Death as a puppet show
1. Deadly thoughts going round and round
In the summer of 2012, I was tormented for the first time by violent, never-ending suicidal thoughts. A few days before, I had to face by chance the end of my marriage. Hurt to the depths of my heart and soul, I fled to Italy to stay with my sister. In Bologna I wanted to regain my strength and think about what to do with this stupid chance discovery. I didn't get round to it, because my mind was occupied day and night with death. The "how" was clear, the "when" still open. These dark thoughts had nothing to do with my otherwise cheerful disposition. Why would I kill myself over a guy? I thought to myself, "All I have to do is walk out the door and in a week I'll have a new one, if I want one". But the thought of wanting to die kept me in a firm stranglehold. Two weeks later I went home. The confrontation with my husband over my discovery ended in a mess.
The physical symptoms, which had been haunting me for a year, got worse and worse. I forgot everything and anything. I couldn't remember where I had put the keys and on the way to the toilet I asked myself what I actually wanted to do. 50 metres from the front door I lost my bearings while walking our dog Golfo. When I was talking to someone, I stared helplessly because I could no longer follow a conversation. After only a few words, I couldn't remember the beginning of the sentence. What was the beginning of the sentence? What is he talking about? What do I answer now? I did not know. Days later I collapsed in the supermarket crying. I didn't know where I was and didn't know how I got there. My limbs were tingling and I could no longer feel my arms and legs. I gasped for air and panicked. It should stop, preferably immediately. The last thing I remember is calling my friend Robert. He took me to the doctor straightaway and then to the hospital. I immediately had myself admitted to the psychiatric hospital's secure unit. I was afraid of the voice in my head which vehemently demanded my death. In the hospital I developed a fear and aversion against people who wanted to look inside my mind and who had the audacity to explain to me what makes me tick. How dare they evaluate my thoughts and feelings? To claim that none of what happened to me inside my body was real, aroused sheer horror and extreme anger.
Today I am very grateful to all the doctors who treated me. I was constantly afraid of myself. The pain just wouldn't let up. I cried day and night for almost four weeks. The physical suffering was so great that I was afraid I would lose my mind. But it was already gone or at least the far side of knowing good from bad. I was in a psychiatric hospital secure unit and realised: Whoever is here expects nothing more from life. We were locked up and most of the patients were sedated. Me too. Thank God. The non-stop crying was a nightmare.
After four weeks I was admitted to Psychosomatics 1, where to my great surprise I was diagnosed with depression. Me, the sunshine and party king had depression? I found this extremely difficult to believe and accept. After another three weeks I was transferred to Psychosomatics 2.
A bed there had become free. As a patient who had voluntarily been admitted to the psychiatric secure unit, I was considered an emergency and was at the top of the list. I am often asked whether my decision to go into a psychiatric hospital was the right one. Well, it was not funny. I am not proud either. To see the psychiatric hospital secure unit from the inside was a white knuckle ride in my life and definitely not something that belongs on a bucket list. If you can avoid it, you should not be admitted. On the other hand, there are factors which make everything clear. Without admission, without emergency treatment, my family doctor would have given me a referral to a psychologist. I would have had to call 50 to 100 therapists to get on various waiting lists. Possibly months would have passed before I could get an appointment for any treatment. Months later, it might have been clear that an outpatient appointment would not be enough and the doctor would have started looking for a hospital place, which has to be approved by the health insurance company. That would have taken months to well over a year and by this time I would have taken my own life, with a probability bordering on certainty, because I would not have made it through the first week until the next doctor's appointment. Admission at my own request accelerated the process enormously and brought me to where I am today. I can't influence others who are affected what they should do. Those who put their personal freedom above everything else risk committing suicide under certain circumstances. Those for whom treatment and healing is the most important thing in the world will do everything and accept every limitation in order to lead a normal life again as soon as possible. I would have been dead long ago if I had followed the thought "I don't want to go to the specialist hospital". I wanted to live!
During the following four months I got to understand myself. I was shocked to realise how many decades I had been depressed. I discovered the roots of my illness and understood what the supports in my mind were. I understood what made me tick. I analysed and compared the individual stages of my mental state when one of the supports broke away. Numerous circumstances, events and actions made sense. For example, if I lost my job, I compensated for it in my relationship. This gave me stability and security. The traffic light immediately went red if, in addition to the income, the man at my side went missing. The emotional protection as a comforting component was missing and the third support of my being threatened to collapse. I learned a lot about the way I met the challenges of life. I learned to look at my personal pain from a completely new angle, to understand it, to despise it and to meet it afresh. I informed myself about myself and took my self apart like a mechanic would take an engine apart to find the fault. In this case, however, you do not find a broken part, but recognise how many gears, screws and pistons there are and which part, with what force acts on which bit.
In the course of the treatment I saw the answers which I gave myself to cope with various circumstances and which of my reactions eased or increased the suffering. In a normal course of life without problems we simply function. No one thinks about why you act one way or another. I realised how I had to face life in order to slowly but surely get out of the trap of depression. Nobody else could do this for me. The entire knowledge of the various forms of therapy matured within me, supported by the psychologists. The doctor cannot change my life. He can only help me to understand it and give me tips on how I could implement the details. If I am not willing to do this and generally don't feel like it, then all the therapy is a waste.
By mid-2014 I had got a grip on myself again and was able to go back to work for quite some time. My life changed noticeably. So did my marriage, which still existed. But it got worse and finally went down the drain. I did my best to build up trust again. I did not succeed. Then came the day when a shadow was discovered on my lung and I joined my cancer-stricken family. Did I want to die in a shitty and lying relationship? No, I did not want that. That's why I left Hubert and I was happy that after many tests it turned out that the thing on my lung was not cancer.
When the marriage ended, one of my important emotional supports fell away: "relationship". My emotional hold on life was swepped away by an avalanche of events, feelings and decisions.
2. Out of the frying pan into the fire.
About three months later I met Jose. A silver lining in the darkness. But even then, a challenge that sapped my strength. He could not decide between his ex, a priest, and me. The eternal toing and froing was nerve-racking and extremely trying on my nerves. I should have sent Jose packing a thousand times and I don't know why I never did. I tried several times, but the love for him was stronger. Being without him was worse than all his relationship crap and everything he did to me with it. I believed in love and in a life where he as my partner didn't have to hide. I was sure that together we could help each other out of the depressions.
Nothing helped, it all went downhill with me. Ever steeper, ever faster. On 28th December, I was sitting at the kitchen table at eight in the morning and could not stop crying. The physical pain increased exponentially. The presure in my eyes increased and were close to "bursting". The stomach pain was unbearable. I could no longer go through with it. Not to the psychiatric hospital again. Not to start over again. Not the same shit over and over again. It was too much. In the long run, for now, for the future and for what? I cried, "I just can't do it anymore".
I wanted it all to stop, my disappointments, the suffering, the countless repetitions and all the shit with the guys I was never good enough for and to whom every cheap fuck seemed more valuable than respect, appreciation and a common future. I wanted to live happily and no longer be the target of people who were themselves the biggest enemy.
Without feeling, I suddenly hung like a puppet on invisible strings. A puppet show that was not mine. A game that I did not write the script for. The big gambler in the dark hole above me laughed out loud and unscrewed a bottle of wine. He celebrated pill by pill, sip by sip. A drama that slowly but surely changed into the dark final act. I didn't like what was happening, but I couldn't change it, couldn't interrupt it. It was beyond my power and the decision was made by someone else. My brain took over the reins and what happened in those minutes was no longer part of my consciousness. That was not Mario. There were no thoughts of friends, my mother, my siblings, my husband Hubert, who would find me stinking in the apartment in a few days, or Jose. It was a one-man play. A drama in three acts: Birth, life and now it was time to die. It was different to what I had ever thought, hoped for, planned, desired. At birth we are all brought into the world with good wishes and thoughts by the family. When dying, many people no longer even have the happiness and comfort of someone holding their hand when the soul sets out on its journey. We take our last breath alone. Other people, no matter how close they were, no longer play a role at the moment of passing over.
It was almost the start of a new year, 28 th December and now ten in the morning. None of my friends were in the city. My ex-husband wasn't and Jose was on his way on holiday. He was a beautiful acquaintance at that time, with whom I had fallen very much in love, nothing more. 120 km away, on the motorway, Jose had a bad feeling. A malignant feeling that spread in his stomach and rapidly grew bigger and more powerful. None of his messages to me were answered. Fear and worry increased and on the spur of the moment he turned round and drove back to Frankfurt at top speed, despite ice and snow. In the passenger seat was a priest, raging with fury, who gave free rein to his hatred of me (as always) and Jose dropped him off at home before driving to my apartment. With the help of a neighbour, Jose opened the apartment and found me. Already dark yellow and not breathing, as he told me later. In the ambulance, which they had called for, my lights went out for good. It was done and the curtain had fallen. I was dead. But somebody must have shouted "Encore" and they brought me back to life. At some point I woke up in the intensive care unit. My mouth and throat were so dry that I could only make a rattling noice. I felt pain all over my body and a thick tube was stuck in my penis. If that was death, I wanted to be away, quickly.
3. The voice after the party.
The third and last time I was overtaken by massive suicidal thoughts was in August 2017, when I asked my friends in Berlin to take me to a big music event before I started my hike with Trees of Memory. We landed at VooV, a Goa-Trance festival that we had visited three times before and where we had a lot of fun every time. My friends Hans, Mike, Anne and Uwe made every effort to make this last party-dance-festival a complete success. The day we arrived started with bad news in the media. The singer of Linkin Park had taken his own life.
Big career, fame, loads of money, loving family and a drug problem. This is how you can sum up his life. And depressions. A whole bunch of them. All of which adds up to a deadly mix, as so often happens.
Well, nevertheless we celebrated like wildmen and enjoyed every minute. There are lots of pictures of us all lopsided and wonky. It was so great. Until this particular Sunday midday, when, completely out of the blue, an evil man with an unbelievably deep and ugly voice lodged in my head and, demanding, commanding, and with unprecedented toughness, shouted at me: "Kill yourself! Kill yourself now! You have everything you need right here. There is no better time. Do it! Do it now! Do it now...!" Frightened and in panic I left everything and immediately sought the company of my friends. But the guy did not let up. Every five minutes he demanded my death. Massive, clear, not tolerating any argument. I did not know what to do anymore and confided in Hans. "Oh dear, oh dear", he said and it was clear that from now on I was not allowed to be alone for a second. I was afraid again. Not of me, but of the power of the scary guy in my head. And this guy didn't let up. Every five minutes he wanted me dead. Also on Monday, 24 hours later. Once again, for the record: Every five minutes a voice in my head screamed, "Kill yourself!"
It became so alarming that I had to take a break on the motorway to Berlin. I couldn't drive any further. The voice was accompanied by the worst dizziness and I constantly had the feeling of losing control of myself and the car. I was justifiably worried that the devil in my brain would steer the car against the pillar of the next bridge. Hans was sitting next to me, and there were a few other people on the motorway. I stopped in a lay-by and tried to breathe peace into myself.
In the late afternoon we had finally made it and were in Hans' apartment. "Come on, finally do it! What are you waiting for? You are at home in Berlin! There is no better place for you! Here you can leave. ...“ My potential murderer and executioner was still there.
Actually I wanted to go out of the house on Monday evening and chill out somewhere. I did not dare to leave Hans' apartment without an escort. I was afraid that the demon in my head would push me in front of a train from off the platform. I could not leave the house. Tuesday was still no better. I started to consume Atosil and Tavor in large quantities to turn off the voice. It got weaker and was no longer so horrible and powerful. At night I took sleeping pills so that I could at least get some sleep. On Wednesday, the man in my head only called every 15 minutes to demand my death. Nothing helped, I had to go back to Frankfurt, my job called. I felt like shit, but I had to go back. I was worried I would not arrive alive. It was to go on like this for another two days, and every single day I didn't know if I would still be alive in the evening. It was bad. Unbearably horrible. There is a technical term for it: schizophrenic episode. I can only hope that this excursion into the other world is the only one and the last one in my life. I'm not worried about it and I'm sure it won't happen again, especially since the circumstances at the festival won't be the same again.
4. No free will.
In all three cases I can say with absolute certainty that these thoughts and my suicide attempt were not controlled by my free will. I wanted to live and not die. I wanted to be Mario and not a puppet. But I had no influence whatsoever on what happened. I was lucky that I was strong enough twice not to let it go to extremes. In 2014 that had not worked out. In 2017, not much was missing. Whoever hears voices in his head wants to get rid of them one day, wants them to stop, no matter how. Nobody wants to die.
Many bereaved claim that it was free will that led their relatives to take the final step. Honestly: How do you know that? Just because there is a free will? Just because the person has done research on the Internet? Just because they bought their suicide weapon long before? Talk to those who have survived a suicide and stop trying to make suicides pretty and make heroes out of the sick. Suicide is the last symptom of a really lousy illness, its course, its feelings, its attacks can't be imagined by anyone who hasn't experienced them personally. Such a symptom can sometimes be strong and sometimes weak. If it is powerful and leaves us no peace, then we suddenly look on the Internet for ways to commit suicide or go shopping for deadly weapons or write a will. When the healthy mind returns, it panics and makes sure that we find our way back into life. We are glad to have turned the corner again. Then, suddenly, we are ambushed, the disease strikes again. We run, jump, swallow, cut or do whatever needs to be done, often at a moment when hours before the most beautiful and happiest pictures of us were taken. Driven by a cruel spirit in the black hole above and below us, we end our lives with a snap of our fingers. No thought of family, friends, loved ones. Only the end in sight and at the same time we do things we can't remember. Writing text messages, scribbling, quickly putting a last Facebook post online and much more. Then we are dead and the healthy believe that we left full of character, of our own free will, so as not to harm anyone and because we were so sad and nobody wanted to hear our cries for help.
Sorry, we are not heroes, we are not cowards, we are just victims. When the organs fail in cancer, we are all full of compassion, powerlessness and sadness and it would never occur to us to judge how the dying person fared. When our brain fails after depression has become unstoppable and has spread more horribly than any cancer, suddenly all sorts of healthy people know what happened to us and how we planned our death. No, every suicide, planned and unplanned, is a symptom that manifests itself in many ways. We have to accept that there are things and view points that we cannot imagine. Nevertheless they are there. Of course there are exceptions and of course people take their own lives of their own free will to preempt death from cancer, to give an example. And of course there are people who have mental illnesses, suffer from them for years, and see themselves as no longer treatable and so make the fatal decision.
A suicide that was based on depression or other mental illness is not a free will decision. Even the statement: "She was so sad for years, she didn't want to bear it any longer" is not dying of free will. If it had not been for the depression, it would never have come to this. If I take my own life to prevent the tragedy of a fatal illness, I personally make a decision: "I am going to die now". In depression the brain says: "You are going to die now" and our free will is not asked for its opinion. The option of treatment and successful therapy are even hidden. We are all victims of some shitty disease that you can't see and that you can't cut out, or as my ex-boyfriend Rasmus once said, making fun of me, "Then go to a psychiatrist and get it taken away."
I find it not only inappropriate, but presumptuous that people argue with me who have never been depressed for a day. Who never had suicidal thoughts themselves. Who knows best? Those who are dead, those who have this illness and have survived suicide, or those who are healthy and have no idea what happened to us? I speak about myself and I describe many conversations with people affected by the illness. I stick to facts that I have personally experienced and for which I have almost paid with my life. I do not exclude other motives in any way. Everything is possible - but extremely rare. Nobody knows what was going on in the minds of those who took their own lives. For example, we condemn people who commit extended suicide after a divorce and take their own child with them. They are murderers. Yes, they are. But they are not always vengeful monsters who want to harm the ex-wife. They are people who can no longer live without their child, who have had their most important things taken away from them and who see no way out. Sick people who want to be united with their child forever and ever. We are quick to condemn them and of course it is terrible what they have done. Such an act cannot be excused and glossed over. But there are views that those who are not affected cannot imagine at all. Stop justifying suicide in the name of your loved ones. You do not know what you are talking about.
Why do some of the bereaved argue with me? For the truth? It has many faces and shows itself in new versions every second. Those arguing come from their own life situation and perspective when they observe or act.
With TREES of MEMORY I want to encourage those who have been sitting in personal darkness for years. I was there and I too thought that there are no longer any prospects. Especially after the suicide of my partner. And suddenly the idea of TREES of MEMORY came into my mind and my life changed from day to day. I would never have thought that possible. That's the only way you can understand how I put this project into practice each day. This is the reason why I make every thought public. With all the ups and downs. There are countless perspectives for each one of us that remain hidden and do not show for a long time. This is true for the sick and for the healthy. Just because you can't imagine something, it doesn't mean that it doesn't exist. Light exists everywhere, even in the darkness. In it there is simply less hope, but it is there. It has made itself small but is only hiding.
Perhaps I can help those affected to rediscover this light and the ray of hope. That is the reason for TREES of MEMORY, for my hike around the world, for this book and for everything I make public.
Do not give up. Believe in yourself. Only in you. In every coming moment, without any warning, everything can change again, just like it did for me in the shower. Give me a single legitimate reason to doubt and refute this statement, except your belief!