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Suicidal Tendencies

Shavahn Dorris ’01 speaks of the unspeakable.

Suicidal Tendencies

Shavahn Dorris ’01 speaks of the unspeakable.

Inhale.

I take a breath knowing that what I write will not be easy.

It won’t be easy for my mother to read.

It won’t be easy for my father to acknowledge.

It won’t be easy for many to believe or even understand.

Then again, suicide isn’t really a subject most care to discuss. Although many of us have thought about it at one time or another, we’d never admit it. Suicide, as we know, is for the crazy, the depressed, the unstable, the strange.

We feel to talk about feelings of suicide would be to commit social suicide. And so we suffer alone, for in the end the suicidal are silenced by common perceptions of the suicidal.

What we fail to realize, however, is that the suicidal are not always raving lunatics or sad-eyed, neurotic sociopaths who should be locked up in some obscure mental institution far away from our questionably normal society. Sometimes suicide is as close as the voice on the other end of the phone. Sometimes it sits in the desk next to us, on the other side of the cubicle, or behind that thin office wall. Sometimes, it stares back at us from mirrors.

So here I stand on the ledge of social death, taking my last breath before the fall. If I jump I’m crazy. If I refuse to jump I cannot prove otherwise — not simply for myself but for anyone who’s ever felt like dying and for all of us who’ve, at one time or another, wanted to stop living.

It takes courage to live. To move through days and change with changes takes a certain amount of fearlessness. While it takes courage to live, however, it also takes courage to die.

Anyone who says that suicide is an act of cowardice has never stood at the threshold of death, rejecting all they know to stare into the face of unknowing. The difference is, living takes a lifetime of courage while dying only takes an instant.

It only takes a moment to decide you want to regain some kind of control in your life that seems to be completely out of control, even if it only means controlling your own death.

My instant came very recently after a series of heartaches and a string of crying nights. I never seriously considered suicide until college. Before I came to school I heard all kinds of stories about students who hung themselves or jumped out of windows because they could not handle the pressure.

I never thought I’d be one them. Killing myself because I didn’t make an “A” on a test or because I didn’t make the Dean’s List seemed silly to me. Those students had to be crazy, I thought.

What I did not realize is that college is not all about the grades and GPAs. It is about working to stay in school only to find that your job is interfering with your classes.

It’s about never feeling as though you have a real home, as school isn’t home and home is just a holiday stopping place. It’s about not knowing where you’ll spend your summers or if you’ll be able to find a job when you get there. It’s about loved ones dying and dealing with loss.

It’s about finding love and losing it, feeling and inflicting pain. In essence, college is about life — life intensified by the demands of school. And for me, the intensity became too much.

As relationships deteriorated, grades plummeted and getting me up in the morning became the task of one very concerned roommate who later told me she would sometimes just knock on my door to see if I was alive.And so overwhelmed by life, angry with God and utterly confused, I became what I knew I’d never be.

Sitting alone in my room, suicide more than crossed my mind. I invited it in, it dwelled there and for a while I was living death. Sitting there in the dark, I came to many realizations.

The first is, suicide isn’t about death. It is about life. I didn’t want to die. I just didn’t want to live. I didn’t want to feel.

The second is, not wanting to commit suicide is a far cry from not committing suicide. Although I didn’t want to die, in some ways I felt I had no other options.

The third is, my death isn’t just about me. While I was thinking of taking my life, I was actually thinking of taking a little of the lives of everyone I’ve ever known and burying them with me.

The fourth is that suicidal does not mean crazy. Many times it simply means angry, scared, confused or hurt. My last realization was the hardest to come to terms with. Suicide is an option.

To deny it as an option trivializes it when, in fact, the possibility is very real. Moreover, failure to take suicide seriously leaves little room for discussion in a situation where discussion might be the factor that saves a life. I know that at the time, felt I had no one to talk to and no one should ever have to feel that way.

Although I’m still struggling to deal with some of the recent events in my life, I’ve decided suicide is not the answer. I often find myself repeating the phrase “life is never bad enough to end it.”

Sometimes, however, I find myself asking is life good enough not to? I’m not sure if it is, and so I’m faced with an even larger question. Why shouldn’t I die?

Maybe it’s because God is the only one with the power to give and take life. Maybe it’s because all things pass away and even our worst problems will eventually seem miniscule and distant.

Maybe it’s because I cannot count stars, bury my bare feet in the mud, or dance in the rain in the grave. Maybe it’s because someone might cry.

All these are fine for what they’re worth but, after careful consideration, a better reason seems to be that I shouldn’t die because I’m still breathing.

And so I take a breath, remember I am alive and somehow know that that is enough.

Exhale.

Shavahn Dorris is an English junior from Joliet, Ill.