Your piece doesn’t fit their puzzle: Compassion for those we lose to suicide is vital, even if we don’t understand

‘But suicide IS selfish. The person may not be in a healthy state or mind or see any other way, but it is 100% a selfish act because it only ends THEIR suffering, whatever that may be, and brings a whole new level of pain on everyone who loves them. I don’t see how it can be anything but a selfish act. Sorry. I just don’t and I don’t believe I ever will.’

I find it very hard to ignore selfish and ignorant comments. Comments that are thrown out there with no intention to be sympathetic or understanding. Comments that manifested from a sudden urge to make a claim without any desire to study the field. It isn’t necessarily the ignorance that gets to me. We are all ignorant in some way. It is the damage caused by those deluded into thinking they are intellects on a topic without putting in the hours to become educated.

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This was taken in the early hours a few years back, I travelled 40 minutes with my mum and dad to attend an event in memory of loved ones tragically lost to suicide. It was a peaceful morning, the path up to the iconic Angel of the North was lined with candles, the walk leading up to it roughly a mile long. My mother lost her sister to suicide just after I was born, 28 years ago. My uncle also died due to suicide months before this event. I am no expert on suicide, don’t let me convince you otherwise. But to lose both my auntie and uncle in this way and for my mum to lose both siblings, I certainly feel I have an increased perspective of what leads up to such events and a view of how long the fight can be fought.

Many people clearly have a hard time grasping the idea that someone could possibly take their own life. From the hurtful comments emerging from the most recent and tragic suicide of a high profile artist Chester Bennington, this struggle to fathom a desire to end personal suffering leads to much anger and frustration.

People who die by suicide don’t want to end their life, they want to end their pain.

The problem seems to stem, I can only assume, from having a one size fits all mentality about mentality. Our mindsets differ, configurated in many weird and wonderful ways. We all know this, we all accept that our tastes and interests differ, never questioning our friend at the dinner table that doesn’t like peppercorn sauce. Can you imagine how condescending it would be to tell that friend they do in fact like peppercorn sauce because you do? To be unable to understand that your mind interprets things differently to the mind someone else possesses, and for that reason assuming that they must be wrong about their personal preferences? It is very simple to see why this would be highly inappropriate behaviour, and how respect would be lost rather quickly.

As much as our tastes vary, our mentality does towards life and what is thrown our way. Take fear. We are all scared of something, this something could be anything. Some fear heights. Some people have triskaidekaphobia, the fear of the number thirteen. I am thankfully unafraid of the number thirteen, however the thought of jumping out of an aeroplane 13,000 feet up terrifies me. Simply taking my fears into account and knowing my nightmare scenarios may be the dreams of others helps me to empathise with those terrified of things I am not. I don’t understand having certain fears but I understand fear.

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Similar to fear, we perceive pain differently. Some have higher thresholds, some enjoy pain, most spend a life avoiding it as best as possible. We hate seeing loved ones in pain because we can relate, even if we don’t feel that pain at the time. The irony in mental and physical pain is that it all originates in the same place, the brain. What makes mental illness hard to comprehend is that it isn’t physical. Unless depression or the various conditions equally damaging prevent people from washing, eating or hiding self harm it is easy for it to go under the radar. We wouldn’t act so selfishly towards non-mental illness or disease. Similar to the restaurant example provided earlier, can you imagine a cancer victim being interrogated whilst in the hospital bed?

‘I’m sorry but I really don’t understand how you are ill? I feel just fine, I don’t see why you are unable to get up without being sick? I can just fine. It’s easy!’

I do not even have to elaborate on how absurd this conversation would be. The invisibility of the pain is what preserves the stigma around mental illness. It is a very damaging circle, on many occasions taking the below forms.

-Person may openly declare they are depressed. They may not but could show signs of a lack of motivation, appetite or desire to be sociable.

-This person isn’t taken seriously despite the intolerable pain felt mentally. People around cannot comprehend what they cannot see or that they do not mutually experience. 

-The person suffering kills him/herself. Unable to cope with life, not seeing death as an easy route but the only route. Similar to jumpers on 9/11, the mind and body takes any route out of pain, even if an event is temporary. 

-The reaction is that no one saw it coming, or that the suicide was totally unnecessary. An act that was purely selfish and inconsiderate.

I cannot stress enough how selfish it is for people to hurl opinions out there without first hand experience. To read an article, a five minute glimpse into the suffering that may have lasted a lifetime and to come to the conclusion that it was cowardly. I struggle everyday to think of how such a horrific event could be deemed cowardly. To hang a noose from a ceiling and knock the stool from underneath, knowing that these very moments will be the last. Tomorrow there will be no more hugs from loved ones. To have family members that have held on for so long before struggling to take it anymore be called selfish is incredibly arrogant. It doesn’t contribute anything of any worth, nor does it make anyone a good person.

Instead of questioning how someone could leave a family behind, it would be much more progressive to open up to the possibility of mental anguish so unbearable that they have to do so. Anything else is just a failure to empathise with those that had nothing but love before disease got between them.

Compassion will always be the way in this world of unknowns. Don’t ever let disease get between you and the person that may have once held the door open for you, it would be tragic to be the person that closes it on them.

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Non-existence

I often receive a certain criticism in response to my thoughts, feedback claiming that I shouldn’t be angry towards something that doesn’t exist. A very good point.

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If it did come to light that a certain God existed, many atheists would remain reluctant to worship. I am one of them. Not every atheist agrees with this but many do. I split my time between disbelieving without sufficient evidence and providing opinions as to why I would disagree with a god if there was to be one.
This seems to cause confusion, apologies for this. I don’t believe in a God, the disagreements I have with a deity I don’t believe in are hypothetical. This doesn’t mean I do in fact believe he exists but that I have reasons to oppose him if he did, as so many choose to believe. 

I would do the same if everyone was convinced that Dr Evil existed. If there was very little evidence to suggest so yet people were convinced in the billions, I would take time out to see it from their side and if he does in fact exist, why we probably shouldn’t be worshipping him.

I also believe many people simply want me to believe in a God. Sadly I do not, even if you want me to. I just try to see it from your side from time to time.

Scripts

‘First, let me say that I’m unspeakably grateful to call the one true living God, Creator of everything, my God, my Savior, my Lord.’

‘First, let me express my gratitude for emailing our company. Here at ‘x’ we take great pride in ‘y’ and…’

They both sound exactly the same to me. When I email a company, they often start by thanking me and incorporating their mission statement into this. The same when I call or even speak face to face. It happens a lot. It’s business.

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Is religion business? Damn right it is. Religions adopt social media, post gestures of their good will and acts of kindness after a tragedy, ask for money… I don’t see a difference other than with companies offering a product, you get what you ask for with the right money. Sadly, religion doesn’t offer this until a lifetime of contribution has been devoted. Basically, when you are no longer alive enough to keep their ball rolling.

I hear all kinds of motto’s/phrases/slogans when a theist answers a question on behalf of God. Personally, I do not think it is very healthy. I barely enjoyed repeating the customer service scripture when I was paid to do so by a company, why would I be in a hurry to do it when I don’t have to work for free?

We are all slaves to life in one way or another. I think it is important to acknowledge this is the case as best we can, even if we cannot do anything about it. It might help to expose the times we can escape it, with glorious benefits.

Proximity

It is an annual tradition that the Red Arrows perform a flyover of the quayside to signify the start of the Great North Run, the largest half marathon in the world. The Red Arrows make me happy. I feel a great sense of pride and awe when they do their thing, one year rudely waking me up as I slept in, the sound of those engines so close to the ground had me jump up in sheer panic thinking the building was collapsing. I checked the flight path this time around, instead of following the River Tyne from the west and flying over the famous seven bridges, they flew in formation from the north and directly over what would have been busy traffic had it not been for the 57,000 runners. I made it with a minute to spare (seriously, I was exhausted) to record them flying over. The above image isn’t a photograph but a screenshot of my video.

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I pass this hotel everyday. Sadly, two teenage employees went to Manchester on the 22nd of this month and did not make it home. I did not know them. I do however know two people that did make it back home safely. To think that world leaders and international superstars had these people in their thoughts in the past couple days is pretty surreal. As I have said previously with similar experiences, I am unsure whether its a sign of the times or spending longer on this planet that I feel such stories are seemingly closer to home.

I will be the first to admit I am incredibly lucky to live in a nation with relative peace and security. In no way do I believe otherwise. Some regions of Earth experience similar atrocities with relentlessness frequency and I can only attempt to fathom such hardships. This does not mean that I want to play down the severity of the losses experienced in Manchester, nor do I want to pretend I have no concerns of the potential for an increasing number of tragedies within the UK and Europe.

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The same building can be seen above, between the Sage on the left and the Tyne Bridge in the center. I feel this building will be a constant reminder that terror is becoming more of a norm, paired with the heavy armed presence at every busy venue this week. I want to talk about that. The fact that I had rarely seen officers with guns growing up and now it looks like my children will grow up feeling strange if they don’t see armed police.

Strangely, the more attacks I hear of the more I am forced to respect religion or be labeled a bigot. The more I want to talk about the perils of blind faith in the 21st century I can’t without people losing it, and I’m finding more and more reasons to do so. Saying that, I live in one of only a handful of nations in which we can speak out as atheists freely. Most people here are non-religious, with a reeaaallly big urge to hug theism when religion demonstrates a hatred for diversity and a desire for death. I won’t blame a whole religion, just the aspects that deserve it. I will make the most of life in a non religious country to speak up about a religion that I guarantee so many people would do too given the chance. If flogging, beating, murder, honour killings, prison time, torture and slavery weren’t repercussions for questioning reality for some people, I would have a lot more time for religion. Millions more would have time to be free.

I don’t want the light to go out on free speech. I want to see red, white and blue trailed in the air from the Red Arrows, not lighting up the Eiffel Tower or Empire State Building in sympathy after another attack. This of course is how I feel about every nation, I can only talk of mine. I trust that many of you are doing a great job fighting similar battles, keep fighting.

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Gone

‘While people are struggling unhappily in the cities against the cruel authorities, a waterfall happily and cheerfully flows in the nature; there is happiness only if there is freedom!’- Mehmet Murat İldan

You could argue that a waterfall is also obeying laws. That it isn’t free at all. These are pictures I snapped from both the Brazillian and Argentinian side of the Iguazú Falls during my trip to South America.

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Have you ever watched a leaf or branch make such a journey down a fall? Within seconds it goes from the edge above to the plungepool below. The sheer size of this thing makes a roar, despite every droplet of water contributing for only a brief moment. Humans are very similar. Our lives are like a waterfall, we only experience life very briefly, we come, we go, the roar is made from the societies we build along the way. The jet engines and police sirens, the subways and the laughter. We contribute as individuals yet not enough to make the whole thing fall apart once our contribution has ended.

What makes every drop of water different? Nothing really. What makes us differ from one another? Do we differ that much? This is one reason why I left religion.

I can’t be too individual nor do I want to. I don’t mind the clothes I wear and the food I eat, enough to refrain from creating or finding my own. I need society as much as it needs me. I want to make the most of my life without completely adhering to everything that is expected of me. I am not an atheist to be rebellious. I do it because I cannot live my life like water during its descent, making up the numbers and fitting in. Life is too short to believe what you are told to and to enjoy life in the same fashion. Life is too beautiful to only consider enjoying after asking permission from oppressive, religious minds.

 

I can’t escape the end, I can look on from a distance until the day comes that I am eventually swept away with it. Enjoy life and every breath until then.

Clarity

‘He has made it quite clear to you that he exists. You are acting like a fool.’

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It was only when I uploaded the above image onto this blog post that I realised this wasn’t a photograph at all. It looks more like a painting. Did I take it and change the filter? Did I take a snap of a painting? I have many photos from a similar height and location, I am just unsure of this one. With the bright sunshine pouring onto the main road below and onto the roofs of every building around it, I wanted to associate this with the comment I received recently.

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Another that I found from the same day, it seems to be the image quality after upload. It adds something to the image I guess. But I don’t want to drift away from the original claim that I am a fool. Let’s get back to that.

The sun is shining.

Check.

I am aware that the sun is shining.

Check.

It would seem to be a foolish move to associate this with anything other than nature. Countless religions and civilizations have claimed this to be the work of their God. I am pretty damn sure, given the chance to converse with anyone from any of these belief systems, I would be considered a fool for not coming to the same conclusion as they did. The problem is, which God is making it clear that he exists? Amaterasu? Apollo? Mithras? Ra? Your God makes it as clear as any other of his or her existence. The problem is, he or she does not make it clear at all, or at least as clear as any other.

I will never be satisfied with such a God. If a deity can only prove his or her existence through nature, it is not clear that he or she exists. That is, unless your God looks like a yellow ball in the sky and requires you to wear sun-cream. I can claim that Ra is my God and already I have an argument of equal validity. It is obvious isn’t it? All you need to do is look up, just remember to put your shades on. He speaks to me, he hasn’t spoken to you? Maybe you aren’t listening. Pray harder.

The problem isn’t that I am foolish enough to ignore the signs, it is that the signs are so vague they can be associated with anything. Please do not be foolish enough to see signs when there aren’t any.

A God needs to clarify their own existence if they truly want to prove themselves against the competition. There is a reason why so many deities still exist on our small world, a lack of such clarity.

Superiority

For a species that believes it is superior, nature gives humans very little time to prove it and finds an incredible number of ways to wipe us out. I took this photo in a park in Rio, I’m unsure what tree it is although I was fascinated by the size of its roots. The people below aren’t exactly noticeable.

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We are the best. The most intelligent, or so I’m told. On many occasions it’s justified. Despite this the universe only gives us a mere few decades to prove our claims of superiority, nowhere near the lifespan of a bristlecone pine tree or a giant tortoise, the former outliving civilisations and countless beliefs systems with that. 

I don’t think it is depressing to think so, more humbling. We need to be humble, the more willing we are to accept this the less we will try to prove our worth by making false claims about our place in the universe.

I’m proud of my species, it’s just crazy to consider the sheer number of things that out-live us, without having a book dedicated to them either.