I have to say, I'm very impressed.
So many responses. Such thoughtful, challenging questions. Some of them difficult to ask, I'm sure. NONE of them offensive, by the way. You did good. You're still doing good. They just keep coming. I'm amazed, overwhelmed, and now faced with the onerous responsibility of responding intelligently. Serves me bloody right. Fools rush in, and all that.
It will take a some time to answer them all. I may need to take breaks and post lighter subjects (on such equally important topics as food, dogs, and teddies) in between. But I will answer them. A promise is a promise. I've even created a new category for this subject, which makes my world cloud (at right) look a bit weird, but what the hell.
On the Subject of Pain
People who commit suicide are always in pain. Always. They may have completely disassociated from it by the time they exit, but it's still there, driving them. For the purposes of this post, I am going to divide the subject of pain into two categories: physical and emotional. Both are impressive adversaries.
As anyone who has been in prolonged physical pain can tell you, it's pretty hard to stay chirpy when everything you do hurts. It can drain your life of colour, deprive you of pleasure, cloud your concentration, restrict your freedom, diminish your dignity, and hold you in a state of profound isolation from the world around you. It's a serious bitch, and some people are better tempered for it than others. If the condition is such that you have little or no hope of recovery or improvement, or worse, the pain is likely to increase as time goes by, such as people with terminal illnesses, suicide can begin to look like a decidedly reasonable, nay, downright groovy option.
And I'm not sure that I can argue with that. This, of course, is the Euthanasia Debate, and being of (reasonably) sound mind and body myself, I feel unequipped to judge the actions of someone who has been denied what they would regard as an acceptable quality of life. I believe in Death with Dignity, but only when all other options have been exhausted. When my father was dying, he was in so much pain that if someone had given me the plug, I most certainly would have pulled it. And then done a happy dance. I do believe that there are worse things than dying, and extreme suffering with no hope of improvement is one of them. Having said that, I also accept that not everyone will agree with me. It's my Personal Opinion.
Then there is emotional pain. Much more difficult to quantify, much more difficult to define or discuss coherently, especially as a layperson, but I have been there. And I remember that it put me in a whole different dimension, a bit like looking into those crazy mirrors you find on carnival midways. In that place, reality can be whatever you want it to be, anything can happen, and as likely as not, it won't be good. Acute emotional pain can skew your perception of the world around you, to the point where suicide can look not only reasonable, but actually a really sensible, rational option. A Good Idea. If you arrive here, and have any connection to the real world left at all, this is the point where you tell someone. You're officially at risk.
On the Subject of Hope
I, personally, believe that the key to dealing with emotional pain is the understanding that there is hope, even if you can't see or feel it. The hope that you will feel better tomorrow, the hope that the situation that makes you feel so bad will resolve, in time, the general belief that good things can happen, call it what you will - that elusive, tenacious creature that keeps you moving forward, one excruciating step at a time, is what you need to find and focus on. And even if you can't access hope, it doesn't mean you're not going to be able to in the future. So, draw on the faith of friends, family, or, fuck it, a stranger on the street, if you have to (help can come from surprising places when you open yourself to it). There is great beauty to be had in the world, but you must be available to engage with it.
I remember that, for me, the pain became so overwhelming that something inside me snapped, and I felt myself yield. The good news was that it didn't hurt anymore. The bad news was that I had stepped into lala land, and had I been left to my own devices it would have been only a matter of time before I accidentally-on-purpose stepped in front of a moving bus. I would, simply, have forgotten to live. Fortunately for me, my boyfriend at the time was onto me like a shot, and yanked me back to good old, exquisitely painful, Real Life, to my annoyance, and for that I will always be grateful to him (even if he did follow up later by skipping off with a month's rent. A small price to pay, methinks).
These days, I'm a bit of an old hand at depression. I still get depressed, of course. I regard depression as part of life. And the things that can successfully pull me out of it are so tiny that I could easily miss them if I wasn't paying attention. An unsolicited smile from a perfect stranger. The simple devotion of children and animals. Friendly, thoughtful service in a cafe. Someone who gives way to me in traffic, when they really don't need to. Acts of love and beauty, the smaller the better. These things restore me, make me feel connected to the human race, remind me that there is good in the world. They heal me, without even meaning to.
So. Hope. You could call it faith, too, if you want. Whatever your terminology, it's a key to survival. I have spoken to many people who tell me that they spent years suffering from clinical depression. When I ask them what kept them going, they consistently answer that the hope that things might change, even though they didn't really believe that they could, and their connection to others, was the key. An amazing number of these people ultimately recovered to lead full and happy lives, and all of them are profoundly relieved and grateful that they didn't take the plunge, or were saved if they did.
Because death is already certain. And absolutely final.
But life, well, life just might get better. The thing about life is that it cuts both ways. And if it can get so very bad, surely it's not unreasonable to suppose that it can also get very good?
And it seems such a waste, and a shame, to not stick around and find out. You might split just at the moment it was all going to turn around for you.