A few weeks ago was Suicide Prevention Week. It got me thinking. A lot. I don’t actually have a problem with suicide. I think that, in some cases, it’s a legitimate decision for someone to take their life and start all over again, somehow. I have no idea what happens to us – our spirits, souls or whatever the hell it is that makes us US – when we die but I’m pretty sure we don’t just disappear. In any case, who is anyone else to assess the legitimacy of what someone wants to do with their own life anyway?
Now, I’m not saying that we should be encouraging people to off themselves or that we shouldn’t try to prevent suicide. I don’t think it’s the BEST option in most cases and I think that most people have it within themselves to cope with whatever happens to them, somehow. And if someone has dependants, I think they have a responsibility to be around for the people that depend on them and to do everything in their power to be fully there. But if someone has no dependants and chooses to not live with whatever pain they have to deal with, who am I to judge?
Now, the other thing that was on my mind with regards to suicide prevention is . . .what happens when a suicide has been prevented? It’s only the physical suicide that has been prevented. If a person got to that point, chances are they are already emotionally dead. Or maybe I’m projecting . . .
I came frighteningly close to suicide when I was 23. I was in an abusive relationship. I had lost my dad 3 years before and a baby 2 years before. I was an alcoholic. I had a crappy gas station job and I couldn’t make ends meet. I had forgotten my reasons for being in university. Everything seemed so futile.
So I decided on a method (sleep pills and a plastic bag over my head) and a date. I did what I thought would be my last night shift at the gas station. This was in the spring and at around 4:30AM, the sky would be absolutely gorgeous . . .a perfect shade of blue. Every morning, I used to put on “Don’t Fear the Reaper” at exactly that time and just watch the sky.
That morning, as I was watching what I thought would be my last sunrise, serene and content, I thought that I should write my mom a note. Then I wondered how I could possibly explain it to her in a way that wouldn’t kill her heart. I knew that I couldn’t. And since I can’t deal with causing pain, I decided to keep trudging along for one more day and think about it a bit more.
Days went by, turning into weeks, then years. Things turned around. I left the abuser and moved in with someone who wasn’t abusive. I graduated and got accepted into an M.A. programme. I still wasn’t happy . . . that would come. I spent time in Northern Quebec doing fieldwork and learned values that I never learned elsewhere. I experienced nature in a way that I hadn’t elsewhere. I met someone who became a mentor in the art of overcoming difficulties and coming out laughing. I had a beautiful child.
4 years ago, I left the father and began to learn what it was to be autonomous and self-reliant. It’s been one of the toughest periods of my life in which I’ve had to question everything about my self, down to the very fundamental elements of who I am and what I’m made of.
2 years ago, when I was 33, I realised it had been 10 years since I had contemplated suicide. I also realised that I was happy. Without even noticing it, and in the midst of difficult angst-ridden times, I had become a fundamentally happy person. I had become alive in ways that I hadn’t been for a long time. I could feel. I could act. I could be me. I could be in touch with the world around me. I was living and I was so busy doing it that I didn’t have time to think about the value of it.
And it was then that I realised that making the decision not to kill oneself is only one step toward living.