On Suicide

I made a statement about the recent suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. I think I got my point across but after sleeping on it I felt like I needed to say more. I’m giving my final (famous last word) perspective on it, having been suicidal for well over 1 year (mid-2016- late 2017). I survived. I’m not strong. I’m not special. I’m really fucking lucky. I AM grateful. I’m not going to get into why I think I survived (that’s another post) but I do want to say something about what it feels like to want to die, the misconception that it’s a choice as most people know the concept, and my thoughts about the people who express strong hatred for people who die from suicide.

This is gonna be a fun Saturday post!

This is what wanting to die feels like: Torture, from what I’ve read (I read a lot of weird shit). Eventually, most people break because the pain is intolerable. That’s not to say the information they then volunteer at that point is reliable (that’s a whole other thing- but it is demonstrably not reliable). It doesn’t matter if you don’t want to hurt people you love. It doesn’t matter if you have people you love who rely on you (like children). It doesn’t matter if you have serious obligations of any kind. When you want to die, you cannot feel anything else. All you can feel is pain. All you want is for the pain to stop. It doesn’t mean you love the important people in your life any less and feel any less horrible about hurting them. You just can’t feel anything else. The only thing that exists is pain in those suicidal moments. There is only one thought and it has filled your soul and your heart and your mind: I want to die. And a lot of people give in to that thought.

A lot of people view it as a choice. I hope I’ve managed to describe that it’s not really a choice. The person is in such pain that they can’t choose. They just can’t fight anymore. It’s not surrendering. It’s being unable to fight anymore.

But calling it a choice gives the suicide victim agency that they do not have. I do believe people are responsible for their actions most of the time. If they have options. In this situation, there is only one option.

This is relatively new to me but I recently read that you shouldn’t say “committed suicide”. You should say “died by suicide.” I know a lot of conservatives will be furious about this new salvo against their values. They always want to hate the sinner, despite that famous maxim. They really get erect over incremental punishment so a suicide victim has robbed them of the ability to punish them. This is odd and doesn’t make a lot of sense (most things in the conservative world view have a very strange and weak logic). Most conservatives are religious. Most of these folks believe in the concept of hell. Most of these folks believe that a suicide victim is going to hell. So if these folks know he suicide victim is going to face ETERNAL TORTURE, why are they so mad? How much more can they be punished? What’s that about? Are they mad because they themselves don’t get to punish the person?

Super Nerd aside: This anger towards suicide victims is not universal. It depends on the culture and historical era. In Canada their penal system is based much more strongly on restorative justice (the relevant parties in a crime are usually brought together to discuss the cause of the crime and to try and find, within reasonable legal structures, the best solutions to address the crime’s causes and tries to find a solution that heals everyone, which may well include some sort of punishment for the convicted party). Retributive Justice focuses on punishing the offender. Most people are pretty familiar with this philosophy and I really don’t think most people think the justice system is doing a very good job. In Canada, for example, the recidivism rate (the percentage of people who end up in jail again after being released from jail) is 41%. In the USA, a retributive justice-focused country, the rate is 72%. Neither countries are doing a great job but the difference is pretty telling.

Super nerding over.

I think we are largely a myopic, emotional, illogical, retributive justice culture. We’re myopic because we only think about getting our shit back from the burglar or hoping the guy who assaulted you gets beat up or raped in prison. We don’t think about what happens when that guy gets out. The world will not have been made a safer place. We’re emotional because people are and when you suffer as a result of a crime you rightly feel violated and that engenders strong emotions. We are not logical because we are emotional. And we’re retributive because well I’ve already explained that.

So I think the people who hate suicide victims just represent a large swath of the American populace. A large swath of the American populace is comprised of poorly educated, prejudiced, violent, myopic monsters. In other words, it’s comprised of human beings.

In summary, a person who has died from suicide did not have a choice. And for the people who hate them, I have only this to say: I hate you. Fuck off.

Go Dubs and Caps!


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