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  1. When I was 17 I had an event in my life where suicide was an option. It was 1969 and I was homosexual. In the UK it had only been legal for those over 21 for two years. And, while I was still to scared to live my life as a homosexual teenager it was obvious to all that I was infatuated with another boy at school.

    I was outed, and badly.

    I died inside.

    I knew my parents would send me to be ‘cured’. I could not face that. Aversion therapy with electricity, or insulin shock therapy, or worse.

    That night, cycling home from school, I was choosing which truck to dive under. I was going for the rear wheels so the driver would not be able to swerve.

    There are several reasons why I didn’t. I suppose you might say that my will to live overcame my desire to die, but that seems trite. It was simpler. I wanted to see the boy I loved once more before I died.

    I arrived at home, formed a strategy to deal with my having been outed, and went to school the next day determined just to laugh it off through clenched teeth if necessary.

    And here’s the point.

    It was a one day wonder! They had enjoyed their fun and it was never mentioned again.

    I nearly killed myself over what was HUGE and turned out to be nothing.

    The event itself has affected me. It did so before I learned how to look at such events with mindful equanimity. I have been untangling the effects now for many years. I was 17 then. I am 66 today and I still can feel how it felt then however hard I apply myself to processing those feelings, but I am alive to experience them, to process them.

    Suicide was a solution, of course it was, but it would have been a pointless one. I have enjoyed almost all my life thus far, and I intend to grow old disgracefully and die by any normal means at the end of it, whenever that is.

    Back then I could not have seen a therapist. We homosexual kids were the topic of psychological experimentation. In those days experimental psychiatry was in vogue. The “It’s for your own good” school of psychiatry. I have an aunt who was subjected to ECT. For a “nervous breakdown”. I knew about ECT. I knew about aversion therapy. And my parents were the good, kind, sweet people who may well have sent me to be “cured”.

    You see, this is what I had to avoid at all costs:

    =====

    Having defined homosexuality as a pathology, psychiatrists and other doctors made bold to “treat” it.

    James Harrison, a psychologist who produced the 1992 documentary film Changing Our Minds, notes that the medical profession viewed homosexuality with such abhorrence that virtually any proposed treatment seemed defensible. Lesbians were forced to submit to hysterectomies and oestrogen injections, although it became clear that neither of these had any effect on their sexual orientation. Gay men were subjected to similar abuses.

    Changing Our Minds incorporates a film clip from the late 1940s, now slightly muddy, of a young gay man undergoing a transorbital lobotomy. We see a small device like an ice pick inserted through the eye socket, above the eyeball and into the brain. The pick is moved back and forth, reducing the prefrontal lobe to a haemorrhaging pulp.

    Harris’s documentary also includes a grainy black-and-white clip from a 1950s educational film produced by the U.S. Navy. A gay man lies in a hospital bed. Doctors strap him down and attach electrodes to his head. “We’re going to help you get better,” says a male voice in the background. When the power is turned on, the body of the gay man jerks violently, and he begins to scream. Doctors also tried castration and various kinds of aversion therapy. None of these could be shown to change the sexual orientation of the people involved.

    =====

    If you search Youtube for the phrase “Changing Our Minds: The Story of Dr. Evelyn Hooker Clip” you will see more than you want to about what we did to homosexual people back then.

    That was a strong fear I overcame that day, and it never happened to me. I meant to end on an upbeat note. I think the upbeat is that I chose life, and life has been good fun. It’s been far better than being dead.

      • I half wanted to link to the video, but the scenes it shows are horrendous, terrifying. The woman featured in it was instrumental is moving the medical profession towards good sense and good judgement by revealing these abhorrent practices, but it still terrifies me.

        Fear is a useful emotion. Despair, not so much. That day I was afraid, but I was not completely in despair. Fear in many forms kept me alive, and that is why I posted the comment. If you are afraid, use the fear positively, and ensure it makes a positive difference in your life.

        I had no idea I was doing that, but I did.

        Oh, I can still feel that self same fear today, just by reliving the awful afternoon. And it’s ok. I’m content to be able to feel it. I use it to change myself and those who surround me.

    • I want to turn to the concept of finding peace. I never quite made the attempt, not quite, so never (does one *really* say “failed’?) came quite close enough to know that I would have found peace just before the rear wheels of the truck crushed me.

      What I know is that peace is not what I found when I chose not to continue.

      I found instead a determination to deal with the thing that had caused me to choose (almost) to die.

      I was not looking for peace. And, importantly, though I had been bullied that afternoon, the perpetrator had no idea he had bullied me almost into my own death. It was not as we hear in the news today of kids telling the queer kid to kill him or herself. It was my feeling that I had only one way to stop my then current and then future anguish.

      Put plain, no-one would have been able to hurt me again, had I achieved what I had determined in my panic was my goal.

      In my life I have been hurt. Sometimes it was very unpleasant. More than once it was unpleasant enough to wonder why I had stayed alive, but there was always enough in my mind telling me that I would get past it.

      I have not toyed with suicide for many years. I have removed negative people from my life. Where I encounter one I remind myself that I am significant to myself, and they are not. And I put them quietly aside. I have no wish to die before ordinary circumstances create my death.

  2. […] “I find myself yet again sadly reminded of the pain associated with learning of an individual’s death via suicide – and the effects it has on friends, colleagues, and loved ones. I don’t know why exactly, but this time the news has triggered me to consider pushing the issue even further into the public eye with #JustTalk.” – Bob Brotchie, Suicide: A Permanent Fix to a Temporary Problem […]

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