Written in response to the claim that suicide is selfish
I have two stories to tell about suicide.
My mother held onto life for a year longer than the doctors said she would. Her rare moments of joy made her fight death despite her suffering. By the end, she had only one pleasure left: her walk around the garden. It’s amazing what 20 minutes a day can do for your will to live. When her legs stopped working, that walk was taken away. She succumbed to death within two days. Just as Hospice said she would, she let go when she was ready.
She had terminal cancer.
How selfish of her. </irony>
Depression has as many physiological elements as cancer does., only it doesn’t come with an automatic way out. It does come with stigma, though. The patient is left to suffer indefinitely until they find the right help. The only trouble is they rarely have enough selfishness to find and accept the amount of support they need.
When I was raped, ARVs still had the kind of nightmarish side effects that come with end-stage AIDS. I wanted to stop mine desperately, but I was referred to a physician who was willing to see me through to the end. Every day, I told him I was never taking another ARV. Every day, he told me, “If you take today’s drugs, tomorrow will be better.” It never was, but I believed him anyway. I made it to the end of my therapy, and today I’m HIV negative. I made it through because I was selfish enough to phone that doctor every time I wanted to quit treatment.
End stage depression was as difficult to hold on through. Every day, I woke up and had to find it in myself to go through impossible suffering for just one more day, because maybe, just maybe, I’d find a way out. I didn’t succeed despite incredible effort. I attempted suicide because I knew I was a burden, knew that there was something inherently wrong with me so I had no value to anyone.
After I left ICU, my friends asked me why I’d not asked them for help. I was stunned that there were still people on this green earth who cared about me.
Depression is an excellent liar. It tells you there are no small pleasures, no walks around the garden, left to give your life meaning. It tells you that you’re useless, that friends and family only pretend you have value.
Suicide is not a sane decision because end stage depression is not a sane disease.
Ableism says, “If you aren’t as able as I am, you are less.” If you aren’t as able as I am, you are selfish. If you aren’t as able as I am, you are weak.
What I needed at the end of my depression was more selfishness, not less. I needed to be willing to be a burden for just one more day in case that “walk around the garden” arrived in my life sometime in the future. I needed to be selfish enough to take help from those I thought I was sucking dry. I needed to be selfish enough to ask for, and accept, support and love. My friends gave me permission to do that, and that made all the difference.