So you're thinking about committing suicide.
That is, I figure you probably are if you're reading this, judging by the e-mail I get every day.
I obviously can't change your mind about this and you'd have no reason to listen to me even if I tried, BUT a person can screw up a suicide just like anything else and so I offer this guide on how to do it right. Yes, it does matter. This is the act that everyone will remember about you forever and ever. So, before you go rushing into it...
The following is a true story. I knew a girl in High School named Skyler. One day, not long after her 17th birthday, she got fed up with life and swallowed a whole bottle of pills. I would go into why, but we never knew why. All she left behind was a squiggly suicide note, scrawled in a tearful rage on the back of an Arby's receipt.
To make things worse, the devastating last line of her note, "I'M FINISHED WITH YOUR SHIT" was put down so sloppily that her family read it as, "I'M FAMISHED FOR MORE SHIT."
The family thus were led to believe that Skyler suffered from Coprophilia, or a fetish for eating human feces. And since death is no time to judge a person, Skyler's mother and father and three brothers openly embraced what they believed to be their beloved's love affair with poo. Who knows, maybe it was her shame over this unusual habit that pushed her over the edge. So they went public with the note, outing their poop-loving daughter to the community as to shed light on those still persecuted.
Skyler's classmates rallied around her memory, condemning the fecalphobes who they figured had taunted her as she took repeated trips to life's turd buffet. A memorial service was held in our school gym two days later and first up to the podium was little Kim Wittaker (a teammate on Skyler's dance team), who read this poem dedicated to her memory:
with your newfound wings,
you can fly high-ler
you'll have the poop pile of kings
and a golden poop piler
wherever you're at,
you have phat scat sat near the fat scat vat
we miss you
At this point, Principal Clark unveiled an airbrush painting by award-winning art student Cody Gunderson, which would honor Skyler's memory by forever hanging in the main entranceway of the school.
Do you get the point? Skyler didn't plan to fail. She just failed to plan. So before you get down to business, here's three things you need to think through. It won't take long:
1. Where Do You Go From Here?
I had a friend who worked as a cook at Denny's and hated it. On his feet and tossing salads all day. So he decides to rob the place, figuring he can take the money and start a new life. Instead he gets caught and goes to prison, where he winds up doing kitchen duty all day and tossing salads all night.
What I'm trying to say is that depending on where you end up, you could find yourself in the exact same bullshit you're in now. Most of us sit around the campfire late at night and talk about the afterlife as a distant, vague thing but you, if you do the suicide you're actually going to be there in a few minutes. So we have to stop talking about the afterworld as a shadowy hypothetical and start talking in terms of an actual place where you'll actually be before your next Birthday.
There are really only two popular views on the afterlife, the religious view and the nonreligious one. Now I don't know what you believe and I don't particularly care, so we'll just examine each possibility equally.
Afterlife Possibility A: Hell or something like it
If Christians are right, you can expect Hell. The best picture of Hell we have is from Italian author Dante Alighieri, who 700 years ago took a trip through Hell and then wrote an unreadable book about it.
His picture of Hell is about what you'd expect, in that there are different levels of hellness depending on what kind of an asshole you were. If you're surprised that suicides wind up in Hell at all, you have to understand that the bitch about suicide is that under the Christian scheme, it qualifies as murder. Dante's Hell has the suicide cases living in a suburb of murdererville.
This may sound unfair, but remember that murder isn't a horrible crime because of what it does to the murdered. That person is gone, what do they care? No, the crime is against the murdered person's Mom and brother and sister and best friend and all their coworkers and the people he or she owed money to. All of the people who depended on that person or would have depended on them in the future had they been allowed to live, all of the people who will feel the crushing waves of misery and loneliness due to their abrupt absence, they're the victims.
And since suicide creates the same real and emotional devastation as homocide, the two are treated as the same crime. I know, it sucks. But remember you're not being punished for what you did to yourself, but what you did to those around you when you pulled the trigger. That's the thing, suicide has a way of only hurting the people who liked you. The people who hated you will forget your name in a month and, in fact, the evil bastards who tormented you and drove you to this will actually be a little happier with you gone. Suicide is like a bunch of your friends saving up money to buy you a car and then you taking the car and running them over with it.
So under this plan you would get the murderer's punishment, which is to be plunged into a river of boiling blood, continually bitten by ravenous eels that secrete fire as venom whilst flying badgers swarm on those who try to swim out. This goes on for 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 times infinity and the whole time, this video plays continuously in the background.
There are differing thoughts on the actual torture, of course. Some don't believe in the boiling blood thing and say it is merely a "boiling" pool of carnivorous maggots or a simple boiling sea of shit. But most do think that the suicide cases are continually attacked and tortured by the murderers they're imprisoned with in Hell, because to them you're such an incompetent murderer that the only victim you could find who wouldn't overpower or outwit you was yourself. Thus, suicide is considered to be the same embarrassing insult to murderdom that Uwe Boll is to the world of film.
I'm not saying their harrassment will be worse than what you currently suffer at school or at work or at home, you know your situation better than I do. I'm just saying that they're murderers and there are millions of them and some of them have had several thousand years to be driven insane with rage. They have eternity to work you over and that there are no laws to stop them. Remember that in Hell, the only punishable crime is failing to torture the nearest person weaker than you.
Again, I doubt you think you deserve all that, but you probably don't think you deserve what you got in this life, either, and that certainly didn't change anything. All I can really say in response is that it's difficult to find anyone who was ever punished for anything who actually felt like they deserved it. Also note that Christianity is not a religion for pussies.
You may also point out that your life was your own and it should be a lesser crime to destroy something that belongs to you. But the Christians reasonably point out that you didn't buy or earn or plan or construct your own birth. It happened totally without your knowledge and the subsequent life could have ended at any second if your heart had decided to stop beating (which also happens without your knowledge) or if some heavy object had fallen on you in your sleep. So they say that it's really God who owned your life and for you to claim ownership of it is like saying you own the sunlight that beats down on your face on a hot summer day.
Of course, you can take comfort in knowing that lots of smart people disagree with the above picture of Hell. Many say, for instance, that it's unjust to punish the kind, devout Buddhist right alongside the con artist who steals the life savings from an old woman, leaving her to eat dog food on the street so that he can buy a ticket on a naked pedophile cruise to Bangkok.
Eastern religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism, though, also believe in an afterlife where some kind justice is carried out, be it through reincarnation or time spent in a spiritual obstacle course. What you learn in each life develops the soul and eventually you graduate. Your problem there is that suicides tend to come back as suicides. They live a couple of decades and then BLAM, they hit the reset switch and start over. So they never progress because they never give themselves a chance to learn or experience anything. If these religions are right then you've probably committed suicide before, in another life. And another, and another. And you'll do the same in the next one.
So be prepared. If whatever afterlife is coming involves justice of some kind, you'll still have to answer for the fact that you ended this life by emotionally devastating all of the people who have helped you up until now, while simultaneously having bailed out on all of the people you were supposed to have helped in your remaining decades of life. From the friend who would have needed you to talk them through a tough time a month from now to the sweet girl who you were supposed to marry six years from now, all will be waiting to kick your ass in the afterworld. And even if you survive that ass-kicking gauntlet, at the end you'll have to look this baby in the eye. He was born with a rare skin-eating disease that makes his flesh harden and tear off in chunks...
...but you'll have time before that happens because that baby is still living, 18 years later, bearing the pain and smearing lotion on his skin every hour to keep it intact and hooking himself to an IV every night so he can survive another 24 hours. Oh, and...
...he competes in triathlons.
But I digress.
Now, if you look around long enough I'm sure you can find a religion where everyone goes to a paradise of some kind after death. The obvious problem with that is that not only will Hitler be there, along with the aforementioned thieving child rapist, but all of the people making your current life a living hell will also be there with you. Forever. And for a personality prone to suicide, the sheer fact that you can't escape this time (you can't kill yourself when you're already dead) turns even this universal Heaven into a kind of Hell - unless you somehow find a way to live with those people.
And if you're figuring that, yes, you can man up and face whatever challenges the next life presents, then you might as well do that now, in this life, and skip the extra step. It's just more efficient that way.
Afterlife Possibility B: The Atheists are right
Nothing. All of us wind up in the same cold, black, non-living state. Sinner, saint, serial killer, your best friend, your worst enemy, your Mom, Osama Bin Laden, Jesus, Jeffrey Dahmer, George W. Bush, Michael Moore, Mel Gibson, child molesters, child molester victims, all wind up in the same spiritual Terri Schiavo state of mindless vegetation.
Of course there are some scientists who say that consciousness is preserved outside of the body in a sort of Quantum energy state so that the mind can live on. These energies, they speculate, congregate with other energies and, like on Earth, the bad apples are shuttled off to be quarantined in some place where they can't do harm to the good ones.
We can't know what this is like for a suicide such as yourself, but one experimental attempt to communicate with this plane of existence was able to detect the faint sounds of screaming, badgers, and this song playing over and over again. We have no way of knowing the significance of this.
2. Suicide Methods: How are you going to do it?
Consider this one carefully.
There's a Catch-22 here, in that the methods that leave you unconscious (taking pills or sucking car exhaust) also leaves the possibility that someone will find you and rush you to the hospital.
But the methods that leave you wide awake also leave you to experience the last few seconds of absolute bodily terror that comes with the realization that the thing you feared your whole life - death - is upon you, real and ugly and big as balls. Did you see that movie The Ring? Why were you scared of that little girl? What's the worst thing she could do?
Kill you, that's what. This thing, death, this is what had you jumping in your seat at sudden noises in the dark. Fear that something would lunge out and take your life.
I turned on the TV just now, flipped around. Three cop shows, heroes catching murderers so they can't kill again. Jaws playing on TNT. What are those characters desperately running and swimming away from? Death, by shark.
It's embedded in your psyche. So at that final, suicidal moment your body will realize via the full force of all of its adrenaline and nerve impulses that now every fear has suddenly come true right in front of your eyes. The rotted little girl from the well, the guy in the hockey mask with a chainsaw, the childhood shadowy monster from under the bed, all of them are now silly caricatures compared to the actual, real, black thing facing you at the moment you pull the razor. Endless, faceless death.
It's no surprise that roof-jumpers change their minds half way down (and that people avoid jumping as a method for that reason). That is, unless you enjoy mind-blowing terror and the feeling of shitting in your pants in midair like that pooping bungee jumper guy.
So here's some other common suicide methods, with the drawbacks of each:
A. Slitting your wrists
This one simply doesn't work. I've never, ever heard of a person successfully killing him or herself this way. It's extremely painful and by the time you get to doing the second cut the sight of your own blood spurting everywhere sends up such alarm bells that you find yourself desperately dialing 911 while splattering plasma all over the phone. It's the ultimate in self-aware suicide in that not only can you see yourself dying in vivid splashes of red, but you can feel it. Not recommended.
B. Shooting yourself
Contrary to popular belief, shooting yourself - even with a shotgun - is not a surefire way to die. More than half of the attempted gun suicides wake up in the hospital, missing a chunk of their brain and usually mute and wheelchair-bound for the rest of their lives. Kurt Cobain could just as easily have wound up blowing off the lower half of his face, laying there on the floor sputtering for thirty hours before the mailman came by and called the cops, Kurt living on as a deformed and inarticulate mask of horror for the rest of his days. I wouldn't go this route.
People think one is the most painless, taking dozens of pain pills or whatever, but your body tends to wait until you're unconscious and then vomits them back up. This leaves you alive, sleeping in a puddle of puke, next to your suicide note which, absent a corresponding suicide, will just sound ridiculous. Obviously not the direction you wanted to go.
When the Old West used hanging as a method of capital punishment, they had actual experts to do the rig. It's not easy to hang a person quickly and painlessly. What often happens is the neck is broken and you're left to dangle for 30 minutes, twitching and clawing at the rope. Or, the noose breaks and you plunge to the floor, often with a severed upper spinal cord that leaves you a Christopher Reeve paraplegic. This is the last way I would ever try to do it.
E. Throwing yourself in front of a speeding train or car
Obviously this is the worst possible method, as it forces someone else to commit murder against their will. You know that horror movie Saw? That's what the bad guy in that movie did, forced other people to commit murder. So they actually make horror movies about what you'd be doing here, forcing someone else to live with that horrific memory. No, this one doesn't even deserve discussion.
3. Is the timing right?
This is the final question you have to ask yourself. You might feel like a fool if you committed suicide only to find out you had the winning lottery ticket in your pocket (or rather, never find out).
You have to use your own judgement. I can say that I knew a kid named Brad back when I was in school, an aspiring actor. So at one point Brad sells everything he owns so he can move to Los Angeles to find his fame and fortune.
He gets door after door slammed in his face, until, desperate for money, he takes what I consider to be the worst possible job on Earth. He wore a chicken costume to stand on the sidewalk and advertise for a restaurant called El Pollo Loco. Picture it. You had these dreams in your head of hitting it big and being on movie sets and making out with starlets, and there you are, baking in the California sun in this stifling costume that smells like sweat and farts. Eight hours a day. People making snide comments as they pass. Feeling sorry for you. The humiliation must have burned like snake venom.
Sure, he found some success later. But you have to ask yourself, would any success make up for that? Or for what you're going through now? I know Brad asked himself that very thing.
Life is a tricky thing to predict, that's the problem. Even if you don't have any kind of special talent, you don't know where the ride will to take you. I had an uncle named Jeff, who lived up in the mountains in the Northwest. He was so poor he could barely feed his family. But one day he was out hunting for some food and when he fired his rifle... something black bubbled up from the ground.
It was oil. Black gold. Texas tea. Well, the next thing you know, old Jeff's a millionaire. He moved away so I don't know what came of him after that, but you get the idea.
Not to say that promises of financial riches are the only thing to keep a man going. A wealthy man once came up to me and offered me $100 million dollars, and said all I had to do was let him chop off my legs and, once a day, ram a lit blowtorch up my ass.
I said no, realizing for the first time that, while I didn't have $100 million, I did have something worth more than $100 million to me. Specifically, my legs and an unburnt anus. So if I already own something worth more than $100 million it's silly to worry about the bill collector at the door demanding his few thousand. That's a true story, by the way.
The 50% Rule
This is a good standard to follow. The average person lives to be about 77 years old. So if you're less than 38 and have more than half of your life left, the odds are that, for instance, the funniest joke you'll ever hear in your life is one you haven't heard yet. It's just statistics. Odds are you also haven't yet...
...started your favorite hobby;
...had your best weekend;
...eaten your best meal;
...started the best job you'll ever have;
...read the best book;
...seen the best movie or played the coolest video game;
...had the best sex;
...had your most original, mind-blowing idea;
...met the dumbest person you'll ever meet;
...or seen the stupidest haircut.
You can make your own list. Look around your room, look around your life. If you're less than 38, the sheer odds are that the future holds a more awesome version of everything you see. You've got to weigh all of that shit. You're not really even conscious of your life until age 7 or 8, so to decide it's all bullshit after just ten or fifteen more years is like judging a movie by its poster.
If you're older than 38, well, Samuel L Jackson was 47 when he got his first big movie role. Colonel Sanders was in his late 60s when he started his very first Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant -- he'd spent his whole life prior to that just farting around a series of failed projects. Men and women both hit a sexual peak after middle age. If your youth sucked, that can actually make your later years look better in comparison. You'll have a low bar to clear and won't be as quick to take things for granted.
REVISE YOUR SUICIDE NOTE FIRST.
Remember Skyler (or "Scatler" as people came to know her afterwards). Don't do this without a note, one that's clear as to exactly who wronged you and why you felt suicide was the only choice and why your loved ones shouldn't feel guilty for it.
Now, obviously you can't judge what you've scrawled while still in a state of suicidal depression. What seems witty and biting will come off bitchy and trite. What seems deep and darkly eloquent will come of as merely goth.
Run your note by a friend first. Read it to them over the phone, get feedback. Give them a chance to suggest revisions. The best suicide notes I've read were created by inviting all of the friends over and reading it to them as a group.
If you don't have friends or at least any with writing talent, you can call a Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or use their online chat and run it by them. They deal with dozens of suicides every day and they know a good note when they hear one. They'll shoot you straight.
Take the extra step, it's worth it. You know what you risk otherwise...