“There is only one really serious philosophical problem,” Camus says, “and that is suicide. Deciding whether or not life is worth living is to answer the fundamental question in philosophy. All other questions follow from that”.
I’ve never tried to kill myself. I’ve never heard a voice in my head tell me to kill myself. From what I understand, many attempts are made as a final submission to that order.
For me thoughts of bowing out have felt rational and grounded in real life experience. They are only thoughts. It’s more similar to performing a cost benefit analysis around a move, a job or whether to go out for dinner.
At each stage of life, I perform these assessments. When I felt depressed, directionless and faultily constructed at 19, my sister would make the argument that my life in ten years would look different. I was only 19 for God’s sake. I’d been miserable for about seven years straight and unable to generate forward momentum. No one could tell me those things weren’t true because they were. But my sister’s argument was plainly correct: I’d given up on my 20s since I was pretty much already there, but maybe the 30s would be a good decade for me. Plus, I hadn’t tried heavy duty therapy and cocktailing my medication yet. Ok, so I hold off with “good reason”.
At 25, I thought maybe my time was coming. The proverbial “moment in the sun”. I’d secured an expensive and seemingly competent psychiatrist. Maybe he’d be able to save me. And if he could fix me, I could take advantage of the fact I lived in the New York, where good and exciting things happened to people all the time. I remember clearly celebrating my 25th birthday in Long Island thinking ‘this could work out after all’.
It didn’t work out after all. I moved the needle a bit with medication and intensive psychiatric support, but I was still unable to find work that satisfied my soul or community in the form of lasting, meaningful friendships. So there I was at the dawn of my 30s, filled with righteous despair. And at this point, you couldn’t say I hadn’t tried. Because I had and I’d tried with every bit of fight I had.
I’m not going to get into the demons I’m fighting at this exact moment but I will say this: after three decades of life, I still battle suicidal thoughts.
But there are too many people whose lives I’d ruin by taking my leave. That’s not nearly the same thing as finding meaning though, so I live with this existential question. The one Camus posed so wisely.
Tell someone when you are feeling ready to attempt. Tell anyone. And then committ to one more day or one more week. Small increments of time will lead to big ones.