Suicide

Suicide is an epidemic. Between completed suicides and attempts, we are talking a huge amount of people in the U.S. and around the globe. To be honest, I don’t want to write this entry, because it is too close to the bone. I have been depressed for the past 3 weeks and have had suicidal ideation. Please don’t worry if you read this. My therapist and psychiatrist are both aware and I have a safety plan in place. Despite all that, I, of course, hate having those feelings. I wish I never had feelings to self-harm. But it isn’t really the kind of thing you can control. It is like depression, it just casts a dark shadow over your life and invades your thoughts in such a shocking manner.

I had a very close friend who died by suicide a couple of years ago. I will write more about her in a future post. When I opened my computer and looked at my messages I was shocked to discover that there was a message from her father telling me she had taken her life. I cried and cried and damned the world. She was one of the sweetest people I have ever met. She was always so concerned with how everyone else was doing. Some of the best people on the planet are the very ones who die by suicide. They are sweet, sweet, sweet and this sweetness makes the people around them think they are doing just fine. But we all know how to wear the mask. Some of us will have suicidal thoughts for the entirety of our lives. This is terrifying and makes me wish for a magic bullet to take away these dark and ominous thoughts.

My own suicide attempt was in my early 20s and was linked to the use of psychotropic drugs and alcohol. I mixed a bottle of Paxil with a bottle of Vodka and passed out. Amazingly, I woke up the next morning, vomited, and was otherwise okay. I was also mad that the attempt did not work. I wanted off of this planet and I had the typical feeling that I could not even get a suicide done right. Although I have had so many thoughts of suicide since then, I have never made another attempt. But I have come very close.

I have no words of advice for other people contemplating suicide. Of course I would say “Don’t do it” but that is the easy part. The more difficult part is trying to explain to someone why their life is worth living. It is hard for another person to explain this to someone. I almost think it is something that the individual needs to figure out. Sure, others can give hint and ideas, but it ultimately comes down to the individual deciding what makes it worth being here. It is also about pain: how to identify it, how to manage it, how to overcome it. People go through so much pain and it seems so overwhelming. This is why people need to reach out. There is nothing more important than reaching out to a professional, a friend, a family member or a suicide hotline. In closing, I would like to say something very simple to my readers: you deserve to be here. Your life has value and the time you have on the planet is preordained. Don’t end it prematurely, because the best may be yet to come.

 

Hope Part II

Hope Queered

“Hope is never silent.” – Harvey Milk

“’I know that you cannot live on hope alone, but without it, life is not worth living.” – Harvey Milk

In thinking about this entry on queerness and hope, the first person I thought of was gay icon Harvey Milk. As a queer person, I faced a ton of adversity in my life. This adversity has literally been life-threatening. While a variety of things have helped me to get through these hard times, chief among them is hope. Hope is like the air we breathe. It is ever-present and never in short supply. I believe it is intrinsic to the human soul and spirit.

I remember once when I was talking to a friend about my desire to end my life, he said to me: “Don’t you want to see how your life turns out?” I believe that this question was intimately linked to the question of hope. Hope means you want to stick around to see how things pan out in your life or in a given situation. Hope means that you hold within you the possibility of a different and better outcome.

This is especially important for queer and trans people given the systemic oppression that we face. It is easy and understandable to get down and depressed, to get hopeless about life. In addition, it is not uncommon for queer people to face loneliness and isolation. This is certainly one of the challenges I face, particularly living in a very rural environment. To be queer in this cis-centric and hetero-centric environment it is hardly surprising we face despair and despondency. So often we are made to feel like misfits, pariahs and marginalized people. Between higher rates of depression, anxiety, isolation addiction and suicidality, we are at risk of a whole host of harrowing outcomes. Our lives are on the line and we need something to help us.

Hope is one of those things that can help us. Hope is the thing that saves us from the notion that there is no possibility of change, that the situation is static and there is no use trying to change it. Hope lets us know that the ways things are now can be utterly transformed. I have hope in hope! I have hope in hope as a generative force, a life-giving phenomenon, a saving grace and a force for betterment in our lives.

Hope can be generated in a variety of ways. It can be brought forth through reading inspiring books, quotes and articles. It can brought forth through watching hopeful TV shows, movies and internet clips. It can engendered by our friends and family, who sense trouble in us and do all they can to help us turn a corner. It can enter our lives through meditating, through silent moments, through breathing mindfully, through a delicious meal, a meaningful trip or voyage or a loving relationship. There are so many ways hope can quietly enter our lives, or blatantly slap us upside the head! The trick is to listen attentively for hope’s appearance. It is will come and it will transform. As queer people, we are an oppressed people but we are also a determined and strong people. We are the epitome of perseverance. Part of what makes us so is the hope we possess within us.

“You gotta give ‘em hope” said the indomitable icon Harvey Milk. Give yourself hope. Give each other hope. We will all be the better for it.