Understanding Suicide

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"Understanding Suicide"
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So here's a big scary topic...suicide.

I believe, spending 80 percent of my time in one level of depression or another, qualifies my very opinionated commentary on suicide. I've spent a lot of time in the academic world and am generally quite amused at the responses I get when I present my theories about suicide to a potentially sensitive audience.

I have heard people say so many times, "Suicide is the cowards way out." One day in my statistics class, we were having a discussion about suicide. I had remained silent throughout, watching the interplay, much like one watches a ping pong match. But then a young man in his early twenties piped up with the above comment. That, of course, turned up my burners a few notches and I replied, "A lot of background on the topic have ya?"

Now the professor was a friend of mine and I could feel her cringing because she knows my background, and my particular prowess when it comes to ignorance chased with obstinate stupidity. The young man replied that it was his opinion and that people needed to learn to deal with their problems rather than run away from them. I smiled indulgently and said, "And what problems might they be running from?"

He shifted uncomfortably in his chair, as though realizing that maybe he was headed for trouble. I gave him props though, because he responded clearly and made eye contact, giving me a list of things people kill themselves for like finances, the loss of love, and there was one other in there I cannot recollect.

I proceeded to share the following with him...I explained my background a bit, citing that I have a mental illness. Then I said, "Please be very careful when making sweeping accusations about other's lives. Have you ever tried to kill yourself? Do you have any idea what it takes to consider ending your own life by whatever means are available to you? It is not cowardice that people are exhibiting when they end their lives. It may be many things but not that. And let me tell you why I am saying this with conviction...I have been there. Over and over I have been there. For me, depression is a never ending ride that I am not allowed to step off of. So suicide will always be a back door out of a crowed room in my life. And you must understand that for some people suicide looks like the only door. They have tapped out their resources, financially, emotionally, and mentally. Their loved ones are beaten up, worn out, and desperate to find some way over, under, in, or out of the living nightmare from hell that has claimed the person they love and changed them so completely. Sometimes because of the pain of those you love, you feel like the only way to stop the ride is to jump off...permanently. So please do not talk about what you know nothing about. Extend a little empathy and maybe say a prayer for those you do not understand and pray to God you never, ever, in all your young and vigorous life have to deal with such a thing."

Well there was silence as you can imagine. When I am angry I am not an avenging angel, I am cold, calculating, and very calm. So other than lowering the temperature in the room, there was little change in the environment or in the young man's perception I would wager. But it did shut him up. And maybe, just maybe next time he will stop and thing before he speaks.

I have not written about some of these incidences over the past years in school because I was so busy writing other things but I need to spit some of them out because they are noteworthy for me if for no one else. I got tired of being silent and trying to fit in. I began to carve out a niche for myself that was different, and luckily I had professors who applauded that in me. I was always able to pounce on stigma in my classes, and that helped me be understood, which I felt was only fair since I was trying to understand the "normal" ways of most of the rest of the population.

I will never again allow someone to speak that which I know to not be truth. But in doing so I must be very careful I am not doing the same somewhere else in my walk. That is difficult, for human beings are quite biased in our understandings of life around us; shaped by our own experiences, and I am nothing if not human. I offer this example only as an explanation of something like suicide that is held with such condemnation rather then compassion. I was once a person who felt much the same as that young man. Now I know that life is not made of black and white, fitting neatly into little boxes. It is mostly gray, and only God can judge for He knows the heart. May He continue to work with mine.

More about this author: Lael Clapp

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