What We Talk About When We Talk About Suicide


I’ve been thinking a lot about suicide lately and why Rob did what he did. I’m aware of all the obvious reasons and have written about them before, but none of it explains what was going on in his head before he pulled the trigger. I’m not even sure why I want to know that in particular or why it’s so important to me. I don’t think it will make me feel any better, provide closure, connect the dots or anything like that. I just want to know. I want to know what he was really thinking when we had lunch the day before he killed himself.

I know I’ll never know, but I recently came a little closer when Caryn turned me on to a great podcast called “Terrible, Thanks for Asking.” It’s hosted by a woman named Nora McInerny, who launched it after her husband died of brain cancer, her father died of all kinds of cancer and she suffered a miscarriage, all in the course of a few weeks (what a show-off!). TTFA is basically harrowing stories about what it’s like to live through the most fucked-up moments in your life, and it’s honest, heartbreaking, beautiful and sometimes very funny. It’s also surprisingly hopeful and proves, once and for all, that misery loves company.

So I downloaded all 70 episodes and started to look at some of the titles. I wasn’t sure what I was looking for until I found it—a two-parter from September 2018 entitled “What Do You Say About Suicide?” If you’re interested, you can listen to the two installments here and here.

Spoiler alert: They’re not a lot of laughs—in fact, they’re really painful to listen to—but I heard a bunch of things (see below) that made me think of what Rob may have been thinking.

You don’t actually want to die, but I was really serious about trying to not feel the way I was feeling.

You just want the immeasurable and sort of unspeakable and debilitating pain or darkness or numbness to stop, and it might sound irrational, but it feels like the only way for that to happen is to stop living.

You just see the bad stuff, it’s really hard to see the good stuff when you’re really focused on the bad stuff. I couldn’t see all the love because I was really focused on the…not love, whatever black hole was sucking me in. You get really myopic sometimes when you’re hurting.

Once your mind has been kinda down-spiraling in that hole for a minute, it’s like a light switch…it’s like falling. You’re no longer on that edge anymore, you just fall. No one can help you. You can’t even help yourself.

It’s when you feel like you’ve run out of choices. It’s like something happens in your brain and minute by minute your choices get narrower and narrower until there’s nothing left. And you keep thinking about death, but you don’t want to think about death, so you think about life, but you can’t think about life. You can’t think. You just can’t think. And so you lie in your bed crying and paralyzed and the only thing you can think of is the pills, and that gives you some relief.

The last thing I remember that was like a trigger for me was looking at a baby picture, thinking how much I wanted my parents to be proud of that little baby yet what a mess I had made of my life. I felt like the world was against me and that led to thinking that everyone I had touched would be better off without me.

The suicidal person really truly believes that the world is better off without them, and that they’re doing their loved ones a favor. They’re doing an act of kindness. They’re relieving their loved ones of pain. They’re relieving their loved ones of their burden.

I used to think to myself, yes, the people who care about me will grieve and it will hurt them, and damage my mother and all of those things, but I also felt like it would be a relief for them, so they wouldn’t have to…so they wouldn’t have to continue loving someone who was in every way a disappointment, and that it would remove the hurt that my existence caused.

Depression, suicidal ideation, anxiety…it is so exhausting just to look okay. And to look like you have your shit together. It’s not a selfish thing to do. And it could happen to anyone. When you’re experiencing suicidal ideation, when you’re so low that the world around you doesn’t seem to have color, that it’s not bright, that you’re just going through the motions, you’re having a hard time getting out of bed, you’re having a hard time doing anything with yourself, and the voices in your head are so, so mean…suicide is a way out.

2 thoughts on “What We Talk About When We Talk About Suicide

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