I read or heard that suicide peaks in the spring and summer.
The theory was that people hold on and keep their depression under wraps in the winter, because there is a hope and belief that things will get so much better come the kinder climes of spring and summer.
And then when it doesn’t, they attempt.
Since I’m in the field, I get a ton of facts and stats fired at me on the reg, so I can not for the life of me remember where I saw or heard this nugget of info. It might not even be true. It is possible I heard it on NPR, but it is also possible I totally made it up or saw it on an episode of South Park.
I’m pondering it, regardless of its source or verity.
Not because I’m suicidal, but because I kind of understand it.
So far this summer has sucked.
My children are out of sorts and no matter what kind of fun and enriching things I present to them, they fight with each other to the point of tears and tantrums.
My highly sensitive son had to transition to a summer camp about which he is not particularly pleased, and for which we are paying a shit ton of money we do not have.
My Spousal unit and I have been at odds with one another. The weather hasn’t been great. My knee hurts. The list goes on.
I’m not into astrology, but everything just feels so out of sync, rocky, sea-sickening, that it seems there must be some greater universal force at play. Something in retrograde or something.
My moods tanked, but I managed to keep my shit together because I was so looking forward to flowers, the beach, relaxing with my family, maybe taking up kayaking. And none of that happy crap has come to pass, and my mood is still pretty rough.
The fact that shit hasn’t magically improved with the weather makes it feel like an extra wave of desolation is crashing down on me, plunging me underwater where my limbs flail helplessly and I my skin is burned by the sand and rocks.
It’s a disappointing blend of emotions I can’t quite name with enough accuracy.
It also makes me feel guilty I am not taking more pleasure in the gardens and butterflies, birds and bunnies.
I’m also pondering suicide because we recently had another child complete the act of killing themselves in the community where I work.
It is the second child to die from suicide that I know since January, and while I was not close to or the primary clinician for either kid, it leaves a lingering stain on the psyche, and creates a hyper-vigalence about the day-to-day of our already emotionally taxing profession.
Surgeons get used to losing patients on the table, or so I am led to believe from Grey’s Anatomy. But I’m not sure if suicide is something that anyone in any walk of life anywhere really comes to grip with, especially when it is someone so young with their whole life ahead of them.
When I was in high school, I was a distracted and mediocre student at best. I vividly remember feeling like the entire world was coming to a crashing halt because I was failing math. Depression lapped at my toes, caught my ankles in her icy grip, and tried her best to drag me under.
But I never could have taken such a drastic step.
I do not mean that in a judgmental way. I also am not attempting to compare my foolish first-world issues with another person’s true tragedy. It’s just all swirling around up there in the wavy whorls of my grey stuff. My brain simply has no understanding of the depths of despair a person must feel to end it all. It doesn’t compute. But it also isn’t my story. . . It is their’s.
I took the first child’s suicide much more personally, for a messy combination of reasons which I’m not at liberty to get into. I am kind of just sitting with this most recent one, trying to decide how it will affect me, my life, my practice.
I say I’m just sitting with it, not really reacting to it or feeling that same level of grief, shock, and horror, but am I? I had an awful week. I’ve lost my temper at home about 20 times. I’ve been sullen, sulky, withdrawn, and argumentative. I’ve overreacted to mundane events.
Is it coincidental my emotions are peaking? Is there a subconscious trauma drifting up and being displaced onto my family like a rogue wave?
Either way, I guess being aware is important because through awareness I can come to a deeper understanding about stuff. . . or so it is said.
Elephant Journal published a piece about a guy who had learned to transform difficult emotions using a mindfulness technique developed by Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh.
The paraphrased gist of it is to become super present with whatever emotion you are experiencing, breathe with it, and visualize the actual emotions. Then, whatever you visualize (for example earlier this week when I was fighting with my husband and did this technique, it was a pile of broken glass…), you imagine wrapping up in a blanket and holding it to your chest, as you would a baby.
With all the tenderness you would give a tiny baby, you tell the emotion that you recognize it is with you, and you will hold it safely with compassion until it is ready to go.
By practicing this, I’ve found myself softening to the difficult crap I’ve been feeling. The trick is remembering to do it.
So, to all my crappy feelings about this summer, my sense of inadequacy as a mom because of my children’s behavior, my irritation with my husband, my compassion fatigue at work, my disappointment, and my sadness–
I know you are here.
You are like a soggy towel,
left in the bottom of a bag after an exhausting day at the beach.
You are prickly with sand, and you stink a little bit.
But I know you are here, and I will wrap you up and hold you,
and rock with you against my chest. . .
. . . until we are ready to let go of one another.