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Tuesday, May 9, 2017

On Suicide

If you read gun blogs at all, you've no doubt heard that yesterday (Monday) morning, Bob Owens died, apparently by his own hand. I haven't yet heard it officially confirmed that it was suicide, but the circumstances of Bob's death and his final post to Facebook sure point to it.

I have a complicated relationship with suicide. When I was younger, I actively considered killing myself because I was in a lot of emotional turmoil. I'll spare you the details of it, but the gist of the matter is that I felt like a hideous failure because I wasn't comfortable inside my own skin and no one wanted to be around me. (These feelings diminished once I stopped fighting who I was and, for lack for a better phrase, "gave myself permission" to be transgender.) I never actually attempted it, though. Perhaps I had too much survival instinct to give in to the destructive impulse, but let me tell you this: if you are feeling shitty enough to think that killing yourself is the answer to your problems, then not being able to go through with doesn't feel like a victory; it feels like "I'm such a failure I can't even kill myself properly."

What I'm saying is that I get it. I understand the desire to eject from pain and suffering and hopelessness, and even now I feel that every adult on the planet has to right to choose to check out if that's what they truly want. The only thing we really have in this world is our life, and for me to demand that you live in accordance with my wishes seems the height of arrogance and selfishness.

However, having the right to do it doesn't mean that I agree with it. Oh, in certain circumstances I can totally understand the reasoning — like someone in Stage 4 cancer deciding to go out before the agony starts — but in cases like Bob's, I can only fall back on the same belief that I have regarding freedom of speech: I may disagree with what you say (or in this case, do), but I will defend to the death your right to do it. 

Of course, this is all in the philosophical abstract for me, not having known Bob Owens. I fully expect that if a friend of mine should kill himself, I will quite selfishly wish that it didn't happen because I would be grieving.

That's the true cost of suicide right there. I don't remember where I saw or heard it, or when, but I recall vividly the quote "You've just killed yourself. Congratulations, you've just hurt everyone who ever gave a damn about you." It's one thing to kill yourself when you're going to die anyway, because (to me, at least) that's just a matter of rescheduling the grief. It's another thing — arguably, a very selfish thing — to kill yourself when your death could have been prevented by seeking help.

I wasn't privy to Bob's thoughts, so I don't know what agony he was suffering that made him choose suicide. I can't judge him or his actions. What I can do, though — about the only thing that I can do — is to point out that if you choose to kill yourself, you're going to hurt the people you love in a terrible, intimate way. And because you love them, I don't believe, I cannot believe, that you'd want to do that to them.

If you're looking for a reason to live, I'd say that "Not hurting those that I love" is a pretty damn good one.

2 comments:

  1. I've always felt extreme sadness for teenagers who commit suicide before they even really begin to live.
    I've know people who have clinical depression. They, simply put, are not in their right mind.
    I've seen sick people struggle to beyond my understanding for that one more breath and I've seen those who give up without a fight.

    For me Dylan Thomas said it best
    "Do not go gentle into that good night,
    Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light."

    ReplyDelete
  2. I've always felt extreme sadness for teenagers who commit suicide before they even really begin to live.
    I've know people who have clinical depression. They, simply put, are not in their right mind.
    I've seen sick people struggle to beyond my understanding for that one more breath and I've seen those who give up without a fight.

    For me Dylan Thomas said it best
    "Do not go gentle into that good night,
    Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light."

    ReplyDelete

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