A reader responds to this post:
I can go through periods when I think that life isn’t worth living. But I don’t have the will to enact a suicide. For when I think of those in my life who would be affected, it makes those thoughts moot. Life is sometimes not worth living for myself, but it is always worth living for others. I have a cat who depends on me; I have family and friends who love me; colleagues and clients with whom I am trustworthy and dependable; how could I break that love and defile that trust? I can handle my own black thoughts, but I couldn’t handle imposing them on others in such a way. My connections tether me to this world. I stay for them, when I can’t for myself. Suicide isn’t painless.
My wife tried to commit suicide once, by injecting herself with her diabetic husband’s insulin (that was her second husband, I was her third). She had three children very young (her first was born when she was 19, the third four years later), which ruined her life financially, and she felt she was an unfit mother. The incident happened long before we got together and when she told me about it all I could do was hold her. I too have suffered from depression and the occasional suicidal thoughts, so even though I’ve never actually attempted suicide, I understood what she was going through enough so that I could sympathize with her.
To feel like you’re inadequate, that you’re incapable of handling all the things life throws at you, unable to cope with the inevitable sadness that comes to any of us, is a common thought among suicidal people.
It doesn’t matter how much money you have, the rich and poor alike feel the same thing. Some of us, myself included, feel like we’re nothing more than a burden to the people who love us, whether that means emotionally or financially, and don’t want others to have to exert any more energy on our behalf.
I can speak for myself, and I can speak for my late wife (who died several years ago, not from suicide), that what we want mostly is to feel wanted: we don’t always want to be cheered up, we would like people to tell us from time to time that they like us, to recognize that we are just sad sometimes and we’d like them to respect the fact that we have the right to feel sad. My wife and I were very happy for the five years we were together in great part because we shared that feeling of inadequacy and clung to it as a means of mutual support. In losing her, I still have the memory of that, and that keeps me going despite the many difficulties I’ve had since she left us.
She would be angry with me if I were to take my own life, and some days that’s all I need.
Update from a reader:
By chance I’ve been to three funerals in the last month: the first a relative, the second an acquaintance, and the last a coworker who committed suicide. There were many bittersweet moments at the the first two – smiles, stories, even a few laughs and you got the impression everyone left feeling better than they did going in.
The last funeral was shocking in comparison. Despite a wonderful service and communion, it was the grimmest affair imaginable. No smiles, no stories – just crying relatives and friends staring at their shoes. Shame, guilt and misery everywhere. You could see it suffocating all the decent, hurting people left cleaning up the mess.
Suicide definitely leaves something behind.