Tiny Coconut

I have things.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

In Which I Ponder the Links Between Apathy and Suicide, But Not Because That's Something I'm Considering Or Would Consider

It’s grey, this place I’m in. It’s not dark here so much as it is opaque, thick, monotonous. I slog through it, then slog some more, but the landscape isn’t changing. Every now and then, something pierces the veil, lifts it slightly. But then it drops again And I no longer have the strength to try and lift it myself.

When I tried to describe this to my therapist last week, I ended by saying, “I’m just...done. I’m done.”

She looked at me sharply. “What do you mean by done? Are you feeling suicidal?”

I gave a single, quick chuckle, because really, nothing was further from the truth. “Oh, god, no. Don’t worry about that. I couldn’t possibly summon up enough energy to want to hurt myself.”

That conversation brought to mind another discussion I had while I was doing interviews for my book on bipolar disorder. A really incredible man was describing to me the debilitating depressions that were the main symptom of his disease—until he had a manic episode so severe that it prompted a psychotic break and an almost Odyssean journey through the Lower East Side of New York City. I remember him telling me about a depression so deep and dark that he couldn’t move off of his bed. I remember the story he told of having to go to the bathroom, but being so completely inert that he literally couldn’t summon the energy to rise from his bed and cross the room to the bathroom. It was easier, he said, to hold it in, wait for the feeling to pass.

This, he said, was not the time anyone needed to worry about him killing himself; if he couldn't find the energy to pee, he certainly couldn't find the energy for planning and carrying out a suicide. Instead, he said--and I would tend to concur--the most dangerous time in a depression is when you’re just starting to feel ever-so-slightly better. You don’t recognize it as feeling better, of course, because you’ve been so far down for so long. But you do start to get a little energy back. You can at least get out of your bed to pee. And you can also get out of your bed to find the gun, the pills, the rope, the knife. You have both the energy and the impulse, but not yet the optimism to see the light at the end of the tunnel. That certainly would be a dangerous time.

I’ve wondered whether this is part of the explanation for the increases in suicide risk in teenagers—impulsive creatures if ever there were any—who are taking antidepressants. I wonder if some of them are killing themselves only because they're released from the stupor of the worst of their depression. I wonder...But only about them. I don't wonder about me. I'm fine. Or rather, I'm immersed in a world of grey monotony and dull sounds and only the occasional prick of real feeling. But I'm not in any danger. Not that kind of danger.

For the record, this current mix of stupor and apathy isn't the only reason there's no concern about me and suicide. It's not even the main reason. The main reason is that none of the reasons for my apathetic stupor have to do with self-loathing or any other such emotion that might bring one to harm one's self. My reasons have to do with not having the life I wanted or expected, with not getting to where I want to be, with watching my child wander sort of aimlessly through his world at times, and worrying about how I'm going to help him, and whether I'm ever...EVER...going to get any help in doing so. None of these things would be fixed or even vaguely improved by my death. Even when I'm down, I'm too egotistical to admit that I could possibly be dispensible. Or maybe it's that I'm not egotistical enough to think that my existence sways the world one way or another. In either case, suicide ain't my style; never has been, and I assume it never will be.

If it's yours...if there's even a vague chance that it ever could or would be yours...please take a step back. Think. Reach out. Seek help.

There's no such thing as overreacting to thoughts of suicide: If that's where you are in your head or in your life, call 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433).

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