Thursday, January 24, 2008

Why the Maybe Suicide of Heath Ledger Pisses Me Off

Warning: this post has very little to do with parenting. That’s because I woke up thinking about suicide, not my own, but suicide in general and found myself getting all pissed off as the concept of suicide is known to do to me; it infuriates me. So a second warning, this post is in no way sympathetic to those who want to kill themselves. I find them enraging.

Unless of course they are plagued by torturous hallucinations as one man I knew was. He had been resident of a psychiatric hospital for most of his adult life thanks to delusions so sadistic and vile he had tried to cut off his own penis. Twenty years worth of psychotropic medication couldn’t quiet his hallucinations or dampen his delusions. Eventually he took his own life. I felt a pang of sympathy. But mostly I don’t.

And unless of course someone is in excruciating incurable physical pain.
But those with working arms and legs and careers who want to knock themselves off each time someone breaks up with them, best stay away from me. I’m definitely not the one to call in the middle of the night.

Or maybe I am.

Once a friend called to announce she was going to kill herself because her partner broke up with her.
“Where are you?” I asked.

“At home. Are you coming over?”

“No, I’m sending an ambulance and going back to bed.”

She’s still alive. Nothing like telling the whining semi-well you’re sending an ambulance to their home to perk them up.

So now here’s a young man who is father of a two year old, rich, famous and not insignificantly best known for playing a gay man in a highly acclaimed film who maybe killed himself and maybe did not. Of course being young and rich doesn’t mean you’re not in psychic pain. But rich fathers of two year olds have options aside from porking on pills. Not to mention the contribution to our culture’s continual equating of gay and suicide that his death provides.

Thanks depressed dude.

How did I get like this? Instant rage! Just add water or air to news of a suicide. You don’t even need to stir!

Maybe twenty years working in psychiatry hearing the suicidal woes of hundreds of adults. Maybe having watched too many life-embracing loved ones die long before they were ready, people contributing to others, giving gifts of love and kindness to the world. Their lives were ripped from them by cancer or accidents or strokes.

And here is some young ass who just can’t take it?
Go kill yourself then. You’ll leave more room for the rest of us we who know life is not always fun, not always easy, sometimes unbearable. Thank you for the shorter lines at movies and the supermarket, fewer death-happy drunk drivers on the road, less crowded beaches.

Oh, and one more thing. There’s a dirty little secret you might want to know: after you’re dead, life goes merrily on without you.

Red Anger by A.D. McCowen


Ms. Moon said...

I can completely understand your anger. Especially if you worked for 20 years in psychiatry.
I don't know what I think about the subject. I've had friends who killed themselves and I think that if they had just managed to hold on, get help, let things change (as they usually will), they would have led wonderful lives that would have made a difference in this world.
But on the other hand- who am I to judge how intolerable another's pain is?
I don't know the answer.
I have a friend who has suffered from depression for at least thirty years. His entire life has been a cycle of hospitalizations, ECT, medications, therapies, etc. He has attempted suicide more than once. Sometimes I just think- hell, go ahead and do it. Is that awful? What sort of joy does he have in life? Not that having joy in life is something anyone can expect.
Again- I don't know.
You raise some very interesting questions, though.

Olivia said...


nanners said...

It doesn't appear to be a suicide. Walking pneumonia or any respiratory depression and sleeping pills are a real bad mix.

Ledger stated the best role in his life has been father. I believe in times of dispair that the little ones in our lives are anchors. He had an anchor to this world and he adored her. I'm waiting for more information.

I do like your calling an ambulance response. I will remember that one. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Hello, I've just recently found your blog and have enjoyed it very much. While I agree on your take about suicide (the most selfish thing you could do), I can't help but think that it would be awfully hurtful to the people that loved Heath Ledger to hear it, especially in light of the fact that it hasn't been ruled a suicide.
Within hours of his death, a multitude of web sites (TMZ, Just Jared, I'm Not Obsessed) had him dead in bed with Mary Kate Olsen, back together with his ex, a pill popping manic depressive, a heroin junkie and all had many updates changing their stories as they heard more rumors. So far the only conclusive fact is that he died.
Say you die of natural causes in your sleep..what would they find in YOUR house? What conclusions would people jump to? I personally have anti-depressants, cold pills, herbal teas. Would that make me a depressed pill junkie who offed myself because I couldn't save the whales? I'm inclined to think that the less said about Heath Ledger, the better, at least until there are conclusive results. I totally get that this is your personal blog and you can state your opinion in any damned way you please & I respect that. I'm just giving my two cents.

Sara said...


Have you been jerked around by someone suicidal?

being young and rich and famous does not make you any more capable of reaching out for help. nor does having working arms and legs- infact, that sometimes makes it even harder-

why can't I get it together? I have nothing to complain about?

you had empathy for one person in agony- why? what makes his pain acceptable and Ledger's not?

Are You My Mothers said...

consider ledge the catalyst. but, yes anything could have killed him...though it takes a lot of pills to "accidentally" kill yourself, if drugs are even involved.

suicide and suicidality take many forms. what about the mother who doesn't have the lump in her breast examined? what about the drunk driver? what about the smoker? the friend who refuses to drive with a seatbelt on?

you don't have to know someone who has killed themself to have a strong feeling about suicide and self-destruction.

i think if suicide as rage turned inward and as such it invokes in me a kind of rage. it's also manipulative and mean. but yes, let's leave poor heath out of it.

thank you all for reading and commenting and thinking over anything this girl has written.

Pollygirl said...

As an occasional reader of your blog, I was taken aback by your lack of empathy. "Just go ahead and kill yourself"? Depression is an illness, not a whim. I have watched two close family members struggle mightily against this terrible, debilitating illness for their entire adult lives. After more than 50 years of combating depression and being crippled and incapacitated by it, tragically, one chose to end their own life 5 years ago. While it has been a struggle for my family to deal with this, I have compassion for the suffering that my loved one endured for decades. I can only hope that they received more compassion from mental health professionals during the course of their life than you demonstrate in your email.

Anonymous said...

i clicked on your blog because it is linked to sara whitman's and this is the first and only post i read.

i am dumbfounded that you feel entitled to have such a hateful opinion about some you've never met. and yes, i have.

who the hell do you think you are? heath did not kill himself and if he had, it would be none of your goddamn business. nor would it be your business if anyone else chose to kill themselves.

who the hell are you to judge someone else's pain?

Tilly said...

I guess this is a lesson learned. It is okay to mouth off about suicide, but leave Heath Ledger out of it.

I am still so sad about his death. My gut tells me it was not a suicide, but an accidental overdose. We will see.

I had to go to the ER one time. I drove myself with a bleeding hand over a bridge crossing the Annisquam River. As I drove over the river I saw a police officer trying to persuade an individual from jumping.

When I was settled in a room I told a nurse that there is going to be some activity here soon. I told her what I had seen. Sure enough, a man was brought in about 45 minuttes later. Dry. He did not jump.

In the morning I had breakfast with my 95 year old friend. I told her the story and she said, "They should have let him jump!" I was stunned and asked her why. She answered, "He will only do it again."

People have strong opinions on this, but lets not get hostile.

Are You My Mothers said...

The thing is my day job involves hearing the life stories of hundreds of those suffering from mental illness, from the severely ill and psychotic to the walking wounded. I have been in therapy for almost the entirety of my adult life, my mother was a psychoanalyst, I am a clinical diagnostician within the field of psychiatric epidemiology. And suicide pisses me off. It's manipulative and angry and the meanest thing you can do to those left alive, no legacy to leave a child. Every suicide threat I've known has been a form of manipulation. Nice there are people out there who are willing to stay the course with those who continually threaten death. However, my empathy is reserved for those who choose life no matter how brutal the journey. Sorry to anger so many of you. Glad however, to have you all on board.

Anonymous said...

I can totally understand your anger. Suicide can be manipulative. It angers me as well. I think perhaps I have a different perspective than you. I don't work in the psychiatric feild, but I have dealt with depression and suicidal thoughts from a VERY early age. I first tried to kill myself when I was 7. I knew what I was doing (as well as a seven year old can) and it was a way out for me and the abuse and neglect I was receiving. Sometimes people aren't capable of seeing beyond the moment. Sometimes people aren't strong enough. Sometimes they just need someone to say that tomorrow will be better. My trying to commit suicide wasn't about manipulation, it was about escaping from life. I tried many many times from the age of 7 to about 14. Thankfully, I never succeeded. I still have suicidal thought today, but the difference is, is that I'm older and I have a support network that ... well supports me. I just thought I'd give you a different perspective

Anonymous said...

Interesting. I see your point. But you know what pisses me off more than suicidal people? The idiot, manipulative, in bed with Big Pharma doctors who put depressed people on medication without giving any thought as the the risk of suicidality associated with them.

I was suicidal only once. When I began taking depression meds. Locked in a psych ward. I was given personality tests because they thought I was just being a manipulative attention seeker. When the tests showed no likelihood of any personality disorders they upped my dose and I became even more delusional and psychotic.

Finally, family convinced me to transfer to another (better) hospital where they took me off the meds. In about 2 days I had zero suicidal thoughts and I haven't had a single one since.

Suicide is awful and selfish, especially because, as you say, there are plenty of people who want to live that are dying. And if suicide were rational, I don't think anyone would do it. It makes me sick to think that I was willing to give this life up, even with its up and downs (sometimes more downs than ups).

I think Heath was a very sad man. But I don't think he intended to kill himself.. he was just really really bad at taking medication. He didn't seem to be one to crave the spotlight or much attention at all.

Anonymous said...

Have you been in a psych hospital? I've been in a couple where most people I encountered were not self-centered blubbering assholes, just people desperate to get help. But you realize once you are inside those walls, that the hospital isn't really there to help you; they are just there to tide you over long enough that your suicidal tendencies or your insurance coverage cease. You see this as soon as you walk through the door; the doctors don't want to run any blood tests to see if there is a problem with say, your thyroid or if your diabetic, or if you may even have a wheat allergy (I tried this). Oh, no, they immediately start pumping you full of pills, with which no one is quite sure how they even manage to work or what mechanism is used to act upon the brain. They simply give you the same line that is given by the damn pharmaceutical companies, who have not managed to have any sort of independent tests done on their DRUGS. Their bottom line depends on you continuing to be depressed, continuing to rely on their medication. Meanwhile patients are managing their symptoms, the only way they know how; (cause the F*!%!&G pills aren't doing anything) they are gorging themselves on caffeinated high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated fats provided by the cafeteria. That's gotta be good on those brain cells!
So needless to say, I didn't start feeling better until I was out of the hospital, and started cleaning up my diet, testing my blood for deficiencies, and using EEG Biofeedback. Then and only then did I begin to emerge from my HELL!
But most people know nothing about these things, and continue down the same useless, lame path their doctors lead them down. People are simply searching for RELIEF. And I believe that's what drove Heath Ledger to take a bad combo of pills. I'm not him, but I believe I've been close enough to "his shoes" to comment. When you are desperate there is no way to reason with the logical part of your brain that says "taking 6 pills would be a bad idea." No, my friend, you are thinking I need SLEEP, I need to SHUT my BRAIN OFF, I need these THOUGHTS and FEARS to CEASE.
And I believe Heath Ledger did what most average Americans do, when mental problems strike, they follow their Doctor's advice and POP a PILL. So who are we to be pissed at, again? Who, again, is selfish? The doctors who are looking for any easy answer to shut up their patient and blindly following the Pharmaceutical Companies, the patients who are desperate and blindly following their DOCTORS, or the BIG DRUG COMPANIES, who get away with murder... and in Heath Ledger's case, I do mean MURDER.

**All readers must note the tone of irritability comes from the fact that I am currently withdrawing from a horrible antidepressant that never helped. And I do mean withdrawal, for any of you who have been through withdrawals. And I refuse to sugar coat it by using THEIR term "discontinuation symptoms."