My thoughts on suicide

Jump to Edit 1 or Edit 2

Um... I feel like I've written about this somewhere before, but obviously it wasn't here. Whatever, it shouldn't be a problem to do a fresh write-up of my thoughts on the subject, though as always, I'll feel I'm probably forgetting something. In any event, I'll start with my thoughts on the subject in general, and then move on to my thoughts as it pertains to myself. (And I suppose I should also mention euthanasia.)

First of all, I want to say that I neither condone nor condemn suicide, or anyone who attempts it (whether they fail or succeed). One thing I feel the need to address is the popular saying that "Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem." In many cases, I'm sure this is true. There must be lots of people (especially younger people) who turn to this solution far too quickly. It's not that it isn't understandable, because it can be easy at any age, and especially in teen years, to feel an unbearable burden, for whatever reason or reasons. But it's possible that in many cases, just waiting awhile will be enough to get through whatever it is, even if it takes a few (excruciating) years. Other times, help from friends, family, religion, therapy, medication, whatever... any number of things might help one cope with their problems, or even eliminate those problems entirely. Some people simply don't have the patience, or the will power, or the faith that any of that will work. And that's just sad.

However, I am just as certain that there are cases where the problem is not temporary. There are any number of things in life that... even if some people might suffer the same problem and be able to deal with it, or overcome it, for others, it might be much harder to bear, may even be impossible to ever overcome. And even if it is possible, there may be no telling how long it will take. If it's something that might take anywhere even up to a few years to get through, then it's probably worth sticking it out. But it's entirely possible that some problems might not get any better for many years. If a person was in unrelenting pain, whether physical or emotional, and knew it would take, say, 50 years, before it would end and life would be great... would it be worth accepting that unrelenting pain for that long? What about 20 years? What is the exact cut-off point for accepting suffering? Anyway, it's usually not possible, I think, to really know how long the pain will last. It could turn out to be just a few months. Or it could never go away, if you live to be 100. So is it really worth betting on it going away in the near future?

I find pain can often be compounded... by both the past and the future. It's bad enough in the moment, but I can certainly feel the weight of everything that's ever hurt me having a cumulative effect at any given moment, as well as the distinct feeling that whatever the problem is, it will always be there. It is not fun, let me tell you, to suffer a lifetime of pain in any given instant. To foresee it going on and on forever... is just so terribly demoralizing.

So, in such cases... even with the love and support of friends and/or family, or the religious community, or even therapy and possibly drugs (and I don't even want to get onto the subject of how drugs could change more about you than your mood, you might lose things about yourself that you don't want to lose, and that in itself could make you feel there's no point in your continued existence... no, I won't go into all that, but it needed at least to be mentioned in passing). Anyway, in such cases where all these things fail to help with the suffering, and when one has given it ample time and effort and faith that things will get better, and they never do... I don't think anyone has a right to condemn someone for putting an end to their own misery.

Before I go any further, I wanted, briefly, to mention euthanasia. Mostly when I talk about suicide and the pain that leads to it, I'm thinking of emotional or psychological pain, but of course physical pain or the difficulties that come with some sort of injury or disability or disease or what have you could lead one to want to end their own life. And I think all that I've said or will say applies to such cases as well... it's always best to wait, to seek help from various sources, to make every effort to get through it. But sometimes it may not be possible. So, what if one isn't in a position to end their own life, and must rely on someone close to them to do it for them? That's a damn difficult decision, and I for one would hate to place that onus on anyone. Especially if I wasn't in a position to tell someone at the time that I wanted to die, but rather told them long beforehand, or wrote out a living will or something, just in case such a situation should ever arise.... Still, I... think euthanasia is more complicated an issue than suicide. But I think I feel pretty much the same way about it. In some cases it may not be the best idea, but in other cases... it is.

Now, back to the main topic. Another thing that it's popular for people to say is that suicide is selfish. Sure, end your own pain, but what about the pain you put those through who you leave behind? And to be honest, that is one of several reasons I wouldn't want to kill myself. I know there are people who it would hurt, people who care about me, and I certainly have no desire to hurt them. But at the same time, I feel anyone who asks that question is themself being rather selfish. Without in any way negating or underestimating the very real and intense pain that one might feel when a loved one dies, regardless of the circumstances of that death, and perhaps especially if it's a suicide... they should definitely consider what kind of pain would drive a person to make such a decision. Really, really think about it, and try to understand. The pain they felt was most likely more (or at least equally) intense than what you feel because of their death. And while your pain may last awhile, it will subside in time. And it may recur now and then, when you think about it, but it won't be perpetual, as theirs may well have been. So to say a person should endure a kind of intense pain, possibly (even if not necessarily) for the rest of their life, or even just a good many years, so that you will be spared the temporary (and subsequently recurring, if somewhat muted) pain of missing them... well, that to me is the very height of selfishness.

Edit: Most of this page was written in 2008, but in 2014 I'm adding a paragraph here in the middle of the page, for a couple of metaphors I've thought of, in the years since starting this page. First, I've come to see Life as an individual partner each of us has, as if Life itself were a person. And of course that person is different for everyone, but people have a tendency to treat it as this universal, objective thing, that is either inherently good or inherently bad. But of course life is actually quite subjective. Each of us is, in a sense, married to Life, and just as all actual marriages are unique, so is each person's metaphorical marriage to Life. And when someone tries to tell a person they're wrong to want to kill themselves (i.e., "get divorced from Life"), they're basically saying all marriages should be forever, no matter the circumstances. Well, I suppose there are some people who say that about real marriages, but those people are clearly wrong. If an actual spouse is physically or emotionally abusive, most people will tell the person being abused that they should get out of the marriage (or the relationship). This is how I see my marriage to Life: As much as I may love Life, it is emotionally abusive toward me, to the point that I often feel like I hate it. If Life was an actual romantic partner, the people who love me would be telling me to leave her, but instead they tell me to stay with her. This metaphor, I think, probably holds true for most people who contemplate or attempt suicide. They're really just trying to get out of an abusive relationship, while everyone they know tells them to stay in it. Now, the second metaphor... um... eh... it was something about being in unrequited love with Life, or being "friend zoned" by Life. But once I actually tried putting my thoughts into coherent words, it didn't sound as good as it did in my head, so I decided against it. So, I'll now return you to what I'd written in 2008.

Well... that's all the general thoughts I can recall at the moment. I've mixed a bit in there about myself, but now I suppose it's time to move on to the part that's primarily about myself.

I have thought about killing myself often enough, over the years. Most of the time it's not a serious thought... not to say it's facetious, or anything. It's rooted in pain, so it's real... but usually sort of idle, as one might idly fantasize about any number of things they'd never do. You know, at the best of times, even when in a relatively good mood, I usually tend to have at least a low-level "background" depression that never quite completely goes away. And of course most of the time I'm bored, or else feeling fairly neutral, in the foreground of my emotional state, in which case the background depression might be more noticeable. And even little, trifling, fleeting annoyances could make my depression spike just a little. So I could be at work (at the time of this writing, in 2008, I work in a restaurant), and think of the fact that there are knives nearby. So I could easily grab one and plunge it into my chest, or something. Just an idle, passing fancy. Nothing more. (Kind of like imagining kissing a pretty girl, which is something else I'd never do.)

But I'm getting ahead of myself. I should talk about my history. I couldn't possibly say when the first time I ever thought of suicide was, or the first really serious time. I'll go back about 10 years now, but before that I'm sure the thought must have struck me on any number of occasions over the years. Probably. In any event, I would say that around 1997, I would sometimes find myself getting terribly depressed, even having what might be called panic attacks, though I'm not sure if that's right. Well, I think throughout my life there had always been times when I'd just feel like crying, without even thinking that I felt sad or anything. But anyway, at that point I certainly was depressed. I think it's best for you to have read my other pages in the psych section before reading this page, just to get an idea of what my psychological state is like. But suffice to say, I tend to feel like an outsider, and I'm generally not comfortable around anyone. Even, to an extent, friends and family. And there are a lot of things I just don't enjoy doing. But there are of course always things one must do, places one must go, etc. Simple things, even things that most people enjoy, can make me feel paranoid, or depressed, or confused, or slightly claustrophobic (which I say somewhat as a metaphor, for I'm not literally claustrophobic, at least no more than the average person, though I do absolutely loathe being seated anywhere that's difficult or impossible to get up from without being excused, say the inside seat at a restaurant booth, or a middle seat at a dining table whose back is against the wall, as was often the case at family dinners on Sundays, growing up...)

Wow, that was a long parenthetical, and I was getting a bit worried about the length of the paragraph, as well. So where was I? Hmmm. Yes, well, there would, as I was saying, around 1997, be plenty of times when I just would kind of break down, need to find a place to be alone, sit, cry, whatever. I'd get terribly depressed pretty much every day, and think about suicide. And I would also be quite certain that I'd never even try it. Which depressed me even further, because it meant I'd have to go on getting depressed quite possibly for many years to come. Of course, I should mention the depression could be caused by almost anything, or by nothing at all. But it would always go away eventually, and I would always know, even while in the midst of an attack, that there would later be times I was glad to be alive. But of course, I wanted to do something about it, and so I started going to a shrink. And then started getting far more depressed than I was before, and thinking more seriously than ever about killing myself. But I still knew I never would.

In any event, after I stopped seeing him, I felt better. Of course I'd still get depressed now and then, but not quite as often and certainly not nearly as intensely. So of course I didn't think about suicide so much. Things continued to get better in my life... but eventually, by the end of 1999, things were worse. I had plenty of reason to be depressed, though there are things about that time that it is difficult or impossible for me to clearly recall. I don't think I ever really thought about suicide at the time, but I wouldn't say it was impossible that I did. But again, things eventually got better, more or less.

I dunno. Um... in 2003, I moved to Ohio, and started looking for a job, and couldn't find one. It's always been practically impossible for me to get a job, it can take me months to find one, and I'm not picky. I apply to places like grocery stores, fast food places, whatever... places where anyone can get a job, and I couldn't. Which made me feel worthless, especially since I completely depended on family to support me, at an age when I should be supporting myself. I felt like a burden, whether they saw me as such or not. It's not like any of them are made of money. But that wasn't my only problem, of course. I felt like I'd never get a job, but I've also always felt pain from the various ways my head is messed up. And I felt like I'd never have any success as a writer, which is the only thing that could possibly give my existence any meaning at all. And even if I was successful at writing, and made plenty of money at it, and had the perfect life, I'd still get depressed and stuff. And I still feel like I'll always be alone, since I have practically no skill at making friends (except online), and even less at establishing a romantic relationship. (Again, I urge you if you haven't already, to read the other pages in the psych section.) I was in love once, and of course I regretted that having ended, as well as it ever having happened at all. And I felt certain I'd never have a relationship again.

So, with all this going on in my head, plus a lack of sleep for 2 or 3 nights, plus a very minor driving accident of no particular consequence, whatever.... Life was utterly hopeless. I had a bottle of (non-prescription) sleeping pills, which had proven useless in helping me get any sleep, which didn't really surprise me. Most of the bottle was remaining after a couple of nights, and then I thought... I said to myself, I won't specifically try to kill myself. Oh, I have no idea if taking all the pills that remain in this bottle would kill me or not. So I'll take them all and just sort of... see what happens. An experiment, not a genuine suicide attempt. Right?

What happened was, it should first be noted, still not being able to fall asleep. But also having my body feel like it was made of lead, practically impossible to move. And then suddenly being able to get out of bed and across the hallway to the bathroom, fall to my knees, think it a miracle that I didn't crack my head on the toilet, and spend the rest of the night throwing up.

Well, of course eventually I slept. And eventually I got a job (at a grocery store). Life went on. And I was relatively happy to be alive. Yay. Couple years went by, and in 2005, my sister and I moved to Bangor, Maine. I spent over a year looking for a job. Understand that the first place I applied when moving here was McDonalds. For over a year I kept applying to places like that and never getting hired. Which is not a confidence builder, let me tell you. And yet still I really don't think I ever felt like killing myself. Eventually, in 2006, I got a job at a restaurant, as a dish washer. Not enough hours in a week, not enough money, but I get by.

Here's the thing. We're up to the present now, 2008. There are plenty of things I hate about my life. I hate never having enough money. I hate not being able to live by myself. I hate not having a car, 32 years old and I've never owned a bloody car! Teenagers have cars. I never have. Sigh. I hate not being in a position to choose where to live, not the apartment, not the city or state, nothing. I have no choice but to live with my sister. Who I appreciate, but who can be annoying and whose tastes in pretty much everything are quite different from mine. I hate never having enough time to do all the stuff I want to do (work on my website, watch DVDs, whatever). I hate that I can almost never force myself to do any writing, because I love writing and it feels like my only hope of ever having a better life, more money or any purpose, etc. But the pointless crap I fill my days with is just easier, and I do enjoy it and would miss it unbearably if I had to give it up to work on writing. I continue to hate all the ways my head is messed up, all the ways I'm different from other people. I hate complaining about everything, because other people have problems as great as or worse than mine, so I feel guilty. Especially about not having enough free time, when I have more of it than other people do. Like I said, I can't get enough hours at work. And I hate that it's so hard to talk to anyone. Or to find anyone with many common interests. No one to hang with in real life. No money (or time) to go anywhere except work. Doubtless I'm forgetting any number of things I think about almost daily (oh yeah, I hate how I can't shut my brain off, can't stop thinking about the same shit over and over and over and over and over and over...) But probably the greatest source of pain is the firm belief that I shall always be alone... romantically. (And of course that I shall die a virgin, but that's a relatively minor concern compared to just not having someone to share my life with, someone to love and feel loved by, to watch TV with, to cuddle with, a best friend with the same interests and whatnot, someone compatible, someone who makes sense to me, and to whom I make sense... A single bloody person in all the world to just feel comfortable with, touching, talking, maintaining eye contact, being in the same room with, etc., all the things I'm decidedly not comfortable doing with anyone, but wish I was.) I cannot stop thinking about how I'll always be alone and what's worse, that I believe I should always be alone, because anyone I could possibly love would deserve someone so much better than I could ever be. With my lack of money and screwed up head, and whatnot.

So anyway, yeah. I continue to get depressed, to one degree or another, pretty much every damn day. Especially at work. And everything feels hopeless, like it will never improve. Friends (online) and family say and do things that I appreciate, but it doesn't really help. I do cry often enough, and sometimes just feel like sitting in a corner or whatever. Yes, I like to sit on the floor with my back against the wall. Alone and miserable. I think if you took away my depression, there'd be nothing left. I'm sort of comfortable with it, it's all I have. And in fact I sometimes think that in the times when I'm not depressed, but feeling fairly neutral or even sort of good, and clear-headed, that's often when suicide seems the most reasonable, the most appealing. But then again... no. I dunno, that may be true, but the depression, that's far worse. Anyway, even when I'm not particularly depressed, life still hurts. That doesn't go away. Even the things I enjoy can cause me pain, and stress. Anxiety. Frustration. Yes, everything in life is painful and frustrating and hopeless.

And yet... when I think about suicide now, even when I take it more seriously than an idle fantasy, it's still not as serious as it has been at some times in the past. It's still something I'm pretty sure I'd never do. And yes, that fact can itself still be even more depressing. But it can also be sort of hopeful, or at least... I dunno, reassuring or... not quite comforting, but... appreciated. I'm glad to think it's something I wouldn't do. Besides, there will always be other things I want to do before I die, TV series to see the end of, movies to see, books to read, dammit, books to write. Putting off writing may be, at least subconsciously, an effort to put off ultimately failing at my life's one ambition, at which point I'd have nothing to live for. Maybe my writer's inertia is a safeguard against actually and definitely trying to kill myself someday. I just hope it doesn't last forever, because I do think it's the only way to get a better life, and I do feel better just for having written, it eases my depression when I can do it. And after all, even if I don't kill myself, I'm not going to live forever (thank God). So I need to finish writing before I do die. However and whenever that may happen.

So, I guess that's all I can think to say about suicide for now. It is not to be condemned. It is not to be seen as terribly selfish. Sometimes it may be the only way to end un-ending pain. But for now, and probably for always, I continue to live with the pain, because there are good things in life, and things I want to accomplish. Eventually. Hopefully. Suicide may cross my mind every day, but... so do lots of other idle fantasies which shall never come to pass. (Alas.)

Edit 2: So, now I'm done with the 2008 bit, and we're back in good ol' 2014. I suppose I could mention that I quit my job in 2011, and moved back in with my parents. Because my social anxiety has gotten bad enough that I can't really be around people enough of the time to hold a job. So I basically have no income, aside from whatever relatives give me for my birthday, Christmas, or odd jobs I do for them. So as much as I appreciate being able to live with my parents, I also resent needing to live with them, especially now that I'm really at an age (39) where I should be supporting myself. And I continue to resent all that's messed up in my head. On top of that, I'm living in a town I spent most of my life wanting to get out of, so it's supremely frustrating to have returned to it after having spent some years away. It's frustrating not having all the TV channels I'd like, and therefore to be missing a lot of shows I want to see. And it's frustrating to still be unable to force myself to write as often as I'd like, in spite of having nothing but free time... though I am getting a lot closer t finishing the book I started writing way back in 1997. But the thing that frustrates me the most is how slow and unpredictable our internet is. While there are many shows I simply can't watch at all, there are at least some it should be possible to watch online. And... I do, but there are lots of times our internet is just too slow to do that, and when it is possible, it's still incredibly frustrating that it takes so long to get through a single episode of anything. For example, a one-hour show may take me three hours or more to get through, because of all the pausing and buffering. And that's when I'm lucky. I know it sounds like a very small, petty complaint, but when pretty much the only thing you have to live for can produce so much stress, anguish, frustration, anger, and a sense of powerlessness... well, it's not as small and petty as it sounds. And that's mainly the thing that makes me want to kill myself, these days, though of course I have plenty of other reasons to think about suicide. And still... I don't actually act on those thoughts. I do still have hope of life improving.

psychology index