The Numbing Process

This is a story of heartbreaking loss – the suicide of one’s mother. How does it feel to loose the closest person to you at the tender age of 12 and how does it affect your approach on life and humanity? What is there to learn from such an experience? This is a constructive take on a very serious subject.

“Happiness is a pause between two moments of suffering.”

People say that when you grow older, you’ll learn to “cope with things better” or you’ll “learn from your mistakes”, or the worse: “it gets better”.

All you’ll really develop later on in life isn’t some positive mentality, which you can use to help manage and face what is to come in the future. You become numb. That is all. You’re numbed to the outcomes of life because despite all the best effort we put in to try and repair, fix, mend or even move on from whatever mishap, all you can do in the end is to accept the inevitability of it all.

The biggest pivot point in life for me, where I realized just how powerless we all are, was when my mom committed suicide when I was around 12.

It wasn’t easy. When you’re only 12, coming home from your friend’s house to escape the constant fighting and arguing between my parents, which at the time I believed it to be a norm in Hong Kong households, then meeting up with my dad and younger brother to head home together, only to find the front door of the apartment locked and chained. The shopping in my dad’s hands that he bought to try and make up for arguing with mom dropped to the floor almost as quickly the blood drain from his face when he saw what my little brother was screaming at after he kicked down the door to my parent’s room, where this acidic, terrible scent was coming from.

She laid there on the bedroom floor.

A bucket of burning coal was next to her head, and a bottle of sleeping pills on the bedside table. Of course, at the time I had no idea what was happening. Only that my brother was crying and my dad screaming at me to dial 999 on the phone.

It was then that I actually understand what it’s like to stand there, frozen and unable to move. So much was going on I was unable to even process everything that had just happened. Panic and adrenaline was all that I remembered at that point, up to when police and paramedics escorted us down to the lobby, while my mom left home for the last time on a gurney with a white blanket over her.

My dad had always been the happy one in the family, the go-to guy whenever you’d feel down or blue. That day was the first and final time I ever saw him cry which such intensity. He was never the same after that night. Not in a bad way, he’s still a phenomenal dad that I will be ever grateful for; he just seems a bit less.

Then again, we all changed after that night. Sure it brought the family closer together, yet at the same it separated us.

Despite all the therapy, medication, drinking smoking, drugs I tried to get my hands on which I thought could help me forget, to move on, to make sense of what had happened, to try and step out of my old life, become someone new so that my past can’t haunt me anymore, I still never recovered and to be frank, I don’t think you can ever recover from something like that.

It did what I mentioned in the beginning though. It numbed me. But I never forgot. It still hits home every time I think of her, just not as bad as it did before. I learned at the age of 14, that no matter how hard you fight, no matter how hard you try, no matter how best of a shot you give it, you’ll always turn a corner and hit a brick wall in life that just will not budge.

Just like many other scenarios in life, you learn that there is so much you can’t control, you can only numb yourself for what is to come, and hope for the best that it won’t hurt as bad as the last. This is where it gets even harder, because am I meant to desensitize myself and become what is commonly referred to as an “asshole” just so I can get through another day without having everything collapse on you? Or are we meant to throw ourselves at the feet and mercy, in pointless attempts to try and alter the outcome of what we know we have no control over?

One of the few skills I have is being able to empathize others and put myself in others shoes, to offer help and support to friends and family no matter what, because once you’ve hit rock bottom, once you’ve seen the worse of what life has to offer, you don’t want people you care about to ever tread on that same path.

It’s getting harder now.

Seeing life from other people’s perspective diverts you from making decisions and calls for yourself. You neglect your needs, because there is this swirling urge inside whenever you see someone you care about in a bad state to help them out. Not just stand by the side while they’re drowning, only offering advice. But to put yourself out there and offer a hand, or even jump into it with them.

Looking back at my life, I can’t recall a single person who has done that for me. I’m not saying that I help people with the intent of counting them to always help you whenever you’re in need, but at least help when you really need it. You feel alone. Not in a sense that you require company, but that there is nothing left but you, this pointless, mistake-making being existing in this empty, answerless void. It’s so easy to help others; impossible to help yourself.

Am I to wait for the numbing process to take effect again? Wait till when I don’t have any energy or motivation left and continue this slow, erosive cycle, until there is no humanity left? Until I finally not give a shit anymore? Or ignore all my instincts and lessons learned, to try and defy this seemingly unalterable course which God or the universe or karma or whatever else you believe in has placed before you? To hope and hope and hope that eventually all that effort you put in will be recognized or that it will make a difference? Only to hit that rock wall again?

Once you’ve actually seen a suicide, especially one done by your parent. You do not joke or toy around with the subject in seriousness. That damage it causes is catastrophic in an unimaginable level to a small and yet contained number of people, which is why some people can throw the topic around lightly, using it as empty threats. I wonder if my mom went through this cycle? To constantly put others before herself, before she saw no worth in life, or before all that emotional and psychological weight collapsed on her? To see no way out of this continual torment of agony, self-pity, self-loathing and self-hating cause by the uncountable mistakes in your life which you are unable to resolve, unable to move on, to forget, to find happiness. True happiness. Something I have not felt for a while, but what we’re all attempting to seek and hopefully reach one day in our lives. Maybe she was right, maybe she isn’t. The shit thing is that I will never know.

I feel scared, terrified, alone, cold, empty, regret, wanting, confused, angry.

Was this what she went through?

Is this what happens when the numbing process fails? When one becomes too numb? Where we are left with no hope, no encouragement, no motivation, but to only drag ourselves aimlessly through life until we find some form of purpose in life. Or is that the purpose in life? To slowly chip away fragments of ourselves through mistakes and failures until we have nothing left, waiting for our eventual demise?

“Don’t get your hopes up” or “It’s best to just move on” all the two phrases I’m hearing a lot nowadays. Well…I used to hear them. If I don’t hope, if I don’t hold on to what I use to have, how does that let me appreciate everything that I had, or let previous events hold enough importance for us to look back on and learn from?

I used to have so much hope for the future. Looking at the positive side of things was something that came to me naturally. That helped me make friends, helped me improve my life and, in a sense, it made me happy. It defined who I was and I was comfortable in knowing what I was for, as if that was my purpose in a sense: to cheer people up. I always seemed to have answers for peoples questions, I seemed to know what to do and offer the right advice to my friends when they came to me. Maybe it was my optimism that became my hubris. Thinking that there will always be a happier ending or a positive outcome helped me get through life.

Maybe that’s the thing. Maybe that’s what life is about. To choose between happiness and obliviousness, or accept life for what it really is and hope that you don’t clock out ourselves because we just can’t take it anymore before our time is up.

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