Everyone is talking about suicide and the increase of suicide rates.
As everyone who reads here regularly knows, I suffer from — usually not severe — depressive episodes. Most of my depressive episodes are not suicidal and have no suicidal ideation. They just, for lack of a better term “disable the doing switch”. So when I’m depressed I sit and stare at wars. The kids used to rather like it when I was mildly depressed. Partly because they could tell me all the things they’d been doing that normally would make me hit the roof and I’d just go, “whatever.”
It’s not good for me, though, and it’s certainly not good for my productivity. Until the “cycle of illness” started about five years ago (yes, might be age, but you know it was probably the cancer thing destabilizing everything. I just need to take steps to get better. AFAIK the cancer thing was encapsulated and is gone. So now I need to get my body to stop freaking out) depression was responsible for my only writing three or four books a year, even though they usually were written in two weeks or less.
And yeah, when you’re already on the slope and something hits you hard, be it psychological or physical, suicidal ideation sets in.
It’s not rational, btw. There is nothing about “My friend is having a hard time” or “my relative died” that should make you fixate on “if I kill myself everything will be better.” A psychiatrist friend says it’s “Odd Brain Math.” I.e. you think “This is unsolvable, but if I remove myself I don’t have to solve it.”
I know everyone is looking at macro effects for why suicide went up… and there might be some, among them that the economy is getting better.
As I pointed out in my post on acculturation, change is hard, even change for the better. (And this year is a hinge year for me, a year of rapid change. Fun.) And the economy after 10 years of puttering (since the dem sweep of 2006) is now moving. There are people who have stayed in college because “what’s the point” and now have to find jobs that cover their debts. There are people who have been living hand to mouth, but all their friends were. Now as some take off and some don’t, there will be depression for some.
And there are the people terrified by propaganda. If you really expected to go to the camps the day after the election, and it still hasn’t happened, you should relax. But most people won’t. They’ll get more tense and scared. It’s waiting for the other shoe to drop.
So yeah, there are macro trends.
But there are other things. Like, you know, recently I’ve had virus from hell, and the ramp up is really slow, which means writing even on blog post takes it out of me. One logical, usual aftermath of viral infections is depression. They used to tell you that. Yesterday, I realized I’d been caught in that. Well, viral infections sweep the nation, so…
Whether you have the tendency of not, things will happen, physical or mental that will make you feel like life would be better without you in it. Sometimes you might even be right. Yeah, it’s rare, but it’s the trap terminal patients fall into and why I’m not fond of euthanasia programs.
If you’re very ill, even if you’re not terminal, and you feel like you’re a burden on those you love it’s easy to persuade you to die to “make things better.” And I won’t say it doesn’t, sometimes. We’ve all see people who die after a long illness and the family is better off, both psychologically and physically.
But here’s the thing… once that slippery slope starts, it lends credence to the black dog that rounds on the perpetually depressed and says “Life would be better without you in it.” And in most cases that’s almost certainly not true. In most cases you’re making life awful for everyone else and leaving a mess behind.
So, how not to commit suicide — look, I’ve had to develop these tricks, okay? Deal —
1- Have something to live for. This can be your writing, your garden, your cat, or obviously your spouse, your kids.
I don’t know how you live without doing SOMETHING with your life anyway, so you know, don’t. Find something to do that you care about, even if it’s “just” giving amazon reviews to books you’ve enjoyed, or patronizing a little shop you like, or making people happy by making their favorite dish.
2- Have someone or some cause you care about. Preferably not a hate-based cause. Yes, you MIGHT hate people who dump unweaned baby kittens, but instead of devoting your day on Craigslist yelling about it, go and foster baby kittens at your local humane society.
3- Learn something. Find something you want to learn, then learn it. The upslope of competency will keep you focused for a good long while. When picking something to learn, make sure it’s something that you can use/feel good about using. Even if it’s “just” learning a dead language to translate from it.
4- If you’re completely and utterly isolated, this isn’t a good thing, of course. We’re a social animal, even the introverted ones of us. Find something that makes you at least see people several times a month. It can be a charitable organization, a book club or some sort of class. I intend to resume art classes ASAP first because they help with covers, but MOSTLY because I really need to see people, etc.
5- If you’re going through one of those patches where there’s absolutely no extra (or sufficient) money and it seems like you’ll never get out of it, find little things that give you joy. In a similar place, Dan and I found out that getting discounted fast food sandwiches and eating them on a hill overlooking the city made us happy. So we did that once a week. He bought me a very used book of DaVinci pictures. That made me happy. Find something you like to read/look at/play with and schedule it in while you’re in a tight spot. It keeps you from blowing your lid. Hell, remember Heinlein “budget luxuries first”. This is not an excuse to eat out every day when you don’t have money for rent, but in a very tight time, we scheduled a visit to the amusement park with the kids. It meant living on rice for two weeks, but you know, we got a day out and it helped. (The clue is “budget.”)
6- Even if you think you’re totally useless, do not be sure. Sometimes just being SOMEWHERE will save someone’s life who will save someone’s life, who might do/father/be something important.
We’re not ponds, we’re ripples in the ocean. Knowing or not you touch someone who touches someone who might touch many people in a positive way.
Remember the butterfly effect. Sometimes you’re the butterfly,particularly when you try to live in a way that encourages/helps others.
7- Don’t be the awful example. Every family or group touched by suicide sparks others. Remember the thing about when you’re on the slope, it’s easy to push you all the way down? That. Don’t be what pushes people down. Uplift them instead. Find the good, then share it.
8- Now go and do something that makes you want to live.