Thus, I continue…


Disclaimer.  This essay deals with the topic of suicide.  If you are someone who is considering the act of suicide, please seek help immediately by calling 911, a friend, or loved one.

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Deep thoughts in grade 3…

I can trace the start of my life-long existential meltdown to a single moment in the 3rd grade.  A friend had told me that if the radio next to my bathtub fell in while I was bathing, I would be electrocuted, and die.  That thought frightened me.  It also opened my mind up to possibilities, and options.  That is the first memory I have of contemplating death, and all that may come after.

That was also the first moment I realized that my own death could be in my charge.  That is, if I chose to push that radio into the tub, I would have control over my own existence.  That idea remains the most powerful thought I would ever have.  I have thought about my death, self-inflicted or otherwise, nearly every day of my life since that day.

To consider self-inflicted death or to actually contemplate it, are not necessarily synonymous.  I think about ending my own life intermittently throughout the course of most days.  Mostly as an instant way out of the otherwise tedious moments which comprise my days.  I imagine it, but I don’t do it.  I only contemplate taking my life when the confluence of external and internal forces narrow the stream of my thoughts into a space so tight with borders so rigid that I feel they will burst from the pressure.

In stressful situations, or when the heavy blanket of my own depression lowers itself upon me, I have craved to be excused from this world in favor of another.  Therein lies the good problem; there is no guarantee of another life.  Even if there is another life waiting, what guarantee is there that it would be better than this one…?

Why I don’t…

If you’ve read this far then you have probably determined that you’re going to contact my mother, state authorities, or avoid me altogether.  Please don’t.  Throughout this ongoing negotiation in my head, there has been a kill switch on that kill switch.  I believe to my core that suicide is just a reset button which can only return me back to Go, without collecting the $200, and forcing me to start this game all over again.  Perhaps in a another time, and in another body, but a do-over just the same.

In my life have done many wonderful things, and shared amazing times with beautiful people.  I have loved, laughed, and stood at the edge of nature with wide wonder.  I have seen beauty which has moved me to tears, and felt love even greater.  I have been thrilled to the point of ecstasy, and fulfilled to the point of absolute guilt.  I am grateful to have won the lottery of life.

I have also cowered down though, many times beaten by fear, paralyzed by apprehension, overcome with rage, and stifled by depression.  I have cried without explanation, experienced loss, deprivation, and sorrow.  I have expressed hatred, caused hurt, and come to regret it.  I have even thwarted murderous feelings on more than one occasion, the murder of my own self included. Despite these, I have found the strength to carry on.

I have not exercised my option to take my own life, and I believe I never will, for the simple fact that as good as my life has been, I don’t wish to relive the bad stuff.

On the selfishness of suicide…

The act of suicide is often referred to as ‘selfish’.  Those who are left behind are often resentful of, and bitter toward the departed.  I don’t subscribe to that belief, and if you are one who does, I ask you to reconsider.

We who remain behind in the wake of suicide, have no idea what thoughts may have been colliding, nor how hard or how long those collisions might have been taking place inside the head of someone that desperate to end their life. We often know little of the external influences, and even less of the internal conflicts which may have led a person to that moment.  Assigning selfishness to the act is a judgment no living person is qualified to make.

There can be no way to understand that moment – that chaotic moment when a life, a future, a legacy, and the all the relationships that go with it, no longer hold any value.  It must feel, in that moment, like the universe has not yet begun, or has already ended, and therefore there is nothing to lose since there is pure solitude.

I have even come to actively question whether suicide is the ultimate act of bravery, and we who are left behind are the dumb and the weak ones.  I don’t genuinely believe this to be the case.  However, if I am capable of such a thought, then others might also have felt this.  In my quietest moments I wonder if some who have taken their own lives, have done so in the name of bravery, not looking just a little deeper into the outcome.

At the end of the day, despite all that isn’t yet known of causality, and existence, my dog still needs to be fed, my daughter requires shoes, the lettuce in the crisper still turns blue if I fail to eat it, and my mother deserves to know each week that she is loved, if only by telephone or text.  Thus, I continue…  Be well.  rc

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Please check back in 2 weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there’s this from Dog Trumpet.  Enjoy…

15 responses

  1. All I know is that one day, drawn by an urge I still can’t fully explain, I wrote a post telling someone/anyone “Do not for one moment believe you are all alone.”

    I wasn’t sure who I was writing it for, but it turns out, a distant friend of mine read it and it prompted her to reconnect with me after many, many years. Just over two weeks later, her mom passed away from cancer,.

    Know that by expressing yourself through writing, you are serving part of your life’s purpose with every thought you pen to paper. Keep up the great work. It means a lot to many, even in ways you may never know.

    • Thank you Heidi, truly. Writer, professor, and reporter Ari Goldman once told me, “Writing is like throwing a message into a bottle. You never know who is going to find it, or if it will come back to you.”

      That one quote inspires me to throw it out there week after week in hopes that even if it does not come back to me, it will impact the life of someone else.

  2. We all have that choice whether to live or to die. I don’t think anyone can say which is the braver choice or which is the selfish one. There are as many reasons for doing one as doing the other. I don’t like to think of anyone ending their own life, especially someone I love, and I would try in any way possible to intervene if I knew someone was actively contemplating suicide but I can understand that someone may have a perfectly good reason for doing so. Life places many burdens on us…how would we know to appreciate the gifts we’re given, else? But sometimes we are given more than we can carry and we don’t always have the strength and we don’t always know how to ask for help and sometimes our asking isn’t heard.

  3. Something for your bottle… There’s a club of the five percent of suicidal jumpers who survived their leap from Seattle’s Aurora Bridge… apparently they are extremely enthusiastic about life and grateful for their second chance. Abraham Joshua Heschel said we have a consciousness that something is asked of us. Forrester Church said we are called to do something before we die. Mary Oliver asked “What would you do with your one wild and precious life?” You do a lot Roy. Thanks.and keep it up!

  4. Thank you, Doug. I appreciate that you took the time. I could spend my entire life studying Heschel, and still not fully appreciate him. Will have to learn more about the Aurora Bridge group.

    I’m about to begin, Stay, by Jennifer Michael Hecht. http://www.amazon.com/Stay-History-Suicide-Philosophies-Against/dp/0300186088

    Her book, Doubt: A History: The Great Doubters and Their Legacy of Innovation from Socrates and Jesus to Thomas Jefferson and Emily Dickinson forged the way I view religion. I’m sure Stay will shape the way I view this taboo topic as well.

    Cheers my friend!

  5. Life has always been, and will always be, absurd and unfair. Once you realize and accept that there is as much bad as there is good in life, that this balance between good and bad is normal and acceptable, and that life is still worth living, the torments diminish significantly. Expecting life to be easy and fun most of the time is a sure way to end up depressed.

    There are also the neurochemical factors, that are not clearly understood yet, but that each of us can “work on”. I, for example, have noticed that I need regular, intense exercise, otherwise the depressive thought creep in. Given the fact that there is a lot of depression in my family, I am not surprised by this tendency; I accept it, but I will make sure I never let go of my “natural medication” that exercise is.

    (Of course, if exercise or other strategies are not sufficient anymore, a trip to the doctor’s office is warranted, followed by either psychotherapy, drug therapy, or both. One should never “play” with depression.)

    There are a couple sayings about suicide that I think are useful when caught in the confusion of deep depression; for example, that “suicide is a definitive solution to a temporary problem”.

    People who seriously contemplate or attempt suicide most often do not desire to be dead. They simply want the pain to stop.

    Suicide has nothing to do, in my mind, with either selfishness, bravery or cowardice. To seriously consider suicide, you have to suffer so much that you see no other option.

    The thing is, there is ALWAYS another option, even though it can be temporarily invisible.

    Fantasizing about ways to kill yourself is one thing, actually considering it is another. Problem is, oftentimes the line becomes blurry, just as the progression from slightly depressed to deeply depressed can be very insidious.

    For all those reasons, I recommend not wasting a second, and talking to a trusted person as soon as one feels depressed/has thoughts about suicide. If it means therapy, so be it. What needs to be done needs to be done. Brain chemistry balance is so fragile.

    Be well Roy.

    • As if my comment was not long enough, I forgot something! There is a French song about a girl who committed suicide when she was in her twenties. She thought she had seen it all already, says the song.

      Well, many times in our lives we will feel as we have seen it all. Yet… if we stay here and wait long enough, we will eventually experience more. I’m really glad I have allowed myself to live those 37 years even though sometimes I wondered if it was worth it… and I have a feeling I will feel even stronger about it 37 years from now… :-)

  6. Life’s tragedies can be so relative to each individual. What I mean be that is, sometimes things going on in your own life can seem overwhelming and terrible, and then you hear about what someone else is dealing with, and you realize that your own issues aren’t as bad as you thought.

    This isn’t to negate what pain a person feels. But it is relative. We all have our good days and bad days. Some worse, some better than others. But the bottom line that I think we forget, is that we all have choices. We may not always like our choices, but they are there. We don’t have to stay in a dysfunctional relationship, we don’t have to stay at that horrible job, we don’t have to hang out with people that bring us down and lower our self worth. Those are all choices. I like Doug’s quote, of Mary Oliver asking “What would you do with your one wild and precious life?”

    It ‘s funny how often you start getting caught up in the minutia, and daily garbage that comes our way, instead of focusing on the great things we see, people we meet, situations with possibilities. Even taking a moment to dream a little on things that would truly make us feel fulfilled.

    It seems like it takes someone else’s death, that is in my orbit, to remind me to try to live life more fully. I’ve definitely had some lows, where I was existing in a bad place. That’s not how I want to live out my remaining years. I want to find the beauty and joy, and laughter in each day. I have to remind myself to look for these things on some days. But it makes life much sweeter, and the idea of not being here, a bit more difficult.
    Thanks for sharing Roy.

  7. Nice piece, Roy. Having watched my mom pass day by day, minute by minute through the stages of dying from cancer, I can honestly say I am no longer afraid to die. Having just lived my way through the most difficult year of my life, I can honestly say I desperately want to live as long as possible and as fully and meaningfully as possible. When it is my time to go, I will not go willingly, but I also will not go in fear.

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