Thursday, April 11, 2013

INSIDE LOOK: Death Project 2013 Investigation: Talking About Suicide

Our Project Dramaturg, Deepali Gupta, recently interviewed journalist Cara Anna, a former foreign correspondent in China, and a suicide attempt survivor for upcoming project about death, dying and the afterlife in NY.  Cara founded the “Talking About Suicide” blog of interviews with other outspoken suicide attempt survivors and edits the new “What Happens Now?” blog for the American Association of Suicidology for those who've had thoughts or actions of suicide. Check out the "Talking about Suicide" blog  HERE, and the "What Happens Now?" blog HERE.

See below for excerpts from Deepali's interview with Cara, where she reflects on her personal experience with suicide, and what prompted her to connect to other survivors.

Cara at airport before leaving for China
"I sent out a resignation email, I went to my apartment, gave everything to the cleaning lady, packed a backpack, and then just set off. I went to the airport and I just stood there looking at the departure board for like, what seemed like an hour, and I was like, 'I don't want to go anywhere.' I love to travel, and here I am looking at like, connections from Beijing to like, everywhere in the world, and I'm like, 'Uh, I don't want to go anywhere, I'm dead.' So, yeah, I went to the hospital, got myself sleeping pills, got anti-vomiting medication, got wine, and there was an abandoned village outside Beijing that I had hiked through, and it was cold, it was February, there was still snow on the ground, and I'm like, 'I'm gonna go there.' And so I hiked up there and in China, people are everywhere and there were two people hiking, and I'm like, 'What the fuck, can I never get a place to myself?'

I was like, 'Well you have to do it before dark. You'll lose your nerve or something, so you just have to do it, just do it.' So you just sort of lay out 1, 2, 3 at that point. I took the stuff, I drank the whole bottle of wine, apparently, which is a first, um, and lay down, it was like, 'Okay, the cold will take care of the rest.' And then, even before opening my eyes, you know how you can see light through your eyelids, that was the next thing I knew, and even before opening my eyes, I'm like, 'It's dawn. Okay. Now what do I do.'
Cara's photo of a memorial to the dead after 2008 earthquake in Sichuan province at a school that collapsed

So I said, 'Well, I'm a journalist, it seems pretty natural to me to just find other people who have been through it. Is anybody talking about it?' So I started the blog, started interviewing people, found people who were out, and just talked to them—just like, the first conversation was so sweet. It was a woman, and we were so nervous talking to each other, it was like we were breaking some sort of rule. 

Cara with her nephew
It's like, should we be talking about this? Are we gonna get in trouble? And it was just a very huge relief, finding out that, wow, she sounded really human and normal and happened to have a bad, a really bad experience. Um, and I've talked to about 40 people so far, from five different countries, and nobody has been rambling, nobody has burst into tears, nobody has had to even take time to collect themselves—nobody's raving, everybody's just like, 'Yeah, this is me, this is my life, I have dogs, I have cats, I have a grad degree, I'm a psychologist, I work on a crisis line, I'm a lawyer, I'm an artist...Hi!' What is so horribly scary about us that nobody wants to talk about it?"

Thank you Cara and Deepali for sharing. Check back every Thursday for a look inside our investigation into death, dying and the afterlife in NY. 

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