Suicide, depression and understanding the question 'Why?' - by Tara J Lal
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1st Sep 2015

My brother, Adam wrote endlessly of his inner turmoil before he took his own life whilst studying at Oxford University back in 1988. He had adeptly hidden his spiral into depression and anxiety from the world. Only through his writing did he divulge his true feelings.

Well, my vacuous life rolls on. I feel now completely bland. All my hopes, desires, loves and hates have been flattened into banal placid thoughts. I no longer have a purpose or confidence in life. I feel so worthless. Where is interest, where is belief and trust? I once glowed with boyish ferocity, but now my leaden veins pass apathy instead of blood. Time weeps onwards with suffocating incessancy.

I often questioned how did he become so ill? The question ‘why?’ haunted me. As a teenager, it never occurred to me that depression could be a life threatening illness.

Our father had suffered from some form of mental illness for my entire life, variously diagnosed as depression, bipolar and schizo-affective disorder. Did my brother carry a gene passed on from my father? Or was it the death of our mother when Adam was just fifteen that sparked his illness? Our father was hospitalized immediately after. We had no parent to love us, no reference point for safety. We never spoke of how we felt. Did my brother’s grief metastasize silently within him? I cried incessantly. My brother only cried through his writing.

I seek tears. I need some channel for my heart, but as I drift into silent mourning a great ugly silent morose emptiness ebbs my sorrow and perpetrates homeless fallacies. God let me cry! Moisture will rib my eyes for fleeting seconds as sorrow in the transient form hosts my soul.

I see now how tears heal, how unresolved grief and unexpressed emotion can become malignant.

As I have gradually let life stream from my chilling veins, then so have I frozen its fire with time. I am alive and yet death appears so comforting to me. Oh, perplexing infidelity, why must one die to placate one’s own reality? My darkness pursues me. Whilst I am alive, I want only peace, the peace of non-existence.

I see now how my brother’s pain boxed him in until he saw no other way out of it than death. I see how his inability to express his true feelings to anyone fuelled his sense of isolation.

Let someone understand and love me…. He cried out through his writing, hoping in vain that someone would hear.

Only now, all these years later, do I truly hear him. For only now am I able to understand. An understanding that came through the journey that grief took me on, driven by my need to answer the question ‘why?’. It led me on a search. I didn’t know what I was looking for, but the intensity of my grief forced me to question life, and what it all meant. That drive to search was Adam’s gift to me, for I found myself when not bound by fear and sadness. I discovered the answer to the question that had haunted me. I had looked everywhere, to other people, to things, to Adam. In the end it came from within. It came from finding and living my meaning. I would make a difference to the lives of others by sharing my brother’s and my story. Together we would facilitate understanding, we would create connection and we would encourage others to give their emotions a voice. Now finally I have peace.

Standing on My Brother’s Shoulders: Making Peace with Grief and Suicide by Tara J Lal is published by Watkins, priced 8.99

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