We’re all in this together

by Radio Somewhere

A suicide was a topic on a local neighborhood blog this week. The blog in question does not observe the general “media taboo” with regard to suicide — instead taking an opportunity to post links to suicide-prevention resources and hotlines. But the comment threads can be really annoying. (Everyone’s an expert, if you know what I mean.)

Some Seattle suicides (and aborted attempts) can be dramatic, because of the many tall bridges in the city, none of which is a magnet like San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge — but some of which seem to present opportunities for a desperate individual. The massive West Seattle Bridge, which I travel over daily, has its fair share of jumpers.

The decision to take ones own life is doubtless the most personal that can ever be made — and so bloody hard to understand. But it’s the most final and decisive decision one can make — and I wish people gave more thought to that on an ongoing basis.

The last few years of my life have been somewhat difficult and very disappointing. And there are many mornings when I wake up feeling hopeless and unable to face the world — not suicidal — but definitely feeling that life is not worth living — at that moment — but usually only for a moment. Once I have begun my day, things start falling back into place again.

The first thing I do is feed the cat. She’s usually pretty hungry and rather excited. Taking a shower washes many troubles away and by the time I’m dressed, my mood has picked up considerably and gains momentum as I have my morning cup of tea. I’m English, and there’s almost no trouble that can’t be relieved to some extent by a cup of tea. For breakfast, I have oatmeal, and although I have no Scottish blood in me that I know of, friends of mine from north of the border swear that oatmeal is the best possible start to the day.

Then I go out to wait for the bus at what is probably one of the most scenic bus stops in all of Seattle. The route is served by a set of coaches that were purchased by King County Metro back in 2003 — the first ever in service here to be equipped with A/C. They are 40-foot low-floor coaches with serial numbers 3600-3699. I have ridden all of them countless times in those eleven years, and I have fond memories associated with many of them. My personal favorites are 3604, 3620, 3653, and 3699. The sound of the bus coming is reassuring, and the drivers on this route are usually very friendly.

On the way downtown, I listen to podcasts that involve people and stories: The Moth, Strangers, On Being, Wiretap, etc. The views from the bus are amazing in any weather, especially from the West Seattle Bridge. Going past the stadiums, I see the makeshift homeless encampments — and have to marvel at how elaborately some of them are fixed up. I have less stuff in my apartment!

I get off the bus in Belltown, and although the homeless people who have given up all hope are not up and about yet, the ones who still cling to a glimmer of hope are waiting outside places like the YWCA and DSHS. And that is when I am forced to reconsider my predicament.

I am very underemployed right now, and my part-time job does not cover all my living expenses, especially since the latest big rent increase. It makes me fearful for my future, especially when the news media is constantly bombarding me with messages about how I won’t have enough money for retirement, healthcare, and assisted living as I get older; and how hard it is to find a regular full-time job with benefits; or even a lousy studio apartment at an affordable rent. I also have ongoing inner struggles relating to a life-altering experience that hit me back in 1999. It sometimes all overwhelms and scares the crap out of me. But then I see the women outside the YWCA, and I have to only wonder how much harder it is for them.

Sure, my part-time job does not provide enough income, but I do have some savings in the bank that are tiding me over while I look for a better job, so I will be able to keep a roof over my head for a while yet. I also have no debt.

I do not have an abusive person in my life. My divorce with my ex-husband was amicable and uncomplicated and even though he now lives in New York (and is married to Tom!), he has helped me out in whatever ways he can.

I have a great education and took classes in graduate school that have served me well over time. I am capable of teaching myself new computer skills (and just about anything for that matter) without having to take classes, which saves a lot of time and money.

I don’t smoke or take drugs, and even though I probably drink more wine than I should sometimes, I am not dependent on it and have learned to be happier without it. I have no health problems that I’m aware of.

I have an incredible imagination and am very creative. I enjoy writing and am getting better at it all the time.

When I consider all I have going for me — and all the obstacles I do not face — I realize that my situation does not have to be permanent. I have made a lot of progress over the last two years. I am blown away by how much I have learned and how many people I have connected with. I finally have an opportunity to get some experience at work I enjoy as a volunteer for a non-profit and am closing up a troublesome gap in my resume.

I suppose that I could be in the same predicament five years from now — and that would be most unfortunate. But I will only have myself to blame if that’s the case, right? I’ve just got to keep trying and not give up.

One of my favorite characters from Doctor Who is Captain Jack Harkness. In the Season 3 episode, Utopia, in which the Doctor, Martha, and Jack find themselves at the end of the universe, thirteen trillion years into the future, we learn that Captain Jack is cursed with eternal life — the man cannot die. This comes in handy when someone is needed to enter a chamber that is flooded with lethal doses of radiation. Meanwhile, the last remnants of the human race are gathered as wretched refugees, hoping to board a rocket to a place called Utopia — literally the last hope of survival. While Jack is working away, he and the Doctor have a bit of a heart to heart, which ends with the Doctor asking him if he wants to die.

“Jack, do you really want to die?”

No answer. The Doctor eyes Jack very insistently.

“Jack?”

“I thought I did,” Jack confesses. “But then, I see them out here — surviving. And that’s fantastic.”

Jack breaks into one of those amazing smiles — and the Doctor contemplates him with awe.

Perhaps I am fortunate that my moment of weakness comes in the safety of my bed in the morning — and that the little details of my morning routine are all it takes to smack me out of it.

But perhaps it is also fortunate that I get to see so many other people, with troubles far, far worse than my own, out there — surviving. And, it’s fantastic!

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