I wanted to step back for a moment to talk about an issue a bit more broad than Borderline Personality Disorder — suicide.
Celebrity deaths can be shocking. We’re hit most heavily when they are people we grew up watching or listening to, and it hurts that much more when they’re taken away by mental illness. It reminds us that we didn’t really know them, that we are helpless to heal their pain.
I was struck most when I heard of the recent death of Chester Bennington. The first time I heard Linkin Park was on a bus ride from Southern Ontario to Winnipeg when I was a teen. I could hear this angry, screaming voice wafting from the headphones of my seat mate, and asked him what he was listening to. Jason shared one half of his headphones with me, and I was hooked. We listened to Meteora the entire way, munching on Pizza Hut breadsticks we picked up at each stop, because it was the most filling thing our minimum wages could afford.
Recently, I’ve seen posts about Bennington’s suicide, calling him a “coward”, “pathetic,” and a “loser.” I don’t understand how—in 2017—we can we still lack empathy for people who suffer from mental health disorders.
Don’t get me wrong, sometimes people who commit suicide are cowardly, pathetic losers. Not everyone who commits suicide, after all, suffers from mental illness. If someone does it to avoid taking responsibility for some wrongdoing, that’s cowardly. If someone does it to make a point, instead of using his or her words, that’s pathetic. If someone has one failure in an otherwise privileged life and thinks their life is over, they truly are a loser.
To an extent, I get it. It’s hard to understand mental illness when you’ve never suffered from a serious disorder like bipolar, depression, anxiety or personality disorders (to name a few). You can’t understand the absolute shock and fear of experiencing a suicidal thought without precursor or catalyst. You can’t understand how exhausting just running a simple errand can be when you’re depressed. You can’t understand how anyone could feel like they’re about to have a heart attack just because they need to make a phone call. And you can’t understand the feeling of uncontrollable rage that makes you want to hurt or even kill someone you love.
To you, we’re just a bunch of whiners who come up with inadequate reasons for why life is not worth living, but I can tell you from experience that suicidal thoughts do not stem from a place of reason. The difference between cowardly, pathetic losers and people who suffer from mental health disorders is that the ability to reason is not accessible to the latter during a time of distress.
What’s the big deal? He’s dead. He can’t hear us calling him names. No, but the rest of us can.
When you call someone who commits suicide a “cowardly, pathetic loser,” you devalue their entire existence. You’ve judged them by one final failure rather than acknowledging all of the accomplishments that came before.
Imagine someone you know has been working a job they hate. Their workplace is hostile and their job is thankless. If they quit after five years, are they a loser, or did they have five years of success before they finally quit?
What about a soldier who is captured, taken prisoner, and tortured? Imagine the soldier does not give up any information for 10 years, then finally gives in. Is the soldier a coward, or are they a hero for putting up with that kind of hell for so long?
Imagine a mother who spends the first year of her newborn’s life thinking of killing her baby. Then, in a moment of distress, she kills herself in lieu of killing her baby. Is she pathetic for enduring a year of unimaginable suffering and ultimately saving her child’s life?
None of this is meant to imply that suicide is ok. Suicide is never ok. What I want you to understand is calling Chester Bennington a “cowardly, pathetic loser” because of the last thing he did devalues his entire life’s work. It ignores the other 15,096 or so days that he survived, that he persevered, that he succeeded.
People with mental health disorders are suffering. Contrary to popular belief, the vast majority don’t want attention, they don’t want to be waited on or catered to, and they certainly don’t want to fail. They have spent days, years, possibly even decades, surviving their illness.
Please don’t judge someone because they failed one time. We all lose battles sometimes, even against ourselves.