Despair is Invisible

July 10, 2010

I am on my way soon to a memorial for a family member who committed suicide. This is of course a somber occasion, and we all have the challenge of the shadow that suicide casts when it is the cause of death. Suicide is a classic elephant-in-the-living-room, right.

An additional dimension to this shadow is that some people believe that the suicide was preventable, and are blaming others or themselves for not seeing this demise on the horizon, and intercepting it.

I’m not an expert in suicide, or suicide prevention. I’m not an expert in people, by any means. But I have been in that black hole that can suck a person in, down to depths that make death seem the only way out. And I know that no one else—even my closest allies—knew how dark I was feeling.

Depression and despair are wily, willful creatures, with well-honed talents of elusion and deceit.

See, depression carries a stigma greater than alcoholism or drug addiction. Feeling depressed is on par with having an abortion; they happen, but are not discussed. They are weaknesses, embarrassments, flaws. I mean really, can you imagine the equivalent of an AA meeting for a group of depressed people? No, really, think about it for a moment . . .

It would be wonderful actually if such a network existed. An alcoholic can pick up the phone at any time day or night, and talk to an understanding human—get help or advice or just a wee bit of whatever to stave off another submission to the disease.

With depression, not so much. There are hotlines that can be dialed when one feels suicide encroaching, but that’s kind of “last straw” you know.

But my lecture today is really more about the ruse of the belief that any of us could have intercepted and intervened with this suicide. Even the “professional” (therapist) of the family didn’t—and based on my direct experience with the wily ways of depression, I argue that even being a “professional” gives no inherent blame for this death.

But there is a lesson for everyone here. Sure, there’s the typical, life-is-precious stuff—and that’s true. But what’s more on my mind is:

Slow down. Look around. Inhale.

And, as much as we can muster, forgive ourselves, and each other.

Peace out.

Artwork: Despair underwater . . . by Miss Cartier and used with Creative Commons license.

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