I try very hard not to ask why Louise took her life. There is no need. I know why. Both the short and the long answer.
The short response is that Louise was temporarily overcome by the bleakest of darknesses which she tried bravely to fight but eventually overcame her. It subverted her ability to think rationally, to lift her head and look beyond the short term desperation she was struggling with, to think about the consequences for myself and the rest of the family.
The longer and more complex version is probably not for here. After all, this is my blog and my decision to open up to that small part of the world that happens upon it, not Louise's. I have to respect her continuing right to privacy about the detail of her illness. But I attended the psychiatric consultations with her and over the years talked to her endlessly about what she was dealing with during her intermittent episodes of illness, even if none were quite as bleak as the last. As a reflective, intelligent and informed doctor she was well placed to work through and interpret her emotions and condition and to share her self diagnosis with me. I also have Louise's notebooks in which she was constantly writing down her thoughts, as well as a full farewell letter (something which is much less common in the case of suicide than might popularly be believed).
So I understand what was going on in Louise's mind. There is inevitably something of a gap in perception between those who have to live with mental illness and those who don't. Its impossible to fully get inside what Louise used to call her 'full head'. But I think I can get as close as its possible to doing so. And I know that this was something for which Louise was extremely grateful. She took great comfort in the thought that I understood what she was dealing with and the way it affected her.
That makes it even more difficult for me to now ask 'why?' I feel as if its important to continue to provide Louise with this comfort. I know that the most loving thing I can say to her now is 'I'm not angry with you. I understand'. But in doing so I deny myself permission to explore the questions that continue to bewilder me and run through my mind on almost a continuous loop. The hows and whys.
I know that it wasn't Louise's settled wish to die, that she loved life and when she was well, which was most of the time, she lived it with a zest, vigour and sense of joy that left others trailing in her wake. And she had the self awareness to appreciate her good fortune too. I know that had she lived she would now be telling me that she was so happy and so lucky to have the life that she did.
So just how could a talented, professionally successful and relatively young woman who was physically fit, much loved, happily married and enjoyed a good standard of living and active lifestyle voluntarily give up everything for the sake of a handful of extremely bleak days? How could she have got up that morning knowing that she would never see another sunrise or sunset, that she would never again hear the birdsong and smell the flowers that so enchanted her, that she would never be held, kissed or loved again, that she would never see her beloved nephews and nieces grow up into the adulthood that promises so much for them all, that she would never feel the sun, wind or rain on her face again, that she would give up all this for.........what? Louise didn't know. Despite her faith she never held strong views on the existence or otherwise of the afterlife. Perhaps it was the scientist in her. Her interpretation of heaven was the creation of heaven in this life, on earth. So how could she willingly subject herself to the unknown?
I also struggle, of course, with how Louise could have possibly done something with such horrendous and lifelong implications for me and the rest of her family. How could she subject those she loved most to the cruellest of experiences imaginable? Why didn't she pick up the phone and call me, to reach out for help? Why didn't she see that she just had to hold on for a few hours, or days, that the darkness would pass and a much brighter future was just round the corner? And why, of all methods, did she have to choose that one? How could she have........I can't bring myself to think any further. At that point my mind has to close down for the sake of my own sanity.
All these questions confound me. They are beyond my comprehension. My head spins when I pose them. I want to scream them out loud. Occasionally I do. And yet, to return full circle, I know that there is no point. Because I know both Louise's considered self diagnosis and that of her psychiatrist, I know why she chose that method of suicide, I know which fears and concerns were driving her thoughts and I also know that the darkness which sprang from them trumps everything. It wildly exaggerates and distorts problems, obscures or denies solutions, extinguishes hope. It makes the irrational appear logical and exerts an utterly irresistible destructive power.
I understand, Sweetheart. I truly do.