June 30, 2010

“People have to think seriously about what it means for them to be alive here and now because they know they’re going to die sometime. Right? Who would think about what it means to be alive if they were just going to go on living forever? Why would they have to bother? Or even if they should bother, they’d probably just figure, ‘Oh well, I’ve got plenty of time for that. I’ll think about it later’….”

“So we need death to make us evolve. That’s what I think. Death is this huge, bright thing, and the bigger and brighter it is, the more we have to drive ourselves crazy thinking about things.”

~ From The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, by Haruki Murakami


Well being that this is a blog about suicide mostly, I think it’s important that I explain my views on the matter. Ever since I was five years old, I have wondered about death, and have always lived my life with an awareness of death juxtaposed to life. When I was 7 and my younger sister was 5, she made a suicide attempt and no one in my family told me for several years. I could feel something dark and heavy was going on in our house, and I grew up in the shadow of the fear of impending death. Throughout my childhood I struggled with my own depression, feeling unseen, and not living up to an enormous potential I knew was inside me, but I couldn’t touch. Maybe this a neurotic New Yorker thing, but many people I knew growing up also suffered from depression. The woman who wrote Prozac Nation lived four blocks from me and went to my elementary school, if that’s any indication of the world in which I grew up.

I made my own suicide attempt when I was 25. And a year and a half ago, the love of my life John-  was struck by a train and died from suicide. I am no stranger to death. I have contemplated it, lived it, beckoned it, and survived it in so many different ways. I understand it intimately.

After John’s death, I could not deny the fact that working with suicide is my calling. Suicide prevention and transformation through grief is my life’s work.

So in a nutshell, here’s what I have come to understand:

I believe it is a choice to come here, to incarnate into this time and space reality on this planet, to choose our parents, and choose the life experiences and obstacles we need in order to expand and grow and learn lessons that are uniquely particular to us. But once we are born, we forget all of those reasons and intentions, and it’s like starting from scratch, and it’s a lot of trial and error figuring things out and finding our callings in life.

If we have the choice to be here, we have the choice to leave. We come from some original source, a place we feel and recognize, a place we know inside our being as home. This is where we return when we die. Some may call it heaven, some may believe it’s another planetary intergalactic dimension, some may see it as soul-clusters, some may see it as returning to a nondual unified consciousness. What most people know is that this existence is infinitely easier than human- Earth-life experience. It is sweeter, loving, blissful, infinitely creative, and spiritually connected. A way of being we sometimes remember and sometimes catch glimpses of; an existence truly worthy of our longing.

As part of this blog, I will continue expanding on my  lived experience of longing to return home. Yet, you must know that checking out early and dying before my time is not something I could ever do and is not something I support. Surviving John’s suicide was the most painful, devastating, and excruciating thing I have ever known. Even more painful than the numbness and despair that brought me to the brink of my own suicide, enduring the death of a loved one’s suicide is like dying a thousand times over, like being burned alive with no end to the sizzling flesh. I could NEVER and would NEVER knowingly inflict this kind of pain on anyone, not even my worst enemy (if  I had a worst enemy). It is the most brutal pain you couldn’t possibly even imagine. And it is that reason alone, that has kept me from following John and killing myself to be with him once he had passed.

But beyond that knowing, I belive we all have a purpose for coming here and for being here. I also believe that we die perfectly on time, once we have completed and fulfilled our purpose here. Not a moment too soon and not a moment too late. And since obviously my heart is still beating and I haven’t dropped dead, I know my purpose has not been completed. Until it is and I’ve done whatever it is that I am supposed to do here, I will not get the privilege to die and to see John again. Morbid as it is, I am driven to live my life as fully and as deeply and as ambitiously as possible– to not waste time so I fulfil my destiny as quickly, as efficiently, and as joyfully as possible– so that I can be with John again, and soon! I know this may sound scary and strange to some of you, but it’s the truth. I can’t help it. (But that doesn’t mean I will never love again….)

So on a professional level, I am aware that we all have the choice and the right to take our own lives. Yet if people are depressed and longing for death, home, heaven, or the afterlife- and haven’t been able to get out of their depression or find joy in their human experience, and are still alive and here– that tells me they have not found their purpose in life, their calling. If they had, they would be on their path and not looking for an early way out. And if they had completed your purpose, they wouldn’t be here. So I see it as my job as a clinical and transpersonal psychologist to help others find ways of discovering who they are, what their purpose in life is, and find their will to live so that they don’t take their lives too soon, shortchange their life experience, miss out on the lessons they need to learn, have to start all over again from scratch in some different incarnation, and inflict immeasurable and unimaginable pain on the people who love them. We are all in this thing together.

I think I’ve said a lot for now….I’ll save some more for another time.

Sending Strength …..