The fabulous Clair (Instagram AnxiouslyFree) has written yet another incredible and incredibly honest post about death by suicide. This is often a controversial subject, as some will argue that people choose to selfishly commit suicide, whereas others such as the Anxiety Gone team believe people are killed by a threatening disease, such as depression or anxiety. Before you decide which side of the tracks your on, this is a post you should definitely read.
Let me be real here, I used to be “one of those people”. I thought it was “selfish” to “choose” to end your own life while leaving a family behind. “Suicide is the most selfish thing you can do” is something that came out of my mouth more than once, unfortunately, and now I know better. My empathy radar needed a lot of fine-tuning and after struggling with Depression and Anxiety, I learned that mental illness is sometimes seemingly impossible to control, especially without adequate treatment (and sometimes even with it).
Let me run a scenario past you: What do you do when you live in a town where the only “cure” for the “blues” is to get outside for some fresh air? What do you do when loved ones say “but there is so much to be grateful for and happy about” or “Here’s a cute dog video”? For some, the only way to make the pain stop is to end it altogether. To clarify completely, this is NOT a post to glorify suicide. I’m merely expressing a different emotion other than rage or dismissiveness: it’s called empathy.
A Personal Account with Suicide
I received a phone call the other morning from a family member to inform me that another relative had suffered death by suicide. Through tears she told me that she was “angry” and “mad.” Who wouldn’t experience an entire array of emotions after such a traumatic event? The only thing I wanted to tell her was that he was suffering deeply and didn’t have access to the proper treatment due to the stigma surrounding mental illness, this is especially true in the Deep South where I’m from. It may have been by his hand, but his entire anatomy was under attack from his brain.
Where I grew up, mental illnesses were for “snowflakes” even though Depression affects nearly 350 MILLION people. That’s right. Even some people who say mental disorders are for the weak most likely know personally someone who is suffering. I don’t doubt that this stigma is part of the reason that death by suicide seems like the only way out. However, by ending the stigma and readjusting our language, how many deaths or how much self-harm can be prevented?
The girl who used to victim blame is gone and unfortunately, the only reason that happened was because I was diagnosed with Anxiety and Panic Disorder. The one gift to truly come out of all of my pain was that I now know empathy and feel more compassion than I have before – and that stems outside of just those with my same disorder. For those who are lucky enough to not suffer, it may be harder for them to understand and for them to not blame the person for suffering death by suicide. To show them why it’s not okay to victim blame, we need to change our language.
Change Our Language, Change the Stigma
I think it’s safe to say that suicide is not a choice. If anyone has had Depression they know how much pain it causes. Depression is a disease, not something that we wake up one day and decide on. When our kidneys fail due to a genetic disease, do we say “Oh she ‘committed’ death upon herself? No, but when our most important organ is genetically unbalanced, it’s somehow the fault of that person.
If you’re still reading this, I ask that you join me in preventing harmful language to help end the stigma. Some may say that this glorifies suicide or makes it okay but to me, I think changing our perceptions will only help those experiencing Depression. You aren’t alone, you aren’t crazy, you are merely suffering from a disorder that can be treated. I’ve been there. Seek that treatment and know that your allies are rooting you on.
The Anxiety Gone Team