Do this to me.

In memory of Madogay.

I think about suicide a lot.  I mean.  I think about what it means, the part it’s played in my life in terms of being a depressive symptom.   I am to a point at which I recognize it as I am experiencing it and can be mindful of when I feel suicidal; enough to know that, at my core and despite what the wicked voice in my head may tell me – I. want. to. live.

I also think a lot about how misunderstood suicide is by the general public.  It’s one of those, “you had to have been there” things.  How can one understand what it is if one hasn’t experienced the feeling of being suicidal?  And yet, a person who doesn’t have cancer can easily, almost instinctively, have compassion for those with cancer, or diabetes, or any other aesthetically tangible condition.  It’s no big secret that mental illness is not perceived or treated in the same way.  In many cases, the disease is ‘invisible’ and hidden from view.  This phantom phenomenon of mental illness intensifies the struggle for those who live with it.

Suicide must be talked about.  The word, “suicide”, must be uttered in public conversation as “breast cancer” or “AIDS” have been entered in to the public arena of discussion.  We cannot address what we deny.  This is something that tugs at my core.  I will keep this conversation going.  As suicide survivor JD Schramm proclaimed during a TED presentation, “because of our taboos around suicide, we’re not sure what to say, and so quite often we don’t say anything… It’s a conversation worth having.”

***

As part of the conversation, I’ve included in this post a quote, a poem, and a song.  The quote, by writer William Styron, centers around the experience of depression.  The poem and song are about suicide.  I wrote both with my cousin, Madogay, in mind.  She shot herself about a year ago.

***

:: Quote ::

“In depression this faith in deliverance, in ultimate restoration, is absent. The pain is unrelenting, and what makes the condition intolerable is the foreknowledge that no remedy will come- not in a day, an hour, a month, or a minute. If there is mild relief, one knows that it is only temporary; more pain will follow. It is hopelessness even more than pain that crushes the soul. So the decision-making of daily life involves not, as in normal affairs, shifting from one annoying situation to another less annoying- or from discomfort to relative comfort, or from boredom to activity- but moving from pain to pain. One does not abandon, even briefly, one’s bed of nails, but is attached to it wherever one goes. And this results in a striking experience- one which I have called, borrowing military terminology, the situation of the walking wounded. For in virtually any other serious sickness, a patient who felt similar devistation would by lying flat in bed, possibly sedated and hooked up to the tubes and wires of life-support systems, but at the very least in a posture of repose and in an isolated setting. His invalidism would be necessary, unquestioned and honorably attained. However, the sufferer from depression has no such option and therefore finds himself, like a walking casualty of war, thrust into the most intolerable social and family situations. There he must, despite the anguish devouring his brain, present a face approximating the one that is associated with ordinary events and companionship. He must try to utter small talk, and be responsive to questions, and knowingly nod and frown and, God help him, even smile. But it is a fierce trial attempting to speak a few simple words.”

William Styron (Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness)

***

:: Poem ::

(untitled)

In the moment it’s decided,
during the research and planning, and fantasized exit strategy stage,
there is no color scheme
no white or black
it’s neither irrational nor rational
it’s neither immoral nor moral
it’s neither selfish nor selfless.
It feels as a primal tug does;
an emotional drug
it makes sense
and gives relief
it’s not ugly and dark as you may view it to be.
If given the choice,
we all want to ‘be happy’,
if we had it our way,
we’d live to 102.
Do people choose to get cancer?
Or choose to lose a child in an earthquake?
Would you choose to eat hemlock?
Or give a jellyfish a long, warm embrace?
It’s true,
suicide is a confusing, shocking, sad and inexplicable thing,
but it is what it is
and will be what it will be
and will continue as it has
through history.
But we have a choice to acknowledge it
and give it a voice;
let it speak.

Written Thursday, 8.4.11.

***

:: Song ::

The photo was taken by Odawni Palmer on Thursday, 6.3.10.

The song* was written and performed by Odawni Palmer on Sunday, 8.7.11.

*The ‘scribbling’ track in the background is a recording I made of me writing out the lyrics to the song, as they’re sung.

A say in this.

Be careful with yourself
I listen to what you say to me

Be careful what you do
They may have photographic memory

And when you choose your moves
I recommend
To take the big ones with small steps
And leave some room to connect

Give yourself the space
Give yourself the time you need
For decisions that you make
To sort out the significant things

No one knows the best way
There isn’t one
Things will happen anyway
But you have, a say in this

Some days will seem dark
Blacker than the ones before
You may hurl some words between sneering teeth
That you don’t mean
Luckily apology waits patiently

**

These words were written when I picked up my guitar this evening.  I’ll let you hear your own melody, as you read the lyrics, till I post the intended one that bore them.

Alone in love.

I haven’t picked up my guitar or sang in a while.  Today I did.  This is what came out.

‘Alone in love’

Stay
with me now.
It might be
the last
time
we are
alone in love.

Don’t say
a word
the dark
ness
will slake our breathe
till there’s nothing left.

Let’s surrender
to the undertow
of what we know
and what’s not known,

and when
you open
your eyes
we’ll meet again.

But today,
if we continue
to depend on fumes
this melody
will slink into a dirge
and I don’t wanna hear it.

I’m OK
with the fallacy of bliss;
I’ve been carrying
in the pit of my stomach
for so long.

Stay
with me now.
It might be
the last
time
we are
alone in love.

**

This was originally written as a song.  To hear a stripped down version of it, which has yet to be spruced up, click here.