I’ve often asked my friends what they think: Is suicide cowardly or brave?
I have gotten varying responses. Once, seemingly without a thought, an old high school friend snapped, “selfish.” I have thought a lot about that.
I used to think it was the bravest thing to do — to take yourself out. I thought that only those with real GUTS could be so bold as to risk missing out on something really great that might happen if they stuck around through the terrible parts. In my opinion it was the brave who saw the shit and took care of it courageously by getting out of the way. In this way too, I thought, suicide was almost a considerate gesture. If you don’t want to be here, get out of the way and let those who want to be here, take the reigns. Suicide makes room for the cowards to live if they wanted to do such a miserable thing, was how I sussed it.
In this mode of thought, I used to silently curse my mother for being so incredibly selfish as to have brought me into a world in which I would encounter pain and suffering; hell, in which I continue to encounter pain. What was the point of having children except self-serving satisfaction or sadism? These, I thought, were not valid reasons for conceiving, carrying, and bearing a child. In silent ways, by hardening to her emotionally, by pushing her away with cruel words, I took out my resentful wrath on my mother… not sperm-carrying Dad. I suppose my unanalysed thought was that she was in my life so much more than he, it just had to be all her doing.
My attitude about suicide changed, though.
It was instantaneous.
In my now memory, I recall sitting in twilight on my bed in New York City having taken the second or third dose of a prescribed, mild anti-depressant. And I felt bad. I felt terrible. I had been in a depression for at least a year. My ability to do was highly impaired. I was morbid and morose and unable to consistently rouse inside myself desire, satisfaction, contentment, or peace.
A day or two previously, in a severe build up of frustration, rage, disappointment, disillusionment, and sadness, I had gone to a jilting boyfriend’s house and beaten the living shit out of him while he willingly reciprocated. But that’s another story; a story that keeps me on the edge of my breath when I tell it. But it is a long story and only relevant here as background.
Beating up my boyfriend was my most blatant acting out which is what pushed the shrink over the edge and motivated him to prescribe for me the antidepressant I had recently swallowed before sitting on the bed contemplating suicide. At dusk, facing south sometime in the winter in my mother’s apartment on the eleventh floor, I stared at the window.
I contemplated, wondered, and seriously considered. I felt myself preparing.
And when the squirmy and barely see-able, mirage-like self-observation, which had slithered without my knowing into my thoughts, whispered to me suddenly, I awoke. I, or part of the I that is me, was planning to jump out the window while my mother and her friends were in the other room, laughing and talking softly about some distant fluffy nothing.
I suffered in a manner in a way that seems impossible to describe now, or ever. If one has not felt the crippling self-pity, self-hate, worthlessness, inner bruising, and desperation of depression, one has not felt it. At that time, in my middle of my twenties, I had no idea what it felt like to bear a child, have my legs sawed off, or pilot a plane. And until I felt those things, like depression, I could not not know them.
Yes, certainly. Depression, and other things, can be detailed, but it never seems sufficient. Never really captures it. Or maybe it does.
I don’t know….
Somehow, sitting plainly on that bed, looking south, I gave myself over to the thoughts completely; let them have me. I let my panicked thoughts’ grip on me finish their gripping… allowed them to settle in and make themselves at home… and then, surprisingly, they let go.
That moment burned into my memory as the turning point of my recovery. And that moment, when I felt myself prepare to do what I had deemed “courageous,” is where I mark the start of my obliteration of suicide as a viable option for me in times of trouble.
My depression lifted; slowly, gradually. It seemed interminable. After the window incident, it was a year before I felt consistency in my ability to tolerate living. And a year or two or three after that even, until I felt myself cope better and more reliably. The shrink diagnosed a lifelong, chronic depression that would require vigilance and hard work to stay ahead of. He had taken note of it; said it resurfaced especially before and during menstruation.
I am terrified of paralyzing myself with depression again. I watch it like a hawk; don’t invite it in, and take preventative measures. I call friends, visit family, write about it, cry, read a book of inspiration, fly into a rage, or zone out on the computer or with the television.
I don’t know if, like the shrink said, this depression is a long-term situation or if it is what makes me Me. If it is long-term and chronic, then each time I experience and extract myself from the oncoming minivan of depression, it is practice for the next, potential dive down into the muck. Sliding into depression, working it through, and scrambling out is what I must do to be readier for the next round. And if it is simply an acute, short-term pitch into the black, and isn’t my nature or my personality, or my fate, then maybe all the practice I’ve had with depression can be chalked up to the joyous adventure of my life as a human.