Loss

I’m going to write a little about suicide now; I’m not considering it (well, I’m not considering doing it, but I am considering it as a topic, obviously, since I’m writing about it), but the hows and whyfors of suicide have been on my mind for the last few days. It’s not surprising, I suppose, given what happened with Alice, but it is a tough topic to talk about.

First, let me say that I have some understanding of how it feels to lose someone to suicide. Alice was a friend of mine, and it hurts to know that she’s gone. I don’t make friends easily, and so I like to keep the ones I have around for as long as possible, even if we aren’t always close. It’s not the same as losing a father, mother, brother, sister, son, or daughter, but I care very deeply for my friends. There’s a hole in my life now, and I don’t know how to fill it up again; I suppose time will do that, but the grief is still very fresh. 

But I also know what it is like to feel suicidal. I’ve been there twice. And it is a terrifying place to be. I don’t know what it is like for people with other mental illnesses, or people whose lives have just gotten so unbearable that they feel death is the best way to go, but I know with depression there is literally a part of my mind trying to convince me that my life is so bad, that I am so pathetic, so meaningless, so worthless, so hopeless that ending my life is the best way out. I know that people find it hard to believe that things can be so bad, and in reality, the actual parts of life probably aren’t so bad. But your mind has the ability to change the way you perceive things, and so for someone with depression, like me, a minor problem – a boss makes a minor reprimand, a bad grade, missing an appointment – seems like a monumental calamity. Have enough of those happen to you, and it just seems too painful to go on.

I have seen and heard a lot of people say that suicide is selfish – that the person trying, or succeeding, is only considering themselves, not the people they leave behind. But I can say that, in my case, and I imagine in many other cases, that’s not true. It may seem selfish to others, but for us, our brains have gotten us so convinced that life is terrible, that we are pathetic and hopeless, that we are absolutely certain that our being dead will be a blessing to the people who are left – that we mean so little, and we bring so much pain and gloom to those around us, that our loss is practically a gain. So while it may be seen as selfish, the people trying – or succeeding – to kill themselves aren’t trying to be selfish. They don’t want to leave pain and misery behind for the people who care about them – they just don’t think there will be any.

I also have heard people talk about how the victims of suicide aren’t worth grieving for, because their problems weren’t so bad – there are people who live with worse problems, and they don’t kill themselves, after all. But to those people, I say (well, here; if I met one in person, I’d probably punch them) – how do you know how bad their problems are? Granted, I know my problems, when I was considering, and trying, suicide, weren’t all the big, on the grand scheme of things. I wasn’t starving, or being tortured (not physically, anyway), or being shot at. But I felt like I had nowhere to go. Every decision I made, just made things worse. I felt so crushingly sad, so abjectly hopeless, and so wracked by emotional pain that even deciding whether or not to shower in the morning was like running a marathon with broken glass in my shoes. My problems weren’t that bad, no, but my brain made me think that they were. It hurt so much, and I felt so alone (even though I know now that I wasn’t), and I felt like there was no help, no hope. And it broke me. Luckily for me, I didn’t succeed, and I found a way to manage my illness, to make my mind behave. Many people aren’t so lucky.

So I don’t begrudge that choice. I don’t know what Alice was thinking, or how badly she felt, when she decided to end her life. But while I wish that I could change it somehow, that she was still here, that my friend was still alive, I don’t think that she did anything she didn’t feel the need to do. I’m sure she had a reason, or several reasons, and while they might not make sense to me, or anyone else, they made sense to her – and the way we perceive things is really what matters here.

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4 comments on “Loss

  1. walsup says:

    Meteor:

    I know you’ve been thinkin’ about falling
    to earth like a meteor.
    And I know that you would fall so well dear.
    That yours is the kind of skin that would light up the sky

    Wedding dress white.

    But, is it just because you know that you are a catastrophe?

    Because we know it to, but we still wait each year
    to see you streaking the sky each year.
    And you’re more than a mark on my calendar.

    Stop hoping you can be the crater you leave behind.

    You are a moonlit meal for our eyes.

    You are more than the red dwarf of your heart.

    Some days I want to explode to, sometimes I do.

    If you are a comet catastrophe
    I can be your gravity.

    She looks me up and down and says,
    do not mistake yourself for my bridegroom.
    Or me for a widow-maker.
    I want to be more than a memory.

    You will see me from space written on the land

    Like Sanskrit in a Quran.
    I’m tired of people looking up at me.

    This is my annulment from the sky.

    There is nothing as hard as being married to the night.

    She was reckless, but she was something.

    I’m tired of the expectation in your telescopes.

    I’ve been waiting to see you in my sky since my father taught me to read the stars

    Astronomers, we love straining our eyes trying to see
    the asterix stars you tie to your tail, like beer cans on a bumper
    I’ve built pinpoint telescopes trying to see you streak the sky.

    Do not marry yourself into a family of meteors.

    Mourn the missing space in our telescopes.

    You have no right to grieve.
    Stars are dead long before you fall for their light.

    What you see are pockmarks and scabs, they’ll all fade out one day
    I just want to go out fast.
    Leave something behind, even if it’s dust.

    Copyright Alice Alsup & Alsup Family

    Cause you would fall so well
    She says, you will learn to love my absence.

    Even the sky needs breathing spaces.

    Even star maps have storylines, I’m just making mine memorable.

    Because you sure are that catastrophe you call yourself,

    But you’re the comet I’ve marked in my calendar.

    She hears this, looks me up and down and says
    I want an ending fit for textbooks.

    Crash craters so big that they make canyons

    And then you can mingle with me, touch my dust

    Swim in my ashes in a crater lake.

    • Even though this poem made me completely fall apart, it struck me as something only Alice would think up; this poem is one of the things that makes sure she is more than just a memory.

  2. walsup says:

    I’m with you Jaime, on the whole selfish thing. If anything, I think it’s kind of selfish of us to say that it was selfish of her to think only of herself. Because I don’t think that’s what she was thinking about at all. She was afraid of losing control again and she took matters into her own hands before she would be subjected to the torture of her psychosis in a cycle that she could not see ending anytime soon.

    • That seems like exactly the kind of thing that would make sense. At least in my experience, people trying to commit suicide aren’t trying to cause more pain; they’re trying to end it – theirs and the pain of those around them.

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