The final decision
Life is about the moment, keep that in mind when I ask: Where do we find the balance between honesty - the 'real', and triggering, or just too much?
Today has been interlaced with headlines; most, ill-considered and ignorant. Many discompassionate, and all horribly familiar. I'm sure there will be thousands of blogs about Robin Williams' death, and rightly so - he was a staple of my childhood and someone who symbolised emotive humour that appealed as much to me when I was a child as it did in adulthood. In recent years I'd particularly loved seeing him playing Zelda with his daughter in a TV ad - a place normally reserved for trivial capitalistic shit, but in his case transformed into a deeply heartfelt message. I could identify completely with his tender, yet funny explanation of his daughter's naming. I wanted to know him as a friend; to realise that sentiment. None of that has changed, even though he ended his life. But I have an ulterior motive.
I want to talk about suicide. I want to tell you, dear reader, about exactly how it feels to stand on the edge of a black hole that lasts forever. I long to tell you in fact. But I'm also petrified to appear to encourage you to empathise, because to empathise might be to stand beside me, at the edge. And therein lies the drama, and the dilemma.
I no longer remember the first time the thought entered my head. I was a teenager, a bullied teenager, with a less than perfect life at home. That much you may already know if you've read my previous posts. I was painfully aware that my struggles not only caused others pain, but also for some a near breakdown - especially my mother, who was more similar to me than I could fathom at the time. I have only one regret in my life thus far, and that is that I didn't make things completely right with her after what can only be described as an extremely stressful period in both our lives. I couldn't have known that for her, it was the last part, but I still think about it every day. I'm not a regretful person at all - I don't see any point in mulling over past mistakes, but this is one thing I would give anything to change.
For me, my self harm was a way to deal with my thoughts of suicide. It was a tool - it was my 'suicide-lite'. Please note I say 'for me'. I don't imagine for even a second that anyone else feels that way, and I'm not belittling self harm, or in any way saying it's linked to/it leads to/it's on a par with/etc suicide. Through my self harm, I escaped just long enough to draw my attention away from the edge. To repeat, I am not for one second suggesting that self harm and suicide are linked. For some, they are. For most, they're definitely not. Self harm is often a coping mechanism; it isn't a cry for help, and it most certainly isn't an attempt at suicide. It was enough to keep me alive at times. It made me feel. I still miss it and I'm not sure I'll ever be free from the thought of doing it, or from the memory of the comfort it gave me. It was at the times where I stopped feeling that I contemplated what I thought would be the ultimate escape. Those were the times when I thought that my only option was not to be here anymore.
I'm not ashamed to talk about it, my only concern is that I may be judged for writing about it despite not having made a 'proper attempt'. Of course I'm aware of the level of paranoia in evidence in that sentence. Many of us stand on the ledge at some point. Each time I stand on the platform waiting for a train I fear being witness to someone acting on impulse - and I fear my own impulses.
I remember a dear friend once saying to me: 'Sometimes death is the only release from a lifetime of suffering'. There are parallels between this, and recent cases of assisted dying that have made us all shift around in our seats uncomfortably, wondering whether we agree that a person should have the choice to die and end their pain. After all, we put down our pets when they're suffering. But the difference here is that what can feel like a terminal illness, a lifetime of suffering, a blackened shroud over our lives and the lives of our loved ones, can actually be treated. All too often help doesn't come when it's needed, or it comes with conditions.
Suicide is not 'the coward's way out'. I could write an essay just about that ridiculous statement. Nobody chooses to feel they have nothing left to live for. That makes absolutely no sense. We all like to think that everything we do contributes to the lives of others - our family, friends, colleagues - and in the moment we may feel like what we're contributing isn't what we'd imagined or built ourselves up for. That doesn't mean we're doing it wrong,
I heard a young woman talking about Robin's death at work yesterday. I held my tongue whilst she suggested that he 'had access to all the treatment he needed' and so he should've thought of his family. Let us briefly pick that sentence apart; firstly, treatment for depression is EXACTLY THE SAME as treatment for any physical illness, in that a cure is not guaranteed and it's not a 'one size fits all'. It's also exactly the same as any other illness, in that no one treatment works for everyone. Secondly, mental illness does not discriminate - you may have all the money in the world, all the notoriety, all the fame, but we're all reduced to flesh and blood eventually. Thirdly, mental illness, just like any other illness, can be resistant to treatment. It's a huge credit to Robin that he battled this far.
I'm an ardent atheist. I believe I have one life, one body, one chance to live. I've previously been religious (during times of uncertainty or upheaval when I was seeking comfort and somewhere to belong) and I make a concerted effort to be as tolerant as I can be, but I no longer feel I need any higher power in order to find meaning in my life and if ,like me, you struggle to grasp that meaning, you might understandably wonder how you may fare when you strip it back to the basics. But I'll talk more about that another time.
If just one thing comes out of me plastering my innermost secrets across the internet, I hope it's that somebody seeking an escape from the feeling of despair and inexplicable emptiness
that often comes just before those thoughts of finding a permanent way out finds an alternative. There are support services ready to listen 24 hours a day. They will understand.
To end, I want to at least try to communicate the other side of suicide. The side where those who become overwhelmed by their condition are simply seeking relief, seeking to relieve their family and friends of pain, to relieve themselves of the pain. We all employ escapism.
I know some cowards. They're nothing like Robin was.