Thursday, February 18, 2010

Follow the Leader

Yesterday was difficult. I was reading a lot of on line stories about Alexander McQueen and people who were interviewed talking about. This is what one socialite and writer said about him;

"I don't think success was easy for him," friend Plum Sykes wrote in the Sunday Telegraph this week. "He told me he was driven by his insecurities, and he believed that all successful people were."

There were details in the news articles that McQueen hung himself in a wardrobe and left a suicide note. It boggles my mind that someone so accomplished should throw life away. So it helped, a little, to hear someone speak of him as being insecure. My instinct tells me that he made a mistake. Suicide is a mistake. If he could have made it through his mother's funeral, cried himself into incoherence, then he would have lived and continued with his work.

One article mentioned the fashionista Isabella Blow and that she had been a friend of McQueen's and had committed suicide three years earlier. So I looked up Blow and read about her life and death.

Then it came time to take my morning medication. My pills are arranged in a little plastic box according to day. I can tell at a glance if I've taken my morning dose or forgotten it. I refill the box once a week. Last week I ran out of my narcotic Klonopin and had to order more from the pharmacy. I order a three month supply. That's 360 pills. I opened the new bottle yesterday, looked at what it contained, and immediately thought that it was enough to kill myself with. I couldn't shake the fantasy throughout the rest of the day. It became an obsession.

I thought, since McQueen killed himself, I should kill myself too. It felt like playing follow the leader. I was not particularly sad or depressed, at least, not more than usual. It just felt right that you should follow the example that someone you admires sets. I told my husband that it felt like McQueen was somehow closer to God than me. My husband pointed out that if you commit suicide you are probably feeling cut off from God.

In my work on the book I'm at a particularly difficult point. It is fun but it is very challenging. I'm trying to describe all the different types of people you find in a mental hospital. So far I've got the broken, the neglected, and the abused. I've got the posers and the pretenders. And I've got the petty criminals and the self-proclaimed victims. I'm naming the types because I'm trying to prove a thesis statement; that you don't find saints in a mental hospital. Haven't yet written about saints. These thoughts about who you might find in a mental hospital are all in the mind of a social worker who is incapable (she knows it) of loving strangers. Her eyes are judgmental and not kind.

I'm really lucky that the Catholic Church has never proclaimed a saint who spent time in a mental institution. Saints are definitely weird people, not like the rest of us. But because they aren't like the rest of us, they don't suffer craziness like the rest of us. They may be eccentric, and they may be protected by the Church, but they are more likely to be killed then to be medically treated.

I guess, while I was thinking about following McQueen, life felt unreal. I simply did not feel connected to the people in my life, like my husband and family, or the friends at the Church and peer support. I did feel connected to my writing, but the enormity of the project - that it will take several years, that it can be so difficult, - made me weary. I get world weary. I go through the motions of staying busy and try to keep my mind occupied. If my mind is occupied then I don't think about suicide. It is a life built around trying to stay alive and not think about suicide.

The night when thoughts of McQueen got really bad I put a movie on and watched it. Since his death I haven't been able to get on the tread mill. So this movie was watched in bed. It had no sex, no violence, and no special effects in it. It was "Pride and Prejudice" - a love story based on the book by Jane Austin. Oh, there was a final kissing scene at the very end, presumably after the heroes have gotten married. That is the final point to all her novels, getting married.

The movie helped me. It soothed me. It said, "Life is so you can have these little sweet experiences". McQueen is currently unable to. Every little sweet earthly experience is lost to McQueen forever. Even the tiniest.

This morning I brought my dog inside from her morning bathroom break outside. As I closed the outside door, the inner door opened, and for a brief moment both doors were open. The kitchen curtain fluttered. In my mind I imagined that the movement of the kitchen curtain was our gray cat sneaking outside. I did not, in that moment, know what was real or what was not. The cat should not be outside in the cold and snow. Once the cat left us for five weeks. The cat is not allowed anymore outside, but I know, she would like to go outside. I was relieved when, after taking off my coat and heating up a cup of coffee, I looked at the closed bedroom door and saw the cat and the dog sitting outside of it waiting to get inside. The bedroom is where we have an electric heater going all the time. The animals know that is where it is warm and on a winter day, we will, two cats, a dog and myself, all four of us, be inside enjoying the heat. The joy of our gathering is small. But it is real.

Choose life.

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