Saturday, May 26, 2012

Losing Hope

I have had a couple friends over the years end their own lives at a fairly early stage in life. I have had other friends that have expressed that they went through periods...or periodically think about... ending their lives at their own discretion.

Decades ago I read some psychology books on suicide...cause and to handle signs when you see them. I think I have forgotten some of the crucial points learned back then...but having dealt with my share of death this past year within my family and friends, I realize it is probably important to get back in touch with this subject and how I feel about it.

Many people who contemplate suicide are people who are terminally ill, or terminally depressed. I guess many people in our world fight depression all their lives. Many people are "manic depressive", more commonly now known as "bipolar disorder". I have met a number of these people throughout my life. Some of them you will never recognize their struggles unless you spend a long period of time with them. Some of these people are on what I call "happy pills"...pharmaceuticals that alter the state of the mind...chemical adjustment is how I see it. While it can be amazing to see the affect of such drugs and treatment, one still has to wonder what the origin of this condition is and if it can be treated by pure "will power" and reason. I'm sure it is easier to suggest it than to do it...but somehow I still believe we have a choice over time how our mind works and what we focus on. Some of us have more strength and predetermination to fight depression or negative thinking than others. Still, I have to believe it starts at early stages in our lives of how we were brought up to think about ourselves and the world around us.

There are also probably multi-generational attributes that contribute to causing imbalanced thinking that leads to imbalanced emotions. My experience is that thought leads to emotions versus the other way theoretically we should be able to control our emotions...and actions stemming from emotions...if we have enough mind power and discipline to do so.

Of course, the other wild card when we observe these traits in others is that we often don't know their backgrounds or how they were raised. While we tend to be quick to criticize or down people with depression or mental theory has always been that we have no right to judge these people in light of the fact we haven't walked in their shoes or been through the things they have been through. And at the end of the day, one can never totally know another person's emotional content apart from that which they are willing to share with us. Some people are very outwardly bi-polar while others hide it a bit more effectively. Still...I would suggest it is much more prevalent than most of us are willing to admit.

There are a number of options to us on how we can handle people in our lives who are depressive...or even suicidal. Here are just a few options to consider...and all have their reasonable pros and cons...

Ignore it and it/they will go away...we can elect to ignore and distance ourselves from people who exhibit frequent depression or mood swings. This is probably the "safest" route if we want to insulate ourselves from dealing with the fallout from these relationships...fights, arguments, irrational conversations, or ultimately dealing with their early departure from our lives.

I'm OK, You're OK...I read a book by that title in the 70s...and basically it encouraged us to view each other as humans and deal with each other in a "transactional" sense. This approach helps us understand each other based on perceived roles within ourselves of parent, child and other traits that never leave us even as we age. Some people never escape childish reactions to life. Many of us continue to sulk or withdraw like a child when things don't go our way. Unfortunately, this can lead to extreme self destructive, anti social behaviors that can cause much duress in this life. Sometimes we may need to continue dealing with the "child" within all of us.

I SUCK, you SUCK...this was George Carlins parody spiel on the same theme. Basically his mode of thinking is that we are all ****ed up in one fashion or another. A majority of people are NOT in control of their own destinies... but maybe...just maybe...the people who end their lives at their own time and way are actually the most brave and strong...even in their weakness. I do think that people who take their end into their own hands are saying something to the rest of us. Basically, I always read it as I have had enough of you...or "I don't care anymore". The "I don't care" starts with self...and then transfers to others.

All in all, I think it extremely sad when someone takes their own life. With a terminal disease, I can definitely understand and accept the persons decision. When it is simply based on loss of hope, well, I actually feel disappointment and anger at the person.

I recently lost a friend who was younger than me who finally submitted to and ended his depression drastically. I had seen SOME signs that he was stressed and a bit out of sorts with a number of circumstances in his life, but I had no idea he was up to what he did. Upon hearing the sad news, I was at first shocked, then sad, and at the end...even at his funeral...angry with him that he would do this. His wife and family apparently had no forewarning of his intentions. This person was in my opinion an attractive man, wonderful personality, liked by everyone I knew in common with him. Yet, apparently he was struggling with some quiet demons and in the end lost all hope of overcoming them.

It appears a classic example of suicidal people. Those who TALK about doing it probably won't. Those who quietly contemplate or secretly fantasize about doing it are the most likely to follow through. Of course, he no longer has to care or worry about what I or anyone else thinks or feels about it. I don't think he believed in a "beyond", so I don't think he had any illusions or fantasies about some life "on the other side". The way I read it is he preferred the nothingness or mystery of death over the challenges, pains and pressures of the life he knew. Even with the people closest to us, we never quite know for sure what they are thinking or feeling sometimes. Perhaps we never know when a positive or good word...even a gesture or a hug...might bring renewed meaning and hope to someone near to us. If it would be that simple, I would be glad to hug my friend for hours or days if it were to be enough to see him through whatever dark storm he was going through. But alas, he never asked me for help or a hug...and I never thought to offer it.

Ultimately, I think life is about maintaining faith and hope in a positive future. I think it is about hoping and believing in the best of people versus always looking at their dark side or weaknesses. And finally, it is about staying true to ourselves so that we never lose our self definition of goodness and positiveness that can better get us through those sometimes "dark nights".

I am glad my friend is no longer suffering...but I am still angry at the waste when I think of all the joy and meaning he brought to his friends and family...which will be no longer.


Dave McDonagh said...

It's tougher being the person or peopl;e left behind when an unplanned death, especially a suicide takes place. We all have attitudes regarding why someone might end their life prematurely. I think Tennessee Williams said, "There comes a time when you look into the mirror and you realize that what you see is all that you will ever be. And then you accept it. Or you kill yourself. Or you stop looking in mirrors.”
My take on this is that we all have choices and no one can understand or help us make those choices in the end.
I am sorry for your loss, but as you said, your friend is no longer suffering.

Bonnie said...

I know a family in which there were several suicides, including that of their much loved son. I suspect that there is a certain genetic ( therefore biological ) inclination toward profound depression and hopelessness. My first husband's children, all four girls, suffer fron depression and some in the family are bi-polar. ( I liked the term manic-depressive better...more dramatic ! ) More indication to me that emotional imbalance is genetic. I love George Carlin's take on the book title. He was such a brilliant comio. I miss him. Of course we know people who immerse themselves in religiousity to deal with it all, another drug. My own reactions when I've learned of the suicide of a friend or acquaintance is first surprise ( especally if the person is physically healthy ) and then sadness for their loss of life and for their families. I've been broken hearted and absolutely bereft at times in my life, but have never, ever contemplated suicide. Frankly, I just love being alive too much for that. I do not want to go gently into that good night...I want to be dragged out kicking and screaming..."Let me stay; let me stay ! "

sonia bibiana said...

El ser humano es tan complejo, cada uno es un mundo diferente, pero igual somos seres humaanos con corazon y sentimientos, deberiamos estar en la capacidad de ayudarnos, amarnos, apoyarnos y respetarnos.
Esta perdida a la que te refieres de nuestro comun amigo, para mi fue muy dolorosa y todavia recordarlo me hace mal.
Pero siento mas tristeza el no haber podido hacer algo para evitar esta tragedia, especialmente en este hombre maravilloso, lleno de virtudes y cualidades. Seguramente tenia mucho tiempo sufriendo su propio dolor y sin saber como compartir para desahogarse.
Tal vez nuestro egoismo propio, nos impide leer estos sintomas de alerta en otras personas.