On March 15, 1999 my maternal grandmother died by way of self-inflicted asphyxiation. She was 80-something or other and she was done. It was ruled a suicide due to the obviousness of the plastic bag, the pills and the nicely composed note left on the coffee table next to the living room sofa where she also nicely composed herself with as much dignity as possible. Being once removed (not her daughter, her grand daughter) and having grown up hearing exactly how she felt about nursing homes and the hopelessness of helplessness and exactly what she intended to do about it (without detail) I wasn't surprised, shocked or particularly unhappy and most importantly I didn't think anything was wrong with this picture.
I didn't think she'd done anything wrong. I didn't think she was sick. I didn't think she'd lost the battle with... (fill in the blank). I just thought she got old and died the way people do get old and die. The difference was she chose the way and the time.
Fast forward quite a few years and I'd walked my 19 year old son into a therapist's office where, given the over 18 business I no longer had any control of the situation much less anything to say about anything, he proceeded to answer a series of questions about family history and came out of there very clear that there was significant depression on the maternal side of the family not to mention some serious denial.
I was a bit more than taken aback but then we hide and or powder the corpses around here too, don't we?
In any event, my grandmother was done and that was that. Perhaps I am alone in my belief that she was simply very brave. But somehow I doubt it.
Someone I have a great deal of respect for once told me that suicide was one of the greatest forms of taking or one of the most selfish acts you could possibly commit. Chew that for a minute.... I think the statement was designed to jar us out of our belief that the world revolved around us and or that maybe we didn't matter or maybe didn't make a difference.
There was a time when I used to count down the years. Somehow I picked 20. I had to make it until Elizabeth was 20 and then she wouldn't need me as much. She'd be OK. And when it was really bad, I'd look at Numbah One Son and think long and hard about how he'd do as a role model with his sisters if there was enough insurance money and then I'd remember there wasn't any insurance if you offed yourself.
I am happy to have more life in front of me but I will tell you that if my circumstances had not changed I can easily imagine taking a look at my life one day and saying simply this:
This is what I want people to understand. Game Over is what happens when your life is over. It's what happens when you're 102 and you die in your sleep. It's what happens when you get hit by a bus at 36. It's what happens when you drink yourself to death or burn up in a house fire or accidentally take one too many of those happy pills. Game Over is what happens when the chemistry in your brain zigs left instead of right one too many times and that final left zig is just a wee bit much and it's Game Over and HERE, HERE is where I get just a wee bit upset. Or bothered.
It's not necessarily a battle, people. It's no more a battle than it is a battle with that bus or those pills you're playing with or with life when you die at 102. It. IS. YOUR. LIFE. It is the way it is.
Here's my favorite. Ready?
Suicide is... A long term solution for a short term problem.
And fuck anybody who ever told anybody to get off their meds and try something else. And I mean that. I so so so truly mean that. The righteousness is astonishing.
Also, for those of you who would suggest that maybe somebody ought to have been on their meds, perhaps if the meds were working...? I can nearly promise you, if the meds were working, they'd have been taking them.
Or maybe if they weren't alone, or if someone was listening, or just so, so, so many things.
The choice to end your life is profound. I don't believe for a minute that it is necessarily the loss of a battle. I believe it is the end of your life.
I wish to live a long, long life but I know one thing and it is this:
When I look out in front of me and I see possibilities that don't look very good; possibilities of significant slippage without any way out, I think of my grandmother and I am aware that I have choices.
A wonderful thing happened on the interwebs yesterday. OK, it happened on Facebook, I'm not sure what was happening elsewhere although I suspect. My feed and possibly a lot of other feeds was completely overrun by the news of Robin Williams' death. Within about 20 minutes the feed went from shock to tribute and for a couple of hours there was absolutely nothing else going on. No Hamas, no Israel, on ISIS, no US politics, no kitten videos, no raging feminist rants, no upworthy posts, no OHMYGOD YOU WON'T BELIEVE THIS videos. Nothing.
Today we're talking about suicide. I'd rather not but here I am anyway suggesting that you consider this. His life is simply over because it was time. Death and what leads up to death is often, by the way, astonishingly painful.
Oh, and one other thing I'd like to address before I get to the piece that matters most to me is this: there is some talk about battling depression caused by alcoholism. Personally, I think that's a load of crap. Alcoholism, or the use of alcohol or drugs is something called self medication which is what many of us do to deal with the crap going on inside us that we haven't managed to handle. In other words, idiots, it's the other way around. I'm not condoning self-medication; I'm pointing it out.
So my favorite movie is Dead Poet's Society and there is a suicide in this film. It is horribly painful to be young and something you're not supposed to be and not be able to find a way out. That also, is not a temporary problem. In the mind of the student, it was most assuredly too much, too much. We remember the quote, oh captain, my captain from the film because we remember the boys on their desks at the end but how many of us actually understand or remember the entire poem? This is so, so important. We post sound bites and we never get to the root or grit of a thing anymore. Nobody reads.
O Captain! My Captain!
BY WALT WHITMAN