Friday, January 8, 2010

The S Word, Part 2

Making Sense of the Senseless

Recently, I’ve decided that two key factors kept me from fathoming why someone would commit suicide.

The first is that I simply didn’t understand life. While I had gone out teaching about life and the Plan of Happiness for two years, I knew deep down that I really didn’t grasp some very important aspects like how I was going to get married and have a family when sex and intimacy seemed completely unappealing.

Upon meeting Grey and forming a relationship with Mark, life itself became understandable. I was different and there was a reason for so many awkward situations and conversations that had come diversityto pass.

The second factor was branching out and meeting people that were not part of Utah’s bubble world. This was easy as a college student. International, intellectual, and GLBT friends showed me that there really are more questions than answers in this life. No one can profess to completely understand another person.

I’ve learned about suicide and abuse from people who have faced it first-hand, and realized that these problems are so prevalent in society through movies and works of literature such as Prayers for Bobby, Latter Days, and Facing East.

Essentially, we are put in a state of cognitive dissonance. Part of us is aligned with Church teachings while the other half stands (whether it be in action or existence) in opposition to that ideal. We all have different methods of resolving this conflict (as I discussed in Walking the Fence) and unsafe behaviors such as suicide result because they seem like the best option.

Another Death in the Family

It was Saturday night and one of my last nights at my parents’ house before moving out. The phone rang.

stressful phone call

“Hi, grandma. How are you?”

“I’m good. Is your father home?”

“He’s at a court of honor. Might I give him a message?”

“Tell him Craig’s shot himself and to come over as soon as he can.”

Grandma was always one for keeping her cool. The worry and grief in her voice were imperceptible.

I sent my father on his way, shocked that another cousin, seemingly a happy family man with a wife and two-week old daughter, would take his own life. The family had gathered at her house to grieve.

Four days later, we sat at the funeral. I will never forget the words of Tanner and Craig’s fathers. Both of them described in uncomfortable detail an uneasy trek up stairs to learn about their respective sons’ last act.

consoling table Tanner’s father found a letter neatly sealed on the kitchen counter. He read it aloud to Tanner’s widow in the kitchen holding her as they sat together at the kitchen table. The depression he’d fought for years became unbearable. Expressing his love, his doubts, and regrets, he said his final goodbye.

Approaching the pulpit, Craig’s father kept his composure. “Every step I took, I hoped I would hear some sign of life, of my son’s love as I went up those stairs. Each step grew darker and more silent.”

His voice cracked, tearing a gap in the dam holding back the tears. “My ears were first to tell me something was wrong. Then my nose. I could tell he was not there anymore and I saw him—No!—his body lying there.”

The silence was labored as no one wanted to hear even the barest of accounts.

Speaking for himself and Tanner’s father, he said, “After what they put us through, forgiving them has been the hardest thing either of us have ever or will ever have to do. We still love them and they are missed.”

From then on, it became an issue at the back of my mind. I didn’t ever want to hear another story like that. Of the depressed father, of the rejected Gay Mormon son or daughter, or the person nobody thought had a care in the world.

End, Part 2.



Mister Curie said...

Cognitive dissonance. I thought I had left that behind when I decided that the world made a lot more sense if the church wasn't true. Turns out I was wrong (about the cognitive dissonance being gone). After I accepted that the church wasn't true then I began to realize that I'm gay. Your sentence, "Part of us is aligned with Church teachings while the other half stands (whether it be in action or existence) in opposition to that ideal", was powerful. Turns out that I'm still (at least culturally) a Mormon boy at heart. Being gay wasn't in the "program" and its causing some serious cognitive dissonance.

Anonymous said...

These stories are so sad and tragic. I am very sorry for you and your fmaily and that you have had to deal, and continue to do so, with such difficult losses. I hope all will find a measure of peace that may have to come in time. Again, I am very sorry for these so sad stories and your losses. Love to you and yours.

I have dealt with the kind of depressions of which you have written. Some of them were related to being a gay member of the Church, others related to the abuses and aftermath thereof which I lived. I am not quite sure what made me hang on until healing could happen, but healing has happened. And, I am eternally grateful that somehow I did not end up taking my life. But, I do have great compassion and understanding for those who do suffer, who do not receive the healing they need, and who react to their sufferings by further hurting themselves. It is such a difficult thing to have to deal with these kinds of things. I truly am sorry for the pain that is out there.

C.J. said...

I'm so sorry.

When I was in high school, my boyfriend at the time killed himself. In the past 10 years, as my family has (mostly unsuccessfully) tried to help my mother deal with her mental illness, and find happiness with herself and in her present life, we've survived three separate suicide attempts.

A major component of suicide, I think, for everyone involved is shame. For whatever reason, life becomes unbearable and the people involved--the person contemplating suicide, and the people he or she leaves behind--blame themselves. We internalize the judgments placed on us.

Dean Grey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
A Gay Mormon Boy said...

@Mr. Curie: I must admit I was pleased with that line as it came. 'In action or existence' would make a great title for a book someday.

@slp: You amaze me in your comment. You seem to have your fair share of trauma in your life yet you come off as perhaps the most positive blogger around. I think you have a lot to teach others.

@CJ: Thanks for sharing those difficult stories. I've said this before, but that sadness is passed on or amplified rather than extinguished with suicide.

Dean Grey said...

Well, I definitely have things to say on the subject because I've suffered with depression and suicidal thoughts since I was a child.

Once again, I'm sorry to hear about the loss of yet another one of your cousins.

No one but that person will truly understand why they made that decision.

But clearly from the suicide note, deep and lingering depression was the cause.

Again, maybe he felt it was his only escape. It feels like that for me sometimes.

I really don't know that I can add much more to this comment other than I'm sorry you and your family had to go through all of this not once, but twice!


Anonymous said...

Thank you, GMB. I am touched by YOUR comment.

Quickly said, my life has been interesting. And, yes, there has been more than a fair amount of trauma associated with it. (I am a survivor of severe physical and sexual, even ritualistic abuse from my childhood, most of it is centered in a small town in northern Utah.) It is because of 9 years of VERY difficult and intensive therapy that I am able to stand where I am today.

Because true healing has come (with the guided help of a very gifted and insightful therapist) and because it has come through Heaven's marvelous love, I stand now at a much better place than before.

Being on THIS side of the suffering and pain is very freeing, very joyful, and filled with great happiness and love. That is why I ALWAYS advocate doing the work that is needed to find true healing.

If there are things you feel I may be able to teach others, than I am truly humbled and hope that I may be able to do so.

Thank you for your continued brilliant writings and the many things you share. You are truly one in a million and I feel so grateful to have made your acquaintance and to now share in friendship with you. I feel a delightful and true amicability and love with you, like I have known you my whole life. Thank you!

Love and respect, always. :)

Anonymous said...

P.S. And, I cast my vote for the title of your next book to also be "In action or existence"- outstanding title!

A Gay Mormon Boy said...

@Dean: Thanks for the personal insights into the topic and the consolation you offer. It has been some time since these events and I'm happy to say that both Tanner and Craig's families are doing very well.

@slp: I believe that by sharing your triumphs and positive attitude, you help others on a daily basis. I appreciate your continual encouragement.

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