My roommate’s white bath towel was soaked in red blood. I’d just tried to kill myself.
I was a freshman in college. I was alone in the suite I shared with three other guys. And I was tired.
Luckily, I was too tired to do the job as I had intended. I had just enough energy to stop the bleeding and clean up most of the mess before the rest of the group returned.
I never told my roommate what had happened. He noticed his towel was missing, and I pretended not to know what had happened to it. It irritated him for awhile and then he forgot about it and got on with his life.
I clung to a set of beliefs about myself, the world, and my place in it that had become painful to maintain. I was stuck in a grey iron rat maze, dragging ideas that prevented me from floating away into freedom.
I didn’t want to drag those beliefs anymore. I didn’t want to live the life that they prescribed. And I didn’t know how to sort them out, work through them, and get beyond them. I tried to kill myself because it seemed like the easiest way to be free.
It was a terrible failure of imagination. I was so tired that I had lost the energy to daydream. I didn’t have the strength to release my grip and drop the bag of heavy and obsolete ideas. I didn’t know how to let go. I would have preferred to snuff out my entire existence than to rethink my beliefs. Fortunately, I ended up with a little more time.
I sometimes imagine what things would be like had I succeeded in my attempt. Most of my friends at the time would have been irritated for awhile and then forgotten and gotten on with their lives. My wife, and all of the people in my life now, never would have met me. My family would have been devastated and likely would have never recovered. I would have taken the pain from the person I was then and inflicted it on them, and they would have been stuck with that person forever.
Now, I let go of those daydreams. I return to this moment and show up for it. Because that’s all that matters, and that’s all I can reasonably expect of myself.
The person I was then had enough room and time to fade away on his own. That pain has now dissolved into history. No one has to deal with it now.
The Acceptance Gap
It is easy to get stuck in the valley between realizing something is true and accepting it as true in this moment. I spend a lot of my time in the acceptance gap.
If I realize something is true about myself and I don’t like it, I can put myself at liberty to set about changing it. This may take some time and some doing, but it won’t take forever and it can be done.
But I’m not free to change anything until I accept it. If I realize some negative thing is true and then I deny it and run away from it, that thing will follow me and manifest itself wherever I go.
If I start a meditation practice and realize it’s difficult, but I cling to the belief that it ought to be easy, I may hurry along to yoga, or drugs, or an all-blueberry diet, or some new form of practice or exploration. But, at some point, my familiar difficulties will arise again. I will find myself with another opportunity to accept them, to know, to feel, and to accept that this practice is difficult. Then, I will have the power to move into the difficulty, to sit with it, to understand it for what it is, to transcend and include it, and to move on to the next thing, giving the pain of that moment time and space to dissolve.
How to Kill Yourself
If you are actively considering suicide right now, get help. Help is available for you.
If you are contemplating the impulse to kill yourself, appreciate that it comes from the seed of a positive intention. It is possible that you don’t want to kill yourself physically, or to end the existence of your form. You may sense that you aren’t finished yet and there’s more to be done. It is possible that you are ready to release old ideas and an old idea of self that no longer serves you.
This is a difficult thing. It’s remarkable that you have the courage to acknowledge it, in a spirit of honesty, in its full complexity and horror. There’s honor and nobility in this strength. You deserve the safety to take on this challenge with your full faculties and fortitude.
When you are safe, you won’t need to run away from this idea, this impulse. Move steadily and deliberately toward it. Move into it. Sit with it. See it as it is. Know it as your call to accept what is, and, from there, to seek the highest forms of freedom and peace with the universe.
In that acceptance, find the strength to let go, to release the bag. You’ll find that you don’t need wings or a parachute. You need only space, time, and maybe a glass of water. Sometimes a glass of water helps, especially when you’re in a position to appreciate it.