I got to my work colleague, he was blase about them and said they’d get better soon. I felt that he was brushing me off.
THEMES: Environmental calamity, illness, looking for answers.
SYMBOLS: Sky, grey birds, 3D cubes, beaks/mouths, trees.
EMOTIONS: Worry and concern, confusion.
ARCHETYPES: Birds, Animus – work colleague
INTERPRETATION: I get the feeling that – yet again – it was telling me about my physical state. I’ve been improving my diet and exercising of late, and also discovered that my Thyroid medication was too strong. Birds symbolize ideas and thoughts, as well as vehicles for escape and freedom. I feel that they also symbolized my “high hopes” for my books – falling out of the sky representing the lack of sales etc.
I have been disappointed with the progress/success of my writing and even told my husband that I felt like giving up. He told me that it was just a slump and to keep going – that one day, I would have success if I keep plugging at it. Also – the pleasure I get from writing and sharing ideas and stories is one of the main reasons I write.
The 3D cubes in their beaks/mouths is a mystery – although I could interpret them to mean concrete, or three dimensional ideas and solutions within the fallen or failing ideas. For example: the birds (ideas, my books etc) are not staying afloat due to the methods I’m using (and not using) to market and promote. The 3 D cube could symbolize the fact that there’s something solid there, but I have to find a solution.
Trying to get my work colleague to help could indicate my frustrations with the public and potential readers – not seeming to be interested in what I have to offer. In regards to the environment, it could represent how I feel about not wanting to jump through the hoops and produce what I feel are frivolous works – just to garner attention and sales.
It might also indicate how I’m feeling about my frustrations at work and my life in general – especially when I’m low or depressed – thinking that, no matter what I do, it’s an uphill battle with no reward.
SUMMARY: I feel that I need to analyze this dream more, but it does seem to symbolize my “malaise”. I’ve been half-hearted lately, in terms of my writing – so maybe this dream simply reflects those feelings, and indicates a need to be more scientific or well-rounded. Trees can symbolize the integrated Self (they were mostly barren) – so maybe it shows how I feel about myself and my life lately. The ideas and thoughts are there, but they can’t seem to get off the ground. I don’t know. I seem to be going around in circles!
Dealing with Death
Until 1997 I hadn’t lost anyone particularly close to me, other than distant relatives, whose funerals I went to out of respect and to show support. The first funeral I had been to that I remember was for my cousins’ baby who had died of cot death (SIDS) when I was twelve years of age. It was 1978 and a grey day in Melbourne. My cousin was small and skinny with the front of her hair dyed orange and she was clutching onto her boyfriend. They were both crying uncontrollably and everyone else was huddled around them in a protective circle.
I remember the coffin being so terribly small. Everyone commented on how in the hell they could’ve fitted him in there. It was powder blue with a royal blue ribbon around it, only needing two men to carry it up to the altar. Afterwards, at the wake, I heard snippets of hushed conversation about the events leading up to the discovery of his lifeless body in his crib, how the blood had settled in ridges so he must’ve been dead for a while.
At the time, they didn’t know much about cot death and everyone puzzled at what happened, what could’ve been done and how hopeless the situation was. I was a very young twelve year old and didn’t know how to react so just hugged my cousin and said sorry and she gripped me and said “luv ya cuz!” It was all very confusing and sad.
For a long time, death happened to other people and I was somewhat cocooned from it, until 1997, when it caught up with a vengeance. Early in the year, I was in a relationship with – let’s call him John, who was many things but he mostly drove me insane. We had been together for about a year. I learned a lot from him and he was passionate, crazy, insanely funny, hyper intelligent, unemployed and a writer. I loved him to death but he was a serious drain on my energy. I had been doing my own tarot readings for years and at the time had pulled the cards out every so often, but every time I did, as I was shuffling, the death card kept falling out. Every time!
I consider myself mostly secular, but at that time, it freaked me out. It happened six times in one week and I decided not to touch the cards for a while. Two weeks later I picked them up again and carefully shuffled, deliberately clearing my mind and thinking about my career and other pleasant things. When I cut the cards and turned half the stack over, the death card stared me in the face! I was mortified. I quickly put them away again and told John, who was Catholic and straight away he was freaked, telling me to stay away from them.
At the time I hadn’t had my period but I’d always had issues with my cycles so didn’t think much of it, until I ended up having to go to the emergency room with unexplained bleeding. It was a miscarriage. After it was all dealt with I thought of the death card but brushed it aside, as I was upset over losing the child, even though it wasn’t planned and probably for the best seeing as the relationship was by no means stable.
Two weeks later John and were in my kitchen, making dinner when the phone rang. It was my stepfather who matter of factly told me that my younger brother Peter had died of a heroin overdose. Just like that. I’ve always had a delayed panic response to crisis. It’s always way after the dust has settled. I calmly asked what I needed to do. He asked if I could come with them to view the body. I agreed, hung up and asked John if he could watch Zack, who was ten years old at the time, so I could go and identify my brothers’ body. He was dumbstruck and came around the counter to hug me, telling me – “Of course!”
We talked about Peters’ wretched life and how on the one hand it wasn’t a shock, but on the other – how it was still a surprise. We had all tried, at various and numerous times to help him, to offer a stable home and to get him help. But it never worked due to relapses and so on. Things would get stolen, he would get involved with seedy circles and bring them back to our homes. There were mountains of broken promises, rivers of tears, lies and hopeless regrets.
My mother and stepfather turned up and we drove to the hospital. I was worried about Mum as she was so calm and rational. She kept saying over and over that at least the hopeless struggle was over, as though she was trying to convince herself. I knew that deep down it didn’t matter – the struggle, because the bottom line was that her baby was gone. The chance for trying to help him one more time was ripped out of her hands. We talked like robots as though reading from a pre-approved script until we arrived at the hospital. Once inside they took us to a room and a nurse told us that they had him in another room. She pulled me out of the room for a minute to tell me that Peter was on a slab and rigor mortis had set in, so it probably wasn’t suitable for Mum to see him like that. I agreed that it was probably for the best if I was the one to identify him.
I went back into the room and without explaining why, told Mum that I should be the one to identify him. She agreed – still stunned and said that she wanted to remember him the way he used to be. Before I walked out she said “Make sure you check the tattoos. Remember? Jimi Hendrix? And get the rings if they’re on him.” I said ok and followed the nurse into the hallway where a kindly policeman was waiting to lead me to the room.
Once at the door he turned and stopped me as I was ready to just casually walk inside. He told me to prepare myself. In a calm voice he said “The person you’re about to see is not the same as the one you’ll remember, so take your time.” My mind was racing but I just wanted to get it over and done with, so I nodded impatiently and said ok. He opened the door slowly and held it open for me to walk in. I took two steps and instantly – a tear shot out of my eye like a bullet! There he was, like a statue from Pompeii, on a cold metal slab, on his back, with his arms twisted upwards as though warding off an invisible attacker.
The plastic tubing was still in his mouth and a clear plastic sheet was draped over his body. It was like something out of a horror movie. The expression on his face was contorted as though he was still in discomfort. The smell of formaldehyde was overwhelming. I started hyperventilating. The policeman had a hand on my arm, asking if I wanted to take a break. I said no, but was having difficulty dealing with what I was seeing. I remember thinking “Check the tattoos”. I saw Jimi Hendrix on his bicep. It’s amazing how your mind tries to trip you up. I kept saying to myself “Are you sure it’s him? Check again!”
I kept checking and even when I said to the policeman, “Yes it’s him” and we walked out the door, I had to turn around and have a second look, to make sure. As he walked me back to the room where Mum and Brian were, I composed myself and asked the policeman to make sure we got his rings back. He promised and he did. As soon as I walked into the room I looked at Mum and didn’t even have to say anything. Straight away she collapsed into sobs and it began.
For a week the grief kept its’ distance from me. I was the one who called all the relatives all over Australia and planned the funeral. I organized the viewing before the funeral (we decided not to have an open casket – even though they did a great job on Peter and he looked so peaceful). On the morning of the funeral, that’s when it hit me. I was sitting on the couch next to John, when all of a sudden it was like a cannonball hitting my stomach. I had previously assumed that grief was just like any other emotional pain or depression, just deeper. No-one tells you that it’s a whole different ball game.
I physically felt it, in my stomach, like a rolling black ball, all consuming and dragging me down in a pit of despair. There was nothing I could do to fight it. It horrified me, as I could not control it. I could hear a howl come out of me that I had never heard before. John grabbed me and held me, much to his eternal credit – he did have a human side. I sobbed and gasped, drowning in a pool of darkness, wondering if I would ever come out of it. About ten minutes later it subsided. When I finally came to and sat back up I realized that this might happen at the funeral. I wondered if I might be able to control it then.
At the funeral, one of my cousins played the didgeridoo – which is an amazing instrument at any time, but at a funeral it drags out your grief, kicking and screaming, by the ankles. Everyone was kind of holding it together until he started playing, when the curtain finally closed over the coffin. The deep bellow of the instrument grabbed our souls and we surrendered. It was beautiful and horrible at the same time. But very necessary.
A week later I was having a shower and the grief monster hit me again, right in the pit of my stomach. I doubled over and collapsed on the bottom of the shower and waited for it to subside. It was like being possessed by a separate entity. It came in and after it did what it had to, it left. After that I was able to control it better.
Two weeks after my brother died, we heard about my uncle committing suicide. It was during the anthrax epidemic and farmers were having to cull their stock. He had been depressed and two weeks earlier had started taking prozac. My aunty told me that he had walked into his neighbors’ dam and drowned himself.
A month after that, Johns’ sister committed suicide. She gassed herself in her car after a relationship breakup. John and his family were devastated, as they had already lost a younger sister when John was quite young and their father a few years earlier. That whole period was a fog of death. It was so surreal and it took quite a while to get back to some semblance of order.
It wasn’t until the end of that year when I remembered the death card popping out all those times. It took a long time for me to be able to take the cards out again!