Monday, October 21, 2013

Slow suicide is no way to go

A MAN who lived on Pringles, chocolate, wine and Coca-Cola died after his internal organs wasted away as a result of his poor diet, an inquest heard.
Garda Sean Kelly said that when gardaí went into the apartment they were met with an “overpowering stench” and “overwhelmed” by the amount of rubbish in the living room.

“The floor was completely covered over by empty sweet wrappers, Pringles tins and empty bottles of wine. It was so bad that gardaí were unable to see the floor and had to wade through the rubbish,” he said.. 
Coroner Dr Brian Farrell said that this was “a case of self-neglect for psychological reasons” where the dead man had gotten into “a lifestyle of not looking after himself” and had a "lack of motivation to live toward the end of his life”. Fionn’s death was a “profound tragedy”, he said, returning a narrative verdict outlining the facts. [Link] 
Every Monday my housebound great aunt takes her little radio from it's drawer, holding it between her trembling hands, squinting down at the mysterious buttons and dials until she locates the single button she understands, the button marked On. Her eyes narrow with determined intent and the button is speared, almost crushed, beneath her thumb. She nods with satisfaction as the radio comes to life and shuffles to her chair to relax and listen to the obituaries of the recently deceased on the local radio station.

Frequently names and address of life long acquaintances are read by the male presenter in his low but respectful monotone voice. She absorbs the news with a knowing nod ("After she fell, I knew she wouldn't last") or with a head shake over a perceived folly ("I told her all that excerise was a waste of time. Bad for the knees"). Her lack of emotion is not apathy; rather death is now familiar to her.
The above newspaper article struck me in the same way: not as tragic but as familiar.

I would not describe myself as suicidal but suicide is frequently in my thoughts. Once I was sitting on the upper level of a crowed bus staring unseeingly through the rain splattered window wondering if I should leave a suicide note. Suicide notes are such a self-indulgent cliche and besides, what would I say? But I wouldn't like further trouble the police by forcing them to investigate the cause of my death so perhaps a note is polite? Maybe a short note, a simple statement of fact without any tiresome angsty nonsence. Just "I killed myself." Signed and dated.

When I realized I was seriously, almost casually,  planning my suicide, I was startled. A co-worker who was traveling on the same bus told me later that I looked frightened.

On another occasion I was walking through the narrowconcrete passageway covered in graffiti that leads to my back door when the thought struck that it would be better to not exist. I remember the clarity and peace that followed the realization. There was a way out! I didn't have to exist feeling like this for another 20 to 40 years before I can finally die.

I found the news article familiar because I lived during my late twenties and early thirties in small low rent bedsits in a similar condition. I would walk in from work, throw my clothes on the chair, get into bed with my laptop and stay there until I absolutely had to move. The curtains were always drawn, the door always locked. I never cooked. I wasn't capable of buying raw ingredients and cooking which required effort and planning.  Instead I lived on takeaways and biscuits and chocolate whose empty wrappers and decaying containers lay strewn on the floor in an ever mounting pile substancal enough to have little pathways cut through the middle where I could walk to the door without stepping a container of months old soy sauce. My toilet broke but I wasn't capable of fixing it or even of ringing the landlord so I lived without a working toilet for nearly a year. The shower might have worked but I never tried it. Sometimes I brushed my teeth but washing my face was a pointless chore.

These days things are better. The 'slumps' as I call them are less and less frequent and I know they are only temporary. But I also know if only one or two things were the change in my life, I could very easily revert into that slowly decaying hermit. That should frightened me, but it doesn't. It's familiar.  

I don't think I could actually kill myself. Suicide is after all an action and I am incapable of taking almost any action when I wallow in self-pity and depression. However hiding from the world and docilily withering away? Now that I can do.

But the newspaper is correct. It's a tragic way to live and a tragic way to die.

*Post title taken from the lyrics of Wake Up by Mad Season.
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