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On "hanging on" [Jan. 3rd, 2015|10:14 pm]
John
One of the things I thought about when Robin Williams died was trying to write up an answer for "what do you do when you feel like you haven't got anything to live for? When, in fact, it seems like a hasty exit from life is the best option for you?"

And the answer is one of the lousiest, most hideous answers I can imagine - it's the second worst answer I can imagine. And the answer is "don't die."

I won't insult your intelligence by saying what the worst answer is, but I will make explicit that it's exactly what you'd expect I'd say.

What makes it a lousy answer is that it doesn't say *how*. It doesn't say *why*. It doesn't give you a damn thing to hold on to. It's the same kind of bullshit that everyone throws at every depressed person, and it seems selfish. "No, don't die - I won't do anything about the hideous pain you're feeling, but nevertheless, I will put a burden on you - don't die. Keep living."

But that's not what I'm saying. Honest.

The reason I don't have an answer for you is because I'm not you. I can't tell you what will happen next, what you will hold on to, what will make you decide to keep putting one foot in front of the other, away from the pills, the gun, the rope, the height, or whatever method is calling to you. All I can say is, there is an answer.

I don't do misery poker - where a "Breakup with my True Love" beats a "Death of a close friend from cancer" but not a "death of a close family member", and high misery hand takes the pot. There's no showdown, and there's no winning, with misery. But I can say this: whatever misery you're feeling, someone is having it worse, and continuing to live, and considering their life worth living. This doesn't mean that your misery doesn't count but it does mean that there is an answer to "how do you live with it?"

People live with missing limbs, with broken bodies, with neck-down paralysis, with severe brain damage, with severe disabilities of every nature. And sure, they aren't all exactly happy with their states, and yes, they have depression and despair and all kinds of issues too. But there is no non-fatal medical condition that I know of wherein people haven't found a way to live a decent, fulfilling life, though clearly, it might not be what they'd once hoped for.

And that means there is an answer - your answer. And I wish I could find it for you and tell it to you, but if you don't already have it, if you haven't already found it, even if I could find it, and could put it in words, and tell you, it wouldn't make sense. It wouldn't click. Because it would only be a description of the thing - you won't have found the real thing, the real answer, until you've found it yourself.

So: how do you live, when you don't have any reason? You don't die - and keep moving forward, trusting that there is an answer for you. Trusting that I hear you, hurling a variety of angry, nasty, bitter curses at me for saying such optimistic garbage, but figuring you'll keep on kicking long enough to prove me wrong, to prove there *is* no answer, to shove my hideous failure in my face and show me what a worthless, platitude-spouting git I am, if that's what it takes to keep kicking long enough to stumble across one.

There is an answer. You'll know it when you find it. It might just be keep slogging through hell until you get through; it might be figuring out how to accept your life as it is, even though you have every right to feel cheated by what you should have, but don't. I don't know what the answer will be. I just know that it is out there.

And no matter who you are, I do want you to trust that I truly hope you can find it.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: acelightning
2015-01-04 08:25 am (UTC)
In my case, it's always been responsibility - there are people counting on me for various things, in many cases things that only I can provide them with, and I can't leave them hurting, confused, and deprived, just because I'm in pain. (And by the time I've satisfied one responsibility, something in my circumstances has changed and I don't feel such a pressing need to end it all. Happens every time.)
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[User Picture]From: johnpalmer
2015-01-23 04:57 am (UTC)
I've actually noticed that suicidal thoughts are easier to fend off if I perceive freedom to carry them out. It's like the push-button pain meds - as long as you know you can do it if you *need* to, the need isn't as strong.
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[User Picture]From: acelightning
2015-01-23 09:29 am (UTC)
Not-quite-relevant but funny story about push-button morphine:

When I had the hysterectomy in 2011, they couldn't do it with a neat little incision - I had to have my entire abdomen cut open, from two inches above my waist all the way down to the hairline. So after they stapled me back together, I had a morphine machine attached to my IV, with a blue push-button controller. The device had a timer built in, so I couldn't give myself an overdose, but I had no idea what the time interval was.

The nursing staff, along with my husband and son, had managed to get me out of bed and into an armchair. Then my husband and son went out to have dinner in a restaurant near the hospital. I was sitting in the armchair, which had been left in a position where I couldn't see out the window, nor could I see out the door into the hallway, and I wasn't wearing my wristwatch because of the IV lines. I had a book to read, my cell phone, and that lovely blue button... which I kept pushing. As time went on, I became more and more dissociated and disoriented. I didn't know what time it was (I could have checked my phone, but I didn't think of that until later); I couldn't see, and didn't hear, any activity in the hallway; and soon I began to feel out of touch with the world. Parts of my rational mind were still functioning, but even those were affected. I picked up my phone and called my son - I realized that calling my husband with the question I was about to ask would alarm him - and said, "I know this sounds like a stupid question, but... am I dead?"

My son laughed so loudly that my husband said, over and over, "What's happening?" My son has a fair bit of medical knowledge - he originally wanted to be a doctor, and he worked as an EMT when he was in college - and once he'd caught his breath, he told me, "No, but stop pushing the blue button!" I'd managed to overlook the fact that opiates can cause fairly strong dissociation, but my son instantly understood what had happened. He told his dad what was going on, and they both reassured me that they'd be back as soon as they finished their dinner. And we all had a good laugh about this. So did the surgeon, when she came to check up on me later. (Unfortunately, the nurse had no sense of humor, and just threatened me that she'd remove the morphine machine if I didn't "behave myself".)


Edited at 2015-01-23 09:29 am (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: elainegrey
2015-01-04 03:47 pm (UTC)
That is essentially my answer: I trust that a reason to continue exists even if it is not apparent. It is a primal sort of faith, but it's what i've got.
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[User Picture]From: johnpalmer
2015-01-23 04:59 am (UTC)
Nod. That was the usefulness of the "people in terrible situations end up living without total suicidal despair." It makes it a bit less faith, and a bit more "example 1; example 2".
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