Okay, this is going to be personal. Also, I’m kinda scared to make this public in case my family sees, as they don’t know any of it and I worry that it paints them in an undeservedly negative light.
Also also, have a trigger warning for discussion of suicide.
I think that everyone goes through two stages in life in which they have to internalise death as a concept. Lots of people talk about ‘facing’ or ‘accepting’ one’s own mortality as if it’s a single thing, but I disagree.
- At some point, possibly fairly young because of personal proximity, possibly when you’re a bit older and begin to understand the context when it shows up in the news, you become aware that you, as a person, can die. You accept the possibility of mortality.
- At some later point, probably years after, you become aware that you definitely aren’t immortal. You, as a person, will die. You accept the inevitability of mortality.
Many people struggle more with 2 than 1. I don’t want to make any sort of concrete pitch of when it happens, but assuming a fairly sheltered life where family members or friends don’t die during your childhood, the first one probably happens around the late teens, the latter is something many people struggle with until the very end and others pick up in their early 30s.
In 2004, I attempted suicide. It wasn’t a good attempt, and I chose a fucking terrible method. I don’t need anyone to tell me this.
It turns out that throwing yourself in front of a train is much easier to go through with when the trains run more than once an hour. When you’ve got that time to wait, you start to realise that what you’re doing — not the urge itself but the method you’ve chosen — is fundamentally selfish. You’re inflicting significant trauma on a lot of people; spreading your pain to others who have nothing to do with it and no chance to avoid going through a pretty horrific experience.
I had my reasons. I’d graduated and then moved home, spent six months without a job and then another four working in a place I hated for not enough money to get a place of my own. I felt like I was being treated like a teenager again, and to be fair I was acting like one. I felt trapped. Everyone I’d graduated with had jobs and places of their own. They had lives, I was barely existing. I was in the middle of a really depressive swing. For the month beforehand I’d worked my balls off on my first freelance writing project. It was the only thing since moving home that I’d wanted to do, and then the draft was in and it was over.
I am eternally grateful that I did not succeed.
Since I hit point 1, I have known that people can and do take their own lives.
Many people think this is somehow wrong, that to do so is a signifier of serious mental problems or some kind of personal weakness. The stories from the people who survived jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge reinforce this idea. “I realised that everything in my life was fixable. All of my problems had a solution. All except that I’d just jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge.”
I disagree. I take comfort in knowing that people can and do take their own lives. They may do so because of reasons that don’t make sense to other people, or because of mental illness or whatever, but those are a matter of reasons. I don’t see a difference between people who do that and people who die due to preventable circumstances.
I do not accept that suicide is any kind of moral failing.
Five years ago, I was diagnosed with type-2 bipolar disorder. This diagnosis pretty much explained 90% of my life since the age of 14.
It has not controlled my life. I’m high-functioning; while it did affect my grades at points I’ve never lost a job because of it. My coping strategies, while incredibly unhealthy in many ways, meant that I could get through life without anything worse happening than heavy drinking and some magical thinking.
But it explains why I did a lot of what I have, and why I’ve struggled being me at several points. I’m on medication that helps control the depressive episodes, so they don’t get as bad. I specifically asked for something that wouldn’t affect the hypomania as much. But I may talk about that more in the future.
Over the past few years, I’ve come to accept the inevitability of my mortality. And I have come to realise that my most likely cause of death is going to be by my own hand.
After all, what are my options? Of my grandparents, I’ve got a choice of cancer or Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s. My grandad went from being a bit eccentric to asking the same question a dozen times to back-filling events across history in order to form a coherent causal chain of events. My grandma has gone from having a shaky hand to having trouble leaving the house to being unable to leave her chair without two people helping.
Odds are, I’m going to end up a prisoner of my own body, or my mind — the thing that I believe defines me — will rot away. That’s my likely fate.
I will not stand idly by while that happens. I would much rather bring things to an end while I am still able to do so.
In 2007, I had my second bout of serious suicidal ideation. It was a combination of another depressive episode and a job I had learned to hate; the result of a line manager who bordered on the sadistic and worried more about appearances than actual work done.
I did not, at that point, attempt anything. But that was only after several hours of serious consideration. That was, thanks to changes of circumstance and (now) being diagnosed and having medication, the last time.
While I’ve had bouts of suicidal ideation, I have no present desire to take my own life. I doubt I would do so unless there are specific and (to a significant extent un-curable) physiological reasons to do so.
This is my personal position. It is not a statement or judgment on how anyone else chooses to end their life.
Some people would consider my position as being in favour of euthanasia rather than suicide, but I don’t think that’s the case. Euthanasia puts a halt at an earlier point of a downward slope, and frequently requires the intervention of other people because the degeneration has gone past the point of being able to end it oneself. I would rather end my own life while I have the self-determination to both make the choice and to execute it myself. I do not want to burden anyone else with participating in my death.
Considering suicide is not a sign of weakness. It is not a moral failing. Just considering it is not a sign that you should go through with it.
If you are considering suicide, please think about the impact your chosen method will have on the people who find you, and on anyone who may be a part of your death. Think about the circumstances that have lead you to this point.
Circumstances can improve. Circumstances frequently will improve. You may not believe that, and quite frankly I do not blame you if you don’t, but the conditions of the world around you are not your fault, and they can change. Physiological circumstances are harder to get around, but be sure of the prognosis.
And if, having done all of that, you still decide that the only thing you can do is to end your own life? That is your choice. At some point, I will likely join you.