Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Calling suicide cowardly is missing the point

*Trigger Warning: Suicide*

I get how suicide can be perceived as cowardly and selfish from the outside, or if you’re affected by the death of someone you know by suicide. But I’ve had suicidal thoughts inside my own head. And my mental illness rationalised them, and made them feel like the least selfish and bravest thing I could do.

By now I’m sure you’ve heard that the lead singer of an obscure nu-metal band died by suicide last week. Chester Bennington, who has always been public about his battles with trauma from his past and drug addiction, took his own life.

It’s a hard one for me to process. In the same way Chester had turned to writing and music to deal with his trauma, I had turned to Linkin Park when I was 13. I took comfort from the voice of someone who had felt like I was feeling. Chester screamed so that I wouldn’t have to.

But this post isn’t about that. It’s about a comment from another musician. A guy named Brian Welch from an equally famous band called Korn.
Brian wrote a Facebook post where he said Chester was sending the wrong message to his fans.
I’m sick of this suicide shit! I’ve battled depression/mental illness, and I’m trying to be sympathetic, but it’s hard when you’re pissed! Enough is enough! Giving up on your kids, fans, and life is the cowardly way out!!!
I get that Brian was grieving; having a tough time processing and clearly thinking about those most affected who would be left behind. One of the first stages of grief is anger.

I’m sure people have criticised Brian and written eloquently about while what he said may be his honest take at a time of mourning and loss, it is not acceptable.

But I’ve found myself consumed by his words lately, and I needed to express my frustration at this misunderstanding of suicide. Not every depression or mental illness manifests into suicidal ideation, so maybe Brian just couldn’t place himself in Chester’s shoes.

I wasn’t so lucky. From the age of 14 I fantasised about dying. Usually at the hand of an accident, rarely by my own hand, but I wanted to die. I had barely lived in the world and yet I wanted out. I didn’t like what I had seen, or how it had made me feel. At 14 I wanted to die for me. So yes, perhaps this wish was selfish. But it never felt cowardly. I thought of it as brave to choose death.

By 18 my thoughts of death turned to suicidal ideation. I was scoring high for severe depression on every depressive scale out there, but I didn’t know that at the time.

Mental illness blocks your peripheral vision. It filters how you see the world, those around you and yourself. It feeds you a version of reality. A tunnel vision perception of who you are.

My version of reality was that I was a burden. I was a waste of space. Useless. Unloved. Unlikeable. A failure. It warped everything I knew about myself, everything I could see. It told me that death would fix everything. My death.

Sure, it would be hard for my family if I died. But I rationalised my decision. Or should I say, my mental illness rationalised my decision? Honestly, wasn’t now the best time? My sister was at an age where she might not remember me. If I waited any longer and she grew older, it would affect her worse than if I did it now.

You see, I know that suicide doesn’t feel selfish. Sometimes it feels like the most selfless thing you could do. That by no longer ‘being’ you wouldn’t be a burden anymore. The pain would end, not just for you, but for everyone around you too.

Like Brian, I’m angry at Chester’s suicide. I’m angry that he couldn’t get the help to convince him his mind was lying to him. I’m angry that he wasn’t convinced life was worth living, even when it’s hard.

Calling suicide cowardly is missing the point. Mental illness can twist and distort. It can rationalise that which can never be rationalised; the loss of a human life.

It’s a truly horrific battle to be in with your own mind. It’s hard to convince yourself that your mind is lying.

But believe me, it lies. Suicide can feel like the answer, but it never is.

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