Today I am grateful that I am here. Alive, breathing.
Today someone else is not.
Today someone is not here.
Yesterday someone lost a loved one, a husband, a wife, a father, a mother, a brother, a sister, a son a daughter, a friend.
Yesterday someone lost their willingness to live.
I usually avoid difficult conversations like the proverbial plague. I particularly avoid the subject of death.
I am afraid of death, of dying, and of loved ones around me succumbing to its clutches. But when it comes to someone taking their own life, this finds a place so deep inside me and emanates such sorrow, hurt, despair and empathy that it is only overshadowed by my own fears of falling to such depths that there is no one left to reach out to, no more words to say, no more joy to feel, no more breath to draw.
That fear for myself and fear that this could happen to my own son one day compelled me to have a talk with him. My 8 year old. If I am honest, it was perhaps a conversation I needed to say out loud for myself too.
The subject of depression and suicide is admittedly a topic that traditionally we try to steer away from broaching, especially with children, but in that moment a thousand thoughts, scenarios, parenting advice books, blogs and articles scanned across my conscience. I analysed outcomes and effects in a split second and before I could double-guess myself decided to speak.
The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
The sickness rolled through me in great waves. After each wave it would fade away and leave me limp as a wet leaf and shivering all over and then I would feel it rising up in me again, and the glittering white torture chamber tiles under my feet and over my head and all four sides closed in and squeezed me to pieces.
I sat down with Aiden and explained to him in easy, simple words that uncle Ken took his own life. He is no longer with us. I explained that he was hurting so badly and so sad that he thought not being alive was the only way to stop the hurt. That it was like an injury where his head and heart felt sore instead of a leg or a tummy ache. That sometimes people feel sad-sad without knowing why they feel like that. (Sad-sad is Aiden’s own phrase he has used in the past. The therapist said his insight into his own feelings is highlighted by the fact that he refers to it twice. It’s not just sad. The sadness is sad. I.e the very low.) They just do, and think the sadness is them as opposed to to a feeling they can easily change to happy-happy (another of his phrases also indicative of the insight and polar opposite to sad-sad) and so and they can’t see any other way to feel to better than to not live because they are the sadness. He sat for a moment taking it all in and then only had one question. Most people ask “Why did he kill himself?”
The only question he had was “Why did he WANT to die?”
I couldn’t answer.
All I could offer him was a promise that there is no situation ever, ever, on this earth where he can’t reach out to me. Talk to me. Confide in me. That it’s OKAY to ask for help. It’s OKAY to feel sad-sad at times and to talk about it. I’ll always listen. I’ll always care. I’ll always love him. And he not only has me, he is surrounded by loved ones who care and love him. Always. And I will keep repeating it. And my actions and words will confirm this. Always.
Why would someone want to commit suicide? After all, the act is intentional. We assume they have taken the easy way out or are being selfish. However, the question is almost impossible to answer if you are of sound mind with no depression eating away at your self esteem, your confidence, your joy, your soul…… like cancer. There is no answer to that question that makes any sense if you have never met the dark, dense, debilitating heaviness of depression.
Just like venom from a snake bite slowly works its way through the body, causing difficulty breathing, pain, nausea, blurred vision, paralysis, and if medical treatment is not sought, could result in death. Depression descends on its victim, slowly, quietly, often without notice or obvious symptoms. It takes control and renders you unable to think and reason rationally, which leads to irrational thoughts, which leads to irrational actions, lasting for weeks or months at at time, and if treatment is not sought, could result in taking one’s own………
The different between a Black Mamba bite and depression, apart from no bite marks?
The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
I couldn’t get myself to react. I felt very still and very empty, the way the eye of a tornado must feel, moving dully along in the middle of the surrounding hullabaloo
Depression and suicide feel as if they run rife in my family, and there is evidence that genetics certainly play a role, among other various factors . I have made a conscious intentional decision to create awareness by including it in my vocabulary and discussing it openly and honestly. Speaking of honesty, I’ll rephrase that, and rather confess that I am beginning to make a concerted effort to do so. I am learning to not sweep it under the carpet thereby create a stigma about it. It is not a weakness. It is not a character flaw. It does not define a person. It is more than just feeling sad. It is more than simply not being happy.
This “temporary problem” needs to be re-framed as an infliction, an illness, a disease, that requires understanding, acceptance and support. Because if left untreated it can be terminal and devastating to those left behind, trying to piece together answers they will never find.
Suicide is the end point of many depressions, but there are plenty of people who, though acutely depressed, do not become suicidal. Committing suicide requires a mix of depression and impulsivity; so much of depression is passive and meek and deactivating. The pain may be intolerable, but the prospect of doing anything as deliberate as suicide is overwhelming.Article : The Lure of a Birthright – Andrew Solomon March 24th, 2009
To Ken, and others who have succumbed at the hands of this debilitating disease…
I hope you have found peace and joy and love.
I hope your mind is clear.
I hope your heart is full.
I hope your soul is free.
Image Noir Rose courtesy of Obipixel