Marvin lived hard for years, used up his bank, his talents used up like putting a flame to his wick. He was wired to live in the moment. Living that way, when he had gifts galore freely given, living was different than when those gifts were used, diminished, and broken. Marvin was smart enough to rationalize his way into a chronic suicidality thereafter.
What is the point of living, after all? Marvin asked this question, answered it, and asked it again, to the point that it separated itself from Time and place. It is a question that is infinite anyhow.
Sometimes Marvin, with this infinite question, this question that occupies the time of God, kings, and beggars, Marvin would sit in my office with this infinite question in his nicotine-stained and inked fingers, and he would in this bring together the infinite with the finite. I remembered that the whole point, the meaning of the infinite and finite, is increased in value by the other. Marvin, living in the moment, even now years after his coin was thus reduced, was living in the infinite.
Why do I have to keep living? I just need someone to tell me it’s going to be ok if I die.
Marvin, If you are looking for a doctor to help you die, you need to go somewhere else. I will always choose life.
(It seemed like that “FYI” was in order.)
“We” made a plan …that Marvin wasn’t entirely in agreement with. I told him he could not come back to my clinic if he wasn’t engaged in that plan.
Marvin, we are just going to do what the data tells us will work. We don’t have to feel it or even believe it. We have the data at least.
Every time I have ever seen Marvin, I took a hard look, memorized him, knowing this may be the last time. Setting boundaries with him was freaky. It felt like trying to hold broken glass. Would Marvin be back? If not, I knew I’d be hurt.
The patient-doctor relationship is unique to each patient. It is unique to each doctor. For me, in my patient-doctor relationships, if it wasn’t for the hard grip I keep on the seat of my chair, I’d have too many of my patients in a big, but likely awkward, (and my Academy tells me, “Inappropriate”) hug.
This flashed through my mind in fair warning again. I compromised, saying instead,
You matter to me, Marvin.
I think Marvin’s lip actually curled and his canines grew. And I quote,
How can you say that? I just don’t get it.
This was a moment of road’s diverging, 31 Flavors, coins in your hand in front of a mother-loaded vending machine. I could see philosophers, all over the now and then of the ages, slobbering like they were at a nudie bar.
Once, when I called 911 on behalf of a patient who needed to go into the hospital for safety, the police person looked like that, bouncey even, on her toes. I had to check her feet to see if she was actually standing on a pedestal, she sermonized my poor patient so thoroughly. I think she was even eating a candy bar as she left my office, satisfied, (without my patient, by the way. Apparently she thought her tonic words had medicinal powers.)
Marvin was fishing me. There were so many ways to lose with that question. He was hoping I’d flop around with straining gills sucking air for hours while he tugged on the hook.
I’ve done that often enough, and will do it many more times. We can count on mistakes. What took me by surprise was, this time I did not.
Well, I’d guess it has something to do with me and something to do with you.
Yup. It surprised me. The surprise brought a wave of gratitude. “Thank you God.”
And if you aren’t as surprised or grateful by that liner, I can only explain that it was right at the time. Marvin lost his handlebar lip curl. I lost my grip on the chair. Marvin’s still alive, (I know everyone’s worried about the “for now” part of that.) And our universe cares, finitely and infinitely.
To the Marvin’s of the world, the wasted, the used, and the squandered, work your programs.
To the lonely and distorted, to the ones who have tried to die, to you who don’t know why you keep living, follow what the data offers by way of direction.
To you who may not get the same freely given gifts in this life that are now gone, you have good things coming.
We choose to live with you, than without. We choose you again. We choose, every time, what Love will bring. Keep on.
Questions: Have you ever asked yourself and/or others, “Why do I keep living?” What has your answer been? What is your answer now? For yourself. What would you tell your own Me?
Self-care tip: …I think I waxed on and off enough already with that – smile.
one week ago I lost my friend to suicide. this is my second friend who committed suicide in 3 years. to say I’m devastated is an understatement. Depression and anxiety became her demons that meds and therapy could not cure. Have I asked myself why I’m still here…? Of course! Have I wanted to die? Yes! Many times! What keeps me going? My kids and the desire to get better. I want to get better, I want to live a life without fear.
Cat, this is hard news. Standing w you.
Nothing to live for? Then invent something. If that doesn’t work, don’t be selfish and live to be available for the needs and comfort of others. But if very ill and know we are at the end of the line, acceptance is quite different than giving up. As I have entered my 7th decade I have become more serene about my own death. Just don’t want it to happen for another 50 years or so. I’ve got things to do.
you’re a tough crust to chew sometimes, carl. you and my uncle would get along nicely. he says, “just put them on the farm for hard work.” ahem.
i love the acceptance stuff you got going on though. crossover in suicide for sure but not easy to articulate. keep on.
I’m coming up from this now, with the help of a good support system and ECT. I think the answer is entirely subjective, which has been a problem for me in the past. Trapped in my own emotion-driven subjectivity, depression makes the past and future one vast bleak landscape, despite the medication and therapy, and there is no reason to live, only hopelessness and despair. I need to repair my psyche in multiple ways to build a self and a life worth inhabiting, in which I am invested and engaged.
Oh wow! I’m really happy for you Babbitt! way to go. would you tell us about your treatments more?
The treatments themselves, I don’t remember, as I’m under anesthesia, of course. But over the course of 6 treatments, with a 7th and final one to come Wednesday, I can tell you I’ve felt a clarity and lightness I haven’t experienced in I don’t know how long. Years. I can take compliments without second guessing. My first-ish thought when I start feeling negative is to reach out, not to dwell and cycle and convince myself I deserve to be in distress. I’m doing more, analyzing and backing myself into corners less. A lot of cobwebs have been cleared out. It’s only a start, though. I have much to do to keep the changes going. I’m writing about my experience with my suicide attempt and ECT now at http://sisyphusbound.weebly.com/blog/category/series-there-is-so-much-music
OH great news!!!! Thank you! I’m learning that the most effective influence on diminishing stigma is contact based – which means YOU! I’m wowed. Can’t wait to see your post. Go, mister Courage.
Why do I choose to continue along? Animals, Maple and Izza, my dog and cat (8 & 13 yo). Love and responsibility. Temple Grandin tendencies – I connect well with animals. This provides enough, presently, to take my meds, keep my appointments and move around depression until I can feel a glimmer of sunlight or a wagging tail – I smile. sometimes it all comes together this way.
My own me – wait, I say, -stay with creatures…
Smiling. Good moment. Thank you Kelly.
Doesn’t everyone question why? The Dr’s keep telling me the meds won’t work while the brain isn’t fed. The only way out is another inpatient stay, they say. If a grown woman can’t take care of herself, why continue? I question it daily and haven’t figured out why I’m still here.
Hi Amanda. I’m so sorry it took me this long to respond. I’ve heard that question from many people, “Doesn’t everyone question why?” and I’m not sure. I can suppose we “all” do, however I am sure how it is asked is not universal. How it is asked can come from so many directions but when it comes imbued w a degree of fantasy, perhaps a positive flare weighted on the other side of that question where wanting to die stands, it isn’t coming from a friendly place to Me. It’s damaged. Why keep on even as a grown woman? I have many reasons. I hope you stay alive for my reasons. What has kept you alive, though, for your own reasons?
Thank you for speaking out Amanda! I’m looking forward to hearing you more. Keep on.
I believe we have to develop our own purpose in life. The point of living has to come from within. Nobody can really tell you what you are here for. Only you can. For instance, my point of living is to serve others in need with as much love as I can. It is not about me being happy, but about helping others survive and live a better life. By doing so, I find comfort and meaning.
Thank you Noel. I once heard someone describe this similarly for themselves, that they weren’t supposed to “fill any one else up” but rather whatever they have in their “cup, to pour it out onto others” and know that their “cup” would keep filling to whatever level it was going to, irregardless. I’m sure they said it better than I am. I like it though. There’s accountability to Me in this approach. Thank you again for speaking Noel.
Medication helps a lot, but when I wake up in the morning and I need to take my meds – the thoughts start. Not the: “I wish I was not here,” but all of the problems I have to deal with, the responsibilities, the people that I feel I disappoint, and the people I have to please. I daydream and I think and I get stuck in this dark cycle until I eat, drink water, and get my medicine into me. And then reality kicks in and I think about my children, my husband, my business and all of the wonderful things that I have built around me and the happiness that I do have, but don’t always see. I wish I was hooked up to an IV and the meds just pumped into me before I woke. Getting up in the morning is the hardest part of my day!
Wow Esther! That’s dramatic. I know you’re not alone in those thoughts and moments in the AM’s. Thank you very much for sharing. Keep on!
Something in this post resonated with me deeply. When you told Marvin he mattered to you, and he reacted with contempt and distrust. A partner at the end of my last relationship told me wonderful things about myself. I reacted with anger, and wanted her to keep saying good things about me so I could respond by hurting myself and her. I told her I didn’t believe a word she said.
I know what it’s like to be chronically suicidal. What keeps me going? Fear sometimes. Mixed with a tiny bit of hope that things will pan out for me. I hope I can live a life that doesn’t feel so empty. One where I feel like I am at home and I fit.
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Hi Shane. You are articulate and those out here who feel likewise, need the way you put your word-by-word out there.
“Reacted with contempt and distrust.”
“where I feel like I am at home and I fit.”
Good words with resonance. Thank you Shane.
‘Marvin, we are just going to do what the data tells us will work. We don’t have to feel it or even believe it. We have the data at least.’
What do you mean precisely by data? (I guess you’re referring to treatments, be it psychological or medication. Could you explain a bit further?) Thank you
Sorry for getting back to you so late Pilar. When I read your question (some time ago), I liked it and wanted to give it a fantastic response! smile. Time got away and I just now noticed that I still hadn’t responded. Less fantastic, but at least responding, the “data” is referring to the studies and metrics.