There are people who fantasize about suicide, and paradoxically, these fantasies can be soothing because they usually involve either fantasizing about others' reactions to one's suicide or imagining how death would be a relief from life's travails. In both cases, an aspect of the fantasy is to exert control, either over others' views or toward life's difficulties. The writer A. Alvarez stated, " There people ... for whom the mere idea of suicide is enough; they can continue to function efficiently and even happily provided they know they have their own, specially chosen means of escape always ready..." In her riveting 2008 memoir of bipolar disorder, Manic, Terri Cheney opened the book by stating, "People... don't understand that when you're seriously depressed, suicidal ideation can be the only thing that keeps you alive. Just knowing there's an out--even if it's bloody, even if it's permanent--makes the pain bearable for one more day."This strategy appears to be effective for some people, but only for a while. Over longer periods, fantasizing about death leaves people more depressed and thus at higher risk for suicide, as Eddie Selby, Mike Amestis, and I recently showed in a study on violent daydreaming. A strategy geared toward increased feelings of self-control (fantasizing about the effects of one's suicide) "works" momentarily, but ultimately backfires by undermining feelings of genuine self-control in the long run.
When people are suicidal, their thinking is paralyzed, their options appear spare or nonexistent, their mood is despairing, and hopelessness permeates their entire mental domain. The future cannot be separated from the present, and the present is painful beyond solace. ‘This is my last experiment,’ wrote a young chemist in his suicide note. ‘If there is any eternal torment worse than mine I’ll have to be shown.
You never can tell, though, with suicide notes, can you? In the planetary aggregate of all life, there are many more suicide notes than there are suicides. They're like poems in that respect, suicide notes: nearly everyone tries their hand at them some time, with or without the talent. We all write them in our heads. Usually the note is the thing. You complete it, and then resume your time travel. It is the note and not the life that is cancelled out. Or the other way round. Or death. You never can tell, though, can you, with suicide notes.
If the social stress is physical, sexual, or emotional abuse, the way to treat the depression is to stop the abuse. Unfortunately, advocates of the biochemical treatment of depression have gone along with the view of academic theory and popular culture that the problem is entirely within the skull of the victim. Enthusiasm for biochemical treatment and research is partly due to the fact that it helps perpetuate the myth that suicide and depression should be treated by changing the victim, not by changing ourselves. As long as we have a narrow view of the causes of biochemical imbalance, such as limiting it to innate genetic defects, we can practice denial on the social complicity in the causation of suicide. The narrow view does nothing to help reduce pain and increase resources for the millions of people whose problems do not respond to medications. It also deprives us of an opportunity for progress in a much broader area for social reform. The dynamics behind the oppression of the suicidal is similar to the dynamics of other forms of injustice; progress in one area can support progress in other areas.
Both the suicidal and non-suicidal are often angry with others. One way to discharge this anger is to fantasize about violent revenge. The insults of daily life often cause fantasies of revenge to flare up and quickly subside. The people with these fantasies usually do not act on them; they are not motives or goals. They are involuntary responses to perceived insult—ways of coping with rage. The suicidal, whether or not they attempt, suffer tremendous and persistent pain and anger. That this pain should find its way into their fantasies and dreams is no surprise. This ideation is not a motive for action; it is an alternative to action. Fantasizing about suicide is an effort to delay or avoid suicide, not the activity of formulating a motive, goal, or intention. Fantasies doubtlessly succeed in preventing many attempts.
Being suicidal is really tiring. A lot of suicides are so lacking in affect and so lethargic that they aren’t able to kill themselves until their mood improves—spring, for that reason, has the highest rate of what people in the business call “completed” suicides.
The circles of shame are vicious. Painful feelings of shame help cause people to be depressed and suicidal, these in turn become shameful aspects of the self. Being angry does not necessarily cause more anger, being envious does not necessarily cause more envy (though once we envy, we can also envy someone's lack of envy), but, in our culture at least, shame (and envy and self-pity) are things to be ashamed about. The two common feelings of suicide are hopelessness and powerlessness; each is shameful, and this additional experience of shame adds pain on pain. A man who despairs because he feels his prospects of having a family are hopeless also feels he will never lose the feeling of shame over being wifeless and childless. To be powerless to change one's life in ways that others can is cause to feel ashamed of one's powerlessness.
Each way to suicide is its own: intensely private, unknowable, and terrible. Suicide will have seemed to its perpetrator the last and best of bad possibilities, and any attempt by the living to chart this final terrain of life can be only a sketch, maddeningly incomplete
It is tempting when looking at the life of anyone who has committed suicide to read into the decision to die a vastly complex web of reasons; and, of course, such complexity is warranted. No one illness or event causes suicide; and certainly no one knows all, or perhaps even most, of the motivations behind the killing of the self. But psychopathology is almost always there, and its deadliness is fierce. Love, success, and friendship are not always enough to counter the pain and destructiveness of severe mental illness
We human beings glimpse lofty ideals, catch ourselves betraying them, and sink to suicidal despair--despair from which only the love of our friends can save us, since friends see in us those nobler qualities we ourselves, out of long familiarity, have forgotten we possess. That, of course, is why the suicidal person is difficult around his friends.