Friday, April 20, 2018

Suicidal parents...

Yesterday, someone shared a heartbreaking story about a four year old girl whose father killed himself on the day after her very first ballet lesson.  The story was accompanied by a picture of the gorgeous little blonde girl, her eyes bright and shining with excitement.  She wore a black leotard and matching skirt.  She looked like a perfect angel, full of hope and great expectations for the future.  She had no way of knowing that the very next day, her beloved father would die by his own hand.  Her face was probably a lot dimmer for a long time after that sad occasion.

I read the story and connected with it, mostly because of the beautiful picture of the little girl who now grieves for her daddy.  The girl's mother, Nik Tebbe, implored suicidal people-- particularly parents-- to "stay" for their children's sakes.

This morning, I saw that a Facebook friend shared the below photo.  It might have been because she saw the story I shared about the little girl whose father committed suicide and the pleas for suicidal parents to "stay" so their children won't have to grieve.  I could be wrong, but I'm going to assume this is a passive rebuttal to Nik Tebbe's viral post.

To be honest, I kind of agree with this... but...

I guess I'm lucky because at this point, no one I've ever loved has killed themselves.  However, I'm also not lucky, because I have struggled with suicidal ideation myself.  I have been clinically depressed and I understand the feelings of hopelessness and despair that can come from extreme depression and anxiety.  I also understand that most people who are suicidal are not necessarily in their right minds.  I don't mean they're "crazy" per se-- it's more that they don't see the big picture.  I think people who are severely depressed develop a kind of single-minded tunnel vision that convinces them that there's nothing beyond the bleakness of crippling depression.  I can understand why my Facebook friend shared the above post.  I don't think that most people who kill themselves are necessarily "selfish".

Of course, there are some people who commit or attempt suicide for truly selfish reasons.  My husband's ex wife, for instance, reportedly attempted suicide when Bill's younger daughter decided to leave home.  I don't believe for a millisecond that she was truly suicidal.  I think she did that for manipulative purposes, to get the attention and control she craves.  Sometimes people attempt suicide because they want to control others and they end up succeeding, against their best laid plans.  That didn't happen in Bill's ex wife's case, but it could have.  I'm sure her children would have been devastated, even if they do seem to be onto her ploys.

But-- those who are suffering from clinical depression, and aren't just narcissists looking for attention, truly don't see suicide as a selfish thing to do.  In fact, a lot of suicidal people either think everyone would be better off without them, or are in so much psychic pain that they simply just want it to end, the same way a person with extreme physical pain just wants it to end.  They don't see any way to stop that pain other than hastening their own deaths.  So yes, I get that suicidal people need love and support and should be encouraged to "stay" for themselves instead of for other people.

I can also understand why Nik Tebbe wrote what she did.  She has a beautiful little girl who will never really know her father.  That girl is now seven years old and has lived almost half her life without her dad.  I'm sure it's absolutely heartbreaking to see such a young child grieve.  I see from the comments left on Tebbe's post that a whole lot of people commiserate.  Many people have lost a parent to suicide and have had to deal with that pain.  Some wrote that they lost a parent to suicide at a time when there was no support available to them.  They had no one with whom to talk about it and were left to muddle through as best they could.  So yes, I can also see why someone would be inspired to post about how suicide affects those left behind.  And I understand why people get angry at those who kill themselves and think of them as "selfish".

If you haven't been extremely depressed and obsessed with the idea of checking out early, you might not understand why suicide looks like a good idea.  It's hard to fathom that level of despondency if you haven't experienced it firsthand.  I don't believe I ever truly got to the point at which I started developing plans to die, but I do remember feeling very hopeless and helpless.

There were nights I drove home from my job in Williamsburg, crossed the Coleman Bridge and had fleeting thoughts of simply driving off of it.  Fortunately, I never completely lost my sense of self-preservation before the right antidepressant did its work.  I also had a great therapist and the ability to pay for his services.  If I hadn't, I don't know if I would have "checked out early".  I probably wouldn't have, but I can't say that for sure.  I did go through some very dark days.  I don't have any children and, at that time, didn't have a husband or a boyfriend.  I couldn't see the point of sticking around.  Now that I'm better, I guess I'm glad I didn't off myself, although sometimes I still have days where I wonder what the point of living is.  I would probably feel differently if I had a child...  or maybe not.

I know I've mentioned this on my blog before, but for this post, I'm going to repeat it.  Taking Wellbutrin taught me that clinical depression truly is a biological illness.  Four days after my first dose, I started feeling better.  Within a few weeks, I was able to set plans in motion to change the course of my life.  Within six months, those plans were in action and things were improving.  Within nine months, I met Bill online for the very first time.  Three years after that, we were married.

It's been a long time since I last felt really depressed and suicidal, but I haven't forgotten the feelings that come from it.  I have not forgotten how scary and overwhelming the prospect of getting help was, how paralyzed I often felt, or the hell I went through before we found the right drug.  Some people never find the right drug.  Sometimes depression, like any malignant cancer, is deadly.

So... while I agree with the sentiments in the above picture, I also understand why Nik Tebbe pleads with suicidal parents to think once more about the children who will be left behind before they do anything drastic.  It will have an effect on them.  They probably won't be "better off" without their parent.  I say "probably" only because I think there are some very rare situations in which the death of a parent truly can be a blessing.  However, even in those cases, there will very likely be ripple effects that will impact future generations for years to come.

And I guess I'm glad I'm still here to be able to ponder this.  

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