In this post I want to share my insights on suicide. In finding that those who have not experienced suicidal feelings are simply not able to comprehend what is happening, this blog is designed to urge these people to accept their ignorance and think carefully about their reactions to the suicidal. Suicidal people need someone to talk to, someone to share their feelings with. What they don’t need is religious judgments or guilt trips. I’ve written this primarily for those who are struggling with their suicidal feelings and are seeking to understand what drives them. Suicidal feelings do not always end in death, though often they do. People who talk about suicide usually do it. I know from experience that no-one can talk you out of your determination. What can happen is that by being allowed full expression, the suicidal person may confront something that will allow them to see a reason to remain in this world. Sometimes talking and sharing helps. Sometimes it doesn’t. I’ve written this not to talk people out of suicide, nor encourage them to do it, but to talk about my perspective. Maybe some will stay because of it. Maybe. It isn’t in my hands.
In my own experience with suicidal feelings, I discovered a whole new dimension to the human experience that is largely unexplored. I found that death is preceded by an instinct, just as life is preserved through the same impulse. I uncovered a world of people, young or old, who had been in touch with this instinct and had made preparations for their deaths, sometimes even warning their families in advance. These were ordinary people who died through ‘accidental’ means. I also found that there were just as many people not in touch with this sense, but who died unexpectedly. I realized that even if we want to, we are unable to die until our appointed time, and those that do commit suicide are driven by a death instinct that is pre-determined by a greater, invisible part of ourselves. Families of successful suicides go through undue suffering, believing that there was something they could have done to prevent what happened to a loved one. I discovered that while these families definitely have something profound to learn from their personal tragedy, preventing their family member’s death lay far out of their jurisdiction.
This is the second part of the story of my journey through depression, and my confrontation with death. (The first part can be read here.) In confronting death myself, I was initially faced with my own bigotry; I was forced to meet with my moral superiority complex and examine a set of beliefs that had led me to scorn people who had committed suicide. And as compelled as I was to end my life, I uncovered a whole bunch of other beliefs about death that barred my exit, forcing me to stay alive, trapped like an animal by my own ideas.
About a year and a half after Zak’s death, my depression took on new proportions. As I explored the different dimensions of my life, and was encountering the diminishing sturdiness of my beliefs, I experienced profound fear. I began having severe panic attacks that confined me to my home. I couldn’t go out into crowded places without an intense reaction in my body. I would sweat profusely, suffer stomach cramps, and experience a weakness in my body. I suffered frequent attacks of vertigo and would feel that I was on the verge of passing out. Talking to people would produce the same symptoms, and so I withdrew even further into myself, shrinking into the black depths of utter despair.
Up until the moment of Zak’s death, I felt I’d had a successful life. If it had been me who had died that morning in May 2007, I would have had no regrets about any aspect of my life. Entering adulthood with a million insecurities, I’d steadfastly transformed myself into a confident personality. I’d started out on shaky foundations, without a firm knowledge of who I was. I was quiet, insecure and very guarded. Slowly, through much introspection and obsessive personal development, I became rehabilitated, emotionally stable. An inner strength, once suppressed, now shone through and I was able to be the more outgoing personality I always felt was part of my nature. I became a teacher, I was hugely creative, and though life wasn’t always perfect, I was happy.
Arriving in South Africa in 1994, I was the driving force in the setting up of mine and Lance’s business, and through the trials and tribulations of running this small enterprise, I grew in emotional and spiritual strength with every year that passed. My spiritual journey involved teaching and helping others with their personal growth, and through my ventures into the world of healing, I opened to the hidden magic of Life. I’d been a wonderful mother and wife fulfilling a promise to make those I loved truly happy, and I’d healed a very difficult relationship with my parents. I was the author of two books, had a wonderful home, and loved the country I now called home.
Now, in the long dark night, everything I had built within myself, and had been proud of, was under examination. Life had taken my child, and it had ripped away the material manifestations of a successful life, sending the message that the things I thought important were, in the grand scheme of things, actually truly insignificant.
Apart from losing all our material belongings, I’d often wondered how I could lose a child so cherished. We’d given Zak so much love, so much space to become his own person, and he’d responded by growing into a confident dearly loved friend to many people. He’d been successful in everything he did, and I gave myself and Lance a lot of the credit for that. Weren’t there people out there like my father, who were abusive and over-bearing, and who deserved to have their child taken? In the beginning, I was compelled to ask ‘why me’? Looking around at my environment, I saw bad parents who I believed weren’t worthy of their children, people for whom the punishment of loss might heal their wounded minds. When all was said and done, I was really asking myself, God, or anyone ‘out there’ who might be listening, why good people went through bad things. I wanted to know what the point of personal growth was, why we bothered to foster love, or why we gave up our energy in contributing to the spiritual awakening of humanity.
What did I need to heal? What was Life trying to say to me? I thought I’d met all my personal challenges and had won through; at this point I just could not see the wood for the trees.
Many a night, I begged the darkness to envelop me completely. I wanted out, I needed to die. I figured that God, being part of me, would understand entirely. At this point, absolutely everything had gone; I couldn’t even talk to people any longer without a severe panic reaction. I was cooped up in a confined space and I felt that my life had no quality whatsoever. I couldn’t be a mother, I wasn’t a wife, and I didn’t have the strength to fight something I didn’t understand. I wondered if an act of suicide could be the answer to my problems. Perhaps by surrendering my human life, I would move into my God-Self and be at peace. I’d always been a fighter, a survivor. Now, however, that warrior spirit was gone. Zak’s death had delivered a knock-out blow, and I was unable to rise from these black depths. With no son, no business, no home, and with a personality that was fading into the ethers, death seemed like the only option left open to me.
It appeared to me that Lance and Annabel were coping; it looked like they were moving on with their lives, although I later discovered this was not the case but they were just demonstrating a different set of coping mechanisms. I felt like a burden, a constant reminder of how bad things could get. I couldn’t be the wife or mother I wanted to be; I was no longer there for Lance or Annabel and I thought they’d be better off without me. I’d been a nurturing wife and mother, always looking for a better way to love my family, but now, I was lost to them. In my absence, they would heal far more quickly. While they looked to the future in hope of finding happiness again, I could only think of dying, being without this constant pain.
I searched the internet to find peaceful ways to bring about death. In doing so, I entered a vicinity I’d hardly known had existed; the world of suicide. And it was an enormous world of unhappy souls seeking exit. It was a good place to go, for I discovered another part of myself that I didn’t like and could now transform. Along with those who were looking for, or proposing methods of, suicide, I found numerous people who were in righteous judgment of suicidal people. I often read their blogs, seeing the person I once had been. A lot of these judgmental bloggers were religious, and an equal amount of them were not. What they had in common was a total lack of insight into the state of mind that a suicidal person is in. To these people, it was a black and white case of simple choice. You chose to be selfish and die, or you chose life for the people you loved and who loved you.
I understood their ignorance for I remembered an old friend of mine who twelve years previously had committed suicide by putting a bullet through his head. After hearing of his predicament; he’d been in debt and had been depressed for a long while, I was in contempt of his actions. I examined his life from a totally surface point of view. To my mind, his debt wasn’t so huge; he could have made some kind of a financial plan. And he’d left behind a wife and young teenagers. I called him a coward. I was a spiritual person who had very firm opinions on such things. I was indignant and supercilious.
What I hadn’t known then, and only knew now, was where he was in his mind. The debt had only been an outer manifestation of a massive internal shift; debt was simply a catalyst to push him into a depressive state where he would review his entire life. His suicide was never a question of cowardice or selfishness. Depression takes a person to a very different location where new dimensions of thought exist. Here, suicidal people learn very different values, see themselves and others, in a whole new light. Human nature takes on a whole new meaning, and different facets of existence open up. The paradigms that we live our lives by drop away and we are exposed to more open ways of thinking. The true purpose of our relationships are revealed in a moment of illumination, and what we come to understand is incomprehensible to others. Each of us, I discovered, plays a vital role in our familial and social network, and our deaths are catalysts that set those that remain on a new journey of inner transformation. Suicide, I came to learn, isn’t a choice. It is a deep primal instinct to move on, and it doesn’t originate in the human mind,
The death instinct is real to me; my own experience introduced me to it. In some of us it is subtle; it is a magnetic force that draws the mind to the idea of death; it forces an exploration of an otherwise taboo subject. At other times, the magnetic force is so powerful, death occurs, drawing the mind out of the human body back to its original source. And death will take place in any number of ways, one of them being suicide. It makes no difference. I learned that when the time comes, death is not a choice, it is inevitable.
It wasn’t easy to bring about one’s own peaceful death, I discovered. The suicidal were thwarted at every turn. Every method I found seemed to end one’s life in an agonising way. All popular, easy methods had been removed through various legislations. Peaceful death was only for the terminally ill, and even these people had problems getting help. I was discovering a whole new side to human nature; our absolute terror of death. I hadn’t realised what lengths we are willing to go to avoid it. When I pondered this question, I realised that death is a frightening concept because it has not been explored. Humanity doesn’t believe in God or heaven and hell. It just convinces itself that it does. When push comes to shove, no-one wants to die; even those without close family ties tend not to go willingly to the ‘better place’ we are all promised in the religious books. This fear of death, and our perpetual need to sing the praises of this life, is testament to me that most people have no authentic belief that we continue beyond this world.
As difficult as it was to find a suitable method of dying, I resolved to keep trying. I didn’t like the idea of a painful end, so I ended up searching my brother’s medicine cabinet; he had a serious mental disorder that required he take powerful drugs, and I found some I was sure would kill me. I carefully researched every pill he took, and when I found the right ones, I stockpiled them without him knowing. This was an easy task, since he had both a private doctor, and a government hospital physician that supplied his medications. He was in and out of hospital, always returning home with brand new supplies to last him two months at a time. My mother, who took care of him, was not organized, and many half-empty bottles lay in different locations around the house.
Planning my death lifted me. Knowing I would die shortly brought me back to the world in some odd way. I’d taken back my ‘control’; I was ‘in charge’ of my destiny. I found I could go out and face people. I still didn’t do well in crowds, but I coped a little better than before. I could talk about Zak more freely, and I laughed more with my family. They thought I was ‘getting better’, but I knew I was getting out.
Planning a suicide is one thing, however. Going through with it proved to be quite another. I usually planned ahead of time, giving myself about five days to get used to the idea that everything was going to end. But in the process, I experienced another dimension to the human experience, that of the innate survival instinct. As desperate as I was to die, this instinct kept kicking in. On the one hand I was driven to kill myself, yet on the other something was fighting to survive. I didn’t understand at the time what was happening. It was an internal mechanism that I didn’t seem to have any control over. A few days would pass and I would mentally prepare for the event of death. As the moment approached, I would be gripped by fear, and wouldn’t go through with it. I became convinced that I was just a coward who would have to find a means to defy the fear. After much turmoil, I realized that what I needed to do was question my beliefs about death itself. I had a lot of fear, and in wanting death this badly, I was now being forced to look at the ideas that stood between myself and what, to me, meant freedom.
Here, in the darkness of depression, I realized that I had convinced myself that I knew with absolute certainty what happened when we left this world, but now, standing at death’s door, ready to leap, I was standing face to face with my ignorance. This was the truth about my situation. I simply didn’t know what to expect. Everything I thought I knew had come from someone else’s story and I realised that my head was filled with ideas that were actually quite disturbing.
Now officially a student of death, opening the door to mysteries known only to those who had come this way, I wasn’t sure where I was headed. What I did know was that there was something that had to be recognised and owned before I could transition. I was convinced that I would die from suicide eventually. I saw no point in my life; to my mind then, I had done everything I had come here to do. Ignorance, I knew intuitively, would alter the journey I would take following death.
The suicidal impulses remained very powerful and overwhelming. I woke up to life every morning, exasperated I was still alive. The days were clouded by an invisible black force that burdened my heart and choked my solar plexus. My stomach was constantly in knots, and I was nauseous most of the time. My dreams were haunted by loss and heartache. Zak ran around in the dreamscapes, a child, an adolescent, an adult. I’d stare in wonder at him, knowing he was gone, grasping the surreal with every molecule of my body. My sorrow reverberated through the void of the universe, drawing the energy from my will to live. Socialising held an empty quality that made me fearful of going out, but I did so with a heavy feeling accompanying every outing. I smiled, laughed and joked, but it came from a shallow place of ancient memory, and my gaiety held no authenticity. Nature’s beauty was a bittersweet reminder of everything I’d lost in life and everything I wanted to claim in death. I’d hear beautiful birdsong, get a sudden scent of Jasmine on the wind, and I’d find myself crying. The wind carried my deep mourning, and the rain was the invisible tears that would fall for the rest of my days. The world was a perfect mirror of my despair. There was nowhere I could hide from this dreadful pain. On bad days, I would search for suicide methods to remind myself there would be an end to this misery. On good days, I’d meditate on spiritual issues, trying to find the meaning in death.
Death was my ally; it was my only focus and my future happiness. The death instinct motivated me to keep probing, my fear and ignorance kept me here. It was a painful limbo, in which I had no power of decision. In that dark place I recalled all the beliefs about death that has kept humanity clinging to an existence to which it keeps returning, life after life. I remembered the fire and brimstone stories my father would tell me; hell was waiting for the wicked, and since ‘wicked’ was hard to define, any one of us could burn in the everlasting fires. There was the religious and New Age dogma that saw suicide as a ‘sin’, yet people from either of these belief systems could not see that these beliefs were introduced as part of a political agenda dating back around two and a half thousand years. (Refer to this blog.) Previous to that, suicide was viewed as a human being’s right, and death was seen as a normal transition, a part of life. New Age thinking has it that if one commits suicide, one has to return to this same incarnation and ‘do it all again’. What proponents of this idea were not doing, is reconciling the idea of pre-determination with any kind of death. Then there were my own images of death that I hadn’t counted on. When pressed to look, I found I was afraid of disintegrating, that on the moment of death, my thoughts would fly off in every direction and I would be gone. The thought made my mind boggle. Many a time I laughed at myself for the creative ways in which I conjured up a frightening image of death. But observing the people around me, talking to them, watching TV, reading about death, I found that I was not alone in this fear. It was a human thing, and instead of confronting the fear, we made death a taboo subject.
This world, I discovered, is one in which we all complete a journey. On this journey, we are subjected to certain life experiences in which we are forced to confront our darkest selves. In that confrontation, we drop limiting beliefs and slowly we become merged with God, or our True Self. The goodness in us is the True Self, and as this Divine aspect of our nature is freed, so our journey draws to a close. The journey, however, is marked by endings and beginnings; we stop and we start, stop and start. One lifetime after another, it is the same life, the same story continued. I found that as much as I wanted to believe we had a choice in what we do, we actually are driven by our deepest impulses, ideas that are so embedded, so disowned, that they own us. We are compelled to suffer, because our suffering forces those ideas to the surface to be confronted and released.
Some commit suicide because they are trying to escape pain. Some do it because they have beliefs that insist that the passage will take them to some other dimension of experience. Others know that the journey has ended and that the choice really is theirs, so enlightened have they become. Whatever the case may be, destiny plays its role. I discovered a universe where there are no accidents, no coincidences, no concept of chance. We are on a journey, and death is an ending of a phase of experience, and life will continue beyond this dimension, or within it. Early death of loved ones transform those who die, and those who remain. There is purpose in it, it is the great transformer of human experience.
Five years after losing my son, I am used to life without him, and the pain is manageable. Time takes care of that. But death is still my lover, and as I delve into its cosmic secrets, I get ever closer to it. Beyond death’s door, I learned, lies two roads. One leads back to human existence, the other to eternity. To take the road to eternity, I must let go of everything, every idea that makes me cling to my importance as a human being. It’s not as easy as it seems, but I’m getting there. I’d ask you to wish me luck, but unfortunately, luck has nothing to do with it.