Friday, September 18, 2009

I ditched the meaning and now I have nothing to wear

Suicidal ideation without intention. Just one more thing I think about and never do.

And wouldn’t, so don’t freak out.

That was one of a list of characteristics my therapist derived from the TAT (Thematic Apperception Test). When you take the TAT, you view a series of pictures (drawings, photos, prints) and talk about what is happening in the picture, what happened before, and what will happen after. These are my traits:

Lack of motivation
Suicidal ideation without intention
Desire to escape reality

Well, that’s encouraging. At least I’ve always been correct in my self-assessment.

Boredom: I’ve been complaining about this from 5 years of age on. I remember my childhood as a lunar landscape of boredom, empty time unrelenting and blank, tense with restraint because movement was futile. In college I discovered hyperstimulation: late nights, clubs, drink, drugs –the quest for elation. Now I just tend to drift when I’m bored, or to seek distraction in the ever shifting world of popular culture.

Distractibility: Ooo, it’s shiny, it’s new, and there’s more here, and more there, and wow, there are just lots and lots of things/music/books/websites and I can look up anything anytime, skipping stone to stone with a pocket full of baubles.

Morbidity: The worst will happen. The other shoe will drop. Yang needs its Yin. Karma will bite back. Car accidents, abductions, murders, torture, assault, hurricanes, tornadoes, terminal disease, sudden death.

Lack of motivation: I never met a goal that grabbed my attention. I am consistent in bobbing along, drifting past the scenery, uncertain, baffled and envious of those with definable ambitions. I feel sleepy.

Suicidal ideation without intention: From the moment I understood what it was, standing in the bathroom at 16 with a razor blade wondering if I could in fact nerve myself to cut deeply enough, the possibility of slipping out of life has had its allure. But not enough to try it. I’ve talked about it and mulled it over and compared possible departure routes with equally morbid friends, and read enough Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton to induce major depression. But I’ve never collected the pills, walked into the ocean, slit my wrists, tied a noose. I want transition, but not that transition. My card is the Tower – the destruction before rebuilding, the slate wiped down and a nice new pencil, the old self burned away and the new one in the ashes.

Desire to escape reality: Fiction, fantasy, cinema, TV (all those foreign soap operas!). If you’re bored silly with what you have to do and feel trapped and hemmed in by necessity, duty and responsibility, and/or you don’t feel confident in any of these, where do you go? I am never just here, in this one place at this one time. I am not “present” as I so often hear. I am wandering over 10 or so different landscapes at once, and often not as myself.

After looking at the pictures I thought of how we filter all art this way, through our own temperament and idiosyncrasies, so that even the most objective aspects – narrative sequence, the paint and the object painted are transformed by our projected fears and desires. This is why I can’t imagine the Bible as inerrant rather than a mysterious hallway of mirrors.

In college I had to read The Possessed by Dostoevsky. The professor, it was clear, found the nihilism of the radicals repulsive. He had, after all, escaped from Communist Russia. Although I disliked political nihilism (as I like civic order), I found the idea of nihilism liberating. I thought of clearing the land for the new crop, burning the forest to encourage the trees. Everyone was so certain of what everything meant – morality is this, purpose is this, you must behave like this because of that because that is what is right because that is what everyone knows, the great immutable meaning of rightness. Useless, stagnant meaning seemed to have a stranglehold on everything. How lovely to discard the meaning and construct something more suitable.

Only, I am good at cutting away the meaning and not so good at constructing something more suitable.


  1. I've been thinking about your post since I read it last night. I remember when I endured suicidal ideation, and your story about standing with a razor blade was me about 14 years ago. . . .so glad time has passed! And that you have "no intention."

  2. Please forgive me for being off topic, Alice. I wanted to thank you for visiting and leaving those kind words on my blog - it meant a lot to both of us.

  3. Alice - Never had suicidal ideation other than fleetingly, right before thinking "Won't they be sorry then?" I can however relate to the being distracted and also to lack of motivation. I am usually content to wait for whatever comes my way instead of forging ahead grabbing what I think I want. It's why I detest lists. Lists create obligations and I may not carry through.

  4. I sometimes get motivated but then distraction steals it away. Then I get bored and find I really want to escape reality. Fiction serves that purpose rather well..

  5. Jeff: You are sweet as always,

    Jan: I'm glad that time is behind you. The mind is an odd thing.

    Petty: You're welcome. Hope you had a lovely day together in celebration.

    Random and Grish: We all lack motivation. Can you imagine if we were all together trying to get something done?

  6. We can maybe just rotate distractions. When I get started on something new you take up where I left off and then Random and so on...

    That way it has a small chance of success..:P

  7. It's not that I lack motivation, but distractibility and emotions too strong to handle always get in the way.

    I've also never thought of killing myself... However, there was a time when I had dreams of killing someone else. That's behind me now, partly because that person has already passed, but sometimes I remember the way my body reacted to those dreams.