Why Death Isn’t The Escape You Need by Iwundu Wisdom

When we’re faced with something unpleasant, we make the first move by finding a way to push it away or we then find a way to put an end to it. There are always options and it’s a choice we make to either face it or run. Sometimes, unfortunately, our choices are more unpleasant than the circumstance itself.

It’s very common to hear of teens (especially teen girls) who end their lives because their love interests broke up their relationship. And only last week, I heard again, from news coming out of the radio, of a teen girl who subjected herself to “eternal freedom” because she wasn’t careful enough not to get pregnant. I wouldn’t lie. When I used to first hear these things, my quick response was to shun their decisions and criticize their actions, even going as judgmental as calling them stupid.

But I notice I quickly forget that there was a point in my life when I, too, wanted to end it all, wanted to escape from the noise and quick-moving demands of time, wanted to be in a place that’s timeless, where there’s total peace and calm and I knew only death could give me that. We all may have entertained such thoughts in maybe varying degrees and forms and most of the time, they’re unjustifiable. I think now as I should have thought then: If I could think these thoughts when I hit an emotional low that’s not too uncommon, how much more then if I was given the very reason to seek this escape?

For anyone to seriously consider suicide, they must have believed they’ve hit rock bottom (and many very well have) and I think there’s a saying that goes like, “when you’ve hit rock bottom, the only way to go is up”. But potential suicides look up and see not the tiniest glimpse of light or hope but a sea of faces and endless tradition hovering over, waiting to ridicule, judge and condemn. When they look at the end of the tunnel, they see light; not daylight, but the dazzling glare of a train barreling in on them. And some, because they have an idea what they might see, do not even look up and are quick to seek the emancipation they believe death could grant them. We cannot blame them. Yes, we cannot.

Some time ago, following press reports about the suicides of gay teenagers subjected to bullying in their school, I looked around the web and found the initiative of Dan Savage, a sex advice columnist, very appealing. Dan organized a series of videos centred on the theme of “It Gets Better“. The message is obvious. I may never know what it feels like to be gay, but I do know what it is to be a teen and what it feels like to carry suicidal thoughts.

Maybe before we begin to condemn the next suicide, we should consider firsthand if things could have turned out better had that suicide had someone whom he is certain would hold his hands and tell him “it gets better”. Because it really gets better. Because those sea of faces aren’t going to be up there forever. Because what it takes to turn a circumstance completely around could be just a moment, an hour, a day or a year. However long, it gets better.

I have this uncanny whim to look into the eyes of every teen and tell them boldly that it gets better. It’s wrong to assume that death could bring peace, and it’s also wrong to assume you understand death, because no one does. Death could be an endless silence with opaque depth or it could be something completely darker than our imagination could ever permit. But death is definitely not the answer. Killing yourself as an end to your predicament only closes one more venue of brightness and cuts short a bright purpose.

I imagine you must have fallen in love with a cluster of stars dotting a night sky. Now, imagine if each of those stars, one after the other, decides to retreat and dim into oblivion, what’d be left of the beauty of the sky? Nothing. Emptiness. Just an endless roll of grey and black.

That’s what happens to someone else’s life when you decide to end yours. It’s what I feel when I hear of yet again another person who has ended his life. It’s one brightness forever dimmed. It’s one light forever engulfed in darkness.

Death posing as escapist is as deceptive as it is damning. I believe anyone who’s ever been unconscious or sedated has, at least, had a glimpse into what death may look like and early in January, I underwent a major surgical operation. My bowels had been obstructed and my stomach was hastily distending for eight days before protocol was duly settled and I was taken into the theatre. Somewhere amid the dizzying light and less-than-comforting verbal prodding, I lost it; the ability to see or feel or do anything at all. Of course, it was the anaesthetic that induced the anterograde amnesia (the inability to form new memories) but those seven hours of been in the “twilight state” has firmly inspired my belief in the stark finality of death and the endless emptiness that comes with it. There’s no remembrance, no will, no sensation. It’s just emptiness, that emptiness that takes away knowledge and everything you’ve ever known. It’s important to note that I wasn’t unconscious in that theatre, though, I was only sedated, but looking at the more common form of semi-consciousness, that is sleep, I think we can draw a surmise about the numbness of this thing called death.

Now it’s tempting to believe this could be the total freedom, the certain escape from all the ridicule and shame that are believed to follow actions that prompt suicides, but what if, at some point, that emptiness begins to condemn your decision, what if you hang around and find out things could return back to normal again, what if up isn’t as “occupied” as you have believed? What if death isn’t really the end?

Hang on. Hang around. It gets better.

Of course, hitting your rock bottom signals an end, but only an end from running farther down and not an end to your race. When at your emotional lowest, when your world seem motionless, there are only two places to look to.

First: up. Because when you’ve hit your rock bottom, the only way to go is really up.

And second: within. Because things happen to us and things happen around us, but the only ones that matter are the things that happen within us.

Take, for example, an illustration I found on the web. A coco-yam, an egg and a teabag are each placed in a different kettle of boiling water.

A coco-yam goes in strong and fit, but comes out very soft, able to be beaten into a pulp. An egg goes in with a shell that’s easily breakable to protect the liquid in it, but comes out strong. A teabag goes in pliable but changes the entire water into something sweet, something desired. Each underwent the same predicament, but reacted differently (I especially love that teabag, turning his circumstance into an advantage).

So which would you rather be? A coco-yam, an egg, or a teabag? You choose.

Ending it is necessary, but killing yourself is no option.

Start your climb from that depth where there’s no one else and things might just have gotten better before you reach the top. Because it gets better. It really does.

There’s a saying in Yoga that I love and especially want you to know: “When it gets better, it only gets better”.


Home Is Where The Heart Is

Depression is a thick heavy cloud that gathers in place of your heart; it doesn’t gather so rain can fall, no. It’s just there to weigh you down. Its purpose is to be heavy. When it comes, the heart travels far away and we feel heavy stones in place of our hearts. A kind of nagging, heavy pain that promises not to go away. It remains there, pulling us down.

It is everywhere: the weak smile of the struggling worker; the strained laughter of a good leader gone bad; the circles around mama’s eyes; the over exhibition of happiness at a friend’s good fortune; the pretense at being easy-going; trailing off in the middle of a conversation; insomnia, the many sleepless nights; the desire to get hurt and sink into self-pity; the will to have it all end, to go away from it all. It’s everywhere, a chain that binds us, many of us.

It is only because we’re far from home that we feel this. And that brings to mind the saying “home is where the heart is.” Our hearts can be anywhere. It can be in seeing mum and dad smile, in seeing them reap the good harvest for which they’ve toiled so hard. It can be in the smile of that child, your baby, the one that has the world in his eyes. Home can be the look and feeling of gratitude you squeeze out from a place where hope abhors, with your good deeds. The gratitude of a beggar, a brother lost. Home can be where the myth called true love resides. It can be in his arms or in my case her arms. Home can be that smile that disarms you and leaves you flowing lightly about like you have no weight. In our homes, depression crumbles.

It’s a feeling I’ve been battling even before I knew the word for it. A feeling that I don’t belong, that I’m worthless and as low as the soles of my feet. This feeling pulls me back from making acquaintances (they’re all my betters, why bother?) and keeps me locked onto myself. This feeling takes the blackness out of the night sky and pastes it on my heart. It’s a feeling I would wish only for my enemies and still pity them when they have it. It makes you sad and angry at everything. Makes you lick your wounds and pray subconsciously for more hurt so you can keep being miserable. It’s a world where the sun has been abolished, where there’s no hope and home is faraway.

I have never been able to pinpoint what brought on this terrible feeling that encompasses all manner of self-loathing, inferiority complex, and low self-esteem. I used to think it was perhaps my upbringing. The way we(I and my two brothers) were kept away from other children before we ‘got spoiled’. Perhaps it’s in my genes, maybe I was just wired that way and I don’t get to ask any questions. I’m a melancholic, one of the four purposed temperaments by the early Greek physicians and philosophers, notably Hippocrates.

So, I’ve been wandering, looking for a way around the darkness, waiting for morning which seems like eternity. No matter how long I wait, morning doesn’t come. It’s as if it moves farther and farther away from my sight like I was on a ship pulling away from shore, seeing the horizon drift away. Bottomline: morning never comes. Home is far away.

Being lost is one thing, not knowing you even have a home is another (remember, home is where the heart is). Something happened to me. Fortunate or unfortunate? I can’t fathom. This event left me vulnerable and at the same time showed me I have a home, showed the whole world I have a home. Maybe it was meant to happen or I just made it happen. Maybe I had wandered too much and I decided to build a home. To run away from the fetters, the clasps, the chains of depression. I fell in love. A totally mushy thing to say and a fairy tale – not a great combination – but it is what it is. I believe in fairy tales and I get mushy at times. It is home. Depression is afraid of these walls.

Last three days, I ran from my house to see her, away from depression. I ran from my house to my home, breaking my chains off on the way, letting them litter the ground as I ran. I ran from the dark end of the tunnel with the certainty that there was light at the other end, since Nneoma was there. My home was there. And when I ran up to her, I felt there was no truer freedom than true love. No purer form of freedom existed. Just being with her made me see the moon smiling. I forgot I was inadequate, forgot I was supposed to be in my shell, forgot I was not supposed to measure up to others, forgot that the world was not supposed to make sense as I was literally reading the meaning from the stars. I saw my home and the heart I had been missing. I exchanged the heavy stones for my heart, and I heard the night hum a certain freedom tune in my ears. I was free.

I’m back home. And it’s been two nights, she’s not picking my calls. I don’t know why. But I’ve decided I won’t let this freedom go away. I’ll run after my home and my heart. I’ll live with them both no matter what it takes. Home is freedom, where you’re accepted for what you are, home is where the heart is and I’ve found mine. To let go is to fall back into bondage, and that in itself is bondage.