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Hug a tree
Beating suicidal tendencies

By Yana Youhana
July 24, 2001
The Iranian

Who decides when time is up? Why is it wrong to make that decision ourselves?

Having been raised as a Catholic, I was told if one kills him/herself, his/her soul will forever be lost. I've been there -- the deep dark point of nothingness. I craved to belong, but there was nothing and no one to belong to, not even myself. There have been times when the ground beneath my feet seemed to be disappearing and I had nothing to hold on to.

What triggered me to write this? The death of Leila Pahlavi, another Persian woman who had nothing to belong to. She was heartbroken. A young woman with a heart full of pain and sorrow for having lost her father -- her childhood hero. There are other Persian women who are dying little by little too. I have compassion for them; I feel their pain.

Turning thirty is the most dangerous time for a woman who is alone. You tell yourself, Who am I? Where is my hero? Why am I still here? What is the point of existence? Where is my "soul-mate"? I NEED TO GO TO A QUIET PLACE. I hate to eat; it only keeps me going for another day. I hate seeing people, they only remind me of my loneliness. I hate being alive.

I take trips. It doesn't help. There is a party, and everyone is either drunk or high, singing and dancing. I suddenly hear a cry from the room behind the kitchen, walk slowly towards it and cautiously open the door. I see a young couple on the floor with a needle. The scene is so disturbing that it makes me want to throw up. I go to my car and drive away, as fast as I can.

I visit relatives. No, not a good idea. They only remind me of my failures.

I am lying on the bed, looking at old photo albums. Every single picture cuts deep into my heart. I can't stand it. I start cutting them into small pieces. I take the bottle of tranquilizers and I take a pill. It takes a few minutes to kick in. Look at more pictures. It hurts even more. I take another pill. Better now. But it still hurts, this stupid heart of mine. I wonder if I can just take it out and wipe off the pain.

I want to sleep but can't. Take another pill, says the shadow, and I do, and it feels better. The pictures are disappearing, so are the memories, the heroes and all those things that made me feel good. I have longed for them all these years! They are gone. This is good. I take another pill and another and another and another. I am looking at myself from above, a motionless body without desires.

My mom is holding me in her arms, comforting me. I am playing with my cousins. Going to the movies with my brother and my cousins. Watching my mom; her beautiful eyes. Watching my sister in that beautiful wedding dress. Watching the birds flying away from autumn trees. My first love!

Time is meaningless. I don't feel anymore. It doesn't hurt anymore. I am further away from that body which occupied me. The cord that connects me to it is getting thinner and thinner as I remember and forget more. Everything is so much smaller. I am in an empty, dark space, where lost balloons go. It feels good; all those things that hurt so much have disappeared. I don't feel. I am finally at peace.

Just as I am almost ready to let go of my body completely, I am being pulled back.

"Come on baby... Wake up... Time to wake up... I said wake up!... Cough out those nasty pills... "

Who is this angry person? Why is he shouting, slapping my face? What is he doing disturbing my peace?

"Okay, the hose is in there, slap her harder..."

The voice seems so far away.

"Come on cough'em up baby... no, no... I'm not letting you go back to sleep... Time to wake up..."

I am back in that empty space. I feel hard hits on my face again. My god! Why is this person hitting me so hard?

"We're loosing her... Go for it... One, two, three..."

I feel a sudden shock. Why can't they just let me go? It feels like my stomach is coming out of my mouth.

"I'm not letting you go... Yeah, that's better... Throw up all them nasty pills... What's your name? Where did you get those green eyes? You know where you are?"

What is this person talking about? I was fine. I was in a better place. I knew where I was; where I wanted and needed to be. I hear the sirens. This man is holding my hand and padding it.

"Why did you want to kill yourself?"

I didn't want to kill myself. I just wanted to sleep. Peacefully.


There are so many young Iranian men and women who have gone through what I have, but no one ever mentions them nor cares for them! I think we should. For someone who has had more of her share of disappointments, I can tell you, everything will be okay. I made a promise to myself not to go there again. Putting yourself to sleep will only hurt a whole bunch of people who love you dearly.

I went back to Iran after 23 years and saw my beloved sister and her kids. I fell in love with them. I realized if I was gone, they would have been so heartbroken. I would have never known them, nor felt the love they poured on me! I would not have seen my childhood friends. I would not have shared my love with all those beautiful people who were so happy to see me.

"There is a Mexican tradition," writes Clarissa Pincola Estes in Women Who Run with Wolves, "that when a loved one dies on the road, people put a cross on the spot that their loved one has got into an accident and is forever gone, so draw a map of your life and every spot that your soul has been crushed and been killed, draw a cross and kiss it and say good bye forever." If you feel no one loves you, or you don't belong, take refuge in the woods. Listen to the sound of nature. Invite your friends over, play any bandari tape and sing as loud as you can. Jump and dance. BE A KID AGAIN.

Go up a mountain. If you are in the San Francisco Bay Area, go up Highway 9, pull over, walk in the woods and let the air enter every atom of your body, head to toe. Hug a tree. Play Fereidoun Foroughi's tape, smoke a joint and cry your heart out! But, do NOT try to put yourself to sleep. Let nature take its course.

There are still times when I am drawn "there", but then I stand in front of a mirror and tell myself, Hey girly! You ain't goin' there again! You're goin' back home. There's someone waiting for you. There are still places to see, people to meet, hands to hold and broken hearts to help heal. So snap out of it!

We have to die some day, but for now it's much better to "be" than "not to be".

Comment for The Iranian letters section
Comment for the writer Yana Youhana


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