Last week a friend killed herself. I did not know her much, but I knew her.
So many like her. She is me, I am her.
What led her to such depths of despair that she could see no coming back from it? She has a young child who will now grow up motherless. When she was alive I never thought about her but now I cant stop thinking of her.
It makes me look at every person I know with suspicion. Is this person okay? Is this person happy? Will he reach out if he needs to talk to someone? Will she tell someone that she is not feeling okay, not feeling herself? If the person is close to me, or if I see them often, will I be able to spot differences in their behaviour? Will I be able to ring alarm bells before it’s too late?
When the news of some celebrity hanging himself to death or someone shooting himself in the head comes in, it feels shocking but it’s remote. It’s not in my sphere of life, it’s somewhere in some other universe, not on my planet. But when someone you know kills herself, stops her life midway, you get stunned. You visualise and imagine what it must be to be like her, to be the child that’s left behind and it immobilises you.
I consider myself quite perceptive and I can look into someone’s eyes and at least somewhat know what that person is feeling. But so many times, egos and our preconceived notions of how everything should be – come in the way of an honest, heartfelt conversation.
I also have a bone to pick with Facebook and other social media right now. They are so snoopy , even picking up on conversations happening in the room, but where it matters most, they are unable to do anything.
Many years back when my best friend got pregnant I googled something related to symptoms of first trimester. I was not even thinking about pregnancy then. But after this particular google search, my husband started seeing diaper ads on Facebook. Even while I write this blog post on Notes, it keeps predicting my next word based on the chats I have had with friends over the last couple of days.
But they are completely unable to find out and raise and alarm to friends and family when someone has searched for “ways to kill self” or “how to tie a noose for hanging” . Or something else related to suicide.
Hanging has an estimated fatality rate of 70%. A person in Mulund, Mumbai has developed a suicide prevention fan. If the fan gets pulled down by anything more than 13 kgs, it releases a spring and extends downwards to the floor. Why doesn’t every fan have this spring?
In Paris in patisserie school, I had a friend who regularly used to cut herself. When I saw it once while helping each other fold the corners of the apple pies, I asked her what this is. But she shrugged it off and I was too young and naive and did not know her well. I tried to look out for her be there if she wanted to talk for the 6 weeks that we were together, but I didn’t do anything more. Now when I see her on social media once or twice in 6 months, it leaves me a with a pang of guilt. She seems to be fine, but then we all seem to be fine, until we aren’t.
Sarah Manguso has written in a recent article in The Paris Review, “The phrase to die by suicide is too clinical, but I don’t like the phrase to kill yourself, either. Suicide is self-murder only incidentally; mainly, it’s the murder of your tormentor. That you need to break through your body to get to the tormentor is beside the point.”
If not worded correctly, it’s politically incorrect to say this. To say that someone who commits suicide is essentially killing and smashing parts of people who loved them, whom they also loved at some point. And especially if it’s a child you leave behind, the abandonment the child will feel, no matter if he is 3 or 30, is unbearable. No act can be more selfish than this one.
But I also believe in a contrary point of view to this.
Yiyun Li in her book , “From my life I write..” says ‘One’s wish to die can be as blind and intuitive as one’s will to live, yet the latter is never questioned.’
It’s a matter of perspective. The suicider – the one who commits the act and and the suicidees – all those who are left behind. Its the perspective that matters.
“One has made it this far; perhaps this is enough of a reason to journey on.”