May 5, 2010

  • An Open Letter to Anyone Thinking About Suicide

    An Open Letter to Anyone Thinking About Suicide

    “Live fast, die young, and leave a good looking corpse”
    Knock on Any Door 1947, by Willard Motly

    “Life’s a bitch, and then you die.”
    From a button I had in the 70s.

    Although I’ve been around a while, I was young once, and I was depressed most of the time. I was short, smart, and wore both glasses and braces by the time I graduated from the sixth grade. I was bullied, taunted, and stuffed into trash cans. I liked to read more than I liked sports, and I wasn’t very good at sports. Although teachers adored me, most of my peers really wanted to have nothing to do with me. I was classified as a “sensitive type” and a “momma’s boy”.  I began to write poetry in the eighth grade. This was not a “popular” thing to do in 1967.

    While I was in college both of my parents died, one right after the other. Although I had been raised a Baptist, and was pretty spiritual while a youth, I became an atheist in high school and pretty much lost my faith completely. I attempted to regain it after the deaths of my parents, but found a lot of dogma about “the end of the world” and instructions to “witness” to total strangers instead of a positive reason for believing.

    I didn’t begin drinking or taking drugs until college. I lived at home as long as there was one. Then almost overnight I became a party animal, and because I rented my own apartment at a time when most of my friends still lived at home, my place became the place where everyone would hang out to smoke dope and drink vast amounts of alcohol.

    My very first poem, back in 1967 was a metaphoric suicide poem. During the time right after high school, where I had finally succeeded in creating a persona for myself where I mixed in well with the “popular” crowd, I wrote a lot of poetry with suicidal imagery, and I used to tell people I was going to flame out spectacularly by driving my 1961 Thunderbird off the Palos Verdes cliffs into the pacific ocean. Drugs like speed and LSD didn’t help. Because of my situation following my parents’ deaths, I had dropped out of college, and worked full time.

    Sometimes life would really get me down. Being a poet, who has always cataloged my work chronologically, timestamping and dating each poem,  I can instantly recall where my mind was at during any time in my life, just by rereading my poetry. For most of the 70s and early 80s, when I was in my 20s and even passing into my early 30s, I was depressed a lot of the time. I have always had massive mood swings, where I would be giddy one moment, and depressed the next. Add to this natural mind state lots of drugs and alcohol, and the mind begins playing tricks. I collected friends. I partied a lot. But I always ended up alone in my rented room feeling sorry for myself.

    I fell in love, but it wasn’t reciprocated. Many times.

    Not one but three of my best friends have died. One when we were both 37, from a work related accident. One from a heart attack at 47. Just a couple of years ago, my longtime roommate Joel died of cancer.

    I haven’t even mentioned the fact that I’ve been in physical pain for most of my life.

    I’ve got to tell you that many times when I was younger, I thought about suicide. Just ending it all. Stopping the “damned questions”. I never thought I’d feel love and my family pretty much disappeared when we all went our separate ways following our parents’ deaths. I really didn’t feel like I was sane most of the time. I spent most of the late 70s in a dope and booze filled stupor. I would stay up all night fueled on cocaine and call in sick the next morning. Once I went to work after an all night party after getting home only an hour before my work shift began. I was so messed up that I broke down while on the job, going on a crying jag over a girl who worked there whom I felt jilted me. My boss had to call me aside and tell me to go home. I’m lucky I wansn’t fired on the spot.

    Two of the three businesses I worked for went out of business, causing me to have to look for another job. I was fired from two more positions. I’ve had two careers, and I’ve had to live on unemployment more than a couple of times.

    I just turned 57. I am childless, and I live alone. There has been a lot of sadness, pain, and depression in my life.

    But I’m glad I stuck around. I’m glad I discovered poetry when young, and used my writing talents to create metaphors for my depression, instead of actually following up on my “suicidal tendencies.” That button I wore that said “Life is a bitch, and then you die” was true then, and it still is. We all die, and for the most part, life can sometimes suck.

    But that’s no reason to pull the plug on our existence and say our permanent goodbyes.

    I believe for the most part that all our souls end up in the Universal Mind. We don’t need to believe in God for this to happen, and we are all essentially “saved”. I don’t believe in “hell” but I believe the afterlife is a great wonderful “heaven” where “we” all are joined in Universal existence, and all our questions are answered. I’m glad I never tested this theory, however, because then I would have missed a lot of the life I’ve led.

    And even though I’ve just told you a lot about sadness and grief, I haven’t told you about the many happinesses and wonderful times I’ve had. You see, for every bad thing that happens in life, a good thing follows it. We might be overcome with our depression so much that we forget to notice the good things, or else we deliberately don’t look at them. Because we are so determined to concentrate on our dismal existence, we sometimes think that it’s just so much better to end it all. And sometimes it seems as if this is the right thing to do. But it isn’t

    Suicide is a cowardly act. It’s like closing the book before you’re finished reading it. Or shutting off the song six bars in before you even get to hear the hook. I won’t tell you life is easy, cause it isn’t. Life is hard and heartbreaking sometimes. But if you stop the clock before the alarm has a chance to ring, you’ll be missing the sunrise, and the great day that might lie ahead of you.

    You have to give yourself a chance. You don’t want to listen to your peers if they are taunting you or otherwise making you feel bad. You don’t want to concentrate on the hidden meanings behind the things your parents do. You certainly don’t want to respond to sad songs and books or poems others have written, especially if they committed suicide. Those who have exploited their talents by offing themselves are even more cowardly than most suicides, because they leave a legacy essentially telling other depressed youth that it’s okay.

    It’s not okay. And if you do end it all, you’ll never know why. Well, that’s not exactly true. You will gain your final realization just like we all will, because you will have died, but your friends and relations, and those your life might have touched will never know why, and that’s really tragic. What’s also tragic is that by cutting your cord with life, you are completely severing your potential. We all have potential, even if we’re lying in the gutter homeless without any will to live.

    I am coming from a place where you might be right now. I’ve been there. But I’m glad I wasn’t stupid enough to end it all. I’m glad I stuck around. And because of my friends who perished needlessly, from an accident, a heart attack, and cancer, neither of which any of them asked for, I know my world would be much better if they had been around to share it with me, and if I had acted on any misbegoten suicidal tendencies in the past, what little time they had as my friend would be gone for good. (And like any good friend would do, Tom, who later died at 37 even bailed me out of jail.)

    Things might be really bleak right now. But don’t stop living. Life is far too short as it is, and if you close your eyes, you won’t see what’s coming. And what’s coming might just be the most wonderful thing you’ve ever experienced.

    So join me in life, and turn your back on your most terrible thoughts before you perform any acts that you won’t be able to undo.

    EDIT: 05:06 7:22am pdt. It was quite amazing to wake up and see all these comments and recommends. Thank you to everyone who has commented and recommended this post. The entry is pretty long as it is, and I wasn’t going to supply any links. but there are some other posts/essays which relate to this subject. First, my essay, The Dichotomy of Life, from 2006. Next, my analysis of my own depression, from 2005.And lastly An Open Letter, from 2005, with some of my “suicide poetry.” MFN/ppf

    Posted: May 05, 2010 6:50 PM

Comments (55)

  • because you only have one life to live. very nice, sir.

  • Nicely done, Mike –

  • Thanks Mike.

  • I needed to hear that this week.  Very well written.  Very rough week at my house, but I especially like the bit about closing the book before it has been finished.  Good analogy.  Even with terrible things that happen in life, I like the idea that something better or nicer could be waiting if I just plunge on.  Thank you for the encouragement in what has been a very bleak week.

  • Excellent post, Mike!

  • I like this post, Sir.

    My husband commited suicide 2 years .. i wish he read this first…

  • Very good post Mike

  • Agree!  Life is too short to miss the potential of happy times.

  • Very insightful.. Very encouraging.. live life to the fullest with no regrets..

  • And if you must kill yourself, please don’t do it in a boring, unobtrusive way.
    Don’t suicide by cop, suicide by secret service as you aim a kick at some high-ranking gnads.
    Don’t jump off a building; try to make a jetpack out of thousands of fireworks and FLY off it.
    And so on.

  • “Why would you choose a permenant solution to a temporary problem?”  But not all problems are temporary.  Sometimes, it’s the smallest straw that breaks the camels back, and when you turn around, no one’s there to catch you when you fall.

  • Thanks for sharing this. I’m still undecided about the “suicide is cowardly/selfish” issue; I’ve seen some decent points on each side. I know that for me at this point it is not an option, but I can understand how others would feel like it may be one.

  • The Japanese make suicide a bit easier to do but really now are you (a rhetoric question not pointed at anyone in particular) really that bored/miserable/in pain/agony /dire straits et. al?

    Some people have this disconnect. There are many instances that we are all interconnected. Who would of thought that Jill used to be in your neck of the woods, or that a xanga meet could be nearby?

    We share the same country, same tastes and similar cultural values but have enough differences to not make us bored. Those people that teach closemindedness want everyone to be miserable like them. Throw the doors open, renounce suicde as the ultimate door closer and enjoy life.

  • Very, very well said, Mike. One thing though, I don’t feel suicide is a cowardly act. I think with some people the pain becomes absolutely unbearable, and they just can’t bear to continue any longer. I think it’s a bit heartless to come down so hard on those people. But, I agree with you if at all possible we should try our hardest to deal as best we can with any suicidal thoughts we might experience. I’ve felt as you have and have suffered my share of terribly depressive times. You are a very talented and giving man, so have much to share with all of us.

  • Beautifully said, Mike! I’ve never seriously contemplated suicide, although there have been times in my life where I have just wanted to rest, not to carry a burden any longer. But, life is funny in that, during the moments of extreme stress, something will happen where I can find a moment of joy, just pure peace, that will seem to lighten the load long enough to get through. (btw, the only bumper sticker I’ve ever owned was on my first car and said “Life’s a Beach”) :lol:

  • someone commented on their blog about this one and here is what i wrote to them: “ i learned to quit not liking it when others tell me what to do…there will always be someone who can tell us what to do…we are not teaching our kids to get over that and get on with it…that, paired with a ridiculous lack of impulse control (thank you, self esteem movement in the public schools for that one) is leading to some pretty self centered and disasterous decisions by  these kids”……i don’t agree that life is a bitch and then yu die…life is what yu put into it…yurs was rough, but yu didn’t put much in early on…i wish kids would knock off the booze and drugs and find something interesting to do…life is a blast when yu do, unless yu wake up one day and see how much of it yu squandered….

  • I have never been in that place, but this seems like a wonderful post for those who have been there.  And an intriguing post for the rest of us!

  • “Suicide is a cowardly act”~ I disagree Mike.  I think it’s a wounded soul who is desperate~ and wants the pain to stop.  I’ve faced it~ but decided not to go through with it.  It was not an easy or cowardly decision.  If we showed more grace to folks who are struggling~ maybe they wouldn’t feel judged to the point of feeling suicide is even an option.

    I also believe brain chemistry has a lot to contribute to those who are able to push beyond suicide~ and those who don’t.

    I do agree wth your message to fight and stick around.  :sunny:

  • @Ro_ad808 - @Oz_girl - @WildWomanOfTheWest - Dear Michael, Marion, and Tamy. The antonym of cowardly would be brave. It is not brave to end our lives, since we don’t know if we have any more to spare. Death is the great unknown. I’ve contemplated it often, and I’ve written about it much in these pages. It is brave to face our demons, and trust our lives, without paying regard to any outside forces which we feel might be weighing upon us. It sounds “heartless” perhaps for someone to call a potential suicide victim a “coward”. But I don’t think so. A coward is someone who cops out, and by ending one’s life, one is performing the ultimate copout. You can’t hit the refresh button on the browser of life. There is no ‘back button’. It is a brave person who denies the impetus to pull his own plug. I’ve been there. I know. I’ve been in that gutter. (literally.) I’ve felt the deepest most unsettling feelings a person can feel. I can give you links to the poems I wrote during those dark times. But I always stopped short of acting on the impetus, and this is the brave thing to do. Face life, no matter how dismal it seems, because we can’t have wonderful without terrible. If life is a test, ending it before it ends (and it does end, for ALL of us) is a cowardly thing to do. MFN/ppf

  • Thank you for being and offering hope to those who will need it. Nicely done Mike

  • Mike, you always have an inspirational word.

  • @hesacontradiction - 

    someone is ALWAYS there. Problems may not be temporary. But what is “temporary” in the course of an entire lifetime? Life changes…the storms do eventually subside

  • I hope someone who needs this reads this post.

  • ok. though I wonder if the afterlife is so great, why stick around here? haha…

  • Words of pain and wisdom.

    good stuff

  • This was really well written, but unfortunately it would have done me no good at all if I had read it during the times that led to me attempting. The reasons I attempted was because I felt like that “there’s always something better waiting around the corner” was a lie. Even now I still feel it is, and the only reason I’m not at the point of attempting is because I don’t want to leave my dogs without someone capable to care for them and I’m too scared to try it without being fueled by the level of desperation that fueled the other attempts. I think the whole “Don’t close the book yet” thing is utter and complete bullshit – I don’t know why people can’t accept that for some people, the crap IS the book and there is no better part waiting. Sometimes it just doesn’t work that way. What’s the point of living if you’re one of those people?

  • It’s so frighteningly common I almost find it funny now; that is, how our cultures treat suicide.

    To quote Sarahbeth Purcell:
    “Mental imbalance is about as acceptable as herpes. It’s never going to be accepted. But really, it’s just a disease just like cancer. It just happens, and eats away all the good parts of your brain, like judgment and happiness and perception and memory and life. And you can die from depression just like any other disease. And it’s not as if people choose it. So why is it still a joke of medicine. “She died of cancer” is a lot more socially acceptable to people than “She committed suicide.” Why?”

    Our cultures view it as cowardly and selfish without daring to engage the fact that perhaps we are the selfish ones: demanding that a person live in a state of suffering because their death would hurt us.
    We offer euthanasia to patients suffering physical pain and we mock those suffering from mental anguish. We are a society of hypocrites.

  • “if you close your eyes, you won’t see what’s coming. And what’s coming might just be the most wonderful thing you’ve ever experienced.” You are amazing.

    What a brilliant post. <3

  • you are amazing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    this text didn’t SOLVE my problems but it made me feel a lil better! a lot to be honest! i love this! thank you for sharing this with us!

  • This was phenomenal. Thank you for writing this, truly. :)

  • This is an amazing post. :sunny:

  • You have a great outlook on life. Thank you for sharing your story!

  • I respect your elderly insight and thank you for your thoughts.

  • This is pretty inspiring for anyone considering suicide and tells it like it is.  You don’t want your story to finish without seeing it to the end.

  • Thank you. This is one of the few top xanga blogposts I feel has true meaning. Instead of quibbling over the small things, saying what’s right and wrong, sharing thoughts about fashion and commercials and American Idol and all — this is honestly important.

    Life is so very precious.

    I know someone who almost committed suicide this year. And I feel that this person has so much to offer. Thankfully, she stopped herself before anything serious happened. She’s not depressed anymore, and she’s getting the help she needed. I’m so glad she’s still here, and I couldn’t imagine my life without her.

  • Great post, thanks for sharing. I think your view has a lot more credibility than many others’ because you’ve not only “been there” in a sense, but you’re able to look back on many years of struggles and are still glad you never made that fatal choice.

  • Very good advice Mike.

  • I appreciate very much your “witness” and your post on suicide. I hope & pray that if anyone that is thinking about it, that they will be directed to your blog. Although I’ve been exposed to suicide prevention methods taught at my former church in Dallas by a man who established a “suicide prevention” hotline in the area, I don’t know anyone currently who might be considering. In my past, I did know people who committed suicide, and that was before the class. Afterward, I bought a book written by Bill Blackburn, What You Should Know About Suicide © 1982, Word Incorporated. I still have the book. BTW: Dr. Blackburn received his B.A. from Baylor Univ. and his PhD in theology and counseling from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

    During a time of depression after college, I considered suicide m’self, but couldn’t go through with it, PTL. I kept a journal during that time, which I discovered later was a helpful thing to do in dealing with my depression. At that time, I had no close friends or support group. It was a kind of “crisis of faith” for me, too. I called it my “desert experience” because I lived in Phoenix, not far from desert area. 

    Re: Belief – the more I learn about Jesus, the more I believe, not just to be “saved” from hell (whatever or wherever that might be), but to be free to live on earth as God intended. Religion and dogma are not my thing, but I do believe in Jesus as my Lord.

    ~~Blessings ‘n Cheers

  • @baldmike2004 - 

    You are so right. I would much rather continue to fake my way through life to a “natural” death. And oh, calling me a coward makes me want to live so much more! Thank you for the great words.

  • I really appreciated this. I’ve been there quite a few times in my life, but at this point, I’m so undeniably grateful that I never made any attempts. Life is beautiful, even if it’s not at the moment. Things will always improve, you just have to believe it.

  • Thank you very much for posting this entry. The world just turned into a better place for me.

  • i’m really glad that someone that has first-hand experience with depression wrote a blog like this, hopefully it will discourage a lot of people out there considering suicide. i myself have a friend that commit suicide when we were in high school, and it really saddens me to think about what she would be today had she not given up. “for every bad thing that happens in life, a good thing follows it” i really love what you said there, that is so true! you really have to count your blessings.

    ps: that better be orange juice in your glass, you look a little young to be drinking.

    :) have a lovely day

  • I have been battling suicidal thoughts for the last six months. Now, I must say that your letter is very inspirational and that I am doing fine prior to reading it. Alas, I have to say if I would have read it months ago it would have helped very much. I tried rigging my body to go out in the middle of surgery so no one would know I did it.

    I thank God everyday that I am still here. I believe we come together as well in the end and I look forward to that moment for myself but it was not yesterday, nor is it tomorrow or the next day. I found so many things that helped and I would like to share them here if I may…

    Girls, if it is a guy you’re hurting over please lean on girlfriends! I promise distance from guys helps and avoids future issues. I suppose it goes for the opposite sex as well.. guys lean on guy friends!

    Find a physical hobby. I started (hula) hooping and the physical exercise makes a world of difference. It’s a huge outlet for rage and grace mixed together. Plus, exercise releases dopamine into the brain and delivers oxygen as well. It helps the brain cope and feel better.

    And last but not least, if you feel that it’s unbearable, PLEASE, get help! I started seeing a psychologist and, while it has been time consuming and a bit expensive, it has changed my life. Listen to your doctor and let him or her really have a chance. It’s hard but improving yourself is for you. They didn’t become psychologists just to take your money. They have a passion and want to see YOU do better and succeed!

    Remember there is always someone who loves you. Even if that person is a stranger or at least not very close to you.

    Also, if you feel truly alone (and I am not religious by any means, I promise) you can always find someone to talk to in a church or other sort of temple.

    Help doesn’t have to be a four letter word.

  • @lilCookie11 - Dear Cookie, Your site is locked to me, so I’ll return your comment as a reply on the blogpost. Thank you so much for visiting, leaving a comment, and subscribing. I share a lot about my long life, and I have an elephantine memory of over five decades. Michael F. Nyiri, poet, philosopher, fool

  • @baldmike2004 - 

    Mike: When I was still teaching HS, I had a seminar of very bright seniors each year. They had a pretty comprehensive summer reading list and then we spent the year discussing the topics. For some years I used Karl Menninger’s Man Against Himself as one of the core readings. An older book (1938 pub), it was a pretty comprehensive study of the causes and results of suicide – all types from immediate to chronic and semi, from a Freudian viewpoint.
    Late adolescence is one of the dangerous times for suicide and the classes always took it seriously. Discussions were fascinating and in a few cases, it is possible that the discussions acted as prevention.
    I was unsuccessful in one case however – a bright kid another teacher (retired Colonel and West Pointer) persuaded to go to West Point. Totally inappropriate for him (I was also a Service Academy alum and knew whereof I spoke). He flunked out of “beast barracks” and killed himself – a loss to all of us.
    I don’t think most folks know how dangerous the stresses of late adolescence are and how close some kids come to killing themselves, to say nothing of those who commit the chronic suicide of such things as alcoholism and hard drug use.

  • I wish I’d found this a few weeks ago. I’m still here though, for better or for worse.

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