May 5, 2010
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