[The following is not an attempt to counsel anyone struggling with suicidal thoughts or their families. I am not putting my thoughts on everyone who has chosen suicide. This is my ramblings as I work through my thoughts. If you know the Dirk, don’t setup an intervention.]
Suicide is a topic which needs to be discussed by the SLLCC. Suicide, like murder, stands under the rubric of means, motive, and opportunity. Most of us have means and opportunity. Motive gets messy and ultimately lame. I am conflicted discussing suicide. The typical counselor and suicide prevention course provides a paradigm to hopefully detect suicidal tendencies. How effective they are is beyond me. I have firearms at my immediate disposal but I also have medication, rope, vehicles, knives, motorcycle, etc.. Means is rarely an issue with most men. Most of my day and some of my evenings are spent alone. Opportunity is there.
Motive. I want to reiterate that I am not a healthcare professional and speaking only from my perspective. I find myself clenching my teeth as I write this. I irrationally identify with some of the obvious motives: disability, loss of job, marital dissolution, personal failure (to name a few). These are charged with intense anger or fear or hurt or hopelessness (depression).
At my age I have known numerous people that have committed suicide. A late teen was morose compounding that hopelessness with narcotics. Another could not take the stress of boot camp. One distressed over a fledgling romantic engagement. An older man was devastated at the systematic removal of employment prestige and another with the discovery of his wife’s infidelity. One man killed himself for revenge and hatred on family property. Robin Williams committed suicide recently…what motive overwhelmed him (we think we know, but we can’t). I do not know all of the precipitating events or even the relevant psychological earmarks that pointed toward the “motive” overwhelming the moment for him or anyone. That is not my point. But, that moment where the motive overtakes impulse control for many men…it is over.
As a young man, I had an anger problem coupled with poor impulse control (a typical Marine). Normally my failure to control was externally directed but I had bouts of MMA with inanimate objects. A friend and I would engage occasionally in cutting our arms or chests (honestly these were more testosterone challenges than attempted self-destruction). I had a saying from my destructive days, “Suicide never, homicide–maybe.” Fifty+ years of life and drafted into the SLLCC has altered my view. I understand when others chose suicide and that scares me a little. My wife and I have said privately to one another that choosing suicide is cowardice. I still agree in some situations. Some men plan to flee their pressures or responsibilities, leaving others to do their dirty work. Other times it is poor impulse control in the face of something seemingly demanding a permanent change.
Life, for most of the SLLCC gang, didn’t turn out like we thought and for me, I am struggling with the thought of becoming an animate memory. My stepfather was a great man and wonderful to me. He was much older than my mom, so he was older earlier in our lives. We loved him but it became different as he became more disabled. We always talked about who he had been and not who he was (except in a clinical sense). He became an animate memory.
The Sopranos elaborates, “When you are sick, people treat you different, like you are a non-entity.” Of course, many disabled or older people encourage that existence and find there only solace there (they are the “Uncle Rico” in the Senior Citizen Center). In much of SLLCC life I am involuntarily that animate memory. To former staff I am that animate memory, to many friends as well. The hardest for me is my family, I am the man that used to fix anything and handle any situation. My wife, in my perception, sees me as the love of her life that I used to be. To my sons, the man I used to be. I am an animate memory. Don’t get me wrong I know that they love me but differently. This is inevitable if we live long enough and part of the transition of generations, but dang it–it is hard! I do not want a sociological/psychological explanation of the process…don’t’ insult my intelligence, I know the drill.
Impulse control in the face of such changes assaults me every minute that I am conscious. Depression of the clinical sort notwithstanding, life in the SLLCC can (not ‘will’) present a twisted or bleak view of reality which can spark that moment. I am struggling…I thought of the old song by Peggy Lee, Is That All There Is. The lyrics describe someone disappointed by all of the normally significant milestones. Her answer to all of life’s letdowns (and all of life) was in the chorus:
Is that all there is, is that all there is?
If that’s all there is my friends, then let’s keep dancing
Let’s break out the booze and have a ball
If that’s all there is
Paul responds to life without Christ similarly in 1 Corinthians 15:32, “If from human motives I fought with wild beasts at Ephesus, what does it profit me? If the dead are not raised, LET US EAT AND DRINK, FOR TOMORROW WE DIE.”
But it does not have to be that way.
Recap: Self-destructive motives get messy, they are clouded and twisted, and are ultimately lame. Such motives are like a$$holes, as the saying goes, everybody’s got one and they all stink. My life–animate memory or not–is not mine to terminate.
Bottom Line: God brought me into this world and I will go ONLY when He determines. I may be an animate memory, but damn it, I am animate!
Suicide and leadership often knock heads in SLLCC. I conquer when I remember whose I am. I lead effectively as I remember that I still follow The Leader. I lead others properly when I remember that I am still an example (barely animate or not). Suicide can suck it.