If you have ever had someone you care about attempt or even commit suicide, you know how terrible the ordeal can be. It is worse than a regular death. There is little closure. It is a situation where no one ever truly wins and those left behind spend the rest of their lives trying not to blame themselves for what they did or didn’t do. I have some good friends in the blogosphere who speak extensively about their past suicide attempts and I have a story or two of my own. This is not about me or them.
I have spent a lot of time taking care of sick relatives. Last month I was housesitting for a relative who had to have surgery. I was able to juggle running errands for both her and me, visiting her at the hospital, and still work, however only after a few days of her being in the hospital, things started to snowball. My uncle, from my story, “The Men Who Sleep on Park Benches,” was admitted to the same hospital after he was found in the motel he’s living with slit wrists.
One relative on the other side of my family said, “good, he deserves it, he is a waste of space” etc. I had trouble swallowing that pill… They also mentioned a friend’s opinion on the ordeal that “that’s what they do when they don’t really want to die- they slit their wrists…” Well tell that to people who have…actually died from slitting their wrists! The negativity that was sent in his direction via these remarks may be well earned: he has hurt a lot of people and done even more damage, but he is still a person.
They let him out of the psyche ward the following afternoon. That truly perplexed me. The next few weeks went okay, and then my house sitting duty was done. Not a few days passed and I was woken up at 4 in the morning because my grandmother had a stroke. Being estranged from her, because of said uncle, I thought well this would probably be a good time to go see her… To my utter shock she was doing extremely well for someone who’d had a stroke hours earlier.
A few days passed, and I went to visit her again. They had moved her out of intensive care and onto another floor. I gave the man at the front desk, her last name he asked which one?
“There’s only one here,” my mother chimed in.
“Which one?” I asked, ignoring her comment.
“There’s only one here by that name,” my mother repeated, interrupting me.
“Obviously not, Mom. Who else is here?” I asked. Sure enough. My uncle was in the emergency room. I didn’t go there to find out why. I guessed it was probably the same reason he always went to the emergency room, to try to con the doctors into giving him more pain killers and I’m pretty sure they only fall for that so many times before you have to start going to another hospital to do it. I would be lying if I told you that was all that I was thinking. Truly, I was wondering if he was dead.
The next day my mother told me that he was in the psyche ward again but she wasn’t sure why. So I contacted his daughter, my cousin who I hadn’t talked to in God knows how many years until my grandmother had a stroke last week. I told her he was in the ER the previous day but I was not sure why. An hour later she texted me back. He’d tried to commit suicide again via sleeping pills this time. I thought back to what my other relative’s friend said, that slitting wrists is more a “cry for help” than a legit suicide attempt. I began to think twice about that one…
It is very sad for me to watch all of this and not be able to do anything about it. In my heart I feel that the next time he is going to succeed. Nobody tries to kill themselves twice in one month if they’re not actually hoping to die. He is not bluffing. He is on suicide watch, as in, all I can do is watch and do nothing about the situation until he actually commits suicide, at which point I really can’t do anything at all.
I’m not the only one who’s been in this position. I remember hearing about a documentary about a 12 year old boy who had been transfixed with the idea of killing himself from a very young age until he actually did it. I don’t think he lived past age 12.
Just thinking of suicide is dangerous. It is an indefinite choice one way or the other -a choice to live or a choice to die- there is no middle route. Many of us spend our lives tip toeing towards suicide in the same way one edges slowly into cold ocean water. I strongly believe, that any addiction is a slow suicide that is sometimes acknowledged not only by our subconscious but conscious minds. There were many times when I was in the midst of some addiction that I truly was tossing a coin with my own life. Heads, life. Tails, death. I am still here, however, but I could be gone in a minute if I wanted to be.
I know that one day soon I will be saying, yes that was my uncle, the man who wreaked havoc in our family for years; the man I never truly got to know because he was always hiding behind some ridiculous addiction; the man who died without ever even getting to know himself.