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Why You Shouldn’t Say Suicide Is a ‘Choice’

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Editor's Note

If you experience suicidal thoughts or have lost someone to suicide, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

It is often said that suicide is a choice. On the surface, that might be true, but unless you’ve stood in a suicidal person’s shoes, you can’t really understand. I know the damage depression is capable of and I have experienced the worst it can do to a person. I don’t believe you can say that suicide is simply a choice without diving deeper into the issue.

Depression has not been just a minor inconvenience in my life. It’s not a topic that comes up in conversation that I can respond with, “Oh yeah. I had that once.” Depression has invaded every single part of my existence. I’m 32 years old and I can hardly remember a time in my life where I haven’t been battling my mind. I’ve only recently emerged from a major depressive episode and I attribute much of that change to an excellent therapist and a good mix of medication. But for much of the past several years, I’ve been living in chaos and fighting my darkest demons on a daily basis. I’m now trying to pick up the pieces of a life very nearly destroyed by mental illness and quite frankly, a life I didn’t believe was worth fighting for.

Reading my last paragraph makes me shake my head and grin. Trying to sum up all the ups and downs and twists and turns depression has caused in my life demands much more than a few sentences. I could write a novel or publish my many journal entries of this time in my life and it still wouldn’t be enough to fully portray my experience. It’s a miracle that I’m alive right now. Literally. I am a medical miracle. I have been so close to the brink of death and yet, I survived. And I survived wholly. My brain and my body still work fully, despite all my attempts to shut them down. But here I am.

I think it’s important to note that a person’s level of depression does not necessarily correlate with the level of effort trying to fight against it. I tried everything I could think of to find some relief. I’ve been in therapy for years. I have been hospitalized many times. I ran out of new medications to try. I have worked with energy therapists and neuropsychologists. I have tried yoga, acupuncture, organic supplements, art therapy, music therapy, religious study, and so on. Yet despite all these measures, my depression persisted. Do you know how discouraging it is to feel you have tried absolutely everything and find yourself sinking even lower? I don’t know how many times I feel I’ve hit rock bottom, only to fall a little deeper. When you’re in that place with absolutely no hope and no end in sight, there is very little you wouldn’t do to end the pain. And yes, it is pain. The worst physical pain I’ve had in my life doesn’t even touch the emotional pain I’ve experienced. It is just as real as a broken bone.

When thoughts of suicide have entered my mind, I did not see myself as selfish. I saw myself as the opposite: selfless. I felt hopeful, knowing I would be relieving the burden of my taxing and chaotic life from my family. They wouldn’t have to worry about me anymore. They wouldn’t receive any more disturbing midnight phone calls informing them of what I had done this time. My parents wouldn’t have to look at me with tears in their eyes, feeling utterly helpless as they watched me suffer. Sure, my death would hurt and they would miss me, but I always said to myself that, if they could truly understand how much suffering and pain I was enduring, they would be relieved to see me go. They would be happy knowing I was, at last, free.

Suicide and depression are not so black and white as some make it out to be. If someone is driven to take their own life, there are so many layers involved that none of us can ever fully understand. I’ve heard it said that suicide is the last symptom of a serious disease. It’s terrifying to be in a place where you feel your options are growing fewer and fewer. So yes, technically suicide is a choice. And yet it’s so much more than that.

Photo by Averie Woodard on Unsplash.

Originally published: March 29, 2019
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