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.
Love ya all…tranquille l’espirit…
Ive battled with a depressive existential crisis my entire life…hoping to make a profound difference..but can’t even seem to make it through the mandatory daily grind…
Always bored with routine…feeling hopeless to bring love and peace to such a cynical miserable greedy world…but too damn stubborn to give up..
There is meaning and purpose even if we don’t see it…and we are all connected so stay positive and lets help each other thru this crazy thing called life
I am only on the brink of what you and so many others seem to have already discovered. I’ve only just recently began to separate myself from society (hypothetically speaking, because I am society), but in doing so I’ve gained so much insight on life and the human race. It’s amazing the things you can see around you when you actually stop to see them. It’s like asking someone how they’re doing as you’re walking pass, you don’t really stop to hear the answer. You assume they’ll say ‘good’ and ask how you’re and you’ll respond the same, all within the 4 seconds it takes you to walk by. But in reality, had you stopped, perhaps made eye contact and asked them how they were, they would of told you the truth (what we all claim to want to hear but no one wants to listen), I’m rambling, I do apologize.
I appreciate this post, it’s honest and it’s raw. I read an article on Elephantjournal.com a few days ago and it argued that suicide should be an opinion not an escape. We bring people into this world carelessly everyday, but provide no out. Lot of talk on this topic lately.
Hi, thanks for your comment. Lots of insightful thoughts here :) I think normalizing the feeling of wanting to die would go a long way to create a more empathetic society. The bottom line is, for most people, it is a temporary feeling, and being able to talk about it freely without feeling judged could help a lot of people, I think. Dying is part of being human as much as anything else, and I don’t think we are at a stage we are comfortable with that yet. Yeah, it’s kind of scary and we’ve invented all sorts of fairy tales to avoid really dealing with the concept but it would be nice to live in society where death truly is a part of living.
Just the other day the thought of suicide enterd my mind, as a way to rid myself of the deep feeling of meaningless and helplessness that seems to be encroaching on my life lately. Much like yourself I instantly thought of my family and friends and saw it as a very selfish act; I may save myself the trouble but what about them? I feel that becoming aware of the destructiveness of our society is important as it can help one to develop a ‘better way’ of living. Being informed means being able to make more deliberate, conscious decisions about everything from how you treat, and be treated, by money, and knowing how your actions, however small, somehow, fuel the madness of war and environmental destruction. So in my efforts to become informed I read the more ‘depressing’ news about war all over the world, about corporations destroying communities and the ecology of the planet, in turn destroying the planet itself. And it is hard, so hard, to try and have some hope above it all, to hope that people will simply one-day wake up and see what is going on, and do what is necessary to change the whole planet, not just themselves. This is where the feeling of meaningless in day-to-day activities comes in; will what I do today really make a difference, can it possibly make a difference? And hopelessness; have we as a species gone too far, is it too late, will people want to change? As you said, the depression stems from realising that the values and ideals I have developed just don’t fit in, the depression itself is a product of consumerist, materialistic society we are bombarded by through television, advertising, corporate profit-pulling. This, and the thought that people like yourself exist and write so honestly, gives me hope for a new form of society. Where there is no such word as depression, no such word as war, or poverty, or even money. Depression, like most of today’s ‘conditions’ are symptoms of an underlying problem, we get rid of the problem and we get rid of the symptoms.
Thank you for the beautiful post.
With loving respect,
Thank you for such an honest and heartfelt comment. I also struggle daily with the questions you touched on, and it leaves this after-taste of guilt too because for the most part my life is so privileged and beautiful. Keeping this blog has helped me tremendously in connecting with like-minded people and feeling less alone. I think my bouts of depression have shortened, too. I find a lot of meaning in just keeping informed about the state of the world (usually under-reported by the media) and doing my part to help others make sense of it. I’m still very much an “internet activist” but we’ve all got our parts to play in the change that is coming, whether that is through climate change or civil collapse.
I’m so happy that you found my blog, James. I look forward to following your journey on yours. Much aloha <3
what did Seal say? “You’re never going to survive unless you’re a little crazy”
This was all so true. I really do think depression is just one huge existential crisis, and I think a lot of people just don’t want to admit that they have no clue why they’re even here or what’s really going on. I watched a video not too long ago where someone talked about depression as being a call to rest. Depressed = deep rest. A call to let yourself rest and drop everything you’ve been carrying around with you and to just come back home to who you really are instead of trying so hard to hold up any perfect image or story of who you are or who you should be. Because you are being pressed down by your story, by thinking you should be any certain way. I just really liked that perspective. It was really refreshing.
I like that a lot. It resonates with me now especially because, after writing this entry and getting everyone’s wonderful input, I feel rejuvenated and inspired to keep going and keep making art and telling my story. Thanks for sharing <3
Clinical depression is not existential angst. It is, like paranoid schizophrenia, mental illness. The human mind can be quite deceptive. One of its deceptions is to assign meaning, say existential philosophy, to a thought process that is irrational. I know. I’ve been there. I’ve thought those thoughts. I’ve also been a psychotherapist, helping depressed adolescents. The pain of depression is quite real. The thought process, troubled.
This is a very courageous post. In my opinion, you managed to tackle a very sensitive (and important) subject with honesty and grace. Your laundry quote reminded me of a movie quote that said (in so many words): “You either believe that everything matters, or that nothing does.” I like to believe/hope that everything does, because the alternative is just too damned depressing.
I think I’ve seen that movie but I can’t for the life of me remember the title or who was in it. On most days I agree with you. Life’s pretty much all we’ve got in this universe and so it has its own value :) That’s why I think depression plays such a cruel trick on your psyche because if life is everything then how can it feels so meaningless, you know.
I think it was I Heart Huckabees, but I can’t recall for sure. Yes, depression is a nasty, deceptive beast. I have only skirted around the edges of it myself (I’m more familiar with its cousin, anxiety)… but I have been embraced by the depression of those close to me, at times feeling hopelessly inadequate in my attempts to help them. And there are certainly days when I feel the meaningless of it all, especially when I allow myself to glimpse the mainstream news. Underneath it all, though, it feels like this life has to matter… somehow. That’s why your spirituality post spoke to me so much… because without any dogma to fence in my belief system, I have to go on what I call “the ultimate faith”: a faith in something I cannot even begin to comprehend.
Great post. Spot on I’d say. It’s interesting how the mind works. Having these conversations with one’s self is one thing, but reading it is refreshing. I love the laundry example. A great way to explain it to someone who hasn’t thought about it that way. It’s a simple thing to think “what is the purpose” of it all.
Thank you so much for this comment! I also get so stuck in my head but as a writer I want to write about it, but there’s always that chance that I’m actually crazy so knowing someone can relate means everything. I hope you are doing fine these days and are having better conversation with yourself :)
Excellent post. Thank you so much for having the courage to discuss such a complicated subject and something that means dear to my heart. -Phoenix.
Thank you for your comment. I wasn’t sure how this post would be received so it’s a relief to know someone else understands.
I completely understand. When I saw the headline “Anatomy of Suicide” I am not going to lie a little part of me got excited and could not wait to read. Excellent post again and thanks for sharing.
Very honest post and one that I feel I’m going to have to think about for a while before I take it all in. I was especially struck by the line about depression showing how out of line we are with what TV tells us we should want and care about. Impressive.
Thank you very much :) I quit watching ‘regular’ TV almost 10 years (I still binge-watch quality TV series and not-so-quality documentaries online and on Netflix) and I always feel out of tune about what everyone is talking about but you know, aside from going occasionally crazy thinking about the planetary big picture, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Truth over distraction, always.
A really intelligent and sophisticated post and hit bullseye about needing to become a bit nuts to ‘fit in’ or accept this world. Which is why the world needs artists like you to explain this to other like-minded souls. The world is now looking to old belief systems to heal. Thank you for expressing <3
Thank you so much for this beautiful comment <3 I wasn't sure if I should share this post or not so I appreciate it. When you really think about it it's crazy how much society has changed in just 100 years, compared to all the history before it, so I don't think it's very strange that our minds are having a hard time catching up.
Oh that is such a great way of looking at it ~ it will take centuries maybe to catch up (?). Or this industrial way of life will fall apart and humans will finally return to origin. It is absolutely the Artists of all kinds, who will keep the world sane and nurture the return to our souls <3
Reblogged this on kinginascent and commented:
A beautiful and thoughtful post.