Which Story Do We Tell?


There comes a time in all of our lives, when we are faced with a life altering choice. Which story do we tell? Do we choose to end our stories in acts of quiet desperation? Or, do we choose life to write more chapters?  Either path we choose is fraught with anxiety…for we can expose our vulnerabilities and our fears, use our voices to shout to the world, and possibly be silenced or worse…unheard. Or, we can disguise our fears and worries in a landscape that portrays paradise…until…until…one dark night the pain erupts with such force, that in quiet desperation, all rational thought disappears, and we choose death.

tersoro de PirataSeveral days ago, our expat neighbor committed suicide. He chose to end his story. It reminds me that life is fragile. His tragic death shook me up and made me doubt everything I once believed and question the very foundation of who I am.

When word spread in our community that he had committed suicide, it left me with  profound fear. What does one say in a time like this? How does one respond to a deeply sorrowful act of quiet desperation? Is suicide an act of courage or cowardice? And, who is next?

When our lives are a tangled mess, how do we decide which direction to go among the unexpected twists and turns? Life is undeniably complicated. Tragedy, disappointments, and crisis exists in all of our lives. Yet, why does one person choose life and another person choose death?

IMG_4648Since his tragic death, I’ve run the gamut of emotions. In four years, we have had four  friends commit suicide…all males…all deaths by hanging. Why did they end their stories so abruptly? I feel like I’ve come to the end of a mystery novel without any resolution. I want to say, “Hey, wait a minute…this story isn’t finished.” It’s like climbing a twisted stairway to nowhere.

IMG_2946

Garbage exists in paradise. We can try to hide it, but inevitably, the beauty of life will be blurred and obscured. We can run away, we can try to escape…but eventually it will overtake our desperate efforts of denial. When that happens, do we choose to end our stories, instead of writing more chapters?

IMG_4622In times of disappointment, tragedy, and crisis I have started to ask myself, “How do I want to LIVE?”

The path to living a vulnerable life and making friends with our pain and sorrows is not an easy one. It is one small step at a time…for a lifetime.  It may leave us breathless and exhausted.  At a crossroad, overcome with intense pain, we walk a fine line between choosing life or death.

Is suicide and act of courage or cowardice? I’ve thought about that a lot recently. Abraham Maslow describes depression as a lack of needs. The hierarchy starts with basic needs, and ends with self-actualization. Maslow wanted to understand what motivates people. I believe that we are motivated to meet certain needs. When one need is fulfilled, we move up the hierarchy to fulfill the next one.

However, if one never moves beyond the need for acceptance, love, and belonging, severe depression can set in, making it impossible to see alternatives and consequences of choices. So, is suicide an act of courage or cowardice?  Pondering the act of suicide, I wonder if there is any rational thought that takes place at that time when one chooses death. Without rational thought, does suicide becomes an act of escape from hopelessness and suffering?

IMG_2722We are all the authors of our own stories. We can decide the direction our stories will go, even with all the bumps and sorrows along our rocky paths. I believe that we all walk that fine line at one time or another. Is suicide the last act of quiet desperation? Does it take courage to end the story unresolved? Does one commit suicide because his needs are unmet?

I am flooded with grief at the loss of another friend in Nicaragua. I have no answers, only more questions. But, I do know that In times of disappointment, tragedy, and crisis I have started to ask myself, “How do I want to LIVE?”

IMG_4732Rest in peace my friend. You will be greatly missed.

Which story do we tell?


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28 thoughts on “Which Story Do We Tell?

  1. Oh my, Debbie. I can’t “like” this post. I cannot believe you have lost four friends to suicide. What a tragedy. It is really sad too because there is help for these people who are struggling with severe depression. Many times though men don’t seek it. It is awful because they are so desperate they view suicide as the only way out. Our world needs to make mental illness more of an important issue and help people get help who need it most. So incredibly sad.

    • Thanks, Nicole. The biggest problem for expats, at least in Nicaragua, is that there is very little help for people with severe depression. There are AA meetings, but I’ve yet to see a professional counselor or psychologist who can provide the help people need here. It’s a tragedy and I feel so helpless at times like this.

  2. Thank you for sharing your thoughts about our generous island friend – he will be missed by those lucky islanders and expats that knew him.
    Very therapeutic…be mindful of our empathy..our choice…it can make a difference.

  3. Oh Debbie. I am so sorry for your loss. It’s a painful subject, one you have written out of love, concern and for answers. Reading all the comments you have received emphasizes just how we have been touched by suicide and always ask, “why”. The reasons that bring the individual to his/her own private decision are not always clear, but the loved ones and community suffer in grief. I feel blessed, but I thank you for reminding us of how we want or choose to live. Love to you.

  4. Your pain and sorrow resounds in every sentence at the loss of your friend and yet, what a beautiful tribute to someone you loved. Probably by the time most of us reach the age of retirement we’ve lost many friends to suicide, accidents, illness or alcohol and drugs but it doesn’t get any easier and, I think, as I get older, each death is harder because I realize what a pearl each friendship is. My sincere condolences.

  5. Such a beautiful and heartrending expression of sorrow! I am so sorry for your loss. Oh yes I have been there as well and know how terribly hard it is to deal with the pain and the confusion. Keeping you in my thoughts and prayers. Take care. Hugs.

  6. I am so sorry for your lose(s). I understand all too well the possibilities of choosing to shorten your own story. When the pain is bad, I often wonder …

    I thank you for this article. The question, “how do I want to live?” is very powerful. I plan to explore that more thoroughly because, this, this is not it.

    Thanx.

  7. I’m so sorry to hear about your friend. That is so difficult for those left behind who always wonder if they could have changed something. But, who knows what goes on in the head of another, and what desperation drives them to overcome their will to live. This is a very moving piece of writing, and I’m glad if it helped you work through this. It is beautiful and thought provoking for your readers.

    • Thanks so much Kris. Honestly, it did help me work through many of the conflicting feelings I have about suicide. Before we moved abroad, I was never close to anyone that committed suicide. I can’t help but question the number of people living abroad that are suffering in silence.

  8. We have been reading your thought provoking posts for a couple of years now and I believe this is the most poignant well-reasoned pieces I have ever read. In your response to Holly you apologized for being morose, but I do not find your thoughts morose. They are challenging and deep, but lead to the ultimate choice we all have to make – “How do I choose to live?”

    As one who suffered for years with clinical depression and “suicidal ideology” I can relate to that day I finally decided to quit the anti-depression drugs and simply choose to move on. Now, having made that choice, I cannot blame anyone else for what goes on in my head and in my life. I chose to live it and I choose to live it in joy.

    God bless you and your friends as you grieve, but thank you for your courage to challenge us all to choose life and then to work to make it better. You will be in our thoughts and prayers!

    • I am so grateful for your openness and willingness to share your experiences with clinical depression. I believe that is the first step in healing. I wrote and rewrote this post many times, John. I only wish I could be as brave as you. I know from personal experience that we need to confront our demons or they will eat us alive. It’s a constant battle…one that leaves me baffled and exhausted at times.
      You are right. We all need to take responsibility for our lives. I guess some people are just stronger than others, and those who are unable to confront their fears and anxieties or use their voices to plead for help to relieve their pain and suffering feel like they have no other options. That’s why I have to ask myself, “How do I want to live?” It gives me a wake-up call…to learn to live without shame and guilt, to seek tiny moments of bliss throughout my day, and to learn to love who I am, even with all my faults. Thank you, dear John, for your honest and sincere response. I’m reaching out and sending you a big hug of gratitude for your empathy. We never know what other people are going through until we walk in their shoes, right?

      • One thing my career in law enforcement taught me is that we never know what others are thinking and we never should say, “I know just what you are going through.” Every soul is different and all of us need to work out our own destiny. You are so right to center on the thought, “How do I want to live?”

        We all have to live with ourselves, so we might as well make ourselves into the type of person we like to hang around with.

  9. “until one dark night the pain erupts with such force, that in quiet desperation, all rational thought disappears, and we choose death.”

    amiga, i am so sorry. news of the unexpected death of a loved one/neighbor/peer is always difficult. we question the ‘what if’s’ and chastise ourselves for the missed opportunities to be a better friend or neighbor, and we feel as if we have fallen short or dropped a very important ball. those people move on without giving us closure. we are left staring at the closed door.

    friends’ suicides have touched my life; sometimes the answer was clear: diagnosis of returned cancer, terminal diagnosis when the spouse was a mean/cold unbending person, an alcoholic returning to the bottle and gambling away family funds at casinos… money problems… bipolar mood swings -when they were feeling well they were very very well and when they were low they were rock bottom.., i think it boils down to feeling overwhelmed, or weary of kicking against an undertow.

    knowing others who are suffering or have folded their cards to their own personal suffering helps us to be grateful for our gifts, especially if we cherish our gift of happiness. because of knowing loved ones whose cups are often half full or empty, i remind myself to be thankful for my inner happiness. almost always i see my cup as full or overflowing, and when i have challenges, i see them as challenges or as unique experiences that help me grow as a person. at times i feel overwhelmed but am almost always able to give myself an instant wakeup call – (mainly by counting my blessings and remembering my nephew in the wheelchair…) – and within a few minutes am able to dodge the demon.

    here’s a post and poem about the undertow = a tribute to a friend in costa rica:

    http://playamart.wordpress.com/2012/02/24/the-undertow/

    • Z…oh my! Your undertow piece is powerful and insightful. It spoke to me tenderly and lovingly. I know we all feel overwhelmed at times, and that nasty undertow is always lurking, ready to pull us under and away from life. Dodging the demon is a constant factor in many of our lives.
      Since we all experience those demons at one time or another, I think our world needs more empathy…not sympathy…empathy, because we have all swum in those dangerous waters. The problem arises when we don’t see the beacon of light from the lighthouse, or the signs warning us of danger. That’s when the undertow sweeps us away. Denial is a strange thing. Used as a coping mechanism, it can keep us alive, but then we are living in a deep fog. That’s why I always ask myself, “How do I want to live?” I don’t want to live in a fog. I’d miss so many beautiful things.
      Z…I love your perspective on life, the empathy you show to others, and the joys of life that you infectiously spread to others. Thank you so much my dear friend for caring…for being you!

  10. Wow, this is a heavy post and gives a peson a lot to contemplate. We’ve all been in this state if we’ve lived very long, a friend committing suicide unexpectedly. It leaves nothing but questions we’ll never have the answers to, along with a lot of grief. I can’t imagine anyone wanting to end their story this way, but I may feel differently if I walked in that peson’s shoes. You never know what’s in their head. Something like that is final and something you can’t change your mind about later.

    • Sunni, it is a heavy post. And you’re right…we’ve all been there, in thought or in deed. My only hope is that I can create some awareness or thoughtful contemplation for what the victims and survivors of suicide go through. Thanks for reading this and taking the time to leave a thoughtful, caring comment.

  11. Oh I am so sorry for your loss. I have been there, I know how excruciating it is when a friend chooses to end their own life. Terrible.
    Your reflections and questions, so sensitive and thoughtful, are a gift.
    Bon courage…

  12. Sigh…what a beautiful, painful, heartfelt tribute, thank you for giving me something to ponder…your expression of love and loss is one filled with such painful yet peaceful thoughts.I’m grateful to have read this today…

    • Holly, thank you my friend for your comments. My therapy has always been writing through my grief. I’m sorry to be so morose. It seems like lately, my posts have been all about issues of death. But, I promise…I’ll lighten up. I feel much better now just musing about suicide. It’s such a tragic, final act.

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