I am a total nightmare. Every time I'm doing okay, I think that's how it's always going to be , and then, woops! Guess what? I think, Hmm, I have about ten Xanax left, and a whole untouched bottle of Paxil; if I chased them with a bottle of Maker's Mark, I bet that would be pretty nice.
Pretty nice?! I was just having a day, you know, driving the kids and the dog to Magnussen Park. Then along comes this Okkervil River song on KEXP. Talking about how some nights he has the thirst for real blood. Talking about how he's obsessed with all this edge-of-suicide stuff. And I'm driving over the grating of the Montlake Bridge, and the sun is glinting in through the sunroof of my station wagon, and I'm thinking, "Mmmm, yeah, that does sound good."
That's what a good song does, though. You can feel all this crazy stuff in the space of two and half minutes and you can just let it wash through you and go on with your day.
Unless you are a depressive. Then the feeling stays with you. Then the feeling gathers strength, beomes distorted, scrambles your perpective, and sometimes, completely fucks you up. You're predisposed.
So what did I do? I didn't drive into the Montlake Cut. I drove to the park. I threw the tennis ball to the dog. I took the kids to the playground. I slid down the tandem slides with Miss A. And then, as the kids diddled around in the sandbox, I wrote in my notebook about how I'd do it. And then the next day I told my shrink.
Truth be told, I was already thinking about it the day before. Considering if I really wanted to die, or if I just wanted to make everyone think I wanted to die, so I could get lots of attention and care. How could I have these fucked up compulsions and just keep living daily life? Is this my illness or is this just bratty existential ennui?
Either way, the only thing for me is to keep on keepin’ on. In AA parlance, I say to myself that just for today I won’t kill myself. Or, as I read in last week’s New York Times Magazine back page story, “Oh, what the hell. I could always kill myself tomorrow.”
But I won't, of course, because I have children. In a terrible movie called “The Anniversary Party,” a high-on-X mother played by Phoebe Cates says to Jennifer Jason Leigh (with some consternation), “Once you have children, you can’t commit suicide. They completely rob you of that option.” I think about that, think about J and A at six, ten, fourteen, with no mother, knowing at some point that their mom offed herself. Of course they would blame themselves, that’s what children do. And kids don’t get over that kind of thing. I mean, how could they not go through their adult lives waiting for the other shoe to drop? Terrible. I won’t do that to them.
So I have to stay alive for them. Can I be more than a ghost? I don’t want to be a ghost. I don’t want to be a checked out parent. But I think of the long life ahead of us, the years and years of having to be there, giving them my love and attention. Protecting them. Going to bat for them. Making sure they are getting their needs met at school, in their social lives. Gotta be there for that. Gotta do that for them. Why have kids at all if you’re not going to do all of that?
There’s no escape hatch. That’s the tiring part. Maybe it wouldn't feel so tiring if I wasn't dealing with depression. Or maybe it wouldn't feel so tiring if my ultimate goal in life was something other than reading and being left alone as much as possible. So here we are.
When I'm quiet, my benevolent witness arises. Today s/he's in the form of a jovial Buddhist monk. Oh, yes, suicidal thoughts again, he says, smiling. Breathe in, breathe out.
p.s. My shrink was unconcerned. "We all fantasize about suicide at some point," she said. I must not seem like a high risk.