Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Don't Sex Up Suicide

Hi Everyone

A change of pace this evening.  Tonight was a sad time to read the online news.   One of our British treasures, Stephen Fry, admitted he had attempted suicide last year, and this was swiftly followed by the news that Paris Jackson had also been rushed to hospital after a suspected suicide attempt.  I don’t know which shocked me more – the veteran who has battled mental illness for decades, or the girl who had seemed to be doing so well in the shadow of the legacy into which she was borne.

Admission: Stephen Fry, pictured last week, has said that he tried to kill himself last year using 'pills and vodka'

Let’s take Fry first.  If you’re from the UK, you’ll know him well – actor, comedian, writer, bon raconteur, quiz master, egghead and the narrator of the Harry Potter audio books.  Utterly self deprecating, and utterly broken by his bi-polar battle.  He has spoken openly over the years of his skirmishes and wars, and how medicine has helped, and he is now President of MIND, the UK’s mental wellness charity.

As someone who was fought so long and so hard, he is pragmatic, admitting he suspects one day he will die by his own hand, fatigued by his mental scars.   That day almost came last year, but the pills and vodka rebelled against him, and he convulsed so violently that he broke 4 ribs.  Suicide ain’t painless….

And then there’s Paris, who since her father died has seemed an utterly grounded girl, building her own future on her terms, and refusing to be bound by a shadow.    I took her recent decision to reconnect with her birth mother as another sign of her taking her life back – sadly, it may now be an indicator of how lost she was, flailing for all and any detritus which would keep her above the waves.

I think Paris is a strong girl, and I hope she pulls through, stronger and more independent.  What worries me is how her generation may take her suicide attempt.  She has a million Twitter followers.  Is there the danger that the teenies may see it as the ultimate emancipation and 2 fingers to a world that plainly no longer cares?

I hope not.  There is no doubt that suicide is an incredibly complex thing, never better summed up than in Arthur Miller’s play which drew on his life with his ex-wife Marilyn Monroe.  In the play, the Miller character yells at the suicidal Monroe character – “A suicide kills 2 people, Maggie, that’s what it’s for!”.

25 years since first reading that line, the power of it has never left me, and every year, its truth becomes more and more relevant.  I have jousted with depression, I have sunk into dark clouds, waiting for waves to roll me under or away or anywhere …. When you’re depressed, it is incredibly easy to feel unloved.  Even if you know you ARE loved, it can be almost impossible to feel it through the numbing layers of cotton wool.

But as someone who has once again, only recently, thought of the relief that might come with it “all being over”, the only thing that will save you is love.  It’s not being loved that keeps me alive, it’s loving my daughter, and the fierce, primal instinct that whatever I do, or screw up in this life, I will NOT damage her.  I will not leave her alone, without me, wondering what she did wrong, or why she wasn’t enough.

And I turn back to Fry, a famous celibate, and to Paris, a girl who clearly idolised her father.  Where is the love?   And there is their abyss, not in the not being loved, but in the having nowhere to channel it back.

Love will save you, if you’re lucky it might even set you free.  One thing is for certain – suicide is never an answer.  Sure, it’s a closer, a slap to the face, a slammed door, but ultimately it can only ever raise questions and haunt the survivors.  If a suicide kills 2 people, who are you trying to kill?  

You might think it’s yourself, but chances are it’s something else entirely – a lost dream, a lost other, a ghost, a cold partner.   Suicide isn’t the answer, and it isn’t the cure.   And whilst medicine may stop you from jumping to the answer, it’s only therapy that will answer the questions, and help you understand that it’s not really yourself you’re trying to kill after all, but something else.

And if a suicide kills 2 people, you’d better make sure their pain is worth dying for.

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