Finality Understood

In the “Death Notebooks”
I found you,
lurking between each line.
“Ariel” screamed your confessions.

Death by suicide
is the only finality
I can understand.

Two sisters joined
by words
joined by death
and a world
that loved them
(at least their confessions)
more
than they ever could.

3smI once meant
to lock you away.
I created a box
small enough only
to smile at.
But your intentions
so grandiose,
your occupation
so extravagant,
how can I
look away?

While you sleep
I build.
The air,
once impregnated
by your promises,
now light enough
to heal.

I carry their confessions.
I absorb their deaths
into my bones.
(once dry and brittle;
stronger now)

It is their
last confession
that haunts.
Leaking gas,
an air they assumed.
With their final silence
they scream.

But
as they,
you are silent now,
merely resting on pages,
buried in the dirt,
enmeshed
in the twisted metal
that rips apart.
But you are silent in my kitchen,
You are silent in my bed.
Some nights
I look for you beneath covers.
I tiptoe
through the living room,
afraid to disturb your repose.

But nothing sleeps forever
And I have chosen you
with empty bottles.
I have written you
Into these lines.
Like their confessions,
I have let you
seep into my bones.
I feel your weight
that makes me stronger,
strong enough to limp.

At 30
her head in an oven,
an air she could never breathe.
I have been jealous
of her.

11 years later
a car fills with fumes
and the sweetest of sleep.
She too understood
and I have been jealous
of her.

It sounds strange to say that the suicidal thoughts I lived with for many years provided some comfort. It wasn’t until after I had found the right medication to lift my depression that I realized that these obsessive thoughts had provided this comfort throughout that time. I had never felt this clarity of mind before and I found myself scared at losing the obsessive thoughts. Compulsions are appealing to the human psyche due to the comfort they provide. It is often in small tasks that we try to make sense of the world.  Compulsions serve this purpose. I don’t know that I have the words that will allow this to make sense to a person who has not dealt with mental illness, I but I will try and explain.

It was around 12 years old, corresponding with the beginning of puberty, that I started to develop a depression that would nearly kill me. I wish I was exaggerating. It worsened year by year but I staunchly refused to try any medications. From what I can gather, this was an attempt on my part to avoid becoming my mother, for this was perhaps my greatest fear for many years. From the limited reading and listening to podcasts that I’ve done I find myself convinced that it is a mix of nature and nurture that often combine to lead to depression in an individual. There is likely to be a predisposition to this illness, but it is often a set of circumstances that bring it out in such a predisposed person. When I reached puberty, the right cocktail of hormones, experience, and genetics mixed to create the perfect storm. This belief, however, would not stop me from feeling a constant and overwhelming guilt due to the difficulty I experienced getting through each day. Each day there was a weighing, a measuring; each day I was found wanting.

1smI was first hospitalized at the age of 20. I was living with two fellow Jehovah’s Witness friends away from my parents for the first time. I believe it was at this time that I first started seriously considering suicide. It seems that it was then that I was starting to lose hold of the persona that I kept around my family, especially my parents, to convince them that I was fine. I will admit that they did not require a lot of convincing. I was falling apart. Not only did I not know how to deal with these dark feelings, I was also feeling guilty for having them because I took it to mean that I lacked adequate spirituality which would, of course, combat any such dark thoughts. I believed that if I could be the perfect Jehovah’s Witness that god wanted me to be, then it would be impossible for depression to thrive within me, as if it were a demon rather than a disease.

By the time I was seriously reading the JW material that was constantly being provided to members, the idea that depression and other mental illness were due to a lack of spirituality was no longer something that they put in black and white. That’s not to say that this idea didn’t still float around in conversations between witnesses or occasionally from the mouth of a speaker at a meeting or convention. Spirituality and faith were portrayed as the ultimate remedy, a cure-all. Today snake-oil seems a more appropriate title. In this environment, many people with mental illness suffered with the added weight of guilt that was so prevalent in JW teaching.

I realize now that it’s hard for a healthy person to keep up with the requirements of JW life as it was when I was growing up, which required even more meeting attendance and reading of material than it did when I left. It was not the depression that was a demon growing inside me. Rather it was the guilt that I kept feeding with more and more JW propaganda. Dealing with this demon on a day to day basis left less and less energy for the imposed JW demands. It was becoming harder and harder to get out of bed each day, much less study for 3 meetings, read the bible each day, and participate in the ministry. Despite all of this and my first experience being hospitalized for my depression, it would be at least 5 more years before I gave medication a chance.

By the time I had reached 25 years old, the suicidal thoughts had reached a fever pitch. These thoughts occupied my mind every moment that I wasn’t otherwise occupied, and often even when I was so occupied. These thoughts terrified me, especially when they first started to occur. But as the years passed I found them less and less terrifying. It wasn’t until they started to recede with the help of medication that I realized that they had been providing some comfort. I could see then that I always clung to them as a last option. ‘If it gets too unbearable, I can always…’ Ultimately, the suffering would end. This was the comfort that these obsessive thoughts provided.

2smI still find myself frightened if I have a really bad day. I don’t know that I could survive again that dark place I lived in for so long. Still, I’m not sure I can say that I regret having had that experience. It was as I was finding balance in my life, through medication, physical activity, and various creative outlets, that I started questioning the faith that I had followed all my life. Had it happened sooner, would it have had the same impact? Would I have had the same resistance to the direction that I had been fed all my life to ignore such doubts? I’ll never know for certain of course. It has been hard to accept this and the many uncertainties that have been an inevitable result of leaving the JW faith and being shunned. Each day though, as I drive to work, I see the mountains to my west and they remind me of the freedom of each day before me. Despite the many uncertainties, there is one great certainty. I made the right choice in leaving.

One thought on “Finality Understood

  1. Thank you 4 sharing your story. Its scary how many people in the org have similar experiences. I’m sorry you’ve been burdened with pain, suffering & hurt. Dont give up, your journey isnt complete. little girls, boys & the many adults being abused need 2 hear & understand they arent alone. They must know even though the road is rough, there is peace & healing at the end. It took alot of courage 2 share that. I sat here and cried reading this & thinking of my situation. I’m sorry 4 your pain, I know it hurts but day by day u will heal.

    Liked by 2 people

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