In the past weeks Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade took their lives. They were successful enough their suicides were TV news. And the news asked why. And the news responsibly presented segments on depression and how depression does not care how rich you are or famous or appreciated by the public.
Over the years, I have lost eight friends and acquaintances to suicide. When I say acquaintances, I mean people who were part of the poetry scene (or sports scene) where I lived, people who I called by their first name and occasionally had a beer with then (or tea). The only good thing I can report about their suicides is selfish—I was not the person who found them.
The news reports suicide is up 25% over the past 20 years. I wish to know if suicide is up or if reporting of death as suicide is up. I believe there is less stigma about speaking that truth than in the past.
I have mixed feelings about the folks who committed suicide. I feel the loss and the loss hurts. For me the reporting around Bourdain’s suicide brought up the old sorrows of those I knew who departed by suicide. But I understand that living can be so painful that it surpasses human endurance. I know that depression ebbs and flows. If the depression deepens and the darkness sweeps over a person at a time when they are without resources and recourse, the only way to relief is release to the heavens and earth—death.
I do not see suicide as a sin, as some of my religious acquaintances have told me it is. Sad yes. Sin no. I guess it could be argued to be a sin since suicide injures other people emotionally, especially family members, double-especially any teenage or younger children.
A quick google search brought up many entries that state that while suicide is a tragedy and a sin, it is a forgivable sin. I do not know where suicide stands with all of the world’s major religions, because my google search brought up page after page of Christian entries.
One of the things I learned from those I knew who took their own lives is that to us around them it seemed they had turned a corner toward happiness in the weeks or days leading up to their suicide. A former therapist of mine told me their happiness came from having made a decision, thus not having conflicting emotional forces pulling them apart. I accept that answer. But, this implies planning and intention, rather than spur of the moment being overwhelmed by circumstance. That troubles me.
To deal with my depression and to keep thoughts of suicide far, far away, I have developed friends who I can talk to in an intimate way—intimate meaning about deep issues that are close to the heart, issues you do not talk about in polite company or at social occasions. Also, I work hard at recognizing what I have control over and true influence upon. In other words, as best as I can, I do not assign my self blame or guilt where it is not warranted. Exercise and taking care of myself physically are important factors as well.
I recommend that everyone develop their own definition of Success and throw out the definition their parents instilled or society blared loudly at them. A day spent working toward your personal goals is much more satisfying than a highly monetized day toiling toward other people’s goals.
A successful day is every day I tell Dianne, wholeheartedly, I love her. A successful day is listening and considering when people speak to me, instead of simply waiting to have my say. A successful day is a day my bicycle carries me over the earth and soars my spirit into the sky. And many more….
I use to think that I knew so many people who committed suicide because I was part of the artist-poet crowd no matter where I lived. My impression was that artists and poets had a history of greater numbers of suicides over other professions. Turns out someone has studied that and issued a report that CBS relayed to us. Agricultural and forestry workers have the highest suicide rate. Artists come in 7th. Since I did not see poets or authors in the list, I will lump them in with artists at 7th.
If you are a person for whom suicide is a growing thought, I urge you to engage with expert help. There is nothing shameful with engaging help. (I do not feel shame taking my car to a master mechanic, my computer to a specially trained techie, my illness to a physician, so I choose not to feel shame at needing the emotional expertise of a therapist.)
Love and Light