Do you know what a person who wants to commit suicide looks like?
Ok, Mrs Hema Malini, first thing: Not everyone exists to be admired by the world. Some of us exist, even live, because we want to do fun things and experience life in the forms that we can. Some of us live because we have reasons to live; they may not be great ones but they give us enough motivation.
In this really dreary business of living our lives and being adult about it, some times we fall ill. Because honestly, no person wants to actively kill themselves unless their life becomes too much to bear.
What, then, is too much to bear? Who decides what is too much? You survived a broken heart or a bad business decision or a crippling tragedy. But the person next door may not have the same skills as you to cope. How did you survive? So many answers: you are dead inside, you are cold, you were hugged a lot when you were a child, you had help from a professional, you had a family (or friends) to cushion your crash, you acquired skills, along the way, to become mentally “tough”. So many explanations. Any of this could make you a “winner”. What doesn’t make you a winner is calling someone else who possibly had different setbacks from yours, and who may not have had the same support system as yours, a loser. You didn’t win on your own, Hemaji. Just like Pratyusha Bannerjee didn’t lose on her own.
Do you have friends whose parents committed suicide? Lovers? Siblings? I do. The vocabulary of the act of suicide is inherently violent and judgemental. It provides no relief to the ones who were left behind. But worse, it renders the person who died infinitely small, incapable of dignity, and with no compassionate memory of them. That must stop. Every time you use the words “succumbed” and “weak” to describe someone who killed themselves, you’re negating, insulting and condemning every single person who has already made that choice. And that person may have been someone you love. That person might be someone who someone you love loves.
What does a person who is about to commit suicide look like, Hemaji? Don’t know? Or maybe you do. But let me tell you anyway. I should know, I’ve been that person. More than once. A person who is about to commit suicide is first and foremost deranged. Think about that word. To have moved from a certain place, to have lost balance or a semblance of it. It is a person in the deepest, darkest pit of despair. It is a person who thinks the world will get by without them. That her own parents, children, partner don’t need her and there is nothing to look forward to tomorrow. It is a person so angry with herself at “failing” that tomorrow is a terrifying black thing that pulls, sucks and leeches so all-encompassingly that she doesn’t want to wake up.
A person about to commit suicide is like a person functioning with a brain that is quickly spinning out of control. A person who commits suicide has a brain that is constantly lying to her. It’s like looking at life upside down for a long time till you start believe that the world is wrong and your point of view is right. A person who commits suicide does not have the ability to distinguish between the truth (whatever that is) and the lies that her brain is telling her. A person who commits suicide is, more or less, ill. Either for a long time or for a while, temporarily. Ill because she believes all the lies her brain tells her. Her challenges seem so big to her that it seems someone is crushing her heart physically. Like she can’t breathe. To her the pain is unbearable. It’s not just a feeling. It is intense, deep, real pain, because her brain has spun out of control so long back that she can’t see that there might be help at hand. That someone just might be able to hold her for a bit till she gains equilibrium. That the truth is, at the end of everything, with love and help, we may not have to kill ourselves.
And this is the difference between a person who wants to commit suicide and a person who thinks it is about... what was it that you said? ... learning “to overcome all odds and emerge successful, not succumb under pressure and give up easily. The world admires a fighter not a loser.”
What a thing to say about a woman who killed herself not too long ago. What a thing to say about a woman whose family cannot stop grieving. My experience of growing old has been that the more life throws at you, the better equipped you are to see that not everything is clear as day, not everyone has easy lives, and not everyone gives up easily. How dare you insinuate, Mrs Hema Malini, that Pratyusha gave up easily? How much do you know about her life or her struggles?
I know nothing of that girl’s life. I hadn’t heard of her before her death. But I know one thing: for a person who decides to give up their life and dismisses the fact that there might be people who care for them, there is nothing left. Absolutely nothing. And unless she had it in her to trust someone, to turn to someone, she died believing there was nothing left. That she meant nothing to anyone. And that place is an unbearably sad place. An unbearably lonely, sorrowful, depriving space that strips you of any sense of reality, any sense of self, any sense of purpose.
Am I saying suicide is okay? I am conflicted, honestly. If it ends your misery, then it should be your call to make. But there’s the paradox no? When you choose to commit suicide, almost always your mind isn’t well enough to make that decision. Then how is that a rational decision that I can stand by? How can I say that everyone who finds their misery unbearable should have the choice to end their lives?
Finally, suicide takes courage. It takes a person who can find it in themselves to hurt endlessly, permanently, their entire family and everyone who loves them. It takes making that insane, deranged decision to leave people you love fend for themselves emotionally, physically, and sometimes financially. Suicide isn’t for the cowardly, it isn’t for the faint of heart. And it isn’t for the sane. The next time you call someone who killed themselves weak, think about it. And if you still feel like calling them weak, wait till their bodies grow cold.