I don't want to live anymore

This comment to one of my articles motivated me to comment on the subject of suicide. If you are one of those people who either happen to harbor the thought about suicide as you read this or frequently think about suicide because you wonder whether suicide might be a suitable solution for a momentary personal crisis, I would like to offer a few (hopefully helpful) thoughts.

As a start, it is important to me to repeat what I already wrote in response to the above-mentioned comment. When a person says: “I don’t want to live any more”, he or she usually means: “I don’t want to live like this any more!” That means that he or she wants the pain to end, the grief, the loneliness, the fear… Maybe that’s how it is with you. But then just the fact that you are cruising on the internet and are reading this blog demonstrates that it is not you who wants to be dead. Only a part of you is considering suicide because at that point in time there seems to be no way out. And that also means that there is a another part that would rather continue living! This insight alone should tell you that the sentence “I want to die” in this context is incorrect. A part of you believes that death would be a desirable alternative compared to your (present) circumstances. But then this part is not all of you.

This side obviously still is an important part of you, not least because it tells you that things can’t stay the way they are and that something has to change. You should be grateful for that and that is not the same as obedience! I would like to suggest that you might want to engage that part in a differentiated dialogue. A great way to do that is to – as psychologists like to call it – externalize this part of yourself, in other words, to give it a real personality and actually speak to it. In the beginning this may sound a little strange to you. Still, just give it a try, it is easier than it sounds and it will frequently be accompanied by very interesting results. To accomplish this, it is best to close your eyes and imagine your suicidal part three-dimensionally just as if it were in the same room with you. Which appearance would it take? How tall is it? If you were to touch it, how would it feel? How old is this part – smallish, rather old? What is its distance from you in the room?

Give yourself sufficient time to answer these questions in order to visualize as clear a picture as possible. When you are ready, try to ask this part questions - for instance:

  • What would you have to do to make it move a little closer?
  • What would it take to get it to move a little further away so that you feel it a little less intensely?
  • Which life-enhancing aspect could this part be concealing? Assume that all your various parts basically have only one interest: your well-being. If you remember that and sufficiently trust your suicidal part to also care for you – what good thing is it trying to do? What is it longing for?
  • What does this part expect from a suicide? What does it think is going to change afterwards? What are its perceptions about that which is awaiting you after your death?
  • What does it imagine will be the implications of your suicide for those who are close to you?
Maybe you don’t get an immediate response to all or some of your questions but I would expect that you are going to get at least some feed back. To repeat: This part also has your best interests at heart and that means that it wants to improve the life you are living. Maybe this part imagines a better world for you in the hereafter. That is possible, but there is no guarantee of that. We may imagine all sorts of things about what awaits us there but life provides no certainties. Maybe the Buddhists are correct and we are born again – but who can promise you a better deal? Or maybe the Catholics are right - in that case suicide is a deadly sin and would lead to eternal damnation, not a very appealing prospect. Or maybe nothing awaits us and we simply disintegrate into biological building blocks - and whether that is an attractive alternative is debatable as well. Either way, we won’t know until we have arrived (or not) on the other side and then there won’t be an opportunity to say: „Good grief, I have changed my mind, I want to go back! I had not thought of it in this way …“ There is an old proverb you should keep in mind: Suicide is the final solution of a temporary problem.

What your suicidal part feels about the impact of your suicide on others is also important. Is there someone who would feel guilty? Is it exactly that feeling of guilt, maybe, which your suicidal part wants to provoke? Who would grieve for you, who would be standing by your grave? Who would wish he or she had done something differently? Do those who love you deserve this? Most relatives of a suicide carry these feelings of guilt and failure for the rest of their lives. Does your suicidal part welcome this idea? In that case you would be correct in assuming that it’s major agenda is revenge – for neglect, lousy treatment, contempt for you as a person, for injuries you were subjected to, etc. Does it harbor thoughts like: “They are going to be sorry when I am dead!”? Well - possibly, but maybe not.

If these people are really that mean they may be happy to finally be rid of you. Do you really want to do them that favor? On the other hand, if they are truly sorry and feel guilty, what is in it for you? Do you really have this mental picture of sitting on a cloud enjoying their misery? And even if that were true: Would it be worth it, to have thrown away an entire life with all these opportunities for change? Are you familiar with the proverb: “A good life is the best revenge!”? Is there anything that would aggravate your enemies more – assuming that is what they are – than that your life turned out to be happy, successful and content in spite of them? In case that revenge is not the motive and you can only think of people whom you do love and who are now going to be dismayed, distraught, deeply desolate – how does that mental picture sit with you? Do you really want to do this to them? Isn’t there at least one person in your life you would want to spare?

In case you ask your suicidal part about its aspirations and wishes it could happen that you encounter needs like love, friendship, security, success that are presently missing from your life. You must understand that your death won’t satisfy these needs – on the contrary. You deprive yourself of the opportunity that they will be met sometime in the future. Better to ask yourself what would be the first tiny step to do just a little bit of justice to these needs. What is it that you could possibly do on their behalf, still today? Who could help you with that? Another reason could be that you recently lost a loved one and now you want to follow him/her. This happens to many people.

In that case ask yourself whether this person would really wish for you to kill yourself on his/her behalf. If he or she loved you as much as you love him/her, the response must be an emphatic “no!”. He or she would surely be appalled when he/she meets you in the hereafter and has to find out that you threw your life away on his or her behalf. Wouldn’t he or she have wished for you to lead a happy and fulfilled life before your death? The best and most important gift for our dead is: continuing to live for them. They are among us as long as we are around and remember them. In that way you honor your beloved dead a lot more than by ending your life on his/her behalf because living takes a lot more strength. Give him/her a special place in your memories and just tell him/her that you want to spend a little more time on earth and that you are going to join him/her when your time comes.

It could also have happened that the person you love has left you and you believe that you can’t handle the pain. In that case it is likely that your suicidal part secretly hopes that a suicide attempt will change the opinion of the other person. Driven by contrition, he/she will return. Just remember that - should you be right - the other he/she does not return for love, but for pity and because you blackmailed him/her. Extorted emotions – is that what you want? Pity is very closely related to contempt. Do you really believe that you don’t deserve better? Why don’t you want to give someone else the chance to develop the real love for you which you deserve? And if you really feel that you can’t handle the pain and disappointment any longer, treat it like an alcoholic would: every morning decide to endure it just one more day. And then the next one, and another one. Have faith in time. If you give it a chance, it’ll take the sting out of the pain. A scar will remain, and that is natural - but then scars also represent badges of honor. They demonstrate that you have fought, loved and lived. And if you were capable of loving this intensely once, then it is an inherent capacity. It won’t just disappear when a partner does, but it stays with you like a special gift. In time you’ll love again, even if you can‘t believe it right now. All you need is patience.

I know, all of this is easier written than done. You may already have made many failed attempts to satisfy your suicidal part’s wishes and yearnings. Maybe you are dejected and feel that you’ll never succeed. It is entirely possibly that your life requires dramatic changes in order to satisfy your suicidal part and that you are afraid to take them on. Or you believe never again to be able to handle the humiliation of rejection or a failure. Just think about it this way: Which change, which humiliation, which risk, which effort could possibly be worse than your own death? Is your life really unworthy of another try? Maybe you need a little help with your attempts at happiness. The first important step in the direction of “life” is talking with someone about your pain. Take it – what do you have to lose? Nothing (because the cemetery is always going to be there, waiting for you in patience) but everything to gain. Looking for help when one needs it is not a sign of weakness but of strength. And you are strong because otherwise you would not have made it to this point.

Theodore Jouffroy is the father of the quote: “If one is unhappy, it is a good escape to kill oneself, but it is an escape without escape.” Don’t stop believing that there are other escapes from your situation. If you are unable to find them on your own or if you don’t feel the strength for them, look for help to get there. Just remember how much effort and patience had to be invested by the universe in order to create you as a person – an evolution spanning millions of years, thousands of generations … Compared to that - what is the effort and time it will cost you to live more happily and content than you do right now? Give life a chance. Give yourself a chance. You are worth it.