If you have not seen the Darren Aronofsky film The Wrestler, you should go watch it and not read any further until after you have watched it at least two times. This writeup contains unintentional spoilers that are necessary due to the focus of the writeup.
Amongst the many other thoughts and emotions evoked by this film, the one I keep coming back to is a question.
Go watch the movie before you read any further. Otherwise I am about to totally fuck up the experience for you. Go. NOW. Watch it. At least two times. NOW.
That question is, does Randy The Ram commit suicide at the end of the movie.
If you were to do something that would be considered normal in the course of your life, knowing that doing it would almost certainly result in your death, and you continued to do it despite the warnings of everyone who knew about those dangers are you actually purposely killing yourself and therefore committing suicide?
Suicide is about desperation. It is about seeing no other way out of your life situation other than ending that life immediately. It usually seeks out the most available and palatable methods to end one's life. The pills in the medicine cabinet. The razor blades in the drawer. The gun under the pillow.
Sometimes, however, suicide is more complex.
I had what I believe was a heart attack a few months back. It wasn't something I told anyone about. It happened as part of the emotional trauma that resulted from the complete mental breakdown I suffered as a result of events that transpired at my last job. I figure it was one of the minor kind. I passed out on the bathroom floor for a length of time I am uncertain of after clutching my chest and feeling as if I was about to leave this world. It was a big part of why I could not return to my job. To do so would put me at great risk of not only worsening my mental condition but of killing me as well.
I could have forced myself to go back. Working with difficult people and helping them to improve their life circumstances has been my career path for quite some time now. It was where I felt I was most effective and where I found my work the most rewarding. I have a wall of cards and letters on my wall from co-workers and people I have helped telling me how much I impacted their lives. And yet I knew I had to stop. It would have destroyed me eventually. To go back was to consign myself to losing my mind or finding death waiting at my door.
I struggle with this every day as I seek opportunities to work in a different field. I struggle with knowing that this was what I was best at. This is where I made my mark. This is where I was embraced and celebrated and rewarded in ways that defy comparison. It was part of who I am. Every day I tell myself it was a small part and that I can impact the lives of people in other ways, in ways that aren't part of a paid profession, and every day I feel empty as a result of telling myself these things.
I related very strongly to Mickey Rourke's character in The Wrestler but not because I am a wrestler, although I do have long blonde hair. I related because I understood that reaching a point where you can no longer do what you love, what you are best at, and what you are most recognized for bears a heavy weight. Part of you wants to keep going, to keep doing what it is that made you who you are, and part of you knows you cannot.
You become fragile over time as your old demons catch up with you. In other ways you become stronger. Sometimes you become more fragile than you become strong. Sometimes strength is an illusion. Sometime fragility is just as much of an illusion. Hopelessness, on the other hand, holds trump over both strength and fragility much of the time.
Do we, as human beings, have the right to leave this life on our own terms and in a way that best suits the legacy we have built? Perhaps. Suicide is the act of ending our lives by our own hand. Letting nature take its course and living our lives as we have, even knowing that living a life as it has been lived is very likely to terminate that life, is something else entirely.