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Thursday, August 14, 2014


My brain works differently from others.  I carry a diagnosis that has been eliminated with the release of the DSM V. That diagnosis was rolled into a broader category. That diagnosis was Aspberger’s and it has rolled into Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Many people consider this an illness or a deficiency and, for many people afflicted with abnormal brain architecture, it is a deficiency that prevents them from leading a functional life. I, on the other hand, am perfectly capable of functioning within society and being self sufficient. Autism has inflicted a trade on my mind that makes comprehending social queues and motivations difficult for me but it has given me greater processing power that has, over the years, allowed me to build a facsimile of “normal” through raw analysis. Many people do not understand what they do and why; I MUST understand what people do and why so that I can blend in. As a general rule my emotions are suppressed and limited when it comes to everyday life. I don’t consider this a detriment to my life; it is an asset.

I do; however, suffer from dyslexia. This disorder is not officially diagnosed and I see no reason to bother to get it done as I know I could walk into any qualified professional and tell them why I believe I have this disorder and I would walk out with the diagnosis. There is no point to this, however because there is nothing that can be done about it. I will remain in a position where b, p, and d (specifically in lower case) give me no end of trouble and in a world where I am constantly turning on the incorrect burner on the left hand side of the stove top. I accept these facts and deal with them.
But this post is not about those things; they are merely a relevant preamble to the real issue at hand. They frame a larger context that is my world. They reinforce some of the points that are part of the larger issue.

Monday brought dreadful news to millions of people.

Robin Williams, beloved actor and comedian, had committed suicide.

This, naturally, brought forth an array of commentary about mental illness and about the very nature of suicide itself. It called forth some of the worst commentary humanity can offer and some of the best.

It also brought up questions.

I, too, suffer from depression. I am not depressed. Being depressed is a damper on one’s life related to an event or traceable source. Robin Williams’ death will make many people depressed for some time; they will get over it. Depression is different. Depression is an ominous and damp cloud that weighs down the soul. It has no external source. It has no reason. It is not fleeting. It merely is. It’s a heavy anchor that inflicts a terrible burden on those who suffer from it.

Always. Without mercy. Indiscriminately.

Nearly a quarter of the population suffers from some form of mental illness. These illnesses, while rooted in some physiological point within the brain, are not considered the same way physical illnesses are. This is because they are invisible. Their pain cannot be seen. Their pain cannot be extrapolated. Their pain cannot be understood by ANYONE other than the one who suffers it. Even identical and blatantly obvious physical inflictions carry different weights of pain on different individuals; so how could it be remotely possible to determine how an invisible pain relates to another’s?

Robin’s suicide prompted one newscaster to call him selfish on the air. This has prompted an array of articles and blog posts to be created by individuals, many of whom admit they do not suffer from depression, decrying the insensitivity of calling a suicide victim/perpetrator selfish. This issue is very important to a lot of people. To the extent that when I asked one of my friends to explain to me how it is NOT selfish I was answered with a statement that I would be unfriended and blocked if I mentioned it again.

Here are some examples of these articles:

There's Nothing Selfish About Suicide

Stop Calling Suicide Victims 'Selfish'

The Death of Robin Williams, And What Suicide Isn't

And even some that have been around for a longer time such as:

Suicide is NOT a Selfish Act - It is an Act of Desperation by Someone in Intense Pain

They are all wrong.

If you put “define: selfish” into a google search pane you get

        (of a person, action, or motive) lacking consideration for others; concerned chiefly with one's own personal profit or pleasure.

Depression meets this definition fully. Depression IS selfish. Depression lacks all consideration for those who suffer from it. Depression, given that it induces pain and pushes those that suffer from it toward self-destruction without eradicating itself, is the very definition of selfish.
There have been times when my depression has been so severe that I have contemplated taking my own life. Times when the sheer weight of existing was so great I could feel my very soul being crushed into oblivion. Times when it felt that continuing through another day would destroy who I am just as effectively as terminating the metabolic functions of my body would. This pain is very real but it is also a lie. This pain is some defect in the brain trying to kill me. This pain IS, without a doubt, selfish.

Depression is one of the most selfish things out there but those who suffer from it are not. As one who constantly fights the pain of depression, despite the medication I am on to manage it, I can say that those feelings of self destruction are not ME; they are not MINE. They are something else that is trying to convince me to kill myself. Those feelings, and not me, are selfish.

Suicide, on the other hand, is surrender. It is a weakness of character. It is succumbing to the lies that the demon of depression whispers deep in your mind. It is allowing the disease to overwhelm free will and dominate.
The pain, as horrible as it is, is less severe than the net pain that will be inflicted upon the world if the depression wins. This is hard to believe, nearly impossible at times, but it is true. One need only look at the response to Robin Williams’ death to see that the net pain inflicted by his passing MUST outweigh any pain he could have been experiencing on his own. To willingly inflict that pain on the world as a cost to terminating one’s own pain, too, meets the definition of selfish.  And the emotional net-pain-infliction is just the very tip of why suicide is selfish. There is more, each component of which is more quantifiable than the one before it.

To outline this I will use myself as an example.

If I were to die today of natural causes I would avoid the unfair infliction of pain on those around me of having killed myself; but, the sadness would still exist. I cannot quantity that but I CAN quantify some things.

  • Were I to not report to work tomorrow my coworkers would have to absorb my portion of the workload until a replacement could be found and trained. This would be a real, and quantifiable, result of my death.
  • My fiancé is in school and I subsidize her education as an investment in our future.  My death would end her hopes and dreams that she is currently working so hard to obtain. This would be a real, and quantifiable, result of my death.
  • I own my home and my fiancé lives there while she is in school and will continue to live there when I am gone. Were I to die the agreement between ME and the mortgage company would terminate and the balance would be due in full. My fiancé would be unable to pay this and the home would be foreclosed upon. This would be a real, and quantifiable, result of my death.
  • My fiancé and I have a lot of animals. Finding a place that she could live in that would allow them would be a terrible endeavor that would, likely, end in having to re-home many of the animals. This would be a real, and quantifiable, result of my death.
  • There is debt on both of the cars. My fiancé, in her current schooling condition, would be unable to pay the payments on either of them. If she were lucky she would be able to sell one to pay off the loan on it and use the remainder to pay the loan on the other. If she were unlucky she would lose both vehicles. This would be a real, and quantifiable, result of my death.

I have life insurance. Life insurance will mitigate all but the first of those points should I die through an accident or illness. This insurance, however, would be null and void were I to commit suicide.
I, as a sufferer (and “suffer” is truly the right word) of depression, proclaim that the disease is selfish. I, as someone who has contemplated eliminating my pain through the only means available, suicide, feel free to call that action selfish.

And it is that level of selfishness that has saved my life.

Each time I have contemplated the escape I stop and look at how, in very quantifiable terms, my action would negatively impact the world and how it would not just spread my pain around but, also, multiple it. The very selfish nature of the situation has saved my life each and every time. The selfish nature of suicide, and the very unselfish nature of myself, has caused me to bear the extent of pain through the peaks of what depression has thrown at me to survive another day.

Each and every time.

Calling Robin’s action selfish does not upset me. What upsets me is the very real situation that someone whose positive impact on the world was measurable in many ways, each of which is more significant than the sum of what impact I could ever impart, could still feel so desperate and alone as to take that path toward freedom from the pain. What bothers me is that Robin survived for so many years more than I but ended up in the state that he had to end it all. What bothers me is whether or not my pain will continue to grow to the point where I feel that it is no longer so selfish that the selfishness is not a deterrent to me. What bothers me is not the selfishness of the act of suicide but, rather, the level of pain that might drive someone to do it despite it being selfish.

If Robin Williams felt such a dark and terrible shadow consuming his life, despite the adoration of millions and a family that loved him and financial security, what possible hope do I, and those like me, have of surviving this terrible disease?

Instead of condemning those who decry suicide as a selfish act perhaps, instead, we should focus that energy into trying to help preventing those for whom the selfishness of the act is the only reason they have not yet done it. Perhaps we should focus our energy on trying to prevent their pain from growing beyond the threshold where they no longer care about the selfishness of it.

I think a lot of people view labeling a suicide as selfish as a means of slandering the one who died. It isn't. When someone is driven to such a selfish act to escape a pain that is so severe that they cannot handle it any further is the epitome of tragedy. The fatal flaw of their person being some tiny malfunction deep in the brain that forces them to end their own existence rather than enjoy another day of life. Robin Williams' suicide, while a selfish retreat from pain at the expense of everyone left behind, is that much more of a tragedy because of it. The greater the level of falsehood imparted by the disease the greater the tragedy that such an act brings.

I, a nobody to the eyes of the world, would only be able to create a minor tragedy if I were to succumb to the same fate. But it would be no less selfish of me to go that route.

 To me, the only aspect of this that is open for debate lies in the semantics of free will. Depression sufferers commit suicide without free will because the disease forces the desperation for relief onto them. This lack of free will, might, to many minds, make the act not selfish. And, from a certain point of view it isn't. The victim of the act was not selfish, but the very real, although misguided act itself, still is.

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