Yesterday, in the post, "To End It All"
, I mentioned learning the sad news that Matt Hughes from the TV program, Storm Chasers, had died in May as the result of suicide. I spent the day sorting out my feelings and thoughts about this topic. Suicide is very similar to incest; it's one of those issues that people don't like to talk about. It tends to make people feel uneasy.
I have very mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, I believe that people have the right to end their own life. I don't view it as a sinful activity. It may certainly be misguided, but I certainly don't view it as evil. We exercise so little control over our lives that suicide can provide a degree of peace of mind in knowing that, while no one gets to choose if or when we are born, we CAN dictate when we die.
Of course, there is a distinct stigma attached to the concept of voluntarily deciding to end one's own life. Some view it as the ultimate example of selfish self-centeredness. However, most of us commit our own form of suicide. It merely takes longer to finish off the deed.
If you look across the world today, billions of people smoke, drink to excess, abuse all sort of drugs, clog our arteries with transfats, and/or engage in a multitude of risky behaviors. All of these activities and more are certain to shorten a person's lifespan. We choose to fall prey to our most craven desires and these actions typically result in our own deaths before our time.
So, why do we look down on our brethren simply for speeding up the process? While far too many of us drag the process out over many decades, some people decide to take care of the issue in one swift move.
That's one side of the issue. Another side is that many people who decide to end their life do so as the result of clinical depression, an organic and/or psychological disease. It's one thing if an individual -- with all their sentient faculties intact -- makes a well thought out decision to bring their life to a close; it's quite another for someone dealing with a mental illness to make that same decision.
Often, the person suffering from depression does not have the capability to size up the situation and circumstances rationally. This can mean that their decision is rendered due to distortions and that they can't accurately view all the pros and cons involved. In many such instances, the decision to commit suicide is based on acute short-term criteria that does not factor in long-term effects.
And this brings me to the third part of this post. The tragedy of the act of suicide is not only a valued life cut short but the long-term psychological damage that is inflicted on those who continue to live on. Loved ones and friends of a person who up and kills themselves are saddled with tremendous guilt and pain. Many believe that, if only THEY had been more attentive or compassionate, the victim would not have chosen the route he or she chose.
I've mentioned before that, in my late teens to early 30s, I came close to suicide a few times. Unbeknownst to me at the time, I was struggling with severe hormonal deficiencies as the result of undiagnosed Klinefelter's Syndrome. Because my body did not produce adequate amounts of testosterone in relation to estrogen, my moods bounced up and down like a person who suffers from bipolar disorder.
Since I'm sitting here at my keyboard as a 53 year old gent, it should be quite apparent that I never followed through with my intentions! Despite the internal turmoil I felt, the one thing that kept me from taking that final step was the knowledge that my personal actions would adversely impact those I loved and who love me.
In my own personal misery, I was still able to acknowledge that my actions would psychologically destroy my dear wife, Della. It would also cause immense pain for my parents, brother, grandparents and close friends. The thought of being the direct cause of so much abject misery for others kept me from taking my own life.
On the whole -- though, like most people, I do have my "moments" -- I'm glad I decided to stick around a while longer. I figure that I have been granted this one life and, through all the joys and pain this one life offers, I need to make the most of it and keep on muddling through until my time comes to its natural conclusion.Other related posts: To End It All, Thinking We Know, and Who Was Matt Hughes?