“Sometimes even to live is an act of courage.” ― Seneca
On a lovely autumn morning I was at church when I received a text message from my supervisor at work asking me to call her. When I called her back she told that a co-worker had taken his own life. Fuck. I am way past the point of getting hysterical about suicide and I no longer get angry about it either. But it just sucks that one bad decision ends a life and leaves a hailstorm of grief and guilt for the survivors. All I could think was, “That poor man.” I hope he finds the happiness that eluded him in this life.
“Suicide rates have not slumped under the onslaught of antidepressants, mood-stabilizers, anxiolytic and anti-psychotic drugs; the jump in suicide rates suggests that the opposite is true. In some cases, suicide risk skyrockets once treatment begins (the patient may feel not only penalized for a justifiable reaction, but permanently stigmatized as malfunctioning). Studies show that self-loathing sharply decreases only in the course of cognitive-behavioral treatment.” ― Antonella Gambotto-Burke, The Eclipse: A Memoir of Suicide
Losing my co-worker projected me back a year when I lost a dear friend to suicide. When I first met Keiran I realized almost immediately that he was a funny man and a quick-witted conversationalist. He was current on all things sporting and political and could comment on them with a twist of irony that spoke to his intelligence. I was always insistent that we dance at least one dance together whenever I saw him at a club. He could do The Sprinkler with a wicked glint in his eye that was guaranteed to make me double over clutching my belly with laughter.
But Keiran had a dark side. Like many people I’ve known who were smart and wet-your-pants funny, he had a twisted view of himself. No matter how much he accomplished or how many people wanted to spend time with him, he absolutely could not see any value in his own life.
“It’s not all bad. Heightened self-consciousness, apartness, an inability to join in, physical shame and self-loathing—they are not all bad. Those devils have been my angels. Without them I would never have disappeared into language, literature, the mind, laughter and all the mad intensities that made and unmade me.” ― Stephen Fry, Moab Is My Washpot
Keiran was seriously attracted to a friend of mine and even though they went out a few times, he could never get past his feeling of not being good enough for her. She thought he was great but his penchant for declaring himself inferior drove her away pretty quickly. Long after they quit seeing each other she would ask me about him with great affection and I believe they talked occasionally for a number of years after they quit dating. Despite her encouragement and caring, he could never see himself as a serious contender for any woman’s affection.
“He wished he could be anywhere else and anyone else but Here and Him.” ― James R. Silvestri, Hawthorn Road
Keiran once looked me in the eye and in all seriousness told me he wished he could feel about every woman the way he did about me. When I asked him what he felt for me he replied in a deadpan voice, “Not an ounce of sexual attraction.” After I picked myself up off the floor when I fell off my chair laughing, I realized he was serious. He truly felt that he was not worthy of sexual activity and that he was inherently “bad” to partake in it. Keiran had been raised a Catholic and seemed to have pulled only the negative from the experience. I personally do not know if he ever was able to receive the good, but I do know that his attitude towards sex seemed to have frozen at the guilty schoolboy stage.
“The 2 extremes, neither one worse than the other: the result of bad religion is self-loathing and violence; the result of bad spirituality is self-worship and narcissism.” ― Criss Jami
Keiran frequently spoke to me about his attraction to suicide. He talked about it often enough and seriously enough that I knew it wasn’t just a fleeting thought or threat. He repeatedly told me he had never known joy in his life. I encouraged self-esteem affirmations, suggested therapy, sessions with a priest, anything that I could think of that would help him. There was absolutely no interest in moving out of the morass of his self-loathing. This refusal to seek help or guidance eventually drove us apart. I have mixed emotions now on whether or not it was the right thing to do, but I eventually quit doing things with Keiran because the conversation always moved to his depression and nothing I said or did could help.
“When we don’t know who to hate, we hate ourselves.” ― Chuck Palahniuk, Invisible Monsters
When I received the call from a mutual friend that Keiran had passed away I was shocked, but I immediately knew that it was by his own hand. My next thought was a sincere wish that he find a happier existence in his next life. So many people cared so deeply for that man and none of it was enough to make him feel better about himself.
At Keiran’s funeral it was hard to look at his family and try to comprehend what they were going through. His insecurities and inability to see value in himself had left them grieving but his honesty about these feelings had left them unsurprised. A feeling of great sadness pervaded the church.
“The thought of suicide is a great consolation: by means of it one gets through many a dark night.” ― Friedrich Nietzsche
A year later, another brilliant, kind, funny man took his own life. I did not know my co-worker as well as I’d known Keiran, but I felt compelled to attend the funeral to help support the many confused friends he’d left behind. On the day of his funeral the church was filled with younger adults who hadn’t been brought face to face with a peer’s death before. It broke my heart for his family and it broke my heart for all those young people. The unbending finality of suicide is incomprehensible to those who lose a loved one to the lure of this hateful siren.
Ironically the funeral services for both men were packed to the rafters. I know that in the depth of their anguish they both felt alone and unloved. How painfully sad that neither of these truly gentle men could see beyond their despair to realize how loved they truly were.
Whether you are thinking about suicide, are worried about a friend, or need emotional support, please reach out for help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number is 1-800-273-TALK (8255). You can find more information on their website http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
All quotes can be found on http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/self-loathing
Names have been changed to protect the privacy of the families of my friends.