I am sure that many of you read about the recent suicide of a woman who was married into the Kennedy family. I thought that the coverage was very sensitive to the issue of mental illness and suicide. According to the article Mary Kennedy attended Alcoholics Anonymous but alcohol was just part of the problem. Mary also suffered from depression and had talked about suicide in the past. According to friends she had fought with every ounce of her being to overcome the disease of depression. It was not something that she asked for but it was something that she was. Those treating Mary were very well meaning and were trying desperately to find the right mix of medication to help her. They failed. Repeatedly they failed. As so many people who suffer from mental illness, she was unable to do the things that she so desperately wanted to do and she fought with every ounce of her being to beat the illness and in the end the illness won out. Does this sound familiar? I am sure that the same could be said about most if not all those loved ones in the LOSS family who finally found that life had become intolerable.
One of the poignant phrases in the coverage was that “Mary did not ask for the illness. This was something that she was.” No one asks to suffer from the ravages of mental illness but the illness does descend upon people through no fault of their own. People who suffer from this type of pain would do anything to be free from the pain. Such people try various methods to free themselves of this unspeakable nightmare. Sometimes there is a brief respite from the pain and then it starts all over again. The pain becomes the constant recurring theme. People suffering from such pain ask themselves, “Is this pain ever going to stop plaguing me?” And the beat goes on.
People who suffer from this unrelenting pain do get discouraged after repeatedly seeking interventions that repeatedly fail them. There does not seem to be anything that gives these hurting souls relief from the mental torture that engulfs their minds and souls. They feel trapped in this web of pain. They are trapped in the pain. There is no getting out from under the spell of the pain from mental illness. Those of us who do not suffer such agony cannot possibly comprehend the horrors of this unending cycle of pain, pain and more pain. I am sure that people who are in this kind of a cycle get very discouraged at the prospect of life being a continual rollercoaster ride of more of the same. There are countless avenues that are traversed seeking some comfort and help in the seemingly endless search for the end of the pain and the end result is the same –more pain. Who wouldn’t get discouraged with a prospect like that? There are thousands of people like Mary Kennedy who open their eyes each morning with the prospect that this day is going to be like the previous day –another day to struggle with this inexorable pain. That is the reason why such people deserve all of our admiration because of the yeomen battles that they face each day. These people are not cowards or selfish. They are heroes because they battle the silent ravages of mental illness.
Unfortunately, there are segments of our society who are of the opinion that people who complete suicide are cowards and selfish. Such people don’t have the foggiest idea of the pain that these people have endured. They also don’t have a clue of the duration of the pain. Oftentimes people who are plagued with mental illness have struggled with this pain for years. They suffer quietly and to themselves because the world at large does not understand mental illness and the resulting pain. Another reason is that there is a stigma attached to this type of illness. People are embarrassed or ashamed to come forward and express how much pain they are in because they fear being misunderstood or being subjected to further rejection because of the misperceptions about mental illness. No wonder that they suffer in silence. Who wants to be judged erroneously?
We often hear about certain maladies referred as the “silent killer”. Such conditions are called thus because they sneak up on people without any warning or outward signs. Suicide can appropriately be called a “silent killer”. It does not sneak up on the person who suffers from mental illness. They are well aware of their illness but have chosen to remain silent because of the obvious reasons stated above. In the vast number of completed suicides survivors had no idea that their loved ones were in such desperate straits that they wanted to die. These deaths come as a complete surprise to the survivors. Mental illness has become a silent killer to the survivors.
An important lesson to be learned is that none of us knows the pain that people carry in their souls. It behooves us to be gentle with the people that we encounter on a daily basis because we don’t know what anyone is struggling within the confines of their souls. Unfortunately, people are reluctant to share mental pain with other people because they don’t want to be misunderstood or misjudged. The world needs to be more understanding and more gentle because of the silent suffering some people endure and sometimes this silent suffering becomes the silent killer. Unfortunately, it happens way too often and leaves a wake of suffering and pain and questions in the lives of those surviving a completed suicide.
As always, I want to assure each and every member of the LOSS family of my thoughts and prayers on a daily basis during the quiet time I spend. I also encourage each member of the LOSS family to do the same for each other –especially for those who have recently joined our family. I might add that our family expands several times each week. That is the good news and the bad news of LOSS. It is good that people are reaching out to LOSS for help which they receive and it is bad that so many need the wonderful services that LOSS provides. We will continue to reach out to anyone who is in need of this program.
Keep On Keepin’ On,