8.11.2014

Why Does Someone End Their Life?



After more than three decades, I have been "close" to suicide more than the average person. I have spoken in depth to loved ones who have lost a family member to suicide (child, parent, spouse) as well as folks that have tried and failed, and then, a few who tried and ultimately succeeded. I have had to deliberate on the deeper meaning of such a violent and drastic action. Here's my humble but best understanding. 

Have you ever tried to solve a complicated math problem? If it's beyond your abilities, you will probably give up, knowing it’s pointless, saying something like "I will never get this. I don’t have the brain power, patience, motivation - to work it out. I can't solve it!" The fact is, there are math problems that I simply will never be able to solve, and I know it. Life is sort of a math riddle; lots of rules that nobody can ever accurately relay to us, we just kind of "get it" at some point, if we're lucky (luck is defined as the cocktail of  DNA, family, health, temperament, spirit, opportunity).

"I can't get this thing called life. Other people can. I can't and I never will. It’s just out of my reach and I give up," is the exhaustion and frustration speaking.

Those who complete their suicide have almost always tried it before, maybe once, usually several times. Suicide is the end of a long road. It’s physically painful. Air hurts. Not for a day. Not for a week, or a month, but years. Feelings of hopelessness, combined with impulsivity - mix in chronic pain, job loss, a recent heartbreak. Problem-solving experiments show that the first thing to go is creativity when pressure is increased. Creativity is an outgrowth of time, patience, clear-thinking, freedom, respite. Once creative problem-solving is squashed, ideas run dry and hope for the future is greatly diminished. Thinking becomes like molasses.

Many people suffer from a clinical depression at one time or another, maybe recurrent over a lifetime, yet, the majority do not seriously contemplate ending their life for more than a fleeting thought. No…it’s not like your blue days. 

He "killed himself" is being phased out because there's an implication in that language that one is sound of mind and body, an informed consent at play, complex thought. Finally, suicide is not meant to punish other people. That’s far too devious for the person buried under a mountain of ash, unable to gasp a full breath, racing heart, feeling of dread, terror, panic, shame…these are the words and feelings I have heard about.

Please do not refer to someone's suicide as a big FUCK YOU. See it from their pinhole shaft of light.
RIP Robin Williams, 8/11/14
RIP Junior Seau, 5/02/12 
RIP Freddie Prinze, 1/29/77