It came as a raw and vivid shock to me when one of the strongest people I have ever met informed me he was planning his suicidal. This man was my father; his relationship at the time with his ex-partner was deteriorating, they were living in bad poverty (along with my two half sisters), and he had no real social network to lean on. Thus, he had planned to get drunk, take a stroll along the cliffs of Peacehaven, and fall to his concrete grave to make the whole thing look like a tragic drunken accident. Luckily, one man managed to talk him out of it, and when I talk about this to people who know my father, the shock on their face is startling and they think I am telling them a horrible vile joke.
Suicide is something which cannot always be recognised, especially amongst those who appear intellectually powerful, strong minded, with the perception of being naturally happy. The chances are that most of us have known someone who has committed suicide; this could be a friend, a family member, acquaintance, or some peer who you shared the classroom or dorm with at school or University. The typical image of someone who is suicidal is someone who is continually depressed, always going on about how awful their life is; perhaps they are loners with little social interaction, or have a inability to form functional long (or short) term relationships.
It is true that the character I have described is probably a bad stereotype, but I would be more wary of those who seem to have extreme traits, whereby on the surface they appear head strong, professional, articulate, kind, social and fundamentally happy. However, when you get to know them, you soon start to see the crevices of despair, irrational emotion, and desperate loneliness and lack of self-confidence. Spotting this in a friend, loved one, colleague or peer can be surprising and hard to deal with because it clashes with our perception of what this person is really like. But there is the old cliché of ‘never judge a book by its cover’.
Feeling suicidal is one thing, and most people with severe or mild depression have most likely considered suicide at one point in their life. However, actually acting on this impulse is on a whole different level, and it is luckily a level which most people avoid. Though, as we all know, it is not always avoided, and the reaction of those who do commit suicide does not help the individuals who feel that life is not worth living.
I have heard people say that suicide is the most selfish and cowardly way to die; it shows no respect to your family or yourself. Furthermore, it traumatises the people who find you and have to clear up the mess, and it also represents a inherent weakness and cowardice. This pile of crap is revolting, and it shows a fundamental lack of empathy and understanding of the individual if you really believe that the individual is a selfish coward with no self-respect.
Imagine this: you wake up every day feeling complete and utter dread and anxiety; you do not quite know why you are feeling this way, but the dread is like a animal eating away at your stomach, causing your whole body to feel as if a alarm is physically rushing up and down your body. You have to go to class or work, and it is important (academically, professionally and socially) to create a image that everything is okay; you have to smile when your body feels like kneeling over and crumbling; you have to think sharp when all you want to do is crawl into a corner and cry; and you have to fight against the sheer exhaustion of fatigue and worry which is trying to consume your every thought. You thus inhibit all emotions, and lock them away to stew for weeks, months or years.
On top of this, family woes which have been feeding off your energy for years become a salient mess; because of your state of mind, you struggle with social settings which most find normal, thus casting you to believe your a strange inept freak. Relationships are hard to manage, and they usually break down when the emotions trap you into a electric insecurity which you find difficult to interpret and adapt to. At the end of the day, you go home with the same feeling in your stomach; that feeling of self-loathing, desperation, loneliness and despair. You slump against the wall holding your head tight, grasping your arms and just sit there in silence, hoping the silence numbs you into a calm which takes the pain away. Then there is the realisation that you will wake up the next morning with the same feeling and experience it all over again. Fuck it. Surely it is easier to just give up? Ultimately, its my fucking body, my fucking life, and its mine to do what I want with.
It is not being selfish when one takes their own life. It is not a desperate cry for attention. It is not a act of cowardice. It simply symbolises a individual who has lost their value in the intrinsic enjoyment of life, and the knowledge of eternal calm and non-existence becomes a very inviting gift, since you know that everything will be gone from your mind, since your mind cease to exist. This gift can be very appealing to some, since there is no greater prison then being trapped within your own head.
Ultimately, those who are close to committing suicide and feel desperate and lonely, then I plead to you to talk to someone. This statement is another cliché, but just like my father, it can only take one person to change everything. And life really is worth living; the most positive and beautiful experiences are worth fighting for. Those of you who may know someone who is close or contemplating suicide, then please do not use the argument that they are ‘selfish’ and ‘cowardly’ – this will only encourage them and bring further proof for why suicide is the only option. Instead, other your support, and prove to them that life is worth living. Since things can always get better, and that is the beauty of life. The unknown can be beautiful, because if it isn’t, then what is the point in it all?