Not long after college, I received a phone call from a friend that one of our friends had passed away. We learned that he had taken his life the night before. I hadn’t kept in touch with him after college, but even those who spoke to him recently, had no idea this was coming. Due to the stigma that surrounds suicide we were all nervous about what to expect, especially as suicide is considered a sin in the Jewish faith. At the Temple, his brother gave the eulogy. He spoke of suicide being a sin but confidently proclaimed that he knew God would welcome his brother anyway. After this, we were invited to sit Shiva with the family and as we sat in his mother’s living room there was no mention of, or sense of blame towards him for his choice while sharing stories between us about her son. I remember feeling an overwhelming sense of relief that even with this major stigma against suicide, even from their own faith, even though it would take a long time to find peace with his loss, that they were able to find peace with the circumstances of his death.
I would bet against finding an adult who can honestly say that in all their life, they have never struggled with anxiety or depression. I myself have had my fair share of both and continue struggling with anxiety on a daily basis. Although we all, at least at some point in our lives, have found ourselves on the spectrum of mental illness, it is a large and vast range and we cannot assume to completely understand anyone not standing in our exact circumstances.
I, myself have survived weeks of complete emptiness, moments of crippling anxiety and years of aloof apathy and I could never imagine not wanting to put on a brave face and battle through. But that is my journey and I could not possible be so arrogant to think that my paltry experience would leave me as an expert on somebody else’s battle. So when people mention suicide, I think no less of the individual than I would if death was caused by cancer, a freak accident or murder.
I absolutely love my life and wouldn’t give it up for the world yet there are moments where I get it. Not everyone is as fortunate as I am as I was either born with or at some point in my childhood developed a very strong resilience that has helped me continue to fight in the face of complete helplessness and despair. I have walked out of family court without a child who depended on me to keep them safe not knowing what would happen between then and the next court date. I have dropped off my husband to surrender himself to the police over a false allegation in the middle of an already overwhelming legal battle. I have helplessly watched my mother administer CPR on my non responsive 1 year old, waiting terrified for 911 to respond. I’ve come to terms with my failed marriage and learned to adjust to a single- parent household. I have had police knocking on my door trying to remove my daughter from my care because a judge was too lazy to look for the open case where CPS removed the child from her biological mother and left her in our care.
Court was 5 years, but it seemed like a lifetime. Waiting for the ambulance seemed like an eternity, but it was more like less than 10 minutes. Being a single parent household is long term but the adjustment was fast. We won in court, my daughter is here and healthy, and my family seems well adjusted to our circumstances. There was always an end in sight to my pain. I have a network of reliable family and friends who I can count on for anything from childcare to a shoulder to cry on. I have plenty of blessings to count and it’s kind of hard to realize how great you have it without realizing, others are not so lucky, otherwise we would count our givens, rather than blessings. Nothing in life is a given.
There are people who leave the hospital without their children. There are people who leave court repeatedly without even a glimpse of their child. There are people stuck in bad marriages, or whose lives fall apart over divorce. As much as there is always a metaphorical bright side, not everyone has the means or support to even imagine it. Not everyone has health insurance and the means to get help. Some people can’t handle the side effects of medication. Whatever the reason, people don’t commit suicide as an easy way out, but rather, as the only way out after years of suffering. People in physical pain sign DNRs all the time. I’m sure we can dig up our worst memories and see that mental pain can be just as devastating and how desperately people can be to make it stop. As for why they did not seek help. Many did and they still suffer. Other’s are in such pain that they struggle just to make it through the day and do not have the means to reach out. When they are taking life saving measures to save your life during a physical illness, they are also treating any associated pain the best they can. Those with serious mental diseases do not have that option and often spend years seeking help while coping with pain that eventually does them in. What ever the reason, it is not our place to judge, as only God can judge.