Saturday, February 18, 2012

* Suicide: Give TIME time (42 years in my case)

24 Hours

The minister began the service last Friday by confronting the issue of the suicide of the 27-year-old head on:

"Embrace your anger. The 'Why?'  The 'If only I had said or done...'  Embrace the doubts and questions until you are sick of feeling them, until you have exhausted the anger." That is how she began the service.

This is the new psychoanalytic preaching. 

I found it cathartic. I am not sure how the rest of the congregation felt, especially the older members, although the minister was not especially young herself, perhaps 50.

I remember taking a course for my M. Div. at Yale Divinity School entitled Psychoanalysis, Parents, and God. It was taught by a Protestant minister with a Ph.D. in Psychology.  It was one of the best courses I ever took, in 17 years of college at four different institutions: Ithaca, Kent State, Yale and Middlebury.

The professor said this about suicide: "It is a very selfish act. It leaves everyone feeling guilty." 

I won't disagree with the latter half of that statement, but I disagree that it is self-ISH.  It think it is self-LESS, and not in the unsual sense, but in the literal sense.  

The SELF has begun to disintegrate, or has never fully assembled (borderline personality configuration), and suicide is the effort to accelerate the sense of disintegration or dis-assembly which has been driving the desperate person crazy and thereby achieve termination of the pain of fragmentation (think Picasso's fractured faces).

For me, the crisis was in 1973 as I appraoched 30.  

I do not want to trivialize the fact that I had seen the carnage at Kent State in 1970 and that three years later I was perhaps experiencing panic attacks.  That may be part of it.  (PTSD had not even been thought of back then---so it was not part of any therapeutic consideration.)

But, in addition to any reaction I may have had to witnessing the Kent Ktate killings, there was a definite heavy and burdensome cultural message that was being sent to me as a male, that I should have FOUND MYSELF by the time I was thirty; and  having 'found' myself was anything but the case.

It was during the fuel crisis days of the 1970's and the  concomitant economic downturn  (we are experiencing its cyclical return again today in 2012) , and even though I had completed two college degrees, I simply could not find a job in New Haven, Connecticut., my hometown, i.e., birthplace.


Since one of my degrees was a master's degree from Kent State  (the symbol of student protest and national shame, disgrace  and denial since the shootings in 1970 ) presenting my resume was literally like handing a potential employer a piece of folded paper which contained a pirate's black spot on it.

Finally, after panic attacks, anxiety, depression, and therapy, my defaul position was to become a real estate agent (at which I failed in the economic downturn), and apartment superintedent (at which I succeeded since it required only hard work and dependability).


Then, without any plan to do so, I also became a student at Yale Divinity School, while  continuing to empty  trash and replace  toilet seats as an apartment super.

Some would say that was my destiny all along, since my parents had named me after a professor at that school who had been their youth minister.

But I don't believe in destiny, although it was an odd and unplanned route getting there

And by the way, things didn't 'get better'.  I didn't 'find' myself until ten years after I entered the Divinity School, 1986 to be exact, when I became a high school English teacher in Vermont at the age of 42, a career I have enjoyed now for 25 years.  (I am today  STILL probably a failure in the eyes of materialists.)

So I say, thirty-two years after graduating from Yale Divinity School,  the minister was right to say to the survivors, "Embrace your anger until you have exhausted it.".

But for those who might be contemplating  ending time with their own hand. I say: 

Go easy on yourself. 

Accept the fact that your self is in medias res (in the middle of things). 

Gradually, it will get there.

Embrace your self, however incomplete or fractured it may seem. 

Seek help. Seek therapy. Seek prescribed and supervised medication.

Above all else, live one day at a time: Anything can be endured for just 24 hours.

And give Time time.  Even 42-years can only occur one day at a time (365 x 42).

Where there's life there's hope.

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