Just to make things clear, I have never studied psychology and am not equipped with training or knowledge to advise anyone. These are thoughts and ideas based on introspection and should in no capacity be considered advice.
Recently, Sushant Singh Rajput, a 34-years-old actor in the Indian Film Industry was found dead by suicide at his residence. The sudden and shocking death has triggered a lot of debate and reactions. One may say that this piece is one such reaction as well.
It’s simple, isn’t it? He gave up. He lost hope. He lost courage. He quit. Could’ve fought. Should’ve fought. Should’ve had courage.
Courage is the fuel that drives us. It is just like hope, if we have courage, we can get through stuff. So, a widely loved and fairly successful star giving up on his life could be attributed to the lack of it. Honestly, I cannot call calling him a coward ridiculous. It is grossly unkind, but probably not ridiculous. But do you remember the last time you showed courage? Think about it. Courage is mostly needed during toil. Toil, or struggle, is a perpetuity in life. I strongly believe that there can be no exception to this. Any living being must have some or the other toil. Everyone has their own fight. Still, Sushant taking his own life can be seen as cowardice. Still, that is grossly unkind.
Step into imagination for a minute. Think of the song that’s playing right now – assuming you are listening to music right now. If not, think of a song that you’d like to listen to. We all have our songs, don’t we? We play a random shuffle, and there comes a song out of nowhere that just makes you drop a coin in gratitude.
On the other hand, there are some songs that make your hand hit skip like a reflex. These are not always bad songs, are they? But some songs you just skip. In all honesty, you would happily bob along to these songs if you were in a bus, your phone with 5% battery and no other distractions but this ‘skippable’ song playing on the radio.
The only thing that makes the difference between listening and skipping is your situation and one other thing.
Life is a lot like a song, my friend. How you’re feeling most often affects what a song feels like to you. Whether you feel like dancing your head off, or whether you skip it before the first bar – same song, different feelings.
Have you ever had a song that you loved, but some things, some situations, some people, something changed it for you? A song that you now avoid, one that’s no longer in your playlist, but one that you did not delete; you couldn’t. Wouldn’t it suck if this is the song that represented your life? You loved your life but in some moment, it just suffocates you, puts you in a prison of negativity that you don’t want to be in. Wouldn’t it suck if life became one such song?
Life takes a person through a lot. One’s mind can be a very troubled place. Your mind makes you see things the way you see them. That’s why, the same situation can be overwhelming for one, and a blessing for the other. It’s all about perception of the mind.
This is the hardest to fathom part of this article. It is because this is where I want you to learn a little about mental health. In a show called Breakfast With Champions, Virat Kohli explains the physical science behind a good catch on the cricket field. To summarise (and paraphrase) it – when you’re heading for a catch, you have to cover a distance before you reach the point where the ball is supposed to land. Depending on how fit your body is, you may cover this distance in 2 seconds, 5 seconds or 10 seconds. And the fitter you are, the quicker you’ll be in position and the more time you’ll have to gauge the ball’s trajectory. The easier the catch becomes.
The same thing applies to the mind. Just the same. Any challenge in life becomes easier or tougher depending on how fit your mind is. You can take daily steps to keep your mind healthy, just like your body. A good routine, stress management, ample sleep, meditation, etc promote your mind’s health. Just like the body. By the way, the person who sparked this discussion – Sushant Singh Rajput – did these things, apparently. But, just as the fittest of bodies can get hurt, injured and damaged, the mind can too. The healthiest of minds can, under certain circumstances, be extremely hurt. And this injured mind affects, among other things, perception. You may love EDM gigs, but can you attend one when you have a splitting headache?
Issues with the mind take a toll on how you look at life. And this brings us back to the part where life starts to look like a song that just feels like torture. And this is where we come back to what we thought was the only factor.
It isn’t just courage, but a matter of choice coupled with a mind that makes you feel like you’re caged when you may not necessarily be. If I know anything about such mental states, it is that this place is very, very troubling and exhausting. If you skip a song you cannot handle anymore, you’re not a coward.
The problem is that a troubled mind limits its own options. It convinces itself that the only option is the hard one. Yes, death isn’t ever the easy option. We’ll get to that in a bit. But it’s the trickery of the mind that it starts feeling like a prison. The song you just can’t stand is playing on your phone and your brain tricks you into believing that you can’t skip it, you can’t delete it, can’t turn the volume down, can’t pause the music. It tells you to go for the kill. Destroy the phone, toss it in a river, make it stop at any cost; the highest cost. The ultimate step.
Slowly, the mind convinces you that a) the noise needs to stop; and b) it will only stop when everything stops.
I refuse to judge you for judging Sushant for killing himself, or giving up. But I feel that I might be able to make you feel differently if you saw just one layer deeper. Toil is necessary, it’s inevitable. Everyone must fight. But you know the one thing that fights the hardest in life, for life? It’s the body. Our own body is hardwired to not die. Our body would do the best it can to not let the mind kill itself. Hold your breath and you’ll know. Heck, lean too far back in your chair and you’ll know. We’re equipped with ample mechanisms to survive. Take a second to remember the last time you had an adrenaline rush. If you can’t remember, at your own risk, lean back on your chair a little too strongly.
Good. Now understand that despite these involuntary measures dying to not let you die, the decision to still kill oneself takes a lot of something.
Not just that. It takes something else too, in a much higher amount – will.
A successful, sensible, intelligent person decided to kill himself. Using his own mind, ordered his body to craft a noose good enough to get it done. Forget courage for now, there’s one thing written all over this act – will. He willed to not live any further. Think why?
I will not make the mistake of trying to guess what caused the guy to take his own life, because I can’t read minds – living or not. Most of us can’t. Yet, so many of us have judgements, ideas, theories, and agendae to associate with it. Associating only courage with this step is cruel. A person killing himself took a very bold step to do so. Would he have done so if he willed (not wanted) to live?
Understandably, the world lost a gem of an artist. Like me, many must be feeling a strange feeling of loss. As if they lost someone they knew. When a person touches so many lives one way or the other, an equally wide range of reactions is guaranteed. I would just like to end this little thinkpiece with a request to let a dead man be dead. Whatever happened, happened and the person presently only remains in memory. Feel whatever you may, but respectfully. Try and have some empathy.