A serious post today, but one of importance. I'd like to recommend Jessie's post on Suicide and the follow-up Choosing Life as well.
Suicidal ideation is a common occurrence amongst ACoNs. And one could assume that the motivations behind self-harm would be similar among us. But after reading Jessie's post, I realise that there are important differences. (It also makes me think twice about trying to describe the 'path' that ACoNs follow - outlining a general path for all might prove to be impractical).
First things first, suicide is almost never about dying - it's about ending the pain. Not seeing any other way out, the normally frightening prospect of terminating one's own existence suddenly seems a viable (and lone) option.
Suicidal ideation typically accompanies feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, and haplessness (citation). And so it's no surprise that many times, "pre-red pill*" ACoNs who haven't realised the narcissistic truth of their parents and families, are suicidal. They're trapped, they're helpless, they're miserable, and very often hopeless after a lifetime of abuse they feel obligated to endure.
*(Confused about the "red pill" references? It's from the movie The Matrix. The 'red pill' undoes the current illusion of life and shows what the reality is. The 'blue pill', in contrast, allows one to reinstate the delusion, returning one to the fantasy world from whence they came. Mulderfan's and Ruth's blogs have both made reference to 'the red pill' in the ACoN context - the links go to the relevant posts).
But this wasn't my experience. I was horribly depressed all through my teenage years, and yes, I did occasionally think of suicide in the "pre-red pill" days. Life was hard, it was confusing, and it was abjectly lonely despite constant companionship. I never truly understood why I wasn't happy, but I was keenly aware of my misery. Fleeting thoughts of suicide occurred, but in retrospect I could hardly describe them as serious.
Is Reality Unbearable? Or is Psychological Transformation Life-Threatening?
For me, the suicidal tendencies developed "post-red pill". Like Jessie, the discovery that my NM was an "N" was a huge turning point in my life. It happened after I had sought therapy; a huge fight with my FOO finally drove me to seek professional help (I blamed myself for that fight, and in many ways rightly so. But I knew my mother had somehow instigated it, though my DH couldn't see how, and I couldn't explain it. I can now, of course (and DH can, too). And this document articulates the methods my NM employs better than I could ever hope to!).
I shopped around for therapists (a highly recommended activity, and a rather interesting one, too), found the one I felt would be most capable of helping me, and started sessions. It must have been very early on into therapy, maybe just a month, when I was searching online for answers in my free time. One of the therapists I had interviewed, but not teamed up with, previously mentioned that my mother's behaviour was likely 'diagnosable'. "Diagnosable? Diagnosable of what, exactly?" I thought. So I went looking and found out all about NPD.
I found the red pill and I swallowed it. I went running to my therapist, excited to tell him my discovery. Not surprisingly, he was way ahead of me on the "NPD" suspicions. I read blogs, books, websites, scientific publications, everything I could, and I continued on with therapy. I was happy with my new-found knowledge. It all made sense! I found other people who not only understood what I was going through and who were also making progress and discoveries, but people who had survived the journey and had happily moved on with their lives! Taking the red pill sucked because I had to accept that my mother never loved me and never would, but it was also a huge relief. The validation of hearing that it wasn't me who was the cause of all this misery but them, the FOO who has never once made an ounce of sense to me emotionally, was so sweet and something that I, like Jessie, saw as Divine Intervention (thank you, Lord!).
About six months or so into therapy is when my periodic moments of despair, which had been happening since my teenage years, ramped up into full-blown, suicidal ideation. I am currently over one year into therapy (weekly visits), and I'd say for the past six months I've been dealing with serious thoughts of suicide and some weak self-harming behaviour (turns out I'm not big on physical pain no matter how upset I am). At nine months into therapy, about 3 months ago, the real risk of suicide became tangible. I very nearly had to admit myself into the hospital on two occasions as a preventative measure. The most recent breakdown was last week.
My Subconscious Seismic Upheavals are Drowning Me
I've read that in Jungian psychology, the 'conscious' part of the mind is best represented by a small island in the middle of a large ocean. The ocean signifies the portion of the mind that is subconscious. In actuality, the conscious mind that we typically operate in is but a tiny part of what's really going on in all that grey matter.
This analogy works very well for my understanding of where my suicidal thoughts come from (and interestingly, I heard another ACoN blogger use a similar turn of phrase, only they likened it to waves of human excrement repeatedly crashing down on them and preventing them from catching a breath).
Enormous seismic upheavals and landslides are going on in my subconscious mind during the course of my therapy. The entire landscape, hidden to me, is reforming in violent undersea eruptions and generating, as would happen in a real ocean, tsunamis. My poor little island nation called "Consciousness" is getting swamped and drowned over and over and over again by tsunamis triggered by subconscious terraforming, and I have no way to predict their arrival.
I take the analogy one step further and add 'storms' into the picture as well. Storms are crises I can see brewing on the horizon, and typically they come in the form of emails from the FOO in my inbox (or text messages, which bother me the most - so invasive!). I can board up the windows and batten down the hatches before the storm rolls over. And I can usually get a little warning, even if it's just minutes. But the cataclysmic tsunamis I simply cannot predict (if only I could prosecute someone over that! Sorry, scientific-community sarcasm - what a crock of bull!)
Subconscious 'tsunamis' flood me and very nearly drown me with guilt, remorse, self-loathing and hopelessness. I literally struggle to breathe, and I generally cry so hard I spend hours choking on my own tears. My eyes swell half shut. It's ugly. And it's unavoidable. Thankfully it only rarely starts in public (it's all I can do to get home as fast as possible!).
This is the despair that drives me to desperation. It lasts for hours, only abating when I've wailed myself to a pitiful exhaustion (and it really only stops because I've run out of the energy to fuel it). If it happens at night and I can sleep it off, I don't wake up feeling better at all. I usually have a terrible headache and body aches and fatigue for a day or two afterwards. It really feels as though I've just barely survived a natural disaster. I begin to fear the next one, because I don't feel as though I ever fully recover. Each time this happens, I genuinely believe I won't survive this 'attack', and that my heart arrhythmia is going to land me in cardiac arrest from sustained tachycardia. Sometimes I just hope my heart's going to give out. I'm sure I'd instantly regret that wish if it did, but that's the pathetic truth. It's just that overwhelming.
I read about some sensationalized, sentimental news item about how one really can 'die from a broken heart' (which is Takosubo cardiomyopathy, seen in The Guardian, which was less annoying than the first article I had read on it), and I start to wonder just what damage I'm doing to a ticker that's already got a couple of issues. And then I think about how I'm "breaking my mother's heart", a phrase my father used on a daily basis with me in all the years I lived under their roof, and which he still uses in every fricking email and text message he sends me.
Transference of Property to the 'Silent Partner'
For the first time in my memory, my mother actually used the all-too-familiar phrase herself - "You are breaking my heart." That was a couple of weeks ago now. I haven't wanted to discuss it 'til now.
Something must've changed for her to actually say that in the first person - traditionally, she's only ever sent her henchman (the EF) to psychologically abuse me with that specific accusation. Maybe he wasn't getting the results she wanted and she fired him. I don't know. What I do know is that this is a significant turn of events; I've always known my mother would have me know that I'm 'breaking her heart', but she's rarely, if ever, had to utter that sentiment herself. Her puppet, my gutless EF, did her dirty work in the 'heart-breaker' accusation department. Actually, he's always been the 'messenger' of most of her missile-like missives. I mentioned before that EF appears to bear the brunt of my NM's aggression when me, the-human-punching-bag, isn't there to take it. Maybe she's hurting him by finally pink-slipping the middle man. Who knows, and I'm trying not to care. Either way, the game has clearly changed.
I vowed I wouldn't respond to my parents until October 29th, which is today. Q was right - I don't really want to call off my recent foray into the "No Contact" zone now that the campaign is coming to a close. It's nice out here.
So that's my story on my own struggles with suicide. I've never come close enough to a serious attempt thankfully, but the despair really feels like it's going to kill me. I wish it would stop.
But if the 'suicidal tsunamis' are merely a symptom of an overall beneficial process, the changing terrain of my subconscious mind, I'll try to adopt the "whatever doesn't kill you will only make you stronger" view. It's just really hard to do it when you feel as though you won't survive another breakdown.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. (Matthew 5:4)
I think of people like Jessie, and Jessie's sister, and all the horrors they've been through. And how despite all of it, both of them are still here today. It's a triumph of the spirit - I now know what incredible strength they must have to continue on despite that degree of despair. It takes real resilience to carry on with that weight upon the shoulders. There's another Scripture verse that comes to mind for me, and it's from Psalm 56:8 - "Record my misery; list my tears on your scroll. Are they not in your record?".
The Bible has all sorts of verses that apply to my situation. Matthew 10:35 is a good one - "For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law...". Some people are on the side of truth, and some aren't, I suppose. It's nice to know that God gets that. We're not all "cut from the same cloth" as our parents where it matters (in our character!).
Let us glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. (Romans 5:3-4)
And let us pray for the strength to overcome! (An article on Resilience in Psychology Today - "Finding Strength: How to Overcome Anything"). The Scripture above (Romans 5:3-4) refers to the prosecution of the early Christians, but it can also apply to the struggles of the righteous on the side of truth (and I say this, because it is also written that "The Lord is righteous, He loves justice; the virtuous will see his face." - Psalm 11:7). It's also nice to know that "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; He rescues those whose spirits are crushed." - Psalm 34:18.
Hope can be a tall order for the ACoN to muster. Hope is not personally one of my strengths. I'm actually an optimist on most fronts, but in terms of my own life . . . well, it's hard to be optimistic when you struggle to think for yourself. I really mean that, too - so much of my thought processes seem to have been put there by my meddlesome, malevolent mother. They don't function in my favour but in hers. Thinking for myself, for my own purposes that is, is a real challenge.
It's hard to be hopeful on behalf of someone you barely know. My dreams are full of manifestations of "the real me", and it's always highly symbolic and surreal. Slowly, I'm starting to realise 'who I am'. I think when I've come into myself more, I'll have more character, and perhaps, more hope, too.
If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide, reach out to someone. You can do so confidentially and in private by calling 1 800 SUICIDE from your phone, or chat online here. These services will also be able to direct you to local help if desired.
The ACoN Society is inclusive and supportive of all faiths and beliefs. If you have a different spiritual or cultural perspective that would be helpful to others, please share it!