Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A Personal Choice? Suicide.

I had this discussion yesterday with a friend. It's a subject, suicide, that I know well. My husband, the father of my children, the only man I was ever married to, took his life thirty-one years ago today. Usually the year passes and I don't think about it much. After all, thirty-one years is a very long time.

But, because of the discussion yesterday and the fact that this subject is so taboo, I decided today to write about it. My friend said yesterday that I'm the "queen of the upbeat". Aah, yes, but that has been a choice. I've been to the other side and the upbeat one is a much easier way to live.

I find it interesting how many people's lives have been touched by suicide - a parent, a sibling, or a good friend or relative who left from suicide. Yet, the subject never comes up unless they know that you too have been touched by it. It is such an undiscussed subject. Sadly. It's as if it is a "dirty" subject - something that sex used to be eons ago. And yet, I wonder, if it didn't have such a stigma attached to it if more people couldn't be saved?

In my husband's case, he had been abused continuously as a child by a step father. I had never encountered anything like his demons. I was 19 to his 20 when we met. I loved him and thought loving someone could make them well. As the years went by, professional help was tried, but, to no avail. Very sad.

When he died no one wanted to reminisce about his life, his humor, his kindnesses or anything else. So, I kept it to myself, except with the three children that were left behind. Those conversations were tenative at first, but now I share all kinds of tender and funny stories with them as well as they do with me. Time does heal.

The photo above was taken by my mother-in-law at the beach in Biloxi. I never saw the photo until 2004 when Jennifer had found it in her grandmother's possessions and had it blown up and had it hanging in her kitchen on the wall. I seldom cry, but when I saw it I burst into tears. Not out of sadness, but for the fact that she took a photo of such a beautiful day and wanted to have it around to remember. Aaah, those innocent times - I at 22 - he at 23. Thankfully, we cannot see the future.

So, the discussion yesterday was about ill health and "checking out" which was the phrase used yesterday. Hmm. I have to admit I sure wouldn't want to linger for years with some horribly debilitating disease. So, when is suicide a personal choice and when is it just NOT something that you should do, because of those left behind? Or is everyone's life their own business and everyone has the right...............When is a personal choice..........selfish?

11 comments:

Steve Cotton said...

None of can see the future. But you said it yourself, we make choices in how we live our lives -- within the limitations of our conditions and conditioniung. The only choice is whether circumstanmces master us or we choose to live within the circumstance.

And I think that is why we are so reluctant to discuss suicide. We all have a primordal fear that our circumstances are going to so override our free will that we see no options in life.

I have a good friend who constantly fights the Black Dog. He has persevered this far, but I worry for him daily.

Calypso said...

Babs - I would say personal choice is selfish when it doesn't include consideration for others as they might relate to those choices.

zannie said...

As with many other things that are illegal, I think the danger from it would be lessened if it were legal.

If people who had reached that point had a place to go where they could receive some sort of "end of life services" without the fear of being locked up, those very services could be focused primarily on preventing suicide, and secondarily on making preparations for it. Even the preparations would be in the interest of preventing it because it would show just what an impact their death would have on the people around them. If it became a family decision rather than a personal decision, I imagine in the vast majority of cases the decision would be "no." Not counting people suffering from terminal illnesses, at any rate. In those situations, I think it is cruel to force people to go on living a life of pain, and to force their loved ones to watch and share in the suffering or take great personal risk in helping to end it.

As it is now, if someone says "I want to kill myself," they get locked up in a place where they can't, so they act secretly. If instead they were told, "Alright, we can help with that, but first let's talk this through and make some preparations for those you're leaving behind," I think those who had good reasons to die would be able to do so in peace, and those who did not would generally be talked out of it. We have no such resources today. There are therapists and counselors, but they aren't allowed to say, "Yes, I think you're justified in killing yourself," so there's no way to trust the "no, you shouldn't."

My mother tried to kill herself a few times during my adolescent and teenage years. She told me that at those times, it seemed to her that my sisters and I would be better off without her. If she had been able to talk with someone about it, I'm sure she could have been shown how wrong she was.

Felipe said...

My, Ms. Babs, more and more you are venturing into the deep here. It´s good.

ccinha said...

Interesting take by zannie; never thought of it, but deserves thought, for sure. When I was 19, my grandmother, the most important person in my life, was so depressed (a lifelong problem, not treated in those days) that she took her life. I have never felt such agony; the agony developed into rage; after some time the rage went into a sort of sad acceptance. In all events, my life was changed forever because I was at the center of it. Over the years, I came to accept how tormented she had to have been, but that sadness has always been with me. I believe that circumstances can be so intense and overwhelming that they equate to hopelessness. If the therapy available now had been there 45 years ago, my "mom" might have lived a happier and longer life, and so would all of us. In any event, I pray for those whom the Black Dog pursues. I can't say it's a personal choice, because if that individual were not "down" I don't think he or she would make that choice. Depression is clearly a mental illness which can be treated.

ccinha said...

Interesting take by zannie; never thought of it, but deserves thought, for sure. When I was 19, my grandmother, the most important person in my life, was so depressed (a lifelong problem, not treated in those days) that she took her life. I have never felt such agony; the agony developed into rage; after some time the rage went into a sort of sad acceptance. In all events, my life was changed forever because I was at the center of it. Over the years, I came to accept how tormented she had to have been, but that sadness has always been with me. I believe that circumstances can be so intense and overwhelming that they equate to hopelessness. If the therapy available now had been there 45 years ago, my "mom" might have lived a happier and longer life, and so would all of us. In any event, I pray for those whom the Black Dog pursues. I can't say it's a personal choice, because if that individual were not "down" I don't think he or she would make that choice. Depression is clearly a mental illness which can be treated.

Babs said...

I so hesitated to write this and yet I HAVE wanted to write about it for a long time. Each has valid points.
CC your perspective about depression and hopelessness was so poignant. In my heart I truly believe that when an individual reaches that dark,dark place they are not thinking clearly and can't see any way out.
My youngest daughter, who was 12 at the time said, "Daddy is finally at peace". Ahh, out of the mouth's of babes.
But, I also know that the kids went through rage and agony...more then I'll ever know.
So, in my opinion, at least now there are meds and help far more then there was 30 years ago. Let's hope this discussion leads to others........

Anonymous said...

Garnering a broader respect for the
writer of this blog.

How do you suffer fools, even for a minute?

Don't hang your hat on anti-depression meds....they can suck the personality out of a man and leave him in almost a vegetable state. Also, drugs tend to "work" for a time and then lose they're effectiveness.

And the stepfather....? Probably lived to be an old grandfather surrounded by 25 grandkids...
Charley
Houston TX

Anonymous said...

A topic for all it seems.....long stored thoughts emerge out of our minds - the attics of our souls.

My father carefully crafted his departure, with consideration for those who would find him dead and those who would wonder "why", including an audio tape.

I have never blamed him for choosing his exit. Though the impact was dramatic, I will admit.

At the end of the day, our lives are our choice.

I respect this in others, and reserve it for myself.

Blessings to all.

Anonymous said...

Babs, would you like to share how you and husband met?


DanaJ

Babs said...

Charley, if monitored very carefully I have seen meds for chemical depression work wonders. On my outside I appear light and airy, but, deep down I have much, much depth from life's experiences.

The stepfather, after taking the home away from the mother, lived in it ALONE til he died. The world is better off with him gone.
He was an EVIL man.
I met my husband at a CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) dance. I saw him across the room of a gymnasium and finagled myself into being introduced to him. I told my mother when I went home that night that I had met the man I was going to marry! It WAS love at first sight. In his good ways, I still love him to this day.