Selfishness is a topic that comes up often when people talk about suicide. It’s much talked about that if you Google the subject, you’d find a plethora of articles about it, pro or otherwise. Especially ever since Robin William’s death and many went ahead to state the topic of selfishness, many people have come to stand against the idea of it being a selfish thing to do. One of the most coherent and well written articles on the topic was by Dean Burnett, and you should all check it out if you haven’t.
But how exactly does a suicidal person think? 1 in 4 of every person alive will suffer from some form of mental illness in one point in their lives or others. But for those ones, there a even fewer that will have a long term, debilitating condition that would lead them to the brink of death. So, even if you have fought and won the illness in some ways, you might have just been one of those lucky enough to escape the clutches of death’s embrace. Let me share with you what goes through the mind of those that are trying to die.
If someone was to ask me now if I was still suicidal, I would say, without a doubt, yes. That’s the story you don’t often here. We have tales of suicide survivors. Of people who has lost loved ones. Stories of brave rescues and sacrifice. But there is hardly any on a person who is living their entire life, suicidal. It doesn’t always go away. Sometimes, we don’t get our happy endings. Let me share a little on why I am what I am. Or skip the next two paragraph if my life bores you. I won’t be offended.
I grew up in a dysfunctional family. Emotional outbursts were the norm and political speeches were our daily conversations. I got good at persuasion. Very, very good. If I were to seriously focus on a debate, I could tussle with the best there is. The thought process behind my logical connection capabilities is, and I say this without any bragging intentions, sometimes beyond the speed of an average persons’ abilities to catch. So far, I personally know of only two people whose minds could race at the same speed as me, and neither of them could be considered ‘normal’ themselves. And because of the emotional volcano of my household, I also became an empath, adept at reading emotions. I could tell a fake smile or genuine sadness from a mile away.
Aside from that, I had a teacher that taught me only one thing through my four years under her. That I was “always wrong”. I ended up being extremely self critical. To the point where some might even call it hatred. And they won’t be that far off. My self perception is low enough that Challenger Deep would probably blush. This meant that I know when I am being humble. I also know when I am being proud. I know I am stupid. I know when I’m wrong. But also, that I am smart and right. I am, always, a contradiction. So, I became a self critical logically thinking perceptive empath. With Bipolar Disorder and a penchant for suicidal thoughts, let’s not forget that. This very specific set of personality and upbringing created me. A person who hates himself for being smart and wrong, who is chemically unbalanced and insane, but can never kill himself because of a logical personality, while being able to both feel and not feel emotions at the same time.
Long story short, I’m fucked up enough to consciously understand the feelings in an otherwise emotionally messy depression. And when you are suicidal, the logic part of your mind is what will inevitably save you. When you are standing at the rail of a bridge or with a knife to your throat, your mind will still try to make sense of the situation. And whether or not it is able to do so would be the deciding factor in life or death. The mind will quickly calculate the gains and loses of such an act, based on finance, emotions, endurance, and yes, even BELIEFS. Christians have a lower suicide rate than any others simply because they have a lot more to lose, as they would go to hell if they did so. I know this because I remember that as the exact calculation I made, and it was one of the points that tipped me slightly towards death. I contemplated on the chances that I would be wrong and that hell existed, and then measured my fear for ending up at the possibility, and decided that it was not a problem for me.
People who commit suicides are often considered selfish for leaving people behind. And that’s not true. The people we love are often the ones that keeps us alive the longest, simply because as humans, we want comfort and love. That is why those who goes through depression after losing a loved one has a higher chance of committing suicide. They want to be with the ones they love. The act of killing oneself is a last resort. The thought process forms when the pain of a daily life gets too hard to bare. It’s as if you had a job you hated, and you kept taking sick leaves to avoid it, until that day when you can’t stand it any longer and quits. Except the job is your life and sick leaves and quitting are suicidal thoughts and the act itself respectively.
That’s why, the people who are truly selfish, are the ones who says that suicide is selfish.
Imagine. Just what kind of pain a person must be going through to leave behind everything they’ve every loved? And what exactly is the objective of saying such things? When a friend of mine committed suicide, the thoughts my head was not, “He’s such a selfish person to kill himself like that!” no! I was beating myself up because I had a chance to talk to him before he died and I was too caught up in my own life to even take notice. I WAS SELFISH. And it tore me up for years. Even now. I still blame myself for his death.
The feeling of going through the process of suicide is as if you are carrying the weight of the world on your shoulder. And yes, every single thought that comes into our minds are about us. But I guarantee you, not a single one of them can be deemed as the conventional idea of ‘selfish’.
Am I a good enough brother? A good enough son? I left my job and can’t find a new one, I’m hopeless. I’m better off dead so my family would stop having to pay for my expenses. The world is going to shit and I can’t do anything about it. I’m a burden to my family. I keep going back to drinking, I’m ashamed to face my wife. Why can’t I find the strength to quit drugs? I just want a roof over my head. Everyone says I’m weak. They are probably right. It’s all in my head they say. Does that mean there’s something wrong with me? I am selfish. A horrible person. I should just die. My sister joined a gang. I should have been a better brother. The toaster broke. Why can’t I do anything right? I got scolded because I’m tired from medication, I should stop taking them. There was fatal crash across the street. Why wasn’t I there earlier to help? I can’t go on without drugs. I’d rather die. If I fail my test again, my dad will beat me. I’d rather die. This pain is unbearable and overpowering all other sense and emotions I have. I’d rather die.
Welcome to the mind of a suicidal person. Where every single act – or to be more precise, mistake – the world made around them, regardless of whether or not they are a part of it, becomes a burden they carry.
Which leaves me with this one final story.
Our ability to understand what other people are going through are limited by our personal beliefs. My sister thought I was being selfish for wanting to ride a bicycle to commute, as I was putting my life at risk and worrying the people that care for me. Everyone in my family agreed. I understand their concerns, which was why I went out of my way to read up on all traffic rules regarding cyclist and all the signals and proper behaviour I should adopt. I went out of my way to buy higher quality safety lights and learned to service my own bike to reduce chances of accidents and cost of repairs that might affect my family I did everything in my power to minimize the rate of accident. Everything else was up to other people and events, things that are out of my control. I see their point. They want me to be safe. And they said that my continued insistent to do so was selfish. They don’t want to worry or regret letting me ride my bike.
In that case, the regret and worry would fall onto me. If I had chosen not to ride my bike, I would have racked up an additional $50 in monthly transportation cost. I would also need to consider buying a car in the future for transport, which would financially tax my family. I would not ease my mind about my contribution to global warming. And frankly, I love riding my bike. If I had never done so and should I die before getting the chance, I would forever regret not having the opportunity to experience the joy of riding a bicycle daily. Putting myself on the road increased my chance of dying. But for the people I love, and my own happiness, I did everything I could to make sure that if I die, it would not be from something I did or did not do. It would be because shit happened. But nobody wanted to listen to my reasons for doing what I do.
My sister said that my life was not my own. I think she’s stupid and immature. Her life has been hard, but she has been protected by the bliss of ignorance. She used to tell people not to waste food, and asked us if we knew how many people in the world did not have food to eat. So when I told her 1.2 billion, she stopped saying it, because she herself didn’t know. And she herself wasted food. When I told her that over 30% of all the food we eat are wasted and thrown away, and would be enough to feed all the poor people in the world, she did not want to understand. The words eluded her. I took her to a tour of an island and visited a landmark temple. I asked her if she wanted to walk around, but she said she had all the information she needs from books at home. She also thinks suicide is selfish because of the people left behind. She also said she wanted to go skydiving, and I scoffed because it also increased the chance of death. She is 18 years older than me. And married. And Christian. And completely stupid.
My life was given to me by my mother. And for that I thank her. But I also want to be a parent. And in one of my bipolar induced fantasy world/hallucination, I am one. With a daughter, that for some reason, I truly, whole heartedly love. And I want her to have the best experience in life possible. But reality or fantasy, I will make sure that I protect my loved ones to the best of my abilities, without ever impeding their freedom of choice. Be it cycling or suicide. Because ultimately, I AM SELFISH. I want to both ride the bike and have my family not worry. I want to have the choice of suicide and continue to live as well. At the end of the day, my life was given to me. And I get to choose what and how much to spend it on. I get to choose if the increased chance of death from riding a bike is worth the pros of doing so. I get to choose if I want to risk my life for a CHANCE to help someone. I get to decide if killing myself will make things better for everyone. But rest assured that I will do these by giving the best chance to everyone around me. Because I hate myself. And no one else.
With all that in mind, listen well.
Shit happens. People die.
We can only try our best to get the most optimal ending we can achieve. But to close our mind and say suicide is selfish or riding a bike is selfish is in itself, selfish. Because without wearing the others’ shoes, we will never know the reason for the actions taken.
I may have lost track of what this whole post was about in the first place.
But here’s my point.
I am riding my fucking bike.