PHILIP'S BLOG: On the edge of a cliff – musing about mid-life suicide
BY PHILIP PATSTON
In the last few days, one of my assistants gave their notice. In a matter of minutes, my life went from feeling very secure to feeling very insecure. I went from feeling confident about getting up each morning to feeling very vulnerable about having to recruit someone new, someone suitable. Even though I've been doing it for 30 years, recruiting new assistants is hard emotionally.
When I spoke to my supervisor, I said I felt like I'm standing/sitting on the edge of a high cliff. When things are going smoothly with my assistants, I'm looking at the gorgeous meadow leading to the cliff. When things stop going well, my gaze falls to the sea pounding on the rocks below, wondering if I will fall.
I realised that my goal in life now is to move back from the cliff-edge to a splace in the meadow. A place where, if things change, I don't need to stare, wide-eyed, at the looming fall. I want to have contingencies in place, people around that can fill in gaps, systems in place to buffer change with a little more certainty.
Most people don't realise that living with an access need and participating fully in life is bloody difficult. The funding I get hardly covers a half-time job, so I can't employ many people. Usually, I employ two or three people, but if one person is sick, the others may have other part-time jobs and can't cover. So I have to rely on a couple of backups, people on benefits or who are self-employed, hoping they'll be available to fill in.
As I was thinking and speaking about this my mind went to the recent suicides of men in mid-life — Chris Cornell, Chester Bennington, Greg Boyed, and the neighbour of a friend just last week. And I wondered if they too felt like they were standing on a cliff's edge, gazing at the meadow, and something small happened which made them vulnerable and unsafe. And they looked at the rocks below and slipped.
While I want to have more security, I don't want to feel trapped. Trapped in a job I don't like, in a relationship that's not working, with a mortgage that seems unsurmountable. I thought when I was younger life would be easier when I was 50. But it's not not — if anything it's harder, more complex and less desirable than I thought it would be.
Don't worry, I'm not about to fall off the cliff! But if you are reading this and it's making sense for you or someone you know, you/they are not alone. Sometimes life feels like it's hanging on a thread and often it is. But my supervisor reminded me of something important — it's not just me that has to get me back towards the meadow.
There are other people who can help, others I can tell about my vulnerability. And I trust that, with them, at the right time I'll find that secure but free splace in the meadow.
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