Saturday, April 1, 2017

On Suicide: The Last Days of Judas Iscariot

Sometimes, as a writer, you go searching for a subject.

You hunt, scratch, and peck for inspiration.

You haunt your previous inspiration points, seeking fresh perspective on the familiar, or maybe even hoping those hallowed halls have somehow changed and that your memories, therefore, can do likewise.

But sometimes... sometimes the subject shows up at your door.

And when it does - when it incessantly knocks - sometimes you answer.

Suicide.

...

In the past month, two persons seriously afflicted with what I have - fluoroquinolone associated disability - committed suicide. In each instance, my response was a complete and total physical and psychological meltdown.

But I didn't tell any of you about it.

I didn't let any of you in to see it.

And I attempted to move past it...

But suicide, it seemed, wasn't "done" with me.

Knock, knock, knock... Amy Bleuel, founder of Project Semicolon, commits suicide.

Knock, Knock, Knock... "13 Reasons" shows up on my feed. Knowing nothing about it, I decide to watch. Plot - teen suicide.

KNOCK, KNOCK, KNOCK... I tune into "S Town" expecting a murder mystery. I fall in love with an Alabaman named John B. He commits suicide.

The knocking has been so incessant, I fear that I MUST open the door.

So here is my suicide story.

I've battled depression since childhood, though, at the time, I didn't know that's what it was.

At the time I thought I was just sad. Sad because of experiences at home. Sad because of social awkwardness and perceived or real rejection. Sad because...of any number of external things.

Throughout childhood and adolescence, I mistakenly believed that, in my case, if my circumstances changed, so too would my mood.

But my circumstances just didn't let up... And you could see it - if you were looking - in nearly everything I did. My art from the time - my personal drawings, my poetry, my writings... In retrospect, I was clinically depressed. And, frankly, if I hadn't had scholastic arts programs and a very supportive boyfriend, I don't think I would have made it through this time.

Even with these safety nets, I did attempt suicide on at least one occasion.

I took a bunch of pills from the cabinet.

I don't know how much, or what. I don't even remember what "incident" inspired it.

I just know I passed out on the couch in the living room and, when I woke, my parents were there, watching tv. Everyone just assumed I'd taken a nap.

And I was actually thankful I woke up.

I never told anyone; time passed; circumstances changed but my depression didn't... and my 20s were spent stumbling through it, going to therapists every two years or so, trying meds that I couldn't tolerate and would abandon every few years or so, wondering why I would behave erratically. Wondering why I could be elatedly happy one moment and in the depths of despair the next. Wondering why I couldn't seem to find an emotional middle ground.

I often contemplated suicide during this time, but no attempts were made. I kept thinking that, if my external circumstances would just change, so, too, would my mindspace. I wouldn't be facing, on a regular basis, this impenetrable darkness.

But the darkness wasn't outside.

It lives inside.

And I continue to battle it everyday...

“Despair … is the ultimate development of a pride so great and so stiff-necked that it selects the absolute misery of damnation rather than accept happiness from the hands of God and thereby acknowledge that He is above us and that we are not capable of fulfilling our destiny by ourselves.” ― Stephen Adly Guirgis, The Last Days of Judas Iscariot: A Play

In 2010 I played Jesus in The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, which remains one of my favorite plays and a shining example of what I can only, lamely, call "modern literary art." If you haven't read or experienced this play, I suggest you cease reading this immediately, and go and do so.

For never, in my meager existence emitting the muted-but-brilliant light of life have I read something that so captured my internal darkness. And, that I was cast as Jesus, I think, is why I needed to write this...I am discovering this truth as I type.

The play centers on a trial staged to determine the fate of Judas' soul. Angels, disciples, even Freud, weigh in. As with suicide, everyone has an opinion, and, at the center of these swirling opinions is Judas...sitting, despondent, in a cell.

I, Jesus, sat back-to-back, a mirrored but reversed reflection, with Judas in his prison.

I wore a white shirt. He, black.

I sat with him in his despondency, because his despondency was my own.

In every way, I - forgiveness, acceptance, redemption, light - held the key to his cell, and I'd give it to him if he'd just ask for it. But the cell was of his own making. He - I - couldn't believe that I would hand over the key... and so the deeper truth, the truth that He/I created the cell - that no key was even really necessary, as there were no literal bars - that he/I was free to leave it whenever he/I chose, was lost on Judas.

But it's a truth I attempt to rediscover within myself every day.

For today, I am the bright side. I am the light side. And I am speaking to you know. But the devil, an illusion I and Judas both see as a separate "other", but who is really the darkness in me manifest, is never further than the door.

He lives here.

Despair lives here.

Because despair is in my synapses.

And my synapses will continue to fire until I am gone.

For some like me, suicide is the only way to slay the devil.

If you're like me, you understand that.

If you don't, you're fortunate...infinitely fortunate.

You are attempting to understand and quantify and - yes, I will say it - JUDGE, something you have never experienced.

"Suicide is never the answer," you say.

"Suicide is cowardice. Suicide is selfish. Think of the people you'll leave behind!"

...

I can describe for you, in great detail, Michelangelo's "Pieta," but, if you've never seen the sculpture in person, it will be impossible for you to grasp the beauty, the artistry, the complete and utter fucking tragedy of the masterpiece.

You can't be blamed. It is impossible for you to understand.

And so it is...

And so it is that I can tell you... I can tell you of the unimaginable physical pain I experienced and continue to experience as the result of FQ poisoning.

And so it is that I can tell you of the psychological torture of living in perpetual fear of what part of your body will malfunction next, and possibly result in a lifetime of extreme disability or prolonged, painful death...

And so it is that I can try to explain that facing that daily devil is not cowardice, but the very definition of bravery. That suicide is not selfishness, but surrender. That, to me, the acute pain to the people I leave behind might actually be preferable to the years, perhaps decades of pain that they will be forced to observe - that I AM thinking of the people I love when I truly contemplate leaving - this will all be lost on you.

Because you've never experienced the "Pieta." You've never been where I've been.

I was forcibly admitted into a psychiatric hospital in November 2015.

...

I am the bright side.

I am the light side.

And I am speaking to you know. But the devil, an illusion I and Judas both see as a separate "other", but who is really the darkness in me manifest, is never further than the door.

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