Though given to ‘big thoughts’, ‘deep thoughts’ even, I am what many people would call a smiley kind of person. Even those who dislike me would be hard pressed to call me a depressive. Yet I first wrote of suicide as an 18 year old. Just a couple of lines in my school diary.
Then I got on with living – practically every photo from then on testament to finding something to be happy about, even if just the absurdity of aspects of life.
Yet, while I never gave it another – conscious – thought for many years, the suicidal tendencies of others reverberated across my life with painful regularity. Most of them were recorded as open verdicts.
Some, like J, were temporary trials in my lengthy spiritual journey.
I invited her to live in my rented flat in West Kensington at the request of her sister, who I worked and was friendly with. Almost immediately, she started to take advantage, stealing from me, and then threatening suicide; being in a bad mood at various times of the day and night – and then threatening suicide.
She would make me leave the flat until she calmed down – even in the early hours – all under the threat of committing suicide. Eventually, my inner protective mechanisms kicked in and I signed over the lease to her and left. My parting shot was along the lines of if you are going to do it, just do it and stop threatening it all the time.
Some months later, she did indeed throw herself from a first floor window and insisted I came and visit her in hospital. Yes, that too was some kind of a threat as her first words were ‘I knew you’d come to see me.’
In 1974, my brother died – an open verdict. At 3am on the 11th April, he had taken tablets to stop the physical pain of an incurable illness. At exactly the same time, by some ghastly coincidence, I too was taking painkillers – for the excruciating pain post wisdom teeth removal. He took 12 tablets, I emptied my medicine drawer – in excess of 30 tablets. (Aside: the physical pain only subsided for an hour at most.)
Had I too died then, it would not have been suicide any more than his passing. Just a desire to stop appalling physical pain. Mental pain though is a whole other ball game.
I could just about cope with huge (and I mean huge) financial pressures, but linked with the emotional trauma of loving the wrong men and a miscarriage, my mind became overburdened with grief and pain and my God was letting it drag on and on.
Meditating daily – and nagging God daily about what I should do to free myself from such torment – I opened Marcus Aurelius and read: “It is possible to live on earth as you mean to live here after. But if men will not let you, then quit the house of life; though not with any feeling of ill-usage.” Ah, a message from above, I believed.
Slitting wrists in the bath did absolutely nothing – not even the smallest scar. In fact, I remember being intrigued at how the skin kept healing, rather like in those sci-fi films. I then tried an overdose of paracetemol but woke in the early hours puking everywhere. And, being a clean kind of person, I also got out soapy water and brush and scrubbed away till no marks remained.
Gave up on trying to ‘quit the house of life’ thereafter.
Later, when my sense of humour returned, I checked Aurelius again and wondered if God had meant me to read the passage above: “Do unsavoury armpits and bad breath make you angry? What good will it do you?… but you yourself are endowed with reason; so apply your reasonableness; … you will have worked a cure, and there will be no need for passion; …”.