Kati / Ronja / Juk – (family, community, society)

by Milla — she=he

Songs: She liked Björk and Tori Amos, so — declare independence, cornflake girl —— And some song I’ve been listening to recently: objects of my affection

And a song that a friend saw on one of her blogs, saying that the quote from this song was revealing of what was going on with Ronja just before she killed herself. Maija Vilkkumaa — Lottovoitto. A critical view on Finland.

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This is grieving. All that could have been. All that was and all that still is.

I will not, as some persons writing on the internet – address her as if she could hear, as if she were here – she is not. I would like to climb into denial and think this is a sick joke to stir some life into the community – but it is not.

Kati / Ronja / Juk —

Born 1988. Suicide November 1st 2010. [i’m not certain about the exact date]

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At first I said “I feel cold” and the friend who told me closed the window, so I continued “I mean emotionally, I don’t care”. And some hour later tears started welling up, and did not stop for days. I cared.

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What follows is a combination of my interpretation, faulty memory and bits and pieces puzzled together in the last few days to make sense of what is:

She was sensitive to noise pollution, creative, imaginative with words, she had a tendency to take her inner reality -constant self-reflection- and put it ‘out there’, something I told her she should treasure, and as well be prepared that she would suffer for, since people in a damaged society tend to target ‘vulnerability’ or openness.

She came from a home with a violent father. It had long term effects on her, living in an unsafe environment. Low self-esteem in combination with wanting recognition for her talents, and high ideals, created a person bearing down hard on herself for not harboring an absolute pure selfless love, thinking it would be selfish of her, wanting to be seen and appreciated by others, and for others to resonate her thoughts and feelings.

She loved others in a big way. What I knew of her, she expressed her love openly. She was a non-conformist. Her actions didn’t fit with the mainstream way of behaving and reacting. I figure the expectations of how a ‘pretty young girl’ should behave and how the person in different periods calling herself Kati / Ronja / Juk behaved, didn’t mix, and that this got her in trouble with the Finnish mental health system.

Once when she wrote something on a wall in the metro, and some guards (that frequent the metro line en masse) confronted her -this is usually done in an authoritarian, aggressive tone. At this occasion, she was kicked, either by them or later on at the police station-, she didn’t know what to do, she was crying, avoiding eye-contact, and decided that she wouldn’t talk with them. They took her to the psychiatric ward. [for what reason?]

When one of her friends decided to go through the mandatory military service ‘just to try it out’ and as well to get a medical education, she got very surprised and upset – as many others, finding it difficult to picture that the army would be a suitable place for this person [which it wasn’t]. Once she went there, determined to meet with this friend. [she was in some sort of emotional state, her mother called me -the first and only time I got to talk with her- she wanted me to phone her daughter, I had a conversation with Kati / Ronja / Juk, she was a bit ‘walled off’ but mostly seemed determined to see her friend, so I talked with her mother again, and said that to me it seemed like she could care for herself — had something happened? what caused the great need to see the friend that day?] I don’t remember the details very well, so rather than making something up, I will just shortly say that: Her need and the visiting hours of the army didn’t match. She was there calling out for her friend. Again they took her to the psychiatric ward. [for what reason?]

This is a short comment on her encounters with the Finnish mental health system, sent by email 2007, she wanted to write a piece for a magazine called Voima about it. I don’t know if she ever did. [other things mentioned in the screenshot: ‘avohoito’ = finnish for ‘open care’, megafån, ‘feministitapetti’ = ‘feminist wall paper’, libero]

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Later she had for some time been talking with a friend about planning suicide. The friend told her parents, and once again she ended up in a psychiatric ward. This time she was ‘okay’ with it. I remember – after she had asked for permission – taking her out to sit in the grass outside, by some trees and flowers, in the sun. It took some time before she came alive in her speech. The drugs they gave her, made her dull. And after a while she was tired, ready to go back to lie down on her bed again.

I was a grumpy, rough edge in her life, not there as a constant, but I did belong as a part of her supporting system. We talked about life and death and hard feelings and how to get better. I encouraged her to move out of her parents house, since this was not a safe space for her, I told her there are ways to feel better. I know I can’t change anything, but I regret having fallen out with her. She was a person I had experienced deep connection with. Today I’m wondering how many others were there for her. I never asked myself that question before. I knew she had close relations with people around her, I assumed she had support.

It was a gradual process getting out of touch with her, a gradual process of me going through conflict (trauma), and expressing more and more anger. I regret that. She was very sensitive to expressions of aggression. I did a lot of reflection about our relation, and my reactions towards her, and in the end I decided to distance myself from her, since I couldn’t remain calm. I told her it hadn’t anything to do with her, that my reactions were mine, and that she doesn’t ‘deserve’ aggression and anger – I just couldn’t deal with her way of approaching this conflict in a constructive way, and I was in need of a different kind of support than what she was capable of offering .

She was seeking to be a part of the social center group in Helsinki, and participated in a meeting December 2008, where people voted to exclude me from the space for two years. They were showing with fingers in the air how many years I would be banned. She held ‘only’ one finger in the air, later telling me, she didn’t think it was possible to vote ‘zero’, even though two of her friends were in the same space, openly declaring dissent.

I think I was triggered by her way of seeking acceptance and denying own needs, projecting the same reality on me, an external as well as internalized reality I’m desperately trying to escape. Today I would have been able to hear her out differently. I just recently moved in with a friend after having been homeless for about a year and half. We have together been dealing with our fears and traumas. [up until now both of us surviving this existence instead of ‘living’ it..] It’s a process in its beginnings, but I keep thinking “What if..” What if she would have taken up my friend on her offer, 2 months ago, and moved in with us for a while? What if.. I’m sure quite a few persons are having these same thoughts. Memories flashing by: What could I have done differently? As well as – What can I celebrate in having shared with her?

My friend saw the message about her death on Juk’s facebook wall, then it took a few more days to get more information of what had happened. The first day I heard about it I did a quick search on the internet and found a petition that Juk had been writing this summer.

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Click here for a full screenshot (with more info) of the page where I read her petition . Click here for the English translation [hasn’t arrived, I will put it here as soon as I get it]

Backstory: She lived in Polvela, in Eastern Finland. Apparently there was an argument with some neighbour about noise levels, which escalated and got out of hand, she was destroying the door of the neighbour – and for this she ended up in a mental institution for 2 months. [for what reason?] She was forced into isolation, having her freedom taken away, having her right over what she takes inside her body taken away. She clearly articulated the reasons for why the forced ‘care’ she got wasn’t doing her any well – and as well stating that, in fact, it was harming her.

This is a letter she wrote to a friend while she was undergoing this ‘treatment’. It’s the last letter to this particular person. The friend didn’t become aware of the petition (her situation) until after her death.

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Click here to read a plain text version of the letter. Click here for the English translation [hasn’t arrived, I will put it here as soon as I get it]

It is painful today to read this toned down version of her suffering. No desperate calls for help, just short understatements and expressions of love and admiration.

This is not only ‘society’ or ‘family’ failing, but as well the self-chosen ‘community’ around her, where everyone is so busy changing the world – or coping with their own lives – that they forget [or: in denial or out of fear avoid] to care for one another. Trauma and un-healed aching wounds become a part of who and how we are, and interact. Each one by themselves, fending off the difficult relations around them, making space to lick the scars and oozing sores in solitude, where we don’t need to fight our loved ones. This self-protection works well for most of us, it makes the pain bearable. It’s only when it becomes acute that the flaws of this system come across. Everyone used to living with so much pain, that we’ve become numb to the needs in others. When someone has come to a point beyond self-‘healing’, where she no longer trusts that she’s worth any kindness, then staying in solitude has become a caging habit from where it’s hard to reach out for help – she’s come to the point where asking for help is too painful: And suicide has become the only plausible option. A way out from the pain. For some persons it comes slowly, for example through alcohol, drugs or self-starvation, for others it’s more direct.

Her death was nasty. A young woman in despair about the violence directed towards her. Leaving a letter in the house of her parents, describing the place where she would be found, and telling them not to feel guilty about her death, and then going to a spot in the forest — I don’t know what she did to herself, but — rather quietly ending her life, than wanting to disturb the living souls around her, too used to the response being more violence, denial or indifference to the hurt done.

I am with Juk on that we don’t have to wallow in guilt over her death (What if.. Could have.. Should have..) but I would, from her writings, like to carefully draw the lines of her hand reaching out to us, asking us to consider a change. We don’t have to act this way. There is no need for us to continue in the same way. There is a great need for us to try something different – to become just as intuitive, expressive, spontaneous, sincere and searching as she was. These traits that got her labeled ‘crazy’ in a truly sick mental ‘health’ system in need of some serious care. And the traits that got her labeled ‘fucking hippie’ and threatened with violence in the social center scene — When she tried to do something about it, and brought the problem to a house meeting, she was told that it was her personal problem. I don’t know about her other networks, but she’s clearly expressing in her letter that she has a need for respect and to be taken seriously, and that the places where she experiences to have these needs met are very few. She sees the need for creating a space like that.

There was nothing wrong with her. She thought out-of-the-box, different from the norm. She acted in a non-conformative way. She had a low self-esteem. She suffered from trauma and depression – as a lot of us do. The ‘medication’ (drugs) and isolation she received from the system made her worse. She longed for acceptance. She was in need of kindness and care [comforting] – what she received is clearly described in her self-written petition. She was sane enough to recognize that something wasn’t right – with exact words saying what she wanted and didn’t want, and how the ‘treatment’ was affecting her. Her suicide was a fairly normal response to the traumatic experiences she lived through this summer, in combination with not experiencing that there was any safe space for her to return to.

Her death is political on many levels. I refuse to turn this into a ‘one single disturbed individual’ issue. This concerns all of us. This post is dedicated to Kati / Ronja / Juk – the reason why I today say and think ‘she‘ differently. I noticed after her death that she had tried to get in touch with me two months before [fuck..] I didn’t get to talk with her or see her, so this is support expressed In loving memory.

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“The only dream worth having is to dream that you will live while
you are alive, and die only when you are dead. To love, to be loved.
To never forget your own insignificance. To never get used to the
unspeakable violence and vulgar disparity of the life around you.
To seek joy in the saddest places. To pursue beauty to its lair.
To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple.
To respect strength, never power. Above all to watch. To try and understand.
To never look away. And never, never to forget.”
– Arundhati Roy

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Song: Keep On Livin’ – Le Tigre

If you’re thinking of Suicide / What can I do to help?

Mental Health Matters. Activist Trauma Support

Online resources in Finland. Violence against women: Family, Community, Society

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Some of Juk’s writings / thoughts / expression:

http://piiri.nettisivu.org/

http://ronjanpolku.blogspot.com/

http://savagemeetskeypad.blogspot.com/

http://www.silmatlaulavathiljaisuuden.blogspot.com/

More persons writing about her here:

http://jukvanska.tumblr.com/post/1598880128/memorial-page

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Comparing her last letter with a card she wrote to a friend before she started getting ‘treatment’. Front covered with writings in black. On the back, many layers of writing, in different colors [some of it is really light, and doesn’t show in the scanned version], bubbling, bursting with thoughts and feelings, asking herself “Wonder if I write any different than I speak?”. This was when she was Kati, and to answer that question I would, definitely, say that she wrote as she spoke. (Which makes reading the latter letter, disturbing)

From the card she wrote to a friend:

”WHATEVER WORDS I SAY

However far away

However long I stay

<The Cure>”

Love song

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The Thud Experiment and Modern Day Psychiatry:

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The Human Evasion
by Celia Green

  1. Sanity
  2. The Characteristics of Sanity
  3. The Genesis of Sanity
  4. The Society of the Sane
  5. How To Write Sane Books
  6. The Sane Person Talks of Existence
  7. The Sane Person Talks of God
  8. The Religion of Evasion
  9. The Philosophy of Evasion
  10. The Science of Evasion
  11. The Alternative to Sanity: What Would It Be Like?
  12. Christ
  13. Nietzsche
  14. Why The World Will Remain Sane
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7 Responses

  1. milla,
    hey it’s quin; wonder if you remember me — i’m the one who made the memorial for juk… i’ve also written a eulogy which is quite long, and i stopped short a bit because i was getting into the politics of things as you had, and it felt a bit abstract that i was writing about this so far away from everyone over there.
    i’m coming to helsinki in from the 2nd to 8th of december. if you want to see the eulogy i wrote, it’s on a password protected post on my blog — just give me an email at jadecricket at gmail dot com and i’ll give you the info…

    quin

  2. hyvä kirjoitus

  3. Thankyou for this insight into Ronjas life, joys and sufferings. Its painful to read how lonely she was or felt, in spite of having so many friends. Even if I was in the remote outer perifery of her life, only meeting her twice at Urvision, I always felt a strong attraction and connection to her strange beautiful spirit. I wish i would have been closer to give her a hug and support her.

  4. Yes, it is political, and it concerns all of us. As you say, we carefully build these comunities, but somehow we all to often forget to bring them fully to life, to make them be really supportive. I like very much the way you write about Ronja and else.

    “The sick individual finds himself at home with all other similarly sick individuals. The whole culture is geared to this kind of pathology. The result is that the average individual does not experience the separateness and isolation the fully schizophrenic person feels. He feels at ease among those who suffer from the same deformation; in fact, it is the fully sane person who feels isolated in the insane society — and he may suffer so much from the incapacity to communicate that it is he who may become psychotic.” – Eric Fromm, The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness (1973)

    • hello Laura,

      i appreciate the comments you’ve posted. i experience relief and support in the views you express and in the quote you chose.

      harmful social structures (‘cultural patterns, common behavioral patterns, deformations’) run through all groupings in society, and there is no way of ridding ourselves from our pain by simply pointing finger and either locking discussions / persons/ views in our out (put people in psychiatric wards, prisons, or exclude them, push them out from the family, community)

      i would like to talk about these things at a social center i was excluded from for 2 years, but i fear i dont have the energy for it. to once again go trhough a process of vilification and exclusion. i fear that the people involved in the project would not be capable of dealing with the fact that not dealing with the violence there was a contributing factor to ronja’s death.

      maybe later. if i at some point am more than 1, i will be able to bring the discussion there.

      thank you for sharing your thoughts.

      ❤ milla

      • Hi again Milla, and thankyou for your reply.
        I have also had experiences of being excluded from groups.
        It is a very harsh lesson, and can take a good part of ones trust in people and/or in groups.
        In my case, i´ve always have hadvery difficult to enter groups , to feel included…i´ve always feel an outsider, thinking others always find eachother and have more in common with eachother on an deeper level, than i ever manage to do.
        I know that it is not totaly truth, but on an emontional level, thats how i have found myself to be on most ocations when there is a group of people. May be the problem is myself, and my lack of trustfullness, my difficulties opening the doors.

        The lesson with the exclusion was harsh but also taught me a lot about my self , people in general and group dynamics. There are always people who are not able to stand for them self, that will do or say anything just to be able to stay in the supportive comfortzone of a group. They just are not able to be fully standalone individuals, and take individual stance. They are to afraid of the consequences of steping outside the group. Specially when they observe what happens to the ones that dare; sever punished, social exclusion, or as you say, plain vilification.

        And then there are people like us, that prefer to say their truths even knowing it has a price: pain and loneliness.

        One thing i´ve learnd is to let go, to say my thruth when i need to or when i think that it can make a difference, and then let go ..of people, of issues, of anything that tries to drag me down. Just let go and keep on walking.
        And also i´ve learned to sometimes shut my mouth, not to say anything, and let go. Some situations won´t improve by my saying.
        Anyway, the main reward is that i´ve learnd to be an individual, grown very strong and selfsufficent, and that Im better off alone than in bad company.
        And also that each hardness is really a lesson, when we dare to take it.

        Everything that needs to be handled will return to us along the way, and hopefully the situation or the people involved will have matured and grown in their capacity to handle difficult problems.
        So i think you are wise in your decision to let go for now, and instead using your force for creative and comforting things and relations, and letting your thoughts about this and (the others involved) grow and mature.
        The love you show for Ronja in this page honors both of you, and humbles me. Friendship can take so many forms, and is beyond death.
        kindly
        Laura

  5. Hei. Sain muutama päivä sitten tietää Ronjan kuolemasta. Viime päivät en ole pystynyt ajattelemaan oikein muuta. Kirjoitit hänestä hyvin.

    Luin myös sinun tekstejäsi täältä. Tunnut aika tuskaiselta ja puhut kuolemastakin. Ajattelin vaan kysyä, että onko kaikki hyvin?

    En muista, että oltaisiin ikinä tavattu, mutta jos haluat jutella niin tavoitat minut sähköpostilla osoitteesta: jesless ( at ) hushmail.com

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