20 August 2012

the last decision you'll ever make.

Tony Scott's suicide has given me a lot to think about. Not so much about Tony Scott—but about suicide. 

Because I'm currently taking two antidepressants, my doctor requires me to have biannual med checks. These are essentially worthless, profit-generating appointments, during which my vitals are checked and the doctor asks me some scripted questions, such as: 'Have you been having any thoughts of suicide?' To which I forcefully—perhaps too forcefully—reply, 'No!'

Methinks I doth protest too much. But I'm worried that if I offered up anything even resembling an affirmative response, a team of straitjacket-brandishing orderlies would be immediately summoned on an internal hotline—and I'd be wheeled to some windowless underground bunker only to be heavily sedated and then neutralized with military-grade cognitive 'therapy.' Clearly, I've seen too many movies.

Yes, I do think about suicide. Occasionally. When I was a teenager, I avidly fantasized—as I think many teenagers do—about the tragic scene that would play out when my cruel, authoritarian parents stumbled upon my dead body. Of course, before I lost consciousness, I would have smeared the blood from my wrists on the white drywall, spelling out the accusation: 'You did this!'  (Try to paint over that guilt, fascists!)

I'm happy to report that since my emotionally turbulent teenage years, my attitude toward suicide has become more measured. I no longer engage in such morbid Harold and Maude-style fantasies because I understand the world better now; I realize that I wouldn't in fact be there to enjoy my grisly tableau if I were dead and, more importantly perhaps, that the world would go on (however unthinkable that may seem) and the memory of my gruesome leave-taking would quickly fade into the foggy recesses of time. 

Harold and Maude.

When I think about suicide today, I don't think of it as something desirable or even relevant to me personally, but it still holds a grim fascination. I just find it incredibly odd that the very existence which enables the human will should (or even could) seek to nullify itself. It's something akin to a democratic vote to empower a totalitarian dictator. How can you use the rules of one paradigm to justify another (opposing) one? But then again, I suppose it's stupid to expect suicide to answer to reason.

My aunt—my mother's sister—committed suicide when I was very young. The memories I have of that time are so elusive that I can't really trust any of them—but I think her suicide was prompted by her husband's serial infidelities and his later prosecution for embezzling—although I'm not quite sure if I've crossed my wires somewhere with an episode of Hart to Hart. The point is that none of this is ever discussed in my family, and I would never feel comfortable asking about it. I feel that it's much too personal, and it's a memory that doesn't really belong to me. And I don't really want it to.

When I was young and still under the spell of Catholicism, I very much wanted to ask my mother if my aunt was in hell because she killed herself. According to the nuns, suicide was a mortal sin, but I wondered if there was some minor technicality in the rules I wasn't aware of. It seemed unfortunate that my aunt should spend an eternity writhing in agony amid the lapping, insatiable flames of the godless underworld merely because she had been inconsolably unhappy on earth. Thankfully, a rare childhood instinct for restraint prevented me from asking about it. 

In truth, I have as little chance of committing suicide as I do of parachuting out of an airplane—which is to say zero chance. Perhaps even negative chance. It just isn't how I deal with misery. Plus, I'm terrified of death, as any properly functioning human being should be, I think. Self-preservation is one of the strongest instincts in living beings of every order. If your self-preservation instinct happens to be on the blink, you should get yourself to a doctor or a clinical psychologist as soon as possible. 

But I still enjoy thinking about suicide from time to time. It isn't a full-fledged hobby or anything, but I can't help being interested in such a paradoxical human impulse. (Just don't tell my doctor, okay?)

20 comments:

  1. I think a doctor would say occasional thoughts of suicide were normal, but maybe that's just mine.

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    1. Next time you call up for a med check you find out your doctor committed suicide. That was his/her cry for help, and you ignored it.

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  2. I also had those weird fantasies growing up. And that's what they were—fantasies. I think that's why I relate so well to the kid from A Christmas Story.

    Also, Harald & Maude...that is a good movie. Messed up, but good.

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  3. I'm with Namaste: Who doesn't think about suicide? I don't have elaborate plans or anything, but images of a revolver in my mouth visits me on those rare occasions of virile lucidity. (It has to be a revolver, because those don't jam; it has to be the mouth, because that's guaranteed to end it and not leave you a vegetable...again, not that I've thought too deeply about it.)

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    1. What about huffing carbon monoxide? That way you'd just go gently to sleep...

      But enough about my hobbies. WHEN are you going to submit your stupid fucking Top 50 Movies list, Del Mal? Get crackin'. (I know Remains of the Day will be number 1.)

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    2. Oh no. I can't even count to fifty.

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  4. I have a lot of thoughts on this issue, but for now I'll stick to recommending this book...an empathetic, well-structured analysis of suicide, suicide prevention, etc.

    http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33832.Night_Falls_Fast

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  5. I know that everybody thinks about suicide, but someone who's taking SSRIs is under added scrutiny, I think, for any eye twitch or preoccupation with knives.

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  6. If I remember correctly the "potential harm to self" assertion, as vague as that might be, could be used as grounds for institutionalization. So I keep my mouth shut.

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    1. Right! Better safe than sorry.

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  7. sorry. this is a really long comment. but i think suicide (as a topic) a lot. i actually had more to say on this topic but cut back. i know. blather blather. :)

    first, i'm pretty sure that question is on the beck index. do they still use that as the crazy barometer? after my father died, i was on anti-depressants for twelve years straight and then i lost my job and benefits and couldn't afford them. i worried about dying in the gutter, mad and frothing at the mouth. instead i bought omega three fish oil capsules and started going to the gym, and i don't think i'm any worse off. i can't say that i ever stopped wanting to die when i was on meds. i just cried less.

    of course wanting to die isn't quite the same as suicide which i think of as an active thing. for me, depression was really about how overwhelmed i was by all the pain in the world (i have serious weltschmerz), how i couldn't control my own sadness, and how i stuck i felt, how purposeless. wanting to have that all end was real, but actively trying to kill myself really only happened one time, when the traffic looked so freeing. every subsequent time i was tempted, the odds game played in my mind. would i end up like the guy who shot himself in the head, blowing off a portion but failing to die? i've known a lot of people who killed themselves, or tried to. i've begun to see it as a not really a progressive thing that you work yourself up to over years, but a crystallization -- you hit a hard stop, you don't see any alternatives, and you're unable to face your life. and you make a plan, and you execute. yourself. or try. a family member of mine tried and failed to kill themselves in the last couple of years. when they failed, i realized how awful that would be: that you'd be resolved to negation and fail in that, as you had in so many other things? for myself, i finally settled on: today i can't see things getting any better, but let's see what tomorrow brings. something i'd heard people say so many times, but never really stuck until i picked up from the book of ebenezer le page. something about those people, that they kept on, really forced me to admit that i was unhappy, but that i wasn't prepared to do anything about it either. :)

    the whole thing about you not knowing about your aunt and being being catholic fascinates me. i was raised catholic too but everybody knew all the family secrets -- i thought that's how catholics dealt with things -- they talked amongst themselves in the family and crossed themselves a lot. so many catholic sub-branches.

    my teen fantasy was of choking on a chicken bone/ham sandwich a la mama cass and everybody gathering around my hospital bed to feel sorry they didn't appreciate me when they had the chance -- yeah, i know that she never died that way now, but it was a complete fantasy given i have never eaten a ham sandwich in my life, and chicken with bones? probably can count that on one hand. it was about as likely as your jumping out the plane. :)

    have you ever read george sanders suicide note?

    “Dear World, I am leaving because I am bored. I feel I have lived long enough. I am leaving you with your worries in this sweet cesspool. Good luck.”

    i wondered if tony scott felt something similar. i think sanders was the same age when he went.

    p.s. i don't remember that episode of hart to hart. are you sure it wasn't remington steele?

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    1. What a great post, Annabel. Thank you for sharing.

      I'm glad you're still around. I have serious weltschmerz too, I'd have to say. The world is so exhausting and irritating and sad and every permutation thereof, but I guess I'm lucky that I've never really lost (all) hope. It's like the Ebenezer Le Page thing: I still always think that—even if things won't necessarily get better—they can still be different in some important way, and that's the thing that makes life stubbornly livable for me. Part of the drain of life (for me) is the (seeming) dreary sameness of it.

      Choking on a chicken or ham bone sounds like an unpleasant way to go. It's like drowning—your body has to struggle in a very intense way before it's over, y'know? I also don't understand jumping from a bridge like Tony Scott. Such an unpleasant experience precedes death.

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    2. thank you, david. i like your nimble mind and what it obscenely chews. :)

      and i'm glad you and i agree on ebenezer.

      the chicken thing was dramatic, and seemed to shock everybody who talked about it, so it suited my purposes in fantasy. in reality, when i thought about it, it was always a bath and sedatives -- like dying in your sleep, right? i don't even want to list all the ways that people i have known have done it. but two were bridges, and neither of them were even over water, as scott's was. perhaps he thought it would be like flying, and then being very, very cold, and then, fin.

      man, i'm morbid. sorry. i told you i think about it a lot. don't even get me ranting about how the whole "suicide is so selfish" makes me want to punch people who say it in the teeth. :)

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    3. p.s. the evil corporation i work for has blocked your blog as potentially harmful when i'm on vpn. not sure what you've done to deserve that, but i figured on some level you might be pleased. :)

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  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  9. Where'd your comment go, Tomato? I already saw it on my phone...

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  10. it was dumb. but not as dumb as the fact that i had plenty of time to think about it through all my word verification attempts but still didnt recognize it as too dumb until after it finally posted.

    i'm dumb.

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  11. My worst dreams have been of finding loved ones who have killed themselves. I hate those dreams! CURSE THEM!

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  12. Why won't my picture show up?! I hate computers.

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  13. But i didn't have to prive that I wasn't a robot. I love computers!

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