I was on Twitter, today (never a great idea, when controversial topics are being thrown about…). I managed to read a beautifully written, poignant account of one man’s struggle to keep his friend from committing suicide.
He lost the battle. They both did, I guess–his friend had saved his life a year earlier, and they had leaned on each other for support, but eventually, it wasn’t enough for the older of the 2 men. Despite multiple calls each day, and lots of empathy and talking therapy, this terminally ill, soon-to-die man took the final step himself.
Most people who read the story were concerned for the surviving friend (especially as he’s also a pretty high suicide risk) but there’s always one, isn’t there? One person always stands up and tells everyone else why they’re ALL wrong, and someone did. “How can you all say this is okay? If it had been me,” they glibly Tweeted, evidently without reading any of the actual history between the 2 men, or the surviving friend’s tireless vigil, “I would have done everything I could, to stop this from happening.”
Well, no, sweetheart. You wouldn’t have. You would NOT have been on the phone multiple times a day, risking your job and your own sanity. You wouldn’t have given the unconditional, positive regard that lets people know they can really open up to you, without fear of judgment… the regard that has postponed so many suicides, and prevented some deliberate losses of life forever.
You sure as shit wouldn’t have given the guy a piece of your liver, so that he could continue drinking himself to death slowly, would you? No. Of course not. And if you would have, there’s not a surgeon in the world who would’ve taken those odds and performed the surgery. So… what *would* you have done?
My guess is, you would’ve shouted at this end-of-life liver failure patient to get his life together–about 10 years too late–and then, after screaming at him for 2 or 3 phone calls, you’d have washed your hands of it. All you’d have done, would be make a dying man feel worse.
Shame. On. You.
All the love in the world to the surviving friend, who put his career, his very new romantic relationship, and his own well-being on hold, to figuratively hold the hand of a dying friend who had done the same for him. This is what makes the world a place worth living in… people who can look past their own needs, and the fear of their own mortality, to be there for someone in the most dire of circumstances. This is what makes us special, among the other animals–the ability to communicate gently, with understanding, with compassion and love, in all kinds of extremity. We would be so much less than human, without the ability to love others at least as much as we love ourselves.
Everyone probably gets tired of hearing this from me, but if you need to talk to someone WITHOUT JUDGEMENT:
Samaritans (UK only): freephone 116 123
Samaritans email (Worldwide): firstname.lastname@example.org
Those are not only numbers for suicidal folk–most of the callers are lonely, anxious, depressed, at their wits’ end, self-harming, or even just old and isolated–but by all means, if you’re suicidal and want to talk about it, rather than being told why you just shouldn’t be, please contact Samaritans. The understanding really helps.