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It may seem strange to most people that one would need a reason not to commit suicide, but there are those of us out there who need one. To some, knowing that the self checkout lane is open is actually a consolation. Hunter S. Thompson said "If I didn't know I could commit suicide at any moment, life would be unbearable".  Of course, there are many reasons not to kill yourself. ' This Too Shall Pass' is the protective motto of those traversing the Territory of the blackest mind. The transitory nature of everything is reason enough to see if you can ride it out when it comes to depressed states, mixed states, and plain old bad luck.

Far be it from me to suggest such a thing is easy. As a person with manic depression, I understand how the poisoned mind can laugh at our stoic bearings. Far be it from me also to suggest that there is anything inherently evil, selfish, or wrong about suicide. Sometimes, suicide is in fact a reasonable choice. Some choose to end their lives rather than experience prolonged pain and suffering connected to a chronic illness. I understand this choice, and would probably choose it for myself if it ever seemed necessary. Also, suicide is often committed by people with mental health issues, such as myself. They do this while in the grips of a disease, and faulting a person who kills themselves in such a state is akin to faulting a person with a heart disorder for dying of a heart attack.

One of the ways people such as myself manage to survive is to remind ourselves of the transitory nature of our suffering. Another is to participate in therapy or counseling. Another is to take medication that is appropriate to our illness, exercise, eat healthy, and get good rest. Another way that has benefited me is to seek out folks who share my experience and struggle, and to empathize with them and learn from their hard won wisdom (all wisdom is hard won, isn't it?).

That brings me to the excerpt I wanted to share with you. I am a huge H.P. Lovecraft fan. I love his stories, but what I am coming to love even more than his stories are his letters. He was a great letter writer, and in the below excerpt he talks about a time he seriously considered suicide, and how he navigated his way back out of it:

"How easy it would be to wade out among the rushes and lie face down in the warm water till oblivion came. There would be a certain gurgling or choking unpleasantness at first--but it would soon be over. Then the long, peaceful night of non-existence..."
But something held him up:
"And yet certain elements--notably scientific curiosity and a sense of world drama--held me back. Much in the universe baffled me, yet I knew I could pry the answer out of books if I lived and studied longer. Geology, for example. Just how did these ancient sediments and stratifications get crystallized and upheaved into granite peaks? Geography--just what would Scott and Shackleton and Borchgrevink find in the great white Antarctic or their next expeditions...which I could--if I wished--live to see described?"
Lovecraft goes through questions about history, Africa, Mathematics, and other intellectual curiosities that he would miss out on if he snuffed himself out, ultimately concluding,
"So in the end I decided to postpone my exit till the following summer. I would do a little curiosity-satisfying at first; filling certain gaps of scientific and historical knowledge, and attaining a greater sense of completeness before merging with the infinite blackness."
after finding himself engaged in life to a much greater degree on this path of postponement--starting up an old newsletter, finding more questions at the ends of questions answered--he decided to grant himself another extension:
"Possibly I would wait til '06 before making my could drown in '06 just as well as in '05 or '04!'
Questions of life and death and meaning popped up over and over again in Lovecraft's life--he kept a cyanide pill on his person at all times just in case 'it ever got too much'--but he found his way through that particular darkness with the aid of curiosity.

Curiosity is a fine reason to go on living. I had just discovered Billy Collins a little bit before the suicide of a dear friend several years back, and was very excited to share it with him the next time he was in town. Before I had a chance to do that, he had jumped off an overpass in Tennessee. Not far after all of the other assorted kinds of thoughts a person has after receiving such news, it occurred to me that my friend would never get to experience Billy Collins. My friend--a highly intelligent, clever, soulful person--had missed out on something I was pretty sure he would have liked.

I am always discovering new things. Life is about change and possibility, and who knows what is waiting for us in the future? It's a compelling reason to stick around.

This essay will appear in my book 'Everything In the Medicine Cabinet Has Expired', to be released on Friday, May 3rd.

Originally posted to Spencer Troxell on Sat Apr 27, 2013 at 10:05 AM PDT.

Also republished by Mental Health Awareness.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Great post, Spencer. Anyone who has wrestled (9+ / 0-)

    with depression has had to deal with the feeling that "there is nothing new under the sun," but sheer curiosity about what will happen is a good reason to go on living.

    I have to admit that when I saw your post, I immediately thought of the narrator in "The Shadow Over Innsmouth." In his case, the dilemma was whether to kill himself or become an immortal fish-frog and live in the ocean.

    •  Whenever faced with that decision, (10+ / 0-)

      always go with immortal fish-frog who lives in the ocean.

      "Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully." ~ Samuel Johnson

      by Spencer Troxell on Sat Apr 27, 2013 at 10:32:37 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Immortal fish-frog for sure! (5+ / 0-)

      They're fish and they're frogs!

      I'm fairly certain they are several rungs higher than us on the evolutionary scale.  Topped only by birds, who you know, can do it all.

      Birds fly, they swim they walk.  They crawl on their belly like a reptile. Oh wait. That was Little Egypt. Birds create. They build. They dance. They sing.  

      I have it on good authority that the hula was created, mimicking the mystical albatross (who fly through the holes in time and space). And that's the trooth!

      I voted for the human beings.

      by denig on Sat Apr 27, 2013 at 11:10:56 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I think that this is good advice for those (8+ / 0-)

      who might consider suicide due to depression.  (As a fellow sufferer, although of the monopolar type, I get it and agree.)

      The problem, however, is that many commit suicide out of desperation: due to economic straits or to emotional or physical tortures.  Curiosity won't be the reason to keep them going; this rationale is good mainly for "them that's got."

      Hell, wanting to see Game of Thrones through to the end would probably be enough to keep me from committing suicide due to depression alone!  But science, as well as art, does provide another good excuse.

      "I love this goddamn country, and we're going to take it back."

                                                             -- Saul Alinsky

      by Seneca Doane on Sat Apr 27, 2013 at 01:03:13 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I love your post :) (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I just have to say we are not all the same. Curiosity requires being able to experience joy in indulging that curiosity, but major depressive states often prevent one from feeling joy at all. It really depends on the personality of the sufferer, I think.

        I have not watched Game of Thrones at all, but I read the books and all I can say from reading those is it made me want to kill myself more knowing I'd have to read more of it. Just sayin... there is a reason I had to stop reading.

        “Birds…scream at the top of their lungs in horrified hellish rage every morning at daybreak to warn us all of the truth. They know the truth. Screaming bloody murder all over the world in our ears, but sadly we don’t speak bird.” Kurt Cobain

        by RadicalParrot on Sat Apr 27, 2013 at 02:30:11 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Excellent diary. (18+ / 0-)

    Curiosity as a life force. I like it.


    “Human kindness has never weakened the stamina or softened the fiber of a free people. A nation does not have to be cruel to be tough.” FDR

    by Phoebe Loosinhouse on Sat Apr 27, 2013 at 11:05:14 AM PDT

  •  Really excellent diary. As one who has struggled (12+ / 0-)

    depression, I thank you.

    I voted for the human beings.

    by denig on Sat Apr 27, 2013 at 11:12:14 AM PDT

  •  The remarkable Tobias Wolff (12+ / 0-)

    short story, "Bullet in the Brain," recounts what flashes through a cynical, middle-aged English professor's mind right after he's shot in the head during the course of a bank robbery. In the instant before he dies, the professor un-sentimentally remembers some of the basics that make life worth living.

    During his life, apparently, the professor once heard a colleague had written a book. He read the book, and thought highly of it. He cites "the pleasure of giving respect" as part of the life-impulse.

    On an unrelated note, you read some of the diaries around here--some well-sourced and credible ones--you can get the idea that the oligarchy, the 1%, has no use for the 99%, and is actually trying to kill it off. Part of living--and living well--is actually defying the plutocrats behind-the-scenes.

    Thanks for the diary.

    It's here they got the range/ and the machinery for change/ and it's here they got the spiritual thirst. --Leonard Cohen

    by karmsy on Sat Apr 27, 2013 at 11:25:21 AM PDT

  •  Thanks for the diary. Curiosity ties in well, too, (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mad Season, wader, Matt Z, kyril

    with the reflection "Well, my death is guaranteed in any case. Why rush it?"

    Actual Democrats is the surest, quickest. route to More Democrats

    by Jim P on Sat Apr 27, 2013 at 11:44:10 AM PDT

  •  Fortunately for Lovecraft (10+ / 0-)

    He lived long enough to disavow the racism and anti-Semitism that marked his early life and writings, to the point of even having voted for FDR--though his life was cut short a few years later by illness.

    Schopenhauer, not known for his sunny outlook, condemned suicide because the act could never snuff out the Will, and hence suffering.  I think he was strongly suggesting a theory of reincarnation, given his debt to Buddhist thought, though it was not (and still isn't) quite mainstream in Western philosophy.

    As for me, I just don't want to suffer for years dying slowly and painfully from illness, as both of my grandfathers had.  If I ever get to that, cashing my chips just may be an option.  Otherwise, life is a trip, and I'm here for the ride.

    •  He did become a New Dealer (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      sidnora, kyril

      but whether or not he did move beyond the racism (which was terrible; there are writings of his that he should have burned) is a big debate among Lovecraft scholars.

      If he'd lived another ten years - but one can only speculate.

      The thing about quotes on the internet is you cannot confirm their validity. ~Abraham Lincoln

      by raboof on Sat Apr 27, 2013 at 01:45:02 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Oh man, (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        he was a terrible racist. I'd like to believe he renounced his racism, but that would be quite a U-Turn, and seemingly totally incompatible with his fearful and conservative nature. I also haven't seen any documentation.

        "Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully." ~ Samuel Johnson

        by Spencer Troxell on Sat Apr 27, 2013 at 02:33:33 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  I do really like this Lovecraft quote, though: (6+ / 0-)

        "As for the Republicans—how can one regard seriously a frightened, greedy, nostalgic huddle of tradesmen and lucky idlers who shut their eyes to history and science, steel their emotions against decent human sympathy, cling to sordid and provincial ideals exalting sheer acquisitiveness and condoning artificial hardship for the non-materially-shrewd, dwell smugly and sentimentally in a distorted dream-cosmos of outmoded phrases and principles and attitudes based on the bygone agricultural-handicraft world, and revel in (consciously or unconsciously) mendacious assumptions (such as the notion that real liberty is synonymous with the single detail of unrestricted economic license or that a rational planning of resource-distribution would contravene some vague and mystical ‘American heritage’…) utterly contrary to fact and without the slightest foundation in human experience? Intellectually, the Republican idea deserves the tolerance and respect one gives to the dead."

        So maybe he was capable of growing on racism too? I still need some evidence.

        "Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully." ~ Samuel Johnson

        by Spencer Troxell on Sat Apr 27, 2013 at 02:37:21 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  I was intrigued by the title... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Wood Dragon

    but I don't find that curiosity gives me much of reason to stick around. Yeah, there's more knowledge I haven't personally amassed yet, but so what? Someone else has the information, and if I need it, I will get it. And if nobody knows some particular thing that's nagging at me, at this point in our history, I'm betting it probably shouldn't be known. It's not as if the last several centuries of discovery have made life better for anyone, not in any ways that count, and certainly not better for any of the other living things on the planet. Curiosity is overrated, imo.

    •  I couldn't disagree more, re: (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Lying eyes, Aquarius40, kyril, Rachael7

       "It's not as if the last several centuries of discovery have made life better for anyone, not in any ways that count, and certainly not better for any of the other living things on the planet."

      Check this out:

      "Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully." ~ Samuel Johnson

      by Spencer Troxell on Sat Apr 27, 2013 at 12:42:11 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Even if we concede that violence has decreased... (0+ / 0-)

        compared to pre-state societies, I don't think that really addresses my feelings.  By "last several centuries", I was meaning to refer to the recent period we generally call the industrial revolution. Since then, while there have been increases in lifespan and health (although even those trends are reversing), in most other measures, we aren't a lot better off as a species. We work harder and longer, remain in the majority impoverished, and in general seem to struggle to find personal peace and enjoyment in life even when not impoverished. All of our efforts as a species seem focused on the goals of increasing our numbers and developing a group of unimaginably wealthy overlords. The great masses are urged to slake their thirst for meaning and joy with transient materialism, meaningless pop culture distraction, and subservience to a system of wage slavery. And while we perpetuate that cultural failure and set it up as the ideal for the rest of the as yet "primitive" cultures, we're charging headlong into a future where the very planet we live on is in danger of no longer supporting human life, causing mass extinction in countless other species along the way. Not exactly a raging success story.

    •  Curiosity is blunted by the disease. (7+ / 0-)

      At least, that is what I have found. It is difficult to find enjoyment in new things when one's very ability to enjoy things is basically absent.

      I've found my own ways to hold on over the years, but for the most part, finding things I enjoy about life never really worked for that purpose. It is, itself, too transient. And selfish. I'm trying to change that outlook by using what I can find enjoyable by sharing it with others. or, to put it another way, enjoy things more by letting others enjoy the same.

      “Birds…scream at the top of their lungs in horrified hellish rage every morning at daybreak to warn us all of the truth. They know the truth. Screaming bloody murder all over the world in our ears, but sadly we don’t speak bird.” Kurt Cobain

      by RadicalParrot on Sat Apr 27, 2013 at 01:06:06 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  If you're not curious, then (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      blueoasis, Rachael7

      it's easy to say that curiosity is overrated. If you are, then it can be a motivating factor. There's no one-size-fits-all reason for living.

      Gondwana has always been at war with Laurasia.

      by AaronInSanDiego on Sat Apr 27, 2013 at 10:38:00 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks for this, Spencer. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Spencer Troxell, kyril

    I have been feeling quite down lately for a variety of reasons.  This helped give me a slightly different perspective on things.  

  •  Republished to Mental Health Awareness nt (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Spencer Troxell, kyril

    I'd like to start a new meme: "No means no" is a misnomer. It should be "Only 'Yes' means yes." Just because someone doesn't say "No" doesn't mean they've given consent. If she didn't say "Yes", there is no consent.

    by second gen on Sat Apr 27, 2013 at 03:08:15 PM PDT

  •  my dad always told me (0+ / 0-)

    'if it isn't hard, you aren't learning' and I've found that to be true. I don't like it, but it is true.

    Anyone who scoffs at happiness needs to take their soul back to the factory and demand a better one. -driftglass

    by postmodernista on Sat Apr 27, 2013 at 06:16:27 PM PDT

  •  Buckminster Fuller.... (0+ / 0-)

    I read once that Buckminster Fuller came to a point of making the choice to live or let go. He said, IIRC, something about deciding to approach his life as an experiment....

  •  As one who seriously attempted suicide... (0+ / 0-)

    ...I did an enormous amount of research first and found that is extremely difficult do do a 100% guaranteed suicide other than ones that would be unbelieveably painful.  

    No matter how "sure" you are - it won't be like Hollywood -you may easily end up as a vegetable for decades until you die naturally; or die slowly in an enormous amount of pain or slow suffocation.

    Even hangingis tricky - if it's not set up effectively enough you will slowly strangle, or end up with other permanent deformities.  If it's too much, you decapitate yourself.

    Don't ever think of it.

    Boehner Just Wants Wife To Listen, Not Come Up With Alternative Debt-Reduction Ideas

    by dov12348 on Sat Apr 27, 2013 at 07:30:14 PM PDT

  •  If I had the option of living forever, I'd take it (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    not out of fear of dying, but simply because I want to see what comes next.  And next, and next, and next.  On the day humans walked on the Moon, somewhere were people who had grown up in log cabins with no electricity or running water, and knew that man would never fly in the air.  What moments like that await us in the future?  

    As to Lovecraft's work, I can certainly appreciate it, but I find it difficult to get into.  The Dream-quest of Unknown Kadath, for instance: He reuses blocks of recited text as a way to create a sense of hypnotic, dreamlike cadence, but I found it irritating.  I much prefer his more straightforward narratives.

    Democracy is a habit, not a circumstance.

    by Troubadour on Sat Apr 27, 2013 at 08:59:08 PM PDT

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