Eight things to know before taking your life

If you are reading this it’s likely that you have thoughts of killing yourself. I personally don’t subscribe to the belief that suicide is necessarily a bad thing to do. In the west we believe in personal freedom, that one’s personal freedom should be respected unless it restricts other people’s freedoms. And deciding whether to live or die is completely personal. Having said that, before going ahead with your plans, which will have irreversible consequences, you may want to read the following and give it a thought. Why? Because I’ve been there and have done that myself. As mentioned in the about section, I was once about to jump out of a building and on another occasion I splayed my wrist. BUT I’m still here and want to share the perspective that I’ve gained with you. Read on.

1-You have time

Seriously, what is the rush? You’ve lived for many years and even decades so why not wait and live a few more days or even months and give it more thought? Right now you are feeling a certain way but tomorrow or next week, quite likely, you’ll be feeling differently, if you are still living.

2-There are still things you enjoy

The first time I had suicidal thoughts I was thinking of jumping out of a window on the 7th floor. But I was afraid I would not die. (I know, that’s a strange type of fear.) I had read about a woman who had jumped out of a 5 story building. She didn’t die but lost all her fours. I was thinking in despair for a while with my forehead against the window. Then I told myself “Let’s go get a coffee; I can do it later.” So in retrospect it was coffee which saved my life.

You may think of this as a triviality but at the end of the day it is these simple things that life is really about. You’re not going to be a knight in shining armor or someone who saves humanity. Hardly anybody is going to be a rock star or a politician or a Nobel laureate. (Even those do not mean much. Look how the most powerful man in the world is doing now.)

What makes life worth living is the simple pleasures in the face of difficulties. Drinking a cup of coffee or tea. Watching the sunset or sunrise. Walking on the beach. Raising your kids. Building something, anything. Hustling. Seeing how your work affects other people. Taking care of your plants or pets. Spending time in nature. Listening to your favorite songs. Playing a musical instrument. Working out. Learning a new skill. Traveling to a new place. Helping someone in need… you name it.

Even though I’ve not had suicidal thoughts for quite a while, I suffer from chronic fatigue and I usually feel tired when I wake up. What gives me the kick is the pleasure of drinking a cup of espresso, watching the dawn and then working out and practicing the guitar or piano.

Imagine something you do (or used to) find pleasure in and see if you want to experience it again.

3-Your suicide attempt may fail

This is a form of negative encouragement and negative encouragement affects some folks but not others. All suicide methods (possibly with the exception of using firearms and poisons) have a potential to fail. For some methods such as slaying a wrist (which is what I did) the consequences may not be huge. I was left with a big scar on my wrist and having to take an antidepressant. But for others such as jumping from a height or in front of a vehicle or self-demolition the consequences can be severe and a source of great regret.

I know what you are thinking. You have thoughts of killing yourself because you’ve not been successful in some aspects of your life and you are thinking “This one I can do for sure. I’ll show you!” But as I mention in #6 below, below there are much more worthwhile points that you can prove.

4-Your suicidal thoughts may have physical reasons

Non-emotional causes such as sleep deprivation, anemia, hypothyroidism and low testosterone can all cause depression. Even low blood pressure can result in feeling depressed and even in suicidal thoughts. Have a doctor (not a psychiatrist) check you for these possibilities. If you have one of these problems it can be addressed by medication or lifestyle changes. In the case of men, free testosterone less than 500 is low even if it may be in the “normal” range.

5-You will die anyways

Human life seems long and long winded. Being an infant, being a child, teenage, school, high school, college, work, dating and marriage, debt, mortgage, relocating, death of close ones… These all seem so long and complicated. But in the grand scheme of things human life is actually very short. Think how many sunrises your (geographic) place has seen compared to the ones you’ve seen. This fact is beautifully described in a poem by William Knox which was a favorite of Abraham Lincoln:

Oh! why should the spirit of mortal be proud?
Like a swift-fleeting meteor, a fast-flying cloud
A flash of the lightning, a break of the wave
He passeth from life to his rest in the grave.

The leaves of the oak and the willow shall fade,
Be scattered around, and together be laid;
And the young and the old, and the low and the high,
Shall moulder to dust, and together shall lie.
[…]

I look at the trees outside my apartment and tell myself one day I’ll be gone but these trees will still be there. The trees start as little seedlings and they keep growing, they withstand winters. Sometimes a storm brings a couple of them down but otherwise they are constantly and silently fighting and growing. And this brings us to the next point.

6-There is something to be proved

Years ago I read a book written by a Jewish psychiatrist who had spent 3 years in concentration camps during World War II. The accounts in the book are very appalling and certainly not for the faint of heart. At some point the author, Victor Frankle, talks about the inmates who, after a long period of suffering in the camp, decided to give up. Then he says “[W]e had to teach the despairing men, that that it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us”. For a long time I didn’t understand the meaning of this. I told myself “Do I not suffer enough that I have to fulfill what life expects of me too?? Why he doesn’t have any expectations of the lucky ones?!”

But after many years I finally understood what it meant. You are thinking the world does not care about you. But the real question is, do you care about the world? Right now your fire, the fire of Prometheus, is diminished due to external circumstances and possibly neglect so you are thinking of putting it off for good. But with some care the fire in you will come back to life and then you can bring some light, no matter how big or small, to the world. You can be the light. Even if very few people would appreciate the light you bring. Even if you are the only one who appreciates it. Remember that being a minority of one doens’t make you crazy.

You will reach a state when death comes to you and you tell him “Wait, I’m not done yet”. Like a marathon runner whose leg breaks and crawls the rest of the way or the man who fights a mountain lion with his bare hands. You just need to appreciate and nurture your fire. What are the things that you are, or used to be, passionate about? Doesn’t matter if people around you don’t find them worthwhile.

7-Your mind may be (part of the) the problem

I just quoted the psychiatrist who was kept in a concentration camp for a few years. If you are reading this it is unlikely that you are physically held in a concentration camp. BUT guess what, your mind may be imprisoned in such confinement. That’s right, due to external circumstances your mind may have got used to interpreting things in a certain way, expecting a certain type of outcome from every effort or interaction or making certain assumptions about the world in general. For example you may think other people think low of you or are suspicious of you. You may think your efforts won’t have much of a result. You may think the fate is against you or certain mishaps tend to happen to you.

These all result in a self fulfilling prophecy: if you expect negative or otherwise poor results you won’t get great results, simple as that. It’s called not playing to win. I understand that this may be difficult to digest if you’ve experienced mishap after mishap, and so was it for me. However with reading or counseling, making a conscious effort and persistence you can disperse the dark clouds of your mind. It takes time but it’s certainly worth it. I recommend Cognitive Behavioral Therapy such as this book. You can read my own article on meditation too.

Remember, everything starts from the mind. That‘s where your reality initiates. Unlike the outside world your mind is 100% yours and under your control. Start by picturing how you’d prefer your life to be even if it looks far from the situation you at now. Then you can start to work towards achieving your goal, even if it is a tiny step at a time.

8-Things can be changed

What are the things that are bothering you?

A nagging or abusive partner?
The bills you have to pay?
The friends, colleagues, relatives and acquaintances who don’t seem to care about you?
Keeping up with the Jonses?
All the responsibilities you have?
A demanding boss?
A restrictive society?
Bad climate?
Not having enough sexual release?

Guess what, all of these can be changed. You can separate with your partner, find a new job, relocate to a different part of the country which is cheaper or has better climate or to a whole different country. Modern culture makes us think we need to have all sorts of possessions such as a big house, cars, gigantic TVs, etc. If you think about it, you realize that most of these, even cable, are not really necessary. A homestead can produce his or her own food and get by without needing much from the outside world.

I would say that life in the US is more complicated than it needs to be, with overpriced healthcare, sub par or lacking public transport, a difficult and complicated relationship between male and female and entertainment that is loaded with propaganda and a culture that encourages you to consume and get into debt. In contrast, in Latin America life is cheaper and simpler than in the US and climate is temperate. In Europe healthcare is cheap, public transport is abundant and there are more safety nets compared to the US. However the US itself is a great country and has a lot to offer. With regions which vary greatly in demographics, climate and the cost of living.

Think what unnecessary stuff or persons are burdening you which can be removed from life. Think what other parts of the country or the world you would be curious about living in. Imagine, again, how your life would be there. Does it look like a pleasant picture?

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