Anna Karenina & Suicide

‘Oh Anna’ I sigh.  As she knelt on the tracks and drew her last breath (the television adaption, A Beautiful Lie). I wanted hedonistic Harry (one of my characters) to stroll out of the dark tunnel. He would gather up this exhausted girl into his strong arms and carry her off into the sunset.

Anna’s story has been following me around Melbourne. I was on a train to the city,  when it was stopped at Carrum as a woman was threatening to commit suicide. This woman could have been our modern day Anna.  I’m sure whatever emotions were running through her head were very similar to those of Anna’s grief and isolation.  I hope our modern day Anna found someone to listen to her.

Suicide is one of those taboo’s that we don’t talk about isn’t it. Maybe because I find myself in the happiest place mentally I think I have ever been. I feel the strength to have this conversation.

About 12 years ago I began my obsession with a large oak tree in a country lane. I would drive past it nearly everyday on the way to town. I always thought that tree would do the trick should I ever need assistance in the death department.  There was no heavy opera music to accompany this thought, it was very matter of fact.  That tree somehow gave me comfort, I would smile as I passed it, at the secret we shared.  I would sometimes drive faster to reach it.  However I could never quite bring myself to turn the wheel and face the car in its direction. When I felt the life sucked out of me these thoughts seemed perfectly rational. Luckily I never followed through with my strange exit plan. I dug myself out of that hole and I surrounded myself with wonderful people and beautiful things.

A few years later news came through the village that a Dad had taken his life by crashing his car into a tree.  As I heard the news my face reddened and my heart beat faster. That awful childish guilt of having had the same idea.  But this wasn’t stealing plimsoles or gambling marbles, this was life or death. Had his tree passed him by for weeks like mine? Had he smiled in acknowledgment at his tree too, knowing that if one day he felt that bad there was an easy solution? Or was it a split second decision? We will never know.  I thought about his wife and children.  It must be awful to be the one picking up the pieces, the one left behind that has to carry on.

‘Wasn’t it just an accident?’ I asked one of the ladies, her frown and sadness reflecting mine. I was hoping the village grapevine had got the story wrong.

‘No’ was the short reply, there are few words when it comes to suicide.  We both looked down at our feet, what more was there to say.

I was shocked.  This secret that I had kept was someone else’s too. If I had met him in the pub would we have discussed the amount of large oak trees that lined the country road to town?

Isn’t it awful that we keep our deepest most powerful thoughts to ourselves for fear of being labelled?  Surely letting the dark stuff out immediately takes the burden from our shoulders and makes us lighter, more able to float through life.  We grow stronger because we are admitting the truth.

JK Rowling’s description of depression as the dark ‘dementors’ sucking the life out of you is awesome. I’m sure a lot of people felt relief at this description. Relief to know you are not alone.  I’m glad to say I have never felt that low again.  We all carry the gun powder and the match, lets not ignite it.

I have worried about this piece of writing and how it will be perceived. It has been sitting in my ‘drafts’ for a couple of weeks now. I think it’s time to let it go.

Anna’s story and The Beautiful Lie ended up for me to be the most beautiful truth.  Truth and honesty is what makes good writing.  Sometimes even the writer does not know where that lies.

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