Dying leaves scuttle along the sidewalk in front of me as I walk along a Chicago street after dusk.
I’m following me.
The wind is up off the lake. I have on a battered trench coat with the collar pulled high under my swept back crazy hair, like Christopher Walken on a bad trip.
I step up behind me at the mouth of a dark alley and shove my .45 against my spine. My body, surprised, jumps forward but I follow and keep the barrel pressed hotly against my spine. “Turn in here,” I growl.
I say nothing when I ask me what’s going on.
Between two reeking dumpsters I shove my body face first into a grimy brick wall, place the barrel of the .45 against the base of my skull and, KGB style, squeeze the trigger.
In the cordite haze I see the gun lying in the grease next to my right hand. I back out and walk away as a cold mist weeps from the lowering clouds…
I expect readers familiar with me are saying to themselves, “I knew it, Maginn is a fruit loop lying in a puddled gutter.” You might be right, but, please, read on.
I have over the last year lost my stepfather, my dad, my cousin and am waiting for the call to tell me my delightful stepmother, who just after my father’s death is ready to follow him. My mother who just left rehab today after 6 months due to first a broken pelvis then a broken hip, has been recently diagnosed with mid stage dementia. 18 months ago my best friend who I saw several times a week died in his sleep.
It’s been one of those years.
That might make Maginn suicidal, you think. And again, you might be right. But read on.
In the last year my wife and I moved back to our home town of Chicago and as soon as we got here I fell on some unseen ice that drove all of the hardware in my spine-3 plates and 6 bolts, not to mention the battery and wires of a spinal cord stimulator plunged deeply into the surrounding swelling muscles.
It was the worst most sustained pain I’ve ever encountered, which, I’m afraid to say, is quite a statement. For months while I was in and out of the hospital trying to control the pain, I was on an enhanced dose of my usual opioid as well as morphine for breakthrough pain. Some joke, I was in breakthrough pain 24/7.
There was no way to beat the inflammation other than 4 surgeries to remove the technology and hardware. I had two surgeons perform all the surgeries in the ridiculous speed of 75 minutes. I returned home with the miracle of the horrible pain gone. Recovering from the 4 incisions was my only task.
Child’s play, I thought.
During my brief recovery the health of my elders began to plummet out of sight. Anxiety shrouded Judie and me.
Long ago when the pain was at is periodic worst, I sat around when not looking after my young son, or while writing, I’d pause and think of ways to kill myself that wouldn’t look like the suicide it was. I wanted to make sure my small family got my insurance payout. During the day, in the middle of the night when fugitive sleep abandoned me, I wrote in my journal about the pain and my plans for destroying myself. I could tell myself no matter how bad the pain got, I always had a way out, even if by my own hand.
But I knew better, even then.
Now with the death and dying tour still extant, I’m back where I started. But now I no longer think of killing me.
No, I had something new; I had become my own stalking assassin; I wanted to murder my body and simply walk away, free and clear.
My problem, maybe yours, too, huh?
Here’s the problem with my assassin and I’ve seen it in others as well. When I begin to objectify myself like this over and over the space between the me as assassin and the me as the body my assassin wanted dead, grew. As that gap widened it’s became entirely too easy to see that body as not belonging to me.
This dreadful fantasy can grow into a delusion where the assassin loses touch with the body that is his or hers. That’s, unfortunately, when the assassin loses touch with reality and the murder seems logical. My assassin doesn’t realize he’s killing himself.
What’s happening to me with all the losses and the downturn in my health is the rise of me as my assassin. It’s a delusion. This is an entirely unconscious process that we need help in bringing to the surface to examine.
Suicide isn’t always about despair alone. It’s about holding onto the one way out when things go terribly sideways.
If you start thinking of yourself as an assassin, get help. Preferably with a therapist who knows something of Jungian therapy and symbolism, as well as being, unfortunately, familiar with pain. Cognitive therapy may also be really effective in looking at this delusion that settles on those of us in constant pain.
Still with me? Good.
Don’t let your assassin walk you, unsuspecting, into a dead-end alley.
Most of all, get help sooner than later.