The blog of photographer and musician, Kim Ayres

Suicide

Last night, just doing an e-mail check before heading for bed, I took a quick look at Vaporise Barney’s blog site and found a post where he was writing about a justification for suicide. As he had disabled his comments I was not sure if this was just a rant he wanted to get off his chest and didn’t want to discuss it or whether it was, for all intents and purposes, a suicide note.

Whether it was or not might (or might not) become clearer over the next few days. I can only wait and see if he posts anything else. But I went to bed deeply unsettled.

On one level, I have only known the guy as a series of typed words on a computer screen, but it hasn’t prevented me from building a relationship with him and I would be deeply saddened if that was the last I was to ever hear from him.

Knowing that he has a wife and daughters I would also be intensely angry at him too. Pointless really as I don’t know where he lives, what he looks like or how old he is. For that matter he may even be a she and not have children at all – there is no way for me to verify anything. But just like when the hero or heroine dies in a novel, or a film, you feel choked up because you’re human and you respond to the thoughts and feelings of others, even if they are just written down and made up. And when, through blogging, you have interacted with them, you feel an even greater connection.

I have never attempted suicide, but I have been in some very dark places before and certainly thought long and hard about it. Being an atheist I’m not against suicide for karmic or religious reasons, nor do I feel it to be a “cowards way out” – I think it takes an extraordinary amount of bravery for someone to take the step. In fact, I believe it to be the ultimate act of taking control of your destiny.

But it is the most completely selfish act in the universe.

I appreciate the fact that, as Binty mentions on his site in a moving post about the same entry (http://averagetosser.blogspot.com/2006/02/suicide.html), the irony of it is that the person can believe that they are actually being quite selfless: they can truly believe that those left behind will be better off without them.

Maybe they would and maybe they wouldn’t, but that’s not really the point.

I can think of my mother in her last few days, dying of terminal cancer, and I firmly believe that it was better for everyone that she went sooner rather than later. There are times when the quality of life is so poor, with absolutely no chance of improvement, that it is cruel and inhumane to drag the life out for as long as possible.

But where the one who suicides gets it so tragically wrong is that they don’t give those who are close the opportunity to say goodbye.

Whenever someone dies you get caught up in a wave of thoughts and feelings, wondering what you could have done differently to prevent it. And when the person is close to you, you can be haunted for ever more.

Anyone who has had someone really close die suddenly and unexpectedly would give their right arm for one more opportunity to sit down with them, talk to them, say the things that should have been said but never were, try and find a way of resolving in their own head that there really couldn’t have been a different outcome.

I’m not going to say categorically that someone ending their life is wrong, because I can foresee circumstances where I don’t believe it is. But the one who commits suicide, by preventing those who are closest from the opportunity to properly say goodbye, is utterly and completely in the wrong. In my eyes it is unjustifiable and it is the most selfish act in the universe.

UPDATE
It seems that Anti-Barney is alive and well and still posting comments, so I can stop my hyperactive imagination from going into overdrive.

16 comments

Binty McShae said...

It's interesting the sense of concern and loss we feel toward fellow bloggers whom we have no real knowledge of...

As for the 'real' world I too have lost people who were close (in particular one to cancer and one to heart disease) as I'm sure most of us have, but no matter how long and drawn out the end actually is and how much you think sooner would be better than later I have never once felt like I have truly had the chance to say goodbye... not to the person I knew and loved, at least. To the shell that they remained until the final hour, perhaps...

There will always be more we want to say to each other, no matter whether our lives end naturally, in an accident or at our own hands. In my honest and humble opinion the chance for a goodbye may seem like a good thing but it is rarely enough...

Kim Ayres said...

Of course it's never enough, Binty - nothing short of them getting better and staying with us forever will be enough. However, when someone is gone the thing we regret, that the one who suicides denies us, is that last chance to say something.

the anti-barney said...

Dear Kim,I am truly sorry for any distress I caused you and any other bloggers and apologise if my post came over like a suicide note.I was only trying to get A point across in my usual cack-handed way.

Kim Ayres said...

Phew!

LindyK said...

Kim, thoughtfully done. Indeed, your point about not being able to say goodbye is one of the most painful parts of losing someone unexpectedly or deliberately (suicide). You guys might have inspired a post on my blog too... who knew this was such a thought-provoking topic, eh Barnes?!

Kim Ayres said...

I look forward to seeing what you write, Lindy.

Attila The Mom said...

Thanks for writing this, Kim. We've had several suicides in our family over the years, and it's a hard subject to read about.

You brought out a great deal of clarity on thoughts I've had on the subject.

Thanks again. Beautifully done.

Kim Ayres said...

Attila the Mom - Thank you for taking the time to comment. I'm pleased if you were able to gain anything out of my ramblings. To experience one suicide in the famiy would be devestating. I can't begin to imagine what it must be like to experience several.

I see you commented on my Calvin & Hobbes entry, so I'm glad you can see that this blog is not all deep and heavy emotional subjects, even though there seems to have been a lot over the past month or two.

I really have to get a few more light-hearted pieces going!

BStrong said...

I was actually looking for something simple and fun to read Kim and then I happend on to your post.

The suicide thing is way to serious for me to discuss at this moment but I'm not sure if I can ever justify suicide. I'll save my opinions for another day.

Cheers,
B

Kim Ayres said...

Hi Bstrong - welcome back. Yeah I know, I'll definitely try and think of a few lighter entries!

Gyrobo said...

Thought provoking, as usual. I wrote a short post a while ago about people who suddenly stopped blogging. My thoughts were, did this person just get sick of blogging? Or was there some kind of accident, rendering them incapable of human contact of any kind? I mean, I could be reading someone's blog, and having a really good time, never knowing if the author is still alive. It's very disconcerting.

Mine is a Gin said...

A very thought provoking posting, and well-expressed (if I may say).
A few years ago a close friend made several suicide attempts and the effects on her friends & loved ones, and even acquaintances, of her actions were profound.
A visit to a Samaritans drop-in faced me with the question - did I think that suicide is the most selfish act anyone can commit? And I think it probably is, which is not to say I'm without sympathy for the level of despair involved.

Kim Ayres said...

Gyrobo - I've wondered about this too. Unfortunately there seems to be no way of knowing.

Back in the summer, for example, I regularly used to get a visit from an "Amanda" whose site "Stranger than Fiction" I'd started reading. One day, however, the site wasn't there and she's never posted anything since. Did she die, did she get fed up with blogging, did she just decide to change her identity? I'll never know. You're right, it can be disconcerting.

On a different subject, I've suddenly realised that you've been commenting here for months and I haven't even had the common courtesy to return a link to your site. My apologies about that - this oversight has now been rectified.

Kim Ayres said...

Mine is a gin - welcome to my ramblings and thank you for taking the time to comment.

There's no doubt that the death of anyone close is a hard thing to deal with. But when the person takes their own life, the feeling of guilt that there really ought to have been something we could have done about it is appalling.

Layla said...

Hi Kim, Layla again. What are your opinions on assisted suicide?

Kim Ayres said...

Hi Layla,

From the experience with my own mother, I came to realise that if someone is dying and in pain, and it is just a matter of when they go, then insisting that you keep them alive for as long as possible is inhumane and cruel.

Where the difficulty comes is where people may have a terminal illness but it could be many months or even years until they die. In these cases depression could cause people to want to end their lives, where with support they could in fact have a far better quality of life.

I said in my post that I believe suicide to be "the ultimate act of taking control of your destiny", but if you are suffering from depression then it is not a free choice. The low levels of seretonin in the brain affect your judgement.

But if someone is "of sound mind" and truly desire to end their life but is incapable of doing so because of physical incapacity, then they should be allowed that assistance.

What do you think?

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