Bourdain and Spade’s suicides have left their their loved ones grappling with tremendous loss; one that ripples through our collective consciousness. I’m feeling the grief, but thankful that it has generated conversations and insights like this:
“Rather than pathologizing the despair and emotional suffering that is a rational response to a culture that values people based on ever escalating financial and personal achievements, we should acknowledge that something is very wrong.”
along with the challenge to be honest about our own personal struggles.
The very few people close to me know that I have struggled with debilitating depression and anxiety most of my life—topped by a generous helping of PTSD for the last 20 years. Some have guessed at it. But, thanks to all of the energy I put into giving off the appearance of being okay, most find it surprising. I guess I was doing a pretty good job at something!
But I’m not okay, and I haven’t been. Because of the many years I lived in active fear that my attacker would return to kill me, I experienced an especially nasty, brain-altering aspect of PTSD—the inability to imagine a future for myself. Although I don’t idealize suicide, when I’m at my darkest, I lack the desire to live. Nothing feels like it matters. Or ever will. I feel like a failure, a fraud, and a a hopelessly crippled human being. I am telegraphed these messages all day, every day, by The Voice.
The Voice was also the source of the only notion that ever really made me feel like actually ending my life: that there was simply no place in the world for me, and never would be. That, because I couldn’t engage in a typical work routine and produce, traveling in the orbits that “normal” people occupied, I had no future. That, because most people didn’t understand the nature of this illness, and because I had a hard time getting close enough to help them understand, I would not have the meaningful relationships that make life worth living. It was easier to become more and more alone, to sink further into dysfunction.
I have lived in this isolation and darkness most of the last five years because I didn’t want anyone to see or be burdened by the desperate, howling agony that spontaneously arose within me with increasing frequency—until the spaces between, the reprieves, were the anomaly.
I’ve started to reach out now, to ask for what I need and trust that those who offer support and encouragement do so because they are really willing (and able) to help. I’m trying to believe that it’s ok to lean on them a little, without feeling like a burden. I’m admitting my failings, limitations, and fears. I’m also daring to indulge in something that is truly unfamiliar: imagining the future. Imagining what I want out of it for myself, for my loved ones. What kind of partner I want to attract. What kind of person I want to become. I can see a few vague shapes in the crystal ball. Nothing clear yet. But, for now, being able to see anything at all is enough to keep me going.
And it’s enough to prove to me that The Voice is full of shit.