The uneasy path to death
March 16, 2006 3:41 PM   Subscribe

posted by Gyan at 3:41 PM on March 16, 2006

"don't try suicide, you're just gonna hate it.
don't try suicide, nobody give a damn"
posted by keswick at 4:06 PM on March 16, 2006


Razors pain you;
Rivers are damp;
Acids stain you;
And drugs cause cramp.
Guns aren't lawful;
Nooses give;
Gas smell awful;
You might as well live.
by Dorothy Parker
posted by caddis at 4:09 PM on March 16, 2006

Tasteless comic here.
posted by tkolar at 4:10 PM on March 16, 2006

There is another world
There is a better world
Well, there must be
posted by The Jesse Helms at 4:11 PM on March 16, 2006

Somehow I'd feel more warm and fuzzy if something like that instead detailed how one might go about, oh, getting rid of the impulse to commit suicide.
posted by needs more cowbell at 4:11 PM on March 16, 2006

So I read the whole nine pages. It was actually very interesting, and I'm glad I did. Good post.

Of course now I'm at the suicide notes themselves, and... .... well... huh.
posted by blacklite at 4:13 PM on March 16, 2006

My brother ran a hose up from his exhaust pipe.. but his body wasn't discovered until after 4 days in the hot sun.
Ruined a perfectly good Oldsmobile, he did.
posted by CynicalKnight at 4:16 PM on March 16, 2006

Also, an interesting look at euthanasia/physician-assisted suicide, parts 1, 2, 3, & 4.
posted by needs more cowbell at 4:22 PM on March 16, 2006

I couldn't get past the suicide notes from desperate people. So, so sad to think this is the best way out of wherever you may be mired. I agree with needs more cowbell, how about ways to pick yourself up, change your outlook? But I guess it's best to know what NOT to do....All in all, an interesting post.
posted by annieb at 4:34 PM on March 16, 2006

My uncle tried to commit suicide a few times before, but each time his lack of practical knowledge saved his life--for example, he tried to lead a hose to the car cabin but it melted off, and he tried to run away and overdose but paid for his hotel room with a credit card, which was traced via some unlawful activity by my dad.

I think suicide should be an option, maybe, in a clinic where extended counseling is given first. I sure hope people wouldn't let me commit suicide if I went bonkers...
posted by Citizen Premier at 4:46 PM on March 16, 2006

I know a hundred ways to die.
I"ve often thought I"d try one:
Lie down beneath a motor truck
Some day when standing by one.

Or throw myself from off a bridge--
Except such things must be
So hard upon the scavengers
And men that clean the sea.

posted by Smart Dalek at 5:03 PM on March 16, 2006

I had a .45 to my head for a bit there. Thought about Bucky Fuller though and Abraham Lincoln. I figure if there was an after life and they were there I'd look like a real asshole.
Really, even if there wasn't, I know about them and I know what I'd think of myself (not that I'd think anything after).

I figure I'd brew up some penthrite or anfo something and take care of it that way if it ever comes to where I need to do it. But I'm never going to give up on myself. No matter how bad it gets. If for no other reason than to make the point.
posted by Smedleyman at 5:15 PM on March 16, 2006

Night fell fast, like it did in the past when the phone rang twice and a voice said

"I think I'm alone"

I gave my advice and the voice said "Nice, but suicide leaves such a bad aftertaste on the soul."
posted by Bighappyfunhouse at 5:44 PM on March 16, 2006


*Hugs anyone who'll have it*
posted by Richard Daly at 5:59 PM on March 16, 2006

In 1992 I ran a hose from my Cadillac's tail pipe to the rear window and stuffed a bunch of shirts in the cracks of the window. I started up the car and within a couple of minutes I could feel the effects of the exhaust. Just as I was sort of nodding out, a fireman's axe came crashing through the window and I was dragged out by a bunch of sheriffs.

It was painless and it would have been quick. Apparently not quick enough in this case.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 6:05 PM on March 16, 2006 [1 favorite]

I read this article when it first came out in CoEvolution Quarterly and remember there being an additional photo of a guy who had tried to blow his brains out and just wound up with the lower part of his jaw missing. It was one of the most revolting images I had ever seen in print. I must have been 13. That magazine article did more to dissuade me from suicide attempts (and I was a pretty morose and unhappy teenager, I'm much happier as an adult) than any single factor. Thanks Gyan.
posted by jessamyn at 6:05 PM on March 16, 2006 [1 favorite]

I'm not near my library right now, but I like what Byron said about suicide--I'd have done it long ago if not for the pleasure it would give to others.
posted by bardic at 6:06 PM on March 16, 2006

the drags - I like to die. (at the end of the blog post.)
posted by jann at 6:07 PM on March 16, 2006

I think either that is a very old article or they lie. it says that it takes 30 minutes to 2 hours to trace a call. A cell phone call maybee, but with caller ID and digital switching they can know as soon as it rings.
posted by Megafly at 6:10 PM on March 16, 2006

Megafly: It's very old.
posted by blacklite at 6:13 PM on March 16, 2006

My chemistry teacher from High School, who left the year after he taught my class to pursue research into beating drug tests (this was the mid-80s), wrote a book called Suicide and Attempted Suicide: Methods and Consequences, which is a very strange mix of howto and hownotto. He spends a lot of time on assisted suicide. There's a bunch of stuff available on his website.
posted by OmieWise at 6:15 PM on March 16, 2006 [1 favorite]

From Art Kleiner's article list:
How Not to Commit Suicide
CoEvolution Quarterly (1981)
This article was originally published in 1981, for CoEvolution Quarterly -- my first major article, and one that (I think) still rings true two decades later. Stewart Brand, the editor/founder of CoEvolution Quarterly, suggested the topic: What actually happens when you try to take your life? 90% of the people who attempt to take their lives fail to do so -- instead, they remain alive, enduring varying degrees of remorse, injury, and forcible restraint as a result. Over the years, several people have told me that this article saved their lives, by giving them a more realistic perspective of the actual effect of the deed on themselves and on others. This is probably the most popular article on this site, judging from the number of hits received, which suggests to me that it may still be useful.
posted by blacklite at 6:15 PM on March 16, 2006

Oh, also, Suicide's Note by Langston Hughes:

The cool, calm face of the river
asked me for a kiss.
posted by OmieWise at 6:16 PM on March 16, 2006

There's an amusing Catch-22 when they admit you to a mental hospital (in some states) after your shrink has determined you need to be there. They ask you if you're coming along voluntarily. If you say yes, they can't hold you as long but it does count against you if your psychiatrist applies to the judge -- you agreed you were a danger to yourself! If you say no then you're combative and they can hold you longer.
posted by fleacircus at 6:17 PM on March 16, 2006

my father shot himself 26 years ago. yesterday was his birthday. his brain popped out of his skull whole like a walnut. but i've always imagined his body standing upright quivering out of dumb habit. and i've wondered if had time to think, 'oh shit.'
posted by bets.r at 6:19 PM on March 16, 2006

I remember this article when it first came out. The suicide notes were along side of the article. When I got the the first suicide note where the writer didn't die, I started to cry. It still makes me cry almost 20 years later.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 6:28 PM on March 16, 2006 [1 favorite]

I've copied this article for people since it was in Coevolution Quarterly, and I've posted it in several threads. Thanks for putting it in the blue, Gyan.
posted by theora55 at 6:30 PM on March 16, 2006

Bets, I'm so sorry. I can only imagine how much pain your dad was in, but it must have been awful for you.
posted by theora55 at 6:33 PM on March 16, 2006

Richard Daly, I'll take one of those hugs...for medicinal purposes only.
posted by datawrangler at 6:49 PM on March 16, 2006

Gyan, those suicide letters were powerfully moving. It was heart-breaking to think for so many of the folk who wrote those letters that self-inflicted death seemed like an easier option than getting away from awful spouses/parents but they must have felt, for any number of reasons, unable to imagine the possibility of walking out the door.

Some well known people's suicide notes.

Before I was 22 I tried suicide several times and failed. :) Glad to have failed. At 13 the couple of fistfulls of aspirin I swallowed gave me awful ringing in my ears for a year and horrible red blotches on my face, which didn't help matters, LOL. The next 2 times at 15 and 21 were basic cry-for-help wrist cutting, messy and painful. Definitely not good ways to suicide.

When I was 22 I met a man, a writer for the New Yorker, Jake, who had shot himself in the head but the recoil of the gun made him miss and the bullet 'just' left a messy groove in his scalp. He did commit suicide a few years later, I was told he jumped off a bridge.

CynicalKnight and bets.r I'm truly sorry about your brother's and father's suicides. This had to have been and still be painful for you. The person who suicides is, in effect, abruptly abandoning those around them, leaving a lot of trauma to heal.

Citizen Premier, there is a place in Switzerland, called Dignitas, for people to go who are serious about committing suicide.

There are a few sites that discuss making the final exit.

Until recently, palliative care for the terminally ill, which included 'hastened death', basically assisted suicide, was something done but not really discussed by nurses and hospice care workers. But it's discussed in more detail now, which I think is important, both for the care-givers and patients.
posted by nickyskye at 6:49 PM on March 16, 2006 [1 favorite]

Man, this is a powerfully good post and thread.
posted by intermod at 6:58 PM on March 16, 2006

How very sad.

I can't stop crying... so many people.

posted by cedar at 7:03 PM on March 16, 2006

Amazing, amazing stuff.

I just recently realized that a very close friend of mine has been contemplating suicide. I feel horrible - because I've been leaning on him so heavily lately while I deal with my own shit, and he's been hurting and hurting and not showing anyone.

I don't know what to do... I've started trying to talk to him about his personal goals. I took him to church with me.

I hope he doesn't kill himself.

Another friend of mine shot himself a few months ago and everyone was so stunned. Maybe my friend saw that and saw something of himself in Darryl and has been considering it.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 7:11 PM on March 16, 2006

They were all heartbreaking, but this one seemed especially so:
Cathy -- don't come in.

Call your mother, she will know what to do.



Cathy don't go in the bedroom.
posted by Aster at 7:23 PM on March 16, 2006

This is haunting stuff -

I remember wondering with a friend what the suicide rate truly is, and how many people want to end their lives but without the stigma of suicide on themselves or their family and friends, making sure those insurance policies pay out, etc.. Seems to me it wouldn't be that hard to make it seem like a terrible accident...

And my heart goes out to everyone on this thread who's contemplated or been affected by suicide.
posted by jalexei at 7:45 PM on March 16, 2006

Hey, BB. I had a close friend hang himself -- and I'd neglected him (just a little) before he did it.

Church isn't going to help -- it focuses people's thoughts on the morbid and the beyond.

If you care about your your friend, take him out to a nice meal, and then on a full stomach (thing get into perspective on a full stomach) just drop it right out there bluntly. Get him to talk as much as he can and just be friendly. Get his problems out there and help him at least contemplate solutions. Remind him that many many people face despair, and then later go on to become happy people again...

The details are unimportant. Take him to dinner.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 7:51 PM on March 16, 2006

Fucking hell, glad you're all here.
posted by Divine_Wino at 8:03 PM on March 16, 2006

But Suicide is painless
It brings on many changes...
posted by Gungho at 8:04 PM on March 16, 2006

I listened to an account of one of the few people to survive jumping off the Golden Gate bridge. Just as he let go and saw the red railing receed against the sky he realized that the only thing that was wrong with his life was that he'd just jumped off the bridge.

I wish Kevin (above somewhere) would expand on his failed attempt and describe how it shaped the rest of his life.
posted by marvin at 8:05 PM on March 16, 2006 [1 favorite]

I read this article when it first came out in CoEvolution Quarterly and remember there being an additional photo of a guy who had tried to blow his brains out and just wound up with the lower part of his jaw missing. It was one of the most revolting images I had ever seen in print.

I saw that photo on when I was about fourteen, although I think they attributed it to a motorcycle accident. It was beyond horrible. If someone else wants to dredge it up it's probably still on that website, but I certainly never want to see it again.

I would never commit suicide if only because I know it would devastate my family. Reading those letters, I was struck by one from a woman who claimed she had nothing to live for after her husband died, and from the couple of others who blamed their spouses and wanted to hurt from. Like in the letter that Aster quoted: " You always told me that I was the one that made Sharon take her life, in fact you said I killed her, but you know down deep in your heart it was you that made her do what she did, and now you have two deaths to your credit, it should make you feel very proud."

And then he apologizes and says he doesn't mean it. How incredibly bizarre. How horrible to hate somebody so much you'll obliterate yourself in order to hurt them as much as possible. I guess the only way my poor little mind can accept this is to believe that they're hardly thinking straight.
posted by granted at 8:15 PM on March 16, 2006

A couple of weeks after talking me out of a deep depression, my friend Nand (Andy) stuck his head in the oven of a seamy Queens flophouse and sucked fumes, leaving the rest of us stunned, bereft, and cheated. He cheated us out of his humor, his insight, his unfailing willingness to buy another round, his future as a successful global citizen. He cheated his family in Mumbai, his friends in Manhattan, and all the people whose lives will never be touched by his smile and his generosity. He also cheated me out of the first shot of Bushmills in every bottle I buy. If I live to be sixty, I may have poured out enough whiskey to equal what Nand poured into me in five years in New York. It's been 20 years, and I still miss him.

What's most puzzling is that I cannot explain his actions. He was young and physically healthy. He had a useful degree from an Ivy League school. He had a wealthy extended family that stretched across the globe. He had many friends, and contrary to what my post may sound like, he wasn't a dysfunctional alcoholic. He was simply obsessed with the romance of death, and he embraced a lie. Fuck you, Andy, you cheated us all. Rest in peace.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 8:29 PM on March 16, 2006

While on a funeral detail in the Northeast I saw a tombstone on which instead of an oval lamination over a picture of the deceased, or a memento; it had a letter from the family about how much it hurt them that their son had committed suicide. Headshakingly vivid imagery of the aftermath of suicide.
posted by buzzman at 8:29 PM on March 16, 2006 [1 favorite]

Did you hear about the Joneses, my oh my,
It happened so quick, no one knows why,
Their teenage son, he seemed okay,
But his suicide ruined everyone's day,
And I can't believe anyone would
Want to do such a terrible thing
But why should I care?
Nothing bad ever happens to me.

I had a few depressed attempts throughout the years, but it wasn't until my parents hospitalized me that I flat out went for broke. I cannot remember it at all (the actual action of the attempt); I did it in a totally unconscious state. I punched out a window and grabbed a shard of glass, but some interns heard the glass shatter and managed to grab me. Next thing I knew was that someone was sitting on me and asking if I was ready to calm down.

Today, I am so glad to be alive. I am in a wonderfully good relationship with a beautiful person, I feel good about myself (overall) and I want to see where love and life go together. What amazes me most, though, is just how much my life has changed over the years. I could never ever have predicted how it would change; I never would have guessed I'd end up where I am, now.

Still -- I understand it when people reach their limits. There's only so much any one person can take, and she or he is the only one who knows how much that really is. I am amazed I'm alive, and it's really just a lucky break that I am. But back then... well, I wasn't at all glad to be alive and I did feel utterly overwhelmed, completely undone. I was fortunate: there was time enough for things to change. I was even more fortunate that things did change.
posted by Moody834 at 8:39 PM on March 16, 2006

Btw: excellent post and wonderful comments. Leaves me thinking that we (all of us, collectively, generally) need to love each other better; we need to love us better.
posted by Moody834 at 8:42 PM on March 16, 2006

Wow. Just wow.

I can honestly count myself amongst those who have never seriously considered suicide, regardless of the shit I've been asked to deal with. (And I've had to deal with some shit...We're all at some point asked to deal with some shit.) I've always felt there was an intrinsic beauty to life, the world, nature, music, etc. that overpowered my dark times and I am honestly sorry in the most non-snarky way to anyone who has ever thought or thinks this isn't the case.

I would say the low point of my quarter century on this planet was the day before I was supposed to graduate high school, when a good friend of my group decided not to come celebrate by taking a swim with us, and went home and shot himself instead. He did this in his parent's bedroom with his brothers gun with no note, in a swirl of symbolism (his bro worked for Big Oil in some third word country, the parent thing I don't and don't want to understand). He came from a well off family, some descendants of some archaic royalty in Scotland. Got booted out of Exeter (a super exclusive private HS here in New England) during some drug sweep after an overdose at the school. Basically, he was hanging on to a joint in his dorm at the wrong time. He came to our public school, which is how I came to know him. At the time, I was estranged from my parents and had recently spent some time locked up. My life was an utter mess at this point, I was living with a friend's family and I had just been told I wouldn't be able to graduate with my friends on stage. Minor stuff in retrospect, but at that point it really did mean the world to me.

Looking back, what I remember from the moments and hours and days after finding out was...Anger. White knuckled, clenched fisted anger. Anger like I have never felt before in my life, and I hope to never feel again. He had so much to live for is a cliche thing to say, but I've never known it to be as true. I didn't attend my high school graduation, I finished my requirements and got the diploma but never wanted the ceremonies involved to remind me of how angry I was that day.

Thank you very much for this fantastic post. Thanks for the reasons above, and thanks because a friend of a friend could use this right now in the hopes of avoiding what I and countless others have been through. Also, thank you to those who have talked about their experiences in this thread, which I will pass along to the person in need at the moment. I think that almost everyone knows someone to pass this along to for some reason or another, and once more I thank you for that opportunity.

(I'd also like to say that I am for the right to die when this decision is made after careful calculation, preferrably with a pointless battle with X, Y or Z medical condition. Those who have really disturbed me enough to write this, by far my longest comment on the blue, are those who really do have a lot to live for. Or those who could solve the problem they killed themselves to escape in so much of an easier and less permanant fashion.)
posted by rollbiz at 8:44 PM on March 16, 2006

So many more reasons not to do what's on my mind. The world again tells me to do something, now, before I'm totally deaf to all this sense. Thanks Gyan for the post, and everyone for the stories.
posted by luftmensch at 8:47 PM on March 16, 2006

What's most puzzling is that I cannot explain his actions. He was young and physically healthy. He had a useful degree from an Ivy League school. He had a wealthy extended family that stretched across the globe. He had many friends, and contrary to what my post may sound like, he wasn't a dysfunctional alcoholic. He was simply obsessed with the romance of death, and he embraced a lie. Fuck you, Andy, you cheated us all. Rest in peace.

To add to an already too lengthy comment, yeah. That's almost exactly how I felt and still feel now, six years later.
posted by rollbiz at 8:48 PM on March 16, 2006

posted by strawberryviagra at 8:57 PM on March 16, 2006

This is one of those posts I think where the quality is pretty well mood dependent for individual readers. If you're feeling hunky dory then its a stirring and empathetic time but if you're in bummed state, might not be so affirming.

I skimmed a fair amount and read bits. I don't feel 100% particularly and this isn't going to be uplifting... for me. That's ok though. The thread is a different matter - that is pretty well a positive read. I'm also glad you're all here. Hang in there and talk to someone if you need to.
posted by peacay at 9:02 PM on March 16, 2006

Wow. I have never been so glad to not know about something.

Thank you for this post, it is truly excellent.
posted by Skorgu at 9:03 PM on March 16, 2006

You do the same peacay, if it's an issue.
posted by rollbiz at 9:03 PM on March 16, 2006

rollbiz, thank you for your powerful post. It sounds like your friend had some serious family issues he was unable to deal with, like the people in Gyan's FPP. Suiciding in his parents' bedroom seems like a deeply angry/hurt statement. I'm thankful you talked about your being angry after your friend's suicide. Usually it's sadness people talk about but I've also felt very angry when somebody I cared about died and it's was strange not being able to express it without feeling it was weird. Now I know that anger is an essential part of the grief process.

BitterOldPunk, the booze really didn't help Nand. From what you said it's clear he was over-drinking, likely trying to mask or self-medicate for depression. Alcohol is a depressant. Often well-to-do families are very dysfunctional, even though serious problems may be camouflaged with a rich facade. It sounds like his obsessing about "the romance of death" was him trying to say he was suicidally depressed but unable to say those actual words. I'm so sorry you lost your friend.

Leaves me thinking that we (all of us, collectively, generally) need to love each other better; we need to love us better. Moody834, I agree with you.

Baby_Balrog, it's very sad to hear about your friend's suicide. When one person suicides it affects a lot of people all around, who may then wonder whether life's suffering is unmanageable. Your friend may be a caretaking kind of person, who feels it is his responsibility to overly care for others while not taking care of his own burdens. I think listening is the biggest gift you can offer, spending time with him, asking him how he feels, just listening without trying to fix his problems. Usually, letting the other person unburden, while being a compassionate, patient witness, is a huge relief for them.

lupus_yonderboy, I liked the advice you gave.

Here are a few sites that might offer some tips about how to help and understand somebody who may be stuck in depression or feeling suicidal.

There are many, practical online resources of all kinds for working through and healing depression.
posted by nickyskye at 9:27 PM on March 16, 2006

I guess the only way my poor little mind can accept this is to believe that they're hardly thinking straight.

That's an interesting thing to say, because in a way suicide is what happens when you think too straight. When you're in a certain type of world, the choice becomes clear, rational, and direct. Totally straight. There's a reason that people who start antidepressants often commit suicide: the world is the same, but they suddenly have enough energy to do something about it.

In the past, I've been saved by the belief that the world would change. It did, and it can for anyone.
posted by JZig at 9:43 PM on March 16, 2006 [1 favorite]

When I start to think that way, I look at this.
It makes everything so clear, and she makes me so fucking happy to be alive.
She's the reason I'm still here. She can't walk or talk, or even drool neatly, but she's already saved someone's life.

Everyone has someone like that; you may not realize it, it may not be obvious to you right now, but you have someone.
No matter how alone you may feel, you aren't.
Remember that.

PS: Know who else killed himself... ?
That's right!
You don't want to be like that guy, do you?

posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:48 PM on March 16, 2006

I also read this article when it first came out in Co-Evolution Quarterly. It was the summer of 1981, I had just graduated from High School and I was living on Martha's Vineyard. I remember the missing photo that Jessamyn mentioned, and I was also going to mention it.

I was struck at the time by how powerful the suicide notes were, and thinking it would be amazing to get a whole book of them. How is it that people are able, at that critical time, to squeeze so much intensity into those few words?

My mother made several suicide attempts when I was young, some of which I witnessed. I remember being sent out onto the roof by my siblings (I was the youngest) to cut the screen and climb into the window of the bathroom where my mother was poisoning herself (a big brown jar of rat poison, I recall) so that I could unlock the door from the inside. Her first attempt came the day before my oldest brother's bar mitvah. I'm told she swallowed open safety pins. I have a memory of the balloons from my brother's bar mitvah, but I don't remember other details.

My mother never did end up succeeding in killing herself, though she did die when I was thirteen from metastasized breast cancer. Needless to say, I am both very sympathetic and not at all sympathetic of suicides, and thus this article's description of the havoc wreaked by suicide attempts was quite compelling to me. It's great to see this old stuff from print survive into the internet.
posted by alms at 9:57 PM on March 16, 2006

My first attempt was at 12. Next at 20. The last (and I mean last) was at 27. Now I counsel people who've gone there and are at high risk for completion. It's my karmic debt to do this work, especially when so many hours were poured into me during my troubled years.

Great and thoughtful post, Gyan.
posted by moonbird at 10:31 PM on March 16, 2006

"I read this article when it first came out in CoEvolution Quarterly and remember there being an additional photo of a guy who had tried to blow his brains out and just wound up with the lower part of his jaw missing. It was one of the most revolting images I had ever seen in print."

"I saw that photo on when I was about fourteen, although I think they attributed it to a motorcycle accident."

Granted, did you see the photo in the original CoEvolution Quarterly article? How do you know it was the same photo? The pic is here (NSFA). I can't get a source on it, and discussions seem to differ on what actually happened (motorcycle, blasting cap, suicide) or if the guy lived or died. The FAQ admits it was probably a suicide attempt (though it's obviously a guess), but forum folk appear to be convinced it was a jackass screwing around with a blasting cap (Apparently based only on some similarities with a 'Darwin Award' description).
posted by dgaicun at 11:04 PM on March 16, 2006

posted by raedyn at 11:07 PM on March 16, 2006

Gyan, thanks.
posted by semmi at 11:08 PM on March 16, 2006

Forgot to reference:

"I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go. My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for that day." - Lincoln

When he was 32, Buckminster Fuller's life seemed hopeless. He was bankrupt and without a job. He was grief stricken over the death of his first child and he had a wife and a newborn to support. Drinking heavily, he contemplated suicide. (he did that on the shore of Lake Michigan) Instead, he decided decided that his life was not his to throw away: It belonged to the universe. He embarked on an experiment to discover what the little, penniless, unknown individual might be able to do effectively on behalf of all humanity.

I've had a few friends kill themselves. One in high school, one later one. It's a shame.
For me, it wasn't so much pain or dispair but a question of identity. Where do you go when the evil and hell in the world is on the inside? I think in some ways ridding the world of someone like me, at that time, might have been a good thing. I'm still trying to payback some serious karma. Hopefully I'll have enough years and get better at it.

One other thing I remember stopped me was that phrase on Solomon's ring: This too shall pass.

You can die any time, changing is the hard part. Not to sound glib. It certainly seemed impossible to me a while back. Oblivion seemed more comforting. But that's 'seems'.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:29 PM on March 16, 2006 [1 favorite]

One of my favorite old self-help books is "If You Meet The Buddha On The Road, Kill Him" and I remember vividly, one of Sheldon Kopps passages (maybe not word for word):

Patient: "I contemplated suicide but didn't want to put my family through that. They'd miss me greatly."

Therapist: "Did you consider the fact that you'd miss them?"

For some reason this has always stuck with me.

Someone mentioned earlier something about "thinking straight" while being suicidal. Being in the midst of the planning and finally having the balls to bring it to fruition caused my mind to undergo a transformation and clarity that I'd never experienced. I remember as I made the drive south, all my thoughts and actions seemed to take on a very deliberate dynamic. Probably because I felt like I had nothing to lose at that point. All my interactions with people I had to interact with (the salesperson at Home Depot where I purchased the hose and the clerk at the Motel 6) took on a whole new meaning because these would be the last people I'd ever see, so I thought.

Obviously, in retospect, I'd never recommend going to the brink of death to get in touch with yourself but those are probably my most vivid memories of that experience.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 11:59 PM on March 16, 2006

*hugs kevin and anyone else who'd like to*
posted by scody at 12:09 AM on March 17, 2006

My friend Amy killed herself last week. We were close in college, and had gotten re-acquainted over the Internet 20 years later.

She had two small children, and was apparently struggling with bipolar disorder.

Intellectually, I know I bear no responsibility. I know she must have been buffeted by pain that I cannot imagine. But the waste of it, the children growing without their mother, bearing the burden that she left them, leaves me leaking tears throughout the day.

For all the damage and pain it causes, I think we understand little about suicide.
posted by sacre_bleu at 12:28 AM on March 17, 2006

dgaicun: Granted, did you see the photo in the original CoEvolution Quarterly article? How do you know it was the same photo?

No...whoops. I guess I just assumed there couldn't possibly be more than one photo like that. I suppose someone who'd seen the original could check it out, but seriously...don't.

Jzig: That's an interesting thing to say, because in a way suicide is what happens when you think too straight. When you're in a certain type of world, the choice becomes clear, rational, and direct.

This may be true, but I also think that a person can think they're seeing things clearly and rationally when that's not the case at all. I also don't think it's fair to make any sort of blanket statements about people's mindsets before suicide. Even guessing at the mental state of those who wrote the letters in the link is pretty impossible given what little we know of them - just their age, relationship status, what they wrote, and that they killed themselves - and such fragmented knowledge is what makes the letters so eerie, to me, anyway.
posted by granted at 12:49 AM on March 17, 2006

Okay, the suicide notes page has me confused. Are the last three actual suicide notes, or are they testimonials from folks that tried suicide and failed, and how they felt about it afterwards? Can anyone who remembers the original article clarify that?
posted by moonbiter at 1:18 AM on March 17, 2006

What are the world rates on suicide, by the way? It seems to me that Western people seem to kill themselves a lot more than people in other regions of the world. Is that just an economic thing? Do we see similar suicide in non-Western developed nations like Singapore, Japan, Taiwan, etc? Or are there dramatic cultural differences? Either way, why would nations with some of the highest standards of living have the most suicide? Do all those extra hours of not having to fight for survival give people enough leisure time to develop ennui? Paging Emile Durkheim.
posted by dgaicun at 1:19 AM on March 17, 2006

My older brother hung himself at thirteen, the dope. He had no idea -none!- what his life might have been. Mike, you ass, I hope there is an afterlife, just so I can sissyslap you into the next dimension. You spent enough time on this project, you could have left a note. Punk.
[it's no fair i'm so much older than you, big brother.]
All of you, thanks for the thread. And thanks for your honesty, kevin, I'm glad you're here.
posted by maryh at 1:55 AM on March 17, 2006

moonbiter: I believe they are from people who tried and failed.

dgaicun: WHO Suicide Rates. The U.S. is surprisingly low on that list with roughly 20 per 100,000. Some notables: Sri Lanka and Lithuania are the clear leaders in female suicides at roughly 16 per 100,000. Belaruse, Latvia, Lithuania, the Russian Federation and Ukraine are the leaders on the mens side with over 50 suicides per 100,000.
posted by jahmoon at 1:59 AM on March 17, 2006

Great FPP. I spent a couple years volunteering for a suicide prevention hotline a while back, and the stories were all too familiar to me. What was surprising to me was how much spite there was in a few of the suicide notes. As these notes were taken from a coroner's office, so the article says, I presume these were from people that were actually successful in their efforts to kill themselves. In my own experiences with people who have gotten to that point, vindictiveness was the last thing on their minds when they reached their "decision" point.

While the FPP was great, the comments in this thread were trulyoutstanding. So powerful and moving. Thank you Gyan for posting this, and to everyone who contributed here.
posted by psmealey at 3:01 AM on March 17, 2006

About 30,000 people kill themselves in the United States each year.

that's a high number...
posted by nervousfritz at 3:19 AM on March 17, 2006

Some notables

I recalled that most ex-Communist countries have rates that are particularly insane:

                  M     F
LITHUANIA 75.6 16.1
RUSSIA       70.6 11.9
BELARUS      63.6 9.5
LATVIA         56.6 11.9
UKRAINE      52.1 10.0
ESTONIA      45.8 11.9

But are conditions in these countries worse than say Africa? It seems when conditions are good in the West, suicide is huge, and when conditions are bad, it's unbelievable.

The U.S. is surprisingly low on that list

For the West, but compare it with most of the developing world:

USA           17.6 4.1
PERU         0.6 0.4
JAMAICA     0.5 0.2
IRAN           0.3 0.1
EGYPT         0.1 0.0
HONDURAS   0.0 0.0
posted by dgaicun at 3:52 AM on March 17, 2006

According the CQ,

Telephone crisis hotlines didn't exist until 1958

Well, not in the US perhaps, but the UK has a nationwide organization of volunteers who call themselves the Samaritans who started operating in, and opened the first suicide prevention hotline in 1953. More here. Although they were founded by a vicar and have a name with religious connotations, they are a secular organization.

I bring this up only because I find it sort of sad/interesting that it took an accidental discovery by a pair of LA psychologists to get the ball rolling in the US five years later, and that it seems no knowledge of the Samaritans, the work they do, or indeed the need for such an organization, had made its way to the states in those intervening years.

Come to think of it, it appears that in 1981, the author was still blissfully unaware of the existence of the Samaritans. All he had to do was Goog.. oh, never mind.
posted by kcds at 4:02 AM on March 17, 2006

But are conditions in these countries worse than say Africa?

What does that have to do with it? You're assuming that economic conditions have a significant effect on the number of suicides. And that's just not true. If anything, better economic conditions seem to correlate with increased suicide rate. People don't kill themselves because they are poor.
posted by insomnus at 4:04 AM on March 17, 2006

Re: Rates of suicide in poor vs rich countries.

Life in poor countries is still rough and you have to fight for it. If you're weak, you'll get eaten, beaten or just die, and you don't even have to try hard to end it.

Our rich bastard countries take too much care of us, we don't have the opportunity to go to a real war and waste our lives, so those of us suchly inclined have to resort to own means. (I'm not a US citizen so going to Iraq is not an option for me)

Secondly, Re all that 'they must go through such pain' bullshit - it's just that, bullshit. Being suicidal does not mean pain, but numbness, a total loss of interest and motivation to do anything, to tackle the bloody senseless life around you, seeing how pointless and ridiculous the activity of the human ants is. No, you do not make a difference. There is no point reading the papers, talking to friends, no consolation in anything, not for a longer time at least.

That's why all this article did, at least for me, was profoundly bore with all its posery and witticism. Just another bunch of violent life-savers. (at least I think so) I don't want to be saved. I don't want to be helped.
posted by Laotic at 4:51 AM on March 17, 2006 [1 favorite]

29. It is possible to live on earth as you mean to live hereafter. But if men will not let you, then quit the house of life; though not with any feeling of ill-usage. "The hut smokes; I move out." No need to make a great business of it.
--Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, Meditations, Book 5
posted by orthogonality at 5:17 AM on March 17, 2006 [1 favorite]

Death is for many of us the gate of hell; but we are inside on the way out, not outside on the way in.
--George Bernard Shaw, A Treatise on Parents and Children
posted by orthogonality at 5:26 AM on March 17, 2006

I don't want to be saved. I don't want to be helped.

Oh yes, you do Laotic. Why else would you be announcing your suicidal tendencies publically?
posted by insomnus at 6:06 AM on March 17, 2006

I married the wrong nag-nag-nag and I lost my life.

Wow. I like this guy.
posted by CunningLinguist at 6:09 AM on March 17, 2006

just one thought on the "romance of death": Last Letters of Jacopo Ortis is really a classic, essential reading, unfortunately quite obscure in the USA -- unless one is in deep depression, it's a book I really really think one should read
posted by matteo at 6:33 AM on March 17, 2006

Another possibility is that there is more of a stigma against suicide in some of those developing countries, and it is therefore more likely to be mis-reported as accidental death.

Laotic, the fact that you aren't willing to buy into same charade as the human ants around you makes you feel numb and disconnected, today. But if you stick it out, you're likely to find that a restless, searching intelligence and a refusal to buy into BS will actually lead you to some amazing places.

This is not just ra-ra cheerleading, by the way; it's based on a lot of observation of myself and my fellow humans. Ten years from now, the contented-but-mindless drones around you will just be starting to panic about the meaninglessness of their ruts (or they will be distracting themselves with alcohol or other crutches), but you will be doing something intensely worthwhile. I hope you'll stick around.
posted by yankeefog at 6:42 AM on March 17, 2006

I can't quite bring myself to read the linked article, but this thread has been amazing to read. Thank you, all of you who shared your stories, thank you all of you for caring, and for the love that is shown here.

As well, hugs to all who need them. The universe loves us.
posted by kalimac at 7:10 AM on March 17, 2006

Why else would you be announcing your suicidal tendencies publically?

It's impossible to say if Laotic was trying to make a point through play-acting, being an exhibitionist, making a cry for help, or else being flatly sincere. Having said that, he pretty much captured what clinical depression feels like in a few brief sentences. I would argue his statement, "Being suicidal does not mean pain, but numbness, a total loss of interest and motivation to do anything...", is actually pain of a kind, even though it's distinct from physical pain and certain types of emotional pain (heartbreak).
Depression is a disorder of mood, so mysteriously painful and elusive in the way it becomes known to the self-to the mediating intellect-as to verge close to being beyond description. It thus remains nearly incomprehensible to those who have not experienced it in its extreme mode.
-- William Styron, Darkness Visible
posted by psmealey at 7:11 AM on March 17, 2006

Thanks Scody and Fandango_Matt. I appreciate that.

psmeasley - that book did a lot to help define how I felt about "being depressed." It was given to me by a friend while I was being treated and I couldn't thank him enough.

Being suicidal does not mean pain, but numbness, a total loss of interest and motivation to do anything, to tackle the bloody senseless life around you, seeing how pointless and ridiculous the activity of the human ants is. No, you do not make a difference...

I don't want to be saved. I don't want to be helped...

Laotic - Those are great descriptions of what I experienced but I'm sure each case is a little different. The very nature of depression is not so much that you don't want to be helped but that you have lost all ability to ask for it (and why ask if you don't feel "deserving" of it?). Vicious circle indeed.

Thanks to everyone in this thread for sharing your stories. To this day, they still help not only myself but others who may be on the brink.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 7:27 AM on March 17, 2006

Currently, in my comments page, this thread and the one about Cobain are right next to one another. What a contrast. I'm impressed with MeFi for being able to have a sensitive discussion on this at the same time that a nearly flame-war is swirling on the same topic elsewhere on the blue. Thank you to everyone for your gentleness here. Mefi has a human side, it's good to see.

I know it's woefully inadequate, but the intention is in my heart:
((soft.hugs)) to any and all
posted by raedyn at 7:43 AM on March 17, 2006

This article brings back memories. I first read it a little over a year ago, around the time of my pathetic failure of a suicide attempt. The next week an aquaintance succeeded in exactly the same manner I had tried (he didn't know about my attempt, nobody really did).

If I had died, would there have been fallout, enough fallout to encourage him to get help? Would he still be alive today?

I don't know. He was a great guy; he shouldn't be dead.
posted by Anonymous at 7:48 AM on March 17, 2006

Word, raedyn. As one of the principle flamer throwers on the Cobain thread (not the first time I have blown up on the blue as it relates to this topic), when I opened this thread on the Blue this morning, I was afraid that I'd see the same thing starting here, but I was very pleasantly surprised at where the conversation went. Best thread I've seen in over a year, at least.
posted by psmealey at 7:50 AM on March 17, 2006

I took a class called Suicide in Literature, taught by an epidemiologist/suicidologist where in addition to discussing suicide in the context of some great books (Plath, Percy, Greene, etc.) and poems, we read suicide notes, studied court cases, viewed all manner of photos relating to successful and unsuccessful attempts and discussed, in depth, various methods for departing this orb. It was a fascinating class, but probably not the most uplifting or healthy experience for a college student
posted by shoepal at 8:15 AM on March 17, 2006

Thanks, Gyan.
posted by shoepal at 8:16 AM on March 17, 2006

maryh's post did it for me. No tears until that one. My older brother was deep in the throes of alcoholism for many years, and I always expected him to die before I did, had fully accepted that he'd be gone quite soon. He stopped drinking, thankfully, and now I have a big brother again.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:20 AM on March 17, 2006

I'll always miss my cousin Marc dearly. Only eleven years old, a model boy, the first time he got in serious trouble at school he simply didn't know how to handle it. There is no reason to be cruel to one's self when the world can be such a forgiving place. But I guess you have to know that first.
posted by furtive at 8:25 AM on March 17, 2006

I throw a weekly party at a bar near my house, and one of the djs that we booked killed himself the night before he was supposed to play.

We were going to cancel, but we had so many people email us to say they had to be there, for each other, that we went ahead and had it anyway.

We played his last mix cd when it would have been his turn to play. Nobody had heard it before, because he hadn't made copies yet. The dance floor was full for the full hour, while his friends danced, smiled, hugged and sometimes cried.

I didn't cry. I didn't really know him well enough to cry. But I went to his viewing, and his parents had asked the funeral director to play the same cd.

That's when I cried. Because his parents respected him, and respected the choices that he made in his life, on a profound level. Not a lot of parents would have been okay with techno playing at a funeral and rave-flyers on his coffin. But his did. He had so many friends, and a family that loved him.

I still don't understand why he did it.
posted by empath at 8:30 AM on March 17, 2006

Btw, as someone who has dealt with periodic depression personally (though not, thankfully, severe enough to really be worrisome), what I think is worst about it, is the sheer, inexcapable LOGIC of it. There is no way to THINK yourself out of depression, because when you're heading that direction, the more you think about it, the more hopeless everything feels.

I've found the only way out of it personally is to STOP thinking about it, and chug along and wait for the light to come back. It always does. I know why it seems like it's mostly the young that kill theemselves, because they've only seen the darkness and don't know that if they wait long enough, sometimes the sun does rise again.
posted by empath at 8:36 AM on March 17, 2006

The word "depression" has become so overused, clinically cold and impersonal, perhaps it's time to speak of such simple yet powerfully overwhelming and recognizable human emotions as sadness, grief, loneliness, disappointment, hopelessness...
posted by semmi at 9:01 AM on March 17, 2006

“The thought of suicide is a great source of comfort; with it a calm passage is to be made across many a bad night.” -F. Nietzsche

I quote this as someone who has lived a life that has had unbelievably bleak and terrifyingly dark periods, who is doing okay today, but am aware that it may not be so smooth in the future.

That said, I am sincerely sorry for everyone's losses-- it seems that so many of us know someone who took their life.

More on topic, I know exactly how I would go if it ever became that bad again. It's not on the list.

Thanks for the link; it makes me think about the universality of pain, and of loss, and of love.
posted by exlotuseater at 9:22 AM on March 17, 2006

This is an amazing post and an amazing thread.
posted by Tuwa at 9:31 AM on March 17, 2006

Almost five years ago now, Edwin ended his life by standing (not jumping - higher risk of failure, or so I've heard) in front of an Amsterdam-Paris train on the tracks near Leiden. Word has it he was on the phone with his girlfriend even when he was already on the tracks.

Asked by a mutual friend to drop by Edwin's parents that week I awkwardly tried to weasel out, citing that I didn't know him that well anyway. "Exactly," my friend replied dryly, "I think we've now established that none of us really did."

Still, I *thought* I knew him reasonably well - everyone did. He used to hang out in the same places as me, and he always seemed to be the "universal friend" type that people, often younger, came up to for advice or just to vent, and he would eagerly provide a patient ear and a supportive hug.

He was also responsible for the first time I threw up because of alcohol or drugs *ever*. One night at the local club I was drunk and stoned and 16 and he told me that I should dance, which I refused mumbling something along the lines of only listening to punk rock. Then, they played "3 Little Pigs" by Green Jelly, and he grabbed me by the arm, exclaiming "Hey, this is punk!" Although I disagreed, I couldn't refuse, if only for the fact that I was already on the downstairs dancefloor, caught in a maelstrom of violently moshing fellow teenagers. Sometime after the second chorus, I couldn't take it anymore and emptied my stomach in the nearest sink. Took a while to clean up, too.

He had left precise directions as to the organisation of his funeral, including music, catering, etc. Up until that day, I thought I would always associate Nirvana's "Lithium" with the first real musical epiphany I had years prior, as a 13-year old - it was the first "alternative" song I really paid attention to, and it kind of heralded my forays into actively seeking out new and wonderful music. But trust me, to me and everyone who was there, it will forever evoke the memory of 30 or 40 kids moshing at a funeral.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 10:53 AM on March 17, 2006 [1 favorite]

Thanks for this thread, guys.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 10:54 AM on March 17, 2006

That's a great picture, gnfti! I also have to say thank you for this thread. I've known more than one friend who died by suicide, but in my job I also treat people all of the time who want to hurt themselves. It's something I take very seriously, treat seriously, work very hard to prevent, and yet it's something that by its nature is a clinical event. It's always good to be reminded of the raw emotion behind the experience, the desire, and the grief.
posted by OmieWise at 11:01 AM on March 17, 2006

The word "depression" has become so overused, clinically cold and impersonal, perhaps it's time to speak of such simple yet powerfully overwhelming and recognizable human emotions as sadness, grief, loneliness, disappointment, hopelessness...

You're right that the term depression has come to mean many different things, is overused and imo, is usually misused.

Feeling emotions such as sadness or loss, loneliness or disappointment may be fleeting or over a long time but may not qualify as being called depression. The grieving process, may last years and go through many different stages and emotional changes but still not be depression.

The term depression, as a serious issue, rather than a passing mood, refers to a kind of emotional stuckness, or unshakeable melancholy, a pattern over a period of time, which may happen when inner emotional conflicts are unable to be resolved or sorted out. Depression may happen as a result of childhood trauma, causing a lifelong personality disordered abandonment depression. Depression may occur because of genetic or biological or age-related reasons. Long term depression has a deep impact on how the brain functions.
posted by nickyskye at 11:37 AM on March 17, 2006

Meyer, you silly bastard.

You can't flirt with girls half your age now that you're dead. You can't drink coffee now that you're dead. You can't ride any more singletrack now that you're dead. You turned a wonderful person into a patch of missing carpet and an opened box of .32 rounds on the nightstand.

I had to tell my father that his best friend had shot himself and listen to him crying over the phone. At the wake we played Social D and made guesses about the thoughts you chased out of your head with a bullet.

You silly, silly bastard. We miss you. Poor Ol' Meyer.
posted by Coda at 11:38 AM on March 17, 2006

My friend's father shot and killed himself. His recently departed wife had struggled with cancer for several years, before finally losing the battle. He had witnessed what the chemo, the cancer itself, and other therapies did to her before she died. When he was diagnosed with the same type of cancer, he drove out to a field and decided to end it right there. I can't really say I blame the guy. Though he may have wanted to see if the treatments were better suited to him. He never gave them a chance.
posted by Debaser626 at 11:39 AM on March 17, 2006

I bought razor blades and locked myself in the bathroom. Single-edge blades, because I didn't want to hurt my fingers. I couldn't do it. It was bad enough feeling like I wanted to kill myself, but the self-loathing I felt for not having the courage to do it made it worse. That was a long time ago, though.

I think some people experience suicidal feelings and some people don't, and it's difficult for the people that don't to understand.
posted by croatoan at 11:42 AM on March 17, 2006

I tried aspirin at 19 and pseudo-ephedrine ('trucker speed') at 28. The first one put me in the hospital and I got the works: stomach pump, activated charcoal, days in ICU with a tube in my nose down my throat making it painful to swallow, then wheeled straight to the mental ward, missing midterms, dropping out of college, family reactions ranging from crying to tough-love-authoritarian to unsympathetic discomfort to "I told you so." The slow slow parade of friends and family members, one by one doing their little poses, spouting their little platitudes, taking their little shots. You want to be treated normally, but you don't want to be ignored, but you can't talk about it, though the pain and alienation is worse than ever. Other people have it much worse surely but that doesn't make it hurt less. Soon another mental hospital, various meds that don't work, a succession of bad psychiatrists. Then running away to escape from it, living on a couch for a year while all my friends' lukewarm sympathy turns to resentment and disrespect, losing the friendships, romantic interests edging closer fascinated then fleeing from the crazy needy loser. Seeing all their lives progress, wondering what's the point of just spiralling down the drain more slowly. Finally managing to crawl back to school but now visibly a "too-old" student, an ugly fuck-up, a nosferatu reflected in the eyes of those smug 19 year-olds..

The second time, despite taking a whole bottle of 60 mini-thins (when conventional wisdom was that 20 would stop your heart) I was merely dazed and ill for a couple days. No one ever knew I tried it again. The irony is that the second time is when I really wanted it to work and I really thought it was going to.
posted by fleacircus at 12:04 PM on March 17, 2006

“I've found the only way out of it personally is to STOP thinking about it, and chug along and wait for the light to come back.”

“Anybody can be a non-drunk. It takes a special talent to be a drunk. It takes endurance. Endurance is more important than truth.” - Henry Chinaski

I’ve found the same. I think stepping back from your life and considering it as a work in progress is more important than making a decision based from within any single episode in your life.

I talked a Marine friend of mine out of killing himself. One of the most gut wrenching things I’ve ever had to do. He had been out of the service for a bit and was living at home and had smashed a bunch of things in his parents house and was having a hard time with what was going on inside. I don’t want to get into details, but there was more going on. I think the only reason I reached him is that I could relate. He had this girl (fiancee) who cheated on him and gave him a disease. He was a devout Catholic so that was a bit of a blow. He couldn’t find a job (he beat someone up when he was in, long story, got tagged with a psych label) just a ton of things pressing down on him. I think we talked for 3 hours or more. Some times you just have to ride it out - for no other reason than to just endure.
And that’s the thing, I agree with Nietzsche - death is ALWAYS there. Everything else comes and goes. Endure it and you still have death if you need it.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:43 PM on March 17, 2006

I tried pills. Abusive spouse.

Activated charcoal tastes horrible.
posted by kyrademon at 1:54 PM on March 17, 2006

What does that have to do with it? You're assuming that economic conditions have a significant effect on the number of suicides.

No, I'm assuming that people would think suicide should correlate in a straightforward manner with conditions of life. And while there does appear to be some of that there (within cultural regions), my point was there appears to be unexplained between cultural components too. I didn't pretend to have any answers, I was asking for ideas.
posted by dgaicun at 2:26 PM on March 17, 2006

[Great thread, y'all.]
posted by squirrel at 4:21 PM on March 17, 2006

Thank you for this post. It is a comfort to know that so many of you are survivors. My father killed himself almost 7 years ago and did not leave a note. I have spent alot of time wondering what was going through his head when he jumped off that bridge. I know it was a sadness that I will hopefully never be able to comprehend.
posted by elvissa at 4:27 PM on March 17, 2006

posted by yerfatma at 6:20 PM on March 17, 2006

Maryh, I’m beyond words with sadness to hear about your 13-year-old kid brother’s suicide.

furtive, omg, your cousin was only 11 when he suicided???!!! That’s horrendous. I’m so sorry.

KevinSkomsvold, croatoan, kyrademon and fleacircus I’m so glad you’re alive.
MrMoonPie, I’m glad your brother’s alive.

alms, you’ve been through a lot with your mother’s suicide attempts. And open safety pins and rat poison, oh god, no. Could she have had Borderline Personality Disorder traits?
Your ambivalence about suicides is totally understandable. My biological mother also attempted suicide a number of times, saying she would jump out the window in front of us kids and we got to the point of profound exasperation and despair. I found help for my own anguish caused by her attempts in an online recovery group. Frequent suicide attempts is a trait of people with BPD (Borderline Personality disorder) or BPD traits.
I’m so sorry after all that she died of cancer.

Moonbird, wow, how brave, kind and generous of you to help others after your own painful experiences. Major respect.

Smedleyman, I had no idea Bucky suffered from suicidal ideation. I’m SO glad he lived! His joy and wisdom have been a major influence on my life. I loved his statement: “I live on Earth at present, and I don't know what I am. I know that I am not a category. I am not a thing — a noun. I seem to be a verb, an evolutionary process — an integral function of the universe.”

You said: I think in some ways ridding the world of someone like me, at that time, might have been a good thing. I'm still trying to payback some serious karma. Hopefully I'll have enough years and get better at it.

That’s brutally honest, or else you are judging yourself too harshly. Yes, changing is the hard part. If it’s being honest I’m glad you are alive and wish you well on your journey.

Fandango_matt, wow, you’ve experienced many friends’ suicides. I was astonished to read that Rick was driven to commit suicide because of tinnitus.

schroedinger , it sounds like you have survivor’s guilt, that you ‘failed’ in killing yourself and lived, paradoxically winning; while your friend ‘succeeded’ in committing suicide, paradoxically losing. I don’t think if you died that he would have lived. In fact it may have caused even more misery and he might have killed himself anyway. I’m very sorry your friend died and am glad you lived.

shoepal, wow, sounds like an amazing course. And maybe a good one because if ever there were a time to discuss suicide in depth intellectually I think in university would be it, when kids are still feeling the hormonal blast from adolescence and not yet with a workplace façade.

Empath, that’s so poignant to hear about the dj’s loving and respectful family. There was a health food store around the corner from where I live and the main guy who worked there was from Trinidad, sweet, super intelligent and committed suicide out of the blue. It seemed in his case so unexpected, I was utterly baffled by it. I think sometimes people who abruptly suicide but otherwise seemed unlikely candidates for this, may have had some deep pain percolating that surfaced and been unmanageable at that time.

Also, I think it’s really hard for guys to seek therapy, there’s this stupid stigma about it and there are also a LOT of inadequate, unsympathetic or plain weird shrinks. The thing is, while being in emotional pain it’s hard to shop for a decent shrink. At least now on the web one can Google “recovery” and get over 600,000 links

Or Google “therapy” and get over 200,000 links.

Support groups” gets over 900,000 links.

Depression help” gets over 100,000 links.

Surviving abuse” gets 7,920,000.

The net has made healing from depression and all manner of suffering much more viable.
And free with online recovery/support/info groups.

Empath said: if they wait long enough, sometimes the sun does rise again.

I used to think my ‘sadness’ (actually chronic low-grade depression) would lift or go away once I understood what I survived as a kid but depression crept up on me over the years and took hold of my life so it ground to a halt. I never knew that depression could be like that, so life paralyzing. It’s a mental-emotional-biological-neurological pattern and hard to get out of once one is in it. I think it’s better to know about sooner rather than later so the pattern doesn’t create a really hard to get out of rut. Fortunately, I did find a way out of the rut. It took a lot of therapy, 6 months of an anti-depressant and writing in online recovery groups.

Goodnewsfortheinsane, omg, moshing at the funeral. That was mind-blowing and moving. Oh wow, suicide by train. Yikes. My friend, Thomas in Germany, his brother committed suicide that way too. What a horrendous way to go, also making the train engineer have to deal with the guilt for the rest of his life for not stopping soon enough. Awful.

OmieWise, major respect for the work you do.

Coda, omg, the missing carpet. I’m so sorry for your Dad’s and your loss. And then right after your post Debaser626 told the story of her own father’s friend shooting himself too!

Debaser626, I just wanted to say that I have late stage cancer, just went through grueling chemo and am now undergoing radiation, it’s do-able. It sucks but it’s do-able, pain and all. It’s worth it. I know I am facing a sooner rather than later death and am at peace with that. But I wouldn’t suicide and I certainly wouldn’t want anybody to suicide because of my death. It’s good to know about Hospice/palliative care. With Hospice care even death by cancer doesn’t have to be some awful event. It’s so sad that he got the same cancer his wife had. But still, each person’s body deals with cancer differently, even the same kind of cancer. I have to say that I thought I would commit suicide if I ever got cancer. Was sure I would never do chemo and radiation but I’m here and surviving. It’s okay. Life is good. Living is hard but it’s worth it.

Anybody can be a non-drunk. It takes a special talent to be a drunk. It takes endurance. Endurance is more important than truth.” - Henry Chinaski. I truly think that is a deep crock of bs and classic “stinking thinking”.

elvissa, God, I’m so sorry about your father’s suicide and also the painful impact it had on your life. I can imagine that for a child of a parent who committed suicide with no note it would be compelling to understand exactly what they were thinking. Suicide is many issues compounded into one, impossible to untangle with any precision after the fact, or before the fact for that matter. Any moment of life is usually a mix of many feelings, thoughts, impulses, memories, ideas. Googling “understanding suicide” I came up with this site, which I thought had a pretty decent take on it.
posted by nickyskye at 7:44 PM on March 17, 2006

My best friend has been gone for 10 years now. So much pain. He hurt himself many ways over the years, but that particular day he woke up and decided to die. The worst part was finding out by reading the paper because his family didn't know how to get in touch because we had been out of touch for a while.

I wish I could say I have never contemplated it myself, but that would be a lie. I am lucky though, the deep darkness of depression has fled from my life.
posted by UseyurBrain at 8:05 PM on March 17, 2006

Anti-suicide outfits. via.
posted by nickyskye at 10:03 PM on March 17, 2006

Ah, a thread that makes me thankful I do check in on the blue now and then.

Hugs all around.
posted by deborah at 11:17 PM on March 17, 2006

What's missing from this thread so far are anecdotes of people creatively using suicide to better the lives of those they leave behind, while ending their own suffering. It's a long tradition in many cultures, and continues to the present day, even in America.

My own grandfather did this, back in 1974. At the age of 76, after a major heart attack which required my grandmother and him to sell their multi-story house and move into a single floor duplex (to avoid having stairs to climb), my grandfather had finally had enough. Enough of the constant nagging by my grandmother to take better care of himself, enough of the zero salt diet that robbed his food of the taste he liked at every meal, enough of living in the town my mother and father had chosen for their home (to which they'd moved my grandparents to be better able to care for them) instead of the city in which he'd lived the previous 56 years of his life. So one early spring morning after a 3 inch snowfall, he put on his hat and jacket, and over the vocal objections of my grandmother, he went out to the garage, got his snow shovel, and proceeded to shovel the driveway.

My grandmother called my dad at work, but by the time my dad got there, my grandfather had already finished the driveway and sidewalk, gone back inside, layed down on the sofa, said "That was heavy." and died. His life insurance allowed my grandmother to live another 12 years in decent circumstances, including several years in an elder care home. He was buried as a Lutheran, and what he did was acceptable to his church and community, although regarded as a case of possibly poor judgement.

In his home state of Nebraska, every year, a small number of experienced but failing farmers do the honorable thing. It takes a certain amount of rationality and a degree of selflessness to organize an agricultural suicide that is plausibly an accidental death, to the point that insurance companies will pay claims, and wills cannot be contested on grounds of mental defect. But farms are plausibly dangerous places, so those that are so inclined can usually get the job done dependably.

I'm sure we'll never know how many people in the larger society, tired of their lives but not wishing to further pain others, quietly make some similar but hidden choices. And absent any arguments about the ethicality of increasing the life insurance premiums for others by the choice they make, who is to say that such people are truly making the wrong choice? We all have to go sometime, and if we can do so with benefit to others, and leave nothing behind that unduly pains those we may leave, or even offers them some alternative acceptable view of our end, should we not be able to choose our time?
posted by paulsc at 2:04 AM on March 18, 2006

Suicide is an almost life-long companion of mine, like a sorrowful and hungry ghost walking beside me. I don't think I can read the linked piece—this thread is about as much as I think I can take.

My grandfather killed himself in '67, when I was three. And for the next twenty years it was almost as if he had never existed. He was never mentioned, there were few pictures, certainly no one talked about his suicide.

I planned and began a couple of attempts back in 1994, I was 30. The second time I came very close and in that moment something became very clear to me: I don't believe in an afterlife. Not even a little bit. And complete oblivion is something I don't know how to choose—I'm careful about how I think about it...there is no "after". I suppose this is one benefit of my rigorous and comprehensive intellectualism. But maybe it's a cost, not a benefit.

Again in 2000, at 36, I went to a very bad place for an extended period of time. Hospitalized twice. I thought about suicide constantly. I had no hope. But, again, I had trouble with believing that oblivion would be better. And I wasn't angry, as I think I had been when I was younger. So I just floated along, profoundly depressed, not responding to meds, surviving by default.

The last six years of my life have been really weird. Pretty good and very bad, the last couple somewhere in between. But I take a cocktail of three different antidepressants just to maintain a level of being very depressed. Without meds, I have nearly constant suicidal ideation.

And it's a very strange thing. It's a possibility there at hand, ever present; but I still have that old problem of not being able to obliterate myself, and I have a new problem in that more than ever in my life, I'm aware of how many people love me, and how much I love them. Killing myself would hurt them horribly. I can't imagine choosing to hurt people I love in that way.

Off the meds, I feel very close to that chasm. While there's these barriers I just described, it feels like I'm right up against, maybe holding on the rail and peering over the edge. I think I'm frightened in a way that I have not been in the past—it's the sense that suicide is most likely to come to me not out of wailing despair, but out of simple bone-deep fatigue.

I have every reason to be angry at someone, something—I don't doubt that my chronic major depression at the least is partly a matter of abnormal brain biochemistry, and now my progressive joint disease inexorably slices away another chunk of my life: I can't do this, I can't do that, and the pain is always there, always worsening. I know my sister is angry at, I suppose, God because of her having this disease—but I've never been angry at anyone, I was born me, that's who I am. I could have been a starving child in Calcutta. But sometimes I wonder if I am very angry, locked away down deep, and maybe that's part of the depression that sucks the life from me. I don't know.

The world changes, things happen. It's been another week. I'm working through the practical difficulties of my present life, motivated not from deep hope but more because, well, what else could I do? Suicide whispers beside me, but it seems more a companion than a choice.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 4:10 PM on March 18, 2006

Someone asked about suicide rates in other parts of the world. I know that in Japan, suicide is the #1 cause of death for several age groups, which I learned from this great article from the Japan Times.

Japan's rate of suicide is the highest among all the G7 countries, and more than twice the rate of that in the United States. In 2004, 32,325 people in Japan took their own lives, more than four times the number who died in traffic accidents. Men are far more likely to commit suicide than women, but in some age groups suicide is the leading cause of death for both sexes.

I recommend the article for the cultural information as well. "You mean to say in your country, suicides don't take off their shoes first?" I haven't lived in Japan that long (about 15 months total), but I don't have a hard time believing that for many Japanese, suicide is seen as the route which causes the least trouble for others, especially in the case of the elderly who don't want to burden their children living far away.
posted by muscatlove at 8:28 AM on March 20, 2006

Excellent, muscatlove, thanks. (Though it still offers no definitive answers on the shoe thing!)
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 2:44 AM on March 23, 2006

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