The Monkey’s Name is Maurice #ATributeToElle


To honor our friend Jason Seiden and his daughter Elle’s memory, courageous fight, and strong spirit, we have a guest post from our friend Dominique Rodgers. If you’d like to participate in the day of giving, those details are here

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I don’t remember a whole lot about Hurricane Katrina. Until recently, I’d lived in Louisiana my entire life, but I sort of draw a blank on the most Louisiana-thing that’s ever happened. Why? My grandfather committed suicide six days prior.

I know what you’re saying right now:

Dominique, you’re being too blunt (again).

Dominique, that word is taboo.

Dominique, #toosoon.

And to that, I say… nah. It’s gonna be awkward, but we can get through this.

My grandpa suffered from depression throughout his lifetime, but I had no idea because no one talked about it. When my grandma died, he never quite got over it, and when he began having physical ailments that were both very painful and (he thought) burdensome to others, he took control of his life and his death. I don’t love it, but I respect his choice.

I didn’t always. It’s taken years to get here. The first few days were a gaping void of shock and numbness, plus a hurricane. Then, weeks of anger, relief he wasn’t in pain, loneliness, sadness, and guilt. There was the good kind of pride (my grandpa was a great guy) and the bad kind of pride (no, I don’t want your help or sympathy; can’t you see I’m mad at him?!). Lather, rinse, repeat. And nightmares. Those were unpleasant. My brain felt like a monkey playing Wheel of Fortune. What will it land on next? Eventually, it smoothed out into anger and now a type of acceptance.

Whenever a friend of mine has a suicide in their circle, I try to reach out and let them know they aren’t alone. I remember feeling alone. But I also try really hard to rein in my instinct to say it’s normal to go through all these emotions and nightmares, ‘cause maybe it’s not normal. Maybe my experience was weird. I don’t know. No one talks about it.

Well, you know what? Nah. It’s gonna be awkward, but we can get through this. WE’RE GONNA TALK ABOUT IT.

Let’s shine a light on some of my weirdness.

My grandfather killed himself six days before the levees broke in 2005 because he was mentally and physically broken, and tired. It was his choice and I don’t advocate it, but I trust he knew what was right for him. I think no less of him for doing what he did to escape his pain. I know he loved me and he knows I loved him. Some pain is stronger than love. That’s just life and it doesn’t make the love any less real.

I’ve had major depressive disorder and anxiety (officially) since I was 18. It’s something I deal with every single day. Most days the medicine helps. Some days the monkey and the wheel are back.

I’ve contemplated suicide exactly once, seven years ago, during a bout of horrific physical pain that lasted several weeks and (at the time) had no clear cause, and thus, no clear end. I knew that if the doctor told me it was incurable and I’d have to learn to live with it, I wouldn’t be strong enough. I had a plan mapped out. This may be what gave me the compassion to understand my grandfather’s choice. It was dumb luck that my condition was treatable. Dumb luck… I don’t know the monkey who controls that wheel.

I hope I never have to reach out to anyone after a suicide ever again, but if I do, it feels weird that this would be new information for you to hear at such a hard time of your life. I need to stop keeping all this under wraps like it’s something shameful. It’s not. We should talk about it. I want you to know before you get my email or my phone call. You’re not alone.

I’m pretty sure I won’t ever cure cancer or figure out world peace in my lifetime. However, if taking this awkward journey here has made anyone feel less alone, more likely to reach out for help, or just grateful for the measure of health and sanity you enjoy each day, then I’m happy to have shared my experiences and my monkey. I think Elle would approve.

One thought on “The Monkey’s Name is Maurice #ATributeToElle

  1. This is an incredible, brave, brilliant essay on the right to choose how a person ends suffering. I work with patients who, if they haven’t physically tried, have thought about ending their suffering. I respect it. I know I can’t save everyone.

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