A tale of 2 young women: Why suicide survivors should not feel guilty

There were two young women who died by suicide, both about the same age, both after a years-long battle with depression. Each had made several suicide attempts. They would refuse professional help and stop taking their medication just when it seemed to begin helping.

Fearing for her life, the first woman’s mother had her committed — against her wishes to a psychiatric clinic for treatment. While there, despite being on “suicide watch”, the young girl asphyxiated herself with her bedsheets.

The second woman’s mother constantly urged her daughter to seek professional help. However, fearing that she would worsen her daughter’s depression, she refused to force her into any kind of institutionalized care. One day, she killed herself with an overdose of medication.

Afterwards, both mothers blamed themselves for not preventing their daughter’s suicides. The irony is that each blamed themselves for not doing exactly what the other one did.

The first mother felt that if she hadn’t isolated her daughter in that institution, she wouldn’t have lost her. The second was sure that if she only had committed her daughter, she would’ve been saved.

We often fail to realize that, even if we could turn back the clock and do things differently, it wouldn’t necessarily change the outcome.

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Was Beau’s death his choice?

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I wanted to hit him.

In the 4 years we’ve lived together I had never felt the urge so strongly. Bile rose bitterly in my throat and the room began to sway in front of me. My heart was pounding so strongly it felt like it would leap out of my chest at any second. Whatever sense I still had about me went into stopping my fist from swinging across space and hitting that perfectly aristocratic nose of his. Instead I heard myself scream.

It was a scream unlike any other I’ve experienced. It sounded cavernous inside me. As if my body and flesh had muffled the anguish and anger and allowed nothing more than broken sobs and a pathetic, tinny whining. But inside, I screamed so loudly I could have sworn my insides could have combusted into a bloody visceral mess. How dare he lie there, his handsome face frozen forever in an expression that would have been peaceful had it not been marred by the thick angry red ligature mark on his neck, left by the rope he had chosen to use to end his life.

If anybody would have morbidly conjured up how Beau would execute a suicide, they would have predicted exactly that —- a death by hanging so technically proficient it left no room for error. From his Jujitsu sessions he knew that cutting off his air supply would put him to sleep and that he would be unconscious when the throes of death claimed him. He knew the kermantle rope can hold many times his weight and that his expertly tied knots would hold. He had tied them many times before, oddly enough to make sure that his life and the lives of others would never be in danger. Indeed it was the way Beau would have chosen to do it.

That made me livid. It made my blood boil so badly I felt pressure in my brain.  How dare he? How dare he plan this so methodically, without thought or care to me, his mother, his siblings, his friends? How can he choose so predictably how to do something that none of us could have predicted?  Everyday, I still continue to see his body lying on that cold, sterile pan. I hear my brothers repeat our questions and our composed answers in a mad attempt to make sense of an act so senseless and sudden. I see his mom crying from a pain I cannot claim to own… the pain of a mother who is forced to bury her son; forced not by the laws of nature, not through illness or old age, but by her son’s own choosing.

But anger immediately turned to despair and disbelief, and then to a search for understanding. My fist unclenched with helplessness and I reached to hold his lifeless hand, as if I needed to feel the marble coldness to convince me of reality.  And reality begs the question: Did he really have a choice? Is it not unreal for any human to court his mortality when what is natural is to fight for self preservation? If so, then what would push someone to “choose” to defy nature?

It is an aberration, to be sure. And yet I wonder, what kind of unfathomable mental illness denies us of the freedom of choice? Is a rogue synapse in the deepest part of his brain to blame? Was he somewhat like an epileptic or an autistic child who have no control over the movements of their bodies? What physiological process can weed out love and everything positive and leave and magnify only the thoughts and feelings that cause the loss of hope?

I burn. I burn with anger. I burn with the need to know. I burn with a quest for knowledge of this intangible disease, if disease indeed it is.  While I am still in the process of finding my peace, I came across something that gives me temporary comfort. I share it below:

Suicide is Not a Choice: People Who Die by Suicide Do Not Choose to Die

by Kevin Caruso

People do not choose to have clinical depression.

People do not choose to have bipolar disorder.

People do not choose to have schizophrenia.

People do not choose to have cancer.

People do not choose to have post-traumatic stress disorder

People do not choose to have obsessive-compulsive disorder.

People to not choose to have tourette’s syndrome.

People do not choose to be autistic.

People do not choose to have seasonal affective disorder.

People do not choose to have heart disease.

People do not choose to have dysthymia.

People do not choose to have narcolepsy.

People do not choose to have muscular dystrophy.

People do not choose to have Alzheimer’s disease.

People do not choose to have dementia.

People do not choose to have anxiety attacks.

People do not choose to have delusions.

People do not choose to have psychosis.

People do not choose to have phobias.

People do not choose to be paralyzed.

People do not choose to have migraine headaches.

People do not choose to be victims of crime.

Children do not choose to be bullied.

Children do not choose to be sexually molested.

Children do not choose to be abused.

Women do not choose to be brutally beaten by their husbands.

Women do not choose to have postpartum depression.

Women do not choose to be raped.

People do not choose to be discriminated against.

People do not choose to be mistreated.

So why do some people think that people choose to die by suicide?

Answer: ignorance.

Many people (including some who are supposed to be “professionals” in the area of suicide, psychology, and religion) maintain the misguided, ignorant, outdated — and idiotic — belief that people “choose” suicide.

Over 90 percent of the people who die by suicide have a mental illness at the time of their death. And the vast majority of those mental illnesses are untreated, under-treated, or not properly treated.

People who die by suicide are not thinking clearly — and they cannot possibly think clearly — because their brain is not functioning properly at the time they pass away from suicide.

Their brain is giving them overwhelming signals to die.

They have a chemical imbalance in their brain, are in extreme emotional pain, and their mind is saying “you must die by suicide to end this.”

Again — it is an overwhelming condition.

They do not “choose” do die — their mental illness causes them to die — just like some people die from heart disease, cancer, or other things that are out of their control.

And every time an ignorant person makes the statement that “people choose to die by suicide” the stigma of suicide is perpetuated.

Let me draw an analogy between suicide and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD): People with OCD have recurrent, overwhelming, obsessive thoughts that compel them to act in ways that others do not understand. For instance, a person with OCD may believe that his or her house is contaminated — even though it is immaculately clean — and thus compulsively washes his or her hands to get rid of the “germs.”

So do people who are otherwise very intelligent simply “choose” to wash their hands 500 times a day?

No.

They have a disorder and need treatment.

Now, someone with severe depression — and untreated depression is the number one cause for suicide — has a similar signal that their brain is sending to them, and that signal is this: you must die by suicide.

That “signal” is incessant and overwhelming.

Again, the person does not “choose” suicide; the mental illness causes the suicide.

One more time: People do not choose suicide; their mental illness causes the suicide.

People who die by suicide are strong, intelligent, loving, caring people — who happen to have a mental illness.

And there should be no stigma whatsoever associated with that mental illness — regardless of what it is — as well as no stigma associated with suicide.

The people who do not understand these basic, irrefutable truths about suicide are part of a serious problem — and that problem is ignorance. And, unbelievably, many psychologists, psychiatrists, suicidologists, and members of the clergy are part of this problem — and thus they actually perpetuate stigma instead of fighting it!

So, don’t be part of the problem. Share your understanding about suicide with others, and help combat this ignorance.

And be as supportive, helpful, and understanding as possible to suicide survivors. They deserve our unconditional love.

And always remember this: People who die by suicide do not choose to die, they have a mental illness — and it is the mental illness that causes them to pass away.