Taking a Beating

 Photo by Emily Page

Photo by Emily Page

I am full of life and full of death at all times. Fissures forged by both etch my tissue and bone all the while coiled and ready to carry out the mission. Used-up spirit, worn-out cells, interloping viruses and bad bacteria ride the river of Death and yet Life holds sway in every single breath. Until that partnership loses balance. Then most of us will decline slowly, naturally, and finally, all will be quiet. As Ethan John sings, “We all know the future and the future knows us all, and everyone and everything must fall. The silence will be beautiful, the silence will be beautiful.”

I am deeply moved by all the suicides in our country. As reported by The Washington Post and the Center for Disease Control, 45,000 people in the US took their own lives in 2016. “Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death and one of just three leading causes that are on the rise. The others are Alzheimer’s disease and drug overdoses…The report said people without known mental health problems were more likely to die by firearms than those with known mental health problems.”

These are scary times when living becomes an indictment, a life sentence. Most of us know there is help available of some kind or another, and even though no one wants to take it, some of us do. How awful for those who don’t. The suffering, the repercussions.

There was a time in my early thirties when I was at the end of my rope. I was living the life I always thought I wanted. I drank as much as I possibly could, had as much time to be as creative as I could stand, and had a beautiful body which I granted every known pleasure I or another could think of. But I could not win. My soul was wildly angry from neglect. I can tell you what I felt when I was drunk and inconsolable, too sick to ask for help. I wanted the alarm bells in my head to stop clanging. To SHUT THE HELL UP. No amount of alcohol (or drugs) could quiet them. I could not outrun the volcanic-like flow of anguish, loneliness and despair that made jumping off the cliff look better than dodging the burn path. Or worst yet, I could no longer feel the lava consuming my flesh because I was depressed and senseless, anesthetized. I could care less. I no longer mattered enough to try to overcome my debilitating shortcomings. I did not want to try ever again. And your love was not enough.

The only reason why I did not slit my wrists was because I passed out before I could do it. And of course, I really didn't want to die, I just wanted to stop hurting. And I did not want my cat to have to deal with my dead body or starve to death. And, my life force was clearly stronger than my death force. The bottom line: I was lucky.

I eventually asked for help and received something that continues to work for me. But I had to want it and go get it. I had to show up for myself. There are people I know and love who drink a whole lot and own guns. As much as I wish I could love them into wellness, I have to admit that jumping in front of someone else’s bullet gets us both killed. Instead, I just love them as is. No illusions about my power to fix someone else’s problems. If they ever ask for my help, I am available.

The opposite of struggle is surrender. But some of us won’t give up, can’t slow down, or trust that help is for real, for the taking. Some of us let shit go but shit keeps coming back in waves too big to transcend. We go under. Some of us hold our breaths and wait for the wave to pass. Some of us drown. Sometimes a beating tenderizes me. Sometimes it’s makes me murderous. It’s not a virtue to be lucky. I have learned to live with contradictions.

But it’s painful to watch people circle the drain. Especially people we love. Suicide is so hopeless, so violent. Maybe that’s why people we would never suspect would kill themselves do. They don’t want anyone to watch them drown. Remember how hopeless, how wretched it must have been for the person who grabbed the gun or designer scarf. And if you're on the survivor side of that tragedy, remember there's help for you, too. Let’s be nicer to each other. We’re all taking a beating.