The recent suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain got me thinking about my attempt fifteen years ago and the struggles I still face.
People who don’t know me well don’t see the real me—the reeling me. Although I’m not actively suicidal, I must fight every day passive thoughts about wishing to die. Some days I’m so depressed I have to force myself to take a shower. Being with people hurts. I tell myself that life is meaningless and I’ll always be miserable, unable to work full-time.
Someone I hadn’t seen in years asked me recently if I ever thought about becoming a teacher. I’m well-spoken, she said, and full of interesting ideas. I told her she caught me on a good day.
“Check with me tomorrow morning,” I said. “You’ll see I’m a different person.”
Of course I’ve thought about becoming a teacher, but becoming a teacher feels impossible. I’m not confident enough to stand in front of a classroom. I’m not brave enough to make mistakes—mistakes I might learn from. I don’t believe in myself.
People of faith often talk about doing God’s work. They’re called to fulfill a higher purpose beyond themselves. I worry that my calling never came and never will. All I hear is my own voice, putting me down, on an endless loop.
There is a counter-argument. My writing—regardless of my mood—is a spiritual endeavor and writing about depression and suicide might save lives, including my own.
Not long ago I was asked in therapy to consider my purpose. I thought for a moment, careful to select my words.
My purpose, simply put, is threefold:
- to love and be loved
- to be present for others
- to accept help
I realize after years in therapy that I can’t discuss my recovery without touching on spiritual matters. Even without uttering “God” or “faith,” I’m restless for meaning in a mechanically operated, perpetually instant world.
Perhaps I’m a secret believer. A reformed cynic. Maybe identifying as agnostic spoke to my struggle with indecision and self-ambivalence. Maybe this mask no longer fits.
Has my writing taken a religious turn? A desert wanderer, am I longing to be nourished by the thirst for life itself?
“If you do it, then it’s done.”
I thought of this phrase back when my sense of time was a bit jumbled. Memories, mostly bad ones, were flooding my brain as thoughts of the future were rendering me a petrified mess. In trying to make sense of my mixed-up self, I realized that what we consider NOW is finished the moment we experience it. The very act of doing something puts the actor in the immediate past, as things to do—in the future—wait to be accomplished.
This is all coming back to me today because lately I’ve been taking my emotional temperature a lot. I keep searching for the connective tissue between what I did yesterday and what I have to do tomorrow, all while my being occupies its current position. I’m always aware of my thought/feeling processes, but my self-monitoring has increased during my recent job search.
The larger issue here is, of course, the question of value. Throughout my life, even in the smallest moments, I have demanded ultra-meaning. I often ponder the purpose of this or that aspect of my life, which ultimately leads to: “What is the meaning of my life?” Perhaps the answer that pops up a lot (There is no meaning—I have no purpose) is a direct result of my wanting an-easy-to-find, single Meaning in everything I do. (And believe me, during this difficult job search my questioning of the process has happened more than once.)
Sometimes I forget just to live and to allow myself my thoughts and feelings as they are. My battle is, indeed, an internal one. I suppose, when I finally pull back from beating myself up, I can take comfort in the realization that it’s better to “hyper-feel”—to be a jumble of emotions—than to feel nothing at all.