On Suicide, Psychosis, and The Soul

The Chinese character for ‘crisis’ is a combination of two forms: one means ‘danger,’ the other ‘opportunity.’ On this fulcrum, danger turns to opportunity. — Joanna Macy.

A black wolf came for me. He led me across a bridge into the underworld– to see the true reflections of everything I had known, loved, and lost. The man I had loved for longer than any other, trapped in crystal. The warrior with the heart made of feathers. A band of wild children, led by my inner child. A year later, I was met by my True Self– an antlered warrior goddess, hair tossed with the ocean, spirit like wildfire. A year later, still– I was led to a dragon in a mythickal lagoon. A bear embodying guardianship of the sacred masculine. The violently, ever-insatiable Wanting Creature turned Saint of the Sword, originally come to end me. A fallen tower sunk to the bottom of the Sea, dredged up with the Song of the Mother, which They had taught me. The Great Green Lion– winged, profoundly present, silent. The Ego, in shining golden armor, on horseback– who had once been a unicorn but who had traded that sweetness for the Duty of War. And the daughter I had let go of when I was 18, by abortion– come back to tell me her name, to invite me to share her Story.

To the traditional narrative, this is Psychosis. These are “disturbed” thoughts and perceptions that caused me to “lose touch with reality.” “Have difficulty understanding what is real and what is not.”

To my narrative, it is Legend. It is Truth. It is Spirit Family. It is the reason I am still alive.

It’s not that these gifts, inherently, are dangerous. It is the world around them that makes them so. If we had grown up with earth-reverential practices, shamanic elders, the interconnectedness of nature, community, animal, spirit– all one– the journey might still be just as harrowing. But we would be aware of how deeply we are supported.

Shall I waste my words on how I feel it is all conspiracy– to keep us sedated, obedient, cut off from ourselves, silent? Are these thoughts actually extremist, radical– or do they just SEEM so, in a world so forcibly distant from its own extraordinary Truths? I do believe that one of the root causes of what we know as mental illness, distress, dis-ease– is lack of self-trust. There is bravery that is required to traverse these landscapes, to push beyond edges and create our own cartography. But the system doesn’t want us to be brave. Or self-reliant. Or recognize our inborn and ever-present capacity to heal ourselves. The system wants us to depend. And falter. And doubt. And quite honestly. Drown. Because with self-empowerment, the system is useless. Because we’d remember– the answers are inside us, in the collective myths of our birthright, and in reciprocity and communion with The Great Mother Earth. It’s that simple. Is it?

I am fascinated by suicidality and the soul. There are still loved ones who are deeply disturbed that I continue going to my bridge– the bridge I named both for my exit and for my greatest protection. The modern world, the modern mind, cannot hold this kind of tension– the kind of paradox that our ancestors knew most intimately. It is what the shaman does, the psychopomp, the messenger– walk those edges between the worlds. Betwixt and between. Life and Death.

There was inherent danger in “allowing me” to explore my own path, my own Legend. There was bravery required that thankfully, only my partner at the time was equipped with. I would tear off into the night, into the early morning, make threats, throw fits and emotional histrionics, and he’d let me go– with no guarantee that I’d return. He knew that it was My Journey. My Choosing. In Emerson’s words– to decipher the hieroglyphic of my own existence.

There is a theory in myth and archetype, of concretizing the metaphor. The danger of making the symbolic concrete, actual. Can suicidality be a metaphor, a symbol? In most cases, and rightly so– deafening, shrill alarm bells go off. Control, panic, fear, medication, hospitalization, psych evals. Observation. Calls and texts and unexpected visits. Point blank asks– for safety plans, plan B’s, numbers to call. The suicide hotline phone that ended up on the Triboro Bridge shortly after I soliloquied in graffiti sharpie marker about all the times I had stood there at the edge. The time I had ran into that man, perched like a bird on that guardrail. The prayer with words and song and howls and tears I made everytime I went up there. For all those who walk the liminal, to be held.

Concretizing the metaphor. Suicidality, for me, I elucidated over time– didn’t mean I actually wanted to die in a physical sense. I was there enough times– at the bridge, over the East River– that I knew if I really wanted to do it, I would’ve done it already. Because that’s my fucking style. But something else was happening. SOMETHING wanted to die– a part of my psyche, a destructive belief system, a tendency, a pattern, the entirety of the old world. If I had made those impulses real– I would’ve been dead, in actuality, dozens of times by now.

Why were our ancestors able to walk these lines? Doesn’t their blood still course, somewhere, even latent, even mythological, in our own DNA? Why were they brave enough to lead their people, without any shadow of a biomedical model? Without any medicine outside of that of the earth, and story, and initiation?

I am a Voice from The Other Side. I am One who walks Between The Worlds. I am One who was led into the Underworld but refused to be trapped there. I listened to my guides instead of suppressing them. And I cried on the sidewalk, and statues talked to me, and rocks and birds and deer and spirits unseen, and I grieved with the deep dark belly of the earth, and forgot how to speak at my desk at work, turned inside out like the still-crackling shell of a lightning child, and I hurt and I hurt and I hurt others. And I hated myself. So goddamn fucking much.

But I learned. That this is What Is Required. For Holding The Tension. For walking that shimmering, wavering line in the way we are Meant To. Opportunity and danger. Gift and curse. Bravery that the Soul Knows, even if the Mind doesn’t believe it yet. The invitation to Our Own Interpretation. To HEAL inside, and because OF, the very thing you felt would end your life.

And perhaps, what you perceived to be Your Life actually is— Ending.

Just not in the way you originally thought.

// written May 2020