“You have high markers for bipolar, and depression,” said our marriage counselor to my husband John after looking over his paperwork, “but I can’t formally diagnose you or prescribe meds; your need to go to a psychiatrist for that.”
John crossed his arms, leaned back onto the therapists’ sofa and snorted in that familiar way that told me that he and his pride would not be making an appointment with a psychiatrist.
Men don’t see psychiatrists. Men, suck it up.
In this way, my husband chose suicide. I do not forgive him for this. He should have gotten help. I too was told I had high markers for major depressive disorder by our therapist. I promptly went to a doctor, tried diet, exercise, and vitamin supplements, and when those failed I went on antidepressants. In this way, I chose life.
But maybe it was easier for me because I am female. Females see doctors. Females don’t have to suck it up.
I do not forgive society for this double standard.
Two and a half years after this therapy appointment, John would attempt suicide two times before he completed. Twice by carbon monoxide poisoning in his garage (he would admit this to me on the night he died), and once with a fateful shotgun bullet to his torso.
These attempts were not his choice. I know this because I’ve read his suicide note more times than I can count, and the author of that selfish, anger-laced, letter was not the man I married. I know these attempts on his life were not his choice because I spent two hours on the phone with him trying to talk the gun out of his hand. The voice on the phone that night was not my husband’s.
The voice on the phone that night made me a believer in what the Holy Bible refers to as demon possession. I recalled all of the accounts in The New Testament of Jesus healing people from demon possession as I listened to John attempt to string sentences together that made no sense on the night of March 23, 2014.
As I listened to him on that awful night, I knew three things for sure:
One, that mental illness has always existed and the authors of the Bible did not have “mental illness” in their vocabulary, so they referred to these people as “demon possessed”
Two, Jesus would not be saving my husband
Three, I no longer believed in Jesus
(I will not be responding to the ridiculous private messages and facebook comments that these last few lines will be provoking. I’m allowed to have an opinion, and loss of faith, and I am allowed to use my experiences and beliefs to make a point. I hope you have enough confidence in your own beliefs to not attack others with a differing opinion).
Not much has changed since biblical times. Although we now have “mental illness” in our vocabulary, we don’t use it very much; or we use it but don’t fully understand it’s meaning.
We call victims of suicide selfish. We tell ourselves and others that they made a bad choice. I wonder if the demon possessed were called selfish.
There are very rare cases in which suicide is actually a choice.
Legally (or illegally, for that matter) assisted suicide for people with a terminal illness is one. Suicide for the sake of honor, in cultures where choosing to die brings honor to ones tribe or family is the other.
Outside of those two examples, I venture to say that the vast majority of suicide is not a choice.
The situation with my husband is a little more complicated though. Did my husband choose suicide? Yes and no. Yes, he chose not to get help when he was told he had symptoms for two mental illnesses that could lead to suicide. Had he reached out for help he might still be here…….or he might still be dead. Plenty of people do reach out for help and still they die by suicide. Or maybe when our therapist told him to see a psychiatrist, he was already too far gone and his sick brain kept him from seeking help. Or maybe it was his pride. Or maybe it was society.
These are the questions I ponder at 1:00am while the non-traumatized people of the world get to sleep peacefully.
Did my husband John choose suicide? No. By the time he wrote that suicide note, and loaded that shotgun his brain had been overtaken by an illness. Saying that a mentally ill person chose suicide, is like saying my maternal grandmother chose not to feed herself when her cancer spread to her brain and she lost her fine and gross motor skills.
Do me a favor, next time you see or hear the word, “Suicide” replace it with the term, “Brain Cancer” and see how your perception of its victims and its survivors change.
John’s sick brain made the choice to fire that gun, but my husband did not. My husband was not merely a brain and I resent those who treat his legacy as such. My husband John was a unique and precious soul; and that soul no longer exists as it once did, encased within a sick body.
While I will always be conflicted about whether or not John’s suicide was a choice, and whether or not it could have been prevented, I am not at all conflicted when I say this:
NO ONE HAS THE RIGHT TO TELL ME JOHNS SUICIDE WAS A CHOICE.
The implication of saying this to me, a suicide widow, is that one, my husband chose to leave the kids and I (which only makes us feel more shitty…so thanks for that), and two, that my husband was a selfish person. Maybe he was, maybe he wasn’t. Either way, I’m allowed to think and say this about my husband, you are not.
I am sickened when I see people attacking the loved ones of those who have lost their battle to depression, PTSD, bipolar and other un-diagnosed mental illnesses. Your opinions are self-serving, pretentious, and of course “well-intended.”
You’re not allowed to voice an opinion to someone who has slept in their dead spouses shirt in hopes that their skin cells might still be on the tattered fabric.
You’re not allowed to voice an opinion to someone who has had to tell their young children, “Daddy did something called ‘suicide. ”
You’re not allowed to voice an opinion to someone who has picked out clothing for a corpse to wear in a coffin.
You’re not allowed to voice an opinion to someone who has ever had to check the “widowed” box on paper work.
So, what are you allowed to do?
You’re allowed to shut.the.fuck.up.
© Copyright 2017 Michelle Miller