I’ve recently blogged stories from two friends who are suicide survivors in the build up to International Suicide Survivors Day which is on Saturday, 17 November this year. There is always another side of the story; in this case, the person who committed suicide. Both Craig (Losing Your First Love) and Michael (Losing a sibling) are no longer around to provide reasons – or at least some comforting rationale for their actions.
Very often, suicide survivors read endless other survivors stories in search of answers, any answers. It’s really like grasping at straws when the only answer you’ll be happy with is if the deceased person just made an appearance and leveled with you once and for all. There is no one-size-fits-all method of recovery just as there are so many different reasons why some of us decide to end our lives.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), around one million people worldwide die from suicide every year and predictions are that by 2020 this figure is likely to escalate to approximately 1.53 million people per annum. Professor Lourens Schlebusch, a South African authority on stress and suicide, says that although many suicides and attempted suicides go unreported, South African suicide statistics in general are alarming. (via News24)
SADAG’s Cassey Chambers says that suicide is generally thought to be mainly a female issue but it is actually higher among males than females. Chambers has also noted an increasing number of calls to their hotline from men who are depressed and stressed, often because of financial issues.
I’ve been thinking that if I had to commit suicide today my family (husband, children, parents, brothers) would be at a loss as to the reason why. They would hazard a fairly good guess that would lead in the direction of Depression but that’s it. They would be at a loss of explanation beyond that. A lot goes through my mind – on a good day. On a bad day I suppose a lot still goes through my mind but just in a more potentially damaging way. There is no way that anyone could ever come to any tangible conclusion as to why I would choose to take my life right now.
Everybody is different. I would like to share Gerd Kalesse’s story with you today. Gerd had, and still has, mixed feelings about going public with his thoughts.
Delving, digging, searching, evaluating… all things I don’t like to do very much when I am concerned. Sometimes it does one good though – even when periods of extreme pain are concerned. They are in the past. In fact, it is quite difficult to even try to remember. I have hidden them in the depths of my experiences’ stories. They don’t rule or hurt me anymore.
Living again – by Gerd Kalesse
I am Gerd Kalesse – a pretty average human being who is not average at all. Born in Nuremberg, Germany in the early post-war years – life was struggle for most people touched by the war. My parents, of an ordinary background, were hardworking and one of their core principles was the best possible future for their 3 children. Despite financial hardships we were all sent a private and expensive Waldorf School. Liberal attitudes and great attention to the individual were very important to mom and dad. It all paid off beautifully for all of us – I thank them for this.
I am homosexual and at the age of 20 I followed my then partner to Johannesburg, South Africa. Germany had always been to small for me and this was an opportunity to broaden one’s every horizon. I studied fine art more or less successfully. Like so many who do that, I ended up in the commercial world. I just knew one thing for sure: I did not want to end up in an ad agency. I never did.
All my life I have been extra-ordinarily blessed and I often was very aware of that.
I asked Gerd what brought him to the point of suicide
Retrenchment. The destroyer of people, futures and lives. Retrenchment. The eventual blessing that allows for new beginnings. Utterly unbearable and destructive at first, for some it MAY turn into a blessing, but only after indescribable extreme hardships. Attempted, or often successful, suicide is almost a natural in such situations. I stood at this brink four times. Each occasion is but a distant “memory” …
The first two attempts (after the first retrenchment over 12 years ago) were born from extreme desolation and isolation. There simply “was” no other way anymore. Those two attempts then were feeble and utterly ineffective.
Retrenchment number two. I had (and have) the most wonderful life partner then. One could not wish for better in any way whatsoever. A dream that one could not possibly have imagined came true and lasts and last and lasts.
Yet, even this wonderful situation could do nothing – nothing – to ease the endless pain, the suffering, the desolation, the destruction… there was no way discernible to me. None. Even when in the caring arms of my partner. Two more attempts. The first one carefully planned and worked out. Carefully executed. Drove 450km to the chosen site. Could not do it.
The second attempt was totally on the spur of the moment. The “hughest amount of luck” saved me. I was found in time
Suicide has always been a possible option for me.
Everybody has the right to lead or end their life as they see fit. Yet, I had never considered suicide for myself before. Despite many ups and downs of many different magnitudes, life was good. Never ever even close to despair. It is quite easy to get to that point though. When every shred of a rug is pulled from underneath one’s feet one can not even begin to see the tiniest glimmer of light anywhere forward. There is no future. None. All one’s abilities of anything are completely sapped away. Completely. There is nothing, nothing one can grasp on. Not even (I do use this word so very often in this account) the closest and best friend. Nothing counts for anything. For hours, days, weeks, months and sometime years. No one who has not been there will ever understand. No one can emulate or actually understand someone else’s experiences.
The journey to healing
After well over a year of vegetating after being retrenched for the first time a ray of hope appeared. This only with the active help of friends and I was offered a job by the most understanding couple.Very, very, very few people would have put up with this utter and total heap of misery that was me then. For many months they nurtured me, and even paid me, back to a resemblance of a functioning human being. One that could begin to function in the job they had offered. Once that point had been reached things really began to move forward in an ever increasing way. Thank you forever Tony and Mandy.
Second retrenchment: This is quite recent, yet the memories are thankfully quite faded. I had the incredible support of my life partner and two close friends in particular. Their dedication was endless and patient despite my most difficult “behaviour”. I could not help myself and I could not discern any positive reason, helpfulness, … All I saw was either nothing or no way out. Hospitalisation. Medications – to this day. Therapy – to this day. Support. Support. Support. From absolutely everybody who cares about me. Careful coaching from my life partner and selected friends. Learning. Learning. Learning. Mainly about myself. Opening my already open mind even more. To new things. Mainly things that go beyond any form of materialism. Life is becoming much more than just live, earn money, buy things, superficiality.
I am beginning even more to become a real human being. (I had begun in about 2003 perhaps) Life means appreciating and looking after oneself – only then can one successfully live a valuable life and be valuable to others. No one is an island. People are wonderful if the system allows them to be. Sadly human beings begin to get ruined before they can even think. I am freeing myself from all the manipulations of our current world society. I am rediscovering truly enduring and sustainable values. I am most fortunate to have discovered that I do not really have to partake directly in the machinations of business and politics any longer. I have saved enough to be able to live comfortable enough without having to work in all these enslaving entities nor do I have to partake in all the instruments of manipulation of individuals and masses. Just to mention one, marketing must be the worst after politics and religion. My soul and heart have become free. My lifelong outsider stance is finally paying off.
I HAVE BECOME HAPPY AND I HAVE BECOME WORTHWHILE TO MYSELF AND OTHERS. WITHOUT ABUSING OR USING ANYONE.
What a path (continuing) and what lessons! Down with the capitalist way of life! I wish I could see the beginnings of a successor of this awful oppressor of humankind. There is nothing that is viable yet that I can see. It has to and will come. We shall have to become humans again.
Gerd says that family and friends need to empathise, really empathise. Try, as hard as it may be, to see things from the victims point of view.
Life is not a reality show. Life does not come with an instruction manual. There is no nutshell. There are no Top Ten.
The above was Gerd’s response when I asked him what are the key things he would do differently if faced with the same situation right now. He concluded with “ALWAYS HERE AND NOW. I LOVE MYSELF, I LOVE THE WORLD AND EVERYBODY IN IT. MY ETERNAL THANKS GO TO HANSRAJ.”
Many thanks to Gerd for sharing your story with me & allowing me to publish it here.
Between 6 893 and 8 000 South Africans commit suicide every year, which translates into 667 deaths a month, 154 every week, and 22 every day.
Sadag runs South Africa’s only toll-free suicide crisis line – 0800 567 567 – open seven days a week from 8am to 8pm. www.sadag.org
Also on this blog: Picking Up The Pieces (tips for survivors)
Please take care when commenting on this blogpost – no judgement of survivors, victims and my friends & family will be allowed. I simply won’t publish your comments. I’m sure you understand. Thank you. Melanie