Tuesday 12 August 2014

Thought Picnic: When suicide was guest at mine

All space gone
I woke in the witching hour and suddenly felt my room was too small for me, so I moved into my living room which leads into my kitchen, a total of over 50 square metres and the walls appeared to close in on me.
As I began to lose my options and my choices, the thought crossed my mind that I should leave my home, but another voice cautioned that if I did step out of my apartment, I would never return, I was being overwhelmed by a sense of claustrophobia that it was stifling.
At that point, I did the only thing I knew to do, to call on my faith to rescue me from this situation as I had called on my faith a few months before, when my doctor gave me the choice of 5 weeks to live or recovery, depending on how I tolerated the treatment.
Alone in my home, I began to say, “Jesus you’re my space, in you I am free.” I did not believe it at first, but I kept at it until I calmed down and with exhaustion I collapsed and rested sleeping on the carpet in my living room that night. My home was my sanctuary, it was my stronghold, I had lived in it for just over 8 years and it was where I yearned to return to when I left hospital after being suddenly hospitalised for 18 days.
Stripped of all
Yet, my home presented other dangers, some that crossed my mind not as suicidal thoughts but as possibilities I could explore to a conclusion and to an end.
Yes, cancer stripped me of everything, from my health to my wealth, from my status to my standing, from my home and my security, it played with my sanity and my confidence, I could not pretend something about life was not happening to me.
To my consultant, I appeared a lucid, eloquent and well-adjusted man, seemingly taking the knocks without appearing knocked about, but I had mastered the stiff upper lip that the quavering lower lip was literally invisible.
The therapy of talking
People who had come through catastrophic loss due to ill-health were usually referred for psychiatric support, counselling and therapy to deal with what I eventually termed the long tail of cancer. I did not appear a typical candidate because I did not present the symptoms of depression, discouragement, despair, despondency or looming death, I had come to acceptance of the fact that life after cancer was going to be difficult and I had to live through it.
Eventually, I had to speak up, in fact, I was close to breaking down when I told my consultant, I needed therapy. The psychologist did an assessment and thought I was fine, but I wasn’t, I needed to talk, talk to someone who could help me unravel the turmoil, the conflicts, the self-doubts and other things I did not understand.
We adopted a freeform discussion format as the risk of losing my home came closer by the month.
I had used the crude catharsis of writing to vent my spleen, speak my thoughts, expiate the hurt and much else, but it was not enough.
Windows to flight
My living room and kitchen had much light, the windows were big and went from one side to the other with very little walls between the panes.
I could open the windows of my 7th floor apartment and breathe in the air that came from the harbours of IJHaven and ErstHaven in Amsterdam East, sometimes I entertained a thought, a crazy thought, one of possibility in the impossibilities that define us as men. I began to believe I could fly, yet another voice would tell me, it would be my last flight and the end of it would be unsightly.
Yet, I had many reasons to think this way if I dwelt on where I have been, what I have done and things I have experienced. I was saved from the crushing blow of “Why me?” more times than I could care to mention.
Looking for a better story
Deep within me was a story I wanted to tell and each time I wrote a story, many of which make up my blog of over 10 and half years I have desired so earnestly that wherever my story ends, I hope it ends well.
I have never understood suicide, but it crossed my mind as a means to an end, much as I never understood pain until I felt the pain of cancer through 4 strong painkilling drugs that all I could do was laugh myself into delirium to ease the pain.
What it taught me was there is pain there no one can understand, that can never be described, but it is real to the individual and it can drive that person so compellingly that nothing else matters but that moment.
That becomes my daily prayer, never to ever get to a point where I have no other choice but the one to end it all. That is the reality of mental illness and God help us find the help to see beyond the now to a brighter day.

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