General Question

sixthsense's avatar

Where do you think logic goes mentally when a person chooses to take their own life?

Asked by sixthsense (273 points ) December 5th, 2012

A work colleague chose to take her own life last week. This has left myself and colleagues totally devastated and shocked. She has left a 10 year old daughter…and I can’t imagine what she must be going through, especially as it is so close to Christmas.

My colleague appeared to be such a strong vibrant character, she had such a sense of presence when she was in the room…and appeared to be so confident, competent and basically ‘said it how it was’.

I understand that she was extremely stressed and was experiencing immense pressure at work. Where do you think her sense of logic went when she chose to take her own life?

When people take their own life’s do you think they experience ‘insanity’ in the moments running up to their decision?

I am not at all judging her decision…but I have 3 children, my youngest being 2 yrs old. I definitely have my ups and downs and experience frequent moments of ‘fight or flight’ but my children keep me ‘sane’ and no matter how bad things feel I have the believe that if changes need to be made we have to look to ourselves to make the changes.

So do you think people who choose to take their own life get to a point of ‘no return’ or that something happens physiologically in their brain?

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45 Answers

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Sunny2's avatar

I think mostly they find there is no way out of the painful situation they are in, whatever it is. Having a child, she must have figured the child would be better off without her. (You don’t know what their relationship was like.) It’s always sad for those left behind and the logic may not be obvious to you, but an intelligent person may reason that suicide is the best way to go.

KNOWITALL's avatar

Unfortunately I don’t think logic has a lot to do with it, we’re emotional creatures, especially women. My mom helps take calls on a suicide line, and she says mostly people complain about lonliness, it’s very very sad.

Response moderated (Unhelpful)
Coloma's avatar

While extremely tragic for the child left behind, I am one that thinks people have a right to choose to end their own life. However, there is a big difference between being in a state of mental/emotional unwellness and making a conscious choice to take your leave free of any psychological issues.
I don’t agree with how this woman handled things in her obvious unhealthy mental state, she left a child motherless and victimized by her unhealthy thinking, but, in general, if someone simply decides they have had enough of life and are not suffering any mental illness I think that they have a right to do what they please.

Shippy's avatar

I’m sorry to hear this, and can hear your shock and surprise. It is the suddenness too, the feeling that “If only we knew”. Those are the thoughts that surround suicide. I of course cannot answer for this person. Except to say, that we never know a persons circumstances. Especially when they do not tell us. For some it could be a slow progression to this decision, for some I have known personally an irrational moment. But often also surrounding a suicide is lack of support, lack of good family relationships, and/or alienation. Support being, either from friends or even from Professionals because they could not afford one.

It was Frued I think who said others have a very strong innate pull towards the “death wish”. This also makes sense to me when I see people who are not only loved, but cherished, plus have support, all the support they need, and still wish to die.

I am classified as highly suicidal but mine is more due to external factors. Plus a little of my own internal hell. But my son just lost his father, and I don’t care how rotten things get, I will forge on. I could never hurt him this way. Even if I live in a cardboard box in the rain for the rest of my life.

ucme's avatar

Let me clarify my somewhat frivolous remark, out the window means something is gone or absence of thought, it’s a widely used idiom here in england town.
Hence a suicidal person’s logic is clearly not of the rational variety.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

I don’t believe logic has much to do with such a decision. I don’t believe human beings operate with much logic but more instinctual or emotional.

Suicide seems the right choice to a person when all other alternatives appear impossible.

Coloma's avatar

^^^ I agree. Personally, if I had to face being homeless or poverty stricken in my old age, dependent on others for my very sustenance, I’d opt out. I am all about quality over quantity.
I would never do myself in over a relationship or a job, but over serious health matters or degrading poverty, yep…time to go.

sixthsense's avatar

My understanding is that her decision was not with regards to external factors but specifically due to stress factors at work. We are professionals working as social workers and there have been constant changes and budget cuts not only with regards to commissioning of services but with staffing capacity…the feeling is like ‘getting blood out of a stone’ with regards to our work loads. It just seems a very sad decision to make if it was just down to the job she had…however I have no understanding of her family dynamics or if she internalised her stress and carried on regardless.

I do know the day she took her life she texted a colleague informing her she was very stressed about her workload and contacted work to say she was having a panic attack at home in the afternoon…

tarent's avatar

I think that a suicidal person gets that way by personal issues. These issues however small they seem to us outsiders looking in, cause the individual to only focus on themselves. That focus gives the individual blinders to the rest of the world and a loop of thought that only has to do with the issues affecting them. This thought process takes the individual into a downward spiral of depression. This depression since they can only see themselves in the world, can only be ended by eliminating themselves. This is a very, very selfish act, usually unbeknownst to the person taking their own life.

Coloma's avatar

@tarent I think it can be a selfish act, but can it not also be an act of free will?
Obviously I don’t believe it is a “sin” as a religious person might, and I also think it can be an act of self-LESS-ness. If one were to become a burden to others physically, emotionally, financially.
Yes, it is selfish to leave a vulnerable child behind to cope with the parents self inflicted death, I agree with that.

josie's avatar

There are only a few reasons that people kill themselves.
1. They can not act in their own interest to achieve personal happiness, thus they can not develop positive self esteem, thus their lives have no value to them- A possibly rational basis for suicide
2. They imagine that death is a material alternative to life-totally irrational.
3. They are psychotic-tough to say what is happening in the confines of their diseased consciousness and so tough to judge one way or the other.

I infer that your friend was able bodied and employed, plus she had a child whom I am sure she loved. She was perfectly capable of acting in her own interests and to achieve happiness. Since she was employed, and apparently effective, she probably was not psychotic.
That leaves the most likely option. She foolishly imagined that there was another place to go to, and her ticket there was suicide. Stupid. Or chicken shit. Or both.
I have said this before, and I will say it again. I know guys who have had arms, legs, dicks, eyeballs and half their brains blown away and they are living life. I am sure that some of them would have said to your friend “If you do not want your life, I will be happy to take it”. Like I said. Probably chicken shit.

Shippy's avatar

@josie When we have walked a mile in a persons shoes, we can probably then judge them as chicken shit?

josie's avatar

^ On occasion, yes.

wundayatta's avatar

I don’t believe people kill themselves unless they are depressed. Depression is brought on by a change in brain chemistry. I would not say it lacks logic. It’s just that it has its own logic. It’s a logic and a state of existence that no one can understand unless they have been there.

Here’s why you can’t understand it unless you’ve been there. Depression is the most painful experience there is. You may think being tortured by a terrorist has to be worse. Being waterboarded has to be worse. The pain of cancer has to be worse.

I don’t think so. That’s because depression is endless. It does not end and you can not conceive of it ending because it is unreasonable and yet omnipresent.

I assure you that no one wants to die. I also assure you that being in a depressed state that will never end makes you willing to do anything to make it end. Losing life is a logical decision if you believe it is the only way to end the pain.

Of course, if you haven’t felt this pain, you can’t possibly believe me, and so leaving life, and leaving behind young children will seem irrational and chickenshit. I won’t tell you what I think of that because I’ll get moderated. But it ain’t good. And it ain’t respectful. Ignorance is bliss. You betcha.

Now I could be wrong about this one person. But I know a lot of depressed people and I’ve talked with a lot of people who have attempted suicide, and not a one has disagreed with me so far. We don’t want to die. We want the pain to end. Sometimes death is the only way to do that. The pain is worse than anything you can possibly imagine.

How do I know? Because I used to be one of those assholes who thought that depression was easy. Just kick yourself in the ass and get out of it. You can end it if you really want. You are indulging yourself in your depression.

Oh God. You should have been in my head when I was descending into depression. Watch me beat myself up. Accuse myself of laziness and shit-headedness and scumminess. Yep. That worked a charm. Sure made me feel a lot better…. not! When I was done with how inadequate I was, I started in on how undeserving I was. And then I moved on to my incompetence, stupidity, and god knows what else. That really helped.

What I had a hard time believing was that my brain was making me think this way. I thought I was in control. I thought I had a choice. Fuck. Even today I think I have a choice. It is so hard to give up that idea, even though I know it isn’t true and even though I know I do stupid, hateful things at times. I do things I despise. I can’t understand why. I don’t believe in it. Yet I hurt people I love and I want to die for my sins because it makes no sense. There is something fundamentally wrong with me. It’s unacceptable. I have no business staying alive.

Except for my kids. They need me. I hope. And besides, I don’t want to die. I want to know what’s going to happen next. Although, if my brain keeps on doing this shit to me, I’m not sure how much longer I can go on.

I live with these thoughts on a daily basis. I fight them every day. Mostly it’s pretty easy. Sometimes I don’t even think them. But in the winter it gets harder and sometimes it’s this constant drone in the back of my mind and on occasion it takes over my brain and we have a red alert of fuckedness. Then I get pretty stupid.

So it makes me really angry when people ask questions like this. I can’t believe I have to give this lecture one more time, when I have given versions of this answer time and time again here and elsewhere on the net. But I know that people don’t understand. I know that showing my anger may not help my cause. But it is enormously frustrating, and I don’t know if saying this shit makes a difference. It’s probably just seen as venting instead of adding light to the subject. That’s a sign of depression right there—castigating myself. Diminishing myself. Makes me feel fucking useless. I wish it weren’t so. Well, perhaps I shall go amuse myself imagining the party some people will have when I finally disappear for good.

JLeslie's avatar

I think continuing to live seems impossible, which is not the same as wanting to die exactly. I guess she saw no way out, no hope it would get better. Maybe she felt her family would be better of without her? Maybe she felt abused and just wanted out? Maybe she tried to ask for help, but no one took her seriously? How overwhelmed she felt? She was likely depressed and exhausted, and just wanted it all to stop. I don’t think of suicidal people as “insane.” In fact the the people most would consider insane or very mentally ill, like paranoid schizophrenics, are not most likely to be suicidal. It is seen often in average, responsible, hard working individuals who are having a hard time coping when things go down hill. Men who lose their jobs, women overwhelmed with multiple responsibilities, a bad break up with an SO. Some people seem to be more wired than others to be depressed, but I think most people are susceptible to it under the right circumstances.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I don’t think it goes away in all cases. I think many people live their lives without logic, what’s so wrong with dying without logic?

gailcalled's avatar

As I have mentioned before, my father planned his suicide, discussed it with my mother and had one of his brothers supply a gun and some bullets.

My father never shared this with us, his three children, but my mother did, starting her announcement with “Daddy told me not to tell you.” I was 43 at the time.

We never really believed he would do it. But we were aware that he was suffering with advanced Parkinson’s and that the meds. were only moderately and unpredictably effective.

The language of “where does logic go mentally” makes no sense to me in terms of what my father did. He was suffering, he was only going to get worse, he was very depressed and was too manly to deal with that, and he was so emotionally closed off that he never let his three adult children get close to him.

I am still enraged that he didn’t bother to say good-bye to any of us, but as I get closer to my own death, I am a bit (just a bit) more understanding.

That violent suicide (he shot himself in the ear in the driveway of the house where I grew up…the neighbor thought it was a dead dog in the drive and called the police) has and will continue to have ripple effects for a long while.

Coloma's avatar

@gailcalled I have a friend whose father shot himself 5 years ago after the death of her twin brother. She is still working her way through it. I think if he, as your father, had been able to say he felt too destroyed to go on, made some advance of preparation, maybe it wouldn’t have been so awful for her. My heart goes out to those that are blindsided by suicide.
IF I was to ever seriously contemplate ending my life I would be honest about it with those who care for me. I would be sure to drive home the fact that it would have nothing to do with them.

I think the worst part is the shock and anger that the person didn’t choose brutal honesty.
Being of sound mind I would prepare those that mattered that I was making a conscious choice.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

From metanoia.org:

Suicide is not chosen; it happens when pain exceeds resources for coping with pain.

Thank you, @wundayatta, for once again expressing the inexpressible.

wundayatta's avatar

Thanks, @Hawaii_Jake. You’d think I’d get used to this, but no. Perhaps it will always be my companion.

Coloma's avatar

@Hawaii_Jake For some that would be true, no doubt, but I still think a person can make that decision in advance. I may be only 53 but I have already decided that I want no heroic intervention in the event I am diagnosed with a serious health condition.
I will not do chemotherapy and other hardcore invasive treatments. I am choosing, in advance, to let my days be numbered. Better 6 months of happiness than 5 years of prolonged suffering to “extend” the inevitable.

gailcalled's avatar

Chemo, for me, was pretty routine; it didn’t feel either hardcore or invasive. There are good anti-naueau drugs. I noticed only fatigue. And with radiation, I had a mild sunburn on the skin of my breast during the last treatment…it responded to the ointment that they gave me.

I did not suffer and have had 16 lovely years…the inevitability of death is waiting for me, somewhere and sometime soon.

I got a little extra help with housekeeping, cooking and cleaning and errands. But I cannot imagine having chosen to die from metasthasized breast cancer.

gailcalled's avatar

@Coloma: “Being blindsided” is the perfect shorthand for my and my sibs’ response to my father’s suicide. Thanks.

Coloma's avatar

@gailcalled True, depends on the odds, I am glad you have had those 16 years, a win/win. :-)

Jussange's avatar

Not exactly on topic, but as for the logic of suicide, well one could look at one’s set of beliefs.

Personally, I believe life has no purpose, no necessity. The only reason to do anything at all is because simply, you want to. So, if I happen to run out of things I want to do before my lifespan is up, well, why bother lingering about?

filmfann's avatar

I have been depressed to the point of suicide several times. I am glad I made it through those times, but I wouldn’t dare criticize anyone who didn’t.
The feeling is like when you are watching a bad movie, and you just don’t want to sit through the end.
One of the things that got me through those times was knowing the impact my death would have on those that care for me. I would never want to cause those people misery.

Response moderated (Spam)
Coloma's avatar

@Jussange Maybe after you run out of things to do for yourself you might find some reward in doing for others. Ones “purpose” is to do the best with the life they have and this includes exercising your altruistic side. Living solely for self and hedonistic pleasures is an empty life indeed.

hearkat's avatar

Having attempted suicide when my child was a pre-teen, it was my realization that as pathetic as I was, anyone else that would be there to raise my son would be worse than I was, so I stuck my finger down my throat. I would have told you then that I was rational about the whole thing, until I realized that he wouldn’t have been better off without me because I didn’t know any stable people. That was my rock-bottom and I set out to make many changes in my life from there.

We play such mind games with ourselves and each other that it isn’t too difficult to rationalize that death is better than life. I could have twisted anything anyone said at that time to suit my purpose. I was a supreme bullshitter, and as such, I am pretty quick to recognize it in others now. In fact, I think when a person crosses the line and shuts down emotionally to where they intellectualize their distorted views, that is when a they are most likely to be successful at suicide – as opposed to emotionally impulsive ‘cries for help’ suicide attempts. When they can coldly plan the details to ensure that the job gets done, they will seem very rational to themselves, and even to many others.

In the particular case in this question, there must have been more to it; and it does seem like hers was an impulsive act that succeeded, unfortunately. Social Work is a high stress job with a serious burn-out rate; but most people simply quit, and find another line of work. If all was well in her life outside of the job, I doubt that the job stress alone would have pushed her to take her own life. I suspect there were other issues, including mental health problems – since a panic attack was reported by her earlier that day.

Unanswered questions also make it very difficult for the survivors. A colleague lost her husband to suicide, and they have a very young daughter. The family was blindsided, too, because they come from a culture that expects the man to be strong and stoic, so he never showed any previous signs of depression or feeling overwhelmed. He kept it hidden so well, even from his wife, that there is no way anyone could have done anything to prevent it.

Coloma's avatar

@hearkat I agree, there had to be much more than meets the eye in the situation presented here. Unless this persons identity was so enmeshed in their work, which I have always found to be so bizarre. I have never, nor will I ever, have any ego investment in my work choices. I work to live not live to work and I easily walk away from situations that are not healthy for me. Something much more had to be going on in this case I’d surmise.

Coloma's avatar

@hearkat Yes, but…I still think a person CAN, make a conscious choice to stop living without any serious mental/emotional issues. Such is the case for many terminally ill. As I mentioned above I consider myself to be very emotionally stable but, if faced with a painful terminal condition or abject poverty I feel I could make a decision to end my life from a place of clarity and conscious choice. I do think this is also entirely possible.

hearkat's avatar

@Coloma – I am not disagreeing with you, and I have been supportive of the right to die with dignity in cases of terminal illness for decades. But that is not the situation in the OP’s question (to the best of our knowledge), nor in the case of the article I linked to… I was addressing the case of people who choose to end their life because of mental illness or psychological distress.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

@Coloma Your idea that life in extreme poverty would not be worth living may need further thought. The vast majority of humanity lives in what most Americans would consider extreme poverty, and they do so quite happily at times.

hearkat's avatar

@Hawaii_Jake – Please re-read her comment – she did not say that life in extreme poverty was not worth living as a generalization. She said that if she were to go into extreme poverty or homelessness in old age and became utterly dependent, she wouldn’t want to be a burden on society.

Coloma's avatar

@Hawaii_Jake Oh, I’ve thought about it plenty. Homelessness is not an option for me, nope, sorry. I can be very happy with modest means but not living on the streets. No how, no way. My greatest fear, obviously. I can own that. Along with pulling the plug if I am doomed to being a veggie or otherwise helpless and dependent.
@hearkat I agree, the majority of those that do kill themselves are of a depressed or otherwise emotionally/mentally unwell state.

wundayatta's avatar

@hearkat Thanks for posting Bill Zeller’s letter. We are all so much the same. Always the darkness we live with. I find it interesting the different metaphors we use. For him, the darkness was a shadow he lived with. A person. For me, it’s more a dead weight of black holeness in my stomach—when it’s around. Which, fortunately, it isn’t at the moment.

But like I have said, over and over, when you live with that, and it you can’t imagine it ever going away, that’s what makes you willing to die to make it end.

Yeah.

Sitting here, unable to write. Thinking about how it feels to be willing to end it. I’m sad. Eyes watering.

I wanted to do something so badly to give him hope. He said he went to so many doctors and they never gave him anything to help. I know what I would tell him.

Of course, he never let on that he had been raped. Such shame in that. Fluther is amazing in that so many people here have been raped and they are willing to share it. Although often they withdraw after sharing. I was never raped, but I don’t know where my darkness comes from. Maybe I just never knew I was loved.

I think that part of the answer comes in talking about it. I’m sure people get sick of me talking about it. I hope they don’t think I’m whining although I know people do think that, but I have to not care. I have to learn not to care about the people who don’t want to hear about it over and over.

If more people start talking about it, and sharing their stories, it will get easier for all of us. Rape is a huge shame. Abuse is another shame. But it kills us inside and makes us think we’re unlovable and unworthy and if we can overcome that and just write and write and write, not caring who we bore, because our lives are at stake. It works.

It sounds so melodramatic and I always beat myself up saying that fluther saved my life or this person or that person saved my life, but it’s all true. I would be with Bill Zeller if I didn’t have a place to open up. That’s what anonymity has done for me. And a community of people who care, amazingly enough, even for someone who despises himself as much as I do—although that’s another defense mechanism. I’ll hate me first, and harder than anyone else, so as to forestall the other haters. It doesn’t stop them all, but, fucked up as it may be, it seems to help.

What a joke.

Sorry about this. Just feeling a bit raw after reading that. It’s always a bit dangerous for me to read stuff like that.

hearkat's avatar

@wundayatta – (((((hugs))))) and I totally understand what you mean by the black-holeness, and I could totally relate to Bill Zeller’s letter when I first read it after it happened. I did find that talking about having been sexually abused and emotionally neglected has helped me heal. Before Fluther, I was on Yahoo Answers from the Beta phase, and I responded to a young teenager’s Question about being molested by a family member. That was the first eye-opening experience that talking about it dispelled the shroud of shame. Telling this young girl that she was not to blame, and that she did not need to be ashamed because some asshole treated her like less then dirt was like telling it to myself. Shame and self-blame are huge obstacles to overcome.

Once I convinced myself that I didn’t deserve to be treated that way – as a child or an adult – I had to come to terms with how I had mistreated myself over the course of my lifetime. That was a bitter pill to swallow. But I took it all into perspective that I had been wounded and didn’t have such expectations for myself, and thus had made poor decisions; but that from this moment on, I had to treat myself with the respect that all beings deserve, and only then will I get it from others. I still have some demons that I battle with, but as I mentioned in that other post about where we feel at home, I no longer feel hollow. I feel whole and complete and OK with who I am. Like you, that was a possibility I never envisioned for myself in this lifetime, yet somehow I made it happen. Don’t stop talking, and don’t give up on yourself. Yes, you can be annoying at times, but I do feel that you make a valuable contribution here on the whole… your Lurve score wouldn’t be so high were that not true.

… and that young teenager is now a college student and is doing very well. We stay in touch through the internet and she says she thinks of me as a big sister. I am very happy for her.

wundayatta's avatar

Thank you, @hearkat :-)

sixthsense's avatar

Thanks to you all for your thought provoking responses.

@wundayatta…I’m sorry if I caused you anxiety posing this question…I randomly use Fluther and was not aware this question or similar questions have been posted previously.

Thank you for providing an insight into the obvious difficulties that you face on a daily basis. I truly hope you manage to fight your demons.

I often wonder about my own mental well-being and I’m concerned that at some point I will ‘crack’. I mean it is said that people experience a ‘break down’ that can hit them out of the blue…and I wonder with the dynamics and complexities of my life whether the pressure will just get too much…that is the reason I also posed the question .

burntbonez's avatar

I think you will find it isn’t cracking as much as crumbling.

sixthsense's avatar

@burntbonez…Ok ‘crumble’...I stand corrected :)

filmfann's avatar

What a timely question, with the Nurse in England killing herself after the radio disc jockeys prank.

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