Thoughts on opting out of life

If we are honest, we have thought about it, at some point, in some way. Of not being here anymore. Of being someone or somewhere different. Of not belonging. Of being sad more hours than being happy. Of stopping the pain. Of how we want to die.

I have.

A month ago a student and friend of mine opted out of life. I was asked to officiate his memorial and hold a compassionate space for people to share their love and pain, joy and sadness, anger and confusion for an incredible human.

Two weeks prior our meditation group spoke about having suicidal thoughts in class. How making the decision to take one’s life is a thought or fantasy that most of us have had before but don’t often share for fear of being misunderstood, judged, ridiculed, or locked up.

A few weeks later a teacher at my yoga studio opted out of life.

Questions of:
“What can I do?” 
“How can I support people?”
“Am I doing enough?

bubbled inside.

I wondered, “If we can help create spaces for conversations about opting out of life that are non-judgemental, compassionate and understanding, could we start to de-stigmatize the topic enough to truly hear and witness each other’s pain? Could we remember the gravity and finality of the decision yet respect a person’s choice?

It has been heavy on my heart. And I want to do something about it.

My first step is sharing a part of me, my lineage and story.

What Tomorrow Brings
Nobody understands me
Nobody will ever understand me
Runs through her head over and over
Locking her inside the torture chamber that has become her mind’s home
Doctor gives her pills to make her feel normal
Her head in a constant fog
beautiful hazel eyes that can’t hide her sadness
the depression gets worse
and confusion reigns her thoughts
I can’t ruin the girls
My precious girls can’t suffer because of me
They would be better off
Without me
Without a mother that is…
Everyone thinks I’m crazy

Nobody understands me
Nobody will ever understand me
This has to end

She pulls down the garage door
The old towel he uses to clean off his tools
Fits perfectly inside of the tailpipe
She turns the ignition on and starts the engine
She locks the doors and rolls up the windows
The smell of cadillac leather seats mingle with car fumes
She sits in the driver seat,
runs her hands over the wheel
And waits for the end
of trying to be understood
of trying to be normal
of not being the perfect mother
of failing at her dreams

My grandmother Ethel.

Her end was only the beginning of little Judie’s trauma
Mom was 5.

They search for her
look everywhere except the garage
for Mommy.
Her father sits across the room
His head hangs low
Eyes never lift past the carpet
Mommy isn’t coming back
He tells the girls

It is all she remembers

Years later he asks if the girls want a new mommy
They are excited
They know Florence from church
They move in with new stepmom and her three boys after the wedding

She remembers ironing and cleaning at 8 years old
How stepmom would go through her dirty laundry to check her underwear 
Your Mother killed herself and was schizophrenic and that’s hereditary and you girls should never, ever have children
She told the girls
Everything was smiles when Dad was home.
Nobody believed her
Her Dad threw himself into his work, an engineer by heart
you were a mistake
he told her
She felt alone and unloved
Only the scary, twisted love of her older stepbrother
Who touched her underneath her panties 
and visited her room to hump her
Was available to her

Years of forgiving
Hours of crying
With the love of my Dad
Does she feel loved into wholeness
Never resentful
She healed with grace
Always caring
Full of love

My Mother Judie.

In a sunny cafe in New York City 
the clink of glasses mingle with chatter
I told my mom and brother through tears 
I had dark thoughts
That I felt like it was raining on me 
and sunny everywhere else
That life felt hard and my heart hurt
That I didn’t always want to be living
I was scared of how they would react

They were calm and quiet while they listened
It is okay to think about it, it is normal they said
And after a pause finished with
And if you do, think it all the way through

I was angry, thinking they didn’t care, 
that maybe they didn’t mind if I was here or not.

Mom said
Think of everything you love, 
the people you love, 
the things you love to do and create
And not being able to experience them anymore
Think of feeling better, happy, joyful again
Think of falling in love with the right man
Think of traveling to all the countries you want to visit
Think of the people you will hurt who won’t understand why, 
who will blame themselves,
who will need a lifetime of healing.

Seems like nowhere to turn
The anxiety seems to plant itself permanently inside my belly
Keeping me glued to its side
The pain of continuing
a losing battle to the relief of the end’s arrival
Prayers ignored for the days to stop, cease
Hope is lost
End is a refuge
Will I ever be free again?
Does it matter if I am here?
I want to rest
I can’t do it anymore
This has to stop.

The silver blade against skin
Drawing a line downward
Letting the river of red
Flow out slowly
Drops into the bathtub of water
Rippling into the clear
Each drop deepening the color
Until a head floats on
The sea of crimson

I continue my fantasy
Imagine who finds me
The hearts I will break
The guilt, anger, resentment, confusion and sadness
I will invoke
The destruction of my dear mother’s heart
The countries I won’t get to visit
The stories of strangers I won’t hear
The gifts I won’t be able to share
The moment when anxiety will leave me and happiness return
The permanent solution to the temporary pain I am experiencing

I remember my grandmother
Her beautiful face I see in mine
The extraordinary daughter she raised

And I decide that I want to see what tomorrow brings