Wednesday, May 8, 2013

On Suicide Logic

I will never shoot myself. It's too messy, and leaves a traumatic scene for the person who finds you; likewise hanging and jumping from a considerable height. I will never poison myself, because it seems very uncomfortable, and the success of the endeavor is doubtful. I would consider drowning, if only I were able to be unconscious during the process, and out far enough into a large body of water to assure I would not wash up on the shore bloated and covered in sea stuff. The only scenarios in which I can see myself committing this act are if I became feeble enough to require constant caring for, or found myself in a state of chronic suffering that could not be assuaged.

Although we all think about it from time to time, we do not talk about suicide in our culture; that's why there is an increasing amount of it. I think there are good reasons to commit suicide. I also think there are understandable reasons to commit suicide. Most suicides fall into the 'understandable' category, but suicide logic is not healthy logic. Often, a suicidal person suffers from untreated or mistreated mental health issues and/or drug and alcohol abuse. These suicides are missing the full picture, and that's a tragedy.

We do not talk about suicide enough in our culture, so I'm going to talk about it. In the coming weeks I would like to use this blog to explore the reasons people choose suicide--maybe 'are compelled towards' is more accurate--and to see if maybe there are better reasons not to kill yourself available to a suicidal person weighing the pros and cons of that irreversible decision.

In a piece I wrote earlier this month entitled 'H.P. Lovecraft Furnishes Us With a Good Reason Not to Commit Suicide', I quoted the weird author on his decision not to kill himself in the face of the ultimate meaninglessness of life:
"And yet certain elements--notably scientific curiosity and a sense of world drama--held me back. Much in the universe baffled me, yet I knew I could pry the answer out of books if I lived and studied longer. Geology, for example. Just how did these ancient sediments and stratifications get crystallized and upheaved into granite peaks? Geography--just what would Scott and Shackleton and Borchgrevink find in the great white Antarctic or their next expeditions...which I could--if I wished--live to see described?"
Curiosity was enough of a carrot to keep him from hanging himself from the stick of nihilism.

And there are so many other reasons to commit to life instead of death in a world where there is no inherent meaning. We get to construct our own meaning. There are people to love. There are things to accomplish.

To a mind in a deep depression, I know all of the things I mentioned above seem horribly patronizing, almost to the point of parody. All I can do for a person in deep depression is to listen to them if they wish to talk, and to guide them towards appropriate treatment. To a person teetering in between places--and maybe even to a person in an extreme depressed state--having thought about suicide with an un-depressed mind and spirit may create a healthier context for them when they are in the darkness. William Styron talks about how he was budged out of his intention to commit suicide by hearing a song sung on a video tape one night as he sat in his living room contemplating his ultimate demise.

There are many other stories of people being saved and saving themselves from the brink of suicide. So let's mine those stories, and let's talk about our own stories openly and honestly. Repressed things only get uglier and angrier the more we do not talk about them. It's time to let suicide out of the bag and see what it looks like in the light of day.

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