“Did you really want to die?”
“No one commits suicide because they want to die.”
“Then why do they do it?”
“Because they want to stop the pain.”
― Tiffanie DeBartolo, How to Kill a Rock Star
My sister in law died of an overdose a week ago. It was a suicide. The ripple of pain that started deep inside of her mental illness and addiction is still spreading, more slowly now, in the same hidden fashion volcanic dust settles in the days and weeks after an eruption, I’m not sure when it will end. I hope she is at peace now as we try to pick up the pieces left around us, but there’s still quite a bit of fall out, the insidious dust of guilt, relief, anger, and hate all combined with the awful void, the piece of my heart cut away in still loving and missing someone regardless of their shortcomings. I hate that this cancer of the mind creates such a stigma. No one wants to address it or acknowledge it in the same way as a palpable tumor but it’s the same crap shoot, the available treatments don’t always work and depending on the type, potentially incurable, terminal. My heart is broken for her kids, her mom, my husband, and the rest of us reeling from the cruelty of her death, but mostly for her, for her fear of living. I vacillate wildly between anger and grief.
As I’ve reflected on the past and the horrific struggle, I so wanted to blame her, blame her for her weakness, blame her for her years and years of verbal abuse, her addiction to opioids. Her self made cage of isolation, consistently claiming no one was there for her as she constantly pushed everyone away. Yet how can I say she wasn’t trying her best? Maybe this person she was, as flawed and difficult as she came across was the best she was capable of being.
I read an analogy comparing mental illness to being in a fire or drowning, that the actions taken depend on which sensation is most prevalent. When you drown, you take whomever is closest with you in the panic, taking them out with you. However, when the fire hits you jump out the window no matter the outcome because the flames are worse. In my own way, I’ve been trying to put out the residual fire. One of the hardest parts is accepting we all tried our best, because it’s true, none of us is to blame or judge, grief isn’t a one size fits all, and it is important to let is happen with all the patience and compassion I can muster.