Functional Psychosis, Self-Harm and Depth Psychology – Paul: Week Three, Part II

***Psychosis / Suicide / Self-Harm / Sex Abuse / Sorry Use of Alliteration Triggers***

****In Fact, Probably Every Post About Paul – Given the Nature of the Therapy – is Hereby Deemed to Require Trigger Warnings****

The following is a continuation of this post. Today’s date is 28 October, so refers to a counselling session that took place over a week ago and not that of this week. The meeting of of Monday 25th was, as I rather bemusedly noted on Twitter that afternoon, one of the most horrific and appalling therapy sessions I’ve ever experienced – and yet, intellectually, it was sublimely interesting. Misanthropy and joking about our species’ mass stupidity aside, the human mind is truly a fascinating device, capable of more than will ever be understood in my lifetime, and indeed in all probability of that of my phantom, not-to-be descendants.

Anyway, regardless of Monday’s rather philosophical awe, Paul is still A Good Thing. Where we went last week immediately after the short discussion on the 4 October Plan as linked to above (my immensely long post was stupidly deceptive) is, by now, anyone’s guess, but I believe that he must have asked me how I had been in the week since I’d seen him, because I ended up confessing to him about an incident of self-harm about which I had (at that point) not told anyone.

It happened on the Sunday, the evening before I saw him. I was sitting minding my own business quite indifferently one minute, and the next I was in one of the bleakest depressions I can remember this year, and maybe for even longer than that. I can’t say “it just hit me” or something similar, because that would suggest that it felt ‘new’ or something. It didn’t. Obviously I know that it was sudden, but depression fucks with one’s most rudimentary grasps of the passage of time, and in this curious way it felt like it had always been with me.

A, perturbed by this reasonless nosedive, reminded me that we had a fun weekend to look forward to* but I remember responding that I doubted I’d still be respiring by that point. Actually, my usual retrospective analysis makes clear that of course I would not have done myself in whilst in such a state; it takes effort and a certain amount of determination to develop a suicide plan, and I didn’t have either.

In that regard, self-harming at the time was an odd progression, but then again the cuts were pathetically superficial and required little direct attention on my part. I wrote ‘EVIL’ and slashed the blade about randomly for a bit, watching in a satisfied trance as it all bled.

Self-harm, as a mood management function, works (at least for me). I find myself rather reminded of last July – as soon as I had emblazoned the word ‘HATE’ across my abdomen on that occasion, I was quite simply fine. And so it came to pass on this occasion also.

I told Paul about it, perhaps a little sheepishly. I know he told me at the end of the first session with him that he expected my mood to probably get worse before it got better, but still – it seems nasty to tell a therapist that in the course of your work together that things just get shitter and shitter, to the point where cutting yourself is not only a desirable course of action, but a required one.

Of course, it takes more than that to faze Paul. I remember C finding some of my elaborate acts of self-harm to be quite perplexing, but Paul makes no judgement one way or the other (more on the refreshing nature of this later). His main point of concern, after establishing the extent of the damage, was why the word ‘evil’ was my chosen form of body art.

I didn’t know the answer to this. I remember resisting the urge to shrug, because it seems sort of rude to do so, but it seemed the response that most accurately answered his question. I had no idea what the exact reasons were, and to be honest I didn’t especially care.

Paul being the type of therapist he is though – almost Fruedian or psychodynamic in some ways, even more so on certain points than his predecessor – thinks that nothing is motiveless. I wrote ‘evil’ as opposed to ‘I love fluffy puppies’ for a reason.

“I suppose it’s rather obvious, though,” I said eventually. “It was, at least at the time, how I felt about myself. I don’t now especially, but I probably did then.”

I don’t recall his exact response, but he is always very direct in revealing what he thinks and, as he has done in the past, in some way or another he voiced the view that I had nothing to feel ‘evil’ about.

I said that I knew that rationally – at least sometimes – but that did not make it any less real in terms of visceral feeling. It just ‘feels right’ sometimes to think that I am an evil being.

Naturally, he thinks that I have largely projected the apparent evil of others onto myself. Such thinking has apparently been encouraged by those who inflicted their apparent evil upon me, and it all alchemises in a large cauldron of psychic confusion.

We talked for a while about the general mechanisms of cutting, and about how it improves my mood almost instantly. I said that I appreciated the biology involved – endorphins rushing to the site of the wound and whatnot – but that I felt that there was more to it than just that. For one thing, I find the flow of blood calming and fascinating. Also, the short, sharp shock of making an incision is a far better grounding mechanism than C’s stupid breathing techniques ever were, are or will be. I remember W once sagely noting that those were comparable to throwing half a small bottle of Evian on a state-wide Australian bushfire. Quite so.

Anyhow, I told Paul of how I would ‘use’ self-injury to prevent myself dissociating, to ease anxiety, to manage my moods and to distance myself from psychotic symptomology.

So began a discussion surrounding the types of psychoses I’d experienced. I said, “my psychiatrist thinks that my psychoses are not of the traditional schizophrenic type. She thinks they’re sort of dissociative.”

“In what way?” he enquired.

“Well, rather than be engaged in some sort of external fantasy, my mind ‘branches off’ into these kind of voices or unreasonable beliefs.”

“Which sounds like a good description schizophrenia to me,” Paul replied. “One of the best explanations I’ve heard for psychosis is that the reality of what the mind is faced with becomes so huge, so unbearable, that the ego ‘splits’ and ergo psychosis takes over. Oftentimes, it is a horrible place in which to be, but it’s still an externalised psychological fantasy designed to mask reality, and in that sense you will find that parts of the self – as in your case, and as in others – are expressed in ‘unreal’ ways. So I suppose I’m saying that it is in many ways functional – a protective device of the mind, just like more obvious forms of dissociation.”

So, it is as I suspected. Paul believes in the trauma model of mental illness – he doesn’t hold particularly to the idea that bio-chemistry can be responsible, at least in some cases. I, of course, do not agree with such an assessment, but then it hardly matters in this context. He is there to treat me for trauma-related symptoms, whether or not there is a biological element to them or not. My agreement or otherwise with his hypothesis is unimportant, as long as we are on the same wavelength vis a vis my treatment – and so far, I think we are.

As I mentioned in the previous post pertaining to this session, Paul thinks there is a small ‘nugget’ of my mind that cares about myself and wants to protect me, and it is his view that the late Tom represented said nugget. The nugget kept me from purchasing the helium needed to kill myself on 4 October 2010.

By the same token, ‘They’ are the dissociated side(s) of myself that view me as the whore that seduced Paedo (and, it seems, others). ‘They’ are the parts that believed Paedo and friends when he/they said (or otherwise intimated) that I was ‘evil’. Every time Tom, or some other ‘part’ of me, wanted to comfort and soothe myself, ‘They’ fought back. Before they were dissociative hallucinations, they manifested as depression, mixed states, yadda yadda.

“In some way or another, he’s always inside your head,” Paul said, alluding further to the presence of ‘They’.

“They,” I murmured, absent-mindedly.

“Sorry?” he pressed.

“Not just him. They’re always inside my head.”

“The voices?”

“No. Well, I mean, yes, of course the voices, even though they’re controlled by medication. But what I meant was it’s not just him. You know…” – I hung my head and lowered my voice – “…more than one.”

He asked me to be more specific.

“I don’t know if it’s real,” I started, but he told me to forget for a minute whether or not it was real, and just concentrate on telling him what it was that was on my mind.

“I mean, there’s him, of course there’s him – him for years and years and years. But I think, maybe at least once, I don’t know – I think ‘he’ was a ‘they’.”

“Go on,” he gently encouraged.

But I couldn’t say it. I can type the words ‘gang rape’ here with relative nonchalance, but every time I took a breath to speak those words, that breath seemed to literally stick in my throat, rendering me mute.

This went on for what seemed like twenty minutes, though in reality it was probably closer to two. I desperately wanted him to say the hideous phrase for me, and for me then simply to confirm that was what I meant. He did know what I was talking about, I’m pretty sure; but he wouldn’t let me off the hook.

By some miracle, eventually, the words found their way out. They took on a strange and almost ethereal quality as they did so though, like they had been elongated and pulled out of my mouth by some unseen but nevertheless powerful force. Gang rape.

“OK,” he nodded. “You aren’t certain that this happened?”

“It probably didn’t,” I said, regaining my characteristically dismissive tone. “I have an overactive imagination. I just thought I ought to bring it up.”

“There you go again,” he said, looking at me almost sadly. “Your last line of defence. ‘This never happened‘. The ultimate in self-blame, in avoidance, in coping. It is easier for you to face being wrong than to face the wrongness of what he and they did to you.”

I looked away, wordless.

“I’d like to try something with you,” he said, changing his tone slightly. “It’s not hypnosis. I’m not even sure I believe in hypnosis, and even if I do, I haven’t a baldy notion of how I’d go about conducting it. This is just us…taking a little walk.”

“What, to go and get a coffee or something?” I asked, slightly mystified. On reflection it was a ludicrously stupid question, probably the stupidest I’ve ever asked in any therapy session.

He laughed. “No, not literally taking a walk. Just seeing where your mind takes you when you let it wander a bit. It’s called guided imagery. I ask you to imagine a few things, you do so and we see where your mind goes within those confines…potentially, it can allow you to psychologically go to places that are tucked away somewhere. Would you be happy enough to give it a go?”

It sounded a bit faffy to me, but after a few seconds of consideration, I thought, ‘what the hell?’ and decided to go with it.

He asked me to relax, and I rather surprised myself by feeling comfortable enough to close my eyes in front of him.

Paul said, “imagine you’re at a waterfall [“oh my God,” I heard myself say, “one of these new agey ‘see your inner rainbow flying out of your arse’ techniques. That’s all I need!”]. Picture it falling, into a pool at the bottom, with greenery and trees around it. Can you see it?”

“Yes,” I replied, the even tone of my voice disguising my internal cynicism.

“OK. Move round the corner, and you’ll find yourself in a field, or a green plain. There’s a fence somewhere in front of you, with a gate. Do you see it?”

“Yes.”

“Can you describe it?”

“Ordinary. Innocuous. That dull, light colour of wood you often see separating fields in rambling trails. The gate is secured by a black bolt thing on the back. You have to reach over it to open it.”

“OK, go ahead and open it…Have you done so?”

“Yes.”

“There’s a path ahead of you. Do you see it, and what’s it like?”

“I see it. It’s not an official path, it’s just one formed from the constant wear and tear of many feet walking the same route.”

“Follow it. At the end of it you’ll see a house. Can you describe that?”

“It’s small. Thin. Detached, two-storey, whitewashed, with black window ledges and a black door.”

“Is there a fence? A wall or hedge? Anything surrounding it?”

“Nothing, no.”

“OK. Go up to the door, open it and head inside.”

“It’s locked.”

This took him aback slightly, but he covered it well. “You have a key,” he told me.

“OK. It’s open.”

“Can you describe the hallway?”

I could. It had three rooms; one opposite me, two on the right. There was a staircase to my left which had a turn in it. The walls were panelled with quite a dark wood. There was some sort of table thing near the stairs, but it had nothing on it.

He asked me to go into each of the rooms, in turn. The first one was a living room. It was sparsely furnished, with a dull coldness to it. The dining room next door was similar, and both were distinctly uninviting, although not particularly belligerent. The kitchen was warmer – there were lingering smells of food previously cooked, the actual heat a hangover from same. He asked me to look in the cupboards. Most were empty, and the ones that weren’t only had old-looking tins of food populating them.

As I got to the stairs, they morphed – and, it turned out, so had the outside of the house. I told Paul that it reminded me of the TARDIS – tiny on the outside but massive on the inside.

“At the top of the stairs there are three doors,” I told him. “However, I know there are more than three rooms. There are extra rooms off these ones, I think.”

He asked me to enter one of them. Sure enough, there was another door over to my right. The room – indeed, upstairs in general – caused me much more trepidation than downstairs had done. It felt as if there was a malice about it, a sinister, unquantifiable undertone that I couldn’t quite see, as if it was just outside of my peripheral vision – but totally ready to pounce when it deemed the time to be right.

The room was dull and dark. There was a double bed, dressed in a non-descript beige. There was a chest of drawers and a window with a dark curtain over it. It reminded me of a room that would have been vaguely offensive to its occupants even in the 1970s.

Paul instructed me to go through the second door. This led to a second landing; there were three rooms off it that I could see, but I knew there was at least one more on the other side, which was obscured by a low roof on my right. On my immediate left was a dark, indistinct storage area.

The undercurrent of menace seemed to swirl around me, starting at my ankles, slowly creeping higher. It was palpable and, if I’m honest, slightly suffocating. I could cope with it, but I kind of got the impression that if I went further into the area, the ominousness of the situation would only increase considerably.

It was therefore merciful that it was at this juncture that Paul asked me to leave the second landing, and indeed to depart from the house and walk back down the path, away from it.

There followed a discussion on how the exercise had been. I was surprised by how the simple act of seeing things in my head had created such sensations and an almost palpable alternative reality for me, especially given how cynical I had been about it. I told him that I thought it was interesting to have observed that – and, indeed, potentially telling.

Paul agreed. Apparently, the first thing he really noticed was that there was no wall or fence around the house. To him, obviously enough upon reflection, this denoted the lack of boundaries that I had, whether currently, historically, or both. “That of course is perfectly exemplified when your boundaries are robbed from you, when you’re being abused,” he said.

Apparently I was the first person with whom he has tried guided imagery that had a locked door to the house. I was silently quite pleased about this (I love being unique), but I’m not sure that it’s really a good thing. If indeed this kind of therapy can yield results, does the potential for same decrease for me because I have so much locked away that I don’t really want to discover? Who knows.

“The kitchen,” he murmured wistfully. “The smells, the heat – they had been there, but you only caught their embers really. It was kind of as if there had been some warmth and homely normality in some part of your life, but that it’s been taken away from your conscious recall, or that it’s somehow died in your head.”

I nodded, but said nothing.

“Don’t you find that incredibly sad?” he asked.

“It’s just the way it is, I suppose,” I replied, resignedly.

“Indeed,” he returned, with a tone of deep regret. “That’s what’s sad about it.”

Another thing that Paul found intriguing was the maze of rooms in the upper portion of the house. The symbolism requires no explanation, really, so there you go. He finds it intriguing; I find it deeply concerning. What all don’t I know? Do I really metaphorically exemplify the tip of an iceberg? Or is this all just new age bollocks that simply means I once imagined looking through a house that I didn’t like?

And so, on this unsettling but somehow compelling note, Paul began to draw the session to a close, tying it up with a few housekeeping matters.

“On the issue of self-harm,” he said. “At this point, I’m actually supposed to negotiate a contract with you stating that you won’t engage in it over the next week. I’m not going to do that, however; if you ended up injuring yourself whilst under a contract, that would be only one more reason for you to be critical of yourself – and anyway, at times you need to self-harm.”

My heart leapt with joy. Finally, a therapist who gets that!

“That said,” he went on, “if you’re feeling really desperate, you can always contact us. I can’t guarantee that I’ll always be available, but someone will.”

He paused momentarily, and then said, “I have a phone number that I use for work too. You can text me on it if you want and I can text or phone you back. It’s only for use during working hours – I’m not an emergency service – but please do use it if you need to during those times. Don’t wait until you’re at your wits end.”

I was frankly stunned by the very notion that I am allowed to contact someone qualified and familiar with my case if I’m going mental. I kept thinking about all the times I practically begged C for advice on who I should contact in such circumstances, and how I was always dismissively told to ring those arbiters of life and death: the fucking Samaritans (no offence to them, but they simply are not fully fledged mental health professionals).

The guided imagery thing was weird, and was expanded upon in the following session (report on same coming soon). But weirdness aside, I’m still encouraged by this therapeutic relationship. At the very least, for once it actually feels like someone gives a fuck about me as a person, rather than them feeling that I am just someone who takes up fifty inconvenient minutes of their week.

* And it was a fun weekend; thanks from both A and I to Chaos and Control, Magic Plum, Finding Melissa, @talkingtocactus and of course Zarathustra for a great mini-Mad Up on Friday night! Roll on the next one in December :) Thanks also to my dear friends CVM and Daniel for their excellent company, and to Newcastle United Football Club and its supporters for making our first away fixture surprisingly non-shit!

The Fourth of October Plan – A Date With Death – Paul: Week Three, Part I

***Suicide Triggers***

You may recall that at the end of my first session with Paul I briefly alluded to the fact that I had intended to do myself in that day.  It was 4 October 2010.

I had written a post on this issue independently of Paul’s involvement, but chose not to publish it in the end because it read horribly.  Still, I was going to re-write it eventually and it might as well be here as, to my considerable surprise, Paul opened our third session together by bringing the issue up.

He said that at the time it was first mentioned he had wanted to discuss it with me, but that as it was at the end of the meeting, he’d obviously been unable to.  Then  Week Two was for the most part a history lesson taught by me to him, so an opportunity to discuss the matter had not arisen therein either.

For the sake of context, let me take you back a little.  The decision to kill myself was made about the end of July, a time blighted by the dark shadow of therapy with C coming to an near-imminent end.  I could not imagine a future without him – it sounds so utterly pathetic to consider killing myself effectively over a man I never really knew, and I suppose it is.  However, in relative fairness, it was a case of a straw breaking a camel’s back.  I’ve lived with being mental for so long.  As I’ve previously argued, I’m still not convinced I’d flick some sort of figurative switch to rid myself of it all and be some sort of cheery Mary Poppins instead; I despise the idea, and in any case I’ve never known anything different to madness ergo making it an absolute immanence to my sense of identity.  I am comfortable with that in and of itself, although obviously I want to be able to manage my symptoms – but all that said, it’s so exhausting.  Put simply, I don’t (didn’t) want to live with this at the levels to which I have been so horribly used.

From this you can probably surmise that the 4 October Plan was something I thought about deeply.  As Paul noted as I spoke, it was not a rash, indiscriminate, sudden whim: I honestly considered all my options, and thought suicide was the least worst.  One of the most ‘dangerous’ types of suicide attempt – the calculated (Paul’s spot-on term), considered, planned on.  I decided upon it; I didn’t just randomly do it in a fit of smothering bleakness.

I thought about it again, and re-decided upon it.  In desperation for the sake of A and Mum, I revised the evidence and circumstances in front of yet again – and still decided it was the right thing to do.

Having set my mind on it, I went about determining a date.

There were certain criteria affecting this variable of my intended death:

  • it had to be sufficiently far from the birthdays of both my mother and A that neither would associate those occasions with my death
  • I had to have enough time to consider my exit method and to purchase any necessary ingredients
  • despite the previous two factors, it still had to be relatively soon.

4th October is a date set pretty evenly between the birthdays of the two aforesaid, and although that date in the Year of our Lord 2010 seemed like a million miles away from my despairing, screaming-inside July self, it was at least within a foreseeable future.  It was also a Monday, and right at the onset of the most miserable time of year.  Perfectly depressing.

I set up a blog and a Twitter account to ‘chronicle the last days of my life’.  I have no idea why I did that, and am in utter shock about it as I sit here now, because the utter narcissism of such behaviour is appalling even by my benchmark-level standards of same.  I suppose I was probably trying to convey, in an oddly individual manner, my pro-choice on suicide stance.  Incidentally, I still hold to that ideal despite the fact that I didn’t go through with it.  I don’t necessarily think that it’s a good idea, but I do think it should be an option available without condemnation to the most chronically desperate individuals.

I decided I was going to do it one of two ways.  My initial intention had been to jump, and I researched relevant options for same.  There are a number of possible venues in this vicinity – all highrise buildings – and even though I knew I’d be shit scared when I got to the top of one of them (I suffer from vertigo, which perhaps makes suicide by jumping an apparently stupid thing to do, but remember that vertigo is not acrophobia), I planned to mitigate this with an overdose of Zopiclone, Quetiapine and booze.  I planned to sit at the edge and consume these drugs, then hopefully pass out and fall off the side of the building.

Two problems presented themselves, however.  One was that I couldn’t find any information on how I’d reasonably get onto the roof of one of these buildings at all, never mind doing so without arousing suspicion. More importantly, all of the buildings in questions house civilians, whether residential or business premises.  I figured it wouldn’t be very nice for them to walk out of their homes/offices and find my brain and un-co-operative-whilst-alive bowels splattered all over their garden(s).

The back-up, then.  Helium.  If properly executed (pun intended), helium is a peaceful and relatively quick method of catching the bus.  Advantageously, it’s also fairly easily obtainable, unlike many poisons.  Body discovery in this case would be by police personnel, as I planned to undertake the suicide in my car in a remote location, having sent a time-delayed email to the local copshop (or, perhaps more suitably, the local KFC).

There’s a certain surrealism and black humour in all of this, looking back.  It’s hilarious to think of someone running a helium canister through price comparison sites.  I mean…it’s just ludicrous!  And what did its cost ultimately matter, given that I would be dead?!  Whilst other people were checking the respective prices of Wiis or DVDs, here I was attempting to calculate the best available price for death.  Perhaps I shouldn’t find this so terribly amusing, but I never said I had anything approximating good taste.  As I imparted this information to Paul, tears of laughter rolled down my cheeks.  He laughed himself at one point, but I haven’t yet worked out whether it was genuine, or merely polite response to my own cachinnations.  Perhaps I am a uniquely twisted fucker.

Anyway, helium best price identified, onward I went to purchase the goodies.  This was, I think, on Thursday 23 September.  I added the canister to my ‘basket’, filled in the address and name details, and even put in my debit card number.  All set.

I pulled the on-screen cursor over to the ‘purchase’ button, and (given as I was and am using a laptop) lifted my finger away from the pointer to press the left mouse button, which would finalise the sale.

And…I stopped dead (yes, more punning intended).  My right index finger wouldn’t co-operate in the simple act of pressing down on the button, thus failing to secure my canister delivery.  I willed it to move.  I willed my mind to act, to overrule the double-crossing digit.  But I couldn’t do it.  I couldn’t go through with it.

In an instant I was flooded with guilt about A, Mum and my friends.  Engineering my death so that it wasn’t associated with someone’s birthday was hardly going to make up for the fact that I permanently wasn’t there. As I relayed this to Paul, he noted quite drolly that upon hearing of my demise, their first reaction was unlikely to be “oh well, at least it’s not my birthday.”  I couldn’t help but laugh again.

I told him how and where I’d intended to do it and how, when NLTWFN rang me to say that an appointment with him had come up on that particular date, I’d smiled internally at the irony.  The start of a process designed to help me live my life better on the day I was supposed to die.  If there is a God, He/She/It has definitely got a sense of humour.

On that point, although I don’t believe in fate, providence or anything of the like, I suppose that humourous irony is also rather poignant, if you look at it sentimentally anyhow.  Instead of dying on 4 October 2010, perhaps I could maybe start living on 4 October 2010.  *imagines flowers, sunsets, waterfalls, bunnies and life perfection*  Hmmm.

Just to spoil that lovely sweet moment, of course I didn’t start living.  In fact, my life remains a minuscule and infinitesimally unimportant splatter of diarrhoea shat irritably out by the fed up cosmos.  Still and withal, Paul has so far been a positive and encouraging development, and our first ‘proper’ interaction was on that date, so it was at least a happy coincidence.

As 4 October finally arrived, I sat watching the clock on my mobile phone pointedly.  As the digits changed from 23:59 to 00:00 I cocked my head at the device, oddly captivated by the (in?)significance of the moment. Although knowing that I was still going to be alive in 24 hours (random meteor showers or tanks ploughing through my front wall notwithstanding), I was still somehow darkly beguiled by the inevitable ‘what if’s of the occasion.

A few minutes later, as I was still watching the clock, my only ‘real’ follower on the associated Twitter account (which I had all but abandoned by this point) sent me a message pleading with me not to go through with killing myself.  I felt bad that I hadn’t announced my reversal in decision to her but was nonetheless heartened to know that one of the few people who was aware of my intentions cared enough to contact me about it.  I was really touched when, after then telling her that I had changed my mind, she was palpably delighted.  She’s a lovely lady who lives on the other side of the world and is to all intents and purposes a stranger, but therein lies a point – the kindness of strangers is always welcome and remembered.  After advising her of the Twitter account allied to this blog, I deleted the other Twitter page and indeed the relevant blog.  The 4 October Plan was officially dead (I’m now bored of the word ‘pun’, so let’s say that yes, that was an paronomasia).

Having monologued out all of the foregoing to Paul, I finally took a breath and sat back to hear his response (this post is over 1,700 words long, but the actual conversation was less than 10 minutes!  *notes off-the-scale verbosity and explodes*).  It was nothing revelatory really, but he said that he had expected from my first mention of the 4 October Plan  - and that the ‘happy’ conclusion to the story had to his mind confirmed – that there is a small, tucked-away part of me that cares about myself, and wants to protect me.  He thinks that said part realises I’m not the pathetic, fetid whore that I normally feel that I am, and thinks that I am an innocent party in most, if not all, of the ‘traumatic’ situations in which I found myself.  He called the part a ‘nugget’.

I will continue the story of this session tomorrow, as I’ve already written nearly 1,900 words, and yet there was a lot more to this session than this specific topic.  One thing that came up later that’s worthy of mention here briefly, though, is that of psychoses – or, rather, a psychosis.  Remember my friend, the dearly departed Tom?  RIP, Tom :( Or, perhaps, not ‘RIP’?  Paul reckons that Tom represented a dissociated part of me that expressed itself as an external voice.   Specifically, Paul opines, Tom was ‘the nugget’, and although he may be gone in a hallucinatory sense, that ‘nugget’ still remains there, somewhere deep inside.

To be continued.

Suicide

If you are in suicidal crisis, please see this page. Alternatively, call The Samaritans on 0845 909090 or email them at jo@samaritans.org. If you feel that suicidal action is imminent, call an ambulance on 999. Help is almost always available, and life can almost always improve.

Please see this page for a list of international suicide and crisis hotlines.

This will not go down well.

I’m sure by now many readers know of the story of Joanne Lee and Stephen Lumb (even more in-depth details from The Scum), who formed a suicide pact online and deliberately gassed themselves to death in Stephen’s car. I’m so terribly sorry that they felt this action necessary, though I understand the desperation. I hope they are both at peace, whatever that is.

What you may not know is that I was vaguely familiar with at least one of them. You see, I am a lurker on the forum on which they met, which is a pro-choice-on-suicide discussion group, providing details on methods for the desperate and chronically miserable.

*sits back and watches the mass unfollowing of this blog*

I personally have no imminent plans to commit the act, but due to the level of suicidal ideation I experience (why else would I be on a suicide methods site?!), I did think I would spend some time detailing my thoughts on it.

Largely they’re hypocritical, as so much about my fucked-up personality is. To that end, I’d warn anyone from reading on if they feel they will find triggers or justification for any sort of suicidal behaviour here.

But this exemplifies the point: I’m a hypocrite. It is, apparently, my genuinely held belief that if you want to do yourself in, that should be your perfect right (not controversial or anything, oh no), but already I’m warning people away from reading this if they find themselves in agreement and therefore think I am justifying their actions. I’m not. Yet I am. What can I say? I’m defined by contradictions.

I’ll not provide the name of the pro-choice forum here as I don’t want to ‘tempt’ anyone, but if you’re really keen, I’m sure it won’t be that hard to find. Other pro-choice internet sites include those of books or just general information. There are a number of actual written publications on the matter.

Most of the discussions in all the aforementioned places focus on the best means by which to top oneself. There is quite in-depth analysis on what is the least painful method, what is the quickest, what’s best for suicidal gestures, what is most dramatic.

People really do kill themselves after reading this stuff, as the case of Joanne and Stephen exemplifies. Most don’t, and will generally admit to “chickening out” of the act and/or stalling it. But some people do do it.

I have (or had, as she no longer seems active) a Twitter follower who is the mother of a girl, Suzy, who killed herself by following the instructions of an individual talking to her on a pro-suicide website. The mother is campaigning for ‘assisting’ suicide over the internet to be made illegal. Neither she nor her husband knew of their daughter’s deep depression, until they received a time-delayed email from her informing them that she had died. Needless to say, they were devastated.

And this is of course where the primary problem with killing oneself lies. If one commits suicide, he or she almost certainly leaves behind a group of friends and/or family that will be consumed utterly by grief. Fortunately, I’ve not known anyone who has done it (the closest is a friend of a friend), but from what I understand, those left behind after a suicide feel their loved-one’s death with even more bitter and raw hurt than those whose loved-ones have died in other circumstances.

Presumably this is in part related to guilt:

I should have known. I could have prevented it.

If I’d acted on his/her threats/poor mood/whatever, we could have got help.

It’s because of me/us! (S)he must’ve really hated me/us.

This is, of course, assumption on my part and if I am wrong, please tell me. There’s also the more altruistic idea that family and friends are appalled that the person’s life was so miserable that they would even consider the act at all.

I suppose people are, with justification, angry too. How dare someone deliberately leave their friends and family overcome with grief and a lifetime without that person? Suicide is selfish, right?

And the shame too. It’s cowardly, isn’t it?

I can understand these views. Honestly, I can. I can only imagine – and I only want to ever imagine – that if anyone to whom I am close killed themselves, that I would react in some of these ways too. Probably the guilt thing more than the others, though, or so I’d like to think.

There’s a philosophical background to my views on the rights or wrongs of suicide, what with my long-held position as an existential nihilist, but I’m not going to start debating the issue from that standpoint as, in truth, it’s only a small part of my reasoning for feeling as I do. Mainly my vaguely pro-choice stance is because I can profoundly understand one’s desire to cease to be.

People who never suffered from real, genuine and severe depression will never begin to understand it, and I hope they never do. I’m not trying to belittle the suffering of others; I’m just saying that this kind of blackness is very different from the pain incurred by your average human being living an average life. The agony is not something I would wish on my worst enemy (I’ll stick other nefarious means of torture for that, thanks). I’m not even going to waste your time or mine by trying to describe it. The suffering is indescribable, the future hopeless, the past gone. I cannot conceive of anything more bleak. (I’m sure someone might say, “hmm, what if Fallout 3 was a reality? Sure the aftermath of a nuclear holocaust might be bleaker? You pathetic, whiny bitch, Pan!” Well…maybe you’re right, and I am a miserable, whinging fucker who should grow up and count her blessings. But maybe there’s a difference, too? A nuclear holocaust is a disaster for society and the world; true depression is a disaster for the self. The magnitude is wholly divergent in the grand scheme of things, but when taken from the depressed person’s mind alone, I can assure you that that magnitude does not seem so very different).

So, depression is horrendous, to use what is frankly a tiny word for an immense state of being. To the mind of a normal person, suicide is not the answer. To the severely or chronically depressed person, there is no other answer. Is that rational? In most cases, I don’t believe so, no. Rational and logical reasoning is lost amongst the dark clouds of blackness – most of the time. I believe that this can be true even if one is cognisant of the supposed benefits of psychopharmacology and psychotherapy – because the nature of severe depression is to see no hope in everything, you cannot even appreciate that there may be hope for you in these pursuits.

However, being in the midst of irrationality and a lack of logic is precisely the time that no one should choose to end their lives. I understand why they do – I have been there more times than I care to remember, and I know how visceral, compulsive and overwhelming the desire to die is – but it is not considered, and it is in the vast majority of cases something that will pass or can be overcome.

Suzy, mentioned above, hadn’t as far as I know informed anyone outside of the suicide newsgroup of her mental health difficulties. She was young, intelligent and by all accounts previously fun-loving and vivacious; she could well have gotten better. Her case exemplifies why it is absolutely crucial that the stigma surrounding mental illness is eradicated; had she (and, I’m sure, countless others) felt as comfortable talking to a doctor about her mental health as she had about her physical health, she maybe could’ve gotten help.

Existence can become more positive. I’ve stood on the precipice of death and looked down…and come back from the brink to not spending every waking second daydreaming of my death. I’m not saying I’m not suicidal, because I don’t think I ever won’t be, and I’m not suggesting things will ever all be sweetness and light – but in many cases one’s future can probably be liveable, endurable. That’s not much of a life, granted, but if it can be lived, then it surely should be – if not for your own sake, for that of your loved ones.

There’s a big, massive ‘but‘ here, having said all that, and here’s where the suicide forum of above comes in. Suicide isn’t usually rational – but it can be. Have you tried drugs? Yes? Have you tried many types, many cocktails? Yes? OK. Therapy? Yes? A number of different types of therapy? A number of different therapists? Yes, yes? You’ve been in hospital? OK.

But you’re still chronically and severely mentally distressed and ill. You’ve exhausted every option of help you could reasonably and unreasonably have found and your life is still unbearable. You’ve weighed up the pros and cons, you’ve balanced your suffering against the suffering of others. In many cases that I’ve read of there are in fact no others, despite people’s best efforts.

These are the minority of cases where suicide can be (not necessarily ‘is’) more rational.

Is it really so cowardly in these circumstances? Seriously? To have suffered incredibly and endlessly for decades, beyond a ‘normal’ person’s comprehension, despite one’s every effort to try to end that agony? Hasn’t the person been brave and to have faced such hardship for such a hideously long period? Aren’t they allowed some peace, after exhausting all their ‘morally acceptable’ options? And can you imagine the amount of strength and courage it must actually take an individual to muster to take that final jump, to turn on that poisonous gas supply, to actually kick that stool from underneath them?

And who is more selfish here? The permanently/chronically ill individual who has remained alive for years despite their enduring torture, or the people around them that want them to remain alive simply because they’d be missed, even though they are fully aware of their misery?

And if we continue to demonise suicide in these extreme circumstances – and even less extreme ones – are we not demonising one of the most fundamental rights we as humans are supposed to have; the right to our own agency and life choices?

We all suffer, although for most people that is overcome quickly, or is comparatively low-level. Imagine, for a second, if it wasn’t. Imagine if that misery was permanent, and at an even more amplified level that that which you have already experienced.

Suicide should never be encouraged. But perhaps we as a society should be less quick to condemn, and more eager to offer compassion and empathy?

Again:

If you are in suicidal crisis, please see this page. Alternatively, call The Samaritans on 0845 909090 or email them at jo@samaritans.org. If you feel that suicidal action is imminent, call an ambulance on 999. Help is almost always available, and life can almost always improve.

Please see this page for a list of international suicide and crisis hotlines.

An aside: I first started writing this post 364 days ago. I was scared of the controversy it would create, but I believe I have been balanced here and, as ever, the old truth remains that if you don’t like what I write, you don’t have to read it.

marketing