Life is an acquired taste
Jan 13, 2013
8 minute read

It has been a little over twenty-four hours since I learned about Aaron’s suicide. I didn’t know him. And yet, after a few minutes, I started crying.

I do not cry often. For a while, I started believing that I had completely lost the ability to cry. “Re-assuring” is definitely out of line here, but, yeah, today showed I can cry again.

I’ve been thinking hard about what to write. So much has been said already, from Aaron’s family, from his ex-lawyer and friend, from his ex-lover, from Cory.

All these people knew Aaron much better, and did honor his memory by remembering what was great about him, but also his quirks, his weaknesses, what made him Aaron. There is nothing I can possibly add on this specific subject, so I am going to tell you a life story of mine instead.

The train station

My father and I haven’t gotten along perfectly all the way. As soon as I attained the rebel age, he found himself besieged with all the trouble an educated, sharp-minded, nearly spoiled adulescent could give him.

Up to that point, everything had an explanation. The tight canvas knitted by the conjugated forces of the scriptures, traditions, and all the parts that were simply made up on the spot to sacrify on the hostel of my insatiable curiosity, all together, they formed an almost coherent whole, one that I didn’t dare to attack until my 15th birthday.

However, the comfiness of a traditional belief system was meant to be short-lived, at least as far as I was concerned. In a few short years, my vices flourished from stereotypical onanism to full-on carnal love, alcohol abuse, codependency, scarification, eating disorder, and many others.

As more and more of life’s little secrets were exposed to me, I grew increasingly troubled at the sight of the “sedentary of the mind”: those who could always find answers for everything - usually a single one - and be happy with that.

The funny bit, of course, is that all of this was largely documented in my pre-rebel years: I had been extensively lectured on the surface of the temptations I would have to endure later, and taught to think of them as challenges God sent me to test my faith. I was a machine trained to avoid real life, but it kicked me in the face and held my eyes wide open, so I had no choice but to see.

One side effect was a growing resentment against my parents. Sure, I had been told about many things. But the solution was always to avoid them. No premarital sex. No drugs. Taking your own life is a sin, you don’t want to end up in hell, do you?

What of those gone too far? What of the heroin addicts? What of the violent drinkers? What of the rapists? Pray. Pray again. Only one word, always the same wildcard to fill in all the blanks.

The more I lived, the more I got angry at the people of my past. How could they stay so chill all the time when everything is definitely, decisively and unarguably not okay?

You can pray all you want, to whomever you want, but sometimes you have to hide knives. Sometimes you have to skip lunch to spend it talking with a person affected by anorexia. Sometimes you have to forget about the past and just be there.

Those few years were so violent, so raw, that I only wanted to throw them at my parents, to show them just how much I had been lied to. Just how destructive that little family bubble of sweet, unadulterated perfectness would reveal later.

And throw I did. Repeatedly. The arguing machine they had been perfecting for fifteen years was turning against them. Precise like a lynx, faster at retort than them, and further-reaching.

I did realize that it made them very sad. I did acknowledge the fact that my attitude regularly brought my mother to tears. I was painfully aware of just how antagonist our relationship had become, how unsunstainable and unhealthy it was, but I was determined to do away with the lies of the past.

What I did not realize is that, along with several other important events (like the disbandment of their Church), I contributed to making them change. This was only confirmed last New Year’s eve, by my aunt - she confirmed that they seemed different (in good, ultimately!), and that she could sense I was behind it.

However, my perspective on my father changed completely around 2011. I was in the middle of some emotional turmoil, in between relationships, and generally going through difficult times at university, and I was far from worried about how my father was or how he felt. He was such a figure of stability that I pretty much assumed he was always rock-solid.

After a day at my parents’ place, my father offered, as he often did back then (my father was always very generous to us), to drive me back to the train station, twenty minutes away.

In the car, we exchanged general news, but I also provoked him on a few subjects, as I used t.. still do, to generate interesting conversations instead of the usual filler talk. That day, however, I got more than I bargained for.

Taking me completely aback, my father confessed that he had been thinking about taking his own life. That it had been like that for a while. About two years. But that, so far, he had managed to keep on trucking. Mostly because of us, the children. He didn’t really feel that he could let us down like that.

That stopped me. Along with the world around us. I had violently entered an intimate part of my father’s life that I completely ignored so far. I suddenly saw so many things in another light.

I realized my father was once young. I realized my father also had a father. I realized he had done what he could with the choices he made. He was deeply in love with my mother when he proposed her - and even though they went through pretty deep stuff, they stuck together.

I realized that the church he had founded wasn’t entirely his doing, that he had to compromise with the other founder, and that it took a direction he didn’t entirely agree of, but, like everything, he did what he could.

And if sometimes he seemed not to care as much as I did for what happened, it’s simply that he was pondering whether life was worth continuing.

The realization that, for all this time, my father was much closer to me than I had known, completely changed my perspective on my family. Instead of taking the train I had planned, I stayed with him, letting trains depart without me. We walked, and talked about life, love, and taxes.

The take-away

When my father first told me about his suicidal thoughts, I was instantly very worried. And yet, it was unfounded: after all, he was right there in front of me, healthy, and talking about his problems.

It’s not when people are talking that we should be worried. I wrote some pretty fucked up things in the past: one of my literary projects was “Letters From My Ghosts” - basically, all the things that haunted me wrote to me in the first person, explaining the joy they got out of tormenting me, and how everything was doomed.

Reading that would have worried anyone, even those who don’t like me. But it’s not the moments one should be worried. When a depressive person writes and talks a lot, it’s healthy: it’s a way to let out. As long as someone is writing or talking, they’re trying to communicate.

It’s really disturbing because even when they’re writing “All is lost. There is no way out. Life really is worthless after all”, they’re still writing something, and that counts as wanting to do something, so there’s still a little bit of life left.

No, the moments people should be worried about are those of silence. Silence is a terrible thing. Silence begins on the outside - they stop talking to their peers. In fact, they stop seeing people. Then silence eats its way to the inside. Long thoughts become rarer, because everything makes sense in your diseased mind: you have no place in life anymore.

Then, there’s the most misleading period of all: determination. When someone has decided to do away with life, they have it all planned out. They want to tidy up their life, it almost looks like a 12-step Alcoholic Anonymous plan: they go back to people and apologize, they do everything so as to avoid leaving a mess when they depart.

It’s never easy to deal with suicide and suicidal tendencies, no matter how it touches you. And when something happens, lessons can be learned, but blaming yourself is never constructive. However, before it’s too late, please take some time to recognize the signs and learn how to deal with them.

For starters, here’s a note about suicide reporting on the internet, that I’ll quote to close this article:

If you are suicidal and you read this far, talk to someone about it right now. Like, get up from your chair now, put down your phone now, or open your e-mail or DM tab now, go to whomever you trust, or distrust least, or a professional, and say that you’ve been feeling bad. Say the words to them. It will get easier from there.

If you are not suicidal, also talk about it. Talk to your friend or co-worker at lunch. If you’re both nerds, Aaron Swartz is a great opener. Maybe your friend needs help. Statistically, they probably don’t, but statistically, you probably both know people who do, and you’re training each other to notice and care.

Take care, there’s only one of you.