How to Kill Yourself
A handy guide to ending your life the right way.
What no psychologist wants to admit about suicide is that it makes sense. One step off that bridge and, indeed, all of our problems are gone. It’s one of the reasons working with alcoholics is difficult. Drinking—which is a mini suicide—is the obvious solution when your perceptible choices are either no solution or a temporary one.
Suicide also makes sense because that suicidal thought is right. We do need to die. A part of us, at least. The part of us that wants an immediate solution to our problem; that imagines life is terrible because of our problem; that imagines some thing out there is going to change some thing in us. It’s an error of specificity. When we fail to identify what is wrong with us, we oversimplify the problem to be us.
I was 13 years old when I first killed myself. A large bike jump loomed in the woods of Ohio suburbia. It was five feet tall, which I remember because I was five feet tall. Previously, I had lost my nerve and stopped myself just short of going off of it. By doing so, not only did I ruin the lip, but I looked like a puss, and there were older kids watching. It was the June before high school, and my social capital for the net four years was on the line. The act of stopping on a jump and riding back down is so symbolic that even someone who had Jane Eyre on his Summer reading list could understand its significance.
It felt like a defining moment in my life. Thoughts swirled in my head. Who was I? Who was I to become? I thought of my mom and how, if she saw this jump, if she knew what I was thinking, she would throw a conniption that would embarrass me through college graduation. Then I thought only a pussy would think about his mom at a time like this.
I returned to the starting hill and felt something I have never felt before. Total exposure, like a raw nerve, like I was on the brink of imploding into nonexistence. I didn’t know what was going to happen when I crested that lip; I was going to need to figure it out in the moment. It’s similar to the feeling of drifting off into sleep, that loss of control. There was a hell I had to visit if I was going to continue on into adulthood. A hell my mom could never understand. The jump approached like the shark from Jaws and I landed without busting my scrotum on the seat. And that was it.
Then there was this time I killed myself in high school when I wrestled a guy who had “thug” tattooed on his chest, a tattoo he clearly did himself with a hot coat hanger. And I didn’t even lose that badly.
Though one time I killed myself stands out in particular. It was in college when I became obsessed with a girl who loved herself less than I did. The girl who looks damn good in a skirt and has the financial support to create a world that constantly validates her for looking damn good in a skirt. The girl who gives new life to the song “19th Nervous Breakdown.”
I wanted to reach her, to get her to see what a great guy I was, because I knew only then could she validate me. So I asked Google how to fix a girl who has problems so then she eventually grows to love and admire you—but most importantly appreciate you for how you’ve fixed her. Unfortunately, the advice I kept getting is that it’s immature to manipulate other people into liking you.
On the one hand I knew that it was wrong for me to need a girl’s validation. On the other, however, a part of me that needed a girl’s validation. A part of me that was impervious to reason and advice. A part of me that had to, therefore, be killed.
Eventually, after I noticed myself consider the benefits of stalking, I realized that I had to end it, which, at the time, felt more grave than a step off a bridge. I was 21, when death is no big deal compared to saying no to a perfectly alive girl who has a proven track record of giving you attention sometimes. Something was going to happen on that other side, I knew not what.
While at her apartment one day, after she gave me a disgustingly desperate, “don’t I look good in this?” that sentence of termination, which required every syllable from The Man Who Laughs for backup, eked its way out of my mouth. The feeling in my chest, of cresting a bike jump—that feeling my life was going to end.
It’s been said—mostly by me—that facing our anxiety feels like death, which isn’t only meant to make emotional regulation seem cooler than it is—it does feels like you’re going to die. It really does. And if it doesn’t, then you’re not trying hard enough. We are, after all, crossing over into another psychological dimension that transcends word or thought. All we can do is come up with metaphors about death or uncharted territory.
To anyone out there who is thinking of suicide, which is everybody—you’re not wrong. I would only suggest you kill only a part of yourself. The part of yourself that wants to die.