Sucidal Ideation and the Importance of Getting Dressed in the Morning – Part 1

pants on a hanger2.LARGEI’m dressed. You’ll have to take my word for it. Dressing is an important transition from bed and bath, fraught with small choices; socks that match, that stay up, that don’t make my ankles swell and my feet turn red, now usually diabetic socks, though thank God I don’t have diabetes. This morning I am letting my Stage Four Flat Foots roam free.

Underpants that don’t ride up into the crack of my ass, and don’t let my innocuous junk fall out, harder now my favourite brand has been discontinued[1].  In winter a t-shirt seems necessary and I have a bevy to choose from, including self-designed Correct in this Culture[2], Luck Many and Jimmy Bang Blues Project and lots of comfy plain cotton XXL ts which may be all I need if I’m working at home.

Pants I try to keep very simple never having more than 2 or 3 pair in rotation currently in brown, tan and green, usually warmed on the bedroom radiator overnight, and then one of my two or three favourite shirts if I’m going into 213 Notre Dame to work in my office number – 622 – which I found out in a recent fire drill. Because I’m in a wheelchair at work, I get to stay in my office, the door closed a wet dish towel under the door. So far I haven’t had to rely on the strength of Winnipeg firemen to carry me down the six flights of marble stairs.

I love my pajamas, and my two robes, but I’ve had to wear them often enough in hospital and in depression[3], they often send incorrect signals to my hypothalamus, messing with my circadian rhythms with signals of illness and physical decrepitude, rather than Hey! You get to work at home today! You’re a Lucky Man!  I do change back into pajamas to rest in bed, during the day, and it’s much harder to get dressed again the second time and so on.

I am of course avoiding the rather sensational first two words in the header, trying to lighten the mood with a rather tenuous relationship. I have not done research, but figure most people get dressed before they commit suicide, though I know of one notable case where a man got completely undressed, folding his clothes neatly  beside him, lay down on the Assiniboine River one very cold blustery winter day and died.

The link of “to be or not be” to hinges on the concept of choice, in an effort to ameliorate fears that thinking and talking about suicide is a sure sign you are a danger to yourself and should be committed or restrained in some way for your best interest. I admit that depressives may think about suicide more often than the rest of the population, but as long as we are talking about it, we are less likely to make an attempt. It is sometimes enough just to reassure yourself if finally there is absolutely no way to end the physic pain, as a human being, you can choose not to be.

I expressed my dismay on hearing of a suicide one morning to a writer outside Artspace and he replied, “well, it was her choice.” I was horrified at the response only to learn later he had been diagnosed with terminal cancer and his choices to be where much more limited. My usual thinking has been that when you are really sick with depression you are not in a rational state of mind, and so it’s the illness misguiding you, and you are not capable of making an informed decision.

For M.D.

I no longer sleep with knives, caress
the edges.

I no longer braid rope, slip
the knot.

I no longer leave the car running, smell
the exhaust.

I no longer horde a cache of meds, spill
the pills.

I no longer suck the gun-barrel, finger
the trigger.

I no longer walk railway bridges, kiss
the black river

from Lucky Man p 61

I have not attempted suicide since two rather ridiculous, and unreported calls for help in boarding school.  My memory may be faulty but I think I started thinking about not being as a child. “I wish I had never been born,” being a fairly common thought, and I don’t think that unusual, even in happy families. Or uttered as a threat, “I’ll kill myself (or run away, a milder version), and then you’ll be sorry.” This is a long way from the emotional terrorism this may represent in adulthood, “don’t leave me, or I’ll kill myself.” This is a subject for another day.

Suicide and suicidal ideation are not the same things. Suicidal ideation may be an index, a symptom to watch or manage at worst, usually, but not always, connected to depression.  The level of threat may need to be monitored like the threat of forest fire, but until someone actually starts making realistic plans I suggest that thinking, talking and writing about suicide actually makes it unlikely which is why crisis lines are so important, as are friends and family you can actually talk to about the subject calmly without scaring the bejeezus out of them.  I will talk more about this in a post about Writing for Your Life (WFYL); a promising writing therapy program initiated in Saskatchewan by Ted Dyck, and my decision to volunteer for the Canadian Mental Health Association and their publication Kaleidoscope.

Despite Maurice Mierau’s cheeky allusion in front of audiences that poetry is filed in Non-Fiction in the Dewey Decimal system in our library, before reading his, all writers lie, even memoirists and poets. Writing is realized by the reader without the writer’s prodding as to what it is, and however frustrating, what the writer wants it to be. We’ll leave marketing out of today’s sermon as we will the search for truth and meaning.

Turning to my poems about suicide  (literary suicidal ideation)  I’ve decided they are more effective than my continued jabbering in my post.

I have two suicidal ideas, or fantasies. One is to join a gun club to practice shooting pistols, figuring if you lie when you fill out the forms eventually you will have a loaded pistol in your possession, and even if it is on a target range, there may be just the 30 seconds you need to “eat your gun,” a phrase perfect for a depressive with an oral fixation. The poem I’ve written about this is called Revolver.


There is this repeating
image. A pistol
(no other word
will do)
in my hand. More
Hollywood and Life magazine
than Hemingway or even my cousin.
The Deer Hunter’s roulette.
The execution of a suspected
Viet Cong on a Saigon street.
As if it mattered, the revolver
held in my mouth by my own
right hand. Then Bang. Bang.
To drive the darkness out
onto the books behind me.
Finally, to let in some light.

– unpublished, from Jimmy Bang Blues Project in Music for Men Over Fifty

The other is to roll myself to the fire escape exit, and tipping myself from the 6th floor of my office building, long black trench coat fluttering madly on my body’s way to stain the concrete below. The poem I’ve written about this is The Impotent Husband Considers Suicide. As a man insecure in his masculinity, I need to point out impotence comes in many forms, and in a poem is probably no more or less physically real than the revolver in the poem above.



He once told a classmate:

Once you’ve fucked a woman, no
fucked until you both had orgasms
at the same time there is
nothing left to  live for,
you might as well kill yourself.
What other revelation do you need?


Oh yeah, Dr. Fleischer, Dr. Lazarus –
watch me dance, thanks be to you.


The Sexton’s talk about pain, I want
to talk about fatigue, I’m so goddamned
tired, I can  hardly speak, but I keep
putting one word after the next not daring
to stop and step back. To admire my kids
yes, all five, gets easier everyday
while I figure out the right day to die.


Thirty below, above
the light brilliant,
the only shadow
under me
closing in.

 –       unpublished, from Considerations in Music for Men Over Fifty

And two more. The first some fun I had with a mashup of the famous Dorothy Parker poem and a song on King Biscuit Boy’s last album.

(for Dorothy Parker and King Biscuit Boy)

Can’t focus
on self-immolation.

My razor’s got
too many blades +
I’m too shy
for death by cop.

I’m just too depressed
to die.

Don’t have the gas
for asphyxiation.
Won’t get up
to hang a noose.

Can’t figure out
what screw is loose.
I’m just too depressed
to die.

Kevorkian won’t return
my email. He’s dead too
now, I suppose there’s
got to be

an end to this
somehow, all I know is
I’m too depressed
to die.

The river ice is jammed
too close against the bridge.
The web wants to help
put me away,

but all my research
has to wait another day
I’m too depressed
to die.

Got to keep living
‘cause I’m too depressed
to die.

–        unpublished,  from Jimmy Bang Blues Project in Music for Men Over Fifty


Been tryin to sleep, all I hear is sirens fill up my head
Been tryin to sleep , all I hear is sirens fill up my head
spend each late night hour wonderin who’s gonna end up dead.

Siren’s in the morning, sirens in the afternoon
live close to the police station, firehalls around the bend
But the ambulance comes wailing every night around ten.

Been tryin to sleep, all I hear is sirens fill up my head
been trying to sleep, all I hear is sirens fill up my head
spend each late night hour wonderin who’s gonna end up dead.

Sirens in the daytime, more sirens late at night
I hear them through my window, no matter how tight
closed against the darkness, the wailing comes through the night.

Been tryin to sleep, all I hear is sirens fill up my head
been tryin to sleep all I hear is sirens fill up my head
a bottle of booze on the nightstand, a bottle of pills in my hand.

I’m listening to the sirens, getting closer tonight
I’m listening to the sirens, getting closer tonight
Maybe this ones for me, I’ve finally got it right.

Published, Prairie Fire
from Jimmy Bang Blues Project
in Music for Men Over Fifty

Part 2 will pick up some of the loose threads above, particularly the ability of modern medicine and technology to keep us living longer than we might want to and the death with dignity movement. My partner has just arrived from yoga, maybe we’ll share a little minestrone, which I hope to put up in Recipes in Vicipedia later this week.

[1] Product placement available in exchange for cotton XL underpants.

[2] The once ambitious t-shirt company House of Bands, who I foolishly gave a bunch of Correct in this Culture original photos and epherma, now out of business. See my $100 offer on the CiC page top anyone who can bring it back to me.

[3] I’ve never been hospitalized for depression, and usually the relief surgery provides for whatever pain my bones dish out, and the total absolution from responsibility you have in a hospital bed, bringS me a great deal of comfort and peace.

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