Maybe it’s because this is the time of year when my favorite uncle decided to take his life. Or, maybe it’s because I just made my way through a long and very moving Metafilter discussion on the subject. Or, maybe it’s because I was just talking with a friend abut his chronic low-level depression. But, for whatever reason, suicide is at the forefront of my mind tonight as I’m sitting here at the kitchen table.
I think I’ve mentioned my uncle’s suicide before. If I didn’t discuss it directly, I know I hinted around about it when talking about his dog, Foxy, who came up from North Carolina to live with us after his death. A lot of the feelings that I had about his decision to take his own life, I think, didn’t surface until several months later, when Foxy passed away, and I know that I wrote quite extensively during that time. (If I were a better blogger, and if there were more time, I’d search for some of those posts and link to them here.) At any rate, Thom – that was my uncle’s name – was probably the person in my family that I most identified with, and I took it hard when he decided to leave that way.
Thom’s suicide wasn’t the first in my family. There here been a few. My mom’s father. My dad’s mother. My mom’s brother. With the exception of my dad’s step-father, I don’t think that anyone in my extended family has died in the last 25 years except by their own hand. It’s a depressing thought that I’m often reminded of when in the doctor’s office, filling out forms on my family history and what illnesses they’ve succumbed to… I don’t know, for instance, if there’s a history of cancer in my family. People don’t usually hang around that long.
In spite of all of this, and my generally gloomy state of mind, the thought of doing it myself has never crossed my mind. It kind of surprises me. It seems like I’d be a textbook case, what with the depression and anxiety. There have certainly been times, in the darkest throws of depression, when I’ve prayed that I might catch some horrible disease, but it’s never crossed my mind to just opt out of living, not even when things felt truly hopeless. It’s one of the things that I like about myself. As weak as I think that I am sometimes, I never really give up completely.
If you have the time, I’d really suggest that you follow that link above and read though the Metafilter discussion. It’s quite moving. It’s amazing to me how many people have been touched by suicide, and just how many have actually tried and failed. It’s terribly sad to read story after story, by people you know (or are at least familiar with online), about the circumstances surrounding their attempts, and the anger that many of them feel toward the friends, lovers and family members who have been successful at it. I came away from it with this horrible sadness, this realization that my daughter, like all of us, would have to make her way through a lot of painful experiences before arriving at adulthood. (Most of the Metafilterites who left comments seem to have attempted it in their teens and early 20′s.) I don’t want her to know that kind of pain. I guess it’s unavoidable though. All that we can do is to give her the skills to cope with the unavoidable heartbreak and sadness when it happens.
As I want to leave this post on a happy note, how’s this for an idea… What if I put this painting up for auction on Ebay and send whatever money it sells for to The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention? I know it probably won’t be a lot, but maybe it will go a little way toward helping someone. And I can leave it in my uncle’s name. That, I think, would make me feel good. (Who knows, it may even make him feel good.)
I know it doesn’t always seem that way, but, even with all the bullshit going on these days, the world is still a pretty spectacular place, and, if you can’t see that right now, my hope is that you can hold on for a little while, because there’s a good chance that you will one day.
As for the painting, it’s by my daughter, Clementine. It’s her first real painting, and I suspect that it will be worth a lot of money one day.
update: The auction is now live.