Deep Space

The world doesn’t need me to weigh in on suicide. But I will, if only to sort out my own thinking.

I’ve been depressed but not clinically. I’ve never wanted to end my life. I cannot fathom feeling that suicide is the best option. But I can’t fathom deep space either though I know it exists. So I take Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade at their word. They determined suicide to be the best option. They alone knew the vast dark dimensions of their own deep space and I won’t second guess them.

Or their loved ones.

When a high profile suicide occurs, the implicit blaming begins. How? With the quick supposition that had only someone reached out, offered a hug and a phone number, the suicide could have been prevented. Be sure to tell your children, parents, friends that you love them! Hug your children. Let them know you care. So we say I love you all the time so as to avoid that awful eventuality. Oh my God, had I only told him I loved him this wouldn’t have happened!

This makes a suicide the product of the survivors’ deficiencies. If we had done better, been more expressive, hugged more, dialed more phone numbers, found better doctors, and stood guard every single minute of every single day, the suicide would not have happened. It makes the suicide the result of our behavior, a terrible measure of how much we care and how good we are at putting our caring into practical solutions. Who wins at this game?

Casual observers win. Because for sure now they will smile more at people because lord knows everyone is fighting their own battle and they will tell all their friends to reach out if they are feeling really awful. Call me if you are feeling really depressed. Okay. And you will do what exactly?

People who love someone who has died by suicide lose. Because they didn’t do enough. They couldn’t navigate a deep terrifying space they could not fathom but knew to exist. They could not transplant their belief in tomorrow and hope for the future to someone depleted of both. They could not be there every minute, could not watch every minute. At some point, they had to sleep.

You can’t hug or love your way out of a heart attack. Cancer doesn’t care if it’s watched. But there is treatment for both. Complex treatments that require teams of doctors and nurses. Innovations all the time, treatment centers that fly flags that say they are #1 in the country. Places compete with each other to have the most cutting edge treatment. So if someone you love has a heart attack or cancer, your job is to drive them to one of these places with a #1 flag and go down to the cafeteria and wait.

If you love someone with a mental health challenge that includes suicidal thinking, you’re out there with a mop and a pail. On your own. Calling people who have crammed appointment books, filling prescriptions that won’t take effect for six weeks, afraid to turn your back for a single second. And waiting for what you have come to believe is an inevitable end to your efforts to keep someone you love alive. It’s hellish.

We need mental health treatment centers flying #1 flags and organizing teams of professionals. It’s no different. Mental illness can be just as lethal as cancer and heart attacks.

Analyzing the suicides of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade is impossible. If you are not a traveler in their deep space, you don’t know what you are talking about. And you have no standing. Love couldn’t cure them. They were loved. And the people who loved them shouldn’t carry the burden of their suicides. I don’t know them but I would readily believe that the people who loved them did all they could. They didn’t fail. Nobody failed. People died by suicide. No one is to blame. But we can all do better and we must.


Photo by Thom Schneider on Unsplash

15 Comments on “Deep Space

  1. Reblogged this on Red's Wrap and commented:

    September is National Suicide Prevention Month. This is a post from a while ago but it still holds true. No one is to blame but we can all do better.


  2. What an amazing piece of writing. It’s six years now since the death of my daughter and I live with the ache of missing her every single day. She was gorgeous, kind, compassionate, very loved, and even had great humor. It’s hard not to wonder if we did enough. But my we loved that girl! And tried to address her depression. Thanks for writing such a wonderful piecea wonderful piece. It soothed a little my aching soul.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I have watched friends in the aftermath of their children’s suicides. The second-guessing, the responsibility – so overwhelming and so oppressive. Crushing. The people who have survived that, like you, have my deepest admiration and respect. That I could be such a strong parent and person.


  3. I knew a woman whose bipolar son committed suicide. She said he had been sick for a long time and died of his illness as they had long suspected he would. Since then, that is how I think of suicide: the end of a debilitating illness. So much needs to change to improve the odds.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I must comment to Suze’s post. Like most of us I was brought up in an organized religion, where our leaders would say life and the afterlife work in this way, but only in this way, kind of because we say so. Now, I’m at a point in life where I find “believing” can be great fun, because I find I no longer feel I have to believe what others are telling me must be so, yet I find I can also leave the door open to almost anything–I don’t rule out anything because, well, why not?

    So this is just the greatest story for those who are open to believing anything! In the moment–the exact minute–of your life of your greatest need the doorbell rings and it’s this insurance salesman. Except he’s the one guy who can save your life, and he does. So I guess some might write this off to wonderful good luck. But I can’t stand it–I have to let myself believe that something bigger was behind this. And even if this guy wasn’t an angel or something and wasn’t dispatched there by some higher power and was just an ordinary insurance salesguy and said this just happened to be the next bell he was going to ring…well, then I still want to write this off to how wonderfully the world can work when it works wonderfully.

    Jan makes an excellent point in her post on suicide–sometimes “bad things happen to good people,” and we may not be able to stop it, no matter what we do. But Suze’s story is a great counterpoint–sometimes out of the blue good things happen because of wonderful people who do wonderful things.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I have a brother who has tried twice and failed. No one seems to get through to him in his depressive state. I could focus myself on him completely and til fail to stop him And when do I get some focus on myself ? He won’t get help and I need to put some energy into looking after me and the family. No solutions out there.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Jan, what a great post. I wonder, we say someone died of suicide not mental illness. If someone dies of cancer, really they die of a specific mechanism, something more specific, hemorrhage, or cardiac failure or infection for example, due to cancer… but we say they died of cancer. Maybe if we took the broader view and said someone died of depression or mental illness, more attention could begin to flow to those areas. Continuing to focus on suicide continues the tradition of blaming the victim or as you point out their loved ones.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. at one point in my life I was deeply depressed and seriously considering suicide. Homeless, with two babies, running away from an abusive spouse, finding no help r even compassion from my entire family, it seemed the best thing to do..if I could just find someone to raise my children with love. I had a plan…I was finally going to just do it and get this horrible life over with and a door to door insurance salesman came up and would not leave me alone. 5 hours this little man keep talking and keeping me from finally finishing it all. five HOURS. At the end of that time I was so exhausted I only wished to go to sleep. He gave me a hug and said “welcome back to life”.
    I don;t know why Ms. Spade or Mr. Bourdain..or anyone else for that matter, went through with their plans. I only know why I was going to..and all it took was the unwavering focus of a single person to stop me.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I am glad to hear this – to remember that things happen in the moment and that one person can change the ‘course of history’ for another. Thank you for bringing that story here.


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