The Happy Suicide

I’m quite stressed right now, as I’ve explained a few times.  

I’ve started having panic attacks again.  They’re disturbing my sleep, because I am afraid to go to sleep.   The thought of wilfully consigning myself to darkness makes me feel panicked in itself.  Taking my medication helps, in that it knocks me out,  but I’m scared of lying there in the dark waiting for it to take effect.  So I take it earlier, and this is partly, I think, what is leading to sleepwalking.  I’m not properly asleep or properly awake and I don’t fall asleep in the same way if I take it then stay awake and active.  My brain is still going and between those cracks from the panic.


A trick I used to employ in the past, when I was having racing thoughts and finding it very difficult to concentrate, was to turn something on in the background that was vaguely intellectual and wordy, like Rawlinson End.  To explain why I found this helpful is difficult.  When I’ve had racing thoughts it’s been when I’ve been keyed up.  In those states I get rather obsessive.  My thoughts tend to race around the same topic or word that seems quite important and my brain  very quickly makes connections and repeats things over and over and OVER.  It gets distressing and incredibly frustrating.  In the gaps- split second gaps- I try to latch on to something verbal.  Namely, whatever I’m playing in the background.  That way it breaks the stream a little.  It tends to send me off on another one, but it’s a brief relief.

I’ve been doing that again recently- currently it’s More4- because it’s comforting.  It gives me something to concentrate on.  I hate panic attacks.  And I thought that maybe I was getting them again (I’ve had one today, I had two yesterday) because I was anxious and under stress.  I am doubtlessly both, but that’s not it.  The things that have made me stressed come from changes in my life.  I am looking for a job because I am well enough to work now.  I am not entitled to benefits because I am living with my boyfriend, someone I have loved- with knowing or not- for almost half of my life.  I am stressing about university because I’m well enough to go, and stressed about not wanting to go to either because I worked my arse off and hoped I’d get where I wanted to go.   The trouble finding a job and university stuff does make me feel like arse about myself but it’s stuff that will get worked through.

The nature of the panic is OH FUCK I’M GOING TO DIE.  I’ve had panic attacks of this nature to a fairly disabling degree three times in my life.  They were almost always before I had episodes of being high.  It was like my internal motor had started speeding up and becoming more aware.  The first time was before my first real episode of, “What the fuck is happening?” when I was sixteen.  The second was when I was falling in love with someone and I regularly launched myself across his bedroom with panic.  The third was not long after I left hospital.

This period, I think, is not due exclusively to anxiety.  It is part happiness.  I am stressed and I’m worried but I’m not unhappy.  I am overwhelmed with the really-realness of life.  Life is changing.  I’m quite sure that the person I’m with right now is the person I am going to marry, have children with, die with.  That thought doesn’t make me anxious, it makes me calm and happy.  But there is an end.  An end and there is no avoiding it.  How can things end?  How can someone hold you with arms that rot and die?  I can’t bear it.

Robert was around at a panic attack the other day.  I lay down then suddenly my heart just flew out of my mouth in a scream.  He came in and held me and I told him that I don’t want to talk about how I felt, because there is no talking out of it.  It is and that’s it.  Larkin got it right, “Death is no different whined at than withstood”.  When I talk about it, I panic more.  So he talked to me of the cats and their silliness, of squirrels and tea.  I asked him to make some tea then leave me be.  I had a book with me I couldn’t read (Age of Extremes by Eric Hobsbawm, for the interested) because what was the point?  Who needs knowledge or history when it’s swallowed up by dust and nothingness?  When even there is an end to the world and not just my world and yours?  What is the point?

I sound like a teenage goth, but this is not coming from depression, quite the opposite.  I thought about my friends, my family, the people I love.  I thought about Francesca’s raised eyebrow as she smokes, blowing it out the side of her mouth before stubbing it out and reaching for her vodka, coke and lime, I thought about my brother’s grumpy expression when my mum refuses to turn the television over from CSI:Somewhere, about the vest-tops Michelle wore when she was younger, about Paula’s flat, cute shows, Stephen’s wispy baby-boy hair, Orlaigh being drunk nearly all the time and Robert’s tendency to grab my bum when I’m asleep to exhort that I’m beautiful before turning around and almost knocking me out of the bed with his arse.  Even his snapping at me because he can’t find his glasses.  I thought about it all and I couldn’t bear it.  Lovely people, moments, life, not there any more.

I thought about suicide, for the first time in a long time.  I have tried to explain before how suicide can be due to factors other than depression.  Death doesn’t frighten me when I’m depressed.  I think about dully.  Suicide isn’t the great wrenching of control, it is just dying and finally no longer feeling the way I did.  (And living, no longer feeling the way I did,  because it does pass, which I forget in the tortuousness stretched hours of depression).

But in these moods, of blind panic, of the prickled-skin hyper awareness of being alive, suicide comes to mind because then I know what is happening in death, and why, and how, and when.  It’s the last two that knock the breath out of me.  As I was making a cup of tea today I calculated how many years I would have left in my life I was lucky.  Double figures, how can it be double figures?  How many more summers?  More days?  There is a number that is finite and it is the end.  There will be a date I will die, like there is a date I was born.  In the ground.  In the ground.  In the ground.


Against that thought suicide seems like a kind option.  At least you know- but you don’t know.  I can understand why perfectly happy people, in a moment of panic, commit suicide. If you feel as though, in that fiery moment you are dying, then it makes a kind of sense.   And why so many jumpers have the wrenched shoulders from grabbing something as they fall.

I want to turn these feelings around and think, “Yes, then it doesn’t matter that we have no money, or what university I go to, or if I have children or not”.  But it is difficult, because even though I’m struck with the panic, life goes on.  My boyfriend’s grandfather is dying.  I went with him to visit him and although we were there, equipped and dumb by that knowledge, life goes on.  Someone is dying but not dead.  It is hard pressed to be a dramatic situation, sitting in a quiet, country living room eating coleslaw.  Minute by minute ticks oblivious that last minutes come and the ticking stops.  There is still the sun at the window.

Anyway, there’s an entry I wrote to distract myself.  Make it sound pretty and then it isn’t so frightening.


11 Responses

  1. I think panics are some of the worst of the various faucets of mentalness. As you say, it’s really like you’re dying (and even if you’re not you can’t see an escape from the horrors of the moment), so I too can see why this might precipitate suicide.

    I wish I could make it go away for you. Putting up with that night in, night out must be devastating. Would (or does) Diazepam help?

    The only positive is that at least you’re stressed for non-mentalist reasons, or at least it seems that way. You’re concerned about ordinary, life things, and you’re got so much on your plate that it’s not surprising you’re being affected by it.

    Bah, too many words and fuck all said as usual, Pan! Just – be good to yourself, and I hope these bastard things will leave for you sooner rather than later.


  2. i don’t have much to say but pandora is pretty much on the money. i think that’s a good point that at least the stressors are real world things as opposed to things whirling around your head that only you have any kind of awareness of. i’ve usually found that real world stress is easier to get through because at least other people grasp it and can relate to it, and also because real world situations can usually be worked through one way or another.

    it doesn’t sound ideal tho. i also do the wordy thing, i find having a radio or the tv on really helps. or audiobooks on my ipod.

    on a totally random note: how are you finding the hobsbawm? you know he’s bbk president right? he was also honorary president of the PPH society which was my last degree – he came and gave us a lecture on night, we’d all had classes from 6-8, most had been at work all day, and he spoke til 10. he’s got so much stamina!! i love his invention of tradition thesis too, it’s one of my favourite social historical theses 🙂

  3. Recently i’ve been dealing a lot with these kind of panic attacks, related to death and not being able to bear that my mind and the things I know are going to stop existing at some point. It’s different from my usual suicidal ideation so that’s good, but it’s pretty damn troubling on its own.

  4. I can only speak for myself, but sometimes suicide is simply thought of as a “stop” button. I think it was Stephen Fry who commented “I didn’t want to kill myself, I just wouldn’t mind dying”. It’s just a mean of stopping the pain and anguish.

    Allow yourself to feel whatever it is you feel. If it’s joy, sadness, bewilderment, etc, just go with it. I like to use the saying “Buddha got angry” but he allowed himself to experience each motion to it’s natural conclusion. When Mrs. B rearranged the apartment furniture and he stubbed his toe in the middle of the night, he hopped around screaming obscenities for a bit. He just didn’t hold onto that anger for2 days. Give each emotion it’s just due.

  5. Thank you Seaneen. When I have sat with someone I care about who is trapped in a panic attack..I could only try to help him endure it. I had no idea what it was like inside him. When he would say every minute or minute and half, “Am I going to die? No seriously, am I?” I had no idea what it was like for him or why he would think that. You’ve given me a glimpse from the inside and it sure does help. It really does. You wrote this to help yourself cope and that was a good reason. But you have really helped me in doing it.

  6. I have found myself thinking about death recently. How and when, like you said. It makes me panic too, although not quite so vehemently as you, I’m too busy panicking about other things. But it certainly makes me cry, because I love my husband so much and thinking of him dying is awful beyond words. But I’m struck that it could happen any time, suddenly or slowly and I find it hard to bear. I even have a plan in mind to ensure I am kept safe if it does happen, because I can’t imagine life without him. So I empathise with this sort of fear, this knowledge that life is finite. I hope the panic attacks subside though, you don’t deserve them.

  7. I’m sorry the panic attacks are so bad, they suck. I went through the thinking about death and the purpose of life phase too. I try not to go back there. I like a quote from Prozac Nation – ‘when you’re four years old, it’s cats and dogs that make life worth living. And I kind of think it’s maybe not so different now.’

  8. Hope yr alright pet xxx

  9. Hey Seaneen, I can certainly relate to what you are going through. I had one of these episodes when I was quite depressed and when the panic about death took over my depressed mind got angry and yelled at me (but calmly and authoritatively) about just how good death would be etc etc, oddly the panic attack stopped (it was a really weird experience)
    When it came back I used the same technique and the panic stopped again, I then had a couple of attacks about being seriously ill! but I deliberately adapted the technique to address just why that would be a good thing (bed rest, caring nurses – it doesn’t even need to be realistic!),and it worked – it works best after the second attack because you can be prepared well in advance!
    good luck

  10. hang in there darl.
    Its horrible and terrifying
    But remember this too shall pass.

  11. I totally relate to this. For the first time in a long time I’ve been thinking about cutting – not because I’m depressed, but because I’m happy. Weird? Oh yeah. The thing is, when I’m happy, my brain throws up horrible things that insist on staying in my head and refuse to budge. Things like ‘one day your mum and friends are going to die’, or ‘one day everyone you love will be so much dust’. I think my brain does this just because it doesn’t know how to handle being in a state other than In The Depths Of The Abyss. It’s not used to it.

    When I’m happy, I catastrophise about everything. Almost always it involves losing loved ones. It really is as though my brain has a hissy-fit when life is going well, as if it can’t stand to see me that way. But then, like most depressives’ brains, mine is a bully!

    I can only suppose that this kind of feeling is ‘normal’ for those of us who are so unaccustomed to feeling safe/secure/happy/content//whatever that when it actually happens we simply don’t know how to cope with it!

    Then again, we get used to pretty much anything as a species, so here’s hoping that your happiness continues and that you end up being able to accept it. Same with me of course, and anyone else in this somewhat bizarre situation!


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