I’ve been meaning to read De Profundis since I read a biography of Oscar Wilde, around 100 years ago. I know Max read De Profundis and liked it. I was disappointed, though. Oscar Wilde managed to perceive a benefit from his suffering: It would bring him humility, and a better appreciation of Christ. That’s where he lost me.
I wanted to find something as dark and bleak as my own grief , something that resonates. Suicide Survivor websites talk about “Journeys,” a word that is now ruined for me. I am not on a journey. I am already there. It’s the land of the Not Living but Not Dead. There’s an exit but I must not use it.
There is a dark veil that hangs just beyond my peripheral vision but I can see it there. I have to work hard to keep it away. When it sweeps over me, I am lost. It’s just agony. I live in fear of the dark veil and I work hard to refuse its existence. This grief cannot be borne. It’s not possible.
I stay up at night because going to bed might produce some moments of unfiltered thinking. I have to wait until I’m nearly unconscious, but I try to get to bed before six AM. One night not long ago, it was nearly six and for a moment I felt a giddy sense of total freedom from responsibility or repercussions: it was the epiphany that I didn’t exist any more, so it didn’t matter. The feeling was brief but scary. I can’t even decide if it was a moment of clarity or psychosis.
People who suffer from Cotard’s Syndrome often deny that they exist or believe they are dead. “In the first stage (Germination) patients exhibit depression and hypochondriacal symptoms.” Check. Jules Cotard, who first described the condition, “described the syndrome as having degrees of severity that range from mild to severe. Despair and self-loathing characterize a mild state.” Okay then. A mild state is good but not as good as mental health.
I have always felt contemptuous of women who seem to bounce back after losing a child. I was appalled when Marie Osmond resumed her show in Las Vegas only a week after her son jumped from his 18th floor window. Gloria Vanderbilt, Judy Collins, non-celebrity mothers who write about their Journeys and even offer tips on handling intimacy with their husbands. What propels them to go forward with their lives as if anything matters?
It’s no comfort to know I wont be one of them.
image: The Honeymoon, 2007 © Cig Harvey