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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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