I would have wanted all of this to stop. Wouldn’t you?
I would have wanted all of this to stop. Wouldn’t you?
The Wailing Psalm
“I want to wail and scream in pain,
and not wash my face or comb my hair.
I want to fast from food and drink,
to abstain from music and fun.
I want to kick the walls and beat my breast, and even tear out the telephone.
I’d throw away my mail and speak to no one. but I am ashamed to grieve.
O God, how can I ever be the same again or feel the earth solidly beneath my feet, for ripped to shreds are my daily rituals, my patterns of living, loving and sharing. My heart feels full not of blood but of pain, my lungs filled with screams, not breath. My eyes are blinded to all by my bitter tears, but I am ashamed of my lack of Easter hope.
O God, I know how you felt
on that terrible Good Friday.
So I ask you to say nothing to me now, for nothing can be said.
Only hold me in your love, O God, till the pain passes, if it ever will. And pardon, I pray, my feeble faith
as I mourn like one without hope.”
Sharing with everyone, Jeffrey Jackson’s entire booklet. It is a concise but rich source of information –practical and realistic, written from a place of sympathy, borne out of a shared experience and spilling with the promise of hope that the pain won’t last forever.
“This book is dedicated to the life of immeasurable value that was lived by Gail Beth Levine Jackson.
May you have found the peace that eluded you when you were here.” – Jeffrey Jackson
Robert Sapolsky is one of the leading neuroscientists in the world. He is currently a professor at Stanford University holding joint appointments in several departments: Biological Sciences, Neurology and Neurological Sciences and Neurosurgery. He graduated with a Summa Cum Laude in Biological Anthropology from Harvard University and received a Phd in Neuroendocrinology from Rockefeller University. No question about it, even without understanding all the big scientific words that define his credentials, this is definitely one smart guy. While I was researching about him I found a transcript of an interview with him by Brainconnection.com, which is a website dedicated to providing accessible high quality information on how the brain works. I found one of his answers particularly interesting:
BC: When you encounter something in life that is immediately too complicated to understand, what is your response?
RS: For the most part, not so much a sense of frustration as a sense of hang on. Science doesn’t explain everything, but depending on the priorities it could provide significant insight into anything, and if this “something” I encounter is one of those “anythings,” there will be more information.
Although I am far from being a genius, his words resonated with my own search for meaning. I’ve heard many well meaning loved ones tell me that to move on i needed to let go and that acceptance is the key to healing. But to heal I need information and in the case of what happened to Beau, I needed Science. Apparently, Mr. Sapolsky has an “outstanding reputation as a dynamic teacher and lecturer. In addition, he is also an accomplished writer and communicator of science to non-scientists. His field studies are composed of extensive behavioral observation combined with physiological measurements of stress.”
PERFECT. I found a guy who knows his biology, knows his psychology and has spent a lifetime tying it all together. It didn’t take me long to find what I was looking for. One of his lectures on depression was uploaded to Stanford University’s YouTube account. What an eye opener it was.
For those who don’t have the time to watch the video since it is an hour long, I’ll be condensing the information into digestible parts in a separate blog entry.
It’s 5am and I’m up again. My heart is beating so fast my chest it feels like it is about to explode. Its been happening everyday now, these panic attacks. A month after I heard the news that my husband hung himself on a stairwell I am still sleeping in my parents’ room, much like a child afraid of a visit from the bogeyman. But the night holds no terrors for me now. It is the dawn of a new day that is paralyzing. 5am is a particularly cruel time to begin the day. At this time, Beau had walked out after a night of relentless pacing, walked to the stairs, tied his bombproof knots and lowered himself down from the bannister until he choked. Tomorrow I finally get to see a therapist. I am not sure if that would really help but I sure as hell want to try. I could have post traumatic stress syndrome. I read about it immediately after experiencing the first few panic attacks. Perhaps that is where the fear is coming from, knowing that I am about to live another day without him. Another day of questioning why he did it, what we could have done, how we will survive this and when it will start to get easier.
You see, that’s the way I’m wired. I need to understand what is happening to me. It all needs to make sense. I need to understand why, because in knowledge and awareness would lie the power to create a solution. How indeed would you solve a problem you could not identify? How do you begin to address a situation that does not make sense? Perhaps an irrational situation also requires an irrational response, which is why Beau felt pushed to do what he did. My despair gives me a glimpse inside his head, an idea of the torment he must have been going through.
He could not figure it out. I thought it was because he was less eloquent than me. I tried to figure it out with him, tried to put into words what it was that he thought was eating at him. He would agree halfheartedly to many of the things I pointed out: pressures from within and without, stresses from work and from married life, childhood experiences that may have carried on in his psyche that needed to find healing. In his sagacity he knew that there were answers to these issues, if issues they even were. He thought them small and inconsequential. In the beginning he had looked for problems within our marriage to explain his unhappiness and even those he pinpointed were found wanting. They did not explain the suffocating Cimmerian shade that enveloped him. In his rational mind he knew there were easy solutions to the problems he was able to identify, and so it frustrated him. The enormity and colossal weight of his sadness seemed unjustifiable even to himself. Only a few weeks after the onset of his erratic behavior, Beau had sent a text message to a friend of ours. He was asking if she thought he needed professional help. He said he had no idea what was happening to him and that our marriage was getting affected. He said our relationship was so important to him and he desperately needed to save it. Oh how I wish Beau that you had taken her advice. How I wish you had listened to any of us and sought that help. If you cannot identify your problem, how can you have found a solution? I wish he had accepted his weakness. He had apologized for it many times. Ironically I think it was his strength of character that could not accept what he believed was a weakness of his soul. He refused to accept the possibility that it could be a physical ailment. He was defensive at the mere mention of illness. For this I blame ignorance and society, myself included. If only we humans had more compassion and understanding. If only we did not paint insanity as a person’s fault! If only mental illness was accepted as a disease just like any other.
We were happy. I keep going back to that, perhaps a bit too defensively to be honest. I do it not really to convince others but to convince myself, so I can be vindicated from any fault in the matter. I look at our pictures, the hundreds of pictures of us taken during three years of marital bliss. In all of them we were hugging, kissing, unashamedly displaying our affection. They were tableaus of happiness. It was impossible for them to be for show, there were no lies hidden behind those smiles. Mama Nancy asked me repeatedly in the days after the wake why her son would take his own life when all the images told the story of a man happily married, content with his lot in life, living it up in fact! What a full life those pictures painted — romance experienced, adventures cultivated, luxuries enjoyed. A mother has to believe that a son would not put to waste the blessing of family, the love of siblings, all the hardship and sacrifices endured to empower a future that, if the pictures speak true, lay ahead of him; shining so brightly it was impossible to ignore. A wife has to believe that a husband would not opt out of a lifetime with her, when there were no signs of marital decay. I believe Beau could not deal with the sudden drop. He may have felt so frustrated that he had, so quickly and without warning, jumped from the clouds to the bowels of the earth. In a twisted way, his happiness made it more difficult to deal with the onset of sadness. No matter how minuscule and atomic the sadness was, in his mind it was a bomb waiting to explode. And explode it did.
In the wee hours of the morning, when my subconscious rudely awakens me to my present reality, I end up putting myself in his shoes trying to make sense of this nightmare. I can only hope that wherever he is now, he has been given peace in the knowledge that his dying was really not of his own doing. It may have been his own hands that had tied the noose around his neck. But the choice to do it was most definitely not his own.
To save other lives a mother needs to know that. A wife needs to believe that. And a society needs to embrace that.