I found out yesterday that an acquaintance of mine took his life last week. I'm friendly with his ex-wife, and I saw him maybe 10 or 20 times a year around town. In retrospect, I never saw him look happy, except for last year when I gave his ex my WII for their son (which was the main Christmas present for him). He told me how much their son loved it, and how much fun he had going through the box, opening up the games, including many unopened ones, and playing them with the son. Even then, he didn't look what I'd call truly happy. He's apparently suffered with severe depression for his whole life.
So. I'm torn here. It's devastating to his loved ones, and his friends, and his son ... but he was truly miserable. I'm pretty sure that if I ever get diagnosed with Alzheimer's, or a painful terminal illness, I'll take myself out (although I'll try to do it in a way that will be as easy on whoever finds me as possible, if I'm ever found). People seem to understand that if you have a terminal disease, or Alzheimer's, that you might choose to end things. We put down our pets, if we're good owners, if they no longer have a decent quality of life. Of course at that point, life as you know it is already ending, so I guess it's more understandable.
But when depression is the cause, we often judge. I have personal experience with this ... I will never forget having to explain to my nephews, many years ago, that their mother committed suicide because she had a disease, that it was OK for them to be angry with her, but that I hoped they would understand that she truly felt she couldn't handle life any longer. It had nothing to do with them - and yet, of course, in their minds, she should have stuck around for them. But that's not how it works. Despite all the love, the therapy, the medication, and whatever, she had been depressed since she was a little girl, and life was torture to her.
I had been talking about this with a group of friends just a few weeks ago. We all agreed that if someone truly is miserable, they should have the "right" to choose to die, but were torn about the selfishness and the effects on others. Whether they're terminally ill or majorly depressed - if your quality of life totally sucks, why shouldn't you be able to decide to end it? But then we all got stuck on the issue of those who are left behind. The guilt, the grief, the anger, the "could I have helped" - it truly does screw up the people who loved them. And now, this group of friends is dealing with the reality of it. We still agree that we can't judge, but it's a little harder to say that when someone you know has actually chosen to commit suicide.
Is it selfish? I suppose, in a way, it is. It's putting yourself first, and not dealing with the pain and issues that your loved ones will suffer because of your actions. But on the other hand, if you truly can't stand living ... it's your life to take.
I don't know. I've never suffered from depression, so I can't imagine what that's like -yet I can absolutely understand that there are circumstances where I'd commit suicide. Yet I've seen the effects on the loved ones from people who have killed themselves, and it's always so much harder than natural death.
All I know is that later this week, at his memorial service, I won't judge. I can't. I know there are situations where I would make the same choice - and even if there weren't, I have no clue as to how he felt, and how miserable he was.
I'm still torn on whether it's selfish, though. Sometimes, selfish choices aren't wrong - sometimes you have to be selfish to get what you need. I guess I'm leaning toward yes, it is ... but it was his choice, just as it was my SIL's choice. And it would be my choice, if I were ever so truly miserable that it was preferable to living, for whatever reason. At that point, I think the guilt I'd feel at those left behind would be overcome with the reality of my existence, and how badly I needed it to end. It's not so hard for me to imagine feeling like that, having seen people die from Alzheimer's.