Following is my opinion and my opinion alone and is not based on any scientific study or thesis, just my own individual observations over the years. So don’t go off on me and tell me I’m wrong – I may very well be. But this explanation fits based on what I know and represents one of many scenarios. There. Now this essay has been sufficiently disclaimed.
It’s not about cowardice. It’s about relief.
I could never defend suicide as a rational, reasonable solution to anything. No reasonable mind could possibly draw that conclusion, so don’t think for a second that I condone suicide as a remedy for what ails the suffering mind. I do not. But I do understand it.
Committing suicide, in my opinion, has more in common with curing a headache than it does with cowardice.
When your head hurts, you seek relief by grabbing a bottle of ibuprofen or aspirin or something. The goal: to make the hurt go away.
Suicide is similar in that killing one’s self becomes the only relief available. Unfortunately as we all know, the consequences are far direr than grabbing 800 milligrams of ibuprofen and taking a nap.
It’s all about relief. It’s all about making it stop.
When one is in the depths of depression, sleep becomes a blessed relief from the past, the present and the future – all of which during the waking state appear hopeless. Only in sleep is there a blessed unconsciousness. Only in dreams are there precious few moments free of the hopelessness of the waking state. That eight hours becomes the focus of everything else one does during the waking state: “I have to go to work so I can get back to sleep and not hurt for awhile.” Or: “I need to hurry up and finish dinner and get everything settled for the evening before that moment when the real, oppressive, and horrible existence fades from view into the darkness of sleep and the freedom of dreams.” These are the things that go through one’s mind as the drudgery and the misery of a hopeless existence weigh heavily upon each and every day.
Then sleep. Blessed sleep. The relief of unconsciousness and of dreams. Even the unconsciousness brings relief. Especially the unconsciousness.
And that’s where the problem comes.
Once the unconsciousness of sleep and the perceived unconsciousness of death become equivocated, the rational barriers between living and dying break down. The attractiveness of that relief that is only temporarily found in sleep spills over to that which is perceived to be in death.
You see where I’m going with this.
It’s not about being a coward. It’s about needing the hurt to stop. Unfortunately, there’s no medicine which can mitigate that kind of hurt. And it’s tough to see a rational way out for such a visceral experience.
Regardless of how you feel about it, Robin Williams and others who commit suicide every day aren’t cowards. They just want the hurt to stop.
So please stop accusing those who commit suicide or attempt it of cowardice. “Tough love” doesn’t work here. It’s not helpful to anyone least of all them. Instead, consider empathy, compassion and offers of help and comfort. There are other ways to make the hurt stop and it starts with all of us.