This isn’t a news story, so if you’re not a fan of the diaries where baristas discuss their personal lives, this would be a good diary to skip. At Pam’s House Blend, we try to mimic a virtual lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community coffee house, which means we discuss the kind of things we talk about in those kinds of settings. Mostly, our subject matter is politics related, but that’s not an always thing.
Well, I have a decaf double-hammerhead (a cup of decaf coffee with two decaf shots in it) in front of me; go grab yourself your favorite coffee house coffee, espresso, or tea based beverage if you’re so inclined, and talk about the intersection of a suicide of a friend, of processing the grief related to that loss, and of mental illness…
Yesterday I spent a solid block of two hours walking, as in the type of walking one does for exercise. However, I don’t believe exercise was the only reason for such a long walk — as I walked and contemplated during my walk, I believe I was trying to work through my Christmas night’s/day-after-Christmas-morning’s dream regarding Mike Penner (f.k.a Christine Daniels).
What was the dream, you might ask? Summed up in a nutshell, instead of Mike Penner completing suicide, he retransitioned back to Christine. I had a chance to befriend *Christine* for a second time, and see my support for *her* accepted by *her*.
I tend to believe my *Christine Daniels* dream was a form of grief-stage-3 bargaining. I was first shocked, then mildly angry about Mike’s completed suicide after it occurred.
That said, I have been more depressed than angry regarding Mike’s completed suicide, as my anger often turns inward and morphs into depression — so anger for me more often expresses as depression more than as anger. I keep putting myself in Mike’s shoes, and realize that Mike’s and my life experience had many, many similarities, and Mike’s outcome just as easily could have been my outcome. I realize I could have, as some earlier point in my transition, also chosen suicide, and that has resulted in a self-directed anger regarding what I could have done to myself. Without going into a whole lot of detail, I believe I’ve processed through that anger, and the anger that expressed in stage 2 as depression.
[More below the fold.]So, I think I’m past that those initial two grief stages of denial (stage 1) and anger (stage 2) already, although I’m sure in stage 4 I’ll feel more depression.
I believe the first stages went quickly for me because Mike was dealing with issues I fully understand as a peer public trans figure, but Mike, unlike me, didn’t have good strategies to deal with these issues. I don’t blame him for his completed suicide — hey, I’m told 83% of trans people seriously contemplate suicide. I know, from very personal experience, it’s very hard to work though very deep depression.
I also know one significant individual in Mike’s life reached out to him near the end, so I know serious effort was made to help him in his last weeks. I probably couldn’t have helped Mike in his last days unless he first reached out to me, but knowing someone reached out to him is a comfort to me.
Right now, I’m dealing with his death by attempting to bargain the outcome away — which is grief stage 3. I’m trying, in my subconscious mind apparently, to imagine a scenario where I would have played a role in supporting him. In my Christmas night dream, I supported Mike after he transitioned to Christine for a second time. It’s a bargain that I know can’t be accomplished. But, that doesn’t mean I don’t wish that this bargain with reality really could be made. I do wish Mike had retransitioned back to Christine, and I was supporting him as the kind of caring, loving friend he apparently needed.
And, intellectually knowing that I can’t bargain away Mike’s completed suicide doesn’t mean I emotionally want to bargain it away. Working though this emotionally entails dealing with the feelings both intellectually and emotionally.
Should you be curious, I’m sharing my feelings publicly here at Pam’s House Blend not because I necessarily want to share, but because Mike was, and I am, public figures who have dealt with issues involving mental illness — mostly in private, but now in my case, in public. I believe it’s important to discuss grief within the realm of mental illness, as mentally ill folk like me have to process grief that can easily effect our mental health conditions.
And well, that and some other reasons. Another reason is that folk in trans community who have mental health conditions need to know they’re not alone. And too, from a more personal perspective, publicly sharing helps me publicly and privately cope with Mike’s completed suicide better. Talking about this really is helping me work through the pain of my lost friend.
So, let me take another sip of my decaf double-hammerhead, and let’s talk about the reality that many of us have LGBT friends and peers who have completed suicides, and we’re left to deal with the aftermath of our friends’ and peers’ deaths.
* Living With Mental Illness
* KPCC’s AirTalk: “Transgender Sportswriter Mike Penner Dies”
* Thinking About Mike Penner; Thinking Again About Detransition
* Mike Penner (f.k.a. Christine Daniels) Dead Of Apparent Suicide
* Christine Daniels Retransitioning Back To Mike Penner
* LA Times’ Penner: “I am a transsexual sportswriter.”
* Check out LA Times sportwriter Christine Daniels’ transition blog (Autumn note: The blog has been removed from the L.A. Times website.)