And Welcome to PaganFM! here on WSCA-LP, 106.1 FM, Portsmouth Community Radio.
You can find PaganFM! on the web at www.paganfm.com. While youíre there, you can check out the Youtube videos on our homepage. There is one from Dragon Ritual Drummers, who you just heard opening our show tonight Ö that track was Pagan Soldier from their album ďPassageĒ. All the text from the program is available there, as is our brand new podcast.
We started podcasting the program last week, and that episode is there in its entirety. Iíll be breaking the program up into two parts for future episodes Ö that will let people download it a bit easier Ö you wonít have to do it all at once. If youíre looking for the podcast, youíll be able to find it at the itunes store. Itís free to subscribe, and you can just search for PaganFM! to get it.
I wanted to spend a bit of time this week talking about whatís for some, a difficult subject. News reports have stated that some suicide rates are on the rise. Itís likely not limited to just the Portsmouth area, and itís something thatís actually important to talk about.
As a pagan, I probably donít have the same attitude toward suicide that other people from mainstream religions have Ö I donít think itís a sin thatís going to get a personís soul sent to hell, where theyíll be tortured forever. Still though, I think itís in many cases a tragedy. Itís the ending of an earthly life. I think itís terribly sad when someone comes to the point where they believe that death is the only reasonable option left them.
If youíre listening to this show, and your spirit is in such a state that you think there is no way out, please believe me, in almost every case, it can bet better. This, I know Ö not because I learned it in a classroom somewhere, not because I read it in a book, not because I heard some preacher telling me, but because Iíve been there, and come out the other side.
If you know someone who is seriously depressed, get them help. Please donít resort to the junk-pop-get tough psycho-garbage that so many people try to use. Weíve all heard that if you kill yourself youíll go to hell. First, if youíre a pagan, you donít likely believe in hell anyway. When I was in a state of depression, if I had believed in hell, I wouldnít have cared anyway.
Some people have tried what I believe is the most stupid argument I know of; they say ďSuicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problemĒ. If youíre like me, you were or are looking for a permanent solution! While the problem may indeed be temporary, it certainly had no foreseeable ending.
So, if youíre in the middle of a depression, is there a way out? Do we have options? Certainly! Are they easy? No. Can you do it on your own? I wasnít able to. Maybe some might, but if youíve gone far enough into the woods, and found yourself lost, itís a lot easier to get out if you find someone whoís been there, and knows the way.
Here are a few things to consider if youíre at the end of your rope. There are people, real live people, who have felt just as bad as you do now, whoíve found a way to be happy again.
Things can look hopeless, but often thatís not because the situation is in reality hopeless, but more because we canít see, from where we are, that there is a solution.
Here is something to think about if you are feeling like you donít have any other solution: If you choose, just for now, that youíll call or find someone to talk to, maybe you can try their suggestions just for a while. If they work, youíve gained your life back! If they donít, you have really lost nothing. Iím not asking you to change your mind Ö Iím simply saying that maybe you can wait just a while to try something different first. If you try something else, you still have options.
Really, there are people who care. I do, and there are many people who not only care, but are equipped to help you to find another solution.
The phone number, 1-800-suicide is a national number that is run by volunteers, and is equipped to get you in touch with someone who can help. Their only agenda is to help. Thatís what they do. The number will either connect you with a local crisis center, or, if youíre a veteran, to an agency that specifically helps veterans.
Itís not going to harm you at all to talk to someone. Itís not going to limit your options at all. Itís simply going to give you one further option prior to taking an action, after which, there arenít any more options.
I think itís important to understand too, what can bring a person to such a drastic decision. What can bring on such a level of despair that they are willing to end their lives? What causes such discomfort, that they feel they have nothing left to offer, that those they love would be better off without them? What pain is so great that the unknown of death seems to be a good choice?
One discussion that I heard some years ago posed that suicidal depression can come about when an individual is living a life that is at odds with who they really are. As a transsexual, I can certainly understand that. I knew who I was, but was forced to live as something else. The pain of that is excruciating. Perhaps thatís why so many LGBT folk are driven to suicide.
Others of us are prodded into educational or career choices that we might not otherwise choose for ourselves. Parents wish us to have ďsuccessfulĒ careers, where success is based on financial goals rather than personal fulfillment. Weíre told to put aside dreams of what we might like to do, for someone elseís idea of what a sensible career might be. We feel trapped, and unable to decide for ourselves.
There is also the concept of fear. As living creatures, we have an inbred need to either confront or escape from things that threaten us. In our modern culture though, we have sources of fear that we canít really confront. Our economic system, especially now, confronts us with financial ruin. We have no real escape from that. Many of us are saddled with homes which we still need to pay for, but are becoming worth significantly less than what we still owe on them. Some people have homes taken from them, not because theyíve defaulted on their loans, but simply because the marked created conditions where their homes donít have sufficient value to cover the loan.
Some of us are faced with downturns in the economy which leaves us unemployed. Having had solid employment, the economy turns sour, and weíve got families to support, but no income with which to do that. Trying to find a new job is incredibly difficult in such times.
Both of these conditions, a crisis of identity, or fear of situations can really be helped by changing our perspective. There is something that we can do to change the situation, or at least the way we perceive the situation.
The despair in these situations comes because we feel that we have no control over our lives; that we are victims of our situations, and there is no way out. The truth of the situation is that we may not have an immediate way out, but we almost always have a way through.
In either of the above situations, the difficulty arises because weíve allowed another person or a situation, to control our existence. Weíve decided, or come to believe, that we donít have any choices. If we believe that, the only choice weíre left with is that of ending our own life. Really though, we do have choices. Some of them might be difficult, some of them might require confrontation, but we have choices.
One thing that Iíve found to be true is this: if I take offense at anyone, itís my choice to do so. If someone calls me a name, and I get upset, thatís because Iíve given someone else that power to offend me. Iíve placed value in that other personís opinion of me.
Likewise, if Iím responsible for the way I feel, so are others. If Iím afraid to be myself for fear of offending another person, be it friends, family or anyone else, then what Iím saying is that I have power over them that they should be retaining for themselves. Perhaps theyíve given me that power, but it is rightly theirs.
When I was young, I approached my parents with the knowledge that I was transsexual. Their response was one of threat Ö they threatened to send me to the state mental hospital. I recanted, and that led to many years of depression. I had no control, no escape.
Today, they still donít agree with who and what I am, but I donít let that disagreement color my opinion of myself. I need to value myself to keep myself healthy and sane. Self-esteem is something that can be helped from without, but it must come first, from within. Whatís interesting about it is that a person who has self-esteem will cultivate attitudes around them that reinforce that esteem.
As far as the economy, and how that impacts us, I canít say that things are good. I canít say who will have jobs even next week. What I can say is that this is temporary. (Thereís that word temporary again.) What I can say is that itís survivable. It will take work. Maybe some obligations will need to be temporarily set aside. Maybe weíll need to swallow our pride and rely on others for a time. Does that hurt? Surely. But thatís because weíve come to believe that relying on others is somehow necessarily a bad thing. Weíve developed a culture that tells us that people who are on welfare or public assistance are somehow responsible for that position. Weíve been told that such people are ďusersĒ, somehow burdens on society. Maybe some people are taking advantage of others, but thatís certainly not all of them.
If itís situations such as losing jobs, worry about housing, there are resources available to help. But the issue that leads to depression for many is that loss of pride in having to depend on others. One way to avoid that is to give back to society what you can. Even if youíre occasionally eating at soup kitchens, or need to spend some time in a shelter, giving back to the society that is helping you is one way to maintain that dignity that you might feel is slipping away.
Weíve all been taught that one should work for their hire. There are many organizations that need help, from local libraries to the United Way, your assistance is necessary. Sometimes that work that is done as a volunteer can help to put us in a position for an entirely new career.
Maybe a bit of pride will be swallowed. Some things might really hurt. The issue though is whether weíre going to work through the issues, tackling them head-on, or if weíve decided we have enough.
Iím not going to place a value judgment on either solution. I know though what worked for me, and Iím glad Iíve made the choices I have made. Has it been easy? Not at all. But Iíve gained so much from the choices Iíve made. My life is going in a way that seems promising.
So, once again, if you are at the end of your rope, consider trying to take some action prior to making that ultimate decision. If you think you canít handle it on your own, give someone a call. 1-800-SUICIDE will put you in touch with a local agency. If youíre in the seacoast, Community Partners in Strafford County is at 603-749-3244. In the Portsmouth area, Seacoast mental health is available at 603-431-6703. If you donít remember the numbers, 911 always works.
In the end though, there is hope. Itís available to anyone who has the willingness to reach out their hand.
© 2008, Deirdre Hebert