“Suicide is painless. It brings on many changes. And I can take or leave it if I please.”
Remember those lyrics to the M*A*S*H theme song? Well, it wasn’t sung in the opening of the show, but I had the sheet music when I was 9 to play on the piano. I thought those words were so odd to me at that age. What on earth could be painless about killing yourself?
But I’ve learned in my adult years, that to the person who commits suicide, the pain of living is greater than the act of death. Hard to comprehend, I know.
There’s been much talk about suicide after Robin Williams’ death on Monday. Many bloggers have written about the topic. Some with stupidity and ignorance that makes me cringe, and some with understanding, poignancy and heart that reaches out to those who might be in a dark place.
I’m not writing this as click-bait. I’m sort of jumping on the bandwagon, I suppose. But I want to keep the dialogue going. And I want to offer my comfort and love to those suffering among the living.
Not the depressed ones, no. The survivors of someone they love that has committed suicide. This post is for them. I know a few, sadly. And what I’ve been reading and hearing on the Internet and social media makes my heart break for them. Because it’s no one’s place to judge or condemn their loved one for something that person did. Albeit final, permanent and devastating, but not their place to judge. No.
The stages of grief are first Denial and then Anger. I think some people dwell in the stage of Anger longer than is appropriate.
Can you imagine your mother or husband taking their own life? Leaving you behind to grow up alone with your sisters, or raise children without a partner? I can’t either. I do feel angry for those left behind. I could scream on their behalf. But I’m not the one living it. It’s not my place to judge.
But I know people that are living this. And I want to tell them that there is no shame. The pain of that family member was so great, so confounding that no one can understand. And it isn’t anyone’s right or place to tell them what ‘choice’ (not my words) they made. They were sick. Sure it wasn’t cancer, but they were sick. And it’s not my place to judge.
The mind’s chemistry is still a mystery. But we have come many strides in science to know that there are chemicals the body needs to function. Just like insulin or oxygen, we need a balance. And when that balance is off, things can go haywire.
How horrible that Sarah goes to school ashamed she has no father because he killed himself over the summer when he lost his battle with Bipolar Disorder. But Sally’s mom passed away from cancer and everyone is making her cards and offering help. But Sarah’s mom and siblings don’t talk about their loss. They’re too ashamed. Everyone says, “How could he do such a thing? How could he leave his family like that?”
He didn’t rob a bank. He didn’t gun down a school. He was sick. Just like Sally’s mom. He was sick. And the flames of pain and darkness burned too hot. It’s not our place to judge.
I can’t say it better than David Foster Wallace:
“The so-called ‘psychotically depressed’ person who tries to kill herself doesn’t do so out of quote ‘hopelessness’ or any abstract conviction that life’s assets and debits do not square. And surely not because death seems suddenly appealing. The person in whom Its invisible agony reaches a certain unendurable level will kill herself the same way a trapped person will eventually jump from the window of a burning high-rise. Make no mistake about people who leap from burning windows. Their terror of falling from a great height is still just as great as it would be for you or me standing speculatively at the same window just checking out the view; i.e. the fear of falling remains a constant. The variable here is the other terror, the fire’s flames: when the flames get close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors. It’s not desiring the fall; it’s terror of the flames. And yet nobody down on the sidewalk, looking up and yelling ‘Don’t!’ and ‘Hang on!’, can understand the jump. Not really. You’d have to have personally been trapped and felt flames to really understand a terror way beyond falling.”
I feel so unqualified to even broach this topic. But battling depression myself, knowing a friend who sought help to keep from attempting suicide, and the dear loved ones of friends and family that I know who are survivors of suicide; I can only offer my words as a salve. A balm to their wounds that might wear off temporarily, but hopefully will be felt at a time of need. It’s not my place to judge. And it’s not yours either.