Thursday, March 30, 2017

Thoughts On Not Committing Suicide

This week, I decided to remain on Earth rather than leave for Heaven.

To put it non-theologically, I decided not to commit suicide.

Decided again, that is.

Let me hasten to add, I have never attempted to commit suicide. I don't have scars on my wrists or any such thing.

But I have thought about it, and decided not to attempt it, more than once.

The fact that I have never attempted it may lead some people to say that I have never thought about it seriously enough for it to count. To you I say, "That's okay."

On the other hand, the fact that I have thought about it at all may totally freak some people out. To you I say, "Please don't make it more than it is, or was: a thought, a consideration of a possibility in the midst of emotional pain."

In my view, the most important thing about having thought about it is that I decided, "Nah."

I don't know whether the very fact of thinking about it qualifies me for a diagnosis or a prescription. I have thought, this week, that I would probably do well to talk to a therapist, because I don't think that people who dwell entirely within the spectrum of normal think enough about committing suicide so that they have to decide against it. Entirely normal people don't think about it at all, right?


If nothing else, a therapist might help me understand whether my thoughts and feelings are simply a matter of temperament, or of actual brain chemistry. So, yeah, that could be useful. I totally hate the possibility of becoming drug-dependent, but taking pills may be better than what I've gone through.

For some people, my saying all this will certainly feel like the ultimate in TMI. And someone will certainly think, if not say, "Why would he tell the world this?"

I mean, it's not exactly something to put on your resume as you prepare for total global domination.

So why say it? Why tell?

Because I want to help create a culture in which it's okay to say it; a culture in which it's okay to tell. A culture in which there is no shame in expressing certain types or degrees of pain.

I think that the more people feel free to talk about suicidal thoughts or feelings, the more likely they are to decide not to act on them, to not become one of the 100+ Americans who die by suicide EVERY DAY.

I admit that talking about suicidal thoughts and feelings after they've passed is not the same as doing so while they're present. But I hope that it can be a useful start.

Beyond that - and this may really qualify me as flat-out crazy - I am telling this because I think there's a value that can be found in having considered suicide, and decided against it.

Most people who woke up today did not truly choose to do so. They simply have not considered the alternative.

This week, I considered the alternative, and chose to keep waking up.

I consider that enormously valuable.

I have made that choice enough times now so that I expect to continue making it, until the day I non-suicidally die. If at times that means living with persistent fear, piercing loneliness and an overwhelming sense of abject failure, then so be it. I'll accept those feelings as simply part of life, until I learn to annihilate them (I'm working on that, and consider myself close).

But just in case my brain throws me the ultimate curve ball, I've memorized this number: (412) 420-HELP. It's the local crisis and suicide prevention hotline, listed at

If you're in the Pittsburgh area, and need a "just in case," say it with me: four-twenty help. Four-twenty help. Four-twenty help.

If you're outside the Pittsburgh area, and need to know what number to memorize (or to carry with you), go to

It seems only right to say why I've chosen to remain here when I identify with Paul's line that to be with Christ would be better.

Here's why: when I first considered committing suicide, I decided not to because it would dishonor God. This week I decided not to primarily because it would also hurt my wife so deeply. When I feel most strongly like leaving, God and my wife are my reasons to stay, even more than the considerable amount of work I have to do (thinking about the work doesn't help when I feel unable to do it).

I wish each of you confidence rather than fear, satisfying intimacy rather than loneliness, and success rather than failure. But most of all, if any or all of those things fail, I wish you reasons to stay here anyway.

Meanwhile, let's all decide now that if we ever feel too weak to decide later, we'll dial four-twenty help (or the number in your area).


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