“The so-called ‘psychotically depressed’ person who tries to kill herself doesn’t do so out of quote ‘hopelessness’ or any abstract conviction that life’s assets and debits do not square. And surely not because death seems suddenly appealing. The person in whom Its invisible agony reaches a certain unendurable level will kill herself the same way a trapped person will eventually jump from the window of a burning high-rise. Make no mistake about people who leap from burning windows. Their terror of falling from a great height is still just as great as it would be for you or me standing speculatively at the same window just checking out the view; i.e. the fear of falling remains a constant. The variable here is the other terror, the fire’s flames: when the flames get close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors. It’s not desiring the fall; it’s terror of the flames. And yet nobody down on the sidewalk, looking up and yelling ‘Don’t!’ and ‘Hang on!’, can understand the jump. Not really. You’d have to have personally been trapped and felt flames to really understand a terror way beyond falling.”
When I was in high school, two of my friends attempted suicide. I visited them at the hospital where the doctors and nurses did whatever they did for young people back then. It was eye-opening and difficult to visit them. The Psych ward was a pretty scary place back in the late 60’s and early 70’s. There was only one psych ward in our community which meant there were all different types of illnesses sharing this part of the hospital. For me, this place was mysterious and a little scary–every time I visited the lights were dim, the TV always playing in the large common patient area, and a constant line of patients shuffled here and there as the nursing staff tracked them down in order to administer medication.
My most lasting memory of my visits was hearing the door unlock and lock when the staff let me into the unit. That loss of personal freedom created a moment of panic for me as I wondered what would happen if they would not let me out again?
I was much luckier than my two friends. I certainly had my fair share of challenges but I had people who miraculously showed up in my life whenever I needed them. I was not good at asking for help–I’m still not good at that–but these special people didn’t wait for me to ask–they just stormed in and made sure I stayed okay.
I’ve been reading today trying to find something that would help me understand suicide. I found two quotes–one opening my story today and one will close it. I’m sharing both because each quote helped me see things in a different way. I hope they will for you as well.
“Killing oneself is, anyway, a misnomer. We don’t kill ourselves. We are simply defeated by the long, hard struggle to stay alive. When somebody dies after a long illness, people are apt to say, with a note of approval, “He fought so hard.” And they are inclined to think, about a suicide, that no fight was involved, that somebody simply gave up. This is quite wrong.”
God bless you.
I am so fortunate I have an amazing photographer in my circle of Facebook friends. Thank you, Mr. Chuck Hackenmiller, for allowing me to use your wonderful photos as part of my blog. You can see many of Mr. Hackenmiller beautiful pictures on the Facebook page, I grew up in Iowa. Please note, no re-use of this photo without permission from Chuck Hackenmiller, Boone, Iowa.