There was a time when I had very little
sympathy for suicide. It seemed to me like a cop-out, a giving up
that was more about hurting those left behind or a way to get
attention. I was detached from the experience, had no real exposure
to depression and was pretty full of myself (being in the young and
invincible stage of life). I remember a test in High School sociology
class where the likelihood of suicide was 'measured.' I was in the
group that wouldn't kill themselves because they didn't want to
deprive the world of their presence. I thought that was pretty
Over time my understanding of suicide
changed so that I could see how depression was a chemical imbalance
that could sometimes be corrected with medicine. And sometimes it
could not. And sometimes medicines that worked in the past would stop
working and while looking for a new fix the depression would wreck a
person's life. I also saw research that concluded that many suicides
were impulsive and if the impulse could be interrupted then the
attempt could be put off for quite a while; sometimes permanently but
not always. The depression was still there; I'm not saying there is
some miracle intervention.
But still I had little connection to
what could drive a person to seriously consider acting in this way.
And then recently I went through a very
difficult time. My entire life seemed to fall apart. I had what I
call a mini nervous breakdown. My marriage was ending, my job was
ending, my likelihood to continue working in my field seemed nil, the
amount of time and money I had spent getting to this point was
overwhelming, my skills in my previous profession had aged to the
point where I couldn't get a job there either. I say my marriage was
ending but it was a lot more than that. I had had one marriage end
before and it didn't affect me this badly. I won't go into details
here but this was the most painful time of my entire life.
I started walking, daily if possible,
while listening to loud techno music. It seemed to help but not
always. Sometimes my mind was a record that was skipping; running
over the same things, the same thoughts 33 times a minute.
And on one of these walks, late at
night, I saw it. Lots of oncoming traffic and the opportunity to step
out in front of it. I watched it, saw what it was and knew. I knew
about Spalding Grey. I knew about Kurt Cobain. I knew about David
Foster Wallace. And I knew that if I could not resist this urge I
would join them.
I did. I made it past. I walked that
same stretch of road and watched similar traffic many times and
thought about how close I came.
And so I hear about Robin Williams and
I'm sad but I'm not judgmental. But I do remember a younger me that
would have been. Reading recent comments from Henry Rollins brought
me back to remembering a mindset I used to have.
I don't have an answer.