The Tightened Cord

VANESSA SMEETS

Rachel observed the cord that now hung loosely around his neck. She flung her body around his torso: “WHY? WHY? WHY?”
His face was ashen, but smiling. His fingers were stiff and there was a note in his pocket:

“I’m sorry. I lived. Better to burn out than fade out.”  

These were the words from Kurt Cobain, one of his musical idols. He was a musician, artist and poet. He was a rising star. He had so much joy and love to give.  Although Rachel hadn’t seen him in two years, she had seen him in a dream just days before:
“I had never dreamt of him before. He was dancing and laughing. He was trying to tell me something, but the music was too loud. ‘Next time!’ I shouted. He nodded, but looked disappointed. ‘Next time’ never came… He used musical chords to live, but found solace in the other type… I can’t believe it.”

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MENTAL PRISON: Those suffering from depression often find themselves in a mental prison, unable to escape what many describe as "the big black wolf." PIC: online

Rachel knew she had been there, dangling mentally from the tightened cord:
“For years, it was a dark horrific secret. You dream of screaming into a void but no one can hear you. Suddenly, the silence gets a face. It looks like a huge black wolf, eating various parts from the inside out. First, it takes your voice. Then your thoughts. Then, swiftly, your actions. You think of it constantly: death.”

She describes how she had stared death in the face five years ago. It was after her boyfriend had ended it for the twentieth time:
“It’s like switching a light switch constantly on and off. I knew he was cheating. I  knew he didn’t love me. I knew I didn’t have the strength to fight him, carry on alone or start over again. He broke up with me just before my degree ended. I never finished my year and never got my degree.”

Rachel was an A student, dreaming of becoming a doctor. A few months later, she found herself helping people in a mental institution instead. She was diagnosed with both clinical depression and bipolar disorder:

“Everyone goes through phases of depression. But my lows were outnumbering my highs. I was constantly on shopping sprees, trying to get rid of suicidal thoughts. I didn’t love my life or myself anymore.

At times, I would look into the mirror and see a monster. It looked like that huge black wolf… My thoughts were killing me. I decided to end it all with a few pills the first time. I felt so ashamed when I woke up.

Product of divorce, you often dream of that perfect romance. Or, the one that gives you the most kicks. You’ll look for it wherever you can. I found it in a charming abusive guy, who fed me compliments but told me how to live. You can’t escape the clutches of someone that possessive. I kept going back.”

Rachel shivers when she describes her survival strategy:
“Thinking about death smells like a rotting corpse… It sticks to you constantly, howling at you every night when you’re alone. You become fascinated by the sounds it makes, how it seems to know your name. You think of constant ways to lure it: by teasing those potent thoughts, finding ways to ward them off and searching for ways to subtly warn your friends and family that you are going through them. Often, they suspect nothing. Even the music you listen to doesn’t warn them enough. I’d lock myself up in silence. The only true way is to examine your behaviour and what you write constantly about in your diary…”

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SECRETS: The only way to observe whether you are truly suicidal, is by keeping track of what you write in your diary. Focusing on the past and old mistakes shows an unhealthy way of dealing with the present and making progress with the future. PIC: Online

Subtle signs:

  • Fascination with death (wearing black clothes/ dark make-up)
  • Writing about one’s feelings over actions in a diary (focusing on past rather than present or future)
  • Worrying in forms of different sleeping and eating patterns
  • Constant stress (weight loss, weight gain, failing subjects)
  • Obsession with finance, academic performance, sexual preferenc
  • Mood swings out of the blue (especially crying alone)
  • Antisocial behavior (lying, not going to parties, cheating, stealing)
  • Loss of interest in previous hobbies and activities
  • Cutting themselves in hidden areas (inner arms/ thighs)

Apart from silent treatments, constant phrases used include:

  • “You don’t love me.”
  • “You have no idea what I’m going through.”
  • “What do you know?”
  • “Leave me alone!”

If you suspect your friend is going through suicidal thoughts:

> Speak to them alone soon as possible.
> Avoid judging or criticising them.
> Highlight their strengths without exaggerating them.
> Call the person they are closest to.