Friday, January 19, 2007
Or Not
Upon further musings, mostly in the shower because it's one of the few places I can count on five minutes' uninterrupted time at home, I want to clarify this post a bit.

I don't think it's the United States of America's fault that this girl took her life, any more than I think it's the moose's fault when it wanders into the road and the driver of the car veers off into the woods. (Speaking of which, I've lived in New Hampshire for FIVE YEARS now and still have not seen a moose. I consider those big signs at the side of the road a contractual obligation, and I'm getting irritated at the utter lack of moose. I don't think they actually exist.)

My point is, no, it's not the country's fault, but I do believe that the war, and therefore the country, was a contributing factor in her actions. Is it George Bush's fault that anyone has died in Iraq? It's handy to lay it on him, because he's such a convenient scapegoat, but the reality is, it's a big complicated situation which is well beyond my own comprehension. So, while it feels good to vent and point fingers, I'm actually able to recognize that I can't blame any one person or entity.

I deal with suicidal people all the time, and it never becomes routine. And often, it feels like we're able to make a difference; we're able to help keep someone alive long enough to get through that really dark spot, and they go on and get better, at least well enough to live and stop wanting to die. So hearing about a 19-year-old girl, who lived about 2 miles from my house, who just impulsively killed herself, without giving time a chance to make things feel a little more manageable, that weighs on me. I don't feel personally responsible, but I want someone to.

And while I recognize that adults are responsible for their own actions, and ultimately it was this girl who chose to hang herself in her room and break her family's heart, I don't believe that people who are suicidal are selfish in the traditional, conscious sense of the word. It's not the selfishness of a two-year-old grabbing the last cookie from his sister's plate (not that this has ever happened here), but more the selfishness that happens when you can't see outside the moment; that is, it's not a deliberate self-focus, but an inability to adjust perspective and realize that life will not always be that bad. They're so involved in their own misery and fear and pain that they can't hear you when you say, "Life without you would be worse than life with you. You're not worthless. It will get better."

I think it's rare - not unheard of, but rare - for someone to suicide as a form of punishment for someone else. That, in my world, constitutes true selfishness. Instead it's more a sense that they just can't see over the horizon; they can't imagine how things could possibly improve. So those of us sitting outside of their heads get frustrated and hurt because we can see that this is temporary and the urge will pass; life may not get better but it will get more manageable.

I'm not a true expert on this, but having been acutely PTSD/depressed with scattered periods of suicidal tendencies from age 12 to about 20, and now working exclusively with people in crisis, I don't think I'm entirely making stuff up. I know very well that there's no such think as a "typical" suicidal person, anymore than there's any such thing as "normal" to begin with.