Sunday, October 12, 2008

Suicide - a rational option under certain circumstances?

Yesterday, as I ran 18 miles and had nearly four hours to keep my mind occupied in various ways, one of the topics I spent considerable amount of time on was about "Suicide being a rational option under certain circumstances". The train of thought on Suicide was triggered by the following quote I had read a day or two earlier in Ben Casnocha's recent blog post about the death of David Foster Wallace.
I'm wondering whether, as one friend put it to me, a brilliant mind knows that suicide is actually a rational option under certain circumstances.
What really hooked me about the above quote was the fact that there was a time when I would have fully agreed with the statement, and that I am in total opposition of it now.

While I have not taken active steps towards committing suicide at any point in my life, there have been numerous occasions when depression has taken over my being, I have come close to ending it all, being totally hopeless about life at that point in time.

There was also an incident a few years ago when one of my friends committed suicide, and I was left with a regret that if only I had been more open to him and willing to support him in his troubled times he would have not killed himself.

Looking back at my journey from struggles with near-suicidal depression to life-affirming vitality, the following jump out as key aspects / moments / incidents in this journey:
  • In my case, I kind of have an idea how I got to where I was. Early experiences of angry and violent outbursts, and perceived lack of love and appreciation made me withdraw into myself; make up the story that no one can be trusted; that I am ugly, unlovable, dumb, hated, and incompetent; that I am a burden on people around me, and that people barely tolerate my presence. While I went on to have a "successful life" - doing well in education and career, the flawed self-image showed up frequently as depressive episodes, and I made it through life, perfecting the art of being lonely and orphaned despite being with family and friends.
  • While my early mental make up did not allow me to let any human into my life in anyway, my love (and implicit trust) of books turned out to be a redeeming aspect. I have trusted in books wholeheartedly to help me enjoy and live my life. I also turned to books when it became clear to me that who I had turned out to be was not working for me, and that I had to fix myself before something drastic happens. Around 5 or 6 years ago, I was devouring books on various topics related to depression, personality disorders, psychotherapy, etc. A direct off-shoot of this bibliographical excursion was the decision to seek psychotherapy counseling. Given my total lack of trust in fellow human beings, and the total trust in books, it is no surprise that I started my psychotherapy sessions with an author of one of the books I read ;-).
  • One of the literary gems I came across in my attempt to find some book to help me in my efforts is William Styron's Darkness Visible : A memoir of madness. From my previous post about this book : "William Styron was not only able to express very lucidly the hopelessness and maddening frustrations of his increasingly melancholic state-of-mind, but also delves in length on the recovery aspects, starting with his recollection of the happier times of his life on listening to a favourite piece of music." The movie Girl, Interrupted reinforced my belief in the benefits of psychotherapy, clarifying what I was out to get for myself from these expensive sessions.
  • The psychotherapy sessions did make a huge difference. In short, these long years of therapy helped me reactivate my emotional sensors and be with what is happening in the world. I am eternally grateful for the work my psychotherapist guided me through to undo the sinister parts of my mental make-up.
  • In my monotonous and dreary existence over the past few years - sustained by regular dose of therapeutic counseling (and towards the later part through prescription anti-depressants), the single most joyful experience I have been lucky to have had is to be at the receiving end of unconditional love from many kids - my nieces and nephews, the kids of many of my friends. I hold fond memories particularly of the time I spent with my Baltimore friends' two kids - being part of THEIR growing up process, and knowing that they love me for just being myself, seems to have in some way made me give up a huge slice of the "I am unlovable" crap I had been holding on to for all my life!
  • I took up running almost two years ago to the date, running my first 5K race on Sunday Oct 08, 2006. Now as I prepare to run my first marathon on Nov 23rd, I am present to how much of a life force rejuvenatory thing this habit has been. The pride and joy I got every time I met a personal milestone in running has added to my personal confidence by leaps and bounds. When a person genuinely loves himself and is proud of his accomplishments, say good-bye to depression!
  • The definite shift towards vitality and eager anticipation for all that life has to offer occurred over the three and half days of the Landmark Forum that I attended last June. The Landmark Forum allowed me let go of all the "shoulds", "musts" &"can'ts" that have been making my life miserable, and has given me faith in my ability to fully participate in and enjoy life to the fullest!
There was a time when I would have considered suicide a rational option, but that was in the past!!

Now I am clear that life is worth living, and that suicide is an option only for people limited in their ability to receive and give love!