Top positive review
Words of the Brave
September 28, 2011
We live in a culture obsessed with the illusion of happiness. When we run into a friend, the customary greeting is, "Hi, how are you?" But we don't usually want to know the answer, not if the person in question is struggling with serious issues.
In point of fact, we prefer they keep their issues to themselves and smile like everything's fine. Then we sit back and wonder why those who commit suicide didn't show any signs, why they didn't ask for help, why no one did anything to stop them.
I started thinking about suicide as a teenager. What would happen if I discreetly jumped off a cliff, or stepped in front of a car, or threw myself out the window?
I'd love to write the politically correct thing now and say I stopped thinking of it when I grew up, but the truth is that even now, I imagine doing it whenever I'm depressed. Yes, I know that's seriously twisted. But imagining these scenarios has a way of making me feel better. Probably because I'm conscious of how much power there is in simply choosing to live. That said, I doubt I'm the only person like this, and wonder how many normal people let their minds think of this when they're feeling hopeless or depressed.
This book was hard for me to read for a number of reasons:
1. It deals with serious issues like mental illness and suicide.
2. The descriptions of manic depression and paranoia are accurate to a tee and forced me to remember things in my own life that I'd rather forget.
3. The author doesn't sugar-coat the situation.
4. She is honest about her feelings.
Number four is key, because as much as society claims to value honestly, we lie to ourselves ALL THE TIME. What's worse? We criticize those who tell the truth. There's a reason politicians lie. It's because we want them to. So here is my bit of truth for this morning, one I'm sure will win me no friends.
How often do we expect those that have lost a child to comfort us because we feel helpless? How often do we pull away from listening to someone talk about their grief or anger because we think they've had time enough to grieve? How often, in a culture that's obsessed with fixing things, do we avoid those who have problems we can't fix?
I know I've done it.
The thing that struck me the most after reading this book was how hard it must be day after day to go on living when you know your son is gone. What a struggle that must have been for Madeline and her family. What courage it took to live one day at a time. Paul's death, final as it was, didn't end anything for his family. Instead it began a long and slow process of denial, anger, sadness, bargaining, and ultimately healing.
I am in awe of Madeline Sharples.