Saturday, February 13, 2010

Alexander McQueen

The truth will come out. One British tabloid said that he hung himself. My therapist thought that he died of a pill overdose. The death was not ruled as suspicious, so I believe, there was a suicide note left behind. The man was making unhappy remarks on Twitter. Anyone who uses Twitter will be prone to leave a suicide note. You will want to communicate with the world.

I've always wanted to own something by the fashion designer Alexander McQueen. I admire him oh so much. Last fall they were selling a hot pink sweater at Neimam Marcus for a little over $300. I saw it online. I knew I couldn't afford it, but I would have liked to have bought it. Later in a grocery store I saw the cover of Glamour magazine with the bleach blond singer Gwen Stefani wearing the sweater. The reason that the sweater was even remotely within my reach was that McQueen had started a second, mass marketed brand of clothing called McQ. Naturally I would never be able to own any of his couture clothing. But after the sale of a book, if I was flush with money, maybe I would be able to afford one item from the McQ brand.

I had done my writing for the day and I checked in at Yahoo news, see if I have any new email, what I always do before I fold up my computer and put it away. And this was when I saw that he was dead at 40. The news articles mentioned that he was upset over the recent death of his mother on February 2nd, and that he had left Twitter remarks like "life must go on!!!!!!!" and "if I can only make it through this week". He had fashion shows coming up. He must have been under pressure. One article said that there is a pressure on a genius to always come up with rave reviews. His last show received rave reviews.

A suicide means something different to everyone, but to someone who has attempted suicide it is a bit like looking in a mirror. I think "I've taken a forbidden path that not many people have taken" and then here is this man McQueen, who took my forbidden path, yet, followed it all the way to the end! There is a feeling that he succeeded where I failed. In a secret part of me, I am in love with death. The end to suffering. An escape from myself, a self that I at times despair over and loath. The girl who tried to kill herself in 1995 and the woman I am now are not quite the same. I have become a bit more accepting of my illness. I am involved in a relationship that puts no pressure on me to be more than who I am. But there is still the feeling that I am a failure at life, and that if I did not have this mental illness, I would not be a failure.

I always assumed, because of my experience, that at the heart of a suicide was a person who felt that they had failed at life. It is hard to imagine that McQueen felt like a failure. The people in the industry used words like "brilliant" and "genius" to describe him. The Queen of England gave him a medal in 2003. He has started learning his trade at the age of 16 so he always knew exactly what he wanted to do. And he was given by the owners of his label great creative latitude. New stores of his were being planned in the largest cities of different countries. He was on the rise.

Part of what binds me to this world is my creative work. I want to live because I want to see my book completed. I want to live because I want to solve this creative challenge I've made for myself. Also, as I write the story, I am curious to see what happens next. I have set a mountain in front of me and it is my task to climb it. The part of me that wants to live wants to stand on the summit and take a look at the view. How will I feel when I am closer to the clouds? When the book is finished, published or not, I will not feel like a failure. I can only assume, because I know myself, that once this mountain is climbed, I will begin to look around for another mountain to climb next. This is a healthy part of my personality that keeps me involved in the process of life.

It is hard to believe that a creative person who knew great success due to their creativity would want to end their life. There is much joy to life that simply being creative gives you. Sometimes I think how lucky I am to write every day. Some days it is not on the book, it is on the blog, and some days it is true I do not write at all, but the majority of the days I write. I am not dreaming about becoming a writer, I am doing it. I have met people who dream about writing a book. Not that they have written a book and hope to get it published, just that they dream about writing! It puzzles me, what is stopping them. Perhaps not wanting it enough. Their life is busy and they don't make the time to be creative. For the type of work that I do you need empty, very alone time to be creative. But perhaps there is fear about the act of creativity. The worry of "will I be good enough not to be laughed at" and "can I get what is in my head out of my head and onto......." whatever it is, paper or canvas.

So did McQueen feel like a failure? Or did he feel a lack of love in his life, especially with the death of his mother? I suppose that for a suicide life feels empty. I take note from McQueen's death - fame can feel empty. It is something I have had my suspicions about anyway. But this death confirms it. Fame will not automatically make your life feel worthy of being lived.

I have to believe that McQueen was depressed and grieving. I know a little bit about depression. Depression strips life of meaning. Depression severs ties to life. People outside of yourself no longer matter. Activities that had brought satisfaction no longer matter. In a deep depression nothing can touch you. And you can't see the future in a depression. Time compresses down to the moment, and the moment is black and empty. In that moment you have tunnel vision, there is one thing you see before you, and that is death. This is the depression of the suicide. I suppose that you can go toward death with feelings of adrenaline and a type of joy. It is joy without happiness. When you want death you want freedom from life. Committing suicide you act with purpose and there may be some relief that in the midst of so much emptiness, at last you have found a purpose. It is the purpose to go though with some act (involving a belt or a knife or pills); it is an act that will end life. The moment seems pregnant with meaning. You say to yourself "This act will end my life" - and it is exciting - thus the small jolt of adrenaline. So you can actually feel good about what you are doing. Not all suicides are crying buckets of sad tears when they commit suicide. Some feel very resolute and determined. The secret joy of a last act in life.

What I felt first, after I read the meager facts gathered right after McQueen's death, was not grief. Hours later I would feel grief and I cried a little bit. I turned very sad and morose. Distant from my husband when he came home from work. He tried to feed me chocolates. But all that came later. What I felt first was a shock and a thrill. It was not a happy thrill. But it was a high. It was excitement. A suicide of a personal hero! I looked into a dark mirror. I felt kinship. I felt close to death. Death not by car accident or plane accident. Death probably not from a heart attack because then the death would be investigated as suspicious and an autopsy would have to be preformed. No, the police knew exactly why McQueen had died, and this said to me the causes were not natural. This was death by choice. Death by his own hand. And a note to curtail the investigator's curiosity. I could look at a suicide but not touch it. And so, it was, morbidly exciting.

I have felt this odd excitement before when our country entered into war. There was a moment, in the first invasion of Iraq, when we were defending Kuwait, that the American people were told; we are now at war. Some invisible geographical line was crossed or the first shots were fired. And the news people were told; this is it. Diplomacy is at an end. Lives are being lost. We shoot with the intent to kill and in return, we are being shot at. Even as I write these words shivers are running down my arms as I remember where I was when I heard, over a loudspeaker in the library, "Ladies and Gentlemen, we are now at war." Horror spikes adrenaline. I'm not proud of my reaction. I wish the first reaction was pure grief. But I think that in the few split seconds before grief there is horror. Horror is a primitive emotion. You are shocked into stillness but you are restless. You are sad but you are ready to jump out of your skin. Horror fascinates.

My therapist Jim says that somewhere in Shakespeare there is the perfect suicide. This is how the perfect suicide should proceed.

A blind older man decides that he wishes to commit suicide. He summons his grown son and tells his son that he wishes to be led to the cliffs of Dover so that he can jump off. The son takes his father into a field. He tells his father that they are at the very edge of the cliffs of Dover. The father jumps. He jumps and then he falls flat onto the ground.

My therapist says that the old man got to live through his death. He experienced the intent, experienced the action, and then, I suppose, he was reborn. My therapist thinks that when you want to die, something inside of you wishes to die, a part of you needs to pass away so that there can be a rebirth of something new. The problems with suicides, according to my therapist, is that the body is mistaken to be the thing that needs to die. But always there is a mental existence that needs to be let go.

Jim says that when talking about the self, it is always best to say "the depression within me" or "the genius within me" - not "I am depressed" or "I am a genius". Thus you say not "I want to die" but rather, "Something inside of me wants to die".

I can clearly see the sanity of saying "The God within me" rather than "I am God". And my experience of writing, or drawing, is that I am channeling something. This is because the end product usually surprises me. I think, "I did that? No way!" And then there is curiosity. "Where did it come from? I'll have to try again tomorrow and see what new thing mysteriously appears." It is "the creativity within me". I would be a bit presumptuous, and inaccurate, to say "I am creative". Although, of course, this is the common way of speaking.

So now, because I have been working with Jim, when I feel the pain of being suicidal, I ask myself "What in me wishes to die?" Usually it is an expectation of something happening which did not happen. I feel disappointment and I want to die.

Last week, I suppose because I am mentally ill, I felt suicidal while waiting for the plummer. The plummer was supposed to come in the morning and I felt some mild anxiety about letting a stranger into my apartment and having a courteous conversation with him. When the hours went by, and he did not appear, I felt more and more anxious, until finally I was pricked with a feeling and thought that was familiar and yet like no other; I wanted to die.

I called my mother, who is the landlord, and told her that the plummer she ordered had not appeared. She told me, (being an experienced landlord), that often you must wait for plummers and electricians. She said that people in this trade do not know what they are going to find when they go on a job. It can be a monstrous problem or it can be a little one. They have a hard time defining how long a job is going to take because they don't know what the problem really is before they have arrived and investigated. I must be patient she said. The problem was not an emergency - an emergency would be a cascade of water falling from the ceiling which did not stop. This problem was a leak when the upstairs tenant used his shower. He had stopped using his shower. Thus the leak was dry. She said that she would call the plumming agency (I had tried and no one had answered) again and again until she spoke with someone. Eventually she did speak with someone and a new time was set for the next day. On that day the plummer arrived as planned. And as a matter-of-fact, I got along dandy with him. He was a genuinely sweet man.

Inside of me I had an expectation that was not being met. I had to let it go. My mother's voice was very soothing as she talked to me. It felt great. She assured me that she would take care of the problem, and that she would not stop until a solution was found. The burden was lifted off my shoulders and shared with my mother. The stress of the situation evaporated when it was looked at through a new perspective, that of my mother's. My perspective, whatever it was, was diseased and could be discarded once someone else gave me their opinion. I adopted my mother's view of plummers, and the suicidal pain disappeared.

I deeply believe that Alexander McQueen made a mistake. Whatever his anguished view, by talking with someone skilled, it could have been turned. If it was depression he was experiencing, that could have been lifted (not necessarily abolished though) with the aid of medication. That the man was deeply unhappy I don't doubt. But he had reasons to live, the first of which was the talent that lay hidden within his breast.

It is funny, but as I was grieving McQueen's death I said to my husband, "Am I next?" I meant, will life conspire to take away my reasons for living and cause me to take my own life? Or, will I act like a fool, in some moment of desperation, and do what he did?

Always suicide is a mistake. I believe this with all my heart. But believing doesn't set me free. If a missing plummer causes me to feel suicidal, I will feel it again. It seems to be a condition of my illness for my mind to turn, when it is stressed, in that direction.

No comments:

Post a Comment

In order to keep a neat and orderly blog, I am initiating comment moderation. Thank you.