Tuesday, January 29, 2008


From Where the Roots Reach the Water by Jeffrey Smith:

[after gathering the stones for his overcoat, for a Virginia Woolf-style suicide... to be ready, just in case] I knew from my years of mental health work that an abstract inclination to suicide is one thing: worrisome, yet vague. If that inclination progresses to a particular plan--drowning oneself, say--and then progresses further--to where one chooses a site and obtains a pile of stones--then it's time for immediate intervention. So I knew enough to keep my plan to myself. If such fantasies of self-destruction have escaped you, gentle reader, they must be hard to imagine. The body I happened to inhabit had once been reliable enough in its yearnings for good food, music, books, talk, walks outdoors, the stars at night, the warm scent of skin. What had happened? It is hard to imagine--how can any living, thinking being crave its own demise?--when our bodies seem endlessly driven to cling to life, even amidst considerable pain and misery.
All this might sound like melodramatic attention-seeking, but it felt absolutely genuine.The arguments in favor of my demise had an alarming, nearly mathematical precision, and unequivocal conviction. To those who haven't experienced it, it is hard to explain clinical depression. This malady is explicable only on its own terms. Depression obliterates the tangible.

Wow. As a woman with a degree in literature (know Virginia Woolf, Emily Dickinson and the lot ...) and some psychology education, a credential and secondary school teaching experience that required knowing the signs of suicidal teens--Columbine-style or solitary, and who had a crash course in anti-depressants, there was a period where I knew that what was happening in my mind--fleeting thoughts, the day dreams not unlike planning a surprise vacation to Disneyland or ditching school and going to the beach instead. Yet somehow until I read that paragraph in this other man's book I had believed it was my tendency toward perfection and over-achieving, my inability to accept failure that captured the doctors' attention. Maybe that was part of it. I didn't have a collection of rocks, my fear of water and its melodramatic literary parallels were a little much even for me. I believed it was an original, unique plan--to be sure dramatic; what demise of a young person is not dramatic? Finally, years later as I plan a day of walking the dogs, going to an appointment an art class and a job, I realize it was not entirely my propensity for perfection and completion of tasks that threw my doctors into acting on their own plans for me. It was my story. The story I didn't mean to tell them but in my dark delirium the answers to their prescient questions came flatly spilling out. From me: a vacant and boring speaker. As if I were telling them the recipe for making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

And now to dogs, doctors, classes and work.

Ah, time.


1 comment:

oakmonster said...

Once in a while a vision of all the possible ways I could die doing something would flash vividly across my mind.

Like I could see how my body would twist in a car wreck when I drive. Where I would land with what kind of injury if the bus would fly off the overpass when I commute. Or what I would do if a disaster strikes my high rise in Downtown LA.

It's not like I walk around worrying about death all the time. But my mind just wonders there occasionally and pulls out some crazy-ass images.

There you go, once again, with my overactive imagination that doesn't stop when I wake up. Heh.