suicide

Kate Spade a few days ago. Anthony Bourdain today. I’m rarely surprised when I hear somebody has committed suicide. Saddened, yes, to be sure, but hardly ever shocked or surprised. Why? Partly because there are so many reasons for folks to want to kill themselves, and partly because thoughts of suicide are universal, and partly because the thought of nonexistence can be so strangely attractive.

I doubt I know anybody who hasn’t, at one point or another, thought about how nice it would be if you could just remove yourself from existence. All your problems, all those life complications, all that stress and anxiety and pressure — all of it, just gone.

For some folks there might be some measure of vindictiveness in the thought; that whole ‘They’ll miss me when I’m gone‘ thing. But I suspect most folks who indulge in the thought of suicide are more likely to be thinking something like ‘I wish I’d never been born.’ It’s not death itself that’s attractive, it’s deletion. It’s not being whited out or erased from the page so much as having never been written onto the page in the first place. That way nobody misses you when you’re gone, nobody suffers.

Kate Spade

Most of us never act on those thoughts, of course. Some do. Some succeed. But here’s the thing: everybody has a reason to commit suicide. Everybody. Most of us also have reasons not to do it.

Here are my reasons for suicide: 1) I’ve witnessed/done way too many ugly things in my life; I have way too many ugly images in my head, and not a day goes by without at least one of them popping up, 2) I’m getting old and my body is beginning to fail; I hurt a lot; my knees are crap; I can no longer do things I used to do easily, which is sometimes comical and sometimes terribly frustrating, 3) I’m moderately poor; I never expected to live this long, so I took no steps to insure I’d have enough money to live comfortably as I aged (in the same way I took no steps to insure I’d be healthy). I’m not so poor I’ll ever miss a meal, but more poor than I ever expected to be.

I don’t regret any of that. I may not like the images in my head, but I’m glad I’ve lived the sort of life where I experienced stuff most folks haven’t. I may be beat-up physically, but I’m glad I’ve lived the sort of life where fear of pain or suffering never stopped me from doing something. And I may be poor, but I’m glad I’ve never felt the need for financial security and I’m glad I’ve never made a safe career choice or taken a career path for a steady paycheck.

Anthony Bourdain

Here are my primary reasons for NOT committing suicide: joy and curiosity. Every single day — hell, several times each and every day — I find something fascinating to see, think about, watch, study, enjoy. Every day — several times a day — something happens that makes me laugh, that delights me, that makes me stupidly happy. Every day, several times a day, I’m glad I’m alive. All that far outweighs any passing desire to delete myself from existence.

Besides, the convenient thing about suicide is that you can always do it tomorrow. It’s almost always an option. There’s some weird comfort in that.

I need to acknowledge, though, that I’ve never experienced actual depression. I’ve been deeply sad, I’ve been desperate, I’ve been terrified, but I’ve never felt any sort of sustained depression. That’s a closed box for me; I can understand it intellectually, but I’ve no idea what it’s like to live with any more than I know what it’s like to be blind. But if it makes a person blind to beauty and joy and curiosity, I understand why it would seem to close any option for living.

So I’m sad about Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. I’m sad for their friends and family. I’m sad they felt they’d run out of options. I wish they’d been able to find a reason to delay the decision to kill themselves. I wish they’d continued to find reasons to delay that decision. I’m not surprised by what they did, and I think the world is a slightly lesser place without them in it — not just because they were celebrities or accomplished in their chosen fields, but because their continued existence was part of what made being alive worthwhile for others.

I think that’s probably true for almost everybody who considers suicide.

Advertisements

10 thoughts on “suicide

  1. I agree with your piece. There are lots of reasons to off oneself except loving life more. Unfortunately, suicide isn’t that logical. If it were, I’d be gone, too. We have an innate instinct to struggle to breathe, so choosing death is against biology. That’s why I don’t think it’s a choice. Well, it’s an option, but it’s not one you choose with rational thought, usually. (I say this for mental illness, but it’s not the same when you are dying of a disease that has left you unable to care for yourself or in excruciating pain or certain painful death. Then I think you can choose to die on your own terms without it being the result of depression’s lies.

    Like

    • So much of human behavior is illogical. There are so many factors that shape what we think is logical. I suppose we should hold suicide to a higher standard than most behavior because it’s so final…but I’m reluctant to argue that somebody’s decision to kill themselves isn’t logical simply because I don’t understand it or agree with it.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. These would be my reasons … ‘I’m getting old and my body is beginning to fail; I hurt a lot; my knees are crap; I can no longer do things I used to do easily, which is sometimes comical and sometimes terribly frustrating,’ .. and the state of the world I’m living in!
    Thx for sharing these thoughts with all of us!! Hugs … __/l\__

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Glad you’re alive, too, Greg. Here’s a couple more reasons to be glad you’re alive: you’re one HELL of a writer and a fine photographer, too.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. It is true, my life will be emptier with those people gone. I enjoyed Anthony Bourdain. They had so many exciting reasons to live – in comparison to my poverty. Poverty meaning lack of talent, looks, money, future possibilities… If they reached a point where it is not worth it anymore in spite of fame, accomplishment and success, what chance does us mere paupers have?

    Like

    • I’d suggest our chances are the same today as they were last week before Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain went toes up. Clearly, the key to living a fruitful life (however you define that) doesn’t depend on talent, looks, money, future possibilities, or those guys would still be standing.

      Here’s Bourdain himself a few years ago: “To experience joy, my father taught me, one has to leave oneself open to it.” For reasons beyond my ability to understand, depression closes the door on joy. And without joy — without the capacity to experience joy — then life would be pretty fucking bleak, regardless of how much talent you have, regardless of how good you look or how much money you have.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I think “It’s not death itself that’s attractive, it’s deletion. It’s not being whited out or erased from the page so much as having never been written onto the page in the first place. That way nobody misses you when you’re gone, nobody suffers.” says it well. During periods when I feel this way, all the pain and loss I would leave behind pretty quickly cut me off from taking the deletion thoughts more seriously; I can’t bear the thought of the hurt I would cause the ones I love. And then I go out very deliberately looking for beauty and joy in small things like it’s air I desperately need to breathe in order to survive. And that pulls me back from that precipice, though it lurks there most of the time.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I suspect a LOT of people share those feelings. Hell, Frank Capra made a Christmas movie about it. It’s the part of the George Bailey saga we tend to ignore. We focus on that ‘every life has meaning and purpose’ stuff and ignore not just George’s intent to commit suicide, but also his wish never to have existed at all. Well, that and Clarence.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.