I’m gradually coming down from an emotionally demanding week.
I could sugar-coat it.
Explain my pain away and remind everyone that I KNOW things could be worse — THEY ABSOLUTELY COULD BE WORSE.
But sometimes I think people like myself spend too much time stuffing away pain, feeling like everyone else’s stuff is more worthy of sharing.
I’m calling bullshit on myself. I need to talk about some of this just to make sense of it all in my head.
***I do feel that a trigger warning is necessary here. I’m about to talk bluntly about mental health, particularly suicide — I’m okay — but below I discuss my personal experience as someone who has lived through loss of loved ones from suicide in a raw and somewhat untidy way. I just thought you should know before going forward. ***
I learned at a young age that a lot of my stuff was entirely too much for others, and honestly I still carry a great deal of that pain with me today — past traumas as well as the pain of knowing that my stuff was more than most people had room for.
I was 20 when my mother and I discovered my dad’s body in the garage of our home. He was done with life. It was entirely too much and he had had it.
Shit got real very quickly. The pain and ugliness of the world showed up — loud and clear, in my family.
I saw first hand how uncomfortable this sort of incident made people.
Friends were unable to look me in the eye. Even the adults who I looked to for guidance lacked this life experience and were lost for words of comfort.
One well-meaning acquaintance had the audacity to ask me if I had Jesus in my life while a church deacon quietly folded my underwear at my parents’ kitchen table.
I calmly told her that I didn’t want to discuss Jesus, but if she had any vodka in her purse, I could really go for a screwdriver.
She pursed her lips together and scurried out the door. She felt called to witness to a young woman whose life had crumbled, but she couldn’t do what I needed most:
She was incapable of sitting with my pain.
My father was exceptionally good at sitting with people’s pain, and he was well-loved for that and many other reasons.
He was an empath.
Kind and generous with his time.
Especially drawn to the downtrodden.
He wanted to take away the troubles of his friends and clients who often shared with him, but it was difficult for him to lay their burdens down.
We empaths are like sponges, absorbing the emotions of those around us. Lately, I feel especially sensitive to the collective cultural pain in our world.
Then there’s my inner, personal pain — the situations that I actually have a bit more immediate control over, yet they feel especially difficult, bordering on unmanageable.
My dad has been on my mind a lot this month. Perhaps it’s because September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. It doesn’t work well for me, though, and forgive me if that sounds selfish.
I am entirely too aware of suicide, and frankly I don’t need a fucking month-long reminder.
I know it’s important and the idea is to promote resources and awareness around issues of suicide prevention. Part of this awareness is helping people learn how to talk about suicide without increasing the risk of harm.
Personally, I find the month nothing but one big trigger.
It is not helpful to me.
It drums up emotions that I’d prefer to keep stuffed.
For anyone wishing to know, I am highly aware that suicide is a bad thing.
I wish my father’s suicide had been prevented.
I wish that those well-meaning church people had not felt the need to share their views that those who die by suicide are condemned to hell. I don’t believe that and hearing it at his wake was not remotely helpful.
I worry about my mother every time I see Suicide Prevention Month being advertised all over social media.
Is this triggering her? Making her more depressed and aware, leaving her wondering what she did wrong and what she COULD have done to prevent my father’s death?
It makes me examine it all more closely, yet there’s nothing I can do now that will bring my father back. I’m not sure anything would have prevented it. I can’t help but wonder, though, and when I finally get it out of my head, I have an entire month of suicide prevention splashed in my face.
It’s a very painful reminder of everything I lost.
I’ve had the honor of telling the triage nurse that my mother wants to die and that I need help getting her medicated and into the hospital.
I’ve had to spell out for the intake person my family’s sordid mental health history.
Talking about suicide is not hard for me. Sitting with the discomfort of those around me is another story entirely. I know the look, as I call it, all too well.
Sharing my family’s story and pouring my heart out to my friend’s sister as she’s grieving the messiness that IS amplified when the death is from suicide, only to be informed later that the investigators never proved that the cause was suicide, is the kind of thing that’s hard.
She might as well have said, “Well, your dad died by suicide but we cover that nastiness up in our family. My sister is in heaven.”
Because in many cultures, in my experience ones heavily defined by archaic religious doctrine, suicide equals hell. And let me assure you that people who believe that shit have no problem sharing their “facts” with the freshly bereaved.
This was a hard post to write for many reasons.
I have readers who are struggling with their own mental health conditions, recovery, grief, pain.
So many of us have so much pain inside of us that we contend with daily.
We get through our days sometimes minute by minute.
Breath to breath.
For me, I FEEL so deeply, and frankly it’s an exhausting existence.
Parenting for me right now feels like I’m being set on fire in the deepest parts of cells, and I want nothing more than to flee from this torture.
I watch my children, knowing it’s only going to get more difficult, and all I want to do is make it better and easier and I have no idea how to do that.
The hardest part is that I know that’s not my job. I CAN’T fix it nor do I need to do so.
Parents who work tirelessly to spare their kids any discomfort are not helping, in spite of their pure, good, holy intentions.
I can barely sit with my own pain these days, and maybe that’s my greatest dilemma.
I’m now required to sit with the pain of these little extensions of myself.
Sitting with my own pain is a million times easier because I can somewhat control it. I know the steps to take to deal with my own shit. I’ve spent the past two decades figuring it all out.
I have a toolbox, one I’ve built slowly, added to, adapted over the years as various and inevitably painful situations arise.
There’s no point to this meandering shit storm. I’m sorry to say there may be more ahead. I simply need to write real and even that feels difficult.
I’ll continue in another post….