This post has been knocking about my brain since I first read the article that spurred the thought. It’s an article about a man named Bill Zeller, whom I never met and whom none of you have likely ever met. Bill Zeller was apparently a gifted programmer, and a couple of weeks ago, he killed himself.
At first I only took interest because suicide is a morbidly pet topic to me. Both of my parents killed themselves (my father in October of 1974, my mother in October of 2003, six months following the birth of my daughter), and at least one good friend has chosen to shuffle themselves from the mortal coil over the years. I would be lying if I said the odd suicidal thought hasn’t crossed my mind, but something about losing both of your parents to the most befuddling way to die (to everyone else anyway) caused me to make a long-ago deal with myself that I would never do that. Mostly because I know what it does to everyone left behind. I can’t do that to the people who love me, no matter how despairing I may ever feel. And in all honesty, it has been a very, very long time since such thoughts have dwelled in my brain more than fleetingly. Thank the gods.
Nevertheless, it’s a topic sadly close to my heart. So I read Mr. Zeller’s very long suicide note with interest, and as I read, with growing empathy. Mr. Zeller finally succumbed to demons that were given to him by someone else: notably, his childhood abuser, whom he does not name. What he does do is speak at length about “the darkness”: that thing that prevented him from having intimate relationships with anyone else in his life, whether they were emotional or physical.
I know this “darkness” of which Bill Zeller spoke. The darkness falls like a veil over every attempt at closeness and taints every pure sensation of love and passion with distrust and suspicion. It is the worst manifestation of the curse of sexual abuse upon children, and it’s something most victims don’t even realize they’re suffering from until much, much later in life as they try to go about the business of being “normal” like everyone else. Which is something that we never will be. Not by everyone else’s standards anyway. Until someone invents neurosynaptic erasure that won’t result in the fuckuppery of “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind“, it is impossible to be a person unaffected by that kind of abuse and violation of trust. We must simply accept and work through the things that have happened to us through the best of ours and our therapists’ abilities. Even then, we may have to accept that, like Frodo at the end of “The Lord of the Rings“, there are some hurts that are too deep to heal completely. We are changed permanently and irrevocably by them.
My heart ached for Mr. Zeller, whose darkness was clearly much more oppressive than it has been for me. To be sure, my relationships have been deeply affected by things that happened to me when I was much younger, but unlike Mr. Zeller, I was not hindered by an inability to speak of those things. Which does not mean those old demons do not still lurk in the corners and recesses of my memory. I still suffer from a distrust of most men, whom some part of me perceives as predatory. My impressions of men have been twisted and perverted by my earlier experiences and I often cannot help but interpret what is the perfectly normal sex drive of most human males into something dangerous that is to be avoided. Each time I am approached with love, I must struggle through my brain’s automatic suspicion, which inevitably asks in fear, “What do you want from me?” I often fail in this struggle, I have no doubt much to the consternation of anyone who has ever tried to be close to me.
Which is when the real “darkness” sets in. The darkness that made Mr. Zeller finally decide to give it all up, that it was no longer worth the effort. The darkness that whispers, “You’re damaged beyond repair, what possible good are you to the world like this?”
And I whisper back, “Fuck you. You don’t own me, and even if I’m 80 fucking years old before I banish you with the Light, I will destroy you.”
I wish I could retroactively lend that inner strength to Mr. Zeller, and to my parents, and right now to everyone who suffers from “the darkness”. I do not know where this inner tenacity comes from that I possess and that has saved me from countless destructive paths. Guardian angel? God? Fate? Pure luck? I have no fucking clue, but I wish I could bottle it and sell it. No, I wish I could give it away. The ability to speak. The ability to point a finger and say, “That person’s hurting me.” Even if they’re not around anymore. The ability to say, “This was not my fault.” The ability to say, “I’m bigger than this, even if it left some marks.” Because secrets kill just as surely as cancer.
Slowly, the darkness dissipates the more I say these things to myself. I am no longer ashamed of my mental scars. At least, not AS ashamed. They make me who I am, and people keep telling me I’m a fairly amazing person. I am better at believing them than I used to be. I still have scars over my mental ears, but they get a little thinner each time I make the effort to let in the truth and beauty. It means I have to leave myself vulnerable to pain, but it is perhaps one of the oldest yet truest cliches that there is no love without pain and no light without dark. If I want one, I must deal with the other. Lest I fall victim to The Darkness.