The act of suicide

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It’s all over the news, Robin Williams have committed suicide. Or so they suspect. Difficult to know if a person doesn’t leave a note, isn’t it. On the other hand, it doesn’t seem like a whole lot of people do. Even if the person has thought about ending his (I will call a person he in this post, to make life easier but you can easily just change it to she.) life for a long time, it seems like it still is pretty much a thing of the moment. A rash decision. Something triggers it that particular day. That particular moment.

My heart goes out to Robin Williams’ family. My son’s first comment was, “he was only 63!” In other words, he had lots of time left, lots of more projects to finish, many more films to delight us with. My first thought was, what triggered this act? Had he just found out that he has a brain tumour? Alzheimer’s? In my mind, I have a difficult time seeing someone ending their life, if they do have a future, a life, something to look forward to.

But we never know do we? We never know what really goes on in another human being’s mind? What are their thoughts? What are the things they feel they can absolutely not cope with? We all get trials here in life, and what one person handles just fine, another person might feel is a real stumbling block, a Mount Everest, that they can not climb nor get by.

I have been thinking about this a lot lately. How noone knows what goes on behind the four walls of a home. Families that seem happy, can be struggling in all sorts of ways. Put on happy smiles as soon as they go out the door, since it is humiliating to admit that one has problems. Or putting on a brave face because they know that noone care about anything but themselves. I had someone come up to me in church Sunday, asking me how things are. I had one second to decide what to say. I made the decision that “this person couldn’t care less. He is only asking to be polite.” So I just answered “too many mosquito bites”, since one of my five bites bothered me at that moment. He smiled at me, relieved that I did not start up on a whining story and answered “if only all trials were that simple!”. I did not comment. I could have told him exactly how bad everything is, but it was not the time, nor the place to do so. I walked in to my classroom and was angry at myself, because now he will think that we have no problems. And is that really the impression I wanted to give him?

Fact is, that when we are sad, we usually have noone to talk to about it. Sure, some go to therapists and vent, but honestly, does it do any good? I went and talked to a counselor after loosing Serena Rose, but what did I get out of it? Nothing! It solved nothing. I did not feel happier. I mourned as much as before. And on top of it all, I had her crying as well. Not a good thing, is it?

I have come to the conclusion that we are all alone here with our trials. It doesn’t matter if we have a parent available or a spouse or whatever. In the end, we have to go through everything by ourselves. A husband can sit by his wife, when she is in labour and hold her hand, tell her he loves her, but she is the one who has to give birth to that baby and noone but her can feel the pain. The wife with cancer, can have her husband’s and children’s support, them doing things for her. But she is the one who is facing death, alone, and she is the one who gets the chemo pumped in to her, she is the one who is nauseous and vomits, she is the one who looses her hair. We are alone with all our pain, all our sorrow, all our thoughts. Noone else can live our life for us.

And to some people, this just becomes too much. I stand in for a decision to medicate my son or not. In Canada, children as young as eight years old, has committed suicide when they have been put on ADHD medications. I just learned a week ago, that in the Victorian era, all medicine were called “poison”. And all medicines really is poison isn’t it? It does miracles for one condition, but it hurts you in some other way. E. had a friend who was put on medication for bad eczema. Her skin became tolerable and did not itch too bad, but the medication stunted her growth and made her go in to puberty before ten years of age. Help one area, and damage another. Take an aspirin for your head ache, and your head will feel better, but your stomach lining will bleed. Not to mention things like digitalis which is used for heart conditions but has also been used to commit murder!

But I have digressed from the topic, that of suicide. I do not know why the little children suddenly decided to end their lives, when put on the amphetamine drugs, they put ADHD children on. Probably a side effect of the medicine, like all others. But to once again have to be on suicide watch? Am I ready for this? Because I have been there before. Oh, have I been there before!

My dad, was a strong man. He wrestled, he lifted weights, he was the all macho man in our home. He run our home with like a dictator. My mum was through my childhood, a doormat, waiting on him. She had no say in any matters. She was not allowed to drive his car, because she could damage it. He was the one deciding on what was supposed to be purchased for the house. His domain was the garden, the lock up, the car and the storage room. All day long he was at work and when he came home, he expected dinner on the table. After eating dinner, he would take a short nap and then head off to train his body.

I could say a lot about my dad. But I will just say this: I loved him! He was my hero, he was my ally. I could sit and make mental notes when observing him: “When I marry, my husband will have to help out in the kitchen, he will have to carry out garbage…”, but I still loved him. For how he was and for who he was. Because he was my dad. He might have hurt my mum and her self-esteem, but he never ever hurt me.

And then one day, it all changed. August 1976, he fell down at work and the doctors gave him no hope. He was going to die. His brain injury was too severe. But a miracle happened. He did wake up from the coma, his paralysis was just temporary, he did get to come home from the hospital eventually. He even married my mum, after 22 years of co-habitation. But now I know, that he probably did so because he was afraid that she would leave him. Now when he was not man enough to run the home anymore. She did not want to marry him, but was persuaded by people from the state church. It was necessary, to keep him happy. Because the man who woke up from the coma, was no longer my dad.

He could no longer talk, but through 20 questions, which became 50 for the simplest things, he pretty soon was able to convey to us, that he no longer wanted to live. This was not the person he wanted to be, not the life he wanted to live. Being dependent on his woman and children, was not my dad’s thing. He had been in charge before, but not so anymore. My mum had to learn how to drive, she had to go to the bank to get help with all matters financial, the neighbours had to teach her everything about house and garden. And every day she brought me in to her confidence because there was noone else. I was 11 and I had to become an adult the day my dad fell down. My sister was to be allowed to be a child, but according to a family counselor that we met up with six years later, my mum forced me to become her spouse. Not physically but psychologically.

Gone were my carefree days, but I will never hold it against my poor dad. My strong dad was suddenly pale. His whole body sloped in depression. When he cried, it would bring on an epilepsy seizure, a result from the brain surgeries, and I had to learn how to take care of those. My mother brought him to a speech therapist for his aphasia, but it was decided that I should help him, not her, since she could not control her temper and just made him upset with her impatience. She resented him, his weakness, that his old self would not come back and over the years, all her passive aggressive bottled up anger, surfaced and made him the target and when he was gone, I took his place.

He was put on antidepressants and since they had side-effects, he was put on medicines to combat the side-effects. She brought him to a psychiatrist who said that the people who talk about suicide never commit the act. You are safe! All the same, she hid all his medicines in my closet, for me to guard with my life, so that my dad did not find them and overdose on purpose. I sat with him and tried to teach him how to talk again. I tried to tell him thousands of reasons why he must go on living. I sat with my dad crying in my arms but I could not take his sorrow away. When he got the pre-symptoms of an epilepsy seizure, he finally only needed to look at me in a certain way, and I knew what to do. Help him lay down and get the plastic spatula in between his teeth, before it started. I sat with him even though I was so scared, through the seizure when his entire body was wrecked to and fro. I could not hold him still so I made sure he did not fall out of the bed or crash in to a table, if I had him laying on the kitchen floor.

The 18th June 1979, he came home from work. He no longer was allowed to weld since that can bring on epilepsy seizures, but they did find him other work. His colleagues had asked him, if he wanted to accompany them on a job out on town, them all working for the council. He was happy over having been asked, and went out to turn their work van around, in preparation, waiting for them. But they did not come, so he went in to do something quick and when he looked out the window, they had left without him. He came home so terribly upset, conveying through 50 questions, that he felt so ashamed since others had seen him turn the car/lorry around, and now they must think him insane for having done so. When he obviously was not going anywhere.

My mum started nagging on him, that she had borrowed a sledge-hammer from a neighbour, and that they needed to use it that day, hammer in loose boards on the house, in preparation for re-painting the house. He was upset and could not care less about a stupid sledge-hammer or a house that needed painting. She has always been insensitive and without empathy when it comes to weakness, disease, pain etc. Always healthy as a fiddle, she couldn’t understand! (Now she has got to taste of her own medicine, but she thought she was always going to be healthy.) You do not push someone depressed! But she did. She screamed at him and he stood up and hit her so hard she flew across the kitchen floor. And I, the stupid idiot, ran to help her, shocked by his action. She stood by the door, to the wash room, me on her right side and Monica, my then 9-year-old sister, ran and placed herself on the left side of her. My dad stood there in front of us, not believing his eyes. At that moment it must have seemed to him, like he had the whole world against him. He had never looked as sad as that before. The sorrow in his eyes can not be described. I should have run up and hugged him, talked to him, told him that I still loved him. He stroked my mum’s cheek, patted my sister’s head and then turned to me and I took a leap to the side. WHY? I was so upset at his violence. And I wanted him to understand that. Instead he said “NOT YOU?”. He SAID it! That was the last time I saw my dad! He stormed out of the house, my mum in tow, but he looked at her in such a  threatening way, that she did not dare to follow him. He went off on his bicycle and my mum phoned an old wrestling pal of his.

Once before, he had headed to this old pal, and had handed him a plastic bag with a noose in it. The man came with his wife and two daughters. He went looking for my dad and the police was also called in. I remember standing on the balcony looking down the road and seeing this man coming walking leading a bicycle. I ran down and thought finally! It must have been around 22:00-23:00. But it wasn’t my dad. The police arrived with a priest a couple of hours later. My sister had been asleep for hours, my dad’s pal had taken his family home as well. I sat on the stairs, trying to hear. The police did not want me to listen in but my mum just said “let her come down here”. So there I sat, on the sofa, finding out that my dad had gone to the nearby forest and had hung himself. When we received his belongings, I grabbed his glasses to see if they were tear-stained, but they were not.

For years I did not dare to sleep in my own bed, because every time I fell asleep, I saw my dad’s dead body hanging from a tree. To this day I can not watch a scene on TV with a man/woman hanging or being hanged. To get some closure, I have through the years read up on what happens to a person when they die, through hanging. I no longer have the nightmares. But I miss my dad sorely. My mum had her favourite child and it was never me. I needed my dad in my life. To me a crippled dad was better than no dad at all. To me the work with him was nothing compared to a life without him. I was so angry at him for deserting me like he did, leaving me with a mother who did nothing but to try to break me down. I felt deserted. Lonely. And started to have suicide thoughts myself, wanting to be with my dad and not with my psycho mum. My life became more of a hell, two years after his death, when she met an alcoholic man, fell in love and had him move in with us right away. Not a day went by, when I did not ponder ending my life.

What helped me the most were two things. Moving away from my mum’s house. And reading a book, called “Return from Tomorrow”. I came to the US in 1986 and everybody I met, was reading that book and telling each other how amazing it was. So, this family I was staying with, got me the book for Christmas. And yes, it was an amazing book. George Ritchie, got ill while in the military. Little do we know, how many died, before they even got to leave for the front! He actually died for 9 minutes, in a military hospital, back in WWII. The book is about all the things that he saw while dead and while I do not remember much from that book, having read many since and having read it perhaps too fast, one thing etched itself on my brain. We always think that when a person dies, they go to some off place in space somewhere. Call it heaven, call it hell. But George Ritchie saw, that they are here, right among us still. They do not go anywhere. To be in hell, is to still have all the passions and cravings one had on this earth. An alcoholic will hang out in a pub but not be able to drink, since he has no body. His torment from earth will still be there, in the spirit world.

No, what made an impact on me, was what George Ritchie said about people who have committed suicide. They walk behind their loved ones, trying to say how sorry they are for having caused so much pain. Whether one believes in a life after this or not, is up to everyone’s individual faith or belief. But I believe in what George Ritchie wrote in his book. At that second, when a person decides on taking his life, nothing matters but himself. All other feelings are locked out, the person gets a one-track mind. It is a selfish act, yes. At that moment the person only cares about himself. He has no thoughts on the past, none on the future, there is only here and now. And the person decides “I can’t go on living, I do not want to live”.

How many of you have been caught speeding? How many of you have noticed a police standing in a bush with a speeding camera and you have gone all cold and sweaty inside? At that moment, when you see the camera or when the policeman walks up to you and says “you do know that the speed limit is only … here”, don’t we all wonder “why did I do it?”. No excuse is good enough. We wish we could turn the clock back. We did not really mean to do anything wrong. I believe that when the dead person’s spirit leaves his body, then his pain is gone, and that is when he can look at others. The initial relief is no doubt there, but I am sure, 100% sure, that the person never knew or understood what the act of suicide does to people around him.

It is one thing when a sick person dies. You get to say goodbye. You may even feel relief for that person, that he no longer will have to be ill and suffer pain. It is one thing when a person dies in an accident. It is unexpected, sudden and you don’t get to say your goodbyes. But what happened was out of everybody’s control. “Shit happens” as they say. (Sorry, about the language but everybody is likely to have heard the expression.) But when a man or a woman commits suicide, you don’t get to say goodbye,it happens suddenly without forewarning, even if there have been signs of depression, and it is a sign of rejection to the survivors. The way we feel, after our loved one has killed himself, is that we were not important enough, for him to want to live.

An acquaintance of mine, once told me and others, that she contemplated divorce. She felt there was nothing left, she did not even know what the point of continuing would be. Then she started to scrapbook her family’s photos from over the years and she said, sitting there and looking at everything she and her husband had experienced together, things they had laughed at together, cried over, opened her eyes. Suddenly she felt horrible for even having thought of leaving him. That is why a suicide is so painful, so ghastly, so beyond everything harmful to a family. The person does, with his act, spit on the past. He says, that it meant nothing. At least it was not worth to live for. There was nothing to salvage. The trials were too much. Even though God has clearly stated that he does not test any human being beyond their capacity. The people who feel that he does, do not  know their own capacity in other words. There is a way out of everything. We must believe that. And what George Ritchie saw, in the deceased-by-their-own hands, was remorse. They never intended to inflict such pain in their loved ones. In some cases they might have felt that the loved ones would be better off without them. But now, they might finally have realized how much they meant in the others’ lives, how much they were needed.

I don’t want my dad to walk around behind me, trying to beg me for forgiveness. He was so ill. He could not accept his new self. That he would never be who he had been before. He could not get his old life back. I would say, that we could have created a new life for us, for him. But it takes two to tango! And I was not the one who had to live in his body and go through the things he was going through. I could hug him and say that all was going to be alright, but that was not enough for him. And is it enough for anyone in pain?

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(Since we updated my iPad two days ago, it doesn’t work properly, especially not the spell-checker. So I hope you will overlook errors and spelling mistakes, till I have got help with this problem!)

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