Saturday, March 7, 2009


My brainstem is a powerful player, regulating all my survival functions like breathing and heartbeat. It is within my brainstem that my sense of abiding deep self resides, it is where I "go" when I meditate - to the landscape of homeostasis, a place of rhythm, minus plotlines.

It's incredible to think of how steady and predictable conditions are inside the body. A few degrees change in internal temperature, for instance, can mean life or death. The heart beats always, sometimes faster, sometimes slower, but always. The breath, how marvelous, comes and goes no matter what. All that steadiness is separated by a few layers of skin cells from the exterior environment, a place of dynamic and never-ending change. That we can stay so consistent inside, while living in such a unpredictable world, is amazing, isn't it?

What I'm wondering this morning is what happens to people who decide to commit suicide. Is it a cortical function that overwhelms the common sense of the brainstem? In the cerebral hemispheres, are stories created that convince people that the steady foundation provided by the brainstem is worthless or no longer desirable?

I'm wondering because I received the news yesterday that someone no longer near but still dear attempted suicide this past week. Wanting to die I get, totally. Wanting to kill someone else? It's conceivable. But wanting to kill myself? I don't get it, never have. I've been lucky, haven't I, to have never contemplated it?

My cerebral cortex is twitching and sparking, flopping around, trying - unsuccessfully - to understand. Meanwhile, my brainstem is holding steady, as it always has, as it always will until the day I meet my maker. I am so grateful for my fabulous brainstem! L'chaim!


Mrsupole said...

I just get the other comment posted and you put another post up. So I will explore this one.

God bless.

Mrsupole said...

Clouds are amazing. To be able to get them in a reflection is also great. Both pictures are fantastic.

We will never know why anyone gets those feelings, can only say you are lucky to have never felt them. I have sometimes and just never understood why. Other than to say that I think you just want to give up. Obviously have gotten past them, but they have been there before. Not sure if it is wired in someones brains or if it is just the circumstances. Maybe if others write about this, it might help you to understand. Faith helps, is all I can say.

God Bless.

John Hayes said...

For better or worse, I can understand the desire, & while I've never "seriously" contemplated it, I certainly can't say I never did. You are fortunate to have that kind of zest for life. Fundamentally, I love life too, but I find that sometimes this has been at odds with other feelings-- cravings for oblivion, I guess. Love the writing & the pictures, especially the reflected lamp.

Reya Mellicker said...

Craving oblivion - thanks John. That helps. When I want that, I drink too much. Didn't say that to be funny, btw.

Butternut Squash said...

I understand it as the desire to end unbearable mental/physical pain from which you don't believe you will ever escape another way. What I don't understand is the slow suicide, someone who eats themsleves, drinks themselves, drugs themselves... to death. I'm sorry about the news. Peace

analogman said...

After 8 doctors who have tried 20+ drugs. After 40+ years of pain and suffering. After living with a brain that won't stop telling you to do what you must to end that suffering. After you've tried to self-medicate with _______. After a lifetime of thinking no one will ever understand you. After asking God so many times to help you to just not wake up the next answer was found.

I feel for your friend and hope recovery is a possibility. Life is so precious and can be such a joy.

Reya, I hope we'll be able to sit down someday and I'll explain it to you in detail...the desire and the reason for it's end (hippocampus, amygdala, and and basal ganglia interaction and synaptic over-firing). I had to figure it out in large part for myself because most doctors were baffled.

Thanks to Dr. Joe Dispenza for the book "Evolve Your Brain". Neuroplasticity is a reality. You can teach old dogs new tricks.

Tessa said...

Gosh - those photos are brilliant!

A difficult subject and an intelligent and thought provoking post, as always, Reya.

I had a very close friend who committed sucide. He was young, healthy, successful, talented and warmly generous, but he suffered from manic depression. Very few of his friends knew of this disease - because he managed to hide it for the most part - so when he died by his own hand, his friends were shocked, saddened and utterly bewildered in equal measure.

Another good friend, who also suffers from bi-polar disease, set up a charity called 'Minds Do Matter' and helped raise money for further medical studies into severe depression by cycling from the source of the Nile to it's delta in Northern Egypt. The journey was a huge success in raising awareness of this particular type of mental illness as well as raising the funds for research.

What I'm saying, in a rather long-winded way, is that sometimes brain chemistry goes wonkey and if it isn't diagnosed, a life could be lost.

Miranda said...

I read once that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. I wonder if that's true or way too simplistic? I too, have been very lucky never to have considered suicide and I hope it stays that way...for you too

analogman said...


Your first sentence hit the nail on the head. Sometimes the solution is 40 years in coming, but it will come.

e said...

I had a relative who committed suicide, a tragedy for her, her family and siblings. She was in great pain psycically and saw no other way...I don't think anyone really knew the extent of her feelings until after the fact. Oblivion comes at a high price for everyone in this situation...I wish she could have understood her own brain, moods, addictions, that might have helped.

Thanks for this post and the photos. And thanks to the other commenters.

runmotman said...

Suicide seems so impractable, and too much trouble. It seems no problem is too big to consider taking the easy way out...there are better days right around the is hard for some people to see this, especially these days in our impatient society. Also, i'm not much of a do-it-yourselfer, so i'll wait around for someone or something else to do me in.

Delwyn said...

I think we have to respect Analogman's experience on this one...we can't claim to know unless we have been there, and fortunately he found an answer that works for him.

When some people get to the bottom rung they are seduced through their suffering into believing that the pain of living is too much to bear.

Washington Cube said...

I've known several suicides and each had a different agenda for doing it, all with the same result in the end.

One girl was riding on the back of her boyfriend's three-wheeled motorcycle. It flipped and her gorgeous willowy body was destroyed for life. She couldn't face life like that, had her boyfriend put on her favorite music, took pills and gone. Her choice. Knowing her personality and the level of self worth tied to her looks? I understood it completely.

Another one. A teenaged boy. Erotic asphyxiation oops, but also something darker at play. Destroyed his parents.

A woman I worked with. Spiraling schizophrenia (genetic and generational.) Wrote out her Christmas cards, left the office, picked up her four-year old and went home. Shot the girl, then killed herself. That's when I learned that often a parent will kill the child(ren) thinking "I brought them into the world and will remove them because they couldn't live without me."

That woman just attacked by that chimp? Face destroyed, probably blind, lost both her hands. I could understand if she wanted death.

Another young woman, married and living in isolation on a farm, removed from family and friends. Shot herself in the chest with a shotgun. Left a note on the closed door. Do not open. Call the police. No one knew her pain existed at that level.

As others have written, the reasons are varied.

The sadness comes in realizing we can carry that depth of emotional or physical pain to put us on that path...and yes, it's always hard on the survivors that loved you. They bear the pain of your act to their own graves.

Reya Mellicker said...

I have been lucky with good health and a brain that leans heavily in favor of my brainstem. I haven't been as compassionate as I could be for the person I know who is on the edge right now. It seems, from my point of view, he has everything, but Analog Man and all the rest of you have helped open my mind. Thanks to you all.

May my ex dear one make it through the weekend, may the psychiatrist he sees Monday be extra good.

Merle Sneed said...

I've wished I was dead, so as not to face a problem, but killing myself? Never.

Reya Mellicker said...

Merle? Me, too.

Ronda Laveen said...

John's "craving for oblivion" makes sense if you view karma as a reason. To fullfill your destiny here, learn your lessons, and balance the scales and to move back to the maker. Back to the bliss and love eternally found at home and released from the pain and gravity in the Earthwalk is welcoming to some.

And while they are at peace, those of us left are not.

Barbara Martin said...

The photo with the reflection is amazing: a light within that shines brightly. Fitting with the post.

I don't know if suicide is wired into a person, but I have spoken with people who have wanted to die to end the horrific pain they were enduring through a medical condition, because the medication no longer gave them relief. Having had horrific pain via DVT, I understand where these people were coming from. Though I never felt I should end my life because I was enduring pain. I knew instinctively that was not the answer, and it puts the person's soul into jeopardy for the next growth session. For my tough times during the DVT episodes I asked for divine assistance and I received it. The person only needs to ask and be prepared for the answer coming in an unexpected way.

Every person goes through a difficult time in their life as part of their soul growth in this particular life cycle. Some work through many issues, and when situations seem to be repeating themselves, not unlike the movie 'Groundhog Day' then the person has not learnt that particular lesson. Once the lesson has been achieved the person moves onto the next lesson, if one has been chosen.

Steve said...

Brain chemistry is an incredible mystery, even to the scientists who study it all the time. I always tell people I am so thankful that I have good brain chemistry, and I think it's hard to put ourselves in the place of those who don't. I don't mean to make it an us-them issue, because we all have our moments, but I can honestly say I have never been tempted to kill myself.

Lisa said...

hello my friend- the card i have pulled for you is The Magician. I love this card becasue he comes with such a clear, consise message. He is telling me that YOU have the capabilities to do anything you wish to do at this time and you will succeed, however, he stresses that in order to perform at the maximum power of you ( which is incredible by the way)you MUST stop trying to encapsulate aspects of your life and rather work on BLENDING the different aspects together. He tells us that when you are in full power, with all of the aspects of your life in balance, your connection to both earth and divine is stronger than most people would ever understand, however by allowing life to slip into disharmony or inbalance you are allowing your power to drain away.
Key words - balance, blend, flow, pray.
'The Blend'is important Reya- making it work for you and not the other way around......
Blessed be new friend xxx

Reya Mellicker said...

Some people ask most earnestly for help but do not get the answer that others of us get.

Steve, you are so wise and compassionate. yes, it's not an us/them thing, even though I don't get it.

Ronda, my sister said that she read somewhere that suicide is a way to kill everyone around you. Those left behind spend forever trying to process the shock and bewilderment.

It doesn't feel right to me, but I'm fortuitously wired in my head. What do I know?

Thanks again to all! Suicide is rarely talked about, but it should be.

dennis said...

Dennis understands if someone is terminally ill and has suffered many many years in great pain, in and out of hospitals, then Dennis thinks everyone can understand to some degree at least. But if one is healthy or has a future, then it is less easy to understand. Dennis is usually a harsh critic of those who do bad things, like drugs or stealing or drinking too much or a whole lot of things, but have never walked in their paws, so...?

Pouty Lips said...

You have a beautiful way with words. "Someone no longer near but still dear" sounds very poetic.

hele said...

when i was young suicide was always an option for me. the first time i tried was at the age of six, i took five of my mother's headache tablets and hopefully awaited escape from everything around me that made me feel so mismatched.

later i tried the slow path, i started mainlining and with each shot a part of me hoped that it would be my last.

what eventually stopped me was first realising the incredible hurt that i would cause to those i love and later the knowledge that i am trying my best and fiercely loving myself for trying.

last week for the first time in years i got so depressed that i though how wonderful it would be to just give up. then i was able to remember to love the part of me that i believe is so unacceptable, so unlovable that no matter how hard i try life will always turn away from me.

I suspect these feelings are partly cognitive and partly chemical. In me these are often triggered by something i feel unable to change. Mostly it is a response to only accessing life through the left brain which, in me, is unable to surrender to the mysterious joy of not knowing.

A friend's daughter committed suicide and she put together a book that made me aware how important it is to bring the healing found in the right brain back to the left.

"This book is a dialogue. Gra-anna sings her life's song. Her loved ones reply. The book includes writings, photographs and pictures from some of her beloveds."

i feel a bit vulnerable now so i will go do the dishes*

Barry said...

The suicides of those who are in agonizing chronic pain, from which there is no foreseeable relief, who have terminal illnesses that are wearing on their own meager reserves of strength, I can understand. I've never been there, but I can understand.

Those who are healthy, engaged in exciting lives, or who are teenagers with full lives ahead of them but get caught up in a monstrous game of copy cat (as was the case in Wales last year and on our on our Indian Reservations a couple of years ago), those I can never understand.

The Family Julz said...

"I've been lucky, haven't I, to have never contemplated it?"

So lucky Reya. It's the most dark, consuming, hateful place to be, in between worlds, knowing you don't want to be in this one anymore, ever again, and trying so hard (but not quite hard enough) to get to that other one, all the while wondering if your soul will be saved as you've only wanted release from the extreme mental pain and don't understand why anyone should have to feel such awful misery and never wanted to cause anyone any pain whatsoever.

This hurts, and I hurt for you and I hurt for your friend's soul and the people affected by it.

I'm a survivor. I should have gone. I am so eternally thankful I did not.