Of Suicide and Other Comforts
Cradle of Filth inspired title aside, this actually is intended to be a (mostly) serious post about a topic that I take pretty seriously: death. Or, more specifically, suicide. The taking of one’s own life, and modern Western attitudes towards it. If it’s not a topic that you’re comfortable with, please do not read the rest of this post: you’ll likely just upset yourself. And no, I assure you, I’m not planning to kill myself. This definitely isn’t that sort of a post.
Unlike many people, I have no moral opposition to suicide. It’s not something that I think should be taken lightly, but I don’t belong to a religion that promises damnation to those who kill themselves (nor do I think there is any validity in such religions and their promises), and I’m not selfish enough to think that my own life experiences and choices should be used as a model from which to judge others’ lives and experiences and choices. If you want to kill yourself, who am I to tell you that you’re wrong? The world’s a pretty fucked up place. Death, in and of itself, is not necessarily a negative thing, nor is suicide. If you think it’s the best path presented to you … well, that’s your choice to make. It is, however, a serious thing. Ending your own life is among the most serious choices that one can ever make (right up there with creating new life, taking the life of another, or buying a Mac instead of a PC).
It bothers me that suicide, like many other forms of self-harm, has become somewhat “trendy” in recent years. Not so much the deed itself (although statistics show a dramatic rise in suicide rates among young people since the 1960s), but talking about it and using threats of self-harm or suicide as a way of drawing attention to yourself.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. “But Karen, you’re a goth. You write poetry about suicide. You listen to music about suicide. Aren’t you being hypocritical?” Well, no. Or at least, not in recent years. There was a time when I wanted that sort of attention, but it was a fleeting thing, and I grew out of it. I look back, now, and cringe a little to think of just how absolutely desperate I was for attention. The real difference, I suppose, is that I actually did seriously contemplate killing myself on several occasions (and on one occasion actually made an attempt to do so, although I chickened out and induced vomiting long before a hospital visit would have been necessary). And when people first began to find out about those incidents, I was horribly embarrassed by them. It took years for me to come to terms with my own emotions and actions, and one way in which I managed that confrontation with my inner self was through art (especially poetry and music). The most “cry for help-y” poetry that I write is never shared with the world, purely because I don’t want to seem as though I’m begging for attention.
And with most people, that’s simply not the case.
I have several friends who will talk, regularly, about killing themselves. Sometimes they’ll do so in great detail, even. And yet when push comes to shove, they have no intention of following through on it. They’ve considered suicide as a romantic, abstract possibility, but have never faced it with a bottle of pills to their lips or a blade to their wrist. They’ll say “I should just kill myself”, and then wait for the reaction. Wait for the affirmation of their self-worth as the people listening fall over themselves trying to be the first to say “No, don’t talk like that! You’re special and wonderful and we couldn’t handle it if you died!”
I’ve stopped giving out such platitudes. My patience with “suicide for show” stunts ended with a friend in university who called me up, multiple times, telling me that I needed to come over or else he was going to end his life. I wasn’t the only one he did this with. Many people spent sleepless nights comforting this guy and assuring him of how important he was. Eventually, he ended up having 9-1-1 dialed on him a few times and had to spend some time in hospital being psychologically evaluated.
My attitude now is fairly simple. If you really want to kill yourself, I have no place stopping you. Just go ahead and do it. And if you come to me expecting a reaction and expecting me to fall over myself “saving” you, don’t hold your breath. I’ll offer to call 9-1-1 for you. If you say yes, I’ll do it, and let them take you away and evaluate you and put you on happy pills. If you say no, then you’d best either drop the topic, or go ahead and get on with it, because I don’t want to hear anything more about it.
Yeah, it sounds cruel. But you know what I’ve learned? If you really, truly wanted to end your life, you’d do it. You’re the only one with the power to do (or not do) whatever it is you may be contemplating. Involving anyone else in that decision is selfish, cruel, and pretty much just one of the most rat-bastardly things you can do. Because now if you do go off and kill yourself, that person who you involved in it is going to feel guilty. They’re going to wonder if there was anything they could have done differently. And if you don’t go and kill yourself, then you’ve just wasted their time, scared them, and generally made them feel awful. All because you wanted attention.
Such stunts become especially rat-bastardly when the people you’re involving aren’t just random people from the Internet or friends you’re not really that close to. When the people you decide to say “I’m thinking about killing myself” to are actually people who love you — family, close friends, lovers, etc. — then you’re being extra-special kind of selfish. Because even if it’s crystal clear that you’re not being serious, you’ve just forced them to think about what would happen if you ever did such a thing. You’re threatening to rip away something they care about on a very deep level. And you’re doing it for show, to satisfy your own ego.
Several weeks ago I stood by in horror while an acquaintance of mine explained in front of her own husband all the reasons why she felt she should kill herself, the method she would like to use, and many gory details … and then she didn’t do it. She horrified and terrified this man who loves her, and who she claims to love in return, and she did it for pity and attention. The incident’s been floating around in my head, like a bad smell, ever since.
If any of you, my dear readers, ever do such a thing to someone you love … well, I reserve the right to hit you. Violence is rarely the answer, but somebody needs to shut you up if you ever think that such a thing is okay.