Sunday, February 17, 2013

On the Suicide of Mindy McCready

I hadn't really planned on posting tonight.  But when it comes to suicide, the only one planning on it is the one that's gone.

As morbid proof of that very fact, one of the first news reports I saw tonight stated:

"There is cause to find that there is clear and convincing evidence that Respondent is in imminent danger of harm to herself or others, suicidal or gravely disabled....
...But just a day later McCready was released to undergo outpatient treatment instead."
-Chicago Tribune 

Every day in this world, there are psychiatrists and nurses and therapists charged with the burden of determining whether someone "means it."  Whether they're just looking for attention, or whether a secret plan lies behind their eyes.

I guarantee you that no one likes having to be that person.  I have BEEN that person, and let me tell you, the weight of the whole world is on your shoulders for that judgment call.

And sometimes people get it wrong.  Really wrong.

Sometimes the best actors are the people who are dead serious.  Who have already decided, and who know what to tell the people in charge of those decisions.

Should I have been released by the crisis counselors in Nashville when I had a 3-fold plan, and had already started carrying out half the damn thing?  I should think not.  But I was.

Would I have said anything it took in order to avoid being locked up?  I would, and I did.

And so I was driven by a police officer back to my hotel, where my luggage containing a dozen pill bottles and a shard of glass remained, the day after sending suicide notes to two people.

I put someone in the godawful position of gambling with my life.  Thankfully they were right, and I was wrong.

So tonight is just a reminder that every suicide I hear about for the rest of my life will take me back to that place, and that week, and the people who made me feel that I was nothing to nobody.

And tonight is also a reminder that EVERYbody is somebody to someone.  Everyone who dies by suicide is someone's best friend, or mother, or colleague, or son.

Sometimes it's somebody "special," like a celebrity.  But to those left behind, it doesn't matter if you had a million fans...or just one.

I remember cleaning the house on Saturday mornings as a teenager, belting out "Have a Nice Day," my all-time favorite song of Mindy's.

Now I read the words to another of her songs, so devastating in light of today's news:

"I'm still hereThere was darkness, all around meThere were times I was sure I was drowningThere were people, who tried to reach meBut no matter how they loved me, I kept sinkingI got tired of my own hell, I reached inside and I saved myself"

Many of us will fight the battle.  Some will lose.

Some will never find the love, the hope, or the strength to keep a self-destructive mind at bay.

And it doesn't matter if you're a famous blond with a beautiful voice....or a random person milling about the streets of any town.

At the end of the day, we are left with our thoughts, and our pasts, and our traumas that are ours alone to deal with.

And the truth is, until you've walked in someone's shoes, you could never possibly know the kind of pain that would push someone to that choice.

The truth is, if we all had a little more compassion - and a little less judgment - for those among us who are fading before our very eyes, we might possibly end up being the one who made all the difference.

So take a look around you at the people in your life that are still here.  Who you're ignoring.  Or neglecting.  Who you see struggling and never know what to say, so you stop speaking to.  Who are putting on a happy face for you because they know you cannot tolerate their real feelings.

You don't need.  To say.  Anything.  
You don't need.  To have.  Any answers.

"When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand.  The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares."  
~Henri Nouwen

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Pain, hope, and the co-existence of the two

The past 6 weeks of my life have revolved around a singular focus: pain.  
(Or rather, its elimination.)

It's the first thing there when I open my eyes, the last thing I try to push out of my brain as I lay there pleading for sleep to take me out, and my constant companion throughout each and every day.

After 5 years of dealing with a chronic right hip/sciatic/SI joint condition, I'm no stranger to pain.  But right around Christmas I hurt my back, and have now been dealing with muscle spasms and left hip pain on top of the "usual" pain I've grown accustomed to living with.   

Most people would never know that I'm dealing with it on a daily basis.  You know those life-sucking vultures who latch onto every ear they can find and whine about every ache and pain?  Or the giant babies who become incapacitated by a mere headache?

Well, I can't stand them, and I have no desire to join their ranks.  There are a lot of people out there suffering quietly and doing their best to cope, rather than exploiting their ailments for attention and sympathy.  By no means is either category of person braver, more valiant, or superior to the other....I just don't see the point in complaining.  

But this post isn't about those people, and it isn't really about my problem, either.  It's about figuring out how to hold onto some tiny shred of hope when you're in the trenches with it.  

When there's nothing there but you and the pain.  When you can't escape it, because it IS you.  

When you've tried it all, and exhausted the treatment options, and still it remains...what's next?  

When every step forward is followed by two steps back, where do you look for hope?  

When you're the one you can't fix...what then?

I've had my moments here lately.  Moments when I just can't see it.  Moments when I just want to give up, regress into the emotional fetal position, and dissolve into self-pity and helplessness.

Waking up in the middle of the night in pain and bawling for an hour straight.

Crying at my physical therapist's office.  

It wasn't so much that one setback after weeks of gradual improvement; it was one more setback.  One more setback on top of the hundred others.  The ups, the downs, the times when you think you're finally on your way to getting better, only to wind up back where you started.  It gets that much harder each and every time you have to drag yourself back up to fight another fight.  

I should be a fucking professional at this by now.  After all the days and weeks and years where I thought about killing myself every single blessed day, I should have the answer to pain.  

But as my friend Therese at The Unlost reminds us, 

"All of life, it seems,
is a process:
A process of un-learning and re-learning,
forgetting and remembering,
slumbering and waking up,
and again,
and again."
So I'm trying my best to remember how to keep getting up out of bed, and keep looking for ways to cope, and keep not giving up.  Because I don't get a choice.  No one asked me if I wanted this pain.  It just is.  And I have to work with it, and breathe with it, and lie with it, and if it never gets better, maybe even die with it.  

Since I can't escape from it, shouldn't I have stopped trying to by now?

Whether the pain you're dealing with is physical or emotional, there is really only one thing to do: sit with it.

"And so you sit with that feeling; you let it in.  As much as you can bear it, you let it be.  For a moment it encompasses you like you feared it would...but still you let it stay, even when every fiber of your being wants  to run like hell...
And although the feeling is still there, it becomes smaller, less encompassing, less real.  And you start to realize that it's not so life-ending, after all."
-Therese, The Unlost