Tag Archives: psychology

Not Talking About Suicide

carnival

I used to occasionally go to suicide forums and talk to people… because why not? Like many people who suffer from depression, the thought of suicide has come to my head, but I’m much of a coward to really give it too much serious thought. It was more like, “if I’m going to kill myself, I’d do it this way” or “if this happens, that would be the thing that would make me go ahead and kill myself.” It was a thought experiment more than anything else. But as for the forums, occasionally I would read people’s posts. They were mostly young people, complaining about their lives, or people frustrated by their significant others. It’s rare, but sometimes, I would respond back. Instead of being a community of people seeking help before they do what they shouldn’t, I think it’s really more a community of people just trying to get their voices heard. It’s a place where a person can say their troubles instead of being deconstructed or given solutions to their problems. There was no judgment. It was a place that tells people that they are not insane, nor are they alone. That there’s nothing new under the sun and that they’ll get through whatever it is that’s giving them trouble. I suppose I might be accused of being a tourist for being there, but for a time, it really helped me with my depression. It felt good telling a complete stranger that things we’re going to be alright.

I live in a place where suicide is quite common place. People often regard Japan as one of the suicide capitals of the world, but really, South Korea has it beat. Even the former president committed suicide and in some ways normalized the whole thing. But as horrible as South Korea is when it comes to its suicide statistics and the reasons for why so many people are committing suicide (societal pressures, money troubles, elderly depression, stigma against seeing psychiatric help…) it surprised me to learn that Canada isn’t doing too well when it comes to suicide either.

Canada’s in the thirties when ranked with other countries. But when you look at that ranking, it disguises the fact that some communities are more susceptible to suicide than others. Aboriginal males are six times more likely to commit suicide than non-Aboriginal males. In 2000, out of 100,000 Aboriginal males, 126 committed suicide. For non-Aboriginals, it was 24. If you consider the size disparity between non-Aboriginal and Aboriginal communities, the suicide rates affecting small areas in the country is staggering. It’s gigantic compared to the suicide rate in South Korea (27 out of 100,000).

What’s shameful is that with countries like South Korea and Japan are actively doing things to help stop their suicide epidemics in the face of the horrible statistics. The police are patrolling suicide-prone areas, and there are groups which monitor vulnerable people. People are talking about the problem and how to deal with it. And while Canada has been helping some communities deal with depression, addiction, and mental health issues, I’m not sure if we’re doing enough to help prevent the high rates of suicide. I think it’s such a non-issue with the average Canadian that I wouldn’t even be aware of the problem if I didn’t have an interest in it myself. Clearly, present-day efforts are not enough for Aboriginal communities. There are initiatives that help them deal with problems once they are already dealing with them, but I’m not sure if Canada is doing enough to help prevent depression and mental health issues from developing in the first place. Now I’m not saying that South Korea and Japan are doing a lot more than Canada to help their citizens have more fulfilling lives to help prevent suicidal thoughts (I don’t think they are, they’re just doing more to keep people from committing the act), but I think Aboriginal communities are much more susceptible to this problem that it’s something the country should address. After all, much of the First Nations’ woes have been the result of its history with the Canadian government.

 

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Mommy Issues

Octopus

In Naoki Urasawa’s Monster, Nazi scientists were curious about parental bonds, especially regarding identical twins. (SPOILER!) Young identical twins of opposite genders are kept by the scientists with their mother. Occasionally, the boy would dress like a girl and the twins would be nearly impossible to tell apart. On what was probably the last stage of the experiment, the mother was forced to choose one of the twins. She was to give up one of them to a fate unknown to her. At the time, the boy was dressed like his sister, and both children desperately clung to their mother, not wanting to be taken away. Crossdressing however did not save him, and the mother, after struggling for so long, finally let go of her son.

The boy grew up to be the main antagonist of the story, fueled by the mystery of that fateful day. What was the meaning of that day? Did his mother truly let him go or did his mother mean to let go of his sister instead? And if his mother said she meant to keep him with her, could that really be believed? This is the genius of Naoki Urasawa. He has a gift of exploring people’s most common insecurities.

It’s the life raft question. What if you were the one left in the ocean?

I have three sisters. I grew up, knowing that my mother loved us all but not equally. I knew this even at a very young age. And even after she passed away, I was reminded that she loved me less compared to one of my sisters. It makes me bitter sometimes knowing this, but it didn’t turn me into a monster the same way Naoki Urasawa’s character did. I am confident, that like all mothers, she would sacrifice herself to save her children. But just like the story, given the choice, I’ll probably be let go to the hands of Nazi scientists.

Writing this now, I look back at how this truth, albeit common, might have affected me as a person. It might have affected my confidence growing up, doubting why I wasn’t as beloved as my sibling. But that lack of confidence could also have been fueled by a father who was never really the most encouraging person in my life growing up. I was told I threw a ball like a girl before I was even taught how to throw. Perhaps it affected how I see women in my life. Growing up with sisters have been a great influence in making me more sympathetic to feminist concerns, but perhaps my childhood has given me mother issues that affects not only how I relate to women. I don’t know. I’m just throwing this out there. It’s a bit late for Mother’s Day, but I remember feeling three things on Sunday. One is gratitude and longing for a mother who passed away. Two is regret for not being there for her during the last years of her life. Three is bitterness… selfish, idiotic bitterness.

The thing is this is not the only time I’ve had the mixed feeling of being second best (if that). I remember dating a girl once knowing that she liked another guy long before she even took notice of me. Now this is true for most relationships in the world, but I felt like she could drop me anytime this other guy showed any affection towards her. I was grateful for the attention she was giving me, but I was also insecure. At worst, there was even a hint of bitter victory, like “Ha! Finally, you like me now, after ignoring me for so long, you bitch!” And all the time she was with me, I kept wondering if she’d rather be with that other guy instead. It was very confusing.

Now as for my mother. All of the love and kindness she has given me, a dumb part of me would sometimes feel that it all pales to the love she has for my sibling. Enjoy the scraps. Your sister is getting the full meal. And just like with that girl, would my mother really have spent all that time with me? Wouldn’t she rather be with my sister instead?

Now, I realize how juvenile that all sounds. It’s juvenile, petty, and competitive. It probably doesn’t reflect her true feelings, but sometimes my mind goes there. It just does. In many ways, I should be grateful for having such a wonderful mother raise me. After all, there are many others who don’t have the luxury to complain about their parents. Or worse, having parents who mistreat them. I just wish sometimes that I merely suspected my mother having favorites, instead of having it proven to me several times in my life.

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Yeaaargh!

Rat King

Unhappiness is a Rat King that grows, tangles, and gnaws from the inside. It helps however to be distracted now and then, to smile and pretend you’re happy and content. A person can live like it’s not even there. You start getting used to it. It hollows you out as it eats your insides. But it also fills you up with its hairy warmth, despite its teeth and claws. The multiple hearts beating, the friction of fur on fur, the heat from the collecting feces, can be strange comfort sometimes. Like a hug coming from the inside. Life can be manageable with a Rat King.

Unfortunately, it would eventually grow too big and burst forth, grossing everyone out.

As it scurries off, and struggles to run away from the light, it’s a little difficult trying to be happy. Not only are you a hollow shell of your former self, but you’re also a disgusting, bloody corpse on the floor.

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Them Snakes

Snake_bones

I remember seeing the character “Zuma” on the silver screen when I was a small kid. I don’t remember the movie exactly, what the title villain’s motivations were, or why I was even in the theater watching it (Who would take me?!). But I do remember the character vaguely; green skin, shaved head, loin cloth, and two snake heads, which at a young age I wondered, “where are their tails? How do they poo?”

zuma

I gotta say though, the whole things does reek a lot of Freudian imagery: the hyper penises, the ultra-macho character, the allusion to rape, the deflowering imagery, and the preying on white, blonde women.  It even says so right there, the victims are “young, virgin girls.”

I consider myself a feminist, although I’m not one of those hyper-feminists who devote so much effort trying to find patriarchy where there really is none. It is interesting however to see a character that is quite overtly inspired by male aggrandizement and sexual violence. I guess that was part of the appeal. I guess that’s also why it’s still in my memory.

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Global Village Laziness and Crazy Dream Therapists

Faces

If a person has never traveled any countries outside of South Korea and was only exposed to the varied cuisines of the world via the Global Village Festival in Seoul last weekend, they would think that other countries only serve hotdog, chicken on a stick, and kebabs. What a disappointment! The crowd was bigger, but the event was extremely lazy and underwhelming.

All booths from African and Middle Eastern countries were serving kebabs. That’s all they had! There were a couple that served samosas and other more exotic fare, but generally, that’s all they served.

All booths from European and North American countries served hotdogs/sausages or to a lesser extent, chicken on a stick. Same generic sausage all over the place. The Canadian booth, instead of serving poutine or anything Canadian, was serving hotdog on a stick. The Philippines booth was serving the same thing, except they had coconut milk and churros. Lazy, lazy, lazy. And why churros? Isn’t that from Spain, not the Philippines? Well, ignoring the fact that the Philippines is a former Spanish colony, churros are all the rage in Seoul at the moment. There would be line-ups for popular churros places in the city. Why? Because someone mentioned the churros place on TV, which is generally how restaurants get a huge line-up in the country. Sheep. And yes, I’m sorry, but only sheep would line up for over an hour to buy deep-fried, sugary, dough.

My wife and I were in Winnipeg last year. She noted that at the Forks (http://www.theforks.com/dining/show,listing/forks-market), a public space in a small city, there were far more variety and authentic global cuisines compared to this so called “Global Village Festival.” The event was kinda offensive, not just as a Canadian (hotdogs!?), but as someone who’s actually had food from other countries. This is the last time my wife and I go to this festival. We ran out of patient fast. We ended up going to my regular South African bar wondering why didn’t just go straight there in the first place.

Imagine a room with at least three couples and one moderator. The moderator asks everyone to close their eyes. He then says, “Anyone who’s ever wanted to stray from their marriage, especially if that person you want to sleep with is in the room, raise your right hand.”

“Now, if you have your hand raised, open your eyes and look around. Those who don’t have their hand raised, keep your eyes closed.”

“Everyone put your hand down and close your eyes.”

“Now, do what you will with that new information you just learned (or that burning curiosity that’s bound to destroy your relationship).”

I had a dream about that scenario. At the very least, the exercise could open dialogue and spark ideas. At the most, it could arrange amicable cheating arrangements. At its worst, it could destroy marriages. My dreams have a creative yet misguided couples’ counselor.

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What Have I Done Now?

Noah_Dove

 

Religious Rant Warning!

People have different religions, and even those of the same religion have different versions of the of the god they’re supposed to be worshipping. Muslims, Christians, and Jews all worship the same God. I’m a Roman Catholic, and there are two different versions of my personal savior, the Old Testament version and the New Testament. The New Testament is a Trinity as well, so there are three different versions of Him. I hope things get better for me though, cause lately, I feel like my personal savior is the Old Testament God… the vengeful and jealous version who tests his followers, makes dietary requirements, brings plague and pestilence, turns the curious into pillars of salt, banishes people from paradise, and takes away everything he has given.

Or maybe that’s just my Catholic guilt.

I wish I was raised more with the Christian God who loves unconditionally, the one who understands that we are human with human weaknesses, the one who loves the sinner, encourages us to turn the other cheek, and keeps us from hell.

But teaching me about that God was too much to ask for the headmasters in my old Catholic school. How else can you control a classroom with fifty kids? You scare them into obedience, that’s how. And now when things beyond my control go wrong, I usually think, “What have you done, Joe? This is somehow related to your failings. You’re an awful person.” as opposed to, “Don’t worry, Joe. It’ll be alright. You’re only human, and shit happens.”

I end up punishing myself mentally until I get ulcers.

Update: Less than ten minutes after this post, bad news hit me.

 

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Morning Commute

Biker_flame

This is probably one of the most normal looking statues I made. Yay for normalcy!

Speaking of normalcy, life is back to normal. No more holiday stuff, so I’m just trying to recover from everything. Rest a bit, stay home for a while, save a bit of money, etc. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to rest much lately. Been busy with work and everything that I haven’t had much time to make art. I’m not really having a great start with my resolution of making more art.

Odd thing, I spent the morning talking about suicide with a couple of people I haven’t seen since last year. Our first conversation for 2014 was about suicide and how Koreans love to hang themselves, jump off bridges, stop trains, and suffocate in cars. I guess it all stems from highly stressful living and the stigma of going to a shrink. In this country, most people would only go to a shrink if they have “mental problems,” and stress, depression, and anxiety aren’t considered mental problems. This is akin to General Patton slapping and belittling “shell shocked” soldiers and telling them to suck it up. I can’t stress enough how valuable psychologists are and how they’ve helped me sort through my issues. I’m not an expert, but I’m sure South Koreans would see their suicide rate go down once going to the shrink becomes an accepted norm instead of being a source of stigma.

Going down the morbid route, one of the people I was talking to suggested that jumping in front of trains is one of the most popular forms of suicide in the country (happens once a week) because it’s relatively quick, as opposed to jumping off a building which takes half a minute, or drowning which could take longer. It’s the reason why the Seoul subway lines now have gates installed to prevent jumpers. Unfortunately, some people think this only increased the number of incidents of bridge jumpers, and some people would travel outside the city for the sole purpose of jumping at an unguarded subway track. Ironic. Travel an hour outside the city for a quick death.

I always thought that suicide should take a long time. It should take a week at least. That’s the way I would do it. Go to a country where you can easily get drugs. Party with drugs and prostitutes for a week. You’re going to die anyway, so might as well go out happy and check a few things off your bucket list. Who knows? Maybe you’ll change your mind in the process. Then after a week, pick a nice hotel, a really expensive one that won’t be driven out of business by the news of someone dying there. Continue partying, or just shoot a lethal amount of drugs in a tub.

Wow, that was a downer. I really should just make art instead of writing depressing things. Why the heck were we talking about suicide on a Monday morning?

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