Did you know that despair used to be one of the seven deadly sins? Yes, because it was seen as an opposite of faith. Faith in God, faith that things, however dark, would get better. When I was a child, I once asked my father if God punished people for being unhappy. I don’t remember the answer. The question, though, has never stopped gnawing at me.
I might have been happy once, in the part of this life my memory doesn’t clearly reach back to. Those golden afternoons are jumbled up with before, and for each fuzzy recollection of clothes going over my head, sunlight on the grass, feeling any kind of peace on this planet, I have to wonder who experienced it, which me, whether it was this life or before. The child this body was and the naive archduchess, I imagine they weren’t so different. The young childhoods of both lives were pretty idyllic, especially compared to their aftermaths. I had hope, dreams, trust in the people I met, faith that I was loved and even a zest for earthly life. I played with my siblings, I tried to please my parents. I danced as though Father Time were shooting bullets at my heels. Which, I suppose, He was.
I don’t know when true depression found me before, if it was right away in the chilly beauty of Versailles or not until I began to lose my children. In this life, I was ten. It was simple cause and effect, really. My grandfather died, and it turned out that his enabling and paying for my father and his family caused my father to never grow up, really, never become responsible with money, and his wife was no better. They tore through the inheritance Grandpa left, and after that it was just years and years of domestic battles, constant screaming, my neglectful, pill-addict mother damaging my sisters and I with her rages and meanness, and my dad becoming a useless shell who would do anything, forgive anything to make the noise stop.
Around the same time, I went from my small-town, small-classes elementary school into the nerve-destroying chaos of middle school. It was then I started dreaming of suicide, praying for death. Life was the hell of school for an undiagnosed autistic, and home was no better. There was no safe place. I hid in my books and my imagination. I cut myself off from the friends I had left. I kept a butcher knife in my desk drawer and prayed every day for the strength to use it.
When they weren’t fighting, my parents eventually noticed my sadness. I expected they would try to help me, the way they had dropped everything during my older sister’s eating disorder, for which they had constantly pushed babysitting my younger sisters on me for, a responsibility that damaged me further. But no. It wasn’t till I was around 16 and sometimes just stopped eating that they started to ask me if I wanted to try therapy. Whenever I said sure, they’d say okay…and do nothing. No research, no phone calls. The next time I stopped eating or talking, same question. Sure. And no action. I was around 20 and unable to leave my house by the time they got me in to see my first therapist. I’ve worked with probably ten or so therapists over the years. They could never do much. I couldn’t be honest about the past-life component of my misery and anxiety, and they couldn’t tell me how to fix the home life I hated but couldn’t leave.
I couldn’t tell these kind people who wanted to open me up, unfreeze my heart, that the alternative was worse, that I could go back to my pre-teen self, often curled up in a ball sobbing because I knew so many people in the world were suffering, worse than me, and I couldn’t do anything. (I wonder, when people say autistics lack empathy, if the others too have simply had to shut themselves down, as I did.) It took me a long time to build a wall around my heart, and less time for my last therapist to convince me to break it down. I regret that now. My pain has always been mine alone, but now I feel again the burden of this whole suffering planet. It seems almost selfish to want to die and leave everyone else behind.
I am a fan of Dan Brown’s Robert Langdon novels (what Grail-seeker would I be were I not?), and in one of them, the villain Langdon is striving to thwart aimed to save the planet by releasing a chemical into the water supply that would render half the Earth’s population sterile. I was shocked by that, or rather, shocked by the righteous fury the hero felt for such a dastardly scheme. I couldn’t believe that that was it, that was the terrible thing Langdon would risk his life to prevent. Why? Why, on a planet screaming from over-population, would this be a bad thing?
I mentioned in my essay on being asexual that my orientation and autism have apparently left me unable to understand things that make sense to the ‘normal.’ I wish someone could explain to me why reproducing is always to be commended, teen pregnancy is to be celebrated, and having children is an almost inalienable right even if you’re an abusive drug addict who will end up raising either miserable kids or criminals. Naively, perhaps, I see simple solutions to huge, heartbreaking problems, and other people either don’t think of them or find them outrageous. For example, why is just anyone allowed to become a parent, when you need a license to catch a fucking fish? Why is everyone not sterilized at birth, then made to undergo tests and evaluations before the procedure is reversed? Think how much abuse, neglect, misery this would erase. Anyway…
I’ve come to resent God. Not the Celtic sun god I take all my little worries as well as triumphs to, whose presence I feel as much as any human’s, but the capital-G God, both the singular entity the once-borns speak of and, for a Pagan like me, the entire half of the Source which is male, which has no name and charming back-story like the deities in my book of Celtic gods and goddesses. Not wanting to be selfish, and unable to bear the weighty knowledge of the world’s pain, I’ve begun to wish that the planet would die with me. Not action-movie-style, not wracked with floods and fires, but in a sudden, merciless flash. The grand, cruel experiment cancelled, and every human being in a blink finding themselves safe on the Other Side.
I daydream of myself as I really, immortally am, staring with subdued hostility into the Unknowable…demanding that the Earth my Pagan heart was born to love be unmade in an instant, that it be destroyed, that every soul on it find themselves back home, having suffered no fear or pain. I think of throngs of confused souls packing an immense Greco-Roman throne room, finding those familiar to me, hugging them with relief one after another, mumbling noncommittally when they ask me what’s going on, if I know what happened. Eventually, everyone turns to the throne-place, to…I imagine it will look different to each of us, sound different, be different, maybe even vary in its answers to our collective question. Maybe the Bodhisattvas freed by the death of Earth will be flanking HimHerTheyIt, along with the angels, and it will be the sight of all those wings that finally twists my stomach into a knot of dread and guilt. Because I was not the first to stand before the throne and Accuse, to question the Source of all that we humans know, including every question we’ve ever posed.
I imagine a speech without words, a telepathic outpouring of regret from the Being that made and loveth all, perhaps finally an answer to what we’ve wondered, what the purpose of advancing our souls in the boot camp of Earth was, an assurance that we won’t be returning, that we’ll better ourselves in a perfect world, no matter how much longer it takes. I imagine getting the apology from It that I never got from my parents, through whom I came into this unforgivable place.
It’s only a dream, one that passes almost before I know it’s there. I know that for most people, life even here is worth living. I want to save them all, and they don’t want to be saved. So, I go back to thinking of only my life ending, that that would be enough. While my friends obsessed over clothes and boys, I dreamed up and pined for scenarios where I would die and not be blamed for it, maybe even praised as a hero, exchange my life for someone’s who wants to keep living. I used to daydream of being mugged or held up by a man with a gun, and telling him in a steady voice, “This I wished for, you are the answer to a prayer. However desperate you feel, I match your suffering. End this wretched life quickly, and in return I swear I’ll plead your case before the throne of God. I will ask that you never suffer in your life again.”