Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Suicide is not selfish.

I was introduced to Feminista Jones through a podcast I listened to featuring her. She's a sex-positive, intersectional feminist and black rights activist, who works in community activism and social support systems.

In her interview she talks about mental health and suicide, and mentions a past article of hers I'd like to link to, and talk about here. Jones mentions a colleague who recently died by suicide, and how disappointed she was to see the online community victim-blame and refer to her suicide as "selfish."

Jones discusses the issue from the perspective of a black woman, and describes the ways in which the culture of being a black woman in America is extremely loaded:
... for Black women, experiences with depression and trauma are often directly related to our being women and being Black and carrying the weight of this duality in a society that “others” both identities. Factor in religious expectations that require "more faith," intraracial expectations of loyalty and secrecy (when experiencing abuse), and the persistent disconnect between Black people and mental health care, there are so many things to consider when a Black woman takes her own life.
Intersectionality is an important part of not only a feminist analysis of the world, but of a considered, logical one. Context exists. It matters. There have been numerous articles and media coverage of PTSD and the black experience over the last few months, especially in relation to state-violence and gun violence. What about gender and sexual violence? What about being a black woman, who experiences both of these things but might also live with a disability, or face homophobia? Everything matters.

Personally, I have a lot of difficulty reading pieces about suicide that are written by people outside of the mental illness community. I don't think suicide is selfish. I think it's a painful result of a really painful time. It's seen as the only out. It's the only solace. I get that. It's turning it all off. Lights out. Peace.

Feminist Jones describes this well, here she's comparing losing someone to suicide as opposed to cancer:
There is something different about a person committing suicide, though, which elicits a different, almost angry feeling of betrayal. Many people think it is selfish to end your life when so many people love you, rely on you, need and want you around, and can’t imagine their lives without you. The angry feelings are often centred on what people need from you… for themselves. Some people make your life, your whole being, and your entire purpose more about what works to make their own lives better. People are concerned more about what they can no longer take from you and less about whether or not you were living your life happily for yourself. When someone takes his/her own life, that person is posthumously blamed for causing so many other people pain with little recognition or empathy for the pain that likely led to the suicide itself.
She goes on to refer to it as an act of "freedom and mercy" for the self, and is critical of how unsympathetic some are when discussing someone dying by suicide.
No one has the right to determine what another person should endure. We don’t get to tell other people that “it will be OK” and they “need to have more faith”. We have no right to tell someone that their pain isn’t as bad as others, thus negating their experiences and isolating them further away from actually getting help that might make things better. We don’t get to make other people’s lives about US and demand that people live for us and our wants and needs. We have no permission to dictate the choices of others and expect that their choices consider our feelings before their own. That is the epitome of selfishness and we need to end that way of thinking.
She ends her peace in a devastatingly poignant statement:
I’ll leave you with this: When I hear “Suicide is selfish,” I think of every Black woman held in bondage, whose body was ravaged daily, whose womb was exploited for profit, whose children were stolen, whose back was lashed for not meeting the requirements of her owner, who was sterilized, and whose mind was irreparably destroyed after years of torture who took the only path of freedom for which her earthly body could not be further punished.
 I can't speak to the black experience. I can only speak to my own variations of pain.

And pain, kills. And wanting to escape that pain, should not be faulted. Especially when the services and the accommodations offered to us to help live with that pain are lacking and in most cases, all-together non-existent.

If you want me to live, help me.

If you can't help me, let me die.

If you can't let me die, try and empathise with why I would want to.

It all brings me back to a quote from Martha Manning's Undercurrents:
I didn't want to die because I hated myself; I wanted to die because I loved myself enough to want this pain to end.
I know that must be really dark and unimaginable for a healthy person to understand, but at least try.

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