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JAGGED #7 – Bang goes the suicide gun.

Follows on from JAGGED #6 – Mental Illness and the Law.

A decent person, and I thank him for it, recently wrote in to AIMN re JAGGED and said …

“You are exposing us to the experiences and development of a person completely outside the parameters of the lives which most of us have encountered.”

I didn’t want my voice to come from that different place. My rough voice is the only authentic voice I have. Yes, it speaks of confronting things in a raw manner at times – it speaks of the damaging legacies of childhood sexual abuse. I am glad that most people do not have a need to speak with a voice such as mine.

Chapter 22: Bang bang goes the suicide gun.

For any of the following to make sense it might pay you to re-read Chapter 4, I don’t need to read it again because I see that movie on the inside of my forehead every day – and warning warning warning – this Chapter is about suicide.

Talking about suicide does not bother me at all. Talking about suicide is just words. The ‘feeling’ behind the words though bothers me greatly.

Flicker.

Flicker.

There is just a sliver of happenstance between the thought of suicide, the ideation of it, and the act itself. I’m still here so far because I seem to have an in-built dampener on my trigger finger. I don’t want to be here locked into this harmed mind – it saps my energy to still be here in this harmed mind – I want release from it. Yet, when my darkness flies me over the edge the undamaged part of me finds voice and says … just for a second stop … just stop for a second.

You might think that I’m some sort of navel-gazing idiot for saying the following, but it is true enough. The voice that pops up to try and stop me belongs to a four year old child. The voice comes from who I was before I was damaged. When the psychiatrist told me that my psyche/personality escaped fracturing, even though alas etc my mind didn’t, his words resonated and rang true. Not all of me, not everything about me, was swamped away and dessicated by the abuse.

Apparently there is an infamous suicide spot in the south of the UK, some very high chalk cliffs with the ocean swirling way below, and the police report that when the bodies are recovered quite a few of them have chalk under their fingernails – in other words – they jumped off into the abyss, slid down the slope, and then – too late – wanted to change their minds. My four year old voice simply stresses the fact that once you leap there is no coming back.

But the gap between the ideation and the act is thinner than a hairline. I am well aware that in what I am about to relate any of the circumstances could have proved terminal – a reflexive jerk on the trigger could just as easily have beaten the arising of my inner voice as not.

Flicker.

Flicker.

The only reason that my suicide ideation has not turned me into a raging daily alcoholic or drug addict is because I know that trying to totally blank out my mind simply doesn’t work. What is there is there before the drugs, it is there during the drugs, it is there after the drugs – it cannot be blotted out.

Flicker.

In the early 70s I worked at Lavarack Barracks in Townsville (as the Vietnam War was slowly grinding down). American servicemen threw on a BBQ for all the local staff and they took great delight in encouraging me to drink a skin-full to the point where I threw up and passed out. I ended up in Townsville hospital with alcohol poisoning. Those servicemen thought that sort of thing was a lot of fun, they couldn’t have known how much back then I welcomed the shutting down of my mind – it was only later that I learnt that it could not be shut down.

In Townsville in those days you got your driver’s license by driving around the block with a cop in your car – if you didn’t hit anything you got your license. A couple of weeks after getting that license I left Townsville to return to Brisbane. I learnt to drive on that trip. Somewhere just before Rockhampton a stretch of the highway was bordered on both sides by a long run of gum trees. Without thinking about things I found myself aiming my car at the trunk of a solid tree. Smack-city didn’t happen. My Hillman Imp was such a light little wonderful shit of a car it spun out on the gravel verge and slid without a scratch between two trees and plopped to a stop in some long grass. I sat there thinking ‘what the fuck just happened?’

In 1985, just after my son was born, I pressed the barrel of a rifle against my forehead (I had an unused rifle back then simply because many people had unused rifles back then), but then I hesitated because I thought it would all be a bit too messy, so I switched the barrel from my forehead to my mouth. I put my finger on the trigger. The rifle was a semi-automatic .22 with a magazine and a light-pressure trigger and I figured it would just go bang bang bang lights out. Even though I’m a pacifist I know the power of guns – in the earlier let’s train up the cadet kids for Vietnam days I had learnt to field strip and fire .303s, Bren Guns, and the rather deadly SLR. But the lights stayed on. I phoned a friend, she came around, removed the rifle, and the thought of ever owning a rifle again, forever from my life.

In 2004, when the tsunami was roaring into Indonesia, I stuck my head inside a gas oven. I don’t know how often you have ever phoned Lifeline with your head stuck inside a gas oven – but I did that afternoon. They talked sense into me and I pulled my head and my phone back out.

(I will not talk too much about the death of my dog Zoe in these matters – it is still very raw – when she died in 2016 I noosed-up a verandah railing and just sat there staring at the rope. It was a bastard of a day).

In 2018, after experiencing the loss of a valued relationship I lay on my bed repeating and repeating the fuckful mantra of ‘I want to die. I want to die. I want to die. I want to die’. The request was not heard in higher realms. The lights stayed on.

Also in 2018, specifically on the 3rd September 2018 – when I totally lost Executive Function (a friend filled me in on EF yesterday – no wonder I say that Survivors need advocates during their legal journeys) and melted down on Settlement Day – I sat on the verandah of the old farmhouse where I was living in isolation and just stared at the sky thinking ‘just fucking end it, just fucking end it’.

In 2019 I embarked alone on a 7,000 kilometre road trip out into the Australian Deserts – it was my first strong attempt to tackle my agoraphobia. Went to Broken Hill, Lake Eyre, Uluru. On a desert side track the car over-heated. As I sat there out in the heat and the glare while I waited for things to cool down the thought came into my head ‘Just walk off into the sand dunes. Who’d know? Who’d care?’ – the thought was that enticing I took nothing and walked about half a kilometre in before my inner voice kicked in and said ‘not now, not now, not this way.’

Those are just a few instances of many …

You might think that jeez his is a classic case of someone calling for help just before the light gets snuffed out. Well no, it was, and is, not like that at all. My undamaged inner voice tells me that suicide is not a beneficial act, my damaged (and far larger) inner voice tells me that suicide would be a sweet release from it all. My undamaged inner voice has won the skirmishes so far – so that little voice must have some fucking power attached to it.

My suicide ideation is a direct legacy from my childhood abuse experiences. It is very different from other reasonably normal thoughts of death – were I physically riddled with cancer and enjoying no quality of life I’d opt for voluntary euthanasia as a normal matter of course. But suicide ideation arising out of traumatic abuse experiences is very different to that – it is an imposed gift that just keeps on giving.

Flicker.

Flicker.

Every day it is in my mind that surely not being here must be better than being here. Such thoughts nibble away at me every day. The other night I was simply cooking a spag bol when tears came to my eyes and I thought ‘I just don’t want to be here’ – nothing external to me triggered the thought, it was just ‘there’. That I haven’t topped myself is no particular saving grace – the continual inescapable thought of not being here is not a particularly nice ‘feeling’ to be saddled with.

When my stark voice speaks I say that ‘they’, being the abusers, killed me. From an observational point of view I see that they committed a series of crimes against me, with one of those crimes being a form of unfolding pre-meditated manslaughter stretched out over a lifetime – quite a life sentence in many ways. I think a part of me just does not want to give the bastards any form of final satisfaction – and that’s why I am still here.

Flicker …

My voice is my voice, it speaks of me. I don’t know if other Survivors of childhood trauma carry my level of suicide ideation – they might carry a lighter or a heavier load. You will only find out by asking them.

Chapter 23: Poems from ‘not there’.

I have always liked to write. I can say things when I write that I am incapable of expressing when I speak. And these early sort of poems, they are a fair measure of how divorced and separate from life I felt back then. I felt invisible, I felt disengaged, unacknowledged, unloved, I felt ‘not there’ – nothing in the external world made much sense to me. To be fair to the earlier me, nothing much in the external world of the present era makes much sense to me either.

(1969)
CUBICAL OCCUPATION

empty walls
echo rippled nothings
as a ceiling fixes a permanent gaze
on a disinterested floor
as the door yawns for a
final closing hand
to share with the windows

(1972)
THE CITY

Drifting down a pavement
Nothing on my mind
Observing passing people lazily
What are their thoughts?
Their constant daily grind?
Their eyes are dead fixed constantly three feet behind my head

Chapter 24: A mini-thought in passing.

Is a ‘needy’ need for love and nurturing one of the legacy consequences of childhood sexual abuse? I think it can be. Over the course of my life such a thing must have drained the patience of my female partners down to the marrow of their very bones.

To be continued …

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11 comments

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  1. Vikingduk

    In answer to your question, yes, lighter or heavier, does it matter, who can tell, yes and no. The help you are giving me in facing demons is immeasurable, thanks, Keith. Maybe, hopefully, we can both continue dealing with the fucking gift that keeps on giving. It’s the betrayal, that’s what gets me and the realisation of what has been stolen out of our lives. What could have been. If only. What if. Yet here we are now, in a time of great change. Karma? Circumstances? Whatever determines the overall path our lives take, our major difference from the other critters is that we have free will, the ability to choose, the ability to decide those key moments.

    Once upon a time, I overdosed on a heroin/cocaine cocktail, didn’t even get the needle out as I slid down the wall, came to much later, fuck me, what happened, that was close. In those days I was still in some sort of shock, all the shit locked away, wasn’t thinking suicide then. Certainly had an awareness I was slowly killing myself, much like COVID, an exponential rise in near misses and a couldn’t give a shit attitude. As I sat against that kitchen wall, amazed I was still breathing, a very stern inner voice pointed out I was at an endpoint or beginning and that I could stop fucking around and kill myself or stop, completely. I chose stop.

    Once again, Keith, a tremendous job you are doing, thank you.

  2. leefe

    “Is a ‘needy’ need for love and nurturing one of the legacy consequences of childhood sexual abuse? I think it can be.”

    Can be, yes. It depends. Some people dissociate to the point where they are unable to even acknowledge that need to themselves, much less express or display it to others. There’s still so much to be learnt about how childhood trauma can affect people.

    It’s an odd thing, that still, small voice that somehow pops up and prevents you taking the final step.

  3. wam

    I have been so incredibly lucky to have a dad, doubly so for him to survive tobruk and triply because the experience allowed him to realise there was neither a god nor a heaven and, as a consequence god was gone and I have been an atheist since.
    Over the years I have been involved with several suicides from driving over a cliff, lying on the road, a gun murder and, most recently, a hanging suicide. These involve women in the first cases and men in the latter. A small group of fellow teacher took it in turns to sit with one vice principal for the entire school holidays till he realise that leaving his wife and children and marrying an overseas women with children was a fact and his ex and his kids still loved him. All was well for 4 years. Then he took off to indonesia for another bout and, on return, we talked him into hospital but he signed himself out and jumped off the veranda with a rope around his neck.
    The consistent element has been ‘heaven’ the eternal peace with full access to the pleasures of earth, eating, drinking and sex with the bonus of meeting mum again.
    From such a small sample and from the at peace with god seen on the ‘death’ notices of murderers and suicides, I have tried to fin the denomination god of Abraham connection. Google tries hard but the religion is link to suicide is elated to ‘preventing’ suicide’.
    in one search:
    Ning Hsieh. A Global Perspective on Religious Participation and Suicide.
    ”” found that religious participation is related to higher suicide rates in:
    Southern Europe, which includes Croatia, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Slovenia and Spain
    Western Europe, which includes Austria, Belgium, France, Germany and Netherlands.
    East Asia, which includes China, Hong Kong, Korea, Japan and Taiwan.
    I have been to Christian service for a Galiwinku student’s young brother. The family were deeply religious as are all my Aboriginal ex-students and their families.
    Sites like:
    https://www.creativespirits.info/aboriginalculture/people/aboriginal-suicide-rates
    (notice no Aboriginal??)
    have a depth of possible causes of Aboriginal suicides but none refer to religious beliefs in heaven.
    If is probably insignificant but I know of no atheists suicides but, atheists like staks roche suggest atheists are more likely to develop depression which leads to suicide??
    ps
    It may seem out of place in this context, yet I am traumatised by how quickly ‘gaol’ disappeared from the Australian language because the septic morons cannot tell the difference between a hard ‘g’ goal and the soft ‘g’ gaol. These idiots and their Australian equivalents will soon make the jiant, jirraffe jeneric whilst I may be too much of a gudgmental jentleman to labour the point I love the ‘c’ in nouns and the ‘s’ in verbs

  4. Jack Cade

    Wam

    As someone once asked ‘Why is phonetic spelt ph?’

  5. wam

    Very phunny, jack (can the STs go two in a week???)

    To paraphrase because it is logical for pharmacist and physicians who can get fysically ruff if you ‘f’ them because that would phuck their grreek and latin heritage perhaps the letter φ was pronounced [pʰ], as opposed to π (pi), pronounced [p].???
    ps
    urban dictionary:
    ph may be phinished???
    fone (plural fones) (nonstandard, informal) phone.

  6. Jack Cade

    Wam

    Absolootly.
    As someone has pointed out, with English pronunciation quirks, ‘ghost’ could be pronounced ‘fish.’

  7. Jack Cade

    Wam

    Abserlootly.
    As you will know, with the peculiarities of pronunciation, ‘ghoti’ can be pronounced ‘fish’

  8. Keith Davis

    Vikingduk, Leefe, Wam, Jack … thank you for your comments. I appreciate you all. Regards Keith

  9. Jack Cade

    Keith

    I know you asked for no comments,
    But your 3 little poems impressed me greatly. Not for their quality, they may be good, I don’t know, but for the absolute loneliness in them.
    I have only been heartachingly lonely for one short period in my life, but reading your poems brought the sense of aloneness flooding back. The not belonging, the being invisible, to the hundreds of people swirling around me, not knowing; not even caring.
    Awful memories. Just awful.

  10. wam

    Agree, jack, keith’s words reflect a lonely invisible existence.
    Yet how relevant are they in reminding me how grateful I should be for having a wonderful partner since 1963
    People of my age were able to walk in cities and not see the Keiths who, like Aborigines, were hidden behind the established blinkers, and rendered invisible to protect the men and women of the system which allowed their existences to be ignored.
    Words like keith’s, bring us closer to a society of caring but scummo shows us what a long way to go.

  11. Michael Taylor

    Keith, this was very hard for me to read. Why? For knowing what a friend – you – have been through.

    But in you I see courage and dignity. I don’t know what else to say. 😢

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