Twenty years ago, a middle-aged woman could take the mental pain no longer. She went into a closet, wrapped a towel around her head, and put a bullet in her brain. Ten years ago, a man in his mid-thirties walked into the solitude of the forest behind his parent’s house and shot himself through the heart. Two years ago, a young man, barely in his twenties, got drunk and hung himself because his girlfriend left him. Two weeks ago, a man in his mid-forties closed himself in his bathroom, lit two grills and quietly slipped away. He left behind a note saying that “It wasn’t anyone’s fault, it just had to be done” and $5800 to cover funeral costs.
Suicide has touched my life this year. Of the four fallen souls above, I knew only last one. His name is Ray. I write this month’s blog in his memory – as a tribute to his life and to all others who have fallen. As I have grieved for this loss in my life, I have heard stories from others who have lived while their beloved has chosen not to. It is heart-wrenching. It is all the more painful because I have been on the edge myself.
Biologically, suicide seems counter-instinctive. But when faced with an experience in the Deep that is so dark and cavernous, suicide can actually seem a rational solution to the torturous pain that can be found there.
As a Wommon-Who-Follows-the-Wheel, I am obliged to consider suicide an aspect of the psycho-spiritual journey we are all on. Yet, although every human being travels into the depths of their soul at some point in their life, not everyone travels so deeply into the subterranean world that they cannot find their way out. For some of us, there are times we descend into the Deep and it is so dark, so bottomless, and so complete that the memory of who-we-are and of the Wheel cease to exist. Life becomes linear. The path leads only one direction with all hope and joy to our backs. All evidence of light is long gone, presumably never to return. In fact, the sheer idea of “return” itself does not exist.
I can relate to the souls who have committed suicide because I too have traveled into the heart of darkness. It is a journey that no one chooses to make; no one goes willingly into the darkest depths of one’s soul. The demons that exist there are more ferocious than any horror movie, because they are of your own being. The torture is exquisite. The pain absolute. The darkness all-encompassing. The damage irreparable.
The experience of this kind of darkness/depth is unfathomable for those who have not traversed into this particular Darkness. I will forever wear the mental and emotional scars of my time in the darkest Deep. They are my battle wounds of having walked through the dark chasm. Anyone who has looked at the face of death itself – (and not just death, but death by one’s own hand: suicide) – knows what I am talking about. One cannot escape such an experience without forever being altered.
Yet, what I had that none of the four lost souls above had, are two things: the story of Inanna, and the Wheel. I feel a profound sense of gratitude to the author’s and the keepers of the Story of Inanna. It is the story of descent. Of darkness that cannot be denied nor mastered or controlled. It is the story of suspended animation, a life that is severed from Source. And ultimately, it is the journey back to the world of the living. In my darkest day, even though my belief in the Goddess simply ceased to exist, I read and re-read Inanna’s story and I continued to walk the Wheel. I went through the motions of acknowledging the seasons, of meeting with my tribe, of writing and conducting personal ritual. I did this even though I was completely without faith, trust, hope, or any conviction that life would or even should continue. Yet, I made a commitment to the Wheel. And in the end, that is what saved me.
Then, one day, the light simply returned. Not all at once, like a light being turned on in a dark room, but slowly, in increments that were nearly imperceptible. It was a fragile rebirth; an unsteady emergence back into life. It was a welcome but shaky re-integration back into the light.
When I received the call that Ray had committed suicide, I felt his pain as if it was my own. It is so ironic. When in the dark of the Deep, one feels completely and utterly alone. And in many ways, this is absolutely true. No one can go with you into the depths of your own being-ness. But it is also un-true. For I was there. I know the terrain all too well. I wish I could’ve been with him to show him the way out. But that is not the way it works. Each person must find their own way out of the Deep. Some never do.
Blessings to you Ray. I am so sad that your time in the Deep was so dark that you could not find your way out. The world is forever changed by your passing – it is not as bright, nor as beautiful, nor as complete. May peace be with you and to all who are, as I type, walking in the Deep-that-is-deeper-than-deep.
Just remember this: You are not alone. That light always follows darkness. There is a place beyond the heart of darkness that is rich, beautiful, and full of life, just keep putting one foot in front of the other and one day the sun will rise again.
-Jennifer June Sterling