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Trains and mortality

“No one can confidently say that he will still be living tomorrow.” – Euripides

I don’t often use this space to talk about things as deeply personal as my thoughts on mortality and death, so writing this entry feels uncharacteristically awkward. Like I’m typing while wearing big heavy gloves and also juggling a badger. So. Bear with me.

I love trains. I am also, on a primal level, completely terrified of trains. This is why.

I am someone who has struggled with depression and thoughts of suicide for a nontrivial amount of time. I have good weeks. I have fantastic months. I have terrible days. I have worse years. Being honest with myself and the people I love about my current state, whatever it is, is one of the things that helps me navigate the most difficult (for me) part of chronic unmedicated depression: the fluctuation between OK and NOT OK. On the OK end of the scale, there’s a notch labeled “these feelings are hard but I am working through them.” On the NOT OK end of the scale, there’s a notch labeled “nothing is OK and nothing will ever be OK and I’m not sure how I am going to survive.”

The thing is that no matter where on that scale I fall at any given time, I can’t help but think about jumping in front of trains. Bart. Muni. Caltrain. Every single time. On every platform. With every pass of thundering metal. It isn’t so much that I want to jump in front of a train. It is more the realization that I could. The awareness that there is not a single thing stopping me from doing so other than my own willpower.

The dividing line between life and death is as monumental as it is flimsy and easy to cross. We are made of highly impractical, fragile sacks of meat that stand no chance in a fistfight with a rolling mass of steel like a train. Most people stick around through a combination of self preservation and good fortune. But anyone who has ever considered facilitating the demise of their own meatsack is acutely aware that sticking around also involves a heavy dose of self control.

Some days not jumping feels like a victory. A tiny battle won in the war against my brain. Some days not jumping feels like a failure. Most days I just want to use public transit without contemplating the fragility of my continued survival on this planet.

I’m really just recording this for posterity, because it feels good to have this visceral, intense feeling that I’m familiar with out in writing (I’m making words out of my feelings! Like a real adult!). Also, between last week’s Bart suicide and the ongoing saga of M’s neighbor’s suicide and resulting apartment cleaning nightmare these things have been on my mind lately. Now I’m left wondering how many other people have a similar relationship with trains.

Categories: personal
  1. March 29, 2013 at 12:39 pm

    “It is more the realization that I could.” That’s it right there. And while I haven’t felt this way for some time, I once had the additional realization that the idea of jumping in front of a train was not at all scary. Perhaps the idea of not doing it is much scarier than doing it. To any amount of logical reasoning outside of that head it would make no sense.

    I hope you’re doing ok, and here’s to willpower prevailing.

  2. March 29, 2013 at 12:55 pm

    I once, out of nowhere, almost succumbed to a primal impulse to jump over a railing and fall 9 stories to the the floor of a shopping complex. I wasn’t specifically depressed, nor did I have a death wish, but the noggin’ told me for that once split second that falling was what I needed to do.

    Also, many *hugs* to you!

  3. March 29, 2013 at 4:10 pm

    There’s the idea that I’ve heard other express similar experiences with of “what if my body suddenly betrays me and I jump off this bridge/building/high place?” Sounds like something similar with trains you’re describing. I too have often realized the power of the BART train and thought through the “what if I were down there and a train was coming” scenarios.

  4. ava
    March 29, 2013 at 5:24 pm

    You are not alone in your love and fear of trains. It crosses my mind frequently and *fortunately* I am no longer in my low or content state, but happy. Yet, I still think about it, the ease. It’s terrifying but calming when the train passes and I’m still standing. Keep your feet and mind planted.

  5. avaLuna
    March 29, 2013 at 5:25 pm

    You are not alone in your love and fear of trains. It crosses my mind frequently and *fortunately* I am no longer in my low or content state, but happy. Yet, I still think about it, the ease. It’s terrifying but calming when the train passes and I’m still standing. Keep your feet and mind planted.

  6. March 29, 2013 at 9:49 pm

    sometimes I get very vivid self-destructive imagery like this. The thought I had earlier today is – maybe it’s a mistake to think of it as a desire – maybe there’s some part of your mind that makes itself known through depictions of scenarios and that while it usually tells the rest of you about desire, this time it’s trying to give you a *serious warning* and we should be careful not to misinterpret it.
    I don’t know if that way of thinking will really help, but it’s what I’m going to try for now.

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