Killing Yourself Over and Over Again

May 8th, 2008

Drawn with markers in my journal last night. this is actually the back of the page I drew. I like the way the bleeding markers look on the reverse side.

I'm listening to Martha Beck's Steering By Starlight on my ipod (thank you to Christine Kane for the recommendation.) It's really great and has me thinking, laughing, processing, and pondering some more.

In one part, Beck tells the story of a client who is so depressed and fed up with his life that he's contemplating suicide. Her response is, "You'll definitely have to commit suicide to be free...In fact, ideally, you'll do it all the time. Not physically. Mentally." She goes on to explain how a person can live a vital life by regularly killing (in a sort of suicide) their conceptualized self. In other words, by regularly freeing yourself of the stories you cling to, you can free yourself from those self-imposed limitations.

I was particularly struck by this part of the book. Possibly because I've had my own brush with suicide. But also because this kind of death (of old beliefs) is one that keeps coming up for me over the last couple years.

There have been two memorable times in my life where I had a temporary, but freeing experience with the death of my stories. The first was when my step-brother died. He was only 23 years old and his death was sudden and unexpected. The night before he'd been at my sister's softball game. He went out for pizza with his friends before retiring back to the apartment he shared with a close pal. During the night he died of a brain aneurysm.

There had been a couple other deaths in my family that same year, one was expected and the other wasn't, but there's something particularly shocking about the death of someone so young and seemingly full of life. After the funeral, I remember everything seeming so surreal, more vivid and clear. Within a few weeks, I had ended a five year long relationship (that I had been agonizing over whether or not to end for the last year) and I quit the job that was making me miserable. Getting this stark reminder of how fragile and fleeting life is was like a bucket of cold water being splashed in my face. It woke me up. I recognized that I had the choice to live a life that made me happy or stick with whatever was bringing me down because I felt there was no way out.

The second time I experienced an inner death/rebirth was when I hit my lowest point with depression and was contemplating suicide. It had been crossing my mind for awhile, but when I actually made the decision, something shifted within me and again, everything became surreal and especially vivid. I saw my then therapist who directed me to the hospital where I checked myself in. And from there, I was able to reevaluate my life in a more objective way. I was able to ask for help, admit I was struggling, and get myself out of situations that seemed impossible to get out of, even though they really weren't. In my head, my stories about disappointing others, failing, etc, were just that - stories. And when it came down to it, the stories didn't mean much. This time around, I put in my notice at another job that seemed prestigious to me and related to my degree, but was no longer serving me, and I found a job that paid twice as much, was much less stressful, and allowed me time to heal and do what I love (make art). I also left the apartment that was too expensive, but I thought I couldn't break the lease (I found a subletter), consolidated my debts so I could afford the monthly payments, and moved to another apartment (which led me to meet the hubster.) And I also got some help from friends and family and re-connected with people I love.

Both of these turning point moments were brought about by extremes. Sometimes you can get to a shift like this without the low point. I remember at one point in my twenties imagining if I had a year to live what I would want to do. And then I did those things (spent more time with family, took a trip to the Caribbean, ran a marathon.) But lately it feels harder to get myself to that place of letting go of the story so I can get on with living. I try and do it in the small ways...I get present when spending time with my cats, really feeling their fur, noticing their movements, fully loving their every breath. Or on a walk when my mind goes still and the grandness of a tree puts me in a state of awe. Or when I'm dancing across the kitchen floor for no other reason than pure joy.

I suppose it doesn't all have to be about extremes, moving, leaving, huge life changes. But I also sense that there's something, some story holding me back right now and I'd like to put that fairy tale to bed. So, how do you get to the stories and let them go without the death and drama?

In my efforts to let go of defining beliefs, I look for inspiration in the writing of people like Patti Digh, whose blog is about just this sort of her case it's about living as if you had 37 days left. I find glimpses in the writing of Eckhart Tolle. And I write and I paint and I talk with loved ones, which often gets me closer. How do you get in touch with that part of you that grasps at your stories? And how do you lovingly help it release its grip?

17 Responses

This was such a powerful piece of writing. I loved how you were able to put into words what so many of us think and feel.
I don’t know how to move beyond our stories except that time heals all wounds…as does remembering that life has it’s ebbs and flows. It’s what I cling to and believe in.

Beautiful post, Leah. It’s comforting to hear that we all struggle with the stories we tell ourselves. Debbie Ford has a couple of good books that I’ve turned to. And reading Eckhart Tolle has been illuminating.

The poem “Barter” (, used to comfort me. The last line part says

“Spend all you have for lovliness,
Buy it and never count the cost;
For one white hour of peace,
Count many a year of strife well lost,
And for a breath of ecstasy,
Give all you have been, or could be.”

One day I re-read it and realized that my life was no longer just a handful of those moments. There were many. It still fluctuates, but it was a relief to know I could ask for more than “one hour” or “one breath.” It was a relief to realize I’d gotten some freedom.

For me it’s always been thoughts that shook my world. Like you, that means turning to good books. I’ll also write “it” out until I felt grounded. If I don’t know what “it” is, I just write.

Some days, I wonder if I am ever truly over the moments in my life that are those turning points. I move ahead some days, and backwards the next. I definitely have learned to deal with my own self imposed issues through my painting. Nothing monumental has come out yet–just the passing thoughts, the little things I think about that either haunt me or inspire me to move on. Piece by piece I am learning to heal and grow.

Love your post, very moving and thought provoking.

I’m so glad you resurfaced in life. And I’m glad to know that my words have been, in some small way, in service to you. love, patti

The morning pages suggested by Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way have allowed me to view what was poisoning my soul. Things I didn’t even know were there came to the surface in surprising ways. After seeing them, acknowledging them, I’ve been able to let them go. Freeing indeed.
I love this post. Thanks, Leah.

I wish I could draw or paint but those genes just went right on past me.

At least I can write songs, that’s something I’m grateful for.

I stumbled onto you from Christine Kane’s blog – isn’t she wonderful!?!

Be well,


Dear, dear, Leah…this is a BEAUTIFUL post. As someone who’s been to the brink of physical suicide more than once, I truly love the idea of mental suicide. There’s a reason they call it ‘mental health.’ It’s extraordinary, isn’t it, the power our thoughts have over us. Joy lies in being empowered to write our stories anew in every moment…and how very hard it can be to remember that. Conceptualized self, indeed. At one point today I heard the voice in my head say, “I need to reframe this (experience).” A new frame for new concepts…getting to the place where life IS art. xoxo

letting go, letting go, letting go…and moving forward…just like you did, is how I have been able to release myself from “stories”/dramas/real life harshships…especially when there seemed to be another person who I was allowing to bring me down, down, down.
Having let go, I can see a brighter future, live a better present, and enjoy life more.

When you cannot let the storyline go, it can help to figure out what benefit one is getting from clinging onto the story. It’s a defense, and it happens for a reason…and that reason is often fear of something.

Working on letting go of fear myself.

I visualize putting tape across the mouth of the hamster that is whispering those stories as he runs his wheel, and set my crone self, cackling, over the corner where I put him. Some days it works better than others. I look back at the 2 times suicide and I made aquaintance and think of all the things that wouldn’t have happened had I succeeded; it’s a good juxtaposition to whatever isn’t working. We’re here for a reason – might as well take the adventurous road and see what it is. Wonderful post!

This is so weird that you brought this up now. I recently put up a Hope Line on my blog for people who feel suicidal.
I had felt it from age 16-40. I prayed in Jesus name and ask God to help me find out what was causing another physical illness in me. Right after I prayed, the thought came to my mind to go see a Naturopathic Doctor. That is when I found out I had Candidasis. An overgrowth of yeast that was in my intestines and lungs.
When I went on the Candida Diet for 3 months to kill off the overgrowth, I not only noticed that some of my pain was gone in my body, but I could think more clearly, I didn’t feel suicidal anymore, I stopped worrying about everything, Had no more PMS, no more floaters in front of my eyes, My depression went away, stomach aches, chest pains, crushing headaches, jaw pain, things that use to upset me didn’t anymore, and all of those syptoms were gone. I could breathe better once again. Only the pain from the FMS I have from an accident was still there.

I was watching a PBS special with Dr. Daniel Amen that was really good about the brain. Why people hold on to grudges, can’t let things go, hold onto unforgiveness, procrastinate, are depressed, angry etc. It just might be that their body is out of balance. He talked about what foods to eat for certain things going on.

I learned a lot of Homeless people they found out had brain injuries.
I learned that people really do need to eat right and feed their children good food for their minds to be healthy. This one gal the Doctor talked about on the show always thought she was dumb in school. She finally went to this Doctor Amen and found out what to do to correct it and now she is at the top of her class in College.
Some people who put people down for mental problems don’t realize that the brain is a physical part of our bodies. They except cancer, kidney and liver failure as an illness but not the mental. And just because a person doesn’t look ill they think it is all in their head. Maybe it is, if the mercury in their mouths are causing physical or mental problems. That can happen too.

Just because we can’t see or noticed what isn’t visable to the eye doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. We can’t see the air we breathe either.

I know this is long. We recently had something happen in our family that is why I put up the Hope line.

Always be kind, for we know not what others are going through or have been through in their own lives.

Also if someone is mean and unloving or critical, it just might be that their body is out of balance and maybe they are not getting the nutrients that they need for a healthy brain, or they have had a brain injury that people don’t know about. We don’t know.

I learned that working in toxic conditions can change peoples brains.
There was a couple who went to a marriage counseler and the couseler told them to divorce each other. They went to this Dr. Daniel Amen because they didn’t want to get a divorce. They wanted to find out why the husband had changed mentally. They still loved each other. Come to find out that when he started working around chemicals in a new job that is when he started changing mentally. So they moved him to a different department away from the chemicals and had him eat certain foods, he went back to being the loving husband he use to be.

Sometimes I wonder is postive thinking enough? Or is it a matter of taking the steps to find out what is going on physically that is making me feel like this. Which would be a postive step in the right direction, I guess. But sometimes I just don’t think it is a matter of thinking happy thoughts all day long. Pain whether it be physical or mental is saying something isn’t right. Pain can be a good thing. It’s a gift.

People need to stop thinking mental problems make
them unworthy. Having a broken mind is just the same
as having a broken leg. Something is physically wrong with both. They both need to get back into balance in order for healing to take place.

Ok I am finished. I could go on and on about this.

God Bless Your Life and I am so glad you took the step in the right direction!!!

PS. If you click on posted by Flassie it will take you to the post about Dr. Daniel Amen’s book and a link to his website.

I forgot to say I really like the piece
of art you put with this blog entry!!!

Thank you so much for sharing Leah. You have been through so much for someone so young.

I suspect you are going through a transition phase, one of those shifts without any particular trigger event. Those are always the most difficult because there is no clear path marked. It is only to be found by listening within – and that is really hard work.

You’re doing a lot of reading, and that is good. Do some meditation/listening, that would be good too. And in between just give hugs to hubster and kitties – that especially helps.

I’ll post a picture of a poster that I think you might appreciate – I keep this up as a reminder – it makes me smile everytime. There is also a poem by David Whyte – I just have to find that one too and I’ll post that for you.

Take care of yourself, and keep creating, art heals.

This is such a wonderful piece, so powerful. I’ve never thought about mental suicide, killing things off in my head so that I can move forward. I hang onto EVERYTHING up there and it really bogs me down. I need to learn to do this. Thanks for making me think about this, dear. :)

This reminds me that when I spent 6 months doing zazen with a local Zen group the idea was that in each sitting we died, every sleep is also a little death.

Now I see it as being made new in every moment.

I read this again. Sorry about your step-brother.

Powerful and encouraging piece of writing Leah!

The link to Steering by Starlight isn’t working.

God Bless Your Health and Creative Life!!!

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