All those little bullets; the story of slow death…


 We have all been touched by the suicide of someone we know; a loved one, friend, neighbor, or perhaps someone we know of and respected.  Upon hearing of someone taking their own life, we can be quick to reflect, morn, appreciate, and even be quick to judge.  Many judge that suicide is a selfish act that recklessly leaves those behind without all they needed and deserved from the person lost.  I am not among those who judge the act in this way. 

When we learn someone we know who has taken their own life, our mind can be busied by thoughts of what we could have done to have prevented it – we see clearly, only after the fact, all the signs that were in place.  We regret that we did not recognize the signs or take the action which (we believe) could have prevented the tragedy.  In my opinion, these are thoughts wasted.  If we’re not looking for the signs, how can we expect to see them?

Sympathetic, or intolerant, we tend to form strong opinions of those who take their own life – of those who choose death in a moment.  Yet we don’t spend much time contemplating or passing judgment on those who commit suicide more slowly; heavy drinkers, heavy smokers, heavy users of drugs, and for the context of this column, those who choose to eat themselves to an earlier death with ritualistic poor and excessive eating habits.  I have taken to calling this, time-released suicide.

There are those who eat an occasional dessert, occasionally eat lesser foods, and those who strive to be right-eaters but prone to bad eating days, and even bad eating weeks.  My case is not (so much) against these people – for my case would first have to be against myself, and then be against the majority of my countrymen.  My case relates more to those who eat poorly and excessively as a lifestyle.  It also relates to those who support their loved ones in eating poorly and excessively as a lifestyle; like pulling the plug of a loved one before the coma ever begins.  

Clearly those who eat excessive amounts of poor calories do not do so as a means of ending it all, and those who choose to take a bath with the toaster do wish to check out early, but that distinction might not be so clear after all.

I simply make the argument that if a person frequently eats masses of processed sugars, fats, and poor carbohydrates, and food is primary in that person’s daily agenda, there might be a willing element, even if it’s harbored well below the surface.  That is, “I know eating all of this is harmful to me, and I’m choosing to eat it anyway”, is a willful state of destruction when the consequences are so well known, and those consequences matter.  Is that kind of thinking any less toxic than, “I know that jumping from this bridge is bad for me, but I’m going to jump anyway”?  Who dare tell anyone not to eat Doritos and Moon Pies? Still, we do tend to say “Hey you! Don’t jump off that bridge”.

I offer no lessons in writing this, and have no suggestions that might help those who eat poorly and excessively as a lifestyle; regardless of the reasons why.  I only suggest that one powerful bullet, placed one time to the head, is not too far removed from the concept of thousands of less powerful bullets placed many times to the mouth.  I further suggest that we all think twice before we offer that kind of ammunition to those we love.  Be well.  rc

If you have read this and have taken offense that I may have compared a tragedy in your life to something seemingly more trivial, I apologize.  I simply wish to shed another perspective on a lifestyle which has consequences that might include early death. 

18 responses

  1. I have a feeling that you are going to get some heated response to this-that is a good thing. I like that you aren’t afraid to tell people the raw truth.

    I suppose we can’t pass judgment without walking a mile in someone’s shoes. There can be a host of reasons why a person overeats regularly, many emotional. My first thought when I see someone who is morbidly obese is that they are wearing their pain on the outside.

  2. I was in medical school when it happened. I called two good friends, a couple, now living in Barbados, because, for no better reason than I was in the cold northeast winter, and they lived in the warmest place of anyone I knew. He answered the phone, after a few minutes of talking, I asked to speak to his wife, he said, “Don’t you know? She killed herself last month!”

    My reaction, as you said, was if only I could have talked to her, I could have stopped her, but that was not an option.

    I appreciate what you are saying, and respect it, because seeing what friends of mine are doing to themselves troubles me to a great degree. Yet the suddenness and finality of suicide still has a magnitude that the slow death doesn’t reach within me.

  3. I was waiting for this post. It truly is a very interesting perspective.

    I think there are many that overeat & know it & CHOOSE to do it anyway even after a doc or other professional tells them that they are leading their lives down a path to early death. Then there are others that are truly emotional eaters as Karen said in may be in a whole other world of hurt & need help to climb out. They are lost.

    I do agree though with not sitting on the sidelines if you think you can help. A pet peeve, parents that are overweight, complain about it & the health aspects & then continue to bring that type of eating on their children… in this day & age with all the info out there, no excuse for that!

    When I was a kid, I admit that my parents did not feed us the best but we certainly did not have access to all the information now on the news, TV, internet & more.

    Thx for your honestly.

  4. Karen: Thank you. I agree with your statement that excessively obese people (hate the word morbid) wear their pain on the outside. As far as responses that I get, I accept that people might find this harsh, but it’s a subject worth more than the usual discussion.

    Dr. J: What a horrible way to learn of the loss of your friend. Yes, death is much easier when you see it coming. We have all lost friends and loved ones slowly and that helps us prepare for it. Analogously, plane crashes are headline news. The 10s of thousands who die in alcohol relate automobile accidents each year, rarely get a headline sniff. Thank you.

    Jody: Your insight is always appreciated. I go back to the sentence, “I know this is bad for me, and I’m going to eat it anyway” that you were kind enough to share last week on your site. Reading my own words resonated a great deal, and served to get me to finish this, which I started some months ago. I do understand the differences between choosing to die instantly, and being addicted to food, or having emotional issues that manifest over eating. Still, if we can simply look at it in it’s basic level; it is a form of suicide — becuase there is knowledge of harm, and willingness to continue.

  5. As a slightly (?) overweight gourmand, I just take issue with people who want to take any responsibility for my actions or my health. It is me who gets to pull the trigger.

    I eat mostly healthy food, sometimes excessively and it’s my choice. A matter for me, my wife and my cardiologist. If you think I am an idiot, you can toast marshmallows on my casket.

    I was talking to somebody the other day who mentioned that getting on top of your cholesterol levels adds an average of two months to a median lifespan. Guess what, I would rather live my life tickling my fun buttons than in a masochistic, neurotic life of denial and self abuse.

    I belong to a gym and I find the narcissism of the uber bodybuilding gym rat who can’t walk past a mirror without blowing them self a kiss as nauseating as they must find my apparent lack of self control.

  6. As someone who ate bad things by choice I know that no amount of anyone telling me to do better would have made a difference. And so I gained weight until I weighed 305 pounds.

    I don’t tell other people what to eat now that I’ve lost all my weight, but if they ask for advice I’m very happy to help.

    Very thought provoking post!

  7. Robert: A) You are a very fit man, as supreme martial artist, and no when to say “no”, despite that you enjoy a good meal — we have this in commmon.

    B) You are the probably the smartest man I know, so who am I to debate you when I know you will get me into a mental head-lock, and do me in with an intellectual pile driver. “Uncle” I say. Thanks for taking the time!

    Karen: Thank you. You and I have had similar journeys. I appreciate what you do and that you try and make a difference. Keep up the good fight!!

  8. Thanks Roy. From someone too who has been on both sides, I can say I totally relate to this column. I’ve been lurking in the shadows for the last two years feeding my emotions with small bullets, and now, looking back, I can see how they have added more drama to my life that I now have to deal with. No, they are not a quick shot to the head, but I have created more work for myself … I can’t tell you how many times I have told myself, “there, you had a taste, now just walk away, you don’t need the whole thing.” But I stayed, and entertained the devil. I’m SO disciplined in SO many other areas of my life, but eating has always been my nemesis, or my “thorn in the flesh.”

    Any how, thanks for the friendly reminder. Oddly enough, I didn’t take any offense to it, I took it as a reminder that I need to start dealing with reality and get back to the basics again. Thank you! -Jenn

  9. Jenn: Thank you so much for the comment. I know you, and I’m sure the work is not as much as you suggest. I also know that your numero uno priority calls you Mommy. You’ll figure it out — and as we have discussed many times, the basics work!

  10. Great post. It kind of reminds me of when I was a full time smoker. I KNEW the health risks but puffed away anyways. It’s like I was on a collision course and it was me against the world. It was a strange way to rebel against my inner demons.

    My bad eating habits in my life haven’t been all that different. Granted, I don’t recall going to McDonalds and thinking, “I’m going to freaking end my life with this Big Mac,” but I knew the long term consequences at a certain point – my overall health was at stake.

    Unfortunately for me I was in a state of DENIAL, and it took a long time to come out of the fog.

    I’m sorry you’ve had to deal with depression. I’ve been very lucky in only having a few bouts (particularly after pregnancy) but I know it could have always been worse.

  11. Awesome article; I wish all our old friends had become as insightful as you reveal yourself, week in and week out, to be. I always knew you had it in you and I’m very proud to see how you’ve blossomed. Your fan, Doug

  12. Doug: Thank you very much. It all begins with who you choose to drink Falstaff beer with at the dollar movies when you’re 16 years old driving around in a Chevy Vega. I chose wisely. Thank you.

  13. As one who also has experienced someone close taking their own life, you are right on. I also agree with you on the food, but even though we think that we know what we would have said to the person who takes his/her own life, I am not sure that we really do, or that we would have made a difference if we had been given the chance to try.

    Because food has so many social and emotional overtones, even if we were to nag ourselves or others over the poor choices of food indulgences, I am not sure that would make any difference either.

    As one who is trying to live alone, and eat properly, exercise, etc, to be able to live longer and healthier, it is not easy. There seems to be so many things in the way. Both inside and out.

  14. Pat: Thank you for your very insightful comments. I think you just summed up my entire article in three paragraphs. Well said. Enjoy living at 8200′, and if you see Mark Cohen on the street don’t make eye contact with him — you will spontaneously evaporate.

  15. I’m so glad you linked me to this article from your response to me yesterday. Before coming to my computer this morning, I was in the kitchen getting my coffee. Out of habit, I was about to put sugar in my coffee despite the face to face talk I had yesterday with my doctor. I stopped and asked myself “did you not hear anything she said?? when are you going to listen? this isn’t much different than slow suicide”

    very thought provoking.

    • Julie: This is not to suggest that every piece of food one eats that is NOT broccoli is going to kill you. I think there can be moderation in a form of checks and balances. Example: If I decide to have cream with my coffee in the morning, I will not have a glass of wine with dinner — it’s either one or the other, but never both.

      I will say this, I don’t believe we have god-given right to have great tasting foods and drinks. I do think it’s okay to enjoy flavor — but not depend on it.

  16. Pingback: Crime And Punishment « Roy Cohen's Contemplative Fitness

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