Suicide: The Forever Decision
Paul Quinnett, Ph.D.
You Don't Have to Be Crazy
The first thing I want to tell you about suicide is that you don't have to be crazy to think about it or, for that matter, even to try it. Suicide is a solution. No matter what anyone tells you, suicide does solve problems, at least your problems. And if you succeed, it solves them once and for all. As you have no doubt already figured out, once you are dead nothing can hurt you anymore. Once you are dead you are beyond feeling bad. Once you are dead you can't possibly care what happens anymore. Whatever pain you are in, it will end just as soon as you stop breathing. Since there is no point in kidding each other right here in the beginning, I won't argue with you that suicide doesn't work. It does. Or at least it seems to.
Before this time in your life, my guess is that when you heard people say they felt like killing themselves, you thought they were crazy. Now, if you are in that same place, maybe you can see how they felt. For whatever reasons people think it, most of them will say you are crazy for thinking about suicide. Or, if you kill yourself, they will say you must have been crazy to have done it.
But the truth is that most people who kill themselves are not mentally ill, at least in the way we think of people who are “out of their minds.” Yes, people who are psychotic sometimes kill themselves, but most people who die by suicide are people just like you and me; people who, for reasons I hope you will explore with me, have decided that life is just not worth living anymore.
The great majority of people who attempt or complete a suicide are so sad or hopeless or angry that they simply can't stand life anymore. Or they have been dealt such a terrible blow by life that they are overwhelmed and can see no other way to end the feelings of loss, stop the suffering and regain control over their future. But they are not crazy. And, most likely, neither are you.
Later in this book I will talk in detail about depression, loneliness, anger, hopelessness, stress, and how these states of mind can influence us and trigger our thoughts of suicide. But for the moment I encourage you to try to read the book through from front to back so that you will understand the hows, the whys, and all the risks and consequences of trying to kill yourself.
One of the things that happens when you begin to think about suicide as a way out is that you begin to feel better, sometimes a little better, sometimes a lot better. After all, when you've been stuck with a problem for which there seems to be no answer, finally finding one is a great relief. You might ask, "How can this be?"
Because we humans are capable of imagining doing things we have never done or being in places we have never been, we are all capable of imagining what it might be like to be dead, or at least what it might be like not to be alive. Only man is capable of imagining his own death. We can play our death out like a role in a movie. We can close our eyes and see ourselves lying lifeless in a casket. Whether we will admit it or not, just about all of us at some time or another, have imagined what it would be like to be dead.
It is this powerful ability to imagine an end to our problems that makes thinking about suicide possible. And it isn't like anyone can stop us from thinking about taking our own lives. It is our mind, our imagination, our ability to anticipate what death might be like that makes us human beings and no one, but no one, can stop us from being human.
From my point of view you have every right to think about suicide as a way to solve whatever problem you are dealing with right now. Suicide is a decision every single human being can contemplate. And for some people, in some circumstances, suicide might be it is the right decision. What people and under what circumstances is not for me to say.
So for now, for this moment between us, I'd like to put the suicide decision on the shelf and ask you to stay with me for the rest of this book. As you can guess, I'm not writing this book to hurry anyone along. Rather, I'm writing this book to help you examine suicide in some detail and maybe in some ways that haven't yet occurred to you.
I have one other belief I need to share with you right now. That belief is simply this: Every time any of us has to make a decision, we always make the very best decision we can. None of us starts out to solve a problem and says, "I think I'll make a lousy decision this time." In my view, this never happens. What does happen is that each time we have to make a decision, we take all the available information we have, run it through our little brains and then, sometimes crossing our fingers, we decide what we will do. And herein lies the problem.
What if we didn't have all the information necessary to make a really good decision?
How many times have you looked back at a decision you made and said, "Gee, I shouldn't have done that. I didn't know it would turn out that way. How could I have been so stupid?"
If you are like me, then you've done this little trick hundreds of times, maybe thousands. No one has a corner on the stupidity market and making decisions you later regret is just part of being human.
Among other things, life requires that each of us make decisions, hundreds
of them each day. There are little decisions like what to wear to work or school
each morning, and big decisions like what to do in life, whom to marry or whether,
when things are going badly, even to go on living. Everyone has to make the
same decisions. The trouble is that we never seem to have all the information
we need to make the best possible decision every single time. If we did, we'd
make perfect decisions. But since we don't, we keep on making imperfect decisions,
decisions that we later regret. Frankly, I don't see anyway out of this for
any of us.
But there is hope. As people get older they generally get a little smarter. They get a little smarter because the longer they live, the more information they have and the better the decisions they tend to make. Think back to when you were a kid. Think back to a decision you made that, given what you know now, you would never make again.
For example, if you are a smoker, given what you now know about smoking, would you have tried that first cigarette? Probably not.
Or maybe you got into a fight with a best friend or a parent and decided never to speak to them again.
Would you act in exactly the same way today? Maybe not.
The point is, we can all look back and regret some of our decisions. We can all look back and see that we were stupid, or maybe ignorant is a better word. Ignorance (not having all the facts) is what most of us are most of the time.
But this is okay with me.
I don't mind being ignorant. I don't like being embarrassed because I don't know something, but then nobody ever promised me I'd always know everything I needed to know when I needed to know it. And, unless you got a different guarantee than I did, I don't imagine you're any better off.
But I think we can, all of us, hope that each day we will get a little smarter. And I have always felt that if I can look back at some dumb decision I made and say to myself, "Paul, that was a stupid decision;' then at least I'm not getting any dumber.
So what has all this to do with suicide? What it has to do with suicide is this: when people start thinking about ending their own life, they generally don't have all the facts. Since the majority of suicidal people are depressed and not thinking clearly, they may think they have all the facts, but they don't. And, because suicide is such a permanent solution and one you can't go back and remake, then for your own sake, perhaps you ought to make the decision only after you’re feeling good again and then only after you have considered all the facts.
And I mean every single one.
One thing I have learned from people who have thought about suicide and finally decided to do it is that once they've made their mind up, they suddenly feel better. In fact, some of them have told me they feel wonderful. "Now I know what to do!” they have said.
And this is exactly what happens to any of us once we have finally found a solution to a problem we've been struggling with. It is as if we have set down a huge burden and, in setting it down, we feel a great relief.
But just one minute. Sure, suicide will stop the hurting. Suicide will make all the problems go away. Suicide will end the nightmare that living has become. But is it really as simple as all that? Isn't it a bit scary? And isn't it awfully final?
You might think that last question is a silly one.
Of course suicide is final. But you might be surprised to learn that the younger a person is, the less he or she knows about death and the finality of death. But the older you get, the more death you see and, in the process, you come to know that a suicide attempt that ends in death is truly a final decision.
As a friend of mine who works with suicidal young people recently said, "Some kids think suicide is a fad. They have a big problem and they say, 'I think I'll try suicide this week. If it doesn't work, I'll try something else next week.'"
If I have a job ahead of me in this book it is, more than anything else, to convince you that what looks like a quick and easy solution actually isn't all that quick and easy. As often as not, suicide is a complicated, messy business and creates as many problems as it solves.
True, you don't have to be crazy to think about it or maybe even try it but, if you'll forgive the joke, suicide can be dangerous to your health.