Why do I Keep Living? – Chronically Suicidal.


Carl D’Agostino is a retired high school history teacher. His interests include woodcarving and blogging. Cartoon blog at carldagostino.wordpress.com.   Cartoons published in book, “I know I Made You Smile, Volume I.”

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.

When You Fail, It Is Just Part of Your Journey so Keep On – Presence

No one can tell me what’s wrong with me!

When medications don’t do what we hoped we wonder what that means.  We think about the possibility that our diagnosis is wrong, that we are outside the known world of science or a new variation of diseased who will suffer without a label.  Is suffering without a label even decent?

I predict imminent catastrophe

Image by forestine via Flickr

Stephani wasn’t the only one in the world with these thoughts but she felt like it.  It was as if she was waiting for her real life to begin when she considered herself well.  There was the good part of her that was about fifty percent of her day hanging around.  The rest of the day was wrong.  She wasn’t able to cope with stressors and became helter skelter at random times of the day.

Trading places, in the door and out, out and in, polite enemies at best, the good Stephani and the wrong Stephani vied for platform.  Either part of her never felt fully right because of the looming flaws.  She couldn’t trust herself as long as they divided her life.

I don’t know why I don’t get better.  

I don’t know either.

That’s a precarious position to maintain as a physician.  My job is at stake because who goes to a specialist without answers?  …At least not traditional answers.

Take this pill tonight and put this warm compress on your bladder.  In the morning you’ll feel better.

Darn it!  Sometimes I so want to be that doctor!  But this is me.

What are you waiting for?  Is this place in life better than losing your life?  Why?

And then Stephani mentioned a few things that kept her breathing:  hope to get well, hope to have a family some day, life itself, her husband….

Why are you right or wrong?  Why are you well or sick?  Can you be both?  

Hm.  I saw some relief begin to settle in.  However, I also saw frustration.  Stephani wasn’t ready to be flawed and perfect.  She really like either/or.  That’s fine for now.  We were able to spend a little more time on the idea of loving all of her, of being a friend to all of her and of counting this moment worth living more actively.  If she doesn’t bale on me, we have time for her to get into the same room with herself.  The joining up of her wrongs and rights will make her life journey a lot better and less confusing.

People like Stephani have an addiction-like disease process to the either/or, the extremes, the poles, which we describe as “all-or-none” thinkers.  They remind me of any other blessed addict.  They would most likely do great working this over as an addiction.  Working the Steps.  Then they would understand what any other addict who works The Steps understands.  Failing is just part of the journey.

Questions:  Can you be both flawed and perfect?  How?  How do you love both parts of you?  Please tell us your story.

Self-Care Tip – When you fail, remember that it is just part of your journey and keep on.

  1. You Might Fall In Love With Your Flaws
  2. Love Differently, Love Your Flaws – Be a Tall Poppy
  3. Lady Gaga – Born This Way
  4. Try, Knowing We Will Fail
  5. Loving Me Without Ambivalence
  6. Codependent
  7. Finding What Perfectionism Can Offer Our Self-Care – In Summary
  8. Celebrate Your Imperfections
  9. Getting Away From All-Or-None Thinking
  10. Adequate

She Is Worth It, But Maybe Not Because Of What You Think

Woman in satin dress holding mirror

Image by George Eastman House via Flickr

She is worth it!

Have you said that? Half crazed from this-way-that-way behaviors, your battered psyche crawls out of the smoking heap from your most recent relationship collision. There are times when this is absurd to continue. But have you ever seen those people who crawl out smiling? Sure their eyes are rolling around on their face but they are smiling. That might be you too. And there’s a reason for it. However the reason may not be what you think.

She is worth it!

I’m not disputing “her” value in this admirable exchange that takes all your energy. But what I do dust off from the good “encounter” we just spoke of is that although she may be worth it, I propose that isn’t the reason you think it is. The reason is you.
You find pleasure in it because of what it does for you. You think you are worth it, and you are.

Even the Bible says,

We love because He loved me first. 1 John 4: 19

We love because of what it does for Me. God isn’t surprised by that or looking down His nose at our motivation. It sounds like He is actually embracing it – fully consented.
Remember when we talked about inevitable selfish motives, secondary gain and the absence of altruism in us? Is that an ugly thing about us? I don’t think so. It is what it is.

Now this does not evaporate the connection, the realness of the exchange between two, the value of the bond or its quality. See blog-post, Things Will Always Be About “Me.” It does nothing else but discuss the motivation. I believe understanding our motivation to remain in a relationship is important not to devalue it or value it differently, but to help us take care of our own selves.
She is worth it. That isn’t the question.

What can go wrong in our self-friendship when we think we are motivated by reasons outside of what is in it for Me? What do you think? I think it distracts us. It’s wasted energy and we don’t have enough to waste. Getting it right, puts energy into us. Getting it wrong, takes energy away.

Yesterday we talked about wanting to connect with someone who has character pathology. Any of us can say that this is hugely energy depleting at times. If we think we are doing this for any other reason than for ourselves, we will get “burned” much more often than we might if we understand that we choose, consented, freely and for ourselves. We will wear the victim-crown and die the death of worn out do-gooders who lived to do nothing really but bemoan their special suffering existence. See blog-post, Please Don’t Say “But.”

Self-Care Tip – Do things for yourself with self-knowledge.

To Connect Because you Want To But Would Be Advised Otherwise, Set Your Rules

A Nuclear family, Image by FredCamina

Image via Wikipedia

When we want to take what is good and leave the rest, to keep the best and let the otherwise character pathology pass us by, to make good memories with someone who torches the ground and air they breath, splits families and catastrophizes the little and ignores the big personal flaws – when we actually turn around and say with a fully informed consent, “I want us in each others lives,” make rules.

1.  Take care of “Me” (bio-psycho-social)

2.  Have walk-away power

3.  Nothing violates what you say is impermeable; such as you and your spouse, your nuclear family, your home

4.  Consistency combined with as blind a vision as you can bare

5.  Take nothing personal

6.  Pick your fights carefully

7.  Let them save face

8.  Set them up for success in your relationship

Each one of these generally takes hard work.  Some of it will be natural and easy.  A lot of it will be hard.

Setting boundaries for the other person helps them control their chaos and they’ll feel safer with themselves.  The boundaries, when clear for a person with character pathology, helps them trust themselves more and subsequently us more.

Again, if these things seem exhausting and insurmountable efforts, it might mean that medically – emotionally and behaviorally …–>  Go back to #1.  Take care of “Me.”

Self-Care Tip – To connect because you want to even when you’d be advised otherwise, set your rules.

Please Don’t Say “But”

Christopher Robin in his Disney depiction.

Image via Wikipedia

Self-Care Tip #152 –  Please don’t say “but” to be a friend to yourself.

She wanted to explain why.  Her sons did not hear.  So she explained why to me.  I listened.  What I learned was…

…It is her choice.  Forget about explaining her “why.”  She knows that they can only hear themselves.  If she wants to be in their lives, she has to be with whom they are in this moment, trumpeting her failures, bemoaning their losses.  If she wants to be with them she’ll meet them there in the gutter and remember their value when she smells stench.

If you’re going to be with the sick, you can’t expect them to mop your brow with tender caresses.  Remember yourself.  If you want to be with your sons, than be where they are, apparently breathing fire and your name is the flame.  Still want to be with them?  Don’t explain why then.  Just be with them, like Christopher Robin when Poo was stuck in the tree trunk.  Just stand there until they can get out and be.  Being present.

If you say “but” it means you didn’t hear. “I’m sorry but,” is not saying I’m sorry. “Yes but,” is worse than many more obvious offenses. See the eyes roll? Hear the sighs?  Watch the words fall apart into letters that pile up like a wall in front of whatever it was that was said in the 1st place.

In some such scenarios it can be a first come first serve. Wait your turn to complain. Wait your turn to present your case.  If you didn’t get there first, listen.  And let the air fill up with all the things that someone wanted to say, and don’t open windows.  Just breath.  Just stay and breath and listen to them if you choose to.  If you choose to be a part of that person, where they are now, stay and be and breath.  Another time if and when they can be with you, you can explain the why.  Maybe they will never be able to give you that gift.  But are they worth it to you?

For her, she decides moment by moment.  You can’t give what you don’t have and sometimes she has what it takes to give that gift and sometimes she does not.  When she doesn’t, she isn’t standing beside their bodies stuck in a tree hole.   She’s off taking care of herself like she should be.  They’re still worth it to her.  And in her story, when she’s gone from them it doesn’t equal her abandoning them.  It means she can’t give just then.

For others, being gone may mean that it is not worth it.  That is fair.  It is a free choice to give a gift.  Gifts are free.  Listen or walk away. …But please don’t say “but.” No one will hear you.

And staying present doesn’t mean more than just that.  It doesn’t make you guilty by association.  It doesn’t give you a “go to jail” card.  If you don’t judge yourself that is.  Wow.  What a gift.  Standing present with the one you love.  Even when they are not being nice.  Even when they are not healthy-minded and say all manner of evil against you, still stand beside them, a witness to their value.

Nor does being present turn you into a noodle.  For pity’s sake, it means only what it means to you.  There is love.  And love is stronger than anything. …But please don’t say “but.”  No one will hear you no matter how much you love him.

And that is what this aching heart-mother taught me about presence.

Question:  How has avoiding the “but” in your dialogue affected the reception of what you’ve said?  Or vice-a-versa?