Suicide, as a candid lunch conversation
It is Christmas day, 2021. You have just returned from your shift in the emergency department, where you were stitching up those that had engaged in drunken debauchery in the early hours, informing the mother of a young departed man that her Christmas holidays will never be the same, rehydrating children who developed food poisoning from Christmas Eve lunches, and ducking vomit, blood and urine from the floor.
You have been invited to have Christmas lunch at the doctor’s quarters with your work family. (You could not go home for Christmas or the holidays because you are also working the next day.) The next doctor has arrived to take over the work, you say your goodbyes and merry Christmases and rush to the doctor’s quarters for lunch.
You arrive to find the party started, and join in on the bliss. Greetings and merry Christmases are exchanged, and you fix yourself a plate, on the encouragement of the host. You pour a drink, a strong one, and explain that you need one after having had to console the woman who lost her son, on Christmas of all days. That topic naturally gives way to speaking about death and dying, the absurdity of this life and the existential crises we deal with, all while having to maintain a (healthy level of) detachment to remain sane. This all on Christmas day. The subject then brings itself to thoughts of suicide, and the art of dying is candidly discussed like it has never before been done.
This is the conversation we had on Christmas lunch, over avocado sandwiches and pink gin. It’s out there but, I think it is important to share.
We spoke of how we all suffered from depressive episodes, occasionally, yet none of us knew this about each other before. We spoke of how isolating being away from family and the comforts of familiarity was. We spoke of our experiences with therapy (or lack thereof) and how difficult it had been to be away from that type of help (having moved to the deep rural). And we spoke of suicide and how often we contemplated it, which, for me, was too often to be considered healthy.
I shared a scene from the show Being Mary Jane and told of how often my mind revisits it. It is a scene that should be pre-empted by multiple trigger warnings and, in my personal opinion, could have perhaps been alluded to, rather than shown in all in fullness. In this scene, Mary Jane’s college friend – a doctor who had attempted suicide months prior but been found and taken to hospital by Mary Jane – is seen making a beautiful candle light dinner for one, having a sensual bath with bubbles and candles, putting on the most gorgeous silk pajamas, and going to her bed, bottle of antidepressants in one hand, huge glass of dry red in the other. She is then seen taking the pills, one at a time, and helping them down with the wine. And scene. The next time we see her, she is reduced to her lifeless body, foaming at the mouth, with a now empty wine glass on the floor, and deafening silence in the background.
Did I find that oddly satisfying and poetic? Certainly. Is it forever engraved in my mind as the best way to go? Perhaps. And as I casually relayed the story, glee in my eyes and a smile on my face, I realized that, instead of horror or shock on my colleagues’ faces, there was understanding. I was not alone. The moment was reassuring – my thoughts were valid. Unhealthy, perhaps, but valid.
The conversation about suicide ended with us agreeing we would not ever attempt it, because we more than likely would fail and have to bear the embarrassment of being brought back to life by our own colleagues. Of all the reasons not to, that would be our saving grace. I have had many an intense conversation in this here life, and this one, this conversation about death, was one that ironically changed my life.
It is Christmas day, 2021, and you know that you can face life, because you have faced death, and lived.