Monday, January 17, 2011

Children of darkness

Txema Rodriguez

Fiona Coyne was an actress, communications consultant and best known as being the host of Weakest Link South Africa. I remember when a local T.V station sent out a nationwide casting call to find the host for the Weakest Link they wanted someone who was "as tough as nails". In an interview with Fiona after she was cast she very confidently stated "I am honestly not intimidated by people". Man, I envied her!. And she lived up to her reputation on the Weakest Link for her biting comments used to cut over- confident contestants down to size. She was smart with a post grad in Clinical Psychology. But she also had a great heart- being actively involved with charities focusing on nature and education. She sponsored a disadvantaged student through university. She indulged in the finer things in life: theater, opera, travel. Everyone described her as fabulous and feisty.

On the 19 August 2010, her housekeeper arrived at her house to find two letters on the kitchen table, one being addressed to her. In the letter she said she was very sorry and told her housekeeper to call the police immediately, she even wrote down the number. When the police arrived they found Fiona's body in her bed. She had committed suicide. The entire country was shocked and in utter disbelief. In everyones mind, including those closest to her she was the last person that would have taken her own life. Not just because she "seemed" to have it all but her very personality didn't seem to fit the profile of someone on the edge. Fiona had planned her suicide to the very last detail. In a letter to her mother she said she had weighed up the positive and negative aspects of her life and made her decision based on this. This story is especially tragic because just two months later, Fiona's older brother Bruce, heartbroken over his sister's death also took his own life. Sibling love can run deep.

This time last year, there was an amazing story of a man who parked his Audi R8 sportscar at the Table Mountain Cable way station and handed his keys to 8 car guards, saying, "It's yours". The story reached the evening news and everyone was curious about the anonymous donor. Generosity rubbed off on the lucky car guards and instead of selling the car immediately they cut a slit into the bonnet where people could donate money to charity. Eventually they did sell the car, four of the car guards were able to return home to The Congo with enough money to support their families for a life time. Two of the car guards used their money to start a creche for disadvantaged children and donated money to Haiti after the earthquake.

But where this story unfortunately ends is with the donor- his name was Rob Taylor and last week he made headlines again when he took the cable car up Table Mountain and jumped to his death from one of the look out points. Sadly this has shed some light onto his donation and the real reason why he gave the Audi away. Some people believe that he even meant to commit suicide they day he gave his Audi to the car guards. He was a wealthy property developer. People who knew him said he always gave to those less fortunate.

Now closer to home. When we moved into our current house a we hired some people to help us. One of them was a lady who had a daughter- in- law. This daughter- in - law was a diabetic. I am not to sure of the circumstances but her husband really wanted children and so she consulted her doctor. But her doctor gave her devastating news that she could not have children. She went home and apparently took every pill that she could find in the house even vitamins. She was only 25 years old. This has rocked the small farming community where I live. Her husband was so distraught over her death he had to be hospitalized.

Her death has also struck an emotional cord with me and not just because it was suicide. I cannot have children and this has made me re-evaluate how I handled this news ( I shrugged it off ) and what this could really mean for me. One, I have felt very guilty for being able to handle this news so well and two I have realised that the real consequences of this are still coming (will save that for another post). This girl had no previous history of depression or mental illness I can only imagine the emotional horror she must gone through in those final hours.

A few months ago I walked down to the cottage by the lake on the farm scoured the the front lawn for a sharp stick, sat down on the grass and began cutting my wrist with the sharp end of the stick. It really hurt and I wasn't really making any progress because the stick wasn't sharp enough. In the end I gave up because it was sore and I was just making a mess. I went home feeling like a caged bird. That night my Mom took me out for dinner and told me my godfather would be paying for a psychologist.

There is no real message behind this post, just self- absorbed pondering: How were all these people able to go through with it?. Why haven't I been able to?. I have been suicidal since I was 11. I remember standing on the balcony of my room really, really wanting to jump. But I didn't. Why didn't I?. I have been at the edge more times than I can count and I have turned back. How?. I don't think the answer is because I really want to live, deep down inside. Maybe I'm afraid of death- I don't know. During those times I  really wanted to be dead, so how can I be afraid of death?. My sister has always declared that people who commit suicide are the most selfish people on the planet. That has always stuck in my mind. The church I grew up in believed you went to hell- something I think is bullshit but I'm ashamed to say I still wonder about.

Maybe I'm a coward- I won't kill myself by slitting my wrists- it hurts. I hate the smell of petrol so gassing myself in the car is out. I won't jump off something high because being on something high without a barrier tends to paralyze me, and I hate that "falling" feeling. Drowning I know, I just know I will come up for air before I loose consciousness and a dead body in water is...yuck. I don't own a gun and the idea of my Mom being confronted with bits of brain is just cruel. That leaves overdosing but even when I have made the decision to swallow all the pills I have...I. just. don't. do. it.

It seems to be that I am the most picky cowardly suicidal punk that ever walked the planet. I'm too scared to go through with it. So I have been living my life in a rut- not being able to stop being suicidal but unable to actually go throw with it. I know it sounds weird but the people I have written about seem incredibly brave to me.

I'm not sure how to end this...I will still be here tomorrow and the next day and the next.....


  1. My thoughts on suicide are this...

    I dont think people who commit suicide are necessarily selfish- i think they are suffering a level of pain and anguish that most of us cannot comprehend- they want the pain to end so badly that they cannot see any other way out, despite the hurt it will cause to their families, friends etc.

    I think though, that despite all the ups and downs, life is a gift and more importantly- it is the only we we have got. We will all die eventually- that is the one certainty in this world. However, human pain, happiness, depression etc are not guaranteed and are therefore not certainties- they are conditional and dependent on so many things- circumstances, money, relationships, state of mind etc. I dont see the point of ending it, even if we are suffering extreme pain, when it is a definite that this emotion will not last forever. Doesnt it make more sense to stick it out and see what life holds? Maybe you will find happiness and fulfillment in another area of your life, maybe things just might get better.

    And if they dont? Well one day you will die anyway, so why not try to make the best of the time here and stick it out- things do have a way of changing- maybe for the better, maybe for the worst.

    My heart goes out to you Stephi xxx

  2. Thanks for the commnet Foxy. You always give advice that is mature and you have great insight into situations like this. I really appreciate it- you have a good head on your shoulders.

    Whenever I get into a suicidal rut thoughts that would normally be out of the question suddenly seem so reasonable: I would be worth more dead than alive (because of my debt) and I honestly do believe that my parents and sister would be better off without me.

    Like I said though, I always turn back and carry on living- some people have told me that I should be proud of that but I don't feel that way. In reality I could never do that to my mother. And like you said I will die eventually- I don't know when but I also don't know that this illness will last for the rest of my life and that's something to live for.

    I so appreciate your support Foxy!

    Love you lots!

  3. You really seem to be beating yourself up on one hand with your whole thought on why you keep on going and then on the other hand I'm so glad to hear that you refuse to give up. Suicide is one of saddest acts a person can do. It says that all HOPE is lost and that the person just doesn't feel strong enough to bear the incredible grief and challenges that we all face, much less one with a mood disorder. It's a slow progress to live one day at a time, knowing that we won't take our lives...I know I've thought about how if I died that it would be easier, but I would never, never act on it. I think first because of the effect on my family. You're used examples of people who have been so incredibly damaged from loved ones who have taken their own lives. And this may sound silly, but the thought of my furbabies not having someone to fully love them as much as I do, just devastates me. If you ever, ever get to that dangerous place where you're ready to "jump the cliff" please call me or anyone you know can be really there for you. If you'd like we can exchange phone numbers, you can think about it. I'm so glad you're here, Stephi. I wish I could say that life will get easier and lighter for people like you and me, but that's unrealistic. I DO know that we can have moments of knowing true joy and love, and it's those moments we need to cling too.

  4. Wendy-
    Someone committing suicide is so heartbreaking to me because I have been on the edge- I know the despair, turmoil and horrible pain that person was in before they took their own life. I know how they reasoned with themselves that they were doing their family and friends a favor. I know that they believed there was no other way. The story of Fiona Coyne struck me hard because I can imagine the desparation and fear she felt and the pressure of having to hide her feelings. It must have been horrible- she was so alone. Only someone that has been there can truly understand.

    I don't feel like I can say that I refuse to give up because I still feel like a failure. My Mom says God has kept me alive. I don't know. The good thing is I'm not alone.

    Thanks again for your support, I will e-mail you soon xx

  5. Meriwether Lewis (of, in the US, the famed Lewis and Clark Expedition in 1806) killed himself by holding a gun to his heart and another to his head and pulling both triggers at once. I've known of other people who went up a mountain and winter, got drunk, and lay down to freeze to death. Another man, who I knew cut the female end off and extension cord, put the naked ends in a bowl of water, and stuck his hand into the water. There's no limit to ingenuity. I have lots of narcotics and sleeping pills, so I would think I could die painlessly, at least. I hope you live. I really do.

  6. Hey Stephi, I really hate to hear that you are feeling this way now. I have quite a few things I want to say but I just took my sleeping pill and it's taking effect..if you want email me

  7. Snowbush-

    After reading everything that you wrote, I feel inclined to check up on YOU every now and then just to make sure you have not found inspiration in the various suicide methods you discussed. Although, I had read somewhere about Meriwhether Lewis and the thought had crossed my mind....but I would have to find two guns instead of one.

    One could actually get very creative planning your own demise. If you have ever heard of the horrible and fantastic book series called "Bunnie Suicides" it blow your mind all the things you can come up with.

    Thank-you for your comment. I will live to see better days- as I pointed out I am to chicken to do anything. I hope you will live too.

  8. "I am to chicken to do anything."

    You did some practicing when you tried cutting yourself, no matter that it was an effort that seemed doomed to failure. I doubt that anyone gets it into her or his head to kill themselves one day, and then goes out and does it. Instead, people build up to it by taking a lot of little steps because, as you implied, it does take courage.

  9. You are right, it took a few weeks of stuff building up inside before that day when I went I cut myself with a tree branch. I stopped because it was sore and I went home feeling pathetic because I couldn't go through with it and that's when I realised I was chicken. It's not the first time I tried either but each time I have backed out.

    Who ever thought being chicken could save your life?

  10. One of the most timid fellows I knew slit his wrists in his dorm room and tried to back out. It was too late though, and he bled to death by his door.

  11. That is so sad, someone so young....and especially that he decided he wanted to live but died anyway is tragic...

  12. *Revised comment to Running Circles*


    Hey Running Circles,

    Don't worry about me- you could call this an "reflection" post. I am not sure what I can do to banish suicidal thoughts, but like I said I doubt I will go through with anything.

    Sleep well:)


    Bad typo! Bad!!, Thanks for being awesome Miss Running!!

  13. You're funny, Stephi. "I doubt I will go through with anything" (i.e. kill myself), so "sleep well." Yeah, right. Now, your entire readership will be up all night worrying about you.

  14. Yeah I guess I could see the funny side of this too, but I wrote this post over a week ago and, as you can see, am perfectly fine. I doubt that anyone is staying up all night constantly refreshing their browsers for updates on this blog- I'm not THAT popular. Still it's sweet of you to keep checking up on me.