“Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.” ~ Phil Donahue
Dear Ms. Simon,
First, I want to thank you for opening the dialogue that a mother can suffer from immeasurable depression. That was bold and gutsy! I love that in a fellow woman, however, the title of your article for the NY Times was neglectful and potentially detrimental to women like myself who are not only mothers, but who have struggled with any form of major depressive disorder or suicidal thoughts at any point.
Case in point, Kate Spade was a remarkable woman. She built an empire around functional and fashionable bags, glasses and other accessories. However, she was flawed (as we all are). She struggled with her own mental health issues that are not the same as yours and are not the same as mine. I mourn for her daughter who now has to struggle with having no mother to help her through the formative years when she needs a mother’s guidance. However, Ms. Spade is just one in several thousand mothers who daily take their lives and think it is “best for my children.”
You see Ms. Simon, as you said in your article, “Depression is the all-consuming fear that things, emotions, circumstances, life itself — is static.” However, if we stop and think about it, depression encompasses so very much more. It totally engulfs our positive thoughts, our beliefs in morality and compassion, and even our ability to empathize with someone based on their situation. You see, this is where you are wrong about suicide, it is actually very selfish because all depression and suicidal thoughts allows a person to see is their own situation and not how it affects the people surrounding them.
Suicide is a very selfish act.
Like you, I had thought that my children would be better with ANY mother in the whole world than one who was broken and couldn’t even drag herself out of the bed to shower daily. You see Ms. Simon, I don’t know your personal mental health history fully, but from what you disclosed in your article, we have a somewhat similar background. I lost several friends to suicide (especially as therapeutic measures for prevention of drug abuse and suicide in the united states became more and more scarce and even more expensive). I lost my own mother to a drug overdose (we will never know if it was intentional or not, but regardless she struggled for years with mental health issues and a lack of adequate mental health care). But at no point did anyone ever say to them that what their attempts to take their lives were wrong.
No one told them, “You are loved more than you know!”
No one told them, “I need you now and I will need you even more later.”
No one told them, “You are amazing and you show that even broken things are beautiful and shine light to everyone.”
How do I know this? Well, because it wasn’t until I attempted to take my own life after having two children and being married for years that I actually heard these things from people. It wasn’t until then that I realized I didn’t tell my friends and loved ones “I love you” nearly enough. It wasn’t until I had lost one of my closest friends, who was also a mother, to suicide the devastation that comes with this type of loss.
So, Ms. Simon, when you tell a depressed mother that ” suicide isn’t selfish” you are potentially putting a stick of dynamite into the hands of someone who should never have that stick in the first place. The only thing left is striking the match…
You, Ms. Simon, as a published author should realize what your words could do to another woman. Another mother. I did as soon as I read the title to your article. While it may draw people in to the story of Kate Spade and her struggle with mental illness and your own struggle with mental illness and suicidal thoughts, it detracts from the severity of the issue.
That issue is we are all women, most all of us have spouses and children, but all of us carry painful issues about our own pasts that we have yet to reconcile in order to move forward. This does not mean telling another person (let alone a stressed out and depressed mother) that “suicide isn’t selfish…” What it instead means is a friendly gesture like a smile, a “Hello”, or helping with a stroller. One act of kindness can change a woman’s whole outlook on life and the world surrounding her. It may not be a permanent change, but it could be a momentary change that results in a lifesaving change.
I’ve struggled with major depression and anxiety. I have contemplated taking my life because I felt that the WHOLE world would be better without me. The realization is that if I had succeeded in taking my life, I would never get really sweet kisses from my son on my forehead when I have a migraine headache again. I would never get kisses from him at all. I would never experience my daughter’s first date or first dance. I would never eat another taco or bake another cake.
So yes Ms. Simon, while when we (those people thinking death is better than life) are living moment to moment and doing our best to guide our children through as we can, we do NOT need someone telling us that “suicide isn’t selfish.” The quote from Phil Donahue above is a good one, but one that has stuck with me for years was from an associate pastor at my church.
“Suicide is 90 percent about you and only 10 percent about everyone else. How would it be any easier without you here to guide, love, and protect those that you are supposed to if you are dead?”
Years later, I understood what that associate pastor meant. I was more worried about how things appeared for my family (a less broken and hurt mother and wife, a cousin who could do everything she physically used to be able…etc…) than how it would ACTUALLY effect my family. I never once stopped and asked if my children wanted a new mother or my husband wanted a new wife at the time. I didn’t stop and ask my grandmother if she wanted my brother to move up and be the oldest grandchild she had. I didn’t ask my nieces and nephews if they might want a new aunt someday….I didn’t do that at all. I only thought about ending the pain I suffered and that imaginary pain I caused everyone else. What the part of our brain that says, “YES! Do it! You can…and you should…” neglects to tell us is that this is a VERY permanent fix to a temporary problem.
Ms. Simon, had I succeeded in committing suicide, I would not only have left my children motherless, I would have left my husband a widower, my grandmother without her oldest grand-daughter after her oldest daughter passed away. I would have left my friends without a friend and my loved ones without the candor and compassion that I hope they have come to love.
So, Ms. Simon, suicide is a very selfish act. There are so many other ways to make your life better than dying.
Call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.
Have a safety plan with your friends who will support you when you are struggling.
If all else fails, go to the emergency room and tell them how you feel and give them the number for your family.
My whole point of this open rebuttal to your NY Daily News post is that while any person, whether a mother, father, aunt, uncle, grandmother and father, who is raising a child may struggle with deep depression there are always alternatives to taking your life.
The World Needs You!
A Deeply Depressed Mother