Suicide

The Samaritan woman wondered if I had thought of killing myself. I have taught myself not to, and this is how.

I wanted to die, and looked longingly at buses- could I fall under one? I started thinking more seriously of it. I decided I must not hurt anyone else. It would hurt my father to know I had killed myself, so it must appear like an accident. But crashing head on, on a fast road, might kill the other driver and their passengers.

-It would be murder, she assented.

And it must be relatively quick. I could not think of a way which satisfied these three requirements, so I did not.

People regret, sometimes immediately. A procurator fiscal told me of a man who had hanged himself with sisal, then tried to loosen the knot, scratching desperately at his neck, but could not. A coroner’s assistant told me of people throwing themselves off the cliffs at the South coast, and landing on a ledge a short way down. Perhaps they broke an ankle, could not climb back up, and died of exposure. Those who survive jumping from bridges- their first thought is often to the effect What have I done!

I contemplated how I loathed killing spiders. I would if I had to, because of my arachnophobe friend, but find them fascinating and beautiful. How much more beautiful is my hand! I might hate myself and want to escape, but how could I kill something as beautiful as this organism?

In 2003, I had had enough. I decided to take painkillers, and thought they would kill me more easily, and I would become unconscious more quickly, if I washed them down with whisky. I went into the living room to get the whisky and found my bathwater dripping through the ceiling. I could not bear that. I called the landlord, who called a plumber to fix it, and when he had gone the feelings had gone away. That was my proof of the existence of God for years after. I told a friend who said, “Your guardian angel knows how you tick”.

-Yes, she said, guardian angels, God looking after us
-sometimes the synchronicities work really well.

In 2009, I was sitting in the office and decided I would kill myself. I had got sleeping pills from my GP, but they were too strong, making me feel tired all the time by day. I kept them in case I decided on suicide. I left the office at 1pm, and went home. I would lie in the bath with a mug of hot chocolate and take my pills. I got home, sat in my living room, and realised I did not want to kill myself, I just had to leave that situation there and then, immediately, without any plan of what to do next.

Since then I have realised how fiercely I want to survive. I could not kill myself. It colours my view of assisted dying. Suicide is stupid. A friend said every time the subject came up, “It’s a permanent solution to a temporary problem”. Perhaps he too had had to talk himself out of it.

berthe-morisot-girl-with-greyhound

I hate myself

Googling “I hate myself”, with quotes, produces 902,000 responses. Images are dark with text like “I lie I cut I’m a terrible person I’m lonely” and “Everyone is better prettier skinnier funnier than me”. I am unsure what to make of “I hate myself but that’s OK”.

We kill ourselves because we hate ourselves. I wonder how common it is? Trigger warning, below, for sexual violence- the actual text is minimised and there is a further warning.

I loathe the first entry on Google. Figure out what you CAN change and do it!

If you don’t like something about yourself that you can actually change, start to do that today. Maybe you don’t like your weight you can start eating properly, and getting exercise TODAY! Has he any idea how difficult people find dieting, and what comfort people get from eating? Possibly they could find better comfort in exercise, the runner’s high, but they need to know the mechanism. It is not so simple. The next suggestion, find out what friends and family value about you, is better.

How common is self-loathing? According to Psychology for Everyday Life, most of us. It tells us to challenge our Inner Critic.

Liz Jones hated herself and found herself inadequate despite being a successful writer who went to receptions at the House of Commons. “My male side has retreated, meaning people don’t respect me.” Useful information for trans women. When she had just started primary school, some older boys

trigger warning for sexual violence: highlight to reveal text

pushed her into the boy’s loos, stripped her and repeatedly kicked her.

Would that-

I feel that hating myself performs a useful function. It holds me in restraint. This could be useful for any number of people- first my parents, then bosses, anyone but me.

I felt decades ago that I was at war with myself, that I pulled in different directions.

I wonder if saying “I hate myself” is a superficial, emotional reaction for some people. You get upset, you feel you have made a mistake, you hate yourself. Then there is the deep, settled, constant loathing.

Hello.

It sits under consciousness, manifesting as anxiety and depression, sometimes surfacing as the inner critic- manifesting that control for the behoof of others-

I want to see it and recognise it.

I hate myself. I hate my reactions, my responses, my weakness, my hiding and running away, my failures.

Perhaps it comes from not being loved as a baby.

Hello, back.

Yes. It has been so difficult, terrifying, enraging. All that feeling which is so hard to admit, which is shit me.

I want to pay that respect. It has served a function. It has been so strong. All that pent up rage. I wonder if I can loosen it: talk to it, calmly and reasonably: make friends with it, because it is part of me.

Blake the mission of virgil- inferno

Sonnet: to a friend contemplating suicide

 If you should think of dying, think of me.
There'd be some corner in another mind
That was forever sadness. There would be
A rich potential lost. In you I find
The laughter learnt of friends, and gentleness
and think, your heart, all goodness shed away
without which England always will be less
its love, its brilliance, choosing Night o'er day.
I know your hurt, the inescapable part
of that fey softness where your beauty lies,
The vulnerable you is my sunshine.
If you despise the grandeur of your heart
so what was made God's image cruelly dies
'twould shadow all your sweetness with your crime.

It has a clear debt to Rupert Brooke.

Euthanasia

hanged-man1 I have always been against euthanasia. I have been happy with assisting suicide being criminal. Might I change my mind?

Having been suicidal, I know that it is no solution to any problem. I feel that any life is better than death. And, I know what it is to Want something ridiculous or disgusting in others’ view- my transition- and from that can empathise with bodily integrity identity disorder- those people who want parts of themselves amputated.

I would want not just anybody to be able to assist someone to kill themselves. I would want this restricted, so there was a clear evidence trail: so my scheme would need particular licensed, medically qualified killers, a psychiatric assessment, and an independent witness of the person’s desire.

I loathe the idea that someone might kill herself now, because in a year she will have no quality of life, and will be unable to kill herself. If you can get yourself to a high building and over the parapet, you can kill yourself- though in a selfish way, hurting the people who have to find you, and scrape you up. Incidentally, there are some very very bad places to throw yourself from the cliffs at Beachy Head: you might land on a ledge, broken but conscious, then die of exposure because no-one could find le pendu_finalyou. A coroner’s assistant told me this. And a man who hanged himself with a sisal rope had scratch marks at his neck: he had changed his mind, but been unable to loosen the knot.

Having been suicidal, I can report that there is a ghastly unreality about one’s fantasies. I imagine myself relaxed and content, slipping off, whereas the threat to life brings forth primordial brain structures, raging at the dying of the light.

Suicide is utterly horrible, the declaration of final hopelessness. My friend said “It is a permanent solution to a temporary problem”. But not in these cases: someone terminally ill whose illness will slowly strip away mental and physical function and cause increasing pain-

A year ago I would have been unequivocally against euthanasia. It is an easy way out for the medical profession, too: they strive for effective palliative care, because that is their only option. I want them to work very hard on palliative care. They still will, many of them. Any mercy killing is an admission of failure for them.

Over the last few months I have been coming round, and this morning sitting down to think it through, here, I have come round to supporting euthanasia for the terminally ill. I am not quite there for everyone who wants it: not for depression, not for someone paralysed from the neck down as I dare to hope such a person, forced to live, might find some meaning in life.

Uses of Memory

https://i1.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/95/Rossetti_girlhood.jpgThe train left the platform, slid into the tunnel, and stopped. The lights went off. There is only the ghostly light of laptop and smartphone screens. Irritating. Philip and I have said all we have to say to each other, or all we can say, and we are silent. As the minutes tick on, I realise I will have to go straight to Kings Cross rather than get out further South and walk the streets. I had wanted to walk through the British Museum, its glass-roofed central court captivated me. Still does.

-Why have we stopped?
-Probably a suicide, jumped in front of a train.
And I feel such resentment. Selfish bitch. What are tall buildings for?

Smart-phones? Surely not, not in a tunnel, though people could be looking at old texts and photos. Oh yes, it was a year or two before they came out. Not smartphones, just lap-tops. And- did we decide suicide was the likely explanation, or hear about it after? And did we make conversation, or have That Conversation which breached our friendship finally, then? I am quite clear that I had wanted to walk through the museum, though from what I understand about memory that could be an addition coming into my mind later. Like in the song.

If I can unconsciously reconstruct a memory, and remember it differently from how it was- spoken testimony is among the least reliable of evidence- then, can I make it different, on purpose? I have met fantasists and liars, creating mythical worlds in their history or other lives, but this would be consciously for the purpose of contemplating reality and myself rather than deceiving anyone.

-I felt such resentment.
-I felt such sympathy, and prayed for her. I am sure she was female, whether or not we realised it was suicide at the time, or heard it later, or indeed there was some other explanation.
-(Oh no, she’s going to say it-) “Probably a bit of both”. Depending on which is most acceptable to hold in consciousness, what is swirling about underneath.

Someone asked about coming of age, and I thought of that Menarche ceremony. Then I thought of how F had worked so hard to prevent me taking part among the adult women that I had gone off and sat by our camp fire. Resentment. And- can I concentrate on other parts of that memory? The Resentment swam into my mind, seemed the most important part of it. I heard of an NLP technique- view an unpleasant memory as a small monochrome image, but good memories full of detail and colour. I have no mind’s eye, but the principle holds- remember other parts, give them prominence. That walk in the sunshine with S, perhaps, or the discussion with the other queers about exclusion- all the acceptance I had-

Can I change my frightened hiding, my rejection of the world, into joyous acceptance? Can I by vibrating see opportunities and possibilities, and grasp them? Or will that happen through healing if I just let it and do not try to force it?

The right no

Che Fece [what did]

For some people the day comes
when they have to declare the great Yes
or the great No. It’s clear at once who has the Yes
ready within him; and saying it,
he goes from honor to honor, strong in his conviction.
He who refuses does not repent. Asked again,
he’d still say no. Yet that no-the right no-
drags him down all his life.

-Constantine P. Cavafy
 
In December 2009, I walked out of my job with the idea of killing myself. I had the sleeping pills, and I would take them. I said goodbye to the receptionist about one o’clock and went home, and sat in my living room. The strong desire to die went away, but I realised I could not go back to work. I was on a final written warning with an ultimatum “do this or get sacked”, and the next month I resigned in order to avoid being sacked. I took my month’s notice on the sick, and have only worked for six months since.
 
I had had to get out, immediately, without any plan for what to do next, and only the knowledge that I would rather die than stay there made me do it.
 
I do not know how this post will end.
 
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I was going to write, “All my life I have run away and hidden and I have to come to terms with that” and-
Is that true? I have not really progressed a career, I have not had many friendships,
but I have transitioned. That took courage.
 
Perhaps rather than Cavafy, Awdry:
 
Once an engine in front of a train
was afraid of a few drops of rain.
He went into a tunnel
and squeaked through his funnel
and wouldn’t come out again.
 
So Henry was bricked up in the tunnel, and with no head of steam he could not call Hello to the other engines. Though it is a children’s story: he comes out eventually, and is happy.
 
Perhaps rather than Awdry, the Goddess: Durga dancing in me, and me in her.
 
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OH GOD! IT HURT! IT HURTS!!!
 
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I wanted to kill myself because I was hurting that badly. I still do. I slowly – no, patiently and carefully, at the fastest speed I can manage, release my own bonds and come to self-acceptance. As I do so, it becomes possible to move on, perhaps to say a Yes- though I cannot yet be sure. And part of this is realising how awful and destructive my self-criticism has been, and mitigate it.
 

I know what I have to do. I want to get a job. If I want to heal, or to do performance, I have to develop my raw talent and get doing it. I took the opportunity on Saturday 26th: friendly audience of about forty, I compèred, some told me I had done it well, noticed that I had thought out what to say. And after, in the night, I was distraught, thinking of the level of human connection then and the chance to show off and be applauded, and then going back to my loneliness. And-

it cannot always be a high like that, and I have the skills to make more opportunities like that. And there will be more opportunities like that.
 
My life has been really, really hard. And I have now transitioned, and come to greater self-acceptance than before. And I am calming my fears.
 
 
The Episcopal Church ordains trans people to the priesthood. Thanks be to God.

Conscious incompetence II

In 1998, I realised how much I wanted to die. I thought, the world is grey, life is horrible, it can only get worse. That Autumn, I had my introduction to Carl Rogers’ thought through a counselling course at the local college. Over six months, I became aware of something within me, which I named the “vulnerable bit”- buried very deeply behind layers of protection which I named the “Shell”, locked away.

On my last evening at the counselling course, after I was kicked off it, I had a strong sense of just being that vulnerable bit, out in the open, without the shell. I was talking to another participant, and I felt I was me, not pretending, not acting, not self-protecting, just open. I wrote this verse, just the first two verses at first, I added other verses years later:

Tonight I was two souls
First by force and then by choice
This man makes his will, Truth
and then I hear another voice
This voice gives a piteous cry
and from my pain I turn my eye
 
Lady now you need not weep
Your beauty is for joy and song
The flower so long in darkness kept
will soon rejoice to see the sun
That man, his will, his truth, will go
I am myself. Myself I’ll know
 
Tonight I was two souls
Through blessing I became myself
The fear that makes me man grows less
The woman smiles, and moves to health
The man’s “protection” rots her soul
when she can shed him she’ll be whole
 
Today I was two souls
A woman, sensual, sovereign
A man, whose fight for false ideals
now falls away, an end to pain
He leaves behind the master’s role
She welcomes him, and I am whole.
 
 I did not like that verse. I did not like the metre, or some of the language, and I was not ready so strongly to identify as female, but I knew that the “Vulnerable bit” was in fact the Real Me. That was who I am. The thought terrified me.
 
Starting to live full time female, I felt I was doing enough self-acceptance to get by. I met a woman who came to LGCM events because her teenage daughter had just come out as lesbian, and she was amazed by me. She thought I had what she wanted, that self-acceptance, self-actualisation, accepting who I am and living authentically from that. I had not, even eight years after transitioning.
 
I had the sense, occasionally, of being in the vulnerable space, open and unprotected. I did not know how to protect myself, other than by retreating into the shell.
 
At the HAI level 3 weekend, I had the sense of being that vulnerable self, open and present, and for the first time protecting myself with adult boundaries rather than the Shell. It seems like I felt unsafe very young indeed, and created the best protection I could at the time: and now I can protect myself in an adult way. This is something I need to think about and practise.
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Picture credit

Coffee with T

T loves Costa Coffee, and loves talking of Zen, the mind/brain interface, consciousness and ways of thinking, and these topics please me too. Whence comes Inspiration? What happens when you sever the corpus callosum? His younger brother, who was gay just after “sodomy” ceased to be a criminal offence in England and tried so hard to be straight, is a spiritual medium, and his sister was a homoeopath, and T, a former hypnotherapist, has this wonderfully thoughtful, rational way of dealing with these issues. We dispose of Naive Realism- how would you know if you were living in The Matrix- wonderful film that, the sequels were rubbish- and have such similar interests and perspectives that the conversation is a delight. What do you mean by “I”? Well, there is this physical object, or process, continually taking in or excreting substance and ideas, which being an evolved animal has a strong attachment to its own continuing existence. How could new ideas change brain structures? By reinforcing new pathways through the brain. Well, it happens, we cannot say why. How can I talk about a soul or even an “I”, when if I suddenly stop taking oestradiol I get all emotional, weepy, impulsive, angry, and if I take it again I become more even-tempered? That is a chemical process, surely, rather than an “Individual”.

What I want to discuss is healing, and how I cannot justify it with my rational being: so how just to trust my emotional being? Of course I did that before: transitioning from acting male to expressing myself female makes no sense at all, rationally, apart from the fact that I Wanted to do it. I so want my rational brain to be able to justify healing work, and it can’t. I grew up having to justify everything rationally, being unaware of my feelings.

Have I told you this story? I decided to kill myself (No, he says, I have not told that story. When was that? Oh, years ago, not recently). I got my pills, and I went into my living room to get whisky to wash them down with, because I thought that might make me lose consciousness more quickly and be better able to go through with it. But in my living room I found my bath water flowing through the ceiling. A join in the drainpipe had given way, and the water flowed out. So I called the landlord, and the plumber, and got it dealt with, and after the plumber left the immediate desire to die had gone away. A Synchronicity!

But what about all the people who decided to die and didn’t have something like that to distract them? he asks. Yeah, yeah, I know. Still, that was my Proof of the Existence of God for years. And- why Libya but not Syria? Is that the same question?

This link between the amygdala and the limbic system and the frontal lobe- different voices, then Consciousness, the illusion of the I-

An even more personal story. I get a little weepy-
……………………………..and then I relax.

I went to a Healing Development Group with the Healing Trust. They have a particular procedure, first giving energy to the seven chakras, then to the parts of the body in turn. And I felt my hands grow warm, but when I passed over the leader’s arm, my hands suddenly felt cold. It felt so different. And I did not have the courage to tell her, or anyone until now. Could that be- sensing something? Could it be real?

Actually, now I have shared this story, trusted to share it, I feel- different. More relaxed, and Much, Much Happier. Wonderful. It feels real. I can respect that feeling.

People describe the flow of energy, or Qi, with very precise technical terms, in great detail, similar to the descriptions anatomists use, yet not describing anything an anatomist could observe. It mimics rationalism, but the rationalists can’t accept it. This is the weepy bit- my rational being has to be content with Unknowing. This is the joyous bit- in that Moment, I can trust my feeling.

Out into the sunshine. There is a busker in a dinner jacket, bow tie and fingerless gloves playing the guitar, and I stop to listen. Then Candy recognises me, and we chat with the busker about that time when the violinist played in the railway station– was it New York? Not sure. Candy is almost a stranger, we exchanged a few words when I was working. Now we exchange phone numbers. Impromptu conversations in the street! Not what I am used to. I feel relaxed, more real. He plays Bach. There is a group of rough-looking men four yards away, and one suddenly barks like a dog- RuhRuhRuhRuhRuhRuhRuh- loudly at another- rough looking men, hearing the music.

To the garage to get my car fixed, where I meet Ganesh. God is everywhere!

The blue pill

Using male pronouns to refer to me is as disrespectful, uncivilised, and wrong, as calling a black person a N*****.

This is who I am. To express myself female is what I wanted, against all common sense or rationality, against the evidence of my own senses, looking at my own body. Plunging into the nature of my being, that I am female is deeper than anything else, utterly impervious to change. Actually, the pill question: “If you could take a pill and be a normal male without these feelings, would you?”- well, I come out with the “right” answer, “No, because then I would not be me”, but sometimes it is a close run thing. Being transsexual has given me such intense pain that sometimes I do not know how I have borne it. I have been suicidal, just wanting to die, for months at a time, and twice I have undertaken preparatory acts, though not any actual self-harming physical act- I have formed the decision, then backed off.

To refer to me as “she” rather than “he” is a basic level of courtesy which I am entitled to, and fortunately receive from most people I meet. However, where I do not, I will not be sympathetic or understanding, and nor should you be, whoever you are. I so resent still having to work through these issues aged 45, ten years after getting the courage to express myself female at work.

It is the same for people with body integrity identity disorder. If someone is complaining about how difficult it is to get a wheelchair on a bus, “Well you could walk” is an answer just as disrespectful as using male pronouns for me.

It seems to me that humanity, now, is working through issues of otherness and respect, issues of living together, issues of accepting the full range of human diversity and the discomfort that currently engenders. I think we can get these things right, and that free, diverse humanity has far more access to blessing and gift than regulated, regimented humanity. For my own self-respect, I will assert my right to respect from others. I have been at the fulcrum of this issue, and have survived.

If I can assert my right without anger or fear, then I am giving an invitation, though one some people will be unable to hear: an invitation to see humanity in the full beauty and richness of our diversity, and to accept all those bits of yourself which you have falsely been told are unacceptable.

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It really matters to me to see humanity as progressing. Things are not as I might wish, but I do think they are getting better. A little group of Quakers, frightened of Peak Oil, climate change, and the Global Financial Crisis had a conversation where I asserted this, and people brought forward the Bosnian war and the Rwandan genocide, child labour in India, even female genital mutilation, forsooth, as evidence against. I could play the game: I have a good level of articulacy and rhetorical skills. I am interested in current affairs and history- and Life, in all its fulness and variety, even if more as an observer than a participant, so far- so I can come up with apposite examples and elegant argument. Instead, I disengaged.

Heaven is Here. I see it. That anyone does not see it is not evidence against its existence. So, I do not need to win the argument and convince anyone, I am satisfied in my own mind.

I can say to anyone, look around yourself. See the abundance and the beauty and the wonder and the Blessing. Look, at this, or this, or this. And if they cannot take this in, I may give up on them.

Gosh, that is pretty mature of me. Saintly, even. Or, since I am doing teenage at the moment: the argument going against me, I went into a sulk. Words….

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Am I boring you? Am I just repeating myself? I have been thinking about that last Pronouns conversation, three weeks ago. There are times when it is the other’s own stuff coming out, or they are just ignorant, and there are times when they want to push my buttons. Those two, they know, they have the intelligence, maturity and experience to understand completely. That particular time, it was deliberate. As if I have a big, red button, as big as my torso, and all you have to do is tap it gently and watch me implode.

I HAVE NOTHING TO BE ASHAMED OF.

Ah. Breathe it in. I am getting there.

I have nothing to be ashamed of.

You will not hurt me with this.

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I visited Belfast in 1988. There were soldiers with guns, and armoured vans with low skirts on, so no-one could roll a grenade underneath, and barbed wire protecting the pubs. I was pushing my bicycle through the station. That army officer will not walk in front of me- so I hurried, walking in front of him, making him pause. And- I felt his Love reach out and envelop me. That is the only way I can put it.

Rather than suppressing it, I am feeling the intense pain of decades of feeling that I am an outsider, that I am less, and I see a way through this.

TED, in praise of vulnerability.

Learning through Joy

Thoughts provoked by Wisdom Pigeon, who quotes Aeschylus:

He who learns must suffer. And even in our sleep, pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despite, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God.

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A good source of wise Internet quotes

So I asked, can one learn through Joy? And Wisdom Pigeon comments on learning through pain: joy is the reward after.

Liz asked if I would like some toast, so I put it under the grill myself because of her physical difficulties. I burnt it, because I was distracted, then I burnt the second lot; then she pressed me to do a third, and I demurred. I really did not want to. I would make do with the burnt lot. She pressed me, and eventually I accepted, and did not burn these.

At the Children’s centre Lucy the manager was listening to my moaning, and she said she would make me a cup of tea. I refused, I should make my own cup of tea: and she was surprised by my vehemence, and insisted, and made me tea.

These two small acts of kindness last March, when I was finding life difficult, did not produce so much an immediate sense of joy as a niggling doubt, a strangeness- the world is not as bad as I then saw it. This was part of my movement towards my greatest learning of last year, moving from negative to positive, glass empty to glass full. So I think one can learn through joy, through glimpses of beauty.

As Wisdom Pigeon says, though the lesson is painful, having learned it is joyous. Much of my pain comes from demanding that the world be other than it is, and there is relief in the moment when I stop.

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I commented on the blog of a woman afflicted by suicide, and she valued it, saying, “That should be in the books.” So I offer to you what I said to her:

The suicide was not the most important thing in your father-in-law’s life. It is not the one thing through which you should see him.

I am tempted to write further about suicide, but that is my sole pretence to originality, so I will stop.

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British politicians say we are having a hard time at the moment, and appeal to the votes of the “Squeezed Middle” through our resentment, avarice, and fear. Hafiz saw how we are in Abundance, though so many do not see it. Daniel Ladinsky, again:

Dear ones
why let your winsome body act
As if it is living against a tyrant’s knife?

Why pretend your expansive existence,
Your Imperial Nature

Have all been squeezed
into a tiny red hot skillet

That is being kicked by a camel’s hoof
Over the dry sand?

For your friend Hafiz
So clearly sees we are all immersed
In the Soft Brilliance.