A reader writes:
I want to echo what your reader said about his connections tethering him to the world. I absolutely share the sentiment. I have an objectively great life, full of privilege, but I feel as if I’m always carrying around a massive dark truth about reality. At some point in my early 20s, I read a lot of existential philosophy and have been managing an existential crisis ever since. I purposely create responsibility and connections in my life to keep myself from being able to consider ending it. If I didn’t have my dog to take care of (and a family some day in the future, hopefully), I’d look at life in a “I could take it or leave it” manner.
I’ve never really responded to any of your posts but I felt compelled to write in about your new thread on suicide. Describing suicide as “among the most selfish acts” really resonated with me. In fact, it’s the exact lesson I learned after my failed (thankfully) suicide attempt at the age of 14.
I was in a coma for three days and I woke up to absolute devastation around me.
My parents, brother, and friends were horribly affected. For years afterwards my mother suffered from a sort of PTSD, having frequent and intrusive flashbacks to the memories of finding me unresponsive in my bed, carrying me to the car, and driving me to the hospital. At the age of 14, I learned that my life is really not mine alone to do what I please. Although I had no “dependents” (my own children, an animal), I realized that other people’s happiness, emotional and physical wellbeing did depend on my continued existence.
I am now 27, and though I have struggled off and on with thoughts of suicide throughout my young adult life (thankfully less and less as I grow older), I have never seriously considered taking my life again. It probably seems morbid, but I would often picture my family and friends if I were to take my life again, how terrible it would be for them, and it gives me a strange motivation to keep on going.
At the age of 14, I simply was not able to comprehend the complex ways that my life intersected and affected those around me. Whenever I hear or read about teenagers taking their life, I think about how it might be possible to impart this same lesson on young people without needing a failed suicide attempt to learn it.
My brother committed suicide three years ago. Suicide leaves many questions, and not enough answers. I did a lot of reading on suicide after my brother died to try and find some answers. You might be interested in the research by Dr. Thomas Joiner. His theory on suicide is right on the mark, in my opinion. Three pillars: 1. Burdensomeness, which leads to the mistaken belief that your death is worth more than your life to others 2. Loneliness/Alienation 3. A fearlessness of death that builds up over time. All three need to come together at the same time, like a perfect storm.
My father committed suicide about two years ago, and one of the hardest things to think about is whether he knew how much his family all loved him. We know he loved us. We don’t see his suicide as some big middle finger at us. But what keeps me up at night is wondering whether, in his last moments, he understood how deeply we wanted him in our lives. If he knew that and still committed suicide, so be it. His was the result of a long and terrible struggle with depression, and I can appreciate that he desperately needed to find peace. But if he left us without knowing that; if his depression prevented him from seeing it – well, what a terrible world.