Monday, February 13, 2012

Shame, Suicide, & All That

In her speech on “Lessons in Leadership”, Mallory Weggeman does a good job of pointing out that there are a number of secondary costs which come with disability. She speaks primarily in relation to her own paralysis, though many of her statistics seem to apply quite well to the broader spectrum of disabilities in general.

Statistically, I will never hold a job. Statistically, I'll never graduate college. I'll never have a long term relationship. I'll never have a family. I'll spend most of my days in and out of various hospitals...I have a life expectancy of about fifty now because of depression and suicide...”

It is painful to listen as her voice cracks and strains with what sounds like sadness as she reads these off, no doubt in some small way encountering some of the stark realities she and many others like her must navigate. She cares deeply, and likely on some primal level still feels the fear any of us would associate with having such predictions applied to ourselves. Indeed, at one point she refers to having once thought of paralysis as a nightmare. Of course though her speech does not end on that note.

You figure out how to get along with your life. You make choices about how to fit your desires in. If there were a way to make it go away, I would probably do that. I am face to face with the heartbreaking realization that it is staggeringly unlikely that I will ever be loved...The choice I have now is to spend my life in bitter regret for the life that I could have had, or to accept myself as I am with pride.”

These are words which indicate a struggle for self-acceptance fought within a world indifferent to your strife. They speak of the need to accept yourself and your circumstance and move on, despite what staggering likelihoods may remain. They speak of two roads from which we may choose, reducible to extremes of 'life' and 'death'. These are the words of a devotee.

What is often lost in the common discourse over devoteeism, is that it's not all fun and exploitation. Indeed, for some it is neither. I haven't known a single dev who didn't feel hopeless or depressed in some fashion, for even just a moment, no matter how short lived, regarding their deviant status. The fact that joins Mallory and our quoted dev is that they both have a minority status, and the torment of searching for self acceptance.

Suffering from depression does a lot to shorten your lifespan. People with depression are more likely to suffer kidney failure, strokes, or die of breast cancer, and it can weaken your immune system meaning you'll spend more time sick or seeing the doctor. Depression can disrupt your sleep patterns (and poor sleeping habits can have a host of negative effects on their own), it can raise your blood pressure, if you're a dad your children are more likely to have behavioral, emotional, and social problems, you'll have more pain, and pain actually hurts more when you're depressed.

In fact, most suicides are committed by people suffering from depression. Furthermore, suicide is more common among the divorced and those who live alone. People may roll their eyes, but there is a link between LGBTQ suicides and discrimination. Yes there are differences, though I don't see any reason why that same phenomena couldn't transfer to other groups.

While all of this is a heavy burden to consider on its own, what is truly shocking is that the greatest predictor of a future suicide attempt is a past suicide attempt. As a devotee, you can be more likely to go there, and if you survive, you're more likely to go again.

I've been there.

 This is the rope I tried to hang myself with.

I've been there specifically because I hated myself because of my feelings, and it sucks.

 This is the shell from the gun I had in my mouth.

This is the part where I'm supposed to tell you it doesn't have to be that way and that there is hope and happiness in your future, but it all depends on whether you can bring yourself to accept and love what is. I'm supposed to tell you that you should never commit suicide and that if you ever feel like it you should call 1-800-273-TALK immediately. 
You should, but I say this with a measure of hypocrisy.

Honestly, I've never believed the “It Gets Better” campaign. It's a good strategy, and a nice sentiment, but I can't believe that the universal “it” will naturally improve with time. I was assaulted in my workplace once only because I was “homosexual”. Of course he never bothered to sit down and have a conversation with me about my orientation etc., but that I deviated from the heteronorm at all was enough to incur his wrath. It wasn't the first time. I've worked other places where I was harassed almost daily and threatened as well.

Sometimes, especially tight times like these, you can get stuck in those places. Sometimes it really doesn't get better. You can come to terms with yourself, and that's important. Though other people change on their own time, and tend to be slow and fearful about the whole process. Sometimes things just stay the same.


  1. I was reading that second quote and thinking, that sounds really familiar. Didn't I say that? Oh wait, yes I did, you're quoting me! lol. That was a weird moment.

    But yes, life goes up and down, through periods of heartbreak and periods of hope. It's always changing.

  2. lol, I'm glad you recognized it. :)

  3. Hey,
    I am currently engaging with Ruth's fiction and the subject of devoteeism. I'm just trying to get a better understanding of the subject. I have met devotees in RL twice, one time w/out realization, and the second time fully aware of the fact, details&preferences. I am a spastic diplegic woman, 30+ and was born w/ my disability. I choose to remain anonymous about the details in this public comment, however there is one thing in common w/ all of the ppl involved in stories like this: it must be DEEPLY UNSATISFYING living for years and decades without the chance to satiate your true desires and lead fulfilling relationships and that's just SAD!!! And I wonder why u don't pursue what seems most logical,at least for me: dating disabled women? I am aware of the fact that the dating pool is very limited and the likelihood of making a match is next to nil, but what about making an effort? I can say, and this is just for me, I refuse to believe that I HAVE TO spend the rest of my life alone and I aim to fix that (to quote Ruth ;-)..before I'm dead. xoxo

  4. Most don't appreciate devs.