Episode 28, Eddie Pepitone

Episode 28, Eddie Pepitone

Postby Namu » September 21st, 2017, 12:19 pm

Paul said that, to him, the decision to commit suicide is "the ultimate example of ... how the perception of time can distort reality and the truth. Because what is suicide but a reaction to the belief that things are never going to get better?"

That rhetorical question is, in one form or another, sadly common -- sadly because it harbors an invalid and destructive premise. To assume that a suicidal person is acting from a belief that things are never going to get better is a handy way of painting life as never as painful as a suffering person might claim -- that there is no such thing as unbearable, no such thing as a limit to stamina. It disenfranchises people who are in unbearable suffering, and people who've reached the limits of their stamina. To make this assumption about people in extreme suffering comes across, to me, as aggressive -- even, in the broader sense such as in domestic violence, violent.

Given the prevalence of this portrayal of suicidality, perhaps for some people, at least some of the time, it is, in fact, the delusion of knowing the would-be future that paves the way to suicide. That has never been what drove me; for me, every time I've traveled that road, the thinking has boiled down to, "Maybe if I lasted a little longer things would get better, but it doesn't matter. I've squeezed all the extra time I can out of that construct. Today is the day that I must determine whether I'm willing and able to keep trying, waiting, reaching out, hanging in there." Too much was at stake, I was all too painfully aware, to be sloppy in my reasoning. I whittled down the issue, cut out all the factors that weren't central and all the constructs that weren't supportable, and was left with two questions:

Is there anything I can do -- can actually do, not just imagine I might do if I had more life force, more hope, more stamina, if anything were a little different than it actually is -- to make life better?
Can I make the choice to continue under these circumstances?

Before I broke free of religion, the prospect of possibly spending eternity in hell, as a consequence of suicide, was not enough to offset the one factor that I knew firsthand: the experience I was having. "Live in the moment!" people preach, but then criticize when people don't base their decisions on externally imposed, hazy, optimistic ideations about the future. Having suffered and then felt better is not proof of anything about another person's life. Having felt suicidal and later found oneself glad not to have acted on it, or to have succeeded, is not evidence that other people will enjoy the same significant positive shift in mood and/or circumstances. Having made efforts and seen them pay off does not mean that other people's best efforts will be met with similar success. Retroactively recognizing irrationality in one's own unhappy past is not a legitimate basis for assuming that other people turn similarly irrational when they're suffering.

If a person is characteristically impulsive, that would be reason for extra caution; if a person's depression has been of short duration, that would be a factor worth considering. If there is anything a person can refer to -- photos, writings, recollections from friends -- to show that she has ever been at peace, or basically happy, or that her usual experience has comprised anything much more rewarding than a melange of desperate and persistent resourcefulness, misery, and hanging-on-in-case-it-might-get-better, that would justify the discomfort of delay. In cases where there are untried possibilities for treatment -- legitimate possibilities, not just the tired trope of Big Pharma never running out of products to sell us -- and where those possible treatments are actually obtainable, available, without too-high obstacles of money, transportation, or mind-shreddingly dysfunctional bureaucracy, and where a person can summon up sufficient fumes to operate on until such avenues are explored, then that too may be an occasion for postponing the irrevocable decision. Whatever a person's circumstances, though -- and whatever subset of those circumstances bystanders may notice and count as relevant -- it may be a legitimate, rational decision that enough is enough. One person can't know when another person is out of steam. Ideations of possible future shipments of steam are not helpful to the person truly out of steam.

It doesn't always get better. It usually does, I suppose; most people don't commit suicide, and perhaps most people's last moment isn't dominated by unbearable misery. But those for whom it does get better, when they claim to know that it will get similarly better for others, are committing the very error in rationality they claim to see in others, and then criticize. Things get better, then worse, then better ... . That's life. The cyclical nature of emotions and experience doesn't support generalized claims in service of either optimism or pessimism, either hope or despair.

It seems to me that, on average, it makes more sense to consider the claims of a person about her own experience than the claims of Person 1 (especially where there's an apparent agenda having to do with upholding a non-harrowing notion of the range of human experience) about the experience of Person 2, whom Person 1 has never met. Depression can cloud the thinking, but that doesn't mean that everything a suffering person says can be dismissed as delusional. What a terrible way to treat a person suffering from depression, or from simple misery -- to just dismiss the parts of her experience that seem inconvenient, sad, scary, or in conflict with preconceptions.

I find that, if I pay attention over time, the people who make positive claims about the help that's available, or the life-saving effectiveness of meds, are often the same people who, in other moments, acknowledge the difficulty -- the results-not-guaranteed -- of getting better with help, or the eventual failure of yet another cocktail of meds, or the fact of too many side effects, or the inability to afford all the phone calls, appointments, and cash required to constantly monitor and tweak meds.

The ones for whom it doesn't get better don't get much airtime, because they're either dead or too incapacitated or unengaging to write books, or to be sought for interviews. It's important not to pretend they don't, or didn't, exist.

I don't mean to sound angry or unnecessarily negative. I don't want to bring anyone down. But I am brought down by these unfounded claims so steeped in positivism. They deny and erase my own experience, and I prefer not to stay quiet about that sometimes.

Thanks for reading.
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Re: Episode 28, Eddie Pepitone

Postby manuel_moe_g » September 21st, 2017, 1:20 pm

I hear you. You are not wrong. It is a fundamental problem of a life of pain.

All I can suggest is that pain experienced lets you help other people in pain, and lets you help with real compassion and authenticity. This is one way of thinking about pain that helps me push past it.

But that assumes that one can push past it. And it is not moral failing if you cannot, because the pain is just too great.

I wish I had a magic wand to take away your pain, but I do not, and nobody has one. Please take care, keep the lines of communication open. Your voice is too important to go silent.
~~~~~~
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Re: Episode 28, Eddie Pepitone

Postby Namu » September 21st, 2017, 2:46 pm

Thanks, mmg. I'm glad to have your more soothing voice as a follow-up to my potentially cranky-sounding post. I'm also glad to have your validation and witnessing.

I'll do my best to carry on. : ^}

Namu
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Re: Episode 28, Eddie Pepitone

Postby brownblob » September 21st, 2017, 6:29 pm

Hi namu,
I hear you. People (no matter how well intentioned) cannot feel another person's pain or know how that person feels. When I have been at my worst, I hated when people would lecture me on how good life was, how silly I was, how much there was to live for, how I hadn't lived yet, how I needed to just change my attitude, how I just want attention, how I don't want or try to get better...
These were some of the things that made me angry inside. I could handle the people saying things would get better because I knew they meant well and honestly I wanted to believe it even though I knew it was just something people say.
I just wanted to say your post makes sense. I hope I don't say anything to invalidate your experience.
Last edited by brownblob on September 22nd, 2017, 6:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Episode 28, Eddie Pepitone

Postby Namu » September 21st, 2017, 8:37 pm

Heya, brownblob. Nope, nothing invalidating there -- just the opposite. It helps to have your perspective.

I wish I were more able to focus on people's possibly good intentions. I really do: I fear that much of my reactivity is plain immature intolerance, which is embarrassing. If I were granted several wishes, one of them would be for more generosity of spirit --i.e., more ability to, like you, "handle" people who inadvertently do me harm. I feel like I just got used up that way very early, you know? Tapped out. Spent.

So I'm grateful for the example set by people who still fight for that sort of equanimity, or at least forgiveness, in themselves.

Thanks for chiming in.

Namu
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Re: Episode 28, Eddie Pepitone

Postby hobojungle » September 22nd, 2017, 6:58 am

I welcome your thoughtful constructive criticism Namu. Often others can "see" me more clearly than I see myself. Minimizing my own struggle is bad enough, but it's not ok to do to others. Keep using your words here Namu. You are helping yourself & others.
I am acceptable; you are acceptable.
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Re: Episode 28, Eddie Pepitone

Postby Namu » September 23rd, 2017, 9:35 am

Thanks, hobojungle.

It keeps surprising me how much y'all's kind replies help.

I like your observation about minimizing our own struggles, and the extra-uncool nature of minimizing someone else's. I've noticed that sometimes (though not always), in trying to get my own situation in perspective, it can be helpful to observe that things could be worse. Never, though, has that been helpful from someone else, when referring to my troubles.

Using one's words: A bouncer at a bar once shared with me some of his method with potentially violent drunks: "As long as they're talking, they're not swinging."

: ^}

I will indeed try to keep using my words. Thanks again.

Namu
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Re: Episode 28, Eddie Pepitone

Postby rivergirl » September 23rd, 2017, 1:58 pm

Hi Namu,
Thank you for expressing thoughts that I've had many times in the past year or so, but couldn't have expressed in the compassionate and eloquent way that you did in your post.

rg
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