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Category Archives: Suicide

Food

Food is a pain in the ass. I understand it isn’t supposed to be, but it is. And I understand how ungrateful I sound saying so. Food is necessary, I know, but I like to think it isn’t. That it doesn’t need to be.

I think I hate food, actually. I’d say I hate food except when I’m eating it, but that isn’t true. I hate food even when I’m eating it. I hate food even when I’m enjoying it. I know that enjoyment is thoroughly transitory and, unless my food it is perfectly chosen and portioned, it will be followed by regret, guilt, rapprochement, and replays of all choices I could have made better, with each imperfect choice a failure of my character.

I’d happily eat a “chow” instead, or food pills, and be done with it. The chow could come in cans, like dog food. Not that horrendous stuff but something like Merrick’s. Merricks has flavours like Granny’s Pot Pie, Cowboy Cookout, Brats and Tots. We used to feed Dusty Merrick’s and, once, when my son opened a can for her, he looked at his mother and asked, “Why don’t you ever cook anything this good.” She had no answer. Mostly because he was right. And there was everything Dusty needed there, made with the best of ingredients, in just two cans a day. Why can’t I have that? Why can’t I have that simplicity and security?

I’ve tried shakes and such but the results are less than positive after a few days. Troublesome. Uncomfortable. I’ve gone as much as a week, and didn’t get out much, other than to work, after day three. I’ve also tried simply not eating. Eight days is as far as I ever got. Just didn’t want to eat. Eight days and I finally relented. People began to notice. Not in my face or clothes, but just noted they hadn’t ever seen me eat or refer to any meals. This is what happens when people love you. They notice things. Sometimes I think that is a good reason to be alone.

I had actually planned on going much longer, and in my head didn’t think anyone would notice at all. That I could go a month and no one would notice. That was my plan. A month. Longer.

Planning, choosing. Worrying. Food is never simple. So much of it is obviously crap, and I don’t want to eat that. And there are so many diets to choose from. Even when one dismisses the idea of a diet as specifically for weight-loss, the number of ideas of how a person should eat are staggering and contradictory. How to choose? They all can’t be right.

Michael Pollan says we worry about diets far too much. “Eat (real) food. Not too much. Mostly vegetables.”And “If it came from a plant, eat it. If it is made in a plant, don’t.”  Those are his rules. They should be easy to follow, but planning any meal shows they are not. This is why I tend to just eat the same thing again and again, even though I am a more than adequate and inventive cook who can plan rather nice meals for friends and family when occasions calls for them. For other people, yes. For myself, I’m happy to do the same thing for each meal, without getting bored, just for the sake of simplicity and to remove the tyranny of choice.

Mornings, if I can just put stuff in a blender and know it’s good for me, I honestly don’t care what it tastes like. Greens, protein/eggs, a nut milk (no dairy unless I want to spend the day with a headache and stuffed sinuses). Done. I can add cocoa powder and stevia. That’s fine. But I don’t have to. No having to make choices, plan, choose, “what do I feel like,” etc…

My mother worked her whole life to lose weight. We are a thick people. Cabbage diets. Liquid protein. Carb free. As long as I can remember, she was dieting. I can’t recall it ever working. She finally lost her extra weight, twelve years into her fifteen years with parkinson’s. She was an exquisitely thin corpse.

I went carb-free, or nearly so, at twelve or thirteen. No more than forty grams of carbohydrates a day. I counted. I don’t remember how much I weighed or how much I lost, but I recall I thought I was still horribly fat. My clothes could not be tight. Nothing could cling. It had to be loose or I would pull at it, stretch it, tug it away, misshape it. I could not stand the feel of it and always blamed it not on the clothes being too small, not on skin sensitivity, but on one thing – I’m, obviously, too fat.

I was 140 pounds. When I see pictures of myself then, I’m astonished how thin I was. What was I complaining about? What could I not have liked about my body? But, then, the answer to that question was “everything.” There was everything not to like, and nothing to appreciate.

Even then, I could not look in a mirror. I pass mirrors and close my eyes. My wife once noticed, when I shave, I lean into the mirror, but close my eyes. Nothing to see here.

Once, a few years ago, a decade, less, I passed a mirror and saw someone I didn’t recognise and thought, since it was a small office, and my office at that, “Nice/Who is that?/Cute” all at once. I remember this so well, and the pile of thought, because within that same moment I realised it was me, and I saw the image shifted into one I could not stand. I could not recapture that moment, that feeling. I can remember it, but can’t feel it. And delusion does not succumb to logic.

In the mid 2000’s, I was in Weight Watchers. I had to lie to get into it. They asked me if I binged or starved. I lied. I binged and purged. Since I was a teen. Certain foods were hooks. Peanut butter. A jar would not last. A bag of potato chips would not make the night unless I froze it. Then it might make a few nights. A tray or box of fried chicken? Gone. Sometimes I’d buy a tub of frosting and eat the whole thing while watching TV. That would make me tremendously sick. I’d tell myself I’d never do it again. Why would I? Then I’d convince myself, a month later, or on a special occasion, that it was ok. I’d rationalise it. I could rationalise anything. That was especially true if it was at night. Nights are dangerous. Every purchase a personal failure.

The best way to handle this was to simply not buy these things. They didn’t come into the house. I finally did manage to learn to do that. But I might get a cookie. Or a roll. Then I’d punish myself by having to run a mile for that cookie. Eat a cookie? Now you need to run. When I couldn’t do that, laxatives. Then, realising that was easier, I’d take laxatives anytime I considered what I did binging – a piece of cake or slice of pie, too much at a potluck. My definition of binging is very liberal.

I hate food-centered events and try to not participate. At work, I stay in my room anytime there will be food involved. I “feel” people are watching what I’m eating, judging. It’s easier to just stay away. Required to attend? I go early, race to get there first, so i can choose an empty table, sit far away, as long as i can sit alone. “There are donuts in the teacher workroom.” That day, I don’t even check my mailbox.

With Weight Watchers, I lost weight. I never got to goal weight though. I did get down to 152. Their charts said I should be 118 to 128. My wife said that would be a ridiculous weight for me – far too thin for my body-type. She, being a doctor, could certify, and did, that my goal was 142. It might as well have been 118, as it was just as unreachable. Food log, pedometer, a scale for me and one for the food, measuring cups, a well-used gym membership. 152. I must have recognised I had done well. I even wrote about the hard work of losing weight, and the success of it. But I still hated seeing myself. The failure of it. Now I look at that and wonder, what was I complaining about? But that’s gone too.

When she died, my weight was 202. A few months later, after I began to look at the world again, I got a membership at a gym that was open 24 hours. I was there when I couldn’t sleep. I was there when I was bored. I was there when I could not stand being in the house, or going home, or going to bed. So I was there nearly as much as I was home. I was there at ten at night. I was there at four in the morning. I was there twice a day sometimes. Work, gym. Work, gym. Presidential debate? Watch it on the treadmill. Show I want to see? Watch it on the treadmill. Lift weights, lift some more. I tore my right deltoid. Keep going. Eating nothing but chicken breasts and vegetables. Keep going.

I got down to 158. I thought it was terrible. When I see those pictures now… What was I thinking? I couldn’t have been thinking. It isn’t possible.

I’m back at the gym. Walking with my fitness watch. Biking. Watching what I eat. Eating. How I wish I could stop that. I gained weight last week. Despite everything. Still gaining. An obvious failure of my character.

I’m told “do this.” Do this, Do that. Try this other thing. Thyroid. Took stuff. No effect. Testosterone. Sorry, in the normal range, even though it’s at the bottom of it (like we are machine that run to the same tolerances and configurations) so none for you. Try this, wait, try that, wait, working at it all the time. And, all the time, walking, biking, lifting, eating. All the time, eating. How much I’d like to cut that last one out. How much I’d like to stop.

 
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Posted by on March 6, 2019 in Culture, psychology, Suicide

 

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I think I Am, Maybe

I think, maybe,
I’m made of fog,
settled overnight,
In the dark,
Seems solid
From afar, look,
Walk through it.
There is no substance.
It dissipates into
Air, the sun rises,
There is nothing there.

Do you remember fogs?

Or a ghost, maybe,
An accumulation.
An aggregate of
Used tos, weres
I remembers,
Definitions,
Suppositions,
And faint ideas.
Walk through it.
There is no substance.
It dissipates into
Nothing, the sun rises,
There is nothing there.

When no one is around,
Who notices a ghost?

 
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Posted by on January 26, 2018 in Poetry, psychology, Suicide

 

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The Walk

 

I’m going to take a walk
Down the street with
My eyes closed,
And trust
The cars will do the right thing,
Whatever that is.

There are no sidewalks
Here. Ditches and culverts
On either side sweep deep
From the narrow swale.
The foot can feel
The pavement drop
To grass,
Drop.

I’m told
Everything happens
For a reason. So let
Everything happen that will
And let there be reason made of it.

Frogs in one ear,
Cars in the other.
Streetlamps through eyelids,
And a slow steady gate into
Who knows.

 
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Posted by on July 26, 2017 in Poetry, Suicide

 

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When I Am Alone At Night

When I am alone at night,
When I go to bed,
In my head,
I disperse my goods.
I write notes,
Letters, long, detailed.
I imagine deep long rest,
Wonder if I’ve had enough.

When I am alone at night
I roll myself against the walls,
Scratch, stretch,
Rub, rock,
Hunger for sensation,
Pray for contact,
Want for touch,
Wonder if I’m here long enough.

When I am alone at night
I fail to create ambitions.
In my head,
I disperse my goods,
I write notes,
Look at bottles,
Estimate pills,
Wonder if there are enough.

 
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Posted by on February 2, 2016 in Culture, Poetry, psychology, Suicide

 

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High-functioning

Not all people with depression are home lying in a darkened room. Not all depressed people sit with the curtains drawn listening to Morrissey or reading Emily Dickinson. There are people with profound depression who would surprise you, if you knew. But you don’t know they are depressed. They won’t tell you and you won’t notice. They are noncomplaining, high-functioning, dependable individuals who can work next to you each day without giving you so much as a clue to the noise in their heads and the pain in their hearts.

I already regret that last line. I don’t want to be maudlin. I want to present the facts. Let me try this again. There are people we see, know, work next to, who are profoundly, clinically, depressed, who have trouble finding any joy in daily activities, no longer enjoy things they used to, feel little motivation, are noncomplaining, high-functioning, dependable, creative, responsible people. They show up, do their jobs, often volunteer in their communities, and leave those around them with no idea anything is wrong.

You wouldn’t know. Let me tell you.

Nights are sometimes spent curled up in a chair, in a ball, head racing with the most horrible thoughts. There is nothing to do to calm this. Not meditation. Long talks with monks. Rabbis, ministers. Self-help books. Workshops. Guilt doesn’t work. Gratitude for a wonderful life filled with love and laughter and everything one would need doesn’t work.

Psychotherapy. Gestalt. Rational Emotive Therapy. Bioenergetic. Breathwork. Tired of seeking help. Tired of trying. Tired of everything. Tired.

There is nothing to take to calm this. There are no drugs to take because anything that would help could also harm, and so is not kept in the house in any reasonable quantity. Some self-medicate – alcohol, pot – but most do not. At some point, one goes to bed.

The nights are long. Sometimes sleepless, sometimes sleep laced with dreams of failure, or frustration, or remembrance. Sleep is something looked forward to, as, when it does come, the only solace, the only refuge. But prior to sleep, always the thoughts, please, please let this be the last time this bed is laid in. Let tomorrow not come.

But it does, and even with the practice in gratitude, with years of meditation, with knowing the problem is chemical or structural, knowing one has a wonderful life, still, regardless, the first thought upon waking is “Damn. Not again.” Sometimes less polite. And the thoughts start right up again. “This has to stop. This has to. I can’t take this anymore. I just don’t want to do this anymore. I’m done here. I just want to rest.” But there isn’t any.

Morning is a trudge. The daily common activities are chores, but they must be done. And the thoughts, always. Pointless to do anything, but one has a job.

Work. Self-medication begins with music. Maybe coffee – high caffeine. Loud music. Nineties Alt today, Or Tool. Maybe some Sixties’ Psychedelic. One sings. People stop in. There are meetings and conversations. Things get done. Reviews and evaluations are done. All are stellar. Inside, this feels like slogging. Forced. Exhausting. Outside, effortless. Gliding. Flowing. The day ends.

A second job or a volunteer event. Be involved. Or a long walk. Or Gym. One mustn’t seem lazy. One mustn’t seem as though one isn’t taking care of oneself. But going home is the last thing to do. How long can it be put off? Out, at least there is something to occupy the mind. Some days are harder than others. The thoughts are more dense. Some days the thoughts are still there but they don’t come as fast, as thickly. One can distract the mind. One is less prone to cry.

As the evening wears, home cannot be avoided forever. It is quiet. Maybe some TV. Maybe some reading. But there is no escaping what is going on inside. Another mental inventory of the medicine cabinet. No, nothing. Good. Good? People would be upset. People would be hurt.

Calling someone might help. Don’t do it. Don’t complain. Don’t even mention it. People would figure you were too much trouble to deal with. Depressed people are difficult to have around. They bring you down. They won’t love you anymore. You will lose the people you love.

Bed. Bed. Please, please don’t let me wake up again.

 
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Posted by on September 8, 2013 in psychology, Suicide

 

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Enter to win the Songs from the Well revised and Expanded edition, in paperback.

Enter to win the Songs from the Well revised and Expanded edition, in paperback, to be release on Yom Kippur, 9/8/13, along with my latest book, Yom Kippur as Manifest in an Approaching Dorsal Fin.

 
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Posted by on July 19, 2013 in Books, Culture, Family, Religion, Social, Suicide

 

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After You, I Insist

I am forty-eight. not old by a long shot. But still, this year, as I begin to think of myself as fifty, as half-way, I and my friends, my close friends, those long friends, those who have been with me for decades, for lifetimes, and those with whom I cannot recount decades but feel as though lifetimes have been spent in their splendid company, with those friends I have begun discussing who goes first.

Perhaps it is the death of my wife nearly two years ago. The shaking out of any sense of permanence and security. The blowing of the ram’s horn, the clanging of the cymbals, that shocks off the clinging illusion that anything lasts but love.

Perhaps it is the suicides, both successful and non,  that have surrounded me. The conscious choice to leave on one’s own terms.

Perhaps it is just age.

I have been asked to perform a wedding. It is an honour and a joy and I will happily bundle myself up to Boulder to help write vows and join Joyce and her Ryan in wedded (we hope) bliss. I also performed the naming ceremony for her daughter, my god-daughter, Sloan.

She told me, you know, I have you in my will. I knew why. She has it that I am supposed to do her funeral as well.

Joyce is younger than me by about seven years. She does Pilates, Jujitsu, dances, lifts weights, fight tigers, climbs poles, eats nails, and I think every bit of her gorgeousness is made of warm, soft and cuddly indestructibility. Near as perfect a human female body as I think anyone could imagine, like an android from a science fiction story. Heinlein’s Friday.   And she wants me to do her funeral. Barring a (lucky?) strike by a space toilet fallen from orbit or a sudden disease (like I don’t know those happen) I can’t see her going first. I told her so.

“Well, you’d better quite the pilates and Jiu Jitsu and start eating crap then, because otherwise, I’m pretty sure I’m going first.”

This morning I sent her a text.  “You know… You are the only person who knows everything. Did you know that?  You had better NOT go first. No one else knows all the stories.”

It’s true, though I’m not sure how this happened. We are very much alike, she and I, in so many ways that nothing I say surprises her. Nothing. She understands it all. She always has. Never a laugh except at our similarities and how funny humans are. Never a shame, or a judgement, or even a question. She knows it all. All about the kids, their stories growing up, about Lee and love and life with her and after her. She knows who I am and how I am and loves me anyway.

Someday, I will be on my deathbed, unless I’m on the grill of a truck, of course, or inside a bear, and there will be stories. That is a good thing. How sad to be dying and be, one would hope, surrounded by loving family and friends, and have no stories. How terrible for the children to have had no embarrassments to recount, no mishaps to retell, no tall tales to let grow over time. It will never be said of me that I worked, came home, slept, and did it again. No, there will be stories.

When Lee died, when we had her memorial, it was stories.  All night. The all night slumber pool party memorial and story-a-thon. I told so many. So did Lee’s mom, and sister. And Craig, and others. And Joyce had her share. She told them in the living room, she told them sitting with the kids, Sef, Alek, Ari, on the kitchen floor, each story leaving their faces a bit more red.  She told them as we all divested ourselves of our various bits of cloth and jumped into the pool. She told them over drinks, and breakfast, and whispered them to me when I could not sleep. She knows the stories.

And she wants me to preside over her funeral. No, dear. No. She needs to tell the stories. So the kids can pass them on. So everyone can laugh, or sigh, or cry, or shake their heads, or wonder how on Earth I made it that far.

And she wants me to preside over her funeral. Joyce, I think you shall have to preside over mine. And everyone better laugh. I know they will.

 
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Posted by on May 2, 2013 in Family, Social, Suicide

 

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