So we've all seen the news about Robin Williams right? Across social media there was an outpouring of grief and reminiscence. There were some people complaining that there were more important things happening across the world and the media should focus on those. All in all it was a standard reaction to a celebrity death. Apart from one thing.
A bit harsh right? But it is a common reaction to suicide. It irritates me every time I hear it and I'm going to try and explain why.
A view from the outside.
In my first year of university one of the girls I worked with took her own life. She was a bubbly wonderful person who I never saw look sad. I was going on holiday that summer with her, her sister and another of our colleagues. We were going to share a room. we had plans. Instead she took an overdose, did not die, was sent home from the hospital and took a 2nd overdose. She didn't mess it up that time.
We were devastated. The restaurant were really good with us and allowed us to drop shifts etc. A lot of time was spent in the pub trying to make sense of it all. It came out of nowhere. We cried and we laughed and we grieved. But at no point did we accuse her of being selfish. Our pain must have been nothing in comparison to hers.
A view from the inside.
The first time I made any allusions to my own death I would have been 11 or 12. I was walking down a corridor at school. It was deserted. A teacher approached and looked at me. "Who died?" they asked. "Me." I responded as I kept walking.
Anyone who has read my blog before knows I self harmed for years. During most of those years I thought about killing myself on an off. It wasn't a constant thought. It would just occur occasionally. Always it was rebuffed because I knew that it would hurt my parents too much. This went on for 9 or 10 years. it went on through the suicide of my friend. Finally at 21 I had reached my limit. The desire to stop hurting outweighed my desire to not hurt my loved ones. A decade of fighting was enough I thought. Fortunately for me I failed. I was referred to a local women's centre for counselling as the waiting list for psychologists was 2 years. I never got that counselling but I did get one meeting. At this meeting I told them that I felt awful for feeling like I did. I had no right. Nothing truly bad had ever happened to me. What right did I have to feel like this? They told me that I needed to let that thought go. That it wasn't a case of comparing. It took me another 3 years to even understand what that meant.
So I've never been diagnosed with depression. I have no clinical record. All my medical records state is self harmer. I've never had counselling or therapy. I've never had Prozac or anything like that. But I have fought since I was a child against the bad feelings. They still appear out of nowhere. But I have better shields now.
Am I selfish? Was giving up a selfish act? Or are the people that expect someone who is in pain to carry on begin in pain because if they leave it will hurt them begin selfish?
People want to fix their loved ones. It's hard to be on the outside of someone who is suffering. We want to know why. We want to find a solution. We want to make it better. The sad truth is we can't. Why is a question that will never be answered. What seems like an easy and obvious solution to you is not going to fix the pain your loved one is feeling. Someone can have all the wonderful things they can imagine and still be depressed. Depression does not discriminate and it lies in the most persuasive ways.
So do I think suicide is selfish? Yes I do. I think it is the most selfish act a person can commit. However I don't see this as wrong. Your life is your own, to do with as you wish. if you wish is to check out then that is up to you. It is your right to choose. I just hope that you don't chose that. I hope that you fight and fight until you find your way through. I hope you discover your worth. I hope that you are happy. I hope that you can focus on the times when you are happy to get you through the dark times.
I'm happy to see people talking about depression. It, and other mental illnesses, are poorly understood and often ignored. It's just really sad that people have to die for us to get talking about it. It's also really sad that it is the people who want to talk about it the least that are having to guide these conversations. If you are trying to have a conversation with a sufferer please have patience. I can guarantee that you will not leave the conversation understanng either depression or how they feel. But you will leave it knowing more than you know now. Hopefully you will leave it with a greater understanding of compassion.