Saturday, 11 April 2009

The easy way out

It's hard for me to fathom the reasoning behind suicide. I understand certain situations, the ones in which abuse and terror can weigh on a soul so heavily that the only way out, the only way free, is to choose death. I have never been in that situation, so I can't begin to try and understand.

But suicide as a method of fleeing one's problems, leaving behind people whose lives will be devastated - that's something different. I've thought about it at the darkest times of my life, yes; a glib statement, I'm sure, to those who have been deep in the thrall of that compulsion, but true nonetheless. Anecdotal evidence is so passé, after all.

MadCat has tried, twice, and the only reason he failed was because the pills he took just didn't have the effect he thought they would, the effect for which they were designed. I've never been a TLE, I've suffered depression but not the deep, black pools of self-doubt with which he and Ferret have wrestled, the urge to end it all and remove themselves as obstacles from the paths of those they love, the conviction that doing so will suddenly make everyone else's lives better.

We went to a colleague's husband's funeral yesterday. They had been together for 30 years; he killed himself - shot himself - on the eve of her birthday. My initial reaction was - and to some extent, still is - that it was an incredibly selfish thing to have done. He left behind a 20-year-old son who hero-worshipped his father and a wife who loved and supported him through the trials and tribulations of the past few years, from being retrenched to breaking a hip to watching his new business suffer through the economic crisis.

I can understand the worry, the concern, the embarrassment of failure for not being the breadwinner as men are supposed to be, especially in our super-macho South African society. I can see MadCat's concern as he worries about the past six months of retrenchment, the past 18 months of being in and out of work, slowly depleting his savings and financial backups until here we sit, relying on one salary and struggling almost beyond our capabilities.

But I can't understand what he hoped to gain from killing himself, I can't understand what it is he thought would make life better for his wife and son. Suicide - automatically no life insurance payout, especially something as final as shooting oneself, no accidental overdoses here. So there she sits, without her helpmate, without the one she thought she could lean on, soon to be struggling even more as she tries to keep a roof over their heads on a salary lower than mine, struggling with the guilt and the grief and the anger and loss. The betrayal.

MadCat has often turned to me over the past two years, and told me that I've been the only thing that's kept him here, kept him alive. Now that he's back on his meds, it's becoming less likely that he'll feel the urge, or that he'll ever get to that point again. I have been depressed, but not to the extent of being medicated for it, so I'm not fully cognisant of his reasoning, or lack thereof, for as he often tells me, his logic is not the same as everyone else's. I try to understand, but I don't fully grasp the despair.

All I know is that, no matter how much I try to understand, no matter how much I support him, if he were to leave me in such a fashion, his memory would forever be tainted in my mind with the shadow of coward. I know it's a harsh indictment, I know I'm generalising, but in so many cases, especially the running away from one's problems - I feel it's cowardly. It's selfish. It's the easy way out.

It's so much harder facing up to the things that make one want to cower in the corner, hide away from the world, be taken care of. You know the clichés; you know it's a tough life, for all its beauty. This life is not for sissies. So yes, to me, it's a weakness to have done what C did.

I talked to Candlewick last night, I found out the horrors of her childhood, of what was done to her for so many years and how she reacted by turning to the wild side in a desperate bid to prove that she was worthless and thus deserved what she'd been put through. She went through things that would have made strong men weep. And yet she lived; she tested herself with a razor, considered the possibility, and decided to live instead. I told her I was proud to be her friend, I was amazed at the person she is, that she has become, in the face of the terror with which she lived for 25 years. I couldn't find the words to say it properly, to tell her how much she means to me, how wonderful she is with her lightheartedness and gaiety, her love and warmth and strength and encouraging nature (and the way she's such a competitive, sore loser).

I say to MadCat, too, how proud I am of him for pushing through, for being optimistic in the face of his crushing despair, for trying and trying even when things go wrong, putting on the best face he can and just being the odd, offbeat, kind and loving and crazy person that he is. The preacher said yesterday that South African men don't talk about their problems, they keep things to themselves and let them fester. I'm so glad that MadCat and I have a non-traditional relationship, that we do and say things to each other that would make a "normal" run screaming for the hills, that we can tell each other anything, no matter how disturbing. It's the only way I've been able to keep track of what he's going through, of when the danger is near, of when I need to be firm and let him know that any suicide attempt would be grearded with anger and grief, yes, but also with a measure of contempt, because damn it all, I've made it this far, I've struggled and fought, and I want someone who is worthy of my struggles, who is worthy of my time, who is a man and not a coward, who faces up to his problems with me right there.

I grieve for my friend and her loss, I grieve for her son, I am sorry that her husband is gone, but he's fine wherever he is now, he took the easy way out and for that, I don't feel an ounce of sympathy.

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