Monday, March 24, 2008

Thoughts of suicide: fighting to stay 'here'

For the past five days I have been battling with, being absorbed by or dealing with thoughts of suicide.

Part of it we can blame on Luna, since I tend to have a “dark” day or two immediately before. But also there has been a constant and unrelenting pressure of both the looming trip to Japan and the daily appointments. Last night it hit hard and I was overwhelmed by the feelings that this whole trip was just another example of me going off tilting at windmills, one which like all of them, was destined to end in failure. Failure is bad enough, but I had staked all my money, Linda’s money, our future earned money and my own health on it. After weeks and months on unrelenting research, I was stuck between feeling that I simply had not done ENOUGH, and that I had given into VAINITY, that this was not a trip I could reasonably make, not in my health.

There is no direct causal effect between the Japan Trip and the feelings of suicide, Japan is merely another stress, one where I have very little control once the trip starts and yet, once started I would have no desire for it to end. Each day, I work and research, info dumps so huge that my brain feels like it is going to explode, and when I can’t take anymore and stare into space, or take hours off then I chastise myself for not doing enough. Linda says this feeling is familiar to her too.

I want to go to Japan

I want to call it off. But it is too late.

There isn’t enough time to see all that I MUST see in Japan, yet, I’m scared to go at all.

I lay in bed last night and felt like beating on the wall, and not about Japan but about (wait for the randomness), organ transplant lists. I read about the waits on transplants lists and how people are being jerked around. It made me realize very clearly that I would NEVER be on any transplant lists, because I have too many systems failing to make it viable to put me on one, and because THERE IS NO TREATMENT. These things are kind of hamster wheels of the mind because if I WAS on some list I would spend all my time calculating the percentage chance I would get the organ before I died. But instead I am frustrated because any major surgery would almost certainly end with my having a stroke, assuming I could come back at all. I am frustrated because my condition, autonomic failure, has been known for 83 years and the amount of understanding, of treatment has not improved an iota (not even random guesses). Perhaps because I have hours daily of chest pain, even with the maximum pain killers is affecting my views. Pain is a very mind altering experience.

So it took me a long time until I started speaking today, until late afternoon. Because if there is no point in my living, then there certainly is no point in talking. Yet, while not speaking, I still spent the time transferring the places we wanted to go from the various books to our Kyoto Map.

I am afraid. I feel like a child left behind in the hills, the wind blowing and the vast, open, empty night spreading as far as can be felt. Not just my days, but my life is running out of my hands faster than I can cup them and no will power or tricks or brilliancy will stop this feeling of fear. And if I accept control of my life, which I MUST do, then I accept all of it; not just the trip planning or the nausea or the breathing problems but the weight loss and that I bruise sitting on the toilet now (fun fact of the day).

Today, I dreamed I was in Japan, and after the sword dance they wanted any women to take the sword. And I got out of the chair and received the sword with a bow. And then reviewed in my mind: choose the angle, attack her outer arm; you are far taller than her, move her arm out of position and go for a closing throat lunge. I guess that is why it hurts so much, because it is all still there, in my head, how to let her attacks as I retreat create the timing and opening; how to attack without exposing, ready for retreat and counterattack. That probably means nothing to you. I used to laugh inside when they would take away my competition epee’s as “weapons.” Because once trained to the level where you consistently hit an opening the size of a dime while avoiding the weapon of your opponent, all while they are either racing toward or away from you: having the right length of umbrella or cane, I or any highly trained epeeist could crush the larynx of half a dozen people in a few seconds if so minded. It is like when they planned to shoot the lit arrow over the Olympic torch to light it, and have it land in a space a few feet deep outside the stadium. It wasn’t the archer who made the successful trial who was selected, because ALL the archers they asked who attempted it succeeded. Doing something considered nearly impossible of humans is what modern competitive sports are about. The Number 2 in Canada eliminated me because I was trained to respond to epee moves that took a fraction of a second; her attack made three moves and took 3/16th of a second. All that knowledge and training is still inside me, it is just I will never use it.

I’d like to run. I’d like to be able to walk to an airport check-in desk with a backpack on my back. I’d like to know how to stabilize my heart, my breathing, to even understand the hours it takes of just being awake where the more I am awake the sicker I get. I want to fence for Canada, even if it was eventually in Master Class. I want to go back to when pain meant I had worked hard, instead of feeling fear and wondering how much sleep I will get tonight.

I want my mind back, and my body back and the ability to use both. I want to receive the rewards I worked for.

Isn’t that what suicide and fear is about: only able to see what was and scared of what is ahead. Well it is with me. Linda said I should think of squirrels. I told her there weren’t interested in me this month. She said that I was putting out the wrong pheromones. I replied, “Thank God. I was sort of hoping I was sending out pheromones for OTHER species” (significant look.)

Anyway, I realized that many of the clothes are packed, that whether I am terrified or not, whether I find a shop to get the “perfect” kimono, whether I get a cold as soon as I get there, whether I get no sleep and end up in a hospital….I am still going. And that when I get back, they will still be lined up to test me, and it will still be up to me to fight along with my GP, to get treatment and specialists to take action to deal with problems while there is time.

It is just, I guess that sometimes I want to live in the past, or grieve, or hide, or give up. But I don’t. It is just it takes energy, emotional pain and time to fight it. I’m not going to pretend that I don’t feel suicidal or have a case of the pity’s or the “not fairs”, or just the shaking unknown terror, because I do. But that isn’t who I am. And I can’t face something by pretending it doesn’t exist.

Okay, I’m scared, and maybe, right now, I want to die. But this too will pass.


cheryl g. said...

Hugs to you Sis. I'm here for whatever you need. If you need to spend time staring into space then I can hang out and stare with you. If you want to take over the world I'll dust off my evil genius uniform. If you want to be alone I'll be in the other room reading manga. Whatever you need...

Neil said...

Konbanwa Beth:

I've never been able to think of a method of suicide that was painless, or didn't leave a huge mess that I would hate to leave for my wife and family to clean up. So I've given up those thoughts.

I would give almost anything, though, to be able to go back to my early teens and whack my self on the head until I agreed to seek a better education than I did.

Now I can't afford to finish my own degree, let alone help my three kids go for theirs or any other post-secondary education. Do I regret it? Hell yes, and I dearly wish I could afford the niceties of life. Instead, I have a house that's too hot in summer and hard to heat in winter, and a wife who loves me despite my failings, and who I wouldn't trade for anyone in the world (even if she is a foot shorter than me). And I have three children who more or less love their parents, and who can think, even if they do try not to show it.

In the end, I'm not sure I'll ever make a difference to the world in the way I had hoped to, but I've decided to stick out the trip and try anyway. Who knows? Maybe my children will be able to make the difference for me, and improve the lot of mankind somehow.

Yeah, I'm completely unreasonable. I know it. I don't EXPECT great things from my kids, but I do hope; no mater how they turn out, though, I'll love them always.

You, Beth, have said that you tend to choose the hard way of doing things. I can only agree to that; you'll certainly chosen a difficult path in palning a visit to Japan!

I hope you'll stick to the difficult path, dear lady, and choose to stay with us, on this side of the rainbow bridge, for as long as you can. Sometimes the nights are so dark and lonely, though, aren't they? Even when the ones we love are beside us.

Hey, I was just thinking in the bath that if the fundamentalist religions follow the Old Testament, how do they justify bombing the daylights out of the Middle East and still follow "Thou shalt not kill?" I suppose it's one of those "one hand clapping" questions with no real answer.

Stick with us, Beth. Linda loves you, my wife and I love you, and I'm sure everyone who has replied to your blog also loves you - even my coworker with the catty comments.

I wish you a good night tonight, with few dreams, and a better day tomorrow, dear one.

Elizabeth McClung said...

Cheryl: I appreciate that; I don't know, Linda says that I was made to feel too much. I know this will pass because as Linda ALSO says, I always get up once oftener than I fall down (metaphorically).


Yeah, I played the "how to do it?" for many years and finally got to the point where I WANTED to live, very much. And now, I am again, after several years having these feelings again. But I think it is about the GIANT leap I am about to make and what really is on the other side of that (Japan is what I am talking about, not DEATH).

Wow - THREE kids? You are a buddhist not a catholic right? Sorry, I know what you mean, though I don't have all that responsiblity you carry around with you. Yeah, you just have to keep trying, even when what you thought "Was going to be" you realize is not. And is NEVER going to be.

Well, I want to KNOW Japan, I want it to sit in me, memories, like I have of the bridges of venice, the castles of verona, the streets of paris, of munich, of budapest, of so many places. I want to KNOW, I want to feel and care and see and be not one with Japan, but enough to understand what I see.

I will stay, because facing ourselves is the challenge, even when there is no other choice.

Linda said that the "killing a bunch of people" was a surprise line, I said, "They take away the competition sword, but it is the tens of hours a week for months and years of training that make a person able to do these things. Do they think a gymnast can't do three walk-over back flips if they take away the balance beam - she has probably practiced 1000 triple walk-overs. It is just now, I cannot have my hand do what I would, or stand or move as I would, so what I was will never be again. And I have to accept that. And that I will likely never stabilize to a state which will allow me the level of that kind of mastery in anything again. And I have to accept that too.

Hey, I LIKED your co-workers statement. Encourage more interoffice banter!

A better day for both of us!

sarah said...

I just posted a blog entry, that while it wasn't about suicide, it is about the "up-at-dawn, pride-swallowing siege" that is the life of being catastrophically ill/injured. its not anything too huge in particular, but the aggregate of all those small laspes in respect, dignity, and privacy that must be endured for life to continue on 'unemcumbered'. your japan trip planning being a PRIME example of said seige.
I made myeslf a voodoo doll whom I call mojo for the times that I must attack back against the system(s)to give myself some semblance of control.
and besides, suicide would be so bronze, so it just can't be an option.

Elizabeth McClung said...

Sarah: You win "the correct way to kick Beth back into line" prize because it is true, suicide is SOOO bronze. How can I know what is possible if I take myself out of the game? Thanks for that.

I read your blog entry and I would recommend it to others (click on her name and the blog - second one down). The thing that comes out so clearly in reading about Japan is HOW overwhelmingly able bodied the assumption is - that you will take tram X (three steps up) to bus Y (two steps up) to see site Q (20 steps up). Even the sidewalks end and go into stairs. Today, after how many months was the FIRST time I saw, on a map, a wheelchair bathroom sign - I said to Linda, "IF they have a wheelchair bathroom up by the gondolas to the mountain top, then there must be SOME way to get there by wheelchair"

I have seen the Mojo dolls (is that the red one, or one you made?). I will find a way - thanks.

sarah said...

Mojo is my own design and manufacture, and you can see it along with my darling coco here:

i'm glad i hit the nail on the head with the bronze comment, I almost went with a buffy reference thinking you would likely get it. something about it being more fabulous a place for the living than the undead.

Elizabeth McClung said...

Wow - that is an old style genuine MOJO doll. As for the Buffy comment - since I think Evil WILLOW is sort of my role model for dress sense ("I guess you HAVE to be undead to wear these corsets...cause you can't breathe") - there are a FEW bonuses for the undead.

sarah said...

oh yeah, and all those 'assumptions' you refer to by the able bodied? I think the disability rights movement would get a lot farther if they looked at those assumptions as a form of racism, because that is what they essentially are. the majority (read able bodied) just don't have to see it that way because they have the luxury of ignorance.

kathz said...

There's a difference between seeing a place and knowing it. I haven't seen everything I'd like to see in London, and I grew up there. I haven't seen everything I'd like to see in Paris, and I've visited on several occasions. But I feel I know London - not because I've seen the sights but because I feel at home on the tube and am more confident in London than anywhere else. And getting to know Paris doesn't mean going to the Louvre or the Pompidou Centre or travelling down the Seine in a boat, wonderful as those things are. It's the little things that make me feel I'm getting to know Paris: shopping in a boulangerie, sitting in a bar or cafe and, above all, taking it slowly so that I can absorb the atmosphere of the place instead of feeling like a tourist.

I don't know if that helps, but perhaps, when you're taking things slowly and sitting still for a while, you'll feel closer to the atmosphere of Japan and the intangible elements of the country.

As for the suicidal feelings - please keep going if you can, because lots of people care about you. I think the other side of your suicidal feelings is your capacity for very great enjoyment of life, even when things go badly. And I don't think you'd want to lose that.

Lene Andersen said...

Too much pain and too many painkillers are a certain ticket to depression. Throw in hormones, a neverending list, everlooming deadline and I'm surprised you're this cheerful.

Hang in there. And if you want company, I'm only a phonecall away. Even if you're too tired to talk, we can just breathe at each other (ok, that sounded kinky, but you know what I mean).

mental mosaic said...

Once again, I haven't anything sage to add, especially after reading all these comments...

Just wanted to say hi, and that I keep coming back to your blog because I enjoy your personality and that you look great in that skirt in the previous post!!! :)

Gaina said...

I am inclined to disbelieve any disabled person who tells me they have never contemplated suicide at least once, because I know I sure as hell have.

All I can say to you is that as physically shitty as you feel now, your mood will have a up-swing - hang on to that knowledge.

I wish I had sent you the blog I wrote this weekend because I am selling my guitars, as I just can't play them to the standard I want to, and never will. Neither will I ride a horse again and that bites ass for me.

So, lets look at what we do have and what we can do with a few adaptions. I am really interested in your thought processes with regard to epee. Can you see any other aspect of your life where this type of thinking can come in useful?

Have you ever thought of meditation as I way of regulating your heart rate and blood pressure?

Meditation and Taoism serves me pretty well when I'm anxious and hell bent on micro-managing my life, and the good thing about Taosim is that it's a philosophy, not a religion so it's totally compatible with most people's value system.

If you're interested I have a nice little library covering that kind of subject and can recommend some good books.

For now, just promise me you will switch your mind off while you're in Japan - give yourself some 'suspended animation' time and take simple pleasures when they present themselves. You can wade through the B.S. when you get back ;).

KateJ said...

I loved the photos you posted last time (the short skirts) and I think you'll look even better in a kimono! Japan is going to be amazing... and you'll be so glad you went.
The suicide thoughts don't strike me as someone who would ever just "give up" on life - or on Linda - so if you were to decide on suicide, I guess it would have to be a conscious decision, and one taken by the two of you together, when all other options were gone.
Have a brilliant time in Japan!

the fruitfemme said...

Hey there,

I don't have any advice, just some empathy. Hope today is better.

FridaWrites said...

Sarah, I so need one of those voodoo dolls!

I'm with gaina, I think we've all considered suicide at some point. Ironic since other times I'm afraid of death or worsening disability (and the medical procedures involved). I'm glad you're here.

I'd say try not to worry so much, though I worry all the time.

donimo said...

Cripes, I hope my post went through. I just spent a bunch of time on a heartfelt message and Blogger gave me some sort of error message and now my text is gone. I'll try again later if it didn't get through. Till then, you know you're not alone in feeling this, right? And you're not alone.

Elizabeth McClung said...

Sarah: Yes, it seems that they read the body instead of the person so it is very ...body racist I feel. I just wonder when our voice and place at the table will arrive.

Kathz: It is true, you have to go a few times, but I do find that reading up and watching films and recognizing the culture does help understand a bit of what we are seeing, but only from an intellectual view, not the view like you talk about where you are actually in time with the culture and its values.

I will keep going, it is just, I needed to clear the air about my fear and hesitancy that was building and now, with Linda's support and yours, I will move forward. I think once I am on the plane or on the first train a lot of my anxiety and dread will evaporate (because I'll be overstimulated!).

Lene: Tell me about it - pain, pain and painkillers, and hormones. ARG! I know what you mean and I thought of you this morning when I woke up and I think I will try and contact you later.

Mental Mosiac: Thanks, I actually read your blog too, it is just I sort of never know what to say, so thanks for being braver than I and commenting anyway! Thanks about the skirt - it is GOING TO JAPAN! So look for it in upcoming pictures!

Gaina: Yes, it is tricky because while there seems a great group of able bodied people who are QUITE HAPPY to kill us off under the "mercy" name - it makes me feel I shouldn't say that I ever feel suicidal.

The guitars suck and I will go read the blog and the horse riding, that really, really sucks. And I guess you are stronger than I right now becuase I wrote a letter to tell all the women I fenced with that I will not fence with them again in this lifetime - did that about 5 months ago and still can't send it yet. One day I will, just....not yet.

I do use meditation and I used to use biofeedback except that that loop was cut about a year ago when my torso stopped sending me info, along with my hands and feet. But thanks for the thought. I do try to use a bit of self calming hypnosis and counting to calm myself. It is just when I get suicidal I instead think about falling off a giant cliff into darkness and then just fall and fall until the "I" doesn't exist anymore (not really happy!).

Kate J: I could easily give up on life but not on Linda, who has more than once kept me from taking action simply becuase of knowing what it would do to her. So I know this will pass and things WILL get better and I will get a kimono and be really happy. It is just sometimes, we have to struggle a bit for our happiness.

Fruitfemme: Thanks for commenting and caring. And while last night and today was incredibly pain, just sort of mind blowing pain, I am a little better I think. And Linda has forbidden me to THINK about Japan until she gets home.

Frida: I understand the irony completely, I fear the future, I fear the pain will increase, the ability will reduce and I think this is just part of BEING. I would worry more if I was totally bubbly ALL the time (and be hugely annoying!), but I would like to be happier, a little less mental baggage - so that is what the rest of this week is about!

Donimo: Suck! I am sorry that Blogger ate your post. But I am glad to know that I am not alone in feeling this. I did try to give a thoughtful response (at 1:00 am) to your post on Jesus, which you made some thought provoking points (darn it, now I have to think too!)

Lindsay said...

Oh man. I could say I know what you mean, although that's only partially true.

We all have shit days. I hope you can find the courage to keep pressing on. We care about you.


Anonymous said...

Neil: Catty comments :P Very funny.

Anyway Beth: I agree with Neil. As well as I would like to point out, I catch myself thinking on occasion, "Well that's rude/a dumb set up/etc. What about the people who use wheelchairs?" And I must admit without reading your blog, I probably never would have noticed those things.
Perhaps you haven't changed the world, but you have changed mine. Also the world needs as many people as it can get with a warped sense of humor :D
Don't leave us all here, forcing us to read bland blogs.

Also I think a lot of us have been there. I know university stress is no comparison to a disablilty (though I think my brain may have trickled out my ear last Tuesday...and that can't be healthy). But earlier this year I was so overwhelmed with work that I started to contemplate what would be artistic ways to die (I'm in fine arts)...That went well when my sig other goes, "What are you doing sitting all alone in the dark?"
Anyway...that was an awkward story.
I wish you brighter days.
- Neil's Cat(-ty co-worker)
Thanks for standing up for me Beth *hug*

Raccoon said...

I'm late today, obviously -- the next posting is already up!

I understand where you're coming from. I think I understood even before my chair.

Someone at faire once asked me how I could sleep where my bedroll was (onto a small platform 8 feet in the air and less than 3 feet wide), or climb 40 feet up a tree with no security or branches.

They mentioned that they were afraid of heights.

I told them that I was petrified of heights, but that I wasn't going to let fear of something stop me from doing either what I wanted to do or what needed to be done.

I'm still afraid of heights.

Elizabeth McClung said...

Lindsay: thanks, right now I just don't want the fear to paralyze me or the thought to consume me - and once I break out the other side, like a bad flu, I will forget about this, I will!

Cat: I agree, we need lots of people who make the absurd funny so we can stand to look at the pain involved (oh that was grim). Thanks.

And university stress has me still having nightmares about finals I don't know what room it is in, and what is this subject anyway? Oh crap, you mean I forgot to drop that class? Those dreams.

And yeah, sitting in a darkened room is often a sign of not happy thoughts so when partner sees me in a darkened house, she's like, uh oh....

Raccoon: you aren't late, I am just on an early kick this week to try and get the blog up a few hours earlier on the days I can. I sort of know what you mean - I still am a bit mystified of your faire experiences - up trees, tightening corsets...what was your job exactly?

But I too am petrified of heights and used to force myself twice a year to walk over something like a high railway bridge with no guard rails, becuase I was not going to let that define me. But I couldn't make it go away either. I wish I could though, eh?

Raccoon said...

I just read this, and it seems to fit with your entry:

> > I believe we humans protect ourselves from emotional trauma by muscle armoring, the tightening of our muscles in preparation for “fight or flight.” Every painful experience not expressed and cleared gets stored in our bodies. Chiropractors, Rolfers and deep tissue massage therapists all stay very busy because of the work they do releasing the muscle armor protecting our emotional bodies. Like a cage, this armoring holds in our emotions and deadens us to the joys of life. Notice how young children will laugh, clap and jump with glee while listening to a Sesame Street song. This explosion of life is a sharp contrast to the young adult stiffly jerking around on a dance floor, “trying to loosen up.” I make this point because of a profound gift I received from my injury-I lost most of my body armoring! I attribute my amplified ability to cry, laugh, feel another’s pain and absorb the beauty of a setting sun to the complete relaxation of most of my body’s muscles. < <
J. Michael Kanouff "Letters From The Edge" Chapter 1: Born of the Water

Sara, how about hippocampus therapy?

saraarts said...

I have been hanging out in the icy pit of blackest fear a bit myself lately. Even with fresh and copious experience of it (not including any suicidal thoughts, not this time, really just the black, icy fear), I still have absolutely nothing to offer you to combat this except big, squishy, overweight, middle-aged baker's hugs, and these two thoughts:

1. Consider the idea that for you at this time there is no such thing as failure.

2. Remember that courage is not not being afraid, but doing what there is to do in spite of the fact that you are afraid.

Love, hope, and faith in you from your eccentric aunt.