This has been prompted in part by a recent email conversation as well as something that is very much on my mind at the moment.
I have written in earlier posts about my friend who died by suicide following a long illness with PTSD. The PTSD made her very ill indeed. She had a truly terrible time. At times she was unrecognisable as the person we knew she really was. I didn’t see all of it but I was told later about some of the things she did that were so out of character and, at the time, caused great upset to the person who knew and loved her best. In the end suicide became the best, and possibly only, way out for her. At the time people said things like at least she’s out of her pain and misery now. I had at least one person say in a way it was a relief. Yet, despite people expressing these emotions at the time, in general suicide is roundly condemned by nearly all people.
Two of the things you hear most often in condemning suicide is the sanctity of human life and that suicide is selfish because of the effect it has on hose left behind. Let’s think about the sanctity of human life bit. All well and good as an abstract philosophy. To the suicidal it means very little. It’s stating the obvious to say that life doesn’t feel special at all. It is a dark, probably scary place, with no hope and a very huge amount of pain. Having lived with PTSD and severe depression I can vouch for the pain. It is very real and overpowering. Yet, unlike physical pain there is very little that can be done to relieve it. Talking about the sanctity of life to someone in that place is a nonsense. As for being selfish, that’s just a non starter. It’s easy to say for people who have no inkling what it is like to have got to that place. In reality i is ascribing thoughts and emotions that the person in that place is no longer capable of feeling. Once you are in that place of permanent darkness, fear, hopelessness and pain you no longer think in the same way. You feel unloved and unfriended anyway. It is not selfish in the true sense because the person can no longer have that thought. Add into the mix the fact that they are aware how much of a drain their illness is on others and they really believe the world, and especially their loved ones are better off without them in the long run. Indeed this becomes very much part of the solution. Yet even in that lace of darkness and unbearable pain suicide is not a step easily taken. There is always, however deeply buried the basic instinct for survival, to keep the body alive even if the mind has had more than enough.
I said in a previous post, and was taken to task for it, that at times it seems my friend found the best way out of PTSD. I do stand by the fact that in very dark times that it has it seems. PTSD and depression can seem unremitting with no long term way out.