I was suicidal again last night.
I suppose its kind of a shocking statement, but I don’t find it so. If anything, I find it irritating. For me, the most troubling part is not that I was suicidal, but that I was suicidal again. It’s easier now to calmly contemplate death, to form a plan with indifferent detachment, to let the shock and horror of suicide slide off me like misspent tears, and to stare into the chasm of my own mortality and not flinch. That is what troubles me. It comes too easy, too often. And I am not afraid.
The heroic figure in his moment of death was once my idol. I idolized him because he did not fear death, because he was willing to die. He didn’t flinch; embraced it Death. He embraced his heroism. And now I embody that aesthetic, or rather a perversion of it. I do fear Death. I am willing to die, unflinching and unmoved. But I’m not a hero—a false idol, perhaps, but not a hero. Because in Death I do not give Life. Because even if I saved a dying world with my death, I would be no savior. It would be no loss or sacrifice. Death would be my crown of glory, my vestments of splendor, my feast of kings. How little I would care for those I “saved.” How little I would care if they starved while I supped with Death.
I don’t fear Death. I’m not sure I’ve ever feared it. For I had a theology that declared in concrete terms a glorious post-mortal Life. And so Death had no sting, the Grave no victory. In Christ was the Resurrection and the Life and Death was but the painless doorway into his presence. But well do I now know, there are not painless doorways. Through pain was I born and through pain will I die, and the interim is filled with thresholds of agony and horror. And you can’t go back; the Door snaps shut behind you.
There was the precipice: The Closet Door. Within, I was a devout, orthodox Mormon, without, I was a homosexual and a heretic. The horror and the agony. To choose heaven or hell, hope or despair, life or death, glory or ignominy, crucifixion or condemnation. And I could not tell which held what. A storm raged in my soul, at once freezing and searing, a tempest tearing at my flesh, pulling me apart, twin voices roaring, screaming, demanding that I go one way, that I go another, that I be tortured within, that I suffer without, that I choose, that I choose, THAT I CHOOSE! And I chose. I stepped out of the Closet. And the Door snapped shut behind me.
And the Door is locked. I have lost my theology, my teleology, my hope for that glorious post-mortal Life. Death is restored its sting, the Grave its victory. And yet I still do not fear Death. In fact, I fear it less. It is Death’s cruel trick. In the days before and after I came out of the Closet I came closer to Death than ever before. I had a plan; I had the means; I had the will to do it. The storm was still raging and it seemed the fastest means to quietus, it seemed the “third” choice, the unchoice, a place of silence, a place without suffering, a place where I could rest, where I could sleep. To sleep perchance to dream? No. No dream in Death could rival the horror of the living nightmare.
And so I approached Death. I stared it in the face and did not flinch. But I didn’t manage to kill myself either. I returned from the edge, exulting in the knowledge that I had conquered Death because I had faced it and was not afraid. And yet I was uneasy, for as the ambulance carried me away, I saw the faintest of smiles on Death’s face.
Twenty days. Twenty days in a psychiatric hospital. Locked doors and strip searches. Nurses busily administering psychotropic drugs so that we would be quiet, so that we would sleep our problems away and stop bothering them. Doctors watching us, playing mind games, taking private notes and saying very little, hedging around our questions, holding our lives in their hands, walking out the door without a backward glance. All around me was mental illness, pain and anguish, psychoses and neuroses, depression and mania. Crying, screaming, pacing, fighting, sleeping. Eyes glazed over, food dribbling out of the mouth, jerking muscles and facial ticks, raging and ranting and quiet sobbing. Hearing voices, and talking to the air. Fear. Broken minds, broken lives, broken souls. We wore hospital gowns and ate hospital food. Fifteen minutes outside each day. One hour a day for visitors. If they came. A broken chess set in the corner. A bucket of crayons and recycled paper. An out of tune piano without music. White walls, white floors, white beds. Everyone sitting in vinyl covered chairs, staring at nothing, waiting for nothing. Everyday the same. Wakeup, breakfast, medication, lunch, doctors, dinner, bedtime. Twenty days I waited for nothing, huddled on my chair with the others. We did not fear Death.
And now I know why Death was smiling. Because I do not fear Death. Because I should fear Death. Fear is the one boundary that staves it off, that silences its seductive call in the nighttime, that sicklies o’er the native hue of resolution. And now that I don’t fear it, it calls often. Suicide is readily there when all other thoughts grow quiet. Always in the back of my mind. Not because I want to die, necessarily, but because I no longer have a healthy fear of Death. In hubris, I thought myself its victor and now it haunts me, taunting and grinning. Waiting. And, I suppose, it shall always wait for me and shall at last claim me. Either, God willing, by the course of nature, or—most terrible thought—by my own agency. Now that there is no fear of Death within me, I must come to love Life, to fully embrace it, to engage it as my protection from the Nighttime. I must find a theology not of the post-mortal world, but of this one. Not a theology that preaches Death and Resurrection, but one that preaches Life. Here. Now. A theology that loves me in return for my Love. A Life that loves me fully, a Life I can fully love. A Life, a Theology, a Love on this side of the Closet.