Thinking it’s an act of selfishness is a lack of understanding of what suicide is.
Even before Charles died by suicide, I did not subscribe to the “selfish” notion. I remember Charles walking into my office and telling me that a friend’s dad had died by suicide. He said he thought it was selfish.
Then he asked what I thought.
Did he think it was selfish? Or was testing me to see what I thought. I don’t know that I will ever know for sure. My gut tells me he wanted to know whether I thought suicide meant someone was selfish because he was suffering from thoughts of hurting himself. Maybe he wanted to tell me or for me to ask.
I told him that it wasn’t an act of selfishness but an act of despair and desperation. And we had a long conversation about it.
I remember it so distinctly, I even remember thinking his hair was looking shaggy but those curls were so beautiful. Then he showed me a picture of his friend’s dad standing in the garage next to a car he and his son had been working on. It looked as if it had been printed out on the computer. I don’t know where he got it.
I could tell he was struggling with his friend’s loss and couldn’t imagine it. It didn’t occur to me to ask him if he had considered suicide or felt like dying. But I did worry about the fact that he was taking the burden of this death so personally. But then that kind of empathy is typical of those who suffer depression. He had not been diagnosed at the time.
Judging from his other writings that I never saw until after he died, he had already been suffering from suicidal thoughts.
“Isolated with loneliness as my only companion,
my only goal is to plummet to death off the Grand Canyon.
Can’t sleep at night, just wait for the bright,
But I’m blinded by the light and I’m blind with rage,
trying to start a new page but I feel like an animal in a cage.”
Over and over in his lyrics, he expresses self-hatred, pain from thoughts that torture him, despair and darkness.
His lack of sleep, a problem that cropped up when he was a toddler, that got worse as he got older. Clearly his mind was turning against him.
“I just can’t stop, I’m losing my mind,
my brain is on fast forward and rewind at the exact same time,
It’s tearing me up, it’s just becoming too hard to give a fuck,
I don’t feel like a person anymore.
I’m losing my touch with reality,
and constantly living in a fallacy.
My mind in goooone, I sit alone all day looooong,
I need help, I need your help,
Somebody please reach out to me,
I need love, I need love,
It’s my only drug
It’s the only thing that matters,
Oh I hope it matters…. Please let it matter.”
I wish I had known the signs. I wish I had known to ask, “Are you thinking about suicide?” But I didn’t.
Imagine day after day being tortured with thoughts like those above. I now see pages and pages of them. Imagine the courage it takes to make the choice to live every day and the amount of energy that uses up.
Ninety percent of all who die by suicide suffer from a mental illness. And that intense emotional pain does subside, often in as little as 20 minutes.
Here’s what I’ve learned from my son’s writings, clinical studies and suicide attempt survivors who follow this blog.
They’ll refer to it as a “brain attack,” an irrational moment of unrelenting emotional pain. Most who die by suicide do not want to kill themselves, they want to end intense and relentless pain. And in that moment of pain, many sufferers feel like the world would be better off without them. Like they are a burden.
Suicide is the result of an “attack” on a major organ, the brain, and desperate, irrational thinking.