Last month was Suicide Prevention Month. I neglected to post this back then because I was feeling raw, sad and angry myself, about the fact that (much more recently than I’d like), more than one of the people I love most in the world have considered suicide. I feared that because of this I would write something I’d regret later, consumed with panic and sadness.
But those people are still alive as I post this today. And that makes me incomparably happy.
I'm saddened to admit that in my 32 years on this earth I've had more than one friend tell me they wanted to die. Not in that melodramatic “kill me now!/arrrgh I wanted to die!” language that we all use when dramatizing the most inane of situations; but that they genuinely didn't want to live. I've known people who have gone further and attempted suicide, and even worse; those who were successful in those attempts. Every time my heart has broken a little bit more – not because it hurts to think of the grief losing someone would cause me (although that in itself is horrendous); but because I feel an utter failure as a friend. I've struggled to grasp how I haven’t seen someone sink so low, and felt powerless to stop it from escalating. My heart has broken for someone I love feeling so lost and hopeless that they can see no way out.
I know many people who consider suicide a selfish act. I probably have too, at one point or another in my youth, so I'm by no means saintly here. As a child I heard someone call it ‘attention seeking’ – I couldn't grasp that; how would they know they've gotten the attention they had craved after they are gone? Will whatever deity they believe in fill them in on how many people are grieving? Do they win some holy raffle if the act of ending their life has led to the outcome they wanted? What then? A slow hand clap at the pearly gates?
Everyone who wants to take their own life does so for their own reasons. I can’t begin to generalise and I would never make any sweeping judgements on their motives. But I certainly do worry that the belief that suicide is a selfish act is incredibly damaging, and shows a startling misunderstanding (and ignorance) of mental health issues. It only serves to insult the departed and I believe does more harm than it could possibly do good.
Don’t make someone’s anguish about you.
Personally I currently believe no problem is insurmountable. I know that may sound naïve (and it does). Because I don’t always feel that way, and I know how utterly overwhelming depression, pain, grief, sadness and hopelessness can feel. Right now, today, on a good health day, with a washing done, a shift under my belt and two cats to cuddle, I feel anything is achievable and that anything can be overcome.
But then I don’t feel depressed and hopeless right now.
That’s the mystery of life: no one feels one way all of the time. Things happen and they change people; sometimes for the better and sometimes, well not so much. My illness changed me and has left in a position where I’ll be forced to fight for my life until the day it ends. That has left me with a different outlook; sometimes negative but hopefully more positive. I want to live, and I want to be well. I appreciate I am not in control of the latter but I most certainly am, the former.
I myself am well aware I am but a tiny and insignificant speck on this massive floating ball we call a home. In the grand scheme of humanity I am a tiny ant. But not to some people. To some other tiny ants I am everything, and I somehow make their lives a little happier just by existing. How incredible is that?! We all hold the power to make another person happy just by being alive! There are ‘ants’ in my life that I love so dearly I could sob with excitement just to see their face after a long time apart, grin from ear to ear just being near them, laugh until I can’t breathe in their company and miss even when they have barely left my side. If we continue with my any analogy then these are the people I would never want to see crushed under someone’s muddy boot.
I don’t want to offer up any solutions to the horror that is suicide, because I am nowhere near qualified for that – and mainly because there are no one-fits-all answers. When you see someone you love struggling, reach out to help where you can. You have no idea how massive what you may feel a minor effort can be. If you don’t see them struggling; don’t torture yourself that you should have. We can’t always save those who don’t want to be saved. That’s not in any way OK by me, but its life. It can't consume yours.
The world is a horrifying, challenging, overwhelming and cold place at times, and kindness is a coat we don’t tend to wear often enough. Let’s help one another into it; one arm at a time.