Monday I wrote a blog post with the intention of putting it up yesterday. That didn’t happen. It was finished, and I thought it was good-to-go. I figured it was personal, but it wasn’t like a piece I would send out for publication. It lacked scenes, present tense and anything that would give it urgency. I figured it was fine and no-big-deal.
I know that when it comes to writing about my life, thoughts, feelings and past experiences I am often like a satellite. I’m not just removed, but I am so removed it’s like I’m in a faraway orbit.
I get it. I’m aware of it. I have no intentions of changing it, but I do hope to be a little less obtuse in my insensitivity towards friends and people who care about me and read my work thinking, “WTF?”
The offending blog post in question was actually about another piece I wrote, an essay. The essay was not something planned but I rode a down wave while getting frustrated by repeated remarks about how people who commit suicide don’t realize the finality of it. Now I am not suicidal. I have never attempted suicide, but I have PTSD and depression goes along with that gig. I understand when things feel overwhelming and you would look for any kind of escape. I get being so low you’re not functional. It doesn’t mean I am now, and writing this piece doesn’t mean I’m close to being there again. It means that in my life, I have been there. So I have that perspective.
When I wrote my post I didn’t go into detail, I just talked about my essay in general terms, but the takeaway was, “What do I do with this?”
Because honestly I’m worried that the essay is one mine full of triggers. I’m worried that people who understand will be off-rooted by it and seriously shaken. I’m worried that the people who cannot possibly understand as they have not struggled with depression, will see it as a cry for help or fear for my safety.
When my husband read it, I didn’t warn him. I didn’t see the need. I miscalculated (as humans often do with other people’s feelings). He worried that the blog post would elicit the same reactions I was worried the essay would. He said, “If I didn’t know you; if I couldn’t have a conversation with you about it, I’d be scared for you. You’re going to get a lot of sympathy.” And that is the last thing I want. I don’t want people to be worried about me, and I certainly don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me. Pity looks good on no one. But I was taken aback. How can I ask my original question about a piece if the question itself was too dark to ask?
The essay I wrote doesn’t romanticize depression, but it does humanize it and it shares my story and how I can understand why a person commits it. This isn’t a “right to suicide” piece, but a compassionate and confessional look at the dark-bellied beast that depression is and how all-consuming it can be.
I feel like the essay is artful. I feel like it is beautiful, and I am often overly critical about my own work. I feel like it is honest and raw and could do some real good. But unlike anything I have ever written it scares the hell out of me. While I was writing it there wasn’t any distance and reading over it brought me crashing back to earth. Nothing I have ever written scares me like this does. And it scares me, not because I’m embarrassed or ashamed, and not because I’m at risk or in a dark place, but because I feel like people who read it will pick and choose my words and which ones have more significance. They’ll think I am at risk.
I wrote this essay, not on the edge, but the essay is all about being on the edge. My voice, the scenes and thoughts and feelings are not those of the writer writing this essay, but the character of the writer, which is still the writer but the writer at a different time and place. I channeled how I felt when on the edge because it’s not something you forget and as a writer I do that a lot. I channel my childhood, I channel my deepest pains and shames and moments of pride and love and victory. But this piece emphasizes pain and hopelessness and torment so intense one considers ending it. How will that make people who have lost loved ones to suicide, feel? How will it make someone who is considering suicide feel? For as much good as I think this essay could do, I also am aware it could do some real damage.
I don’t want to do nothing with the essay, but at the same time I’m scared to let anyone who knows me read it because of how it will hurt them. I may be a satellite, and I may miscalculate, but I can still catch a sure thing. This work is the only essay I have that I would, without a doubt, publish under a pseudonym. Not because of how I feel, because I’m numb to it. I’ve battled depression for more than half of my life, and whenever I have been in a state of actual crisis I’ve sought help. I haven’t been in such a place in nearly a decade. But these facts only matter to rational thought processes, and I can be hyper-rational about my own stuff, but if I read this and a friend wrote it, if my husband confessed some of the things I do, I’d hover and watch and probably crush them with misguided support, even if they carried around the same facts. I can’t feel it, but I can still understand it.
Suicide is tricky. It is a violent act, but it stands apart from all others. In any other violent act there is an assailant and a victim. But with suicide the perpetrator is also the victim, the victim – the villain.
So the question still stands – what do I do with this essay? And as much as I want to do something, is it responsible to do anything with it?