After writing my review for Nick Hornby's book, A Long Way Down, I sent the link to the members of my book club since I was going to be unavailable for that month's meeting. It seems some of my points were discussed during the group and I realize that my writing wasn't clear and my thoughts not presented as I would have wished, nor was I there to defend them or explain them more clearly.
Apparently, the group discussed whether or not it is helpful or germane to ask whether a person is justified in wanting to seek the solution of suicide. I had intimated in my review that I felt none of the characters were really in a situation where the only solution seemed to be suicide. I think what I should have articulated was that I never felt close enough or connected enough to the characters presented to feel their depth of despair. This is far different than saying that their reasons were weak or shallow. I needed to get inside their heads further before I would understand or believe their act of seeking suicide.
Moreover, these were characters in a book, and I certainly wouldn't treat any real-life person with a skepticism for their validity in seeking suicide. It was merely an aspect of the book which didn't work for me as a reader. I have nothing but compassion for those individuals who find themselves longing for a way out of this hard life. It is never helpful to tell a suicidal person that they have no reason to feel that way. Such comments merely invalidate their feelings and make things worse.
I have been suicidal on a few occasions, most of them linked to my clinical depression. While this is not something I'm proud to admit, it is a part of my story. In the days and weeks when I plotted and schemed, there was a strong sense that this life was just too hard to do anymore and, especially, that nobody really cared whether I was alive or not. My brain told me that the world would be a better place if I wasn't in it and, for the most part, I believed it.
I'm thankful that I never had to hear someone question whether my life was really sucky enough to warrant the act of suicide. I'm especially grateful that there were individuals who stepped into the gap and urged me to get the help I needed to pull away from that course of action. I never had a ring of fellow suicide seekers to help stave off the intention to do bodily harm like in Hornby's book, but I had at least one individual in my court and that was enough for me.
Sadly, having people in his court wasn't sufficient for my brother-in-law. He took his life in May of 2010. The world isn't a better place because he's gone. His daughter and family members still struggle with the aftermath of his decision.
I felt a need to clarify that I am in complete agreement with my book club, that it is neither germane nor helpful to inquire whether there is sufficient reason to warrant suicide. My thoughts and prayers go out to anyone who is feeling such a depth of despair over life that they wish to seek an exit plan. It would have been interesting to hear my book club's suggestions for how to buoy up someone in this dire dilemma.