Saturday, 2 May 2015

Resisting the Domino Effect

There is often panicked talk in the media about suicide clusters. This usually concentrates on young people and the possibility of copycat deaths, vulnerable and depressive teenagers following the example set by a peer to take a way out. But the contagion of suicide can also manifest itself when the intensity of despair over the loss of a loved one leads a member of their family or a friend, to take the same course of action themselves shortly afterwards. Only today I learned of such a case locally and Louise herself took her life just three months after her father did the same, although with Louise the relationship between the two incidents was a little less direct. Her father's death didn't make her own inevitable but it created the conditions in which it became possible. 

It is easy to see how there can be a domino effect.  I have always been clear that in this case that stops with me. There will be no more suicides no matter how bleak, how hopeless things may appear. I am not mentally ill, I am grieving. Many of the symptoms may be superficially similar but there are some crucial differences; my head is clear enough to enable me to retain an appreciation of the broader context and the consequences for my family, I can understand that although life is currently more miserable than I could ever have conceived time will eventually bring at least some respite and, perhaps most crucially, because I am not ill I retain responsibility for my actions. Louise always bravely accepted responsibility for everything she said and did whilst she was ill but she should not have tried to carry that burden. Nobody would expect a cancer sufferer to be responsible for the course of their illness so it would be entirely wrong to hold Louise to account for anything which she did in the midst of hers. 

But its true that there have been occasions in recent days and weeks when I have seen some attraction in the idea. Not because I don't love and appreciate life. On the contrary. Having experienced its shocking fragility and felt my heart bleed for what Louise has lost, her inability to any longer enjoy the simple pleasures and joys of life, I understand more than ever the precious nature of the gift of life and the need to embrace it and revel in it. 

Nevertheless, my deep yearning for Louise, my love for her, the emptiness in my heart and my sense of hopelessness about a future without her are so overwhelming that I can't help but think that anything which speeds up the time to when we are reunited in heaven, if such a place exists, must be positive. Louise was by far the best thing that ever happened to me, the most beautiful person, inside and out, that I have ever met. As a couple we complemented each other perfectly, our values, tastes and outlook on life, and the way we wanted to treat our partner and be treated by them were almost an exact match. We were more than the sum of our parts - where one was weak the other was strong and vice versa. As time went by our love was growing even stronger and our relationship even more fulfilling. I cannot conceive of a positive future without Louise and dread the broken life ahead of me.

However, nobody need worry about me. I must be clear; suicide is almost never the right option and it certainly isn't a remotely sensible course of action for me. To begin with I'm not nearly as brave as Louise. But in any case one of the reasons why she took her life was because in the muddled thinking of the moment of depression she genuinely thought that her death would release me to live a better life, free from worry and anxiety about her and the challenge presented by her mental health issues. She certainly didn't want me to follow her so soon. If nothing else, it therefore means that I am obliged to try to live the best life that I can, otherwise her sacrifice will somehow seem to be even more senseless and wasteful than it already is. In time, when I am stronger, I will attempt to do that. I don't presently have any motivation for my own needs but if I can make Louise smile it will be worth it.

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