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On suicidal thoughts and their paradoxes

KannonKannon NAMU AMIDA BUTSUAch-To Veteran


  • I've been going to therapy for 4+ years
  • I've been diagnosed with depression and general anxiety, and have medications
  • I have struggled with self harm, currently clean! =)
  • I have been to the emergency room for suicidal thoughts (wasn't admitted)

As the winter season reaches its lowest point with the passing holidays and solstice, my mood has flagged. Because of this I've been reminded of other times I've felt excessively down over the years, and I'm tempted to return to that place.

A few weeks ago I was with two close friends and talked about things I hadn't voiced in years, or even knew I actively felt--things I repressed because I was so against dealing with them. Perhaps its a good sign that I've finally realized these thoughts. Right now it's a bit overwhelming.

I've thought a lot about suicide and what it implies. Since I was unable to kill myself at the depths of my depression, I know I don't want to die. But at times I don't want to be alive either. Where does that leave me?

I've thought about this question a lot in relation to the self. I think that instead of wanting to be rid of the self as it is known in Buddhist concepts like the no-self, I am instead so wrapped up in my ego that I mistake my Self for my failings and doubts. I want to kill my Ego, not my Self, but I had no idea what the difference between the two was before. I only know now after a few years of fumbling around with the dharma.

For me, suicide is not so much actively wanting to die. I don't want to stop being alive. I just want to see how close I can skirt death and still survive. I still fantasize about dying regularly, and, as I told my friends, relationships, events, and decisions feel dreamy to me. With suicidal thoughts still floating in the back of my mind, I treat everything as if it isn't real or serious. I don't know if I'll be around ten or twenty years from now, so I never commit to anything. Even though I am still breathing, I act as if I am dead.

But I know now that I can't hate my Self because there truly is no self. So what am I so mad about? My Ego? My needs and cravings? It's going to take a lot of self discovery to find these answers, or even begin to ask the right questions, but since I am starting now I'm sure I'll do well later on.

Thanks for reading/indulging my thoughts <3



  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    @eggsavior have you explored the "Five Aggregates" that make up the so-called self ?

    Meditating upon them is a good way of coming to grips with the self in all its short lived glory...

    Also this short animated youtube "clip" on the five aggregates is educational and entertaining ....

    I think Dr Rick Hanson (the Author of "Buddha's Brain" ) mentioned this:

    "It is not so much that we have a self, it's that we do selfing. The self has no inherent existence apart from the network of causes it arises from, in and as!"

    Stay well @eggsavior <3

  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    @eggsavior when it comes to suicidal thoughts.... it's a matter of breaking those habitual thought patterns (dealing with the triggers) ...and one way of doing this is to give/set monkey mind a task to perform to keep it occupied, for example thinking of ways to be of benefit to others... (other wise if left to its own devices, it will keep going back to what it knows best ie, the negative thought patterns involving the self, which in turn grows a stronger sense of self which can and quite often does lead to self-pity )...

    I guess one first needs to develop "compassion for one self" ....then like the wave ripples upon a pond's surface when a pebble is drop in, this compassion will spread all around :)

    After a while (with ongoing practice) it will become second nature for the focus of ones attention to become more concerned with others than with oneself...

  • I also have the constant dark thoughts in the back of my mind. 22 years now I believe. I tried to help others to keep my mind quiet but instead it just added on to the guilt I feel by default. I'd rather be kind and leave less damage from my existence as possible. Helping others makes me feel good for a moment and makes me feel like I am worth something even if I do feel horrible later because of it. I figure I'm going to feel bad for no reason anyway.

    I understand the ego part of it. I feel like a zombie going through life. I've failed several times myself at the suicide thing so I too know I don't want to die but neither do I want to be alive either. I also never found joy in being better than others or attaining things. Money, objects, or people. This leads to many stupid and long conversations with people. They don't understand that I just don't care about material things nor that I don't want to be alive or dead.

    Like you I have harmed myself pretty bad over the years and I also have stopped for the time being. I feel like this is indeed the zombie apocalypse and my life is wasted here. People don't seem to be interested in being happy and attack others for not conforming. Like some kind of virus.

    I do not have any answers but I can say that I too have been thinking the same things.

  • silversilver In the beginning there was nothing, and then it exploded. USA, Left coast. Veteran
    edited December 2016

    So many people chase the almighty dollar and want to be on the top of the heap, status-wise and plenty of other things they chase or yearn for. So many reasons people have to off themselves if it doesn't pan out. So many people who don't honor and respect one another - starting with one's self.

    I can feel the dishonor people do to each other, sometimes and it's pretty awful stuff (it's a matter of degrees). I just honor the choice of suicide should it happen to someone I know. It's a good way to go, move on with my life.

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think the liminal space Veteran

    The default meaning of wanting to live life in the modern world seems to mean accomplishment and success. You can not want to die but also not care a bit about getting ahead or accomplishing goals. Life can be lived for the moment and happiness can be found from within rather than by getting or accomplishing things.

    I take after my father who also never strove for anything. He looked to hedonistic sources for pleasure (alcohol, porn, TV). A long time ago I saw what that does to a person and turned toward spiritual means for happiness. Today I don't really have any major life goals, if I contemplate dying it doesn't leave me worrying about things I haven't done. But I'm not depressed, I'm motivated to work to support myself and save for the future, I enjoy spending time with my family, I like learning new things and spending my days idly but largely wholesomely.

    I don't know if any of this applies or not, I just found myself relating to the thought of not wanting to die but not having a passion for life and still knowing that I'm essentially a happy person. Maybe it's not the same but maybe looking for happiness inside instead of from external sources could be an answer for you as well.

  • Very powerful, honest and overwhelming post @eggsavior

    I will be dedicating sadhana/puja your way. I urge others to do the same.


  • KannonKannon NAMU AMIDA BUTSU Ach-To Veteran

    Hello all. Thank you for your words, thoughts, and stories. I'll write a reply to each of you tomorrow. Namaste and be well (:

  • Part of my diagnosis is depression, the other part is psychosis. I've had voices in my head tell me to jump in front of that bus, or jump off that balcony. Those hallucinations seem to have happened in the past when my depression was at its worst.

    I can't say it gets better but it does get easier to deal with. Thru meditation and resilience...those voices become just another tape recorder I hear going off.

    Gassho Dear @eggsavior I wish you well! You are O-nami :smiley:

    In the early days of the Meiji era there lived a well-known wrestler called O-nami, Great Waves.
    O-nami was immensely strong and knew the art of wrestling. In his private bouts he defeated even his teacher, but in public he was so bashful that his own pupils threw him.

    O-nami felt he should go to a Zen master for help. Hakuju, a wandering teacher, was stopping in a little temple nearby, so O-nami went to see him and told him of his trouble.

    "Great Waves is your name," the teacher advised, "so stay in this temple tonight. Imagine that you are those billows. You are no longer a wrestler who is afraid. You are those huge waves sweeping everything before them, swallowing all in their path. Do this and you will be the greatest wrestler in the land."

    The teacher retired. O-nami sat in meditation trying to imagine himself as waves. He thought of many different things. Then gradually he turned more and more to the feeling of the waves. As the night advanced the waves became larger and larger. They swept away the flowers in their vases. Even the Buddha in the shrine was inundated. Before dawn the temple was nothing but the ebb and flow of an immense sea.

    In the morning the teacher found O-nami meditating, a faint smile on his face. He patted the wrestler's shoulder. "Now nothing can disturb you," he said. "You are those waves. You will sweep everything before you."

    The same day O-nami entered the wrestling contests and won. After that, no one in Japan was able to defeat him.

  • KannonKannon NAMU AMIDA BUTSU Ach-To Veteran

    @Shoshin Thank you for the resources and information. I will definitely study them with much gratitude.

    @skyfox66 Thanks for sharing your own story. I bought a book at my library for $1 (I hoard books, its a problem, lol) written by a former nun who became a neurologist. She prefaced her book by saying that she relies heavily upon stories in her teachings and offered this quote:

    Storytelling, you know, has a real function. The process of the storytelling is itself a healing process, partly because you have someone there who is taking the time to tell you a story that has great meaning to them. They're taking the time to do this because your life could use some help, but they don't want to come over and just give advice. They want to give it to you in a form that becomes inseparable from your whole self. That's what stories do. Stories differ from advice in that, once you get them, they become a fabric of your whole soul. That is why they heal you."

    ~Alice Walker, in an interview about her work in Common Boundary, 1990

    Even if we don't have answers for each other, sharing our stories and feelings is enough! Thich Nhat Han also stresses that instead of offering advice or your own ideas, sometimes it is best to simply listen deeply to one's lamentations ( Thank you for listening to me, @skyfox66 -- and know I have listened and heard your story as well.

    @IronRabbit Thank you for this great reminder and words from the Buddha. When I first checked this discussion and read the quote, I was filled with calmness. I believe that despite anything, if we keep pure intentions we will find a way to get better. So even if I am unwise in my actions or thought, as long as I keep Buddha's words in my intentions and heart, I will be okay. I have a few favorite verses from the Dhammapada and Metta Sutra that I always keep in mind.

    @silver I would never condemn someone for suicide, but I wouldn't condone it, either. Not even myself, which is part of why I made this post, to gain new perspectives and find healing through others. I don't take death as seriously as I used to, but I think it should arrive through a natural course.

    @person I have slowly been able to put less weight into the future as well. I am also an "underachiever." I've been out of school for half a year now, and my only main goals right now are to teach writing classes at an art center I've been interning at. But I find that this kind of outlook helps me. Simple is best, I think. I don't worry too much about the future, only today--and maybe tomorrow.

    @lobster It means a lot that you're dedicating time to my wellbeing, and I will return the favor!

    Off topic, but I have bad dentist anxiety. Earlier this year I went to get cavities filled in, and the entire time I visualized the Medicine Buddha and I was fine! It was a funny and relieving experience.

    @wojciech Thank you for your story too! I haven't heard of that anecdote, and I like it a lot. I hope you remain well in your journey w/ mental illness.

  • silversilver In the beginning there was nothing, and then it exploded. USA, Left coast. Veteran

    @eggsavior said, "@silver I would never condemn someone for suicide, but I wouldn't condone it, either. Not even myself, which is part of why I made this post, to gain new perspectives and find healing through others. I don't take death as seriously as I used to, but I think it should arrive through a natural course."

    If that's what you think I meant, you're reading it wrong. I don't 'condone' it, but the way I'm reading you saying that, is that you consider it taboo, just like in the old days. That is wrong in my book. If you disapprove of suicide, that means you disapprove of the person who did it. I meant what I said, when I said I honor the person and that person's choice. Banging on (as some people do) about how horrible suicide is, and how horrible the person was for choosing it, is both funny and sad - big time.

    It's hard to talk about all these death-related things, words are hard to shape into exactly what we mean. Saying that you don't 'take death as seriously as I (you) used to,' struck me kinda funny/odd.

  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    But I know now that I can't hate my Self because there truly is no self. So what am I so mad about? My Ego? My needs and cravings? It's going to take a lot of self discovery to find these answers, or even begin to ask the right questions, but since I am starting now I'm sure I'll do well later on.


    Suicidal thoughts....Suicide attempts...Been there and done a past life many moons ago...But karma had other ideas.... :)

    Through the Dharma (it being the wise mediator of sorts), a mutual agreement/contract has been signed between "me" "myself""I" & "non-self" ....there is now a working relationship between "us" ...We ("me" "myself" & "I" ) no longer want to do away with each other instead cooperation is now the name of the game... "Right View" ="Non-self"

    "Non-self" no longer takes "me""myself" & "I" too seriously, and in doing so, have gone from suicidal (self-killing) to "suidomo" (sui=self domo= Tame/Conquer)... well something like that....

    "I" found that in my particular case, suicidal thoughts arose and attempts were had, when "I" took "myself" too seriously...( which is when the mind becomes 'charmed' by its own thoughts the time the thought patterns that were flowing were unwholesome/irrational )...

  • techietechie India Veteran

    Every time I hear people say, 'X is selfish for having committed suicide ... just imagine the pain that his family is going through.'

    I always want to reply, 'I will try to imagine the pain that X's family is going through. But can you also imagine the pain that X must have gone through?'

    Easy to judge, hard to empathize. We are all different. What gives me intense pain may be nothing more than a pinprick for you. Doesn't make my pain any less overwhelming.

  • KannonKannon NAMU AMIDA BUTSU Ach-To Veteran

    @silver I never meant to come across as close-minded or condescending to those who have committed suicide. I just wish they could have found an alternative before making their decision. But I respect them wholeheartedly, and I know that when you're in that place nothing else is good enough to help you.

    Also, I what I meant by that is I'm not as scared of dying as I used to be, and my views on it have changed a lot. I think the act of dying and the moment of dying is extremely important, but death itself is simply a part of life and so I try to regard it as simply as possible.

    @Shoshin You're right about that. I have a lot of meditation to do on the self, but I hope it'll improve my state of mind.

    @techie True and insightful observation

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