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For years I have honored, in silence, this season of endings and beginnings.
To share one’s own suicide attempt is harrowing; it brings up deeply polarizing emotions. There are many who believe that those who have committed suicide are selfish, mentally ill, weak, cowardly. These labels come from grief too heavy to bear. If you carry this stigma, who you are today is shadowed by who you were in a moment of losing your way.
Many will not take part in this community. Biologically we are wired for survival, and when someone attempts to die, executes that attempt and dies, the balance is disrupted. We celebrate, and rightly so, the resilience of the fighter who wins against all odds.
The healing […]
I needed to forgive myself. Forgive myself for not knowing how to go forward, forgive myself for giving up hope, forgive myself for being ashamed and guilty year after year.
I needed to forgive myself for not trusting my intuition and not holding up the flickering light of my inner resources when the shadows closed in.
I needed to forgive myself for an eviscerating eating disorder that broke me down and drove me to that night. I needed to forgive myself for the self-destruction of my body, forgive myself for believing that I was worthless and deserved all of the abuses at my biological parents’ hands.
I needed to forgive myself for not honoring how strong I had been, for having the courage to leave behind a biological tribe and find my place in the world.
I needed to forgive myself for having tried to take away the spark that is a divine gift, and I needed to forgive myself for hurting me, for hurting my soul already crushed by others. I needed to forgive myself for having not held myself up and refused anything but love, compassion and being seen.
Forgiveness brought me home; it allowed me to call back the part of me that had fled in terror during those three days in a coma; welcome back each beautiful and unique part of myself I had attempted to destroy — in heart-breaking parallel to those who had oppressed me physically, spiritually, and emotionally and attempted to break my spirit.
I hope you don’t mind me addressing you on a first name basis, Neil.
Your commencement speech to the 2013 School of Visual Arts graduation ceremony is entertaining with so much wisdom and advice not just on art but life in general. The graduates were laughing so was I. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.
You may call me, Perpetua.
There is part in the speech that I find fascinating, compelling and disturbing. Allow me to quote you:
“When things get tough, this is what you should do: Make good art. I’m serious. Husband runs off with a politician — make good art. Leg crushed and then eaten by a mutated boa constrictor — make good art. IRS on your trail — make good art. Cat exploded — make good art. Someone on the Internet thinks what you’re doing is stupid or evil or it’s all been done before — make good art. Probably things will work out somehow, eventually time will take the sting away, and that doesn’t even matter. Do what only you can do best: Make good art. Make it on the bad days, make it on the good days, too. “
You may call me, Perpetua.
Before I continue, please pardon me for intruding. As an esteemed artist, I think highly of you.
You see, Neil, I am thinking of the cat that exploded. Translating that in my mind it goes: Dead Cat – make good art. Death – make good art, Anxiety Recording – make good art, Suicide – make good art.
I am in a very tough situation. There is a funeral going on in my brain. My nephew’s friend committed suicide. This bothers me. A lot. They grew up together, studied at the same school and graduated. My nephew just turned 25. She must be the same age. Young. Too young to die. This is so close to home.
What I want is to make good art out of the recording from her heartfelt experience of illness on anxiety. I tried writing it in a poetic way, but, I don’t have an ounce of artistic mind. The purpose is to use this as a tool to educate people.
This is the transcript of her recording five months ago.
On My Anxiety
I am cut to the core by a beast I can’t control. Not cut as in my wrists, as in my legs because, you know, that beautiful woman next to me in the Psych ward does it there.
The beautiful woman in the coffee shop a 5-minute walk away, which is 5 minutes too long of a walk when you’re depressed, ornaments her arms, her legs with deep and close bloody gashes. Gashes that I want to bandage with love and heal, but “I have too many problems, I think, I don’t know how to help you.”
Nonetheless, I am cut.
Cut by the words of people who don’t understand what it is to live with a demon inside your mind, your chest, your shaking hands, and your body that is wretched and dried out from all your tears and is so nervous that you have to pray you are always near a bathroom because even your insides don’t work properly.
But, of course, you don’t really pray. Not by this point at least. By now you know if there was a God you would be better, that none of this would have ever happened.
If you don’t see the stigma against mental illness then you probably don’t have it or you’ve never used the internet or stepped outside.
You’ve never had to write a heartfelt resignation letter to end a job only to be eliminated from the workplace silently without any acknowledgment of your soul-bearing words.
You’ve never had your own family tell you to suck it up or not dwell on things so much.
Do you think I WANT to FUCKING DWELL on the things I dwell on?!
Dwell on the fact that I would rather have suffocated myself to death than have attended my Grandma’s 75th birthday because there were gonna be too many people there.
Dwell on the fact that I’ve had to stop seeing all my friend because I’m so anxious.
Dwell on the fact that I can’t see my in-laws without feeling nauseated by my anxiety.
I cannot SUCK IT UP!
Not just that, I can’t do anything except unexpectedly write poetry at 3 am and this has only happened through a careful balance of Lithium, Clonazepam, Abilify, Olanzapine, and Zopiclone.
If those sound scary it’s because they are.
It’s scary to have your brain need to be invaded. To experience the world drugged. To experience the world drugged and still want to throw up at the thought of having to attend a social function.
Andrew Solomon writes on depression and says: “If you said to me, you have to have acute anxiety for the next month; I would rather slit my wrist than go through with it.”
If you’re looking for a way out there may not be one.
Suicide is so seductive. I almost gave up. Almost walked through that exit.
But I’m still here.
Here because of support. Here because of that place. Because of the psych ward that they only seem to ever let you know about when you’re at the point of actually killing yourself.
The ward is full of some of the nicest people you could ever meet but they’ve been so hurt by the world they can no longer function.
We are there because we feel too much. Hurt too much. We are sponges for negativity, depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, and more.
It’s taking drugs, love, support, and money to recreate myself.
To pull myself away from that place where your sob to your husband, plead with him to let you die because your anxiety is so bad, so bad you can’t take a breath without feeling the tight know of pain in your chest, the French brain in your stomach, the shaking of your insides, the hot tears streaming down your face.
Not everyone pulls away from that. Some of us are gone forever.
Unfortunately, Neil, she did not make it.
With my nephew’s farewell note to her, I played with it to read like poetry.
Like a quake in an ocean A Tsunami of emotion Waves upon waves of memories Come flooding back.
I had a feeling that last conversation and parting hug would be a while until the next. I never imagined it would be our last of this life until ‘The Next’.
Well my Friend, rest peacefully. We can catch up once we meet.
How can I make good art on this? Can this be written in a poetic form? Or should I just leave it as is? What do you think? At any rate, your comments would be much appreciated.
With warm regards and respectfully yours, Perpetua.
This week I will be posting a series of awareness to advocate for people who suffer mental illness. As much as I would like to discuss my experience, I would rather share what is happening NOW.
I want everyone to know that a lot of people are striving to be back in the main stream and live a so-called “normal” life with the help of caring people and communities.
It pains me to read and hear that these people are called “selfish” because of the illness especially one committed suicide.
The other night, I was watching the news how a boy raised funds to help his friend received the operation his friend badly needed. His friend is suffering from cerebral palsy and can hardly move. He raised more than enough money for the operation. The main question for the boy was what made you do it.
His answer was: “If you see someone needs help, you just help them.”
Yes! Just help. It’s that simple from the mouth of a boy.
The world would be better if we can help one another.
Thousands of people with chronic mental illness live productive lives in Metro Vancouver thanks to the support offered by Coast Mental Health. The non-profit organization provides housing, vocational training and employment opportunities, and community resources to over 4,200 people with mental illness every year. In recognition of Mental Illness Awareness Week (Oct. 6 to 11) Coast strives to spark meaningful discussions about mental health.
Mental illness is a thief. It can rob you of your identity, take away your livelihood and isolate you from friends and family. It can leave you a shadow of yourself – alone and hopeless. And if diseases like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia were not bad enough, add to that the pain of stigma and discrimination.
Coast Mental Health is a non-profit private organization that supports recovery from mental illness by providing intervention and care. From our meal and clothing programs and supported housing, we see restored dignity. And from our life skills training, education and employment programs, we see reduced poverty and increased security.
With the right supports, people can and do recover from these illnesses. Mental illness is simply another obstacle in life.
Find out what Coast Mental Health does to help individuals suffering from mental illness and homelessness, click here.
COMPASSION… what we need is compassion for people who are suffering from any disease. For people that commits suicide or survive suicide, blame does not help or saying How can you do this! LEARN, we need to learn from another. I am still learning from my own history. This post is the best one I can relate to. As for now, I am filled with gratitude being alive. Faith, family, care givers and bloggers who shared their experience. Let us help one another understand with compassion.
Whilst reading about the tragic death of the great Robin Williams I repeatedly stumbled upon the narrative of choice. Places like Psychcentral spoke about suicide being an “insidious choice”, but a “choice” nonetheless, so much so that they repeated the word to drive the message home. Meanwhile, whilst perusing social media I repeatedly came across variations of “people who commit suicide are selfish”, “how can anyone do that to their family?”. These sorts of comments make me twitchy. We’ve all heard them before.
In my own case they were personalised and weaponised, “How could YOU do that to your children? Do YOU not care about them?” I did, that was the problem. For some time I had felt like a millstone around the necks of my family. I loved them, but hated myself and could only see the ways I made their lives worse. After 2 failed suicide attempts in…
A new study found that drinking two or three cups of coffee lowers the risk of suicide by at least 50 percent. That is good news.Researchers said that the caffeine in coffee can increase the neurotransmitters similar to a mild antidepressant to lift a person’s mood. No wonder I have been feeling good lately.Studies demonstrated that caffeine leads to enhanced cognitive performance. Vigilance, mental alertness, feeling of well-being and arousal are just a few positive effect of caffeine.So go ahead and have a cup or two of coffee. It will keep you alive.
Photo credit: Miss Four Eyes: 3 stages of coffee. Click on the picture to see the post.