The world lost a great man when Robin Williams took his own life this week. A genius, really. But more importantly, we lost a man in pain. Someone who decided he and his family were better off with him dead.
It is human nature to want to fill in the blanks. Why did he do it?
Does it really matter? Do we need a reason so we feel superior that we didn’t do the terrible deed?
The bottom line is: Pain is Pain.
Desperate pain results in desperate ideas and choices.
When I was suicidal, I was not capable of thinking coherently. I just wanted the pain to stop. As my emotional pain got progressively worse, my suicidal ideation followed suit. I made plans, and fantasized about the relief. I felt some control in my life; I could stop the pain. The power of this twisted logic was nearly intoxicating.
When I alluded to my potential solution in therapy, my therapist managed to chip a tiny hole in my wall of denial. She brought up the only reasons that could possibly make me reconsider. My two kids.
The wake left behind a suicide affects generations.
She told me kids who have a parent commit suicide are at a far greater risk of committing suicide themselves. I countered with the argument that my kids would be better off without the depressed mom they had. She said my suicide would damage them far more than my depression.
Though I trusted her expertise, I truly don’t think her word alone would have been enough to prevent me from following through. The realization that I had a family history of suicide to back up her claims was incredibly powerful. My great-grandfather, followed a few years later by his son, and many years later by a grandson.
Researchers at Johns Hopkins discovered children of a parent who commits suicide are 3 times more likely to commit suicide themselves. A legacy is born.
This fact is personal to me. It is one more family legacy I had to overcome. Though I ultimately made the decision not to commit suicide, the strength it took to continue on one day at a time wasn’t mine. I know God infused me with strength that can only come from Him.
Addendum paragraph added 8/17/14: It wasn’t until I got on the other side of the deepest part of my depression that I finally believed things could get better. Not miracle-cured better, but good-enough better. I have many happy days, and I enjoy life now. Even when the depression returns on occasion it is so much lighter and more tolerable than before. To hold on to the hope until that happens, though, is incredibly difficult. I had to process the emotions that caused the depression, otherwise they would have continued to keep control of me. I would not have made it if I didn’t process my emotions.
We’ve all heard the signs to look for, but the fact is most people left behind are surprised when someone commits suicide. Whether it’s because we’re in denial, or the person was adept at hiding the signs, suicide catches most people off guard.
The term “Suicide is permanent solution to a temporary problem” seems trite when you are swirling in the vortex of the ‘temporary’ problem. It often doesn’t feel temporary and unless you’ve been in that deep, dark place you can’t possibly understand why someone would consider ending their life. You don’t need to understand; just be gentle and available.
In honor of Robin Williams, the thousands of others we’ve lost to suicide, and the thousands who attempt, please consider offering a compassionate hand to someone who is hurting.
How about you? How has suicide affected you or your family?