Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Black & Blue

I watched a crappy movie called The Deep Blue Sea the other day. A lot of other people like it, but I found it to be glacial and profoundly irritating. I won't be giving too much away by telling you that the lead character, Hester (Rachel Weisz), tries to kill herself in the first ten minutes of the movie. She goes through all the necessary cinematic suicide steps – she writes a note to her boyfriend using perfect penmanship, delicately turns on the gas in her flat and casually, almost gracefully lays down in her bed to let death wash over her. Like Sleeping Beauty or Snow White waiting on death's door for her one true love.

What a bunch of bullshit.

The more I think about the movie, the more her character and her suicide attempt piss me off.

Me circa summer 2011. Not one of my best days. I sobbed on a bench at the Belmont Red Line for 30 minutes after finding out I didn't get a job I really wanted. After this, I ended up spilling BBQ sauce on my favorite dress and watching my favorite baseball team, The Milwaukee Brewers, lose to the damn Chicago Cubs. Blergh.

It's no great secret that I tried to kill myself when I was fifteen. I overdosed on thirty sleeping pills in the high school bathroom and was sent to a juvenile mental institution for a short time. I'm fairly certain it took place on May 16th, 2001. The event is a bit foggy because of the effects of the medication, but I vividly remember the textures and sensations: I remember swallowing those green dolls by the handful and the sickening, sweet taste of the gelatin mixing with the orange carrot juice I'd carefully selected for the occasion. I  remember violently throwing those pills up with the handy dandy aid of charcoal – you've never really lived until you've thrown up black goo all over yourself, especially on your favorite purple shirt that says “Goddess” on it. Most importantly, I fondly remember the elation I felt in the back of the ambulance. I was covered in my own vomit, my teeth were black and gritty from the charcoal and I had bloody needles sticking out of my arm, but I knew I was going to be OK. I'd fought my demons and survived the battle. I'll never forget the looks on the EMT's faces when I started laughing.

Natalie Wood in Splendor in the Grass (1961)

Little did I know what levels of depression I would reach once I ventured into adulthood. I shudder to think what I would have done to myself if I hadn't already tried and failed with that earlier attempt. My teenage depression was fleeting, almost like a high of sadness. My adult depression was a constant, dulling pang, like a giant leech that was slowly sucking the life out of my soul. I'll be honest and say that the thought of trying again has crossed my mind on more than one occasion. In fact, I did and still do think about it daily. Once I tried to commit suicide, the thought of death wasn't nearly as scary as it used to be. I started to casually think things like “Oh, if I hang myself, then I won't have to have to go to work today.” Or “if I jump off this building, then I won't have to worry about filing my taxes this year.” You know, really important, life-threatening things like that.      

I highly doubt I'll ever try to kill myself again, but it is comforting to know that I always have that option should the need arise. Still, I often find myself looking down from the balcony of my third floor apartment and wondering what it would be like to sail through the air for those brief moments before I hit the pavement. To feel the cool, rushing air on my face. When I'm in the shower, I sometimes find myself wondering what it would feel like to drown after the water has filled my lungs. Would it be as euphoric as I imagine? Would I glide with the ocean waves in the deep darkness until I become fish food? Water has always been very comforting to me. Or, better yet, what would it feel like to lay in a bathtub with my wrists sliced open? My own AB- blood oozing and swirling out from my thick skin like a warm sheath. Would the openness of the wounds make me cold? I hate being cold.

The violence and even pain of death isn't something that I'm afraid of anymore. I don't know if I'm just a thrill seeker or what, but these romantic notions aren't really desires for death, more like desires for those strong sensations. I don't want to die, but I desperately want to feel that rush of wind and glide in the deep darkness of water.

Just imagine, these are the thoughts I have when I'm happy!

I realize that every person has their own way of dealing with depression and suicide. We are all beautiful, unique snowflakes even in planning our own demise. Still, I think there are two definite factors that every person needs to have in order to make an attempt: a certain amount of bravery and madness. People often say that suicide is the coward's way out, but I don't think there's anything cowardly about shooting a gun in your face or swallowing drano on a warm afternoon.

The Deep Blue Sea's Hester is neither brave nor mad. In fact, she is a coward and an annoyingly rational thinker. When she promises to keep her mouth shut and not beg or quibble with her lover, Freddie, she openly admits that she's lying and trying to manipulate the situation to keep him there. Her suicide attempt isn't an invitation for death, it's an invitation for a little TLC. She just wants to be loved, Freddie! Hester is a wimp, a victim of romance and her own mistakes. She is clearly smart and capable enough to move on with her life and actually find something and someone worthy of her, but she is content to wallow in her own emotional filth and feed on the carcass of a dying love affair. Considering what the 1950's meant for women on screen and off, her characterization and blasé suicide attempt are incredibly infuriating and, well, depressing.      

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