Suicide Leaves Behind Nothing, Ctd

Andrew Sullivan —  Feb 2 2015 @ 11:49am

The long-running thread gets another story:

I just read the psychotherapist’s take on the selfishness of suicide and would like to chime in with my own experience. My daughter was 16, and we had been going through several years of wildly uncontrolled behavior on her part. I came home one evening to find she had taken an overdose of my pain medication (the stuff was too strong for me, so it was left in my medicine chest). I dragged her to the car and was racing to the hospital yelling at her to stay awake.

At first I was soooo angry at her.

I thought this was another wild stupid stunt and how thoughtless she was. She started crying in the car and kept telling me how sorry she was. She didn’t want to hurt me – she just wanted her pain to stop.

At that moment, I realized I wasn’t angry any more – just desperately afraid. I sat with her all night holding her and loving her while she puked up pills. She clung to me like the baby she was.

The hospital staff kept asking her why she wanted to kill herself, and she kept telling them she really didn’t. She just couldn’t continue doing “this.” She was ultimately diagnosed as a rather severe bi-polar and spent three weeks in a mental hospital followed by three months of daily therapy. I also resolved that I would talk about her mental illness as if she had cancer or diabetes. I would not flinch when I related that she had been committed and I would not be ashamed that she was taking five medications to get through her day.

It was very difficult at first, but got easier. My husband and I thought if we “normalized” her condition instead of being ashamed and perpetuating the stigma, then our daughter would be happier in her skin too.

She’s now 20 years old and we have the best relationship ever. We have that shared night in the hospital and all those years of therapy afterward. I’m just so grateful that my daughter survived her “disease” and will continue to count every day with her a blessing.

Another reader, on the other hand, fears the worst:

I have a loved one who contemplates suicide on a daily basis and has been battling depression for years. If he killed himself it would devastate everyone in his family, including me, along with many other people. The last thing I want to do is take away ANY of the arguments that are keeping him alive, and if the idea that suicide is a selfish act is one of them then, right or wrong, the last thing I want anyone to do is to undermine that idea.

I have noticed that, in the time since Robin Williams killed himself, there have been many articles and discussions that portray suicide as the natural, inevitable, and sometimes even appropriate outcome in people who have struggled for many years with severe depression. This may be very helpful thinking regarding those who have lost the fight, but it is incredibly damaging to those of us who are trying to keep our loved ones and ourselves alive.

Depression traps people in the belief that things will never get better. To say that this is in fact a truth that only suicide can end is very harmful. Even if that supposedly only applies to a specific person, many depressed people (like my loved one) feel that surely it applies to them as well. And in those times, the last grasp on survival is often the feeling that suicide is selfish and would harm those left behind.