Feed on

Last night, Joel and I watched Wristcutters a movie set in a purgatory that’s not unlike life on earth, only just a little bit shittier. Nobody can smile. The world looks like Nevada – southern part about which I bitched so freely on our coast-to-coast trip. Everything is kind of worn out, shabby, grubby, fusty, and kludged-together. Zia, the protagonist, learns that his ex-girlfriend, the one he committed suicide over, has also “offed,” and he sets off on a road-trip with his friend Eugene, a self-electrocuted Russian guitarist who has a (shitty) car. On the way they pick up a hitchhiker who believes she’s in purgatory by mistake, and from there the plot really starts to move.

Imagine this, but shot through a blue filter and also edited to be a bit washed out. Also, imagine in a few rotten old sofas, burnt-up cars, and general landscape rubbish.

One of the “games” people in the joyless purgatory of the suicides play is guessing how others “offed.” Sometimes it’s pretty self evident, as certain physical marks of the departed’s departure remain. A policeman who’d stuck a gun in his mouth and shot himself through the head retained a volcanic crater in the top of his head. Zio’s wrist slashes remained for all to see.

The movie turned out to be surprisingly heartwarming, and I’m not going to spoilerize it here. It was a well executed picaresque black comedy with a rather charming romantic component.

But it got me to thinking about the whole notion of suicide, of a conversation a friend and I had recently about depression and suicide, and about what I’ve thought about suicide in the past.

I’m not depressed right now; I have been doing pretty damn well with my emotional management since I quit working in a call-center. I think most call-center workers end up, if not suicidal, then sustaining a certain amount of mental-health damage. If you’ve ever worked in a call center, you know. There are a lot of bitter, volatile people there. A lot of general despair, anger, and frustration. It has to go somewhere. Some people get mean, some people get sad.

For an introvert like myself, call-center work is among the worst ways to make a living. You have to be ON (and how) for your entire shift. You spend most of your time placating people who’d rather not have to talk to you anyway. They abuse you because you are just a faceless voice on the other end of a phone call they wouldn’t have made if they didn’t need to. And if you aren’t able to deliver what they want, you are the enemy. It’s incredibly wearing.

It takes very little time for call-center work to destroy me. I was pretty much shot by my second week at the call-center. It saps your energy, your will to do anything but go home and bitch, look at dumb pictures on the Internet, and sleep fitfully. I get easily distracted and easily discouraged, so applying for other jobs is a difficult chore…hard to get my head into it, hard to keep my faith in it.

For someone who turns frustration inward, this is a quick-n-easy recipe for emotional disaster. So then the downward spiral of depression begins, and a day comes when you’re crossing a bridge and idly thinking of throwing yourself over the rail. Or taking some allergy medicine and wondering if the whole bottle would do the trick.

But, if you’re me, by the point you’re considering the possibilities of suicide, you are also so insecure in your abilities, that you doubt you’d even be able to kill yourself right. Somehow you’d fuck it up and end up paralyzed or brain-damaged, or just caught in a really embarrassing position. You’d be that dumbass who tried to shoot herself, but just ended up with the side of her head all hamburgerized and a newly-minted lisp. The jackass who tried to jump off a bridge and ended up paraplegic. The idiot who drank a pint of gasoline and now has no vocal cords. Still alive, and substantially worse off than before. A real “and I’ll give you something to cry about” sort of scenario.

My friend and I’d been talking about that stage of depression – where you think about suicide, but declare yourself incompetent to actually manage it. You know you’re in a bad way when you think you’re too pathetic at life to even kill yourself!

I realized that I wasn’t cut out for suicide right around the first time I ever though about suicide, sometime midway through my first year of highschool. Things were going very badly, and I just didn’t have a good feeling about my future. I realized that I had more than three years of this same bullshit ahead of me, and could fathom nothing but a scary black abyss ahead of that. It really didn’t seem like anything worth sticking around for. But, as I reviewed the possible ways I could kill myself, nothing really stood out as a winner. I wasn’t sure where my dad kept his guns, nor if I could actually figure out how to operate one. I didn’t think the nearby bridge was high enough to actually kill me if I jumped off of it. Realistically, the more I thought about killing myself, the more I thought it would be a big damn bummer for my family, and why put them through all that bullshit? The thought of my mom discovering me with my head in the oven, or my dad finding me dangling from the garage rafters is what finally put me off the notion of suicide. I didn’t give my parents a lot of trouble on a regular basis. That would be a real dick move to pull on them.

At various points in my life post-highschool, I’ve perhaps felt like there ain’t much in it for me, but I have retained just enough general empathy to not want to put my family or friends through dealing with the fallout. That plus doubting my capabilities has kept me from getting too close to the edge of the ledge.

Though most importantly, having had the experience of getting through periods of depression, and now, knowing that medicines really can help – a lot have been instrumental in keeping myself upright and moving forward. When I was a teenager, of course I’d heard of Prozac – it was a new and fairly highly publicized drug. I think I’d heard of it as a punchline on some TV show. But how depression and depression treatment had any relation to how I was feeling and what I could or could not do wasn’t even on my radar. I didn’t have the means to articulate my emotional state, and I didn’t come from a culture where therapy was even a consideration.

In certain parts of the world, especially in certain social strata, depression/mental illness/therapy are just not discussed. The stigma that white, middle-class America thinks has been lifted still remains in force. Where I grew up, you either toughened up and got over it, or you didn’t. None of this whining around to shrinks and anesthetizing yourself with “Happy Pills.”

But haven gotten over the preconceptions I started with, and being willing to sort my own shit out, via counseling and pharmacology, has made me realise that there are other, much more effective solutions than suicide.

Leave a Reply