Tag Archives: Suicide

To Sylvia

i last read you
long ago, when
i was lost.

then, you spoke to me through pain,
yours and mine in excruciating symbiosis,
and i felt known
for the first time.

i remember all those late nights in harvard square:
cigarettes, coffee cups, black fountain pens and
your poetry—fueled by you, i used my
suffering as cement and
words as bricks to
build my darkness out on paper;
those attempts at construction
offered fruitful if fleeting respites
from my then-reality, and
for this, i thank you.

today, i met
you in eternal rest; you were
surrounded by stone and grass and
the flowers of a thousand strangers
who feel they know you through your words.
pens sprouted from your grave,
grateful sacrifices of those who’ve
loved you in a way, perhaps, you
never could yourself.

i am told that behind this graveyard and
across the sweeping field of green beyond
sits the house in which you honeymooned.
i picture you young, in love and in pain,
fingers softly tracing blades of tall grass as
you walk and think and the war in you rages on,
the sun and the weight of the world
on your shoulders.

i am different now from those harvard square nights,
your early end no longer what i seek.
if only you could’ve known
you weren’t broken,
as i’ve been lucky enough to discover.

if only you could’ve seen through
the stories those doctors fed us as they turned
our bodies into psychoactive wastelands
plastered to plastic mattresses,
sucked dry of spirit,
psychiatrized.

both of us paced the locked wards
of the hallowed Hospital on the Hill,
our incarcerated madness separated only by time,
our wearied souls patient prisoners
on those same sterile halls of
broken brains and forgotten dreams.

you died at thirty-one, my age now.

i’m found today, have found myself,
though not a ‘self’ distinct or definable.
perhaps a better way to put it is that
i’ve melted into the world.

death no longer beckons me
with its promise of forever sleep,
and not because i’m free from
suffering or struggle— (this is far from true)—but because
i’ve remembered
i am human.

i can’t pretend to know you,
nor would i be so presumptuous
as Psychiatry was with us; thus, i can only wonder
what part those white-coated strangers
played in calling forth
your death with their
electroshock
and
insulin-shock
and
pill bottles
and
life-long sentence of subhuman.
with all of this, their so-called “care”, done to you.

i can only wonder
what part those white-coated strangers
played in calling forth
your death
because they introduced me to
a life not worth living,
one with death as the only logical solution.
whether by serendipity or something else,
i made it back to the world alive, and
here i am in hebden bridge
on the twenty-ninth of june
in the thirty-first year of my life.
here I am before your grave,
the sun on my shoulders.

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From the Dark to the Light: A Morning Reflection on Harold and Maude

Harold and Maude

I’ve watched Harold and Maude at least fifteen times over the years and at the many different stages of my life that I’ve moved through—from the darkest of the dark to the lightest of the light. While talking films with a friend last night, I mentioned to her that this was, perhaps, my favorite movie, and I awoke this morning with it on my mind. I decided to pull up the trailer, and within fifteen seconds I had tears of joy streaming down my face. I can’t say exactly why I have the powerful response that I do to this film—perhaps it’s because I remember watching it when I had death on my mind every minute of the day, when I was so completely hopeless and so utterly convinced that I had no place in this world that death seemed the only answer to my life. Watching it then, lost as I was in the depths of Psychiatry (though I didn’t yet realize it was Psychiatry, and not my so-called “Bipolar disorder”, that had swallowed me whole), gave me just a glimmer of hope, foreign and strange as it then was to me. When I watch it today, the tears I cry are not of desperation, but of joy, of connection, of life. The story of Harold and Maude is the story of a journey from darkness to light, from hopelessness to hope, from total disconnection and isolation to connection and meaning. If you’ve never seen it before—especially if you’re in a dark, or perhaps even the darkest, chapter of your life’s story—I encourage you to watch it. I hold it dear to my heart. In fact, I think I’ll watch it again this weekend, as it’s been a year or so since I last experienced it and undoubtedly it will give me a new gift, as it does every time.

Learning How to Live Again

I once yearned for Death like a weary, parched traveler yearns for a cup of water, this promise for a soothing end to unlivable existence. As I sit here in Vancouver, watching the morning sun on the red tiles of a neighbor’s roof, I am acutely aware of a different kind of yearning, one for all kinds of love and connection and meaning, for adventure and trust and intimacy and authenticity and fullness. For Life.

I’m currently writing a scene from the time in my life when Death first declared herself to me as my answer—I was fourteen, had just been labeled “mentally ill” for the first time, and was watching in a confused daze as my life got ripped away from me by the gaze of a stranger who claimed, after fifty minutes, to know me better than I could ever know myself. It’s a painful and sad memory, mostly because of the darkness of unknowing I was enshrouded by: there was no one to offer an alternative explanation for my suffering, no one to say, “Laura, the pain you’re in is a natural part of being a teenager. You are not alone. You are not broken. These pills you’re being given are going to shut your spirit down and turn you into someone you won’t recognize. There’s another way. Trust the unease you feel about all of this right now, and listen to yourself.” Death’s declaration would arrive soon after my introduction to Psychiatry, usually in evenings after dinner, when I’d be handed pills to swallow—Depakote and Prozac—and then go back to my room to finish homework and fantasize about what it would be like to die.

For all its darkness, that time of my life is incredibly beautiful to relive, for I’ve realized that my embrace of life today, and my surrender to all of these beautiful yearnings, could only have arisen with the power and intensity that it has because of how profoundly I once yearned for a dark and everlasting end. I could cry at the thought, tears of joy coming from the same eyes that once cried desperate tears of psychiatrized hopelessness. Ahh, to be human, to be this being who forever maintains the infinite potential for transformation.

Reflecting on Life, Death, and Suicide

Laura discusses her experiences with suicide, and how liberating herself from Psychiatry by coming off psychiatric drugs, leaving behind a “mentally ill” identity, and rehumanizing her suffering was a crucial step towards finding an urge to live again.  This video is the  third in the “Recovering from Psychiatry” series.

For more on Laura’s experiences with suicide, check out her post, On the Urge to Take My Life, and My Decision to Take it Back from the “Mental Health” System Instead.