Last month, my brother married the woman he’s been with for the better part of the past decade. Rather than a traditional wedding, they opted for a handfasting ceremony without the formal attire. It was different, but beautiful nonetheless. What is handfasting you might ask? Handfasting is a ceremony in which the wedded partners take each others hands while their hands are tied by one or more cords/ribbons, resulting in a literal “tying the knot.” The term dates back to 16th/17th century Scotland according to Wikipedia. Although this type of ceremony is usually associated with Pagan or Wiccan culture, it has recently been used more often in secular and even religious weddings. Despite whatever kind of ritual or ceremony is chosen in a marriage, one thing remains the same: It is a union between two people, two lives; a lifelong commitment to one another that is born out of love, and the willingness to endure the better or worse parts until the end. Lately, I’ve been thinking about tying the knot. Not the kind of knot that joins two lives, but rather the kind that separates life from the individual.
“6 to 8 will do just fine;
But if superstition serves,
Loop the knot 13 times.”
That little jingle came to me as I was doing some fact-finding on hangman’s knots. By now, you’ve probably figured out that the knot I’m referring to is symbolic for hanging, and in this case – suicide. Unlike the term used for marriage where tying the knot symbolizes the unity between two people, tying the knot in this case symbolizes the path to suicide, and suicide itself – the spiraling slopes of madness, suffocation of life; and ultimately cutting off the lifeblood entirely for a very permanent death. While suicide in itself is the instantaneous act of finality, the path to it begins at suicidal ideation and eventually reaches a point where acting on those thoughts take place. Whatever the method may be, they all lead to the dreadful or fantasized irreversible act. The only exception to the instantaneous part (unless a clumsy person misses their mark, doesn’t jump from high enough, or tied the rope to a beam that doesn’t support their weight), are the pills/poison not taken at a high enough dosage (carbon monoxide aside). Unless some very lethal toxins are used such as cyanide, arsenic, or belladonna, chances are it will take a very uncomfortable while for the job to be done leaving the window of opportunity open to being saved, unfortunately. Although the act (if successful) is irreversible, the path from the first thought to the final loop on the knot is one that can be turned away from.
Yes, my mind has been on the subject lately, and not in the best of ways. I’m not proud to admit that, but it’s not something I want to hide either. So what’s triggering these thoughts? Perhaps at seeing the people around me moving forward in their lives, I’ve come to realize how far I’ve fallen, how utterly incompetent I am. Perhaps I can only see a failure when I look in the mirror, a monster every time I close my eyes. Maybe I’m tired of waking each morning to the same drab routine, stuck in a heavy haze of an endless daze. Maybe I can’t seem to feel anything but a deep emptiness that yearns to be filled; one that no amount of alcohol, substances, and other desires of the flesh can satisfy – as they are all empty, temporary illusions of happiness. It may be that life itself is not worth living, that I don’t belong here, that my existence was a mistake, that I don’t matter.
But I do.
And so do you.
The thoughts come swarming in at our moments of vulnerability, like sharks to the scent of blood. Caught in the current of the maelstrom, it becomes difficult to break away from the thoughts that continue to pull the mind to ever darker places. It may be impossible to find the light or a way out from all the chaos, if we keep looking down at the gaping maw of the maelstrom which continues to draw us in. Look away from that dark place, and there may yet be a glimmer of light, of hope, or even an extended hand ready and willing to pull you out. Then extend your hand and accept what has been given – hope, help, life. It’s much easier said than done, as I am still struggling with this. Before I continue, I’d like to state the obvious – that the causes and thoughts vary widely between person to person, as each individual is unique; and though circumstances may be similar, our headspaces are different. What may be trivial for some can be life altering for another. Regardless of the circumstances or the scenarios, one thing remains constant – losing the will to live.
Have I really fallen that far, or am I too busy measuring myself up to other’s standards? Am I really a failure if I’m the only one who thinks so? A monster still, if I’ve shown remorse? Is every day truly as gray as I’ve painted it for myself? Am I truly consumed with emptiness, when I also have love? Is my life worth living now that I’ve put things in a different light, having broken my gaze free from the gaping maw of the maelstrom? Yes it is, but it is usually not so simple. Even if we can break away our thoughts from that dark place, we are still grounded in reality and all the struggles that come with it. Thinking in a more positive light won’t make the bills disappear, or add digits to an account balance. It won’t change the current housing situation, or relationship problems. It can’t erase the scars of trauma, neglect, or abuse. It will never change what was, or what is. But, it is a start to what can be.
Rather than taking action on suicidal ideation, wouldn’t it be better to take action on life? Sure, life sucks at times and we all know by now that it isn’t easy, but there are good times that can make the bad worth enduring. Now, I can’t say be happy and enjoy life just like that. That’s too unrealistic to do so suddenly. Rather, come to acceptance with what’s been given – life, and come to acceptance with yourself, scars and all. Only then will it be possible to find contentment and, dare I say, possibly happiness. In all honesty, I don’t think it’s possible to do it alone. I know I can’t. Loneliness can lead to a point of emptiness, and there’s no better fuel for suicidal ideation than emptiness. On days where I feel just that, it only takes something as simple as a smile from my child to take away that emptiness.
It feels funny to admit this, but I believe love is the only thing that can take away emptiness, or should I say fill the void where the emptiness resides. I’m not talking about the kind of love that’s synonymous with sex, or the kind that describes the giddy feelings of butterflies when someone’s been met or the feeling of being “in love ” – that’s attraction, stimulated senses similar to that of hormones if not hormones themselves. That’s not real love. Real love is giving without asking for something in return, serving another without self-interest. Real love is something that takes effort, putting all personal desires aside for the sake of the one(s) you love, and willing to endure whatever hardships may come. It isn’t easy. It requires sacrifice. When that kind of love is reciprocated, it becomes mutual and with a partner, becomes what should be the foundation of marriage. With my daughter, it’s that love which keeps me going day after day. That love that takes away the emptiness. That love that makes the hardest parts of life worth enduring.
With that said, I can safely say that she saves me every day. Some days can be harder than others, and she can test my patience at times like all kids do. Putting aside my own self-interests was difficult at first and still can be, but I’ve now found a sort-of balance between hers and mine (Some habits/addictions can be hard to kick). No matter how deep I fall into the maelstrom of suicidal thoughts, or how intentionally reckless I can be with my own well-being testing fate in the process, or how depressed I get with current circumstances, I always manage to pull through because of that love for her. She makes me realize that I do matter. However, I’d be lying if I said she’s the only reason to stay alive, or the only one that can get me through this. The truth is, there are others – family, friends, even a higher power if you believe, that can help. Even though I continue to struggle with life’s challenges, and when I find myself staring into the darkness, one step away from going over the edge, it’s the support that I’ve allowed myself to have and love which keeps me from going over that edge.
Suicidal ideation will always be there. A lurking storm of despair that will pull in anyone who dares to let their mind wander too close. Though there is a way out of that storm, that storm never really disappears. It’s easy to fall right back into the vicious current of chaotic thoughts, but if it has been escaped from once, it can be escaped from again. Taking action on life, and finding that light, help, or hope can really make a difference. The path from the first thought to the final loop in the knot is one that can be turned away from at any time. It only takes a choice, and effort to act on it, although this is not easy. With help and support, and most importantly – love, this struggle doesn’t have to be faced alone. If none of the above are available, fear not. Seek and you shall find. I cannot speak for everyone, as the situation varies widely between person to person. This is my tale to tell, and it is not over yet. If you’re reading this and struggling with the dark thoughts of suicide, or tying that final loop into place on the knot, your tale is still being written and doesn’t have to end. Don’t let someone else have to tell it for you.
Not everyone will agree with what I have to say, or my opinions on the matter, but to each his own. With my brother’s wedding, I couldn’t help but feel a tinge of sadness even though I was happy for him. While he has been with her for almost the entire past 10 years, it has been over 10 years since I’ve been in a relationship. I don’t know if I’ll ever be ready to commit, or even tie the knot in that aspect. Perhaps one day I’ll cross paths with someone who will change that. My birthday also passed recently, and that put me into low mood for the month. Another year with nothing to show for my effort (or lack thereof). You can see now where my thoughts mentioned above came from. Though my thoughts have been on tying the knot, I’ve chosen not to take action on them. I’ve chosen to endure the hardship and keep trying for a better situation, no matter how many times I fall or fail. I won’t be tying the hangman’s knot today, and I’ll be making an effort to refrain from doing so tomorrow, and every day after that. However, I can’t leave you all without a birthday song. Please excuse my dark humor.
Happy birthday to me
Hang myself from a tree
Let the life drain from my
Body and end this misery.