Are You “Safe”?

The language used by US mental health providers around suicide is very fucked up. They like to ask if you are “safe”, which in fact doesn’t mean safe at all. It means going to stay alive–keep suffering. As long as the police are at large, you are obviously not safe. No one in poverty, with a disability, or who’s a color other than white is safe. And as long as you’re stuck in the 3rd world backwater that is the US, making sure you suffer as much as possible and can’t get anything resembling help, you are obviously not safe. In fact, the only time you truly ARE safe is when you are dead.
The other thing they like to ask is “whether you are suicidal”. But like pornography, this is never defined–because we really don’t want to talk about it, no matter how necessary. There is a big difference between having a loaded gun pointed at your head about to pull the trigger, and drawing the abundantly rational conclusion that you’d rather be dead, or would be better off ending than prolonging your inescapable suffering. If suicide were as easy as flipping a switch or pushing a button, I’d have done it a million times already. If I were asked whether I’d rather be alive or dead, there’s only a generous maximum of 10% of the time when I’d want to be alive. I’m old enough and smart enough to have lots of experience and knowledge and know what the hell I’m talking about. But it should be obvious that, even though I would almost always rather be dead than alive, that doesn’t mean I’m imminently about to kill myself (I can only wish). There is a long continuum here, but like most things, we ignore it, put a wholly inadequate label on it, and pretend it’s a simple dichotomy. And woe to anyone in pain who answers one of these questions “incorrectly”. The police will come for you, and you’ll likely be killed violently.

At Death’s Door?

I had my PT evaluation. My strength and range of motion are pretty weak. Medicaid doesn’t cover many visits, so I need more discipline to do exercises at home. They also said I should ice it daily (and agreed this is a better use of frozen peas than eating them. Peas are evil and disgusting). The therapist I worked with and asked out last year still works there but is transferring. I have a new therapist, but at least they have my history from before.

I haven’t figured out how to say anything about this, but my grandmother in RI has not been doing very well. In and out of the hospital and various issues. She’s 94. I’m nervous about getting a call and having to suddenly go out there. It’s not the end at this point, but she’s 94, and various things are coming to a head. I’m not aware of any blood relative living to 100, though almost all reach 90. It’s a real historical anomaly that I’m 39 and still have 3 living grandparents. The fourth died in 1987, so I haven’t gone through this in a long time. My grandfather in St. Louis is nearly 95. I didn’t think he was still on email, but he answered a message on another topic with an extraordinarily bitter and nasty email about basic income. He’s been declining for years and fades in and out of dementia. He’s really always been a bitter, unpleasant person (yes, worse than me), but he made himself a focal point of the extended family. I don’t know of specific recent health issues with him, but he’s plenty old with plenty of ongoing problems.

My grandmother in St. Louis is 88. She’s in better health than the other two, though she’s also had some moderate scares. She’s gone overboard on physical health for decades while completely ignoring mental health which has to be the bigger threat to both of them overall. These are the grandparents we had to live with in high school, and they seem so codependent to me that I’m not sure how long either could last without the other.

In short, I’m lucky to have three grandparents alive, but none are going to be around a lot longer. The way my parents, and sisters by extension, deal with (or refuse to deal with) the reality of these situations is going to make them even harder than they’d already be. There’s going to be a lot to sort out when they’re gone, about which there’s been no discussion at all. I tried to gently raise the subject when my parents visited, but it didn’t work. My paternal grandmother in particular is on the secretive side of my family, and many secrets are likely to come out once she can’t conceal them. I don’t know what, and it doesn’t seem like I can do anything to prepare for all this other than waiting for the second–and third and fourth–shoes to drop. I’ll be 40 this year and realize I should take better care of myself, but there are many limiting factors.

Not Discussing Suicide = Biggest Barrier to Preventing It

This drives me nuts. I’ve lost so many relationships with family, friends, and professional contacts because they can’t even stand to hear about suicide. Including the head of the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness, while she constantly posts from their Facebook page about the importance of mental health and its confluence with homelessness. The hypocrisy is astounding.

NPR/WBUR article

“When my brother died, people had the nerve to come to say to me what a coward he was,” Barnes recalls. “My brother was a firefighter. My brother went to Afghanistan. My brother fought for his country. He goes into burning buildings to save people’s lives, and he’s a coward? My brother had a weak moment with a lifetime of depression.”

…“The biggest barrier or the biggest cultural barrier we have to preventing suicide is not being able to talk about it,” says Jack Jordan, a clinical psychologist in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, who’s widely recognized for his expertise in counseling suicide survivors — those who’ve lost a loved one to suicide.

Grief Process, Part 1

There are times when I want or expect Lucy to be there, but she’s not. I’m slowly doing things like cleaning and putting away her food and water bowls, or emptying her litter box for the last time. I forget that I can close my door all the way now since she doesn’t need to get in or out anymore, and I don’t have to close the toilet lid for her. I have uneaten food to return to the pet store or give away. The cat hair that finds its way everywhere is starting to get cleaned up but no longer replaced. I haven’t been the wreck I feared; the main result seems to be that I’ve slept poorly since she died. But then I fear breaking down in tears at some other random time. My dogsitting job for this weekend got canceled, so I won’t be volunteering with the foster cats in Ballard. The shelter has a pet loss support group that I plan to attend. I decided to have Lucy cremated individually with the ashes returned to me–but not to go to the crematorium in Auburn. I may have her ashes shipped to me rather than brought to the emergency clinic in Renton. Apparently, “they ship people all the time”. The things you never expected to learn…10988519_10152695769922507_1706186877072026819_n