if you are reading this, i’ve gone shining/am dead by my own hand. in the movie captain fantastic when the mom commits suicide one of the characters responds, “she finally did it.” some of you who’ve known me for a long time may have a similar response. initially.
knowing the anguish suicide can leave behind, i’ve written this (extensive) note to try to explain the “why” so that if you are affected by this passing you will find peace more quickly. i apologize for the all-lower-case letters—it’s easier on my hands.
my story begins with mental illness. it’s entwined with mental illness. i have a variety of serious disorders that few people have seen because i have an almost otherworldly ability to present myself as in command at all times. depression started at age 14, anxiety at 15. it’s had its ups and downs over the decades but it wasn’t until 2003 in a mental hospital that i was first diagnosed properly and put on meds. it took years to get to a more precise set of diagnoses (see below). the meds sometimes provided a safety net but there were countless mornings when i thrashed around in bed screaming and then went catatonic for hours. countless weekday mornings where i would start screaming in my office and then would run out of the room, unable to gain control of my brain for the rest of the day. and sometimes the kaiasistahs were witnesses to my convulsions and screaming psychotic episodes. bless them for taking care of me. a lot of this seemed manageable at first because i had my own business and my time was my own. i thought that if left my desk at 9am i could always go back at 3 once my turmoil had subsided. but i became less and less capable of returning and my work suffered as my mind deteriorated.
the various diagnoses:
generalized anxiety disorder
obsessive compulsive disorder
post-traumatic stress disorder
dissociative identity disorder
developmental trauma disorder
it’s always been a race against the clock for me: will i get well first or will it be suicide? i’ve been wrestling with this illness since i was 14 years old. and now we know: i could not get well in time.
i am a mentally ill person. i have a brain disease. it is inherited, chronic, and life-threatening, just like diabetes or other physical illnesses. i am the strongest person you’ll ever meet, and i am terribly, terribly fragile. i am ill. please understand this: no matter how capable i’ve seemed all this time, there has been one long scream behind it. i am mentally ill.
i had a very successful business for almost a decade but i got hit hard by the recession. by the time the recovery hit, the whole design industry had changed and bloomington was positively crawling with low-priced competition. i spent years freaking out at the shame of pending bankruptcy as i watched all my IRAs and rainy day funds and savings disappear. like so many others in the new economy, i felt like a complete, utter failure. i had no worth. i was despondent with the burden of shame and blame. for YEARS. my mental state, always precarious, deteriorated as i frantically tried to find a way to stay afloat.
starting in the recession, i had terrifying nightmares every weekday morning. constant paralyzing flashbacks. a lot of blackouts. i couldn’t keep a train of thought. i got anorexia (which business colleagues congratulated me on, since the skinnier you are, the more successful you must be). i started cutting after a 25-year hiatus. i would freeze when presented with simple things, like when a truck blocked the sidewalk and I just stood there paralyzed, quivering and whimpering, not knowing what to do. i was institutionalized again. i was obsessed with thoughts of suicide every day. i was plagued by panic and that most awful of words: “failure.” i got worse and worse, all the time trying trying trying new things to turn my career path around and staunch the financial outflow. but eventually it was clear that i was no longer capable of work. my therapist and psychiatrist and GP concurred that i needed to be on disability. it took a long time for me to see that this was an ongoing problem and i indeed was no longer able to work.
i applied for disability and was rejected three times (which is typical). a friend who advised me said the government hopes you’ll die waiting. i ran out of money before i got my day for an appeal. but even then i doubt if i’d win, based on the skepticism i met with in my dealings with the social security administration. beyond that i highly doubt that i’d have enough money to live on, based on the stories i’ve heard from people who were successful in their disability claims. a monthly check would’ve covered my mortgage, nothing more. so it would have been a great deal of suffering and psychotic episodes for nothing.
what underlies my decision to kill myself is a deep commitment i made to myself when i was psychotic and getting ready to go into a mental hospital. i swore that “i am in this only as long as i want to be in this. as soon as i don’t want to be in this, i’m done.” that is a deep promise and i have held it sacred. and i no longer want to be in this. the financial struggle which leads to mental anguish is just too much.
what i need you to understand is if i went backwards, if i gave up my house and moved into a small apartment, if i went to work for The Man in a company i didn’t fully support, i would risk that sanity i have struggled so hard to achieve. right now if i get distressed i can merely step outside and ground myself in my Land. just the feel of my house soothes me. i have had fewer depressive and psychotic episodes since i’ve moved into my house. it has made living possible. why in the world would i give that up? why would i go backwards, knowing for a fact that i would lose my sanity again and again? no. i will never do that. i would literally rather be dead. i go to my grave gladly, knowing i have saved myself from a soul-killing fate. by dying, i save my life. i keep myself safe. and i make good on that vow. there is deep honor in that.
I’ve had a good life, sometimes a wonderful life, but it was also an extremely difficult struggle. almost all the good things that enriched my life were possible because i had money. i wasn’t willing to live on less money because then i would lose all that made life worth living. it’s never been enough for me just to keep breathing—i have always wanted more. i’m not interested in surviving: simply placing one foot in front of the other. the only life that makes sense to me is thriving, truly engaging with all the things life has to offer. i have lived my life on my own terms and for the most part answered to no one. i fought hard for that privilege—gave every scrap of skin—and i have zero interest in going backwards. there is a difference of light years in quality of life between my life since i got my house in 2006 and the previous 20 years in cramped, concrete, soulless, madness-inducing apartments. to go backwards would destroy my sanity.
there have really only been three options for me: have a thriving business to support myself in health, live in poverty or at a job i hate in serious mental degradation, or be dead. since i can’t have the first and refuse the second, that leaves me with the last. some of you have gotten glimpses of the madness i experience, but no one but my therapists really knows the extent of my disability. trust me on this: it’s not something anyone should have to live with.
it’s suicide now or suicide later. later it would be at absolute rock bottom, impoverished, frantic, psychotic, full of despair and crazed suffering with a soul full of rage and terror. suicide now means going out on a high note, living my life to the fullest. which would you choose?
i had a million ideas for ways to get out of this morass. i first tried pursuing journalism at the university of massachusetts–amherst and later information science at IU. i had to drop out of iu because my illnesses exploded. as much as i loved the idea of school, it was no longer mentally possible. that was a huge blow. i tried two new businesses. i tried part-time work. one of my jobs was supposed to lead to a client pipeline but after a while the boss replaced me with someone who’d be available “24/7”— for a part-time job (this was when i still had cairril.com work). so i lost the job and i lost the pipeline. i applied for full-time work. i tried selling plasma but i was on too many meds to be accepted. i underwent career counseling. i tried freelance writing. i tried subcontracting. using lynda.com, i learned 7 software programs in 6 months to help me get ahead but then had no use for them. i seriously considered going back to school to become a translator/interpreter but realized i was simply too old to get going. the small business development center, staffed by fantastic people who champion me, made referrals to me and set up a meeting with a contact who could’ve changed the whole direction of my business—nothing came of it. i met with five long-time colleagues who are movers and shakers in the bloomington and indianapolis business communities. they gave me kickass advice, i followed it—but nothing happened.
i longed for a reference librarianship job at the monroe county public library but was told by everyone on the planet that i would never get the job because positions rarely open up and, when they do, competition is freakishly fierce. i worked out a whole exciting plan for how i could become a history professor before i learned from working professors that the process would kill my love of history. i tried working with a yoruban priest to approach my problems from a tribal spirituality angle and just as i was ready to really dig in she backed out. i was finally making progress with an excellent therapist when she moved away.
i finally invested in a top-to-bottom website redesign for my business only to have a high-profile prospect tell me it had been a close call but they’d decided they liked my competitor’s website better. kaia had grand plans for touring that would’ve allowed us to keep some money for ourselves, but after i spent a whole summer researching, emailing, and talking on the phone we only got two gigs. i considered becoming an event planner, but besides having face blindness, i realized event planning actually triggers massive anxiety. i looked into getting a marketing degree to work at a specific bloomington company but found out their pay is low and they don’t give raises. i applied for scores of jobs on guru.com, a worldwide freelancing site, but i was constantly underbid by people in asia. the one gig i did get disappeared as soon as i produced a contract. i went through the arduous process of being certified to sell to the government only to find that buyers didn’t even HAVE a category for web design. i looked into substitute teaching but it only paid $8/hr. i looked into becoming a grant writer but it’s a blue ton of boring work for not much pay. i considered becoming a chain store franchisee but, apart from its being totally opposed to my values, i would be risking a very large chunk of someone else’s money. no way.
i planned a singing class for kids but couldn’t find a place to rent that wouldn’t wipe out all my profit. i thought about going back to school to become a university choral director but it was impossible for me to work. i asked my best clients for referrals but no referrals came through. one of my friends needed design work done and even they went to one of my competitors. it was just one more sign: “this is the end of the road.”
i tried to get a home equity loan, but even with a credit score of 843, i got turned down. (this was the part of the recession when banks took government bailouts and converted them to big bonuses for the C-suite instead of making small loans.) i swallowed my pride and asked well-off people for subsidies but they couldn’t help. i have done innumerable money spells but was blocked at every turn. i considered getting a roommate but the house is just too small. i considered letting the house and moving into a small apartment, but rents are so high plus storage and a handyman would all actually cost me more. late in the game, i considered going back to school to learn how to direct music videos but i just was so ill i couldn’t do it.
i did not lose my money for lack of trying. to the contrary, i tried every single thing i could think of. and i thought of a lot. but i was no longer mentally capable of either going to school or holding down a job. how could i possibly survive? all the evidence screamed, “the world is not your friend” and “i am fortune’s fool!” (romeo and juliet). i seemed destined to fail no matter what. everywhere i went i felt a door slamming shut in my face.
the american dream is a lie. you hear it from politicians and others constantly: “if you work hard and play by the rules, you’ll get ahead.” i did work hard and i did play by the rules, but globalization and the great recession were bigger than i was. americans are so obsessed with the individual, as if one’s destiny rises or falls according to one’s own industry. but race and class and gender and ability and geographic location and so much more—even luck!—play into how much money you make. i had a lot of privilege on my side and a lot of help in my career. it wasn’t enough to save me.
the best thing about giving up trying trying trying is my mental health is the best it’s been since the late ‘90s. i still deal with anxiety and depression and psychosis but that was much worse when i was trying to work. seeing that i was going to die, i passed my clients on to other providers and have spent the last few months just livin’ the life. i’m relaxed for the most part and singing and praying and just doing my thing. for the first time in 20 years i feel like i’m really living my life instead of constantly being gripped in the jaws of hell.
the worst part, the absolute worst part of all this was the lying about work and suicide (i told the truth about everything else). i had to lie to people because if they knew the truth they’d ring the cops to stop me. so i’ve been living with this black, oily poison of lies and misdirections and keeping my mouth shut when all i wanted to do was tell everyone everything. i don’t have secrets. i live my life very much in the open. and honor is one of my most prized values. it has tortured me to lie. and i think it will make it harder for you left behind to forgive me. i’m sorry. i am so, so sorry. i’m crying as i type this. if there were any other way, i would’ve told you everything. i just couldn’t take the risk. i’m desperately sorry.
i’m also deeply sorry for the obvious stuff—the pain i will continue to cause as my kith and kin feel the hole in their lives which i should be occupying. i’m sorry i couldn’t get well. many, many people have helped me over my lifetime but i’m just too damaged. i’m sorry for all the love and support i’ll never be able to give. i’m sorry that some of you will never forgive me. if it helps, think of me as having a severely debilitating terminal illness. which, in fact, i have.
i have made the decision to end this endless suffering. And i got out in relief and peace. there are plenty of people who choose to end their lives while they still have all their faculties and go out on a high note. that’s what i’m doing. i end my life to save my life. i choose quality over quantity.
i have thought about and researched suicide for most of my life. this is not a spur-of-the-moment decision. this is a conscious choice. and it is not a product of depression or something that could’ve been avoided if i’d just had someone to talk to. frankly, it comes down to money. i did not have the money to maintain a lifestyle worth living and designed to maintain my mental stability, and if i narrowed my lifestyle i would have experienced far more intense symptoms of my brain diseases and would certainly have lost my mind. again and again. by the Gods, i will not let that happen. if i could solve my money problems, i would still be alive. it’s as simple as that.
to those who say suicide is “selfish,” i say a resounding “screw you.” i should have to live with the blackest despair and cutting and hallucinations and the complete overthrow of reason so that you don’t have to feel bad for a while? who’s the selfish one?
my grave plot is in the green burial section (yay!) of white oak cemetery, which is my favorite graveyard in bloomington. when my eldest goddessdaughter was three i began taking her there to teach her how to climb trees, learn letters and dates from gravestones, and be at peace among the beloved dead and not fear them. she called it the “grave garden,” a name which has stuck to this day. i can’t express the comfort i have felt just knowing where i’m going to be planted. my headstone is already there so when i wanted to know where i’ll be in a hundred years or just wanted to feel my roots, i went and curled up on my grave and communed with the lovely tree over it and generally felt great.
i know that my Land at home is where i’m planted in life, and plot number 13 in the grave garden is where i’ll be buried in death. i feel so good about that. i know non-Pagans may find it macabre, but Pagans don’t fear death — we see it as part of the natural life cycle. i am thrilled that my body will return to the Mother quickly and sustain new life. this is peace.
a lot of people think that life is a line with a start at birth and an end at death. but before birth come the natural processes that convert energy into matter. and death is not the end. no, i’m going home to Mother Earth, planted deep, and i will fuel the lives of hundreds of creatures. no immortal soul, no heaven, no Summerlands where my personality lives on, but a sacred dance of lifeanddeath for my energy until the Sun goes nova. then i return to starstuff. this brings me comfort. this brings me delight. i’m glad to go into my next iteration.
i don’t believe in an afterlife, so for me my death is the end of my personality. i have no qualms about that—it is a comfort. at the same time, i know from my genealogy research that the more we learn about the dead, the more they come back to life for us. and i have personally felt the presence of “ghosts” and have also facilitated the transition of beings from one realm to another. one of my four cornerstone beliefs is that there are more things going on in this sphere than our five senses can explain, so who knows? feel free to call upon my spirit.
i have so enjoyed my semi-retirement since october 2016 and my full retirement since Spring. once i released all feelings of grasping after money, i focused on quality of life. and what quality! the books i’ve read, the songs i’ve created and sung, the traveling i’ve done, the volunteering, the watching of documentaries, the learning, the fun!, the shakespeare i’ve done, the increasing political activism, the deepening of my spirituality, the deepening of my relationships, the expansion of my self! this is what i’ve wanted my life to be. and it’s this i’ve chosen for myself—a life fully lived before i die. going out on a high note. no suffering, no fear, just juicy living. it took the ending of all my ambitions for me to have a shot at a full, enriching life. it is exactly what i wanted my whole life to be. and even though it’s only been a few years instead of decades, it’s been a glorious retirement. i have no regrets about this choice. there are many things i love about the life i’ve created for myself, but i surrender them to the Goddess willingly and gratefully. i go to the grave in peace and in joy that i can finally, finally lay my burden down. i have always been a fighter; this is my last fight. it is a fight to end my life as i have lived it: on my own terms.
if you would remember me, sing. sing LOUD with a big smile on your face. enjoy the thrill of singing and being alive. take part in democracy. build community. speak truth to power. never give up.
i thank all those who have loved me and given me so much help. i thank all my kith and kin who have contributed to making my life so interesting and full of fun. i thank the Goddess for this peace at the end of a long, difficult road. i thank myself for having the courage to end my life before i lose it.
i love you.
resting in peace. resting in power.