29 May 2008

Reasons to Stay, or Why I Didn't Kill Myself

Revelation: I've thought about killing myself a time or two. It was in high school and junior high. Definitely not at all recently. I never tried it. I wanted to. There were times I just didn't know what joy life held for me. I didn't want to deal with life anymore. I didn't see any good way out of what I saw as entrapment between a rock and a hard place.

Mind you, this wasn't just because I was a gay kid. I didn't see my attraction and burning desires as anything other than an odd, perhaps freakish, abnormally intense curiosity. And that seemed like just one thing. I knew I had a relatively easy life in many ways, and my childhood was genuinely a good one, as far as I could remember. But now I had all these emotions I couldn't figure out. I didn't know how to deal with them. Sadness I didn't know how to cope with. Dilemmas I had no answers for. Anger I couldn't explain. Passions I thought were dark and abhorrent. A body I hated and was intensely ashamed of. I think it's what they call "adolescence".

I'm glad I didn't off myself. I've had some good years since then. Very good years. I hope there are a few to come as well. I'd like to think there are. I've gained a lot of social skills and coping skills. I've made and strengthened some lasting relationships. I've had some beautiful, memorable, and educational experiences. I've learned to savor some of what life has to offer and to bridle what must be bridled without feeling like the passions I'm bridling are terrible monsters. In short, it would have been terribly short-sighted to end things when they were hard, since out of the difficulty has come so much growth that has brought a life richer and more fulfilling and interesting than I foresaw at that time.

So why didn't I do it at the time? I remember thinking about the ways I could do it. Overdose on some over-the-counter drug. Gun in the mouth. Slit wrists. Noose. Tenth story leap. Carbon monoxide poisoning (the most likely candidate). Purposely catch a fatal disease. I thought of what might be most effective, most fool-proof, least painful, hardest to botch, least messy. I wasn't interested in a half-hearted attempt to gain sympathy and attention. If I was going to do it, I wanted it done right, no embarrassing aftermath, explanation, and psychiatric evaluation.

I pictured, in my mind, what my funeral might be like, who might attend, what might be said. I didn't picture many people going. I couldn't figure out what they'd say in eulogy.

Now, I want to clarify that I never actually came close to attempting suicide. I never bought the needed implements or thought about it more than briefly. I was never so "serious" about doing it that I started planning it out. I never really talked about it with anyone. I don't intend to belittle the grief of those who have attempted it or feel it's their only option. I don't want to make it sound like I was on that same ledge or set myself up as having been more distraught than I was in order to prove a point. I'm only saying I know a little of what it feels like to not see any way out of misery other than to leave the circumstances the only way I knew how.

What kept me from looking more seriously for ways to end my misery by falling into what I perceived as a sweet, peaceful darkness?

1) I believed in life after death, and I believed that I would carry my unresolved baggage with me there and would still have to deal with it anyway, making any "relief" only temporary in the grand scheme.

2) I knew that at least one person in my life would likely fall apart if I left her in that way. I simply couldn't serve my own desire to escape at the expense of my mother's happiness. I didn't know if she would ever recover from the trauma.

3) I'm a stubborn cuss, and I wanted to prove to myself that I could do this, that I didn't have to run away like a scared little boy and that I could take life on and prove that other people and situations weren't going to get the best of me. I believed, deep down, that suicide was a false and cowardly "way out" and that somehow, I was going to prove to myself that nobody, not even life itself, could take away my freedom to control myself now and in the future.

4) It seemed terribly selfish, beyond vindictive, to take the "easy way out" and consequently leave a mess and/or trauma and/or void in others' lives that they would then have to deal with the rest of their lives.

5) I certainly didn't want to be remembered primarily by this one dramatic act. I wanted people to think of me as a person when they remembered me, not always think first of how I killed myself.

6) I was afraid of not doing it right and being left living with scars, brain damage, or social stigmas the rest of my life.

7) Somewhere, deep down, I knew things might get better. Maybe it would take years, and the thought of carrying on like I was for that long disgusted me, but I figured if it was 5 or 15 years of misery followed by 60 years of happiness, maybe it was worth the wait.

8) I realized that if any of my friends committed suicide, I'd be devastated by the loss, hurt by the fact that they wouldn't stick around for me, and worried about their eternal welfare. I didn't want to put them through that on my account, in case they did care.

9) I knew, deep down, there were people, even if only a few, who truly loved me. And though they may be able to recover and move on with their lives, I would possibly be causing each of them more sorrow than I was feeling.

10) I believed suicide to be murder of the self. I saw it as a rejection of God's plan for us, the opportunity to learn from the experiences we have here. I saw it as a defilement of the gift of life we were given. Even if that "gift" seemed like a cruel joke at the time, something inside of me told me something which is reflected in the Doctrine and Covenants of the church, section 121: "thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes." I leaned on the promise that somehow, if I stuck with it, as much as I hated the prospect of doing so, the eternal rewards, the experience and perspective gained and the joy given afterwards, would all be more than worth it in the bigger picture.

11) Maybe, just maybe, even though life sucks right now, I need to be here to help someone else in some way someday, and I would be robbing them of that help if I don't stay.

12) I knew that "I'll show them" didn't make sense. If I intended to make "them" miserable, the approach was flawed because if they were made miserable, that meant they truly did love me, and I would probably realize it one day if I stuck around, and if they didn't love me, then they would be only mildly affected by my passing anyway.

Incidentally, I don't judge those who have already passed on by their own hand as being hellbound. I don't know if their minds were their own at the time they did so. I don't know what stresses and pressure they felt in their life that I have never even begun to deal with. I simply don't know. I don't have to. What's done is done, and they've made their choice, and it's not mine to know what they've done or where they've gone since then.

But for those of us still here, still trying to work it out, let's do what we can to help each other find a reason to love life a little more and to see the bigger picture. Let's foster decisions which will bring happiness and integrity. Let's do what we reasonably can to make sure none among us feels completely abandoned and hopeless. Let's provide an ear and a shoulder without reprimands. Let's intervene and correct when necessary but remember that to do so successfully and personally, we must build a solid foundation of trust and love steadily over time.

Not all of my reasons will apply to all people. My thoughts were fairly rational. As hormonal and moody and depressed as I was at times, my mental faculties were intact. As far as I know, my judgement was not affected by addictions, chemical imbalances, extreme/acute duress, or drugs. I shudder to imagine how much harder my situation might have been, how much more clouded my judgement, had those things been part of my life.

There are myriads of reasons people commit suicide. I haven't even begun to touch on all of them here and probably have not even made a convincing argument, based on my own reasons for scrapping the idea, against suicide, for some readers.

But to those who do feel out of options, who long for the release of endless sleep, and who do have yield over their own minds, I earnestly and passionately hope each finds his or her own reasons to stick around, to push through a little longer and refuse to let circumstance remove their determination to choose life for themselves. There is someone who would feel your loss terribly and traumatically. There is someone you may someday help if you stay. There may be a family or other wonderful experiences in your future you haven't foreseen. There is so much more to life than what you currently see, and with help, patience, and perhaps after a lot of tears, you'll most likely eventually find it and be ultimately glad and grateful you stayed.


Danish Boy said...

Wow, Beautifully said. You said it clearer than I have ever seen. Thanks for sharing that insight.

Cadence said...

yeah if I could write, that seems just like my teenage years... only a few differences, my mom died when I was 17 and so that reason doesn't apply to me, I have always wondered if I am to help someone and I guess time will tell. (i do have a few freakn sweet nephews now and I would give my life for them (put in context- in the least selfish way possible)). one thing that has always bothered me is the talk of a troubled world... it scares me and pisses me off at the same time... but owell... now im only 25 I see a future and hope but at the same time I drive a motorcycle with an attitude of owell... so that's bad but owell... anyway thanks that was a good post...