In this post I’m going to talk about something that is difficult to talk about, but also very important. To me, it cuts to the very core of what it means to be human. The act of taking your own life. Humans are unique among the animals as in we are capable of deciding if we want to keep living or not. Do most people consider it a choice?
I guess most of us have had hard times where, however fleeting, the idea of not existing seems pretty appealing. The catch being that it is pretty damn painful to end your life so that’s where the exploration stops for most people. Do you have to be mentally ill to take your own life?
I’m not talking about actual chemical mental illness, where you are incapable of separating reality from illusion, like where a paranoid schizophrenic decides the best course of acting is to slit their wrists because aliens landed in the backyard. That requires hospitalization and medication. I’m talking about the existential crisis known as depression.
In a way, depression is all about perspective. It is a distortion of reality, but the cruel trick depression plays on you is that now you feel like you are seeing the world and its truth more clearly than ever. And it’s all meaningless.
When you are depressed you can’t distinguish between time and the meaning of things. It’s like, because I am unemployed and unsuccessful right now, I will always be unemployed and unsuccessful so why shouldn’t I swallow fifty pills and go peacefully into that good night?
Or take laundry for instance. Laundry is just something a normal person does without much thought. But when a depressed person thinks of laundry it becomes this metaphor for the meaningless of life, the fact that you are going to have to laundry every few days, or even weeks, for the rest of your life and it will never, ever be just, done. Over with. Then laundry actually becomes a reason worth killing yourself over because what is the point of life if it is going to be filled with these endless tasks. Might as well check out now rather than, inevitably, later.
And when you are in that state of mind, it really doesn’t take too much to push you over the edge. Sure, you don’t want to be remembered as someone who killed themselves over laundry but if a slightly more serious, noble reason comes around, you would be very tempted to grab that reason and end it all.
You actually begin to think you would be doing people a favor because this way, they won’t have to deal with your bullshit anymore.
But, of course, suicide is the ultimate selfish act. Not one person has any way of knowing how their life influence the people around them, and how such an act would impact or devastate them. Whenever I get really, really down and people around me may start to worry, I always tell them they don’t have to. As long as my mother is alive there is no way I could ever, ever kill myself. Because to do that to the person who gave you life, who feed and nurtured and made countless, endless sacrifices for you, is just about the most horrible thing a person could do. I mean, I care about a lot of other people too, but my mother gave me life. To end that and have her live with it, while I float away into oblivion, is so awful I can’t even process it.
A lot of indigenous tribes all over the world don’t, or didn’t, have a word for depression in their vocabulary. (Most of them are extinct now, isn’t that depressing?) It just wasn’t part of their worldly experience. Yet more and more people in our culture succumb to depression and we hide it, or take pills, or quit functioning and lay around all day contemplating the meaningless of life. Then, a lot of people change their lives and feel better. But either way, it takes a certain level of comfortableness to be allowed to feel depressed because I’ve also noticed people in poverty tend to prioritize hunger over their emotional well-being.
This all leads me to conclude that depression isn’t actually the problem here; the problem is that it requires a certain level of insanity to be able to function in our modern society of work-life balance. Depressed people have simply found a way to see through all the bullshit and now they are upset because their values are out of line of what television tell them they should care about. Or maybe they just finally woke up to the fact that the corporations we depend on to feed, clothe and house us have also hijacked our governments and are using them to wage war and kill innocent people, just like us, only born in the wrong country. That there is absolutely no way of not being a hypocrite in this world, which is pretty fucking painful, when all you desire is truth, honesty and beauty.
A lot of my favorite artists have committed suicide. I don’t glamorize it but I do feel that tinge of jealously. Hey, you came, you saw, you conquered minds, then went out in a blaze of glory leaving an everlasting imprint. Obviously, I’m not a fan of accidental drug overdoses. Addiction is a disease and there is plenty of life after it. But a gun-to-the-head suicide says I’m done and I’m going out on my own terms.
As an artist you spend your whole life weighing the good against the bad. If you are a really good writer you understand humanity so deeply, and the pain of writing it all down is balanced against how much you love the world to be able to share these deep truths. And then I think, at some point, the pain becomes too much. And that’s okay, too, because everyone’s lives are different. The people who make it to the finish line are worth celebrating because of how they triumphed over adversity, but the ones who didn’t quite make it, but tried so hard, are equally worthy of celebration. Until such a time where we all can live out our lives in peaceful and beautiful co-existence. May it be less demanding and more in tune with our fragile psyche and strong hearts.