Archive for the 'suicide' Category

Sixth grade seating

February 28, 2013

When I was in sixth grade, my teacher kept seating me with a particular boy.  The boy had been held back from the year before, but he didn’t seem to have obvious difficulty learning.  I thought he might have been out sick or something.

Well, we all used to look forward to having the seating plan changed every month.  There was some excitement to all the moving around and getting to know other kids and having new people to chat with or pass notes to easily.

So the third time in a row Miss Robbins sat me next to this same boy, I kind of noticed.  He was shy.  We chatted a bit.  He had a heart-shaped face, straight brown hair, he dressed a little more formally than most kids, as I recall.

Then one day he showed me the scars on his wrists and told me he had walked through a glass porch door.  I accepted what he said, even if it didn’t make much sense to me even then.

Eventually at some point during the school year I got a different seat mate, although I think the boy and I got paired up again later in the year.

It reminded me of how my piano teacher used to open up to me about her problems when I was seven, write me letters even over the summer when I didn’t have lessons.

I am not sure what I did for these people as a child.  I was not aware of doing anything in particular other than just being me.  My mother sometimes thought people were crossing lines with me, and I quit taking piano lessons from a different teacher when I was fourteen because the man held my hand too long after he cut my finger nails or showed me some approach to attacking the keys.  I was never sure what that was about, but he, a single, middle-aged gentlemanly man at the time, got married the next year.  I missed seeing his father’s huge paintings in his house, and he had some lovely pianos, too.

Anyway, as I child I was aware of being taken as some sort of trusted confidant, some sort of emotional bulwark.  Gita has tried to explain to me what it is I am doing, or how I present, that people are responding to, but I can’t say I get what it is even when she explains it.

When I try to see my life as a unified whole, and to find a common thread running back to childhood from what I do now, I guess that would have to be it — this way people respond to me, and the way my experience of whatever it is I am doing is quite different from theirs.

Suicide response on the op-ed page

April 16, 2012

David Brooks and Paul Krugman now have each made an attempt in their respective op-ed columns to respond to the issue of suicide.

I’m not sure what I expected them to say.

Brooks was in favor of addressing it with a reminder that we are not good at predicting how we will feel in the future.  Maybe the person whose suicide prompted his address was able at the time to stand up to his urge to kill himself and his wife, but that is not my experience of suicidal people — in my experience, they seem to be victims of large forces welling up within them that are larger than their cognitive apparatus and force of will can withstand.

Krugman goes for the big picture of what will help the economy in Europe and hence business owners and would-be-employees.  I don’t disagree that a systemic solution is needed with an intervention way back in the steps that bring individuals to the brink, but what are individuals to do in the meantime?

I can’t say I have a more effective response to suicidal people.  The ones I’ve known ended up hospitalized and were helped by medication.  I was impotent in the face of their despair to help them — they were beyond my reach, it felt to me, when I tried.  Both came back from the brink, although both tend to stray in that direction to this day, despite on-going medication.

I guess my conclusion is that op-ed columns can only address some issues in a limited way.   They are probably the wrong means to address particular suicides.  My sense is that suicidal situations include multiple contributing factors.  Teaching vulnerable to have healthier attitudes towards the future earlier in their lives might help, prodding slumping economies out of depressions through particular economic policies might help, I’m not against any of that.

I think maybe for me, the event of a suicide is a manifestation of forces beyond our control in the universe in a context in which we don’t (nowadays, at least) see “evil.”  I think the force(s) involved may well be the same as the force(s) involved in explosive rather than implosive behavior, where many people are happy to see “evil.”  So maybe our approach to suicide is a start at addressing our unhelpful attitude toward forces beyond our control that result in damage.