I am reading Irvin Yalom’s ”Creatures of a day” and the book explored a lot on the fear of dying. It made me think about my own feelings about death. Being chronically suicidal, I have never felt a fear of death. I am afraid to be painfully, chronically sick, and I am afraid of people I care about dying before me, but no, I have never been afraid to die. Maybe when the time comes, when the moment of impending death becomes real I will finally experience that fear, but I don’t relate to the anxiety of death that most people seem to have.
I think what I am afraid of, is a fear of living. Most of the time I just feel a sense of fatigue towards life, but I am not sure if this fatigue is somehow imprinted onto my DNA or it was moulded upon me by a confluence of different factors while growing up. Maybe I see too much and sense too much, and everything feels heavy to me.
In the book Dr Yalom had a patient who was terminally ill and was originally despondent about it, until she realised she could model a way of dying well for her kids to see. Reading that part, I think that perhaps a lot of what I do is to model a way to live, not that everybody should live like me no, but I hope that in trying to find my way of living, there will be others who will find support in trying to find their own ways of living, and not feel compelled to follow society’s convention.
Because if we try to fit everyone into the same box we are removing what makes people stick out.
A couple of days ago I read about what looks like another youth suicide, and there was this numbing sadness in me. I have written about this subject numerous times…but it never feels enough. I think it is the responsibility of our society to alleviate this, it is our failure that young kids see no way out except death. This always seem to raise this paradoxical feeling within me, because I understand so much and yet I wish for them to hold on a little longer, to let life unfold a little bit more.
But as a kid they lack the capacity to discern, to zoom out. Everything hinges upon grades, or so we’re told. I don’t know how many times I was told that I had no future if I didn’t do well in school by many well meaning adults. I understand the Asian passive aggressive way of “encouraging” kids and why we do it, but if we keep on repeating to them that they have no future, they will really believe it.
I was chronically suicidal at that age and I am arguably still suicidal now, but the reasons are different. I am grateful to have the opportunity to evaluate my reasons for living or not at different stages of my life, and this is what that is being taken away from kids when they end their life as kids. I know I could have been any of them. It just takes a moment.
Even at age almost 37, I still remember the pain and despair I had felt. Even if it was a magnified reaction and even if it was the result of my sensitive personality, the pain and desire to end it all was still very real.
Sometimes I think about an alternative reality if I had gone on to take my life at 16. I wouldn’t have experienced the life which had unfolded till today: a life full of messiness and mistakes, of hurt and damage, and yet I cannot deny between everything there is light and love, moments of sheer aliveness and gratitude, gifts of laughter and grief.
Life can be really hard, and is it really worth it to me? I have alluded in some of my earlier writing that I do not know, and as long as I do not know, I have to be brave and try to carry on living so I can be a recipient of an answer.
And no, I am not and will not be one of those people that will promise other depressed and suicidal people out there that life will always work out, because I know that it hasn’t worked out for some people I know, which again in my opinion is a failure of our society for not providing adequate shelter.
Life is not linear, but as I get older the reasons to live seems to increase. Maybe even on my death bed I will be relieved that it is finally happening and yet be glad I somehow managed to hang on to witness it all.
Which brings me to say, the only reason I am still alive is people. There have been several points in my life where key people were there for me, to tell me that the way I was/am is not an abhorrence. This is why it is so important for kids to have a sense of community, that when things fail they have support, that their being is mirrored positively so that they can see for themselves eventually that their existences are beautiful.
Note 1: There is a possibility my fatigue for life is tied to my neurochemistry and has nothing to do with the external events in my life – maybe my dopamine receptors are fried permanently and I just cannot feel much pleasure or drive.
Note 2: I am aware that writing something like this may inevitably hurt my loved ones but not being able to communicate openly about topics like this is one of the main factors why people think they have no way out in the first place. I can only hope to offer some solidarity somehow.
Note 3: Sometimes I hesitate writing about this and I think maybe people just want to read about shiny happy exciting things. But over the last couple of months I derived life-saving comfort from memoirs about living with pain, so this is my way of paying it forward. I think it is a constant exercise in trying to be more “me” and be less concerned about external perception.