Dragons In Our Head

And that, I feel, is the dichotomy of death. The experience of death is very different for the dead and the living.

“Taking your own life. Interesting expression, taking it from who? Once it’s over, it’s not you who’ll miss it. Your own death is something that happens to everybody else. Your life is not your own. Keep your hands off it.” — Sherlock

The recent suicide of the 34-year old actor Sushant Singh Rajput has made me think about death and depression. While death is one of the few certainties in life, we often don’t think about it much. The daily noise of life usually drowns the thought of its unforgiving yet ever-looming counterpart: death. I wonder what makes death more appealing than life itself. Or is it simply a matter of running away from life no matter where it leads, even if it leads to death?

The answer can’t be simple of course, because if it were then we wouldn’t have so many people choosing death over life. But I feel there is an answer or at least a piece of the puzzle. And that is… dragons. Maybe the reason for this tragedy that takes away so many people each year is the dragons in our head that we are constantly battling every day. After all, every single person is the chosen warrior of his story who must go into the heart of the lonely mountain and fight the dragon that lays there so that the kingdom can finally live in peace and harmony. Unfortunately, our hero ends up fighting many dragons at the same time and he often ends up doing it all alone. And aloneness is what gives strength to the cunning death.

There is a reason our heroes always have sidekicks. Sherlock Holmes has Dr. Watson, Harry Potter has Hermione and Ron, and Bilbo has Frodo. Even our superheroes aren’t fighting alone since they too have their sidekicks. Even Batman, the most badass of the superheroes, has Alfred. And maybe therein lies the chink in our shining armors. Our wishful thinking that we can battle our dragons all by ourselves.

I don’t mean to say that our aloneness is always of our choosing. Often times, it is something that simply happens to us. Sometimes, no matter how hard we try to find our partner-in-crime or a shoulder to cry on or simply a smiling face that shows empathy and compassion, we are unable to find that one person who could’ve made all the difference. And being human beings, we may want to find the main culprit that we can lay the blame on so that we get to put our mind at ease just so we can move on because now there is no puzzle to solve. But maybe, just maybe, there is no one to blame. Or maybe there is everyone to blame. Every human being that collectively contributes to the world and makes it what it is today because whether we like it or not, all 7 billion people make this world the way it is today. What contributes to mental health issues that lead to suicide is a question that I am not well-equipped to answer so I will leave that up to the psychologists who are much smarter than me.

But what I find myself thinking more about is what the appropriate response is to such a tragedy. Should someone’s suicide be used as the foundation for a heated debate on mental health, nepotism, and success? Or do the dead deserve the decency of peace and kindness, something that they failed to find when they were alive? Maybe a soul that was perpetually tormented by its own existence in life deserves solitude and quiet in death. It may not be ideal for the living, since the living must investigate and find all the answers to put their minds at ease, but it may be the right thing to do in memory of the dead.

And that, I feel, is the dichotomy of death. The experience of death is very different for the dead and the living. While the dead can finally rest in peace, it is the living that are left in chaos and suffering. After all, our pain isn’t just ours to feel. It is usually shared by the ones who love us. Our death is something that happens to the people around us. The people around us are left with questions, regrets, guilt, and what-could-I-have-done-betters. It is the living that are left trying to cling on to memories and mementos, for that is all they are left with along with their chaotic minds and painful hearts. While the dead turn to ashes and figments of memories, it is the living that must go on in life, with tears in their eyes and storms in their hearts.

I hope we can all find our own sidekicks in life and can get away from aloneness. I hope we can find, in our friends, partners, or strangers, the people that would help us battle our own dragons and we can help them fight theirs. It is my belief that the only weapon we have against the cunning master of death and depression is empathetic, compassionate, and kind people that support us and stand with us even when the storm comes…especially when the storm comes toward us.

“Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears, for they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts.” — Great Expectations