MENTAL ILLNESS MAY HAVE TAKEN THIS MAN’S LIFE

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AMBER LOVE 17-SEP-2014 Yesterday I heard a rumor that sounds rather plausible. An artist I worked for a lot may have committed suicide and not died from a sudden heart attack at age 50 like I was lead to believe. A year ago, the news of P’s death (name left out to protect his family) was shocking to our community. He was the type of painter and art teacher that people would describe as “full of life.” He was always talking, telling jokes, laughing with his friends and doing Stallone impressions to wake up the class. He listened to classic rockers like Springsteen. And I don’t recall him ever talking about anatomy to the students since they had anatomy classes to cover that – or maybe he just didn’t like teaching it while painting. He preferred plein air painting to portraits.

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I keep wondering if all of P’s humor was masking emotional pain or if something got to him after he left the art school to take a full-time position in a public school. He openly said he had to make that change for financial reasons. He was married to his high school sweetheart forever and had kids that were going off to college. They lived in New Jersey which is crazy ass expensive. His wife was once a fashion designer in New York City. I don’t know what job she had that she eventually lost contributing to their worries.

It was one of his close friends that told me of the hearsay from the funeral. That funeral was a lot like my grandfather’s but even more overwhelming in a particular way. The parlors were small rooms. There were so many friends, family and all of his students there. The line went out the parlor’s front door and extended down the sidewalk to the next corner. Everyone was shocked and wanted to not only say goodbye to P but also see each other for comfort. Allegedly, people very close to the family heard them arguing, “How could he do this to us?” If that’s true, there are very few things I could come up to apply that type of statement to. My imagination could get elaborate: “How could he do this [leave us with no life insurance] [die so suddenly, it’s not fair] [hide a medical condition]?” But certainly, the first thing that comes to mind about what “this” could be is “take his own life.”

My mourning for P was over. These new feelings that have been stirred up from the bottom aren’t mourning. They’re curiosity and confusion. This close friend of his who was telling me the story said once he looked back over P’s behavior in the months leading up to his death, he now sees changes that could have been signs things were going to a dark place. He said P wasn’t his usual funny self. He wasn’t talking like he used to. And then there was the knowledge about there being financial worries. I need to stop convincing myself the death was one thing or the other because it doesn’t matter in the grand scheme – he’s gone. My desire to know if this was self-inflicted is because that means there’s one more person I could have been relating to about this awful condition of feeling there is no other option and no reason to continue.

People like Henry Rollins and Gene Simmons who criticize people after they’re dead from suicide don’t understand on the most basic level about how it is not selfish in the narcissistic way; it is not about ego but is all about taking control of one’s self in the only way that “seems” possible in that moment. Are you lucky if you can struggle through those moments? Most people would argue, yes, but it’s kind of a Schrodinger’s Cat question. Do I fundamentally think my family would be better without me, for example? Yes, I truly do. As a failure and a burden to them, I can’t see any factual way that I contribute to my own family. I can’t prove my worth. Perhaps, that’s what other people feel too. Loud mouths that take to the blogs calling victims and sufferers “selfish” need some lessons in the simple facts about how human beings are different. Maybe you can’t fathom the thought of someone ending their life but maybe someone else can’t fathom how you eat disgusting fatty bacon three times a week. Our thoughts are not going to be the same about politics, religion, how to raise a family, whether Doctor Who sucks, or anything, so why would our right to end our lives on our terms be any different? People are never going to agree on this.

At this point, it’s just over a year since P’s death. I have no judgment about him if he left on his own terms. My thoughts about him are about how nice it was to be around him while he painted and told jokes. Somehow, I have to process the rest without closure.

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