Times to Die (Mental Health Part I)

Every day I wake up hoping that the day ends. That is the only semblance of hope that is anywhere in life in some days for the depressed person: the hope that most of the days will end, and that somehow, we will not exist. By fading away naturally and without pain, the depressed person looks for exits, but never quite runs towards them, only contemplates them for afar, only to be reminded of the options possible a few years later, where another episode might take its hold.

To fantasize about the possibilities of dying is to entertain the idea that the space you are currently filling will be vacant. A person forms extraordinary networks of people during their lifetime, most of them remain active one way or the other, but the question that enters the mind of the depressed person is “what if I was not there?” In its most narcissistic variants, the ideation turns towards what people will feel when the person is not there. Other times, it is a way out of pain, a relief from consciousness that sometimes only ever goes away with drugs.

When someone commits suicide, the topic comes up for a limited time, despite mortality being a persistent conundrum for most people. For people suffering illnesses, concerns about mortality never do quite go away from the day to day schedule of extra added pain people go through. However, much like suicidal ideation that is concerned more with externalities and suicidal ideation concerned more with self-relief, there are two ways to think about the opposite of suicide, that is living. Are you living for yourself or for someone or something else?

Philosophers refer to these as the “big questions” and people like Emil Cioran, Nietzche, and more contemporarily Thomas Ligotti and Eugene Thacker have tried to answer the big questions, or at least try to attack them from different points of view. In one way or the other, while it would be easy to differentiate between positive and negative thinkers of these big questions, no one has a an all encompassing, yet concise, answer to these conundrums. Systematic language betrays a lot of the particularities that make the depressed person think about living or dying. If one tries to answer the question without taking in the particulars of that person’s context and live, one might as well be speaking about a mannequin, not a living, breathing human being.

The depressed person is not seem crying all the time. In some ways, it is quite the opposite, as depression takes hold of a paralyzing numbness that might pass as pensiveness for the outside onlooker. When the depressed person commits the act of suicide, the reactions are often of surprise, only for interested people to look for signs of suicidal ideation everywhere, and connecting the dots to make sense of what happened. Commercial biographical films take this approach towards representing depression and suicide, it is the approach of the outside onlooker that knows how the story ends, and therefore sees in every movement, action, and spoken word a sign of what is approaching. Nevertheless, reality does not have background, swelling music, to highlight the actions of people, to know if what they said should be taken with gravitas or is some kind of cry for help.

It is in this way that the depressed person becomes invisible, even to themselves. The imperceptibility of the omnipresent personal grey cloud is the phantom that haunts the people around the void left by the depressed person. For the depressed person, suicide, or mortality, tends to be something that they have contemplated for years, yet never quite done. Emil Cioran famously said that “you always kill yourself too late.” I take this to mean that the continuous mulling over of suicidal ideation essentially blocks the grand gesture of committing suicide. Contemplating ways to die is never actually grandiose. There is no music before you die, and there is even less when you are dead.

The first time I attempted to kill myself, I had taken a large amount of pills. I was 13, and did this without any sort of glamour to the event. It is no wonder that I got found and forced to puke. The event was a watershed moment for a lot of people in my family that believed that mental health was not really something to be taken into account, neither did my friends. The circumstances of the time led me to believe that it was the only viable way out from what I considered to be a horrible reality. The feeling never quite dies out, it only visits less often. But it paid a visit again 2 years later.

After a while, the depressed person starts to talk about these feelings, and how they came to be part of their core. For someone that would find out later on that endogenous depression was something I was gonna to live with, the ever constant questioning of mortality and death became sources of rumination. Topics I shared with people in my family in more than one occasion where handled with the usual responses of how much there was yet to be lived. The depressed person rarely listens to cliches or pleads, as the state of numbness pushes out the triteness of optimism, and places the comfortable feeling of giving in, yet never quite doing anything about it. It may become, with time, more comfortable to talk about the idea of suicide and death, but rarely in public discourse is it accepted that death is the best option available, not if you have lost someone to suicide.

Suicide is a personal decision, something that ruminates in the mind of the depressed person for a while, and is not to be taken lightly. As with every personal decision, it has personal particularities that are not easily extrapolatable to other cases. “They were not in a correct state of mind” is one of the usual phrases professed by those that are left behind. However, this judgement call, seen from whatever angle, is not easily assessable, and it becomes hard to process for anyone around the depressed person, let alone entertain, the notion that suicide might was the best option available for the person, at the moment. A lot of these questions come down to personal autonomy, and how much of it has been fostered throughout a person’s development process. One learns of external sources of pain, and internal ways of engaging with them, but if the phantom is haunting from the inside, what is the best way to deal with it? It does not come down to help or hell, other people can momentarily serve as tokens of forgetting, but they do not make for “sustainable solution” for depression or suicide. Because there is not one.

One of the very first things in any sort of road to dealing with depression, external or endogenous, is to decide is these conditions are something that anyone is willing to live with. It is something I hope to be exploring in future posts. But I could not continue doing so without asserting the first principle of any kind of deal with depression: you have a right to kill yourself. It will never be pretty to write or say those words, as our progressive saviour culture has decided that anyone and everyone should continue living, even if they cannot fathom the thought of existing. The “it gets better” culture, specifically for adults, fosters the idiocy chain of a concatenating cult. If one has decided that there is no going back, there is no going back. When this has pragmatic consequences, no one can know. Yet, positivity culture and the rise of progressive values that elude any conversation about suicide that is not about saving, occlude the unthinkable truth of someone’s existence, that they simply should not be living anymore.

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14 Responses to Times to Die (Mental Health Part I)

  1. >Suicide is a personal decision, something that ruminates in the mind of the depressed person for a while, and is not to be taken lightly…But I could not continue doing so without asserting the first principle of any kind of deal with depression: you have a right to kill yourself.

    Suicide is not a personal decision, and you do not have any right to kill yourself. This is corrupt solipsistic thinking, the product of alienation.

    ” And do not let your [evil] impulse assure you that the netherworld is a place of refuge for you; because against your will you were created, and against your will you were born, and against your will you live, and against your will you die, and against your will you are destined to give account and reckoning before the King of kings, the Holy One, blessed be He.”-Pirkei Avot

    Your life is not yours to dispose of as you see fit, and it was not created by you. Every person has a mission and a purpose, and if you destroy your life without regards to this, you are like a spoiled child who takes a car his father gave him and wrecks it.

    Depression is a sign that you are not living according to your purpose.

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    • Giancarlo M. Sandoval says:

      >Suicide is not a personal decision, and you do not have any right to kill yourself. This is corrupt solipsistic thinking, the product of alienation.

      Okay.

      >Every person has a mission and a purpose, and if you destroy your life without regards to this

      This is the “mission” stance, and it is half-true. See https://meaningness.com/purpose

      Thanks for commenting!

      Like

      • I haven’t seen the meaningness site before. It presents a false dichotomy, I think.

        From a secular perspective, what I’m talking about was described by Victor Frankl, who noticed in the camps that people whose life had meaning/a purpose survived, and those whose life didn’t, didn’t. He founded a whole school of psychotherapy based on this insight.

        Of course, we see around ourselves that it’s worse than that. People whose lives lack meaning do not just fail to survive in concentration camps, they also die or fail to reproduce in the modern Western world. Their very existence is pain.

        Being a committed secular Jew, Frankl didn’t take the logical step of asking why, if man is just an evolved animal, would he need to have something like “meaning” in order to survive? Why is it not enough to eat, drink, fornicate, consume entertainment, etc.? Why should an existence whose only purpose lies in the above be painful?

        I am not a secular Jew but a religious one, so to me, the answer is obvious-we are not just evolved animals. We are created by God in His image and each of us has a mission. The false dichotomy that the site you linked presents is that this mission must be a grandiose one-time event. The Jewish philosophy is that we imbue the mundane with holiness.

        I am not talking about the demonic “holiness” of the Leftist, but about making our actions, big and small, a service to God.

        Maimonides says: “A person should direct his heart and the totality of his behavior to one goal, becoming aware of God, blessed be He. The [way] he rests, rises, and speaks should all be directed to this end.

        “For example: when involved in business dealings or while working for a wage, he should not think solely of gathering money. Rather, he should do these things, so that he will be able to obtain that which the body needs – food, drink, a home and a wife.

        Similarly, when he eats, drinks and engages in intimate relations, he should not intend to do these things solely for pleasure to the point where he will eat and drink only that which is sweet to the palate and engage in intercourse for pleasure. Rather, he should take care to eat and drink only in order to be healthy in body and limb.”

        If a person lives this way earnestly, how can he be depressed? And if he lives in the opposite way, how can he be happy?

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      • Giancarlo M. Sandoval says:

        Baruch, I think I understand your perspective more. Your first comment came off as a little abrasive, but now that I understand what you are getting at, for me it is important to highlight the cases in which endogenous depression is the main motivator of suicide. I have it, and I can only survive daily with a mix of CBT and medication. There are different kinds of depression which lead to different outcomes, it is not just an external force attacking you and your mindset, and if it is you can change a lot of your habits to make sure to steer clear from it. I am referring, specifically, to the internal, biologically determined depression with no external cause.

        Endogenous depression, while aided by how we see meaning as well as changes in routine, like running as Sister Sarah points out, has to also have medical supplements, which constantly need to be monitored and sometimes fail. The case of David Foster Wallace’s treatment with lithium and other medications is one of the most notorious cases of this, to grab the most famous example from a lot of people that suffer from endogenous depression. The taking of medication and change of routine itself presents a lot of cognitive heavyweight that “normal” people or sufferers of “reactive depression, which is the one you allude to, do not go through. Depression itself becomes the condition of living, and it is not due to a change of attitude or outlook that it is defeated. Indeed it cannot be. At most, it can be tamed, knowing triggers, identifying barriers and rumination patters. This is another more intensive type of work that goes into endogenous depression that sometimes consumes a person’s life altogether. In my case, it took me three years to get a hold of a routine that did not include suicidal ideation and constant internal rumination.

        I understand your point of view, but I think we might be arguing about different things. For some cases it is a question of attitude change, worldview modification, and other things. But for endogenous depression and manic depressives, it is, for the most part, a relief to die.

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    • TK-421 says:

      Every person has a mission and a purpose

      Says you, with no evidence to support it.

      Depression is a sign that you are not living according to your purpose.

      No, it’s a sign that the human brain has failure modes just like any other complex system. Do you think cancer is caused by “not living according to your purpose” too?

      In closing, go fuck yourself.

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      • >Says you, with no evidence to support it.

        You can look at Frankl’s works or just notice that people’s lives are easier than ever, and yet they are more depressed than ever.

        >No, it’s a sign that the human brain has failure modes just like any other complex system.

        This is a just-so story. Notice lots of big-brained wild animals suffering from depression? Or, to go the other way, can you name one reliable objective test for depression? Meaning, a chemical assay, scan, etc.

        > Do you think cancer is caused by “not living according to your purpose” too?

        No, obviously lifestyle choices have no effect whatsoever on one’s probability of getting cancer. Snark aside, cancer is an objective reality, detectable by lab tests. Depression is not. Cancer symptoms do not disappear after a sleepless night; those of depression do (http://abcnews.go.com/Health/Sleep/sleep-deprivation-helps-depressed-scientists/story?id=11516912) Etc.

        As for your closing comment, your anger shows that, despite wishing it were otherwise, some part of you suspects I’m right.

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  2. nimelennar says:

    I have struggled with depression, have had multiple members of my immediate and extended family commit suicide, so any reading of my thoughts here should reflect that.

    First, thank you, Giancarlo, for sharing your thoughts. Far too few people speak about their depression, and the signs attached to any sort of mental illness makes it harder for those who suffer from it to seek and find the help they need.

    I’d like to speak to a few points not covered above. For one, with apologies to the colourblind, depression colours your world in shades of grey: which is to say, it’s dull and you lose a lot of the sense of fine variation that most people have in their life. Some people seem to get the impression that that means that absolutely everything in a depressed person’s life is sadness, which is not always the case. There are darker days and brighter days: even in monochrome, there are many shades between deepest black and blinding white. The fact that someone can be happy, or laughing, in a given moment, doesn’t mean that the person is not struggling with depression. I myself can only tell exactly how depressed I am by how much energy I can spare to complete the coral take on life like cooking or shopping or cleaning or even sleeping regular hours. I’m pretty sure the author understands this, but it isn’t made explicit in what was written.

    As to suicide… I have to say that I agree with the author, with caveats.

    I’m not a biochemist or neurologist, but from what I’ve read, if thoughts are impulses along electrical pathways within the brain, then emotions are the chemicals that are released due to, as well as helping to steer, those impulses. If it’s compared to a computer (as the brain frequently is), then the CPU is immersed in a liquid cooling solution that’s constantly pumped in and out, and its functions vary wildly depending on the constantly-changing chemical composition of the bath.

    We’re getting better in our understanding of how the brain works, and slowly making progress towards fixing the chemical imbalances and unhealthy thought patterns in the mind of depressed people. But there’s two problems here: first, that by changing those two things within the brain, you’re essentially changing the person’s very identity (there’s a reason “person” is the root of the word “personality”), and some people aren’t comfortable with having their very selves changed to a person who enjoys life more. The second is that the treatments we have don’t always work. Since we don’t fully understand what we’re tinkering around with, depressed patients can be subjected to a baffling array of drugs, alone or in various mixes, until they find one that works. Some of those drugs create dependency issues as well, basing further damage for the future cocktail to fix. Some people don’t get fixed before they are permanently broken, or, at least, as far as we can presently fix.

    So, yes, I do think that suicide should be an approved therapy for depression, with the caveat that it is the last possible resort. A common side effect of the drug roulette described above is that the lethargy that often comes as part of depression will lift before the suicidal ideation does. For these people, and for the people who want to be happy but haven’t found the right mix of drugs and other therapies, or who want help but have not, for whatever reason, sought it out: I do not think that suicide should be an officially available option. I do not dispute that everyone has the right to end their own life, or suggest banning ropes or firearms or sharp objects or limiting pill containers to doses well under the LD50. Any action you take, short of a padded cell or restraints, to prevent someone who has the intent and the energy to take their own life would be disturbingly intrusive and ultimately ineffective.

    What I’m suggesting is that people with depression, especially those contemplating suicide, should be directed away from taking matters into their own hands, and into a robust, competent mental health system. They should be confident that they’ll have every possible opportunity to put their life back together into a shadow that they can live with. And they should be told, honestly, that if everything else fails, and there’s no good path to a life that the person can live with, that they’ll be shown to life’s exit door with a minimum of pain and fuss.

    Among the many suicide attempts in my family that I’m aware of, one was due to an incompetent therapist, one was due to financial difficulties causing an unavailability of antidepressants, and one was almost immediately after the exposure of a large-scale and rather heinous deception that completely alienated one side of the family. None of those attempts should have happened. Yes, suicide was their right in each case, but there were better options available (a better doctor, proper medication, and at least an attempt at therapy, respectively).

    I guess what I’m saying is that some people have in their future nothing but either physical and emotional pain, and forcing them to live through that as opposed to giving them a painless, dignified death is almost tantamount to torture. If it had been professionally and competently ascertained that that is truly the case, let them die in a place and manner of their choosing. Even if you believe in an afterlife, no just God would condemn a person for seeking an end to endless torment.

    However, while there is still hope in this life, when issues can still possibly be fixed instead of ended, every effort should be put towards convincing the person to attempt the former treatment than the latter.

    Once again, my thanks to Mr. Sandoval for having the courage to post the above. You may have helped more people than you know by posting this, and I hope that you continue to use this platform to help others for as long as you can bear to.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. mark says:

    This is all rather different from the usual Status 451 fare. Are you doing alright, Giancarlo? You’re amongst friends.

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  4. Pingback: Rational Feed – deluks917

  5. PS says:

    (1) Someone who commits suicide is not choosing “death over life”. They are merely choosing “now over later”.

    Death isn’t optional. Someone who chooses the manner and hour of their own death is merely displaying the final agency. There can be empowerment to being able to say “Enough!” and make it stick.

    (2) Yes, a suicide leaves people in their wake. Most forms of ethics require us to consider the effect of our actions on others, and suicide is no different.

    Is suicide “selfish”?

    Yes, of course, the people left alive have to deal with the aftermath. That’s often a horrible experience. But whatever the people left behind are feeling, apparently it’s not bad enough to make them willing to kill themselves to make it stop.

    That’s probably an important detail. There is suffering on both sides, to be sure. But a difference of degree becomes a difference of kind. Like the difference between firing a bullet, and throwing it.

    “You need to continue with the shrieking hell of your existence. . because if you don’t. . I will be sad. At least for awhile. I will move on eventually, of course. But you need to live decades of misery so I don’t have to go through 3 months of adjustment.”

    Who is being selfish again?

    WRT: the fine commentary provided by Baruch Kogan.

    ” And do not let your [evil] impulse assure you that the netherworld is a place of refuge for you; because against your will you were created, and against your will you were born, and against your will you live, and against your will you die, and against your will you are destined to give account and reckoning before the King of kings, the Holy One, blessed be He.”-Pirkei Avot

    This line of argument makes some rather breath-taking religious assumptions. It turns out that there is more than one line of argument on the ethics of suicide, even amongst devoutly religious people.

    And of course, such arguments carry no weight for atheists.

    And if Pirkei Avot turns out to be correct, then that (rather surprised) atheist will look the King of Kings straight in the eye, and hold him accountable right back.

    “So. . God. . .if that’s how you’d like to be addressed .. . If I do all these things against my will, then in what sense am I culpable for them? I didn’t make you. You made me. Who has the agency here? Whatever puny powers I have could not *possibly* have frustrated your Divine Plan. And you clearly didn’t equip me to even perceive your Divine Plan, never mind frustrate it. So . . why am *I* being taken to account? It was you who caused the earthquake. I was just the one crushed under it.

    Free will, you say? Well, I was never asked if I wanted free will, and wouldn’t have understood what it meant if I had. So, whatever sort of will I had, it certainly wasn’t ‘free'”.

    Baruch Kogan also says:

    “Every person has a mission and a purpose, and if you destroy your life without regards to this, you are like a spoiled child who takes a car his father gave him and wrecks it.”

    One trouble with this simile is that it assumes someone wanted a car in the first place. Maybe they didn’t. It all happened against their will, according to that Avot quote.

    Some alleged “gifts” are actually existential burdens.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_elephant

    “Depression is a sign that you are not living according to your purpose.”

    Perhaps their Divine Purpose was to die, and thus provoke Internet conversation about suicide. God, it is said, moves in mysterious ways.

    On the other hand, if all this happened against their will, then it was never “their purpose”. It was, perhaps, a task assigned to them by a Cosmic Drill Sargent.

    “Go dig a hole, then fill it in again. . . for the next 70 years. While random people come by and hit you in the kidneys with a shovel. Every fibre of your being will ache. Don’t ask why. Just do it because God said so.”

    Or at least people say God said so. . . God doesn’t actually talk to many people, so this is all on hearsay.

    Some people might eagerly dig that hole, and fill it in again. They are happy to finally have a “purpose”. I suspect most of us have worked with people like this. They are perfectly happy to print and bind 300 copies of that annual report, only to dump it directly into the shredder. At least they have a purpose.

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  6. vendorx says:

    Wow, you fuckers can’t even commit suicide without taking a moment to whine and lie about, “progessive,” culture.

    Like

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