11 June 2018
It’s been a while since I’ve been able to find the emotional and mental bandwidth to blog. Whether about the pigs or otherwise. The biggest problem is of course my therapy, and how lost I am without a proper approach and anchor.
I’ve met my new therapist. She’s another gentle and kind person, and I want to see what she can do with my condition. A few things characterised our first meeting.
My new therapist – let’s call her H – was very sensitive to the fact that I’ve been doing intensive Emotionally Focused Therapy with my old therapist C. From the get go, she highlighted that she didn’t want to get in the way of that. She did raise the possibility that I might go back to seeing C when she returns from maternity leave. I’ve not thought of that, and I told H that I don’t really care what therapy approach we use, as long as work is done. I can’t imagine not pushing ahead just because C is not around. It’d be too painful for me.
Another interesting bit of our interaction happened when I needed to get tissue for my tears. I still apologise when I cry. I still ask for permission to get the tissues. It’s just part of who I am, and I don’t think it’s about how small I view myself. I’m still not sure why she asked me to set a ground rule where I won’t apologise or ask when I need to do things like getting the tissues or crying. I let her know that I find that part of my courtesy towards others, and it’s just something I like to do. I promised C I’d live more to my own values, which would mean that I would continue to do so because I feel it’s the more courteous thing to do. We compromised by agreeing that if I *forgot* to ask or apologise, I won’t feel bad about it.
And the last thing that probably is the most frustrating so far… is that my next appointment is two weeks away from now. Which means it’s three weeks in between seeing her. I’m frustrated because obviously for a first session, nothing much could be done. And that means another three weeks of not knowing what I should do in between. The IC (inner critic) is occasionally louder than usual, and I’m struggling hard not to succumb to overly negative views of myself.
Which is why the consecutive news of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain’s deaths took a huge toll on me.
Over the weekend, as I sat on a bench watching my boys climb on a playground installation, as my wife held my hand next to me under the warm sun, I finally admitted to her that the suicidal thoughts have been getting stronger. It’s still under control. I don’t dwell on the hows and whens. They’re just stronger. More present. My inner critic is harsher than ever.
A couple of questions keep burrowing into my head:
1. They managed to do it. Why can’t you? Why can’t you even complete your own act? Or are you just all talk, and seeking for attention?
2. Even people as successful as them (especially Chef Bourdain) succumbed. What hope do you have?
I struggle to answer these questions. I know the answers but I struggle to believe them. My illness is real, and my desire is real, but my responsibility and love for my wife and kids and those who love me, is also real. And stronger than my desire to end things. Depression doesn’t choose its victims. Success in the eyes of the world isn’t a predictor as to whether someone will end up in the darkness one time too many, or for just one day too long. I know. But it’s hard to put it into my head and more so, my heart.
Over the days, I’ve also struggled with the magnitude of how much people don’t understand. Some have questioned why the media only chooses to magnify and celebrate the goodness of Chef Bourdain’s life, instead of seeking to ask why he did what he did. That’s a good thing for once. Chef Bourdain was on the staff of CNN, and CNN was one of the first groups to release the news of his death. If not, indeed, there’d be various speculations on cause of death etc. But I suppose the media is holding back in respect for one of their own, for once.
We don’t need to know how and specifically why these famous people chose to take their own lives. The fact that they had darkness of their own to face, and the fact that they couldn’t cope, is reason enough. Someone talked about how we should approach increasingly high suicide rates. The fact of the matter is that suicide has always been an issue. People like Chef Bourdain are famous enough to warrant more eyes on the matter.
Suicide always matters. And it matters even more to those left behind, shattered by a violent and usually sudden death. No one is equipped to cope with such a loss. That’s why I refrain now, from harming myself. For those that I love, not for myself. A friend of mine had to remind me of that, recently.
“It’s those you leave behind who will have to suffer.”
Depression is different in its darkness and what forms that darkness for different people. But the symptoms are all similar. I do fear that one day I will be overcome by the darkness, but for now, that’s why I make it a point to try to live day by day. Just to live, just to breathe, just to enjoy the time in front of me. To enjoy hearing my boys at play, to enjoy my wife’s love. What will come, will come, God willing. I don’t know what I’ll do with my life. That scares me at times, but when I remember to, I just live in this moment for now. Trying to recuperate.
It’s not easy. It’s not even possible when the inner criticisms grow so loud that tears spill from my eyes in the middle of the night. And wracks my shoulders with helpless sobs. But trying to live in the moment through mindfulness helps. To focus on what God has given in His kindness, so that I don’t lose hope.
How can we give hope then, to those who need it? Remind them that they’re loved by you. That you care. That you’re there, even if you’re not near physically. Technology removes so many barriers.
And if you’re feeling suicidal and reading this, help is available. Email me. If you’re in Singapore, check out these resources. Talk to a loved one whom you know won’t judge you. And if no one seems to care, call SOS or IMH’s mental health helpline. They’ll guide you along. Someone cares. You’re never alone, and while your pain is unique to you – others have been in that kind of pain before. There’re those like me who know how it’s like to walk alone even when surrounded by people.
But yeah. Sometimes the darkness just seems too dark. I would like to say that it’s an illusion. But I know how real it can seem, how invasive and pervasive it can be.
In those times, I wish you have someone like God to hold on to.
If not… just talk to me. I’m not God, not even close, but I’ll want to hear of your darkness. Just to read your words.
Because I’ve been there too.