a post on suicide (and, no, it doesn’t mean that you should worry about me)

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.

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  1. kez
    Posted March 29, 2006 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    is painting in watercolor or acrylic? on canvas or posterboard? what is the measurement in inches?

  2. schutzman
    Posted March 31, 2006 at 12:21 am | Permalink

    Gift Certificates?

  3. Brian
    Posted April 2, 2006 at 1:18 am | Permalink

    I did my part and raided the bidding above 30 cents.

  4. Teddy Glass Esq.
    Posted April 2, 2006 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    I heard a rumor over at narcisistic blogs dotcom that he wasn’t coming back until the bidding got to at least ten bucks.

  5. pattyann1954
    Posted April 2, 2006 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    What a beautiful pic your baby did!! I am impressed.

    On note of suicide, I lost my youngest son, Brian, on March 10, 1998. He would have been 25 on March 23rd. Then comes my birthday 7 days later. OMG March is an awful month for me. I wish I were not on social security, as I would in a heartbeat plunk down $100 for the pic, considering where you are going to donate the proceeds.

    I was lucky, the year after, to have gone to DC to participate in a Senate hearing on Youth Suicide. I was asked by the office of Senator Chris Dodd, a wonderful man, for a politician. He has my vote for life.

    I tried working for 4 yrs after I lost Brian, but it just wasn’t to be. The depression brought on fibromyalgia, and here I sit most days, in front of the ‘puter. God Bless You for selling the painting to donate the funds to AFSP. What a wonderful thing for you to do.

    God Bless,
    Pat in CT

  6. schutzman
    Posted April 3, 2006 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

    I apologize for seeming repetitive, but,

    Gift Certificates?

  7. mark
    Posted April 4, 2006 at 12:50 am | Permalink

    Pat, I’m sorry to hear of your loss. I can’t imagine what it might be like to lose a child, and it’s so insipiring to hear that you were able to take that experience and do something positive with it that could, one would hope, save others from having to live through the same thing. Thank you for taking the time to write, and I hope that life gets better for you soon.

    And, Brett, I’m not sure what you’re getting at…. Did I do something wrong filling out my Ebay posting form? Did I say that I’d accept gift certificates in the place of money? What’s the protocol? Should I have mentioned specific stores by name, like JC Penny or Target?

  8. mark
    Posted April 4, 2006 at 12:52 am | Permalink

    And, Kez, I’m not sure, but I think it’s 8.5 x 11 paper. It’s some kind of special fingerpaint stuff that requires a kind of almost waxy paper. If there were time, I’d send you a little swatch of it.

  9. schutzman
    Posted April 4, 2006 at 1:42 am | Permalink

    The auction’s category that it’s classified under is Gift Certificates. Look at the top of the page.

    Not art, not collectibles, not charitable auctions, but ‘gift certificates’. The only way someone could find it by browsing ebay, is if they happened to be looking for a good deal on $20 worth of Hospitaliano at the Olive Garden.

  10. mark
    Posted April 4, 2006 at 7:19 am | Permalink

    Hmmmm…. Next time, I guess I should hire an Ebay consultant.

  11. be OH be
    Posted April 4, 2006 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    Where can you redeem the painting?

  12. Tony Buttons Esq.
    Posted April 4, 2006 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    It can be redeemed at any CVS for two “fist-fulls” of Prozac.

  13. schutzman
    Posted April 4, 2006 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    You don’t need to hire an ebay consultant, mark; Just remember next time that it’s never a good idea to go on ebay after you’ve been drinking, which I suspect was most likely the problem.

  14. mark
    Posted April 4, 2006 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

    Actually, Brett, I remember the problem now. It wouldn’t let me edit the “category” field for some reason. I probably should have waited and tried again the next day, but I was in a hurry and I just decided that I’d go ahead with it. I didn’t realize at the time, however, that in absence of a real category it would say “gift certificate.” I guess maybe the auction would have gone better had I been patient and done it correctly from the start. (And, just now, when I went to edit it, it told me that that particular field could not be altered.) For what it’s worth, I have learned my lesson.

  15. mark
    Posted April 4, 2006 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

    And thank you to the bidders who have brought it up to $8.47.

  16. Brian
    Posted April 4, 2006 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

    I’m the high bidder…but you still have 7 hours left to oust me.

    Mark was that you down in frog island today? If so I should have said “hello”.

  17. mark
    Posted April 4, 2006 at 9:39 pm | Permalink

    I was in Riverside park walking the dog at about 7:00 this morning, and I was there again this afternoon with Clementine, but I wasn’t on Frog Island. It must have ben one of my inflatable decoys.

  18. Brian
    Posted April 4, 2006 at 10:52 pm | Permalink

    Riverside…I mean riverside…then that was you.

  19. schutzman
    Posted April 5, 2006 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

    Still trying to find that ipod, mark?

  20. Brian
    Posted April 5, 2006 at 8:08 pm | Permalink

    I found an I-Pod down there recently…it was filled with Christina Aguilera songs…I tossed it back into the water.

  21. mark
    Posted April 16, 2006 at 10:25 pm | Permalink

    OK, I just wrote the check for $14 to the charity. Thanks to all those who bid.

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