September 06, 2005

"Suck It Up": The Denial Continues, and Kills Once More

The denial of her pain by others killed Sylvia Plath, as described by Alice Miller:
Sylvia Plath's life was no more difficult than that of millions of others. Presumably as a result of her sensitivity, she suffered much more intensely than most people from the frustrations of childhood, but she experienced joy more intensely also. Yet the reason for her despair was not her suffering but the impossibility of communicating her suffering to another person. In all her letters she assures her mother how well she is doing. The suspicion that her mother did not release negative letters for publication overlooks the deep tragedy of Plath's life. This tragedy (and the explanation for her suicide as well) lies in the very fact that she could not have written any other kind of letters, because her mother needed reassurance, or because Sylvia at any rate believed that her mother would not have been able to live without this reassurance.


We can learn from this example what suicide really is: the only possible way to express the true self -- at the expense of life itself.
The same denial kills too many of those who have served in our military, as discussed in the second half of the same essay -- and as noted in the news story I excerpted here:
His nephew had enlisted in the Army. He and a buddy from a suburban Midwestern city had been to Iraq and back.

"We're not getting the whole story," the uncle told me as we stood in a sun-drenched meadow. His nephew had recounted the horrors of war to his uncle. He had told his uncle that they shot at anything that moved. He had bared his tormented soul to someone he trusted, someone who loved him, someone who had brought him to these mountains for peace and solitude and new experiences.


One summer night, the two Iraq war veterans drank too much. The buddy had a new sports car, a "welcome home" gift from his father. These two young veterans sped down a highway careening and crashing the new sports car. Both died.

Their names were not seen on any national TV news program listing those who gave the ultimate price. Their names will not appear on any war memorial of those killed in the Iraq war. But their lives were cut short by the horrors of war just as though they had been targeted by a roadside bomb in Baghdad.
I think it helped to kill Iris Chang -- at the age of 36:
Iris Chang may have been yet another victim of the continued, unending denial which permeates our culture, and our world. If I am correct, she finally felt that killing herself was “the only possible way to express [her] true self." No one wanted to hear about what most concerned her and, even if they listened, they did so only with great reluctance, and they didn't fully grasp what she was trying to communicate.
And now, similar denial has killed two New Orleans police officers [link no longer working]:
NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Life wasn't supposed to end this way for Sgt. Paul Accardo: alone in chaos.

He wrote a note telling anyone who found him who to contact - a fellow officer. He was precise, and thoughtful, to the end. Then he stuck a gun into his mouth and killed himself.

Accardo was one of two city cops who committed suicide last week as New Orleans descended into an abyss of death and destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina. He was found in an unmarked patrol car on Saturday in a downtown parking lot.

His funeral was planned for Tuesday.

Back when life was normal and structured, Accardo served as one of the police department's chief spokesmen. He reported murders, hostage situations and rapes in measured words, his bespectacled face benign and familiar on the nightly news.

"Paul was a stellar guy. A perfectionist. Everything had to be just right," recalled Sgt. Joe Narcisse, who went to police academy with Accardo and worked with him in the public affairs office.


But in New Orleans for the past week, the chaos seemed endless.

Like the rest of the department, Accardo worked long, difficult days - sometimes 20 hours. He waded through the mass of flesh and stench in the Louisiana Superdome. He saw the dead in the streets.

Defillo remembered how bad Accardo felt when he was unable to help women stranded on the interstate and pleading for water and food. One woman said her baby had not had water in three days.

He even wanted to stop and help the animals lost amid the ruin of New Orleans, Defillo said.

Unable to stop the madness and hurt, Accardo sank into depression.

Narcisse remembered being on the telephone with him, complaining about the flooding when his old academy buddy cut him off mid-sentence: "Joe. Joe. I can't talk to you right now." He couldn't handle it anymore, Narcisse said.

"It was like you were having an awful conversation with someone who died in your family," he said.

Accardo - who also lost his home in the flood waters - looked like a zombie, like someone who hadn't slept in year, Defillo said. But so did all the others on the force. Some have failed to report for duty, while others have turned in their badges. Vacations and counseling were ordered for those who have remained.

But the captain said he never thought Accardo would kill himself.

"We kept telling him, 'There's going to be a brighter day, suck it up,'" Defillo said. "He couldn't shake it."
Most of the friends and relatives of those who commit suicide never think they will take their own lives -- until they do. And their major advice is always the same: don't feel the pain. Deny it. "Suck it up."

But some people can't and won't deny the pain. As the horrors accumulate, and when far too few people will listen when those who feel the pain all the way down want to talk about it, we should not wonder when the pain finally becomes too great.

And yet, some will still say that a man like Sergeant Accardo was "weak," and that he "couldn't handle it anymore." If he had been "stronger," he would have been able to "shake it."

For some people, when "handling it" means that they must kill their souls in slow motion, the price is too high. And almost no one will acknowledge just how horrifying the truth is.

So sometimes they kill themselves. Don't wonder why. Most people who wonder know why -- they just won't admit it. Even now.

Even now.