Monday, November 12, 2007

today : some more on how it is

The thing about writing about depression is that it isn't a pleasant read. I looked at my last entry, which was an honest attempt to portray my feelings on the subject, and felt a shudder of revulsion. This was because my words look like pathetic self-pitying whingeing. Which, of course, is exactly what they are. That's what it's about.

And to admit the utter meaningless of life - or even get close to it, is taboo. It's the dilemma faced in discussion of any taboo. How can you discuss the power of using the 'n' word when use of the 'n' word is taboo? You can't, without facing sounding racist or ridiculous. Cultural rules don't allow us to be comfortable with such topics.

The thing is, you're supposed to have perspective on these things. Descriptions of despair can only be in two categories: the reassuring scientific diagnosis or the equally reassuring haven of poetry and art. Simply talking about it outside the boundaries of psychology or art is not allowed. Normalising total negativity isn't something we do, despite it being many peoples' normal experience.

Even to use the word nihilism to describe my feelings about myself and the world gives them a theoretical, political aspect that isn't really there. Depression is nihilistic but you don't come to a considered conclusion to reject belief. It's just how it is, how it feels. It even happens against your better judgement, so to speak. But that's because you don't have functioning better judgement.

Writing about suicide is even more taboo. There is nothing more ridiculous and ironic than suicide being a crime. Because by definition a crime is something not only transgresses society's agreed norms, but can be punished. If you're at the point where you will take your own life, then I doubt anything can act as a deterrent.

I used to, like pretty much everyone, see suicides in two categories: cowards and attention seekers. There may be some truth in those stereotypes. But I can also see that there is a point at which giving up is so much easier than 'soldiering' on (even the phrase carries some stern moralistic overtones that define those that don't as the opposite of soldiers i.e. cowards). Cowardice (whatever that actually is - it's one of the most relative concepts) has nothing to do with it. Only last week Britain was kind of shocked and disbelieving about Jehovah's Witness - a young mother - whom, having given birth refused a blood transfusion and promptly died. Who, amongst the population wouldn't take the blood transfusion to make them better? Who wouldn't give up an arm or a leg if it was gangrenous? Who would face an operation without morphine? So if the world is totally unbearable and the absolute perception is that there is no way to make that feeling better, then who would refuse the pain relief? It's just logical. At least suicides have some control and some esteem in their actions. If a light is giving you a blinding headache who wouldn't get up and switch it off?

Yet the immorality of self elimination is so deeply dyed into our cultural genes that we just don't want to talk about it (also, it's a type of death, and we avoid discussion of death entirely). Again it is simplified for consumption. The coward or the attention seeker. Reducing people to these simple and easily rejectable categories is almost as if we are saying these people deserved to die. They don't fit in with the rest of us. They were worthless.

What's difficult to grasp is that self-eliminators are on the most part not the Jehovah's Witnesses who make a choice and take their chances with God's will. Suicides are people who either have, or conclude they have, no choices. When the pain is this total in nature, then the painkiller has to match it.

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