Posts tagged with "suicide"


Thumbnail: My grandparents

When I was young and it was sum­mer, my mater­nal grand­par­ents would come from Hong Kong to babysit me. It was a strange time in my life, what I con­sid­er my fetal years when I don’t remem­ber learn­ing any­thing, or hav­ing any aware­ness of my own con­scious­ness.

My grand­fa­ther was a strong, intel­li­gent, lov­ing, gen­tle man, and my biggest hero. He showed me his war wounds, and taught me about states of mat­ter. I even learned the term “civ­il war” from him when he used it (in English!) one time when some old black-and-white footage of Chinese bat­tles came on the TV, but his English was­n’t great so I thought he was say­ing, “zero war”.

He was my favourite per­son in the world because he gave me the atten­tion and stim­u­la­tion I nev­er got from my par­ents.

In one of those sum­mers, I stole his cig­a­rettes, two at a time so he would­n’t notice, and hid them in the com­part­ment of a red and white chil­drens draft­ing table. It was my way of get­ting him to stop smok­ing.

One time, I heard my grand­par­ents shout­ing in the kitchen. They were fight­ing. My grand­moth­er accused him of pee­ing on the toi­let seat. It was the first time I heard them raise their voic­es at all, let alone at each oth­er. I thought it was strange because at that age I was prob­a­bly pee­ing all over the toi­let seat, and no one ever yelled at me for it, so I did­n’t under­stand why it was such a big deal.

My aunt and uncle were over because they want­ed to spend time with them, and they came to see what the com­mo­tion was about. But they just stood there, lis­ten­ing, not want­i­ng to take sides.

Eventually, my grand­fa­ther slow­ly bent at the knees, his entire body sag­ging, buried the heels of his hands in his eyes to rub out the tears, and said to my aunt and uncle with lan­guish­ing paus­es, “Sometimes, she makes me want to kill myself”.

And I knew he meant it.

I was too young to even be shocked, but for my grand­fa­ther to say some­thing like that was com­plete­ly out of char­ac­ter. He was invin­ci­ble to me. I nev­er under­stood it.

Until now.

Eventually, he went to live with my aunt and uncle for a while. They slow­ly became warmer when they saw each oth­er a few weeks lat­er. I don’t know if they ever talked about it.

Understanding Suicide

I gen­er­al­ly don’t talk about sui­cide. I don’t dis­cuss my bat­tle with any­one, aside from close friends, because it makes most peo­ple uneasy. I nev­er used to under­stand that because it did­n’t scare me. Suicide is a choice — a con­scious deci­sion — and a con­scious deci­sion can’t be scary. But more recent­ly, I found myself feel­ing over­whelmed, then afraid I would make a real­ly big mis­take.

That fear has kept me alive. Admittedly, I’m still try­ing to under­stand these thoughts in myself.

There have been a few high pro­file sui­cides in the news late­ly. When mak­ing a state­ment about his son’s death, Walter Koenig said “If you’re one of those peo­ple and you feel you can’t han­dle it any­more, you know, if you can learn any­thing from this, it’s that there’s peo­ple out there who real­ly care.” Then his wife added, “All the peo­ple up here, from the police to his friends, have shown love which he didn’t real­ize was avail­able to him.”

Their words show a very com­mon fun­da­men­tal mis­un­der­stand­ing about the rea­sons some­one has for tak­ing their own life.

You think love can fix us? You think it mat­ters that you care?

The very nature of sui­cide is that a sui­ci­dal per­son does­n’t believe there’s any hope. If we felt like there was some­where to turn, some­one who could help1, that would imply there was hope. And if there was hope, they prob­a­bly would­n’t com­mit sui­cide.

We know you care, and we appre­ci­ate it when you tell us. We know how lucky we are to have the friends we do. But none of that helps. Suicide does­n’t nec­es­sar­i­ly result from a lack of exter­nal love. It can come from a lack of inter­nal love, when we hate our­selves, or because our thoughts or prob­lems seem too dif­fi­cult to bear.

Sometimes I get advice about how to fix the issue, almost always from peo­ple who have nev­er been sui­ci­dal. They think it’s a sim­ple prob­lem, and that we can just stop think­ing about it and it’ll go away. Or we just need to find a hob­by to dis­tract us. Or find a pas­sion to give us a rea­son to live. They don’t under­stand that sui­ci­dal thoughts are like a pho­bia — an irra­tional fear. You can’t eas­i­ly fix irra­tional thoughts. They’re irra­tional because they don’t fol­low log­ic. Otherwise, you’d be able to cure some­one’s arachno­pho­bia sim­ply by explain­ing to them, “Spiders are small and most can’t hurt you”. A per­son with arachno­pho­bia knows that fact, and under­stands it per­fect­ly, but put a spi­der next to them and they’ll be filled with uncon­trol­lable anx­i­ety.

Relate that back to sui­ci­dal thoughts: try­ing to ratio­nal­ize things to a sui­ci­dal per­son by say­ing, “You have so much to live for”, is just as inef­fec­tive. Someone may have a reward­ing career, a won­der­ful fam­i­ly, and good health, but none of that per­me­ates the mind when suf­fer­ing from a men­tal issue. The depres­sion is irra­tional, and sui­cide isn’t the easy way out, it becomes the only way out.

From my own per­son­al expe­ri­ence, the worst things you can do when han­dling a sui­ci­dal per­son are:

  • wor­ry­ing or get­ting uncom­fort­able — it puts pres­sure on us and makes us feel worse
  • get­ting angry — it only makes us with­draw more and com­mu­ni­cate less, and com­mu­ni­ca­tion is one of the few out­lets we have left
  • telling them it would be a self­ish deci­sion — when some­one is ready to kill them­selves, they real­ly don’t care and mak­ing them feel guilty is not the answer

The best things you can do for them are:

  • giv­ing them space — we need to han­dle things on our own terms and at our own pace, not yours, and the last thing we want is to feel like we’re incon­ve­nienc­ing you
  • show­ing that you care, not just telling them — ran­dom flow­ers, text mes­sages, hugs, poems (but back off if you’re told that you’re smoth­er­ing)
  • under­stand­ing that get­ting bet­ter is a long-term process, and not always per­ma­nent — we rely on your patience and under­stand­ing to get through it, and there may be regres­sions
  • nev­er, nev­er, nev­er turn­ing down a chance to talk or hang out if they ask you — noth­ing makes us sink deep­er in our frag­ile states than to feel like we aren’t impor­tant enough (we would­n’t ask if we did­n’t need to)

By no means am I sui­ci­dal right now, but yes­ter­day I con­sid­ered, and came as close to it as I’ve ever been. That was enough to scare me into the real­iza­tion that I need help. Perhaps I’m for­tu­nate enough to say that I under­stand how irra­tional these feel­ings are, and I know that I need to dis­ci­pline, prac­tice, effort, and sys­tem­at­ic obser­va­tion to fix myself.

  1. Which is very dif­fer­ent from some­one who wants to help. []

Damaged Goods

I have to write this so I can admit it to myself.

I have to write this because I can’t think of any­thing else nowa­days, except for how hard it is to get out of bed in the morn­ing.

I’ve been read­ing a book my ther­a­pist rec­om­mend­ed to me a long time ago, the one that deals with life­traps. In one of the first chap­ters, it goes through each life­trap by first explain­ing a “core need”, which is some­thing a child should have in order to thrive. It goes through exam­ples on how we should have been raised, and how a healthy mind will grow from that. Then it explains how the life­trap may devel­op if that core need isn’t met, by giv­ing exam­ples of destruc­tive child­hood envi­ron­ments.

And for almost every life­trap in the book, I saw my own child­hood in those exam­ples of destruc­tive envi­ron­ments, such as the one about “Self-esteem”:

Self-esteem is the feel­ing that we are worth­while in our per­son­al, social, and work lives. It comes from feel­ing loved and respect­ed as a child in our fam­i­ly, by friends, and at school.

Ideally we would all have had child­hoods that sup­port our self-esteem. We would have felt loved and appre­ci­at­ed by our fam­i­ly, accept­ed by peers, and suc­cess­ful at school. We would have received praise and encour­age­ment with­out exces­sive crit­i­cism or rejec­tion.

But this may not have hap­pened to you. Perhaps you had a par­ent or sib­ling who con­stant­ly crit­i­cized you, so that noth­ing you did was accept­able. You felt unlov­able.

As an adult, you may feel inse­cure about cer­tain aspects of your life.

When I was read­ing that, all I could think of was one spe­cif­ic inci­dent from my child­hood. I was young enough that my mom would bathe me, and she would do it in the en suite bath­room of the mas­ter bed­room. One day, she came to dry me off with a tow­el, and both the bath­room door and the bed­room cur­tains were open. I told her to close the door, because I was self-con­scious about being seen naked by the neigh­bours across the street. I was real­ly upset about it, and instead of walk­ing two feet to close the door, she laughed and said, “You’re no Tom Cruise”, and left it open. From that point, I’ve had this irre­press­ible feel­ing that I’m nev­er attrac­tive enough for some­one to even be inter­est­ed in see­ing me naked.

And that was just one exam­ple. My child­hood was filled with so many such mem­o­ries, each one branch­ing into oth­er life­traps.

I’ve nev­er won­dered why I have self-esteem issues. I fuck­ing hate how self-con­scious I am, because I know the extent of that self-con­scious­ness isn’t nor­mal. I’ve strug­gled with issues like that my entire life, and I can trace every­thing back to my par­ents. It fills me with rage to know that they dam­aged me to the point where I feel so over­whelmed by my flaws that some­times I’d rather be dead.

If I were ever to com­mit sui­cide — and at this point I feel like I can’t rule out the pos­si­bil­i­ty of this any­more — I’d say that my par­ents would be 55% respon­si­ble1, with my mom shar­ing more of that blame than my dad.

I hope she reads this one day. I hope my entire fam­i­ly reads this. I hope all my cous­in’s moms read this, because they usu­al­ly try to defend her. I want every­one to know that if I die by my own hand one day, I blame my mom more than any­thing else in the world. I want par­ents to know that they have a respon­si­bil­i­ty to their kids because they’re peo­ple too, that they have to treat them prop­er­ly, and that I was an exam­ple of what hap­pens when you don’t.

This is start­ing to sound like a sui­cide note, and it’s scar­ing me. Good thing I’ve always been a ratio­nal per­son, and I still rec­og­nize that sui­cide is an irra­tional deci­sion for me at this moment. Sometimes, I watch sui­cide videos just to shock myself into real­iz­ing how final, irre­versible, and hor­ri­ble that deci­sion is.

I’m at a lot bet­ter than where I was two years ago, before I went to ther­a­py, but I’m still far from being fixed. I can admit that to myself now.

  1. The oth­er 45% being my own inabil­i­ty to deal with these things, but I attribute that to tem­pera­ment, which is inborn and hence not their fault. []


Bronwen and I agreed to a mar­riage pact, where we would mar­ry each oth­er if we weren’t in a rela­tion­ship by a cer­tain age. The thing is, she’s six years younger than me, so we decid­ed that her expi­ra­tion date is 35, and mine 41, because it’s eas­i­er for men to date/marry than women, at an old­er age.

Note how I did­n’t say “easy”. Heaven knows I had a hard enough time with dat­ing in my teens. And twen­ties. And prob­a­bly 30s.

According to her, we also have a sui­cide pact, even though I have no rec­ol­lec­tion of this. The only rea­son I can think of agree­ing to that is if large parts of the world were destroyed by mete­ors, lead­ing to the col­lapse of the eco­nom­ic sys­tem, cre­at­ing anar­chy, and reduc­ing every­one to hunter-gath­er­ers.

Bronwen and I are most cer­tain­ly not hunter-gath­er­ers, and we’d prob­a­bly suf­fer unbear­ably just try­ing to sur­vive, or be killed soon after because we’re too naive or com­pas­sion­ate for a dog-eat-dog world. The thing is, if that hap­pened I’d try to join forces with Pat and Jen, because they always have every­thing togeth­er1. So maybe if they were also killed by this cos­mic hail­storm, then it would still be an option.

  1. Pat’s the one who believes that at least one per­son should be in con­trol in every group at all times, and that he is this per­son. The only time he was ever ine­bri­at­ed was for his bach­e­lor par­ty. []