Thursday, July 4, 2013

Dancing in the Dark

Since the beginning of the year, I have been studying mental health issues and as a large part of that, suicide. Suicide is strongly linked to the three most serious mental health conditions - schizophrenia, bipolar and major depressive disorder (I'm not usually fond of most terms and mental "disorder" definitions from the DSM but I think this is an appropriate term as it is a condition quite different from situational depression or periods of sadness). 

I've not learned nearly as much as I'd have liked but combined with my own internal "data" (what I've learned from examining myself), from reading many related research papers and in depth articles (in serious publications, not just in pop media) and dozens of case studies, I'd say I know more than your average bear. There's no doubt in my mind that suicide is a form of insanity or it is for a least a large percentage of people (by this I exclude those that end their lives to escape terminal illness or the ravages of old age). If one is of reasonable physical health and under the age of about sixty to sixty-five, it is not a sane decision to end one's life.

The brain - any brain - is largely governed by subconscious forces and mechanisms. This is well understood in neuroscience, psychology and psychiatry (though there is considerable controversy and disagreement over whatever amount of "free will" we may have). The subconscious is a hodge-podge of instincts and "auto-programs" that run most of our daily activities. These happen below our conscious thought (and, most would argue, direct our "conscious" thought itself). One of the strongest of these subconscious instinctive forces is the one of self-preservation. 

The human, or any animal, is wired to do anything it can to live and not to die. Even the brain mechanisms of the simplest life form have simple senses to avoid danger and premature death. To "choose" death then is a very abnormal act. Something at a deep fundamental level of normal brain operations has gone terribly wrong. When a fifteen year old girl hangs herself with her whole life in front of her, it is not the act of a sane person but the act of a person who's been driven by forces of some kind to insanity. The brain has broken down and is not functioning as it should. Just as murder is sometimes an act of insanity, the taking of one's own life is an act of insanity.

The road to suicide can appear to be a quick one or a long one. Some would seem awfully quick. Think of someone who experiences sudden financial ruin,"snaps" and then commits suicide (people jumping from their office towers after the crash of '29 for example). For others the struggle with thoughts of suicide can continue for years before they  finally succumb. I call this latter struggle "Dancing in the Dark". The struggle is like a dance between sanity and insanity, or a dance between life and death, pain and pleasure. Darkness is the darkness that the mind finds itself in. Somewhere in the darkness there is an edge and over that edge is death. It is impossible to know where the breaking point is, the point that will push one over the edge. Why this time and not a year ago or two years ago? Who knows? The only ones with the answers are already over the edge and can no longer tell us.

Suicide is incomprehensible to 99.9% of people and even that may be a low estimate. Given how common suicide is this strikes me as surprising but there it is. I've struggled with Dancing in the Dark for many years now, have seen a baker's dozen of psychiatrists, spent dozens of hours in therapy, been hours in group therapies, taken oodles of medications (to worsening effect), spoken openly about it (or at least have written extensively on it) and yet here I still am, Dancing in the Dark once again. That nobody understands it - and I am emphatically including the mental health "profession" here - is, to me, part of the problem. It was a big part of my drive to research and better understand it.

Like all mental illnesses, there is no one size fits all explanation and this is part of the problem with the mental health profession's inability to effectively treat it for many people. Everyone's brain is different, everyone's life circumstances are different, everyone's pain tolerance is different, what causes mental pain and anguish for everyone is different. Why some of us are driven to this is as individual as the person. Why some people can overcome it and others can't is as individual as the person. Whatever it is, a searing unbearable psychic pain will be at the center of it. I think David Foster Wallace may have described  it best,
"The so-called ‘psychotically depressed’ person who tries to kill herself doesn’t do so out of quote ‘hopelessness’ or any abstract conviction that life’s assets and debits do not square. And surely not because death seems suddenly appealing. The person in whom Its invisible agony reaches a certain unendurable level will kill herself the same way a trapped person will eventually jump from the window of a burning high-rise. Make no mistake about people who leap from burning windows. Their terror of falling from a great height is still just as great as it would be for you or me standing speculatively at the same window just checking out the view; i.e. the fear of falling remains a constant. The variable here is the other terror, the fire’s flames: when the flames get close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors. It’s not desiring the fall; it’s terror of the flames. And yet nobody down on the sidewalk, looking up and yelling ‘Don’t!’ and ‘Hang on!’, can understand the jump. Not really. You’d have to have personally been trapped and felt flames to really understand a terror way beyond falling.”

Jim Morrison said something similar,
People fear death even more than pain. It's strange that they fear death. Life hurts a lot more than death. At the point of death, the pain is over. Yeah, I guess death is a friend. 

And this is where I once again find myself. Here, today, the last two days, this is where I find myself. Ironically, I don't feel "ill", or at least not as bad as I have in the past. In some regards my brain is working better than ever, something I'm thrilled with. But there are other factors. And while over here my brain is working very well, over there I can begin to feel it working very not well. I  feel sane over here, insane over there. It's a dance between sanity and insanity, a dance in the darkness and I can sense that the edge is near. 

What to do about this insanity?  What haven't I done? 

What would really help is for life to work out. While "depression" is part of my mind set right now, I wouldn't compare it to some of the depressions I've suffered in the past and it is not like the abject darkness and incapacitated states of a manic depressive episode. It's just the fact that my family is breaking up, I've had no steady job or income for five and a half years, I have no more money, I will have no more home and face homelessness and I've battled severe mental illness for much of the past five plus years. So yeah, you might say I'm a bit down. And worse, I'm all out of plans. I've been through plans A, B, C, D, E, F, G ....all the way through T, U, V, X, Y and now Z. I've put my life and soul into every one of these plans and they all failed. Now I'm on Z, the very last one I have in my bag of tricks, and Z is not working out. I'm at the end of my wits and rope.

There are things that break down the brain and that's what's happening now. And even though I'm aware of it and take steps to avert those things, I cannot completely help it. That's the way the brain is, that's what mental illness along with the stress of highly distressing situations will do to a brain. It is a cumulative effect. Whatever it is, I'm fucking exhausted. An exhaustion few people can comprehend. It is a literal exhaustion - the brain's capacity to carry on is literally exhausted, there's no more gas in the tank. I can feel it breaking down and I am powerless to stop it. I'm no wimp - I'm a tough SOB - but there's only so much I can do.

So I don't know. There's stuff I want to do. There's so much I want to write. With nothing else left in life, all I'm left with is the fruits of my mind and I feel deeply compelled to leave a legacy behind, a legacy of my thoughts. My thoughts, my mind, means something to me. Despite the self-worth battles that wage in my mind, I do have an ego left and that ego feels strongly about the thoughts I create, the views that I have, my experiences in life and mostly, how I can present these. They are of value my ego believes. I have nothing to leave my daughter. At one point I had considerable assets to leave her to ease her future and life but those I pissed all away. My meager furnishings are of little use and value to her. All I have left to leave then is the fruits of my mind. I also believe my experiences, thoughts and writings on mental health issues are of value. I'd like to leave those behind.

Yet I also feel I cannot take another step. My brain's capacity for decision making and dealing with even the simplest things in life just breaks down. It has many, many times in the last five years. It just doesn't answer the bell (and is thus a reason that I've lost everything). I just simply don't have the ability to cope. 

I can't cope with my uncomprehending family any longer. The more I try to get them to understand my issues, the less they understand and the more isolated and frustrated I feel. 

I cannot cope with an uncomprehending society any longer. People's utter cluelessness - and I include most people who consider themselves very smart and well read (who are actually the worst) - in understanding issues like this are part of what literally drives me insane (something that I'm just just beginning to explore in a series of posts). 99.9% of people's utter inability to step outside their own bubble worlds and their own inner filters to understand another human being is something that will just forever baffle me. That's one part I can no longer bear. 

If plan Z would work, I think I could handle this. I planned to just get away and enjoy the solitude of study in nature but not even plan Z is working and without that, I just have no idea what to do. Not having any funds or sources of support, I will not have the means to shelter or feed myself. These are basic life things and not having these causes great distress, distress my brain cannot handle and it is breaking down. I can't deal with the needs required for this moving out process (my family and I have to be out of our basement suite by the end of the month). 

Emotionally, I'm toast and my capacity for simple life decisions is toast. There are dozens of things to do but I feel no more capacity to do any of them any longer. If you think there's a way to carry on, then you have no idea what this feels like to be at this point, to be so close to the end as this. I can feel myself again dancing in the dark, dancing towards the edge of death. The familiar obsession with it has returned. I research and look into methods every day. This is not good.

I'm thinking I may just go back and check into the hospital. I think that may be the safest thing to do. I feel so much like stepping over that edge yet I want to hold on to finish my writing, to get as much of it published online as possible. I hate the hospital, the psyche ward, I fucking despise it. When I'm there, I just want to go home. But this time there will be no home to return to so maybe it'll be different. What's helped in the hospital before is that it takes all the stress of life off. I'll have a bed to sleep in and three meals a day there. I can have my books, my notebooks and continue my studies. I'll have people to talk to. There'll be social services people to help me with some of my life needs. So as much as I hate it, it's not bad when I weigh it all out. 

This, today, is what I'm leaning towards.

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