Where to hide, suicide is the only way out
Don’t you know what it’s really about
Ozzy Osbourne – Suicide Solution
In 1980, Ozzy Osbourne sang about deliberately drinking to death in the song Suicide Solution, from the album Blizzard of Ozz. Purportedly about the death of AC/DC singer Bon Scott, the song’s lyricist, Bob Daisley, eventually revealed it was about Ozzy Osbourne himself.
In 1986, John McCollum shot himself to death, allegedly after listening to the song. He was nineteen. The band was taken to court, and ultimately the case was dismissed; it was deemed unforeseeable that a song about suicide might incite someone to do it.
In 2017, a girl near my home in New Jersey, Mallory Grossman, killed herself after being viciously bullied. She was twelve.
This past month, two well-regarded celebrities – Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain – ended their own lives.
And last night, I found myself wanting to join them.
Here’s the thing: the decision to end one’s life is one’s own alone. Nobody can make that decision for you. The reasons for making that decision are as varied as the colors of a rainbow, but in the end it boils down to a single feeling: despair.
John McCollum felt despair. He was certain – absolutely certain – that his life would never get better. Did Suicide Solution lead to his despair? I’m certain it didn’t, and it isn’t really clear if he even listened or paid attention to the song. He was known to be depressed, and most likely suffered from a chemical imbalance common to millions around the world.
Mallory Grossman also felt despair. She believed in her heart that her life was worth nothing, and that nothing would ever improve. Her despair was brought on by severe mistreatment by her peers; perhaps she came to believe their insults, or perhaps they crushed her soul to the point where she saw no escape. But in the end, her focus narrowed to a single solution.
Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, almost certainly, also felt despair.
And so did I.
To make a long story short, I recently made a mistake regarding a family trip that cost several thousand dollars and led to us being unable to travel together. In the grand scheme of things it really isn’t a big deal, but the realization of my mistake renewed in me a deep depression. I felt it coming; I could almost see myself slipping away from the outside.
And last night, as I lay in the dark with these thoughts whirling through my mind, despair revisited me. I felt my focus narrow, a long black tunnel with only one exit. None of the solutions that my family – who were only trying to help – suggested were acceptable. I longed for escape. I was between a rock and a hard place. I wanted to go somewhere no one could ever follow me. I wanted to die.
It was a fleeting moment, withered after a night’s restless sleep, but it’s a feeling I haven’t had in a long, long time. It isn’t gone yet, but it’s simmering in the background for now. And while I can’t stop the depression, and I can’t stop the despair, I can stop short of ending my life. I can do this because I have a lifetime of experience that tells me all things pass with time. I have been here before, and I survived.
Our children, our teenagers – they don’t have this. All they know is that once they were happy, and now life is unbearable. How could you see a way out when every fiber of your being tells you nothing will ever be worthwhile again? How can you possibly weather the storm when the storm is all you know? How can you know the difference between passing rain and the end of the world?
They also don’t have a strong support network yet. When I cried out last night, literally dozens of people rallied to me. I received texts and messages from people I hardly know, offering advice and talk and a friendly ear. Knowing there are people in the world affected by me helped. Young people only have parents who don’t ‘get’ them, and friends who are too wrapped up in their own struggles to see. Very few teenagers have a rock to anchor them.
But I can promise you – I hold this in the highest regard, because I don’t make promises often – that things change. People come and go, and the terrors of your life today will only be memories tomorrow. I know the struggle is unbearable, and there will be days – weeks, or maybe years – when you simply can’t cope. When all there is to do is hide, and fuck the consequences. And that’s okay. Hide. Sleep. Weather the storm in whatever way you can.
To finish with another quote, despair is really a mistake. You can’t ever truly know what the future is going to hold. And however bleak it seems now, there will be a day when you’ll be able to look back and gather strength from the fact that you made it through. If you kill yourself … you’ll never be able to see it.
So despair is not only a kind of sin, theologically, but also a simple mistake, because nobody actually knows.
In that sense there always is hope.
Patrick Curry – Defending Middle-Earth: Tolkien, Myth and Modernity
If you or someone you know feels at risk of suicide, please reach out. Contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, talk to someone about it, and seek help.
Photo Credit: unsplash-logoRyan Olson