Why Haven’t You Killed Yourself Already?
Why Depressed People Don’t Kill Themselves
Many people with bipolar depression are suicidal. Not all, of course, but many. Most people with bipolar depression, in fact, most people who are suicidal, do not kill themselves though. In fact, you can live with suicidality for years without ever killing yourself or even attempting to kill yourself.
And while people stay alive for many reasons, I have my own reasons for not killing myself.
Staying Alive While Suicidal
People have different reasons for surviving with suicidal bipolar depression and I have no desire to take away any of those reasons. One I hear frequently is children. People don’t want to die because they know the effect it would have on their children. This is a pretty good reason not to kill yourself; I’d say.
But other people don’t commit suicide for other reasons. While it may seem odd to some, some people stay alive for their pets. Or family members. Or friends. Or fear of the after-life. Or just plain, old-fashioned hope. There is no shortage of reasons not to kill yourself.
Why I Haven’t Killed Myself During Bipolar Depression?
But the question people ask me frequently is, “why haven’t you just killed yourself?” Their point, and it’s a good one, is if I’ve spent years of my life suicidal, what is keeping me alive?
Staying Alive With Suicidal Bipolar Depression
I believe that humans have an innate, biological drive to survive. In fact all life does. Life exists to propagate life. It’s why people have kids. It’s why plants have seeds. It’s why humans don’t eat their whiny, leaking, screaming, inconvenient young. If we didn’t, we would all just kill ourselves when life got too hard. But we don’t. The vast majority of us never even attempt suicide.
I tend to picture this like a candle flame. It seems that no matter how much you blow on it, the candle insists on flickering away, no matter what. And it’s why so many people who have failed at a suicide attempt are grateful to still be here. They find their candle. It’s still lit. Even though they thought it wasn’t.
It is my opinion that life is very much like a giant game of checkers. We move the pieces as does an invisible opponent. Sometimes things are going very badly for us and sometimes we’re runaway winners. But we are not the game. The game is not us.
But sometimes we get so wrapped up in the game it feels like winning and losing is the only thing that matters. Sometimes we can’t separate ourselves from the pieces. Sometimes it feels like the losses experienced in the game stab us in the heart.
Suicide, though, is like acting like a two-year-old. It’s like picking up the board and throwing it across the room. Very few people will pick up the checkerboard and throw it across the room no matter how badly the game is going.
The Separation of Reality and Life
So if life is a game, and reality is so much bigger than that, then that separation can help us live. We can try to remember that the pain that feels so incredibly, horrifically real is really happening to a little piece of plastic. We’re bigger than the pain. We’re bigger than the game.
If I try to remember that, then I can find a reason to live. I can see that no matter what, the game can turn around. I can see that picking up the board and throwing it across the room is not the reasonable thing to do. I can see that life has meaning beyond the pain.
Avoiding Suicide Even During Bipolar Depression
I’m not suggesting that this line of thought will help everyone. I’m suggesting that it helps me. I’m suggesting that remembering that life is bigger than the pain and that we all have the drive to survive is something that can keep you alive from day-to-day. I can’t promise it will lessen the pain, but I can say that a perspective change can keep you alive. And that matters. Because the game will change and you should be there to see it.