The Redundancy of Death

About five months ago one of my very dearest, very closest friends died suddenly. I don’t feel like I can write a blog post about that, though I might in the future. No, what I want to talk about is a feeling I had back in the day when I was at my very worst, a horrible sense full of despair that ultimately helped keep me alive. I want to write about this feeling because I think there may be folks out there who can relate.


I want to preface by saying that I am not currently suicidal nor in any danger of self-harm. I’m doing quite well, actually.


After my friend died, I started writing him a letter. I wrote to him about everything I was thinking and feeling (the first part of it is over 30 pages long). A couple of weeks after he died I wrote this:


I cried so hard. I was thinking about it later and I realized that the only other time in my life I cried harder was when I was really depressed in college and I had the realization that killing myself was redundant because I couldn’t be more dead than I already was. I remember it clearly: I was in my house and I ran outside. It was really early in the morning. I crumpled on the lawn in the grass and dirt and I was hunched over with my face in the earth and I was crying so hard that snot and saliva were just pouring out and into the ground.


In this part of the letter I am referring to a particularly bad night in a chain of bad nights that had been building for years. During this bad night, I cut myself for the first time (I only cut myself on one other occasion). I was desperate for any relief I could get. I didn’t know much about cutting as a practice, but I knew it was “supposed” to make you feel better by giving yourself a sense of power and control, and/or forcing you to feel something other than soul-shattering misery. I had been depressed for a long time before I tried cutting. I didn’t expect to ever have the desire to try it, but one night, in a daze, I found myself walking down the staircase into the bathroom, grabbing my razor, bringing it upstairs, and taking out the blade. The whole time I was doing it I felt detached. When I pulled the blade out and got ready to break open my skin I was momentarily surprised to be holding it. I pushed onward and made maybe 10 cuts on my left inner forearm. I watched the little red blood-beads pop up and burst along the edges of the wounds, and did I feel relief? Nope. Did I feel a sense of power or control? Nope. Did I feel a rush from experiencing a different kind of pain? Super nope. In fact, I felt nothing at all. It didn’t hurt. I tried cutting deeper because I thought I wasn’t going deep enough, but it still didn’t hurt. I felt nothing. And that’s when I realized: I was dead.


I had been feeling suicidal up until this blackest-of-black bad night. I had managed to hold off by reminding myself that if I went through with it, I would rip holes in the people who loved me that would never close. I would be responsible for killing a part of them, too. I longed for death anyway, but then, after I felt nothing from cutting myself, I realized suicide was no longer an option.


As I wrote in the letter to my friend, I ran outside, sobbing and shaking, and collapsed on the lawn in front of my house. It felt like the worst kind of goodbye. I felt I was losing the most essential part of myself: my very personhood. And I knew, with as much certainty as one can have, that it would never come back.


First came the shock, then the second revelation about suicide. Suicide takes a certain amount of will; you need drive to make a plan and then carry it through, and I lost my will altogether. I was now beyond the hope of suicide. It settled onto my shoulders: death was pointless; redundant. How can you kill something that’s already dead? You can’t. So I completely gave up. Thus ended my desire to kill myself, and thus began the worst time of my life. Luckily for me, I did eventually get out of it. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but that’s a story for another time.


I have tried to explain this sense of deadness to other people. I want to know if anyone else ever felt the same way. (If you can relate, and feel comfortable commenting, please say so!) I did tell one person about this feeling I had and he looked at me like I was (more) insane. He said it made no sense to him. I concede: it barely makes sense to me. I don’t think I will ever be able to fully explain it.


I can say this: while it was the most terrible pain I’ve ever been in, it kept me alive, and I’m glad to be here. I didn’t know then that I would make it. I had no idea I would ever be happy. I didn’t imagine I would live more than a few years. But make it I did, which proves, at least for me, that wellness is possible. And because I know it is possible, I will spend the rest of my life striving for it.