It’s World Suicide Prevention Day. The blogosphere is brimming with the usual “don’t kill yourself” posts. If that’s the kind of post you want to read, look elsewhere–this is not that post.
I’m not against suicide.
I’m not saying people should go kill themselves any time something goes wrong, mind you. I just have a radical belief that every person should have control and determination over their lives, even if that means death.
A number of countries recognize the right to die in cases of terminal illness. But mental illness isn’t terminal, they tell us. You just have to live with it. It can be treated.
In many cases, that’s true–often, mental illness can be successfully treated. But not in every case. A significant portion of us just keep suffering despite the best tries of patients and treaters. Some of us try everything but don’t get better; we drag ourselves through each day, only barely alive, too tired to believe in even the possibility of hope. Our doctors and therapists have run out of ideas. There’s nothing else left for us.
I’ve lost five friends to suicide, and it hurt–but no more than it hurt to lose a friend to a car accident or my aunt to lung cancer. Death is hard for the living, but it’s not always about us–or it shouldn’t be. I think we should think instead about the suicidal person. Does the pain we’d feel from their death justify forcing them to stay alive through unbearable, unending pain? Once someone we love is dead, we hurt–but they don’t, and over time our pain fades. The pain of the people we force to stay alive may very well not fade. So often, suicide is characterized as a selfish act, but I think our society’s radical and anti-suicide stance is much more selfish.
Yes, I’m speaking as someone who’s spent most of her life suicidal. I’ve made four attempts. I’ve been incarcerated, drugged, and abused for wanting to die, and that treatment only made me more suicidal. Although I’m still suicidal sometimes, overall I want to be alive, to make my life worth living. But it was only when I truly had the option to kill myself that I was able to choose to save myself.