Suicide

Written last week:

I’ve been awake a lot of the night (it’s 5:30 am here), and the news is full of stories about Bourdain. Most of the morals of these stories are the right ones — reach out to someone you suspect may be struggling, because they may not be able to reach out to you. Along these same lines, I see a lot about depression and suicide, and how depression is a disease and that people who commit suicide cannot help it.

Here is where this post goes off the rails. As someone who has committed suicide unsuccessfully twice in my life, I can tell you that living is a choice. I am not saying that depression isn’t a disease that makes that choice a challenge, sometimes an insurmountable challenge (although in my case, chronic depression is not what was at the root). What I am saying is that all of us have challenges, all of us have stories that would bring you to tears. That is the human condition. Unbearable pain as well as unspeakable joy. Anthony Bordain had a lot of bandwidth and lived both ends of the spectrum; he drank life deeply — I know this because I am the same way.

I think believing that people who commit suicide don’t have a choice makes it easier for those left behind, as if it were something they didn’t have a hand in. One WAPO op ed I read called it a “suicide trance,” as if the person is hypnotized. I disagree. The advice for friends and family to reach out is good as far as it goes, but if someone chooses to die, no one else can take that choice away. So my purpose in writing this, for whatever limited audience I have, is to speak directly to the other people in my world who may struggle with the choice — whether once or periodically or constantly — and give the best advice I can give to stay alive: Choose to go to bed tonight and get up tomorrow morning. That’s it. Suicide is often impulsive and impulsive people are more at risk — so that’s it. Choose to live through the night. If you can’t make it through the night, then choose the next breath, and dawn will eventually come.

I’m lucky; I don’t struggle with that choice anymore and haven’t for some time. I know some of you struggle with it every day. So let me tell you that it is possible to make the choice to live, every day, and for some of us, it is even possible to find peace. But even if I had never found peace, I would still choose to live. Stay with us.

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