Friday, June 8, 2018

A Surprisingly Uplifting Examination of Suicide

I was 23 and had been quite depressed for some time. Returning to my bad apartment in my bad car from a bad gig in a bad venue with bad musicians for bad money, I'd hit a new emotional low and couldn't muster the will to keep driving. Pulling my car onto the shoulder, I experienced a roaring, overpowering urge to finally end it all.

But as a curious and introspective fellow, I was compelled, even amid all my angst, to question the phrase.

"End what, exactly?" I asked my empty car. I knew the next step from movies and TV shows, of course. The character in this situation slits his wrists, or carbon monoxides himself or whatever. But like (I suspect) everyone who's ever declared an urge to "end it all", I noticed a weird impasse. I had no desire at all to do harm to my body. There was no connection there. When I'm thirsty, I don't choke a squirrel or sing the national anthem. By the same token, my yearning to "end it all" didn't impel me toward bodily harm. It seemed like the most ridiculous non sequitur. If I were in a better mood, I might have even giggled.

I understood, intellectually, that killing my body would, indirectly, solve the problem. In a certain sense, it'd certainly "end it all". But it just wouldn't add up, emotionally, for me. I'm not a movie character, so I don't need to blindly follow a script; a meme. This obviously isn't the answer. So, once again: what, precisely, needs to end?

The answer blurted furiously from my ground zero: I yearned to end the painful, tedious, hopeless dreariness of worldly existence. The heaviness of it all. The burden. I desperately wanted out of all that. Not to relieve it or lessen it, but to totally die out from it. Now. Check, please.

I had no quarrel with my body, but everything else had to die, so I did it. I exhaled and gave up. Totally. Utterly. From the depths of my soul. I even moaned it out loud, "I give up!", accompanied by hot tears and shaking. Whatever I'd been fighting, whatever I'd been resisting, whatever I'd been fearing - come and get me, maul me, consume me. I'm yours. It's over. The universe wins.

The sense of burden lifted instantly, and my perspective, long frozen on negativity, felt luxuriously free. I was free, and always had been. I could do anything. And nothing really matters all that much. This world is entirely for our rich immersion and entertainment. I'd just gotten stuck, that's all! And at my point of ultimate desperation, an inner faculty had pushed me toward a reboot. Many people feel that same urge and, tragically and unnecessarily, resort to a meme, proceeding with self-harm, oddly disconnected though that feels. But that's not what this urge actually urges!

I've gotten re-stuck a few times since then (because I get bored with simplicity and freedom, and indulge the urge to obsess over what's missing). And I've re-experienced that overpowering compulsion to "end it all". But I no longer even begin to associate that phrase with guns or cliffs or bridges. Instead, I recognize - and respect - the urge for what it really is: a powerful and benign wake up call reminding me to let go. To wear it all more lightly, and to bear in mind that the only problem is my own frozen perspective.


Further reading:

Depression Resuscitation Kit
A Unique Perspective on Depression (same link as the last one, above)
Other postings about depression

Letting go feels great, but watch out for this needless pitfall.


1 comment:

Paul Stouthamer said...

I think that if you think a lot and are fortunate to have shed religious retoric (or even more fortunate: not having been brought up in that environment) thoughts of suicide are on the menu as a healthy internal debate. The contrast to other moments being very uplifting.
Also referring to bad musicians etc.., there's always one of those expressions that go around on chest born literature: "If life gives u lemons, make lemonade".

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