There are some topics, taboo topics even, that are extremely difficult to speak of. They bring about emotions that are too intense and overwhelming. Or the subject matter is delicate and/or very unpleasant. In general, I think that’s why humans refrain from speaking of them to begin with… it’s just too hard and nobody wants to talk about things that are depressing or cause us or others to feel overwhelming emotions like grief or anger. Even worse, because people don’t like talking about tough topics, when it comes time to actually talk about stuff, nobody is really sure how to proceed.
So I’m just going to go ahead and talk about this now since it’s come up.
First- I have never had a loved one commit suicide. I cannot fathom what the aftermath of such an event would do to me emotionally. So my point of all this is not to speculate how I would feel should that happen, but just to talk about something that generally people hardly speak of unless absolutely necessary… or after it’s too late, perhaps.
For many years, my thoughts regarding suicide were largely that it was a selfish action. As someone who has struggled with depression nearly half my life, suicide was something that I thought about but never considered. I imagined it would be simply like going to sleep forever. And when in the midst of a crisis, emotional or otherwise, who wouldn’t want to just stop everything and sleep? Responsibility is hard. Life is hard. But at the end of the day, no matter how much pain I was in, I always felt that suicide would hurt my family and my friends more than I could ever understand. It wasn’t sleeping. It was dying. I knew that if I had chosen such an action, the suffering I was looking to escape would only be passed on to the people I love and compounded a hundred times over.
Recently, however, my opinion has morphed a little bit. I think that perhaps I’ve become a little bit more understanding. No, I’m certainly not condoning suicide as a viable way to end whatever pain a person is going through; I already mentioned the ripple effect that would have amongst family and friends. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’ve come to understand why some people choose to end their life. Selfish would not really be a word that I would currently use to describe a person who goes down that path. How am I supposed to understand what a person is feeling, emotionally or physically? I have never been to war, but I know some who have, and battling PTSD as a result of combat deployment might just be one of the worst things a man or woman can experience. What demons are they battling day in and day out? Are they struggling so badly that functioning at even a basic level is nearly impossible?? I don’t know and I will never know, but I certainly cannot judge a person for wanting to end unbearable suffering and be at peace.
And what about assisted suicide? The “right to die” law was on the ballot in Colorado during the last election and my vote was one of the ones that helped it to pass. How does one begin to comprehend the daily needs and battles being faced by people with a terminal illness? Should these people simply continue on living if their quality of life is deteriorating? If they can choose physician-assisted suicide and decide on “their terms” when the end should be, should my opinion, or anyone’s personal objection, really stand in their way??
There are two things that really made me decide to blog about this topic. The first time I thought about discussing it was after watching a series on Netflix called “Thirteen Reasons Why”. Before it was a series, it was a book and I read it well over a year ago. I liked it. What surprised me was that it was being considered as a series given its heavy subject matter (bullying, rape, suicide). The premise is a high school girl commits suicide, and then, using a set of cassette tapes, she explains why she made her choice and who she feels is responsible for contributing to her decision to end her own life. What surprised me even more was that I actually, for the first time in my life, liked a series MORE than I liked the book. Opinions differed significantly, and I found that while some people agreed that it was a great way to broach a difficult topic, there were others that were adamant they would NOT let their teens watch it because it could “trigger” them and that it glamorized suicide. The series was, in my opinion, well done and gave so much more perspective and insight into characters than the book was able to. (Well done, Netflix, well done.)
The second thing that sort of solidified my decision to blog about this topic was the recent death of musician Chris Cornell. According to preliminary findings, he died as a result of suicide-by-hanging. As a lifelong fan, the news was shocking to say the least. In the past, I’ve been sort of indifferent to celebrity deaths. As a culture, we make such a big deal about the deaths of famous strangers and we mourn them on social media every chance we can. As a culture, the majority also tend to ignore the deaths of public servants, like police officers and military personnel. It bothered me for a very long time and I was indignant toward those who didn’t see it my way. Again, my opinion has changed. Why? I guess, even though it’s sort of cliché, every person matters to someone. Just because I don’t love them doesn’t mean that they were wholly unloved. Just because they didn’t impact my life doesn’t mean that they failed to impact the lives of others. When I heard about Chris Cornell, as with other celebrities, I wondered how a man in his position could make such a choice. I guess I assume that when you’re famous, you’re living the life so many of us dream of. But then I laugh at myself and think how ridiculous that sounds. We certainly know that money can’t buy happiness. Just because a person is famous doesn’t mean their life is perfect. How often are famous people plagued by substance abuse problems? Scott Weiland dealt with drug addiction throughout his career before his overdose death in 2015. It doesn’t matter who we are or what we do, none of us are immune to mental health problems and the pressures of our lives.
So what is the message I’m trying to send here? Well, I really just felt like talking about this. Being silent about suicide doesn’t mean you will prevent suicides from occurring. Out of sight really doesn’t mean out of mind. Harsh judgments or statements also will not prevent that suicides from occurring. Saying that killing yourself will send you straight to hell is not an effective prevention method.
Maybe the message should be this…
If you need to talk, then let’s talk it out: no need to be ashamed, no need to be embarrassed, no need to feel like you’re being a burden. Saying that you’re struggling and scared isn’t being weak. Saying that you’re struggling and scared is being STRONG. I am here… Aquarian Gardens is here… Our community of nerdy book-loving weirdos is HERE… our hand is always extended toward you, don’t be afraid to reach out and grasp it.
“Flowers bloom in the darkest of places with the hope from the tiniest glimmer of light.” ~ Unknown