Burning Building

A quote I came across while reading last night.

“The so-called ‘psychotically depressed’ person who tries to kill herself doesn’t do so out of quote ‘hopelessness’ or any abstract conviction that life’s assets and debits do not square. And surely not because death seems suddenly appealing. The person in whom Its invisible agony reaches a certain unendurable level will kill herself the same way a trapped person will eventually jump from the window of a burning high-rise. Make no mistake about people who leap from burning windows. Their terror of falling from a great height is still just as great as it would be for you or me standing speculatively at the same window just checking out the view; i.e. the fear of falling remains a constant. The variable here is the other terror, the fire’s flames: when the flames get close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors. It’s not desiring the fall; it’s terror of the flames. Yet nobody down on the sidewalk, looking up and yelling ‘Don‘t!’ and ‘Hang on!’, can understand the jump. Not really. You’d have to have personally been trapped and felt flames to really understand a terror way beyond falling.”

–David Foster Wallace

(unedited) It is one of the finest analogies I have ever come across. In these past days the world has absorbed the deeply saddening blow of losing Robin Williams. This was a man so many of us watched, laughed at and were amazed by. Whether it was in dramatic parts like Dead Poets Society or the stand up comedy he was know for we all watched. It was impossible to look away. The often manic bizarre edge of your seat ride he gave us was one of a kind. No other actor could do it like him. But it wasn’t he acting that moved me it was his openess about addiction and depression. Part of what is so horrible and scary about this loss is that he was a man that had every resource. He still lost. Depression still came and took him to a dark enough place that he lost sight of the love and affection the world had for him. He had the ability to go to the finest of hospitals/rehabs and to see the best doctors. To the rest of us struggling that is terrifying. Without access to great care and limitless resources we are perhaps doomed. This disease in all its insidious ways pulls a life apart from the inside. It destroys relationships and families. It pushes people to find relief in a bottle or from a pill. It does not discriminate. It does not leave those most fortunate alone. They too are just as susceptible. Robin Williams death illustrates that point so well.

As the world comes to terms with this death there is much being written from all sides. Some very cruel and judgemental. I do not feel suicide is cowardly. It is not giving up. It isn’t selfish. It is indeed taking that leap out of a burning high rise. You are back so far into a corner with no logic to hold fast to. It is only the darkness and only the pain.The collective voices of your loves ones become tinny and distant, as if spoken through a membrane of fine sheet metal. There is some awareness but it is fading fast. In those final days and hours the mind lights up as it finally finds a place to be free. You won’t burn to death in this horrid smoldering corner. The thick smoke of distortion has finally laid you down enough that you lost contact with the world. It is only you and the ever closer flames and so you act. you jump. It is illogical. irrational. unkind and hurtful. It is a fool’s leap one could say because if only you had waited you might have realized that help was just beyond tha door. The flames would soon have been extinguished and life would have once again been okay. Yes your mind was convinced you were dying. It was convinced there was no other way. It wasn’t thinking clearly.

I stop short of calling suicide selfish because to do so is to judge the person. Everyone experiences pain and suffering differently. Each individual suicide got to that point through a long list of problems/ issues. It is not about a single stressor. More often than not it is a complex tangle of emotion, situational and familial problems. Depression can single handidly combine all of them. They become one throbbing pulsing mass of destruction because you can no longer tease then apart into managable pieces. It becomes the mountain nobody can climb. A sheer rock face with not foot holds. A person is swallowed by its shadow and soon gives up because no answers or options can be seen. The balance of power and powerlessness shifts and the longer it continues the harder it becomes to regroup. It takes over. The worry. The frustration and the anger. As the weeks pass and the problems grow it is easy to hide. Easy to cast blame upon oneself for not being good enough, smart enough, tough enough. Guilt and self loathing smother the already panicked soul beneath that thick roiling smoke. It gets too hot. The flames to great. It is not about death. No it isn’t about taking ones life it is about avoiding more hurt. More pain and suffering. It is trying to save oneself but failing to see the ultimate outcome. Illogical and often delusional . yes. sad and horrifying. yes. true. absolutely.


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