Life is to be lived

So, been doing a bit of a virtual book tour in support of my book. One of the big topics I am being asked about is suicide. Which is interesting because I only really address it from the perspective of - here’s how you recognize suicidal behavior in others with the advice that you should probably avoid them because suicidal people like to take others along with them for their self destructive rides.

What I didn’t do is give advice to people who are contemplating suicide. Probably because for me, it’s not something I have ever considered seriously. And also, I do like to focus on happier things. But since it has come up and because my podcast posts about suicide are my most popular posts (which again is a bit upsetting), I thought I would give a quick - here’s how Humanists look at it.

Don’t commit suicide!

Life is amazing. And yes, it is hard at times, and painful and sad at times. And believe me, I know. I have lost a child and been the victim of a stalking. I have known sadness and pain so powerful that it is incapacitating. I have known fear so intense it is immobilizing. But those are just emotions. Regardless of how intense they are, they are temporary and can be overcome. I am living proof that it is possible to not just overcome them but to thrive. It’s hard, but it can be done.

The question people considering suicide often ask is, “why not just kill myself and get it over with?” Humanists find this question to be a very unsatisfying and depressing question to ask. It has no good answer. So if you find yourself asking that question, stop.

The better question to ask yourself is this. “Despite it all, why not live?” Go on. Ask yourself this question and see how you feel afterwards, I’ll wait. …. To even ask that question is in some ways an act of defiance. It feels good. More importantly, even a halfhearted response to “why not live” opens up a new world of possibilities.

The Humanist approach is to live despite it all. And not only to live but to embrace life whole-heartedly - the good and the bad and to ultimately be happy. Life is amazing and hard, but it is life and life is to be lived. And if you die, you will miss it all, and that would be a shame. Especially since tomorrow is International Love Song day - you wouldn’t want to miss that.

Oh - and one last thing. If you are suffering from depression and are thinking of killing yourself. Don’t. Go to your doctor and tell them you are depressed and be honest with them about exactly how depressed you really are. They really can help you and you will feel much better once you are honest with someone else about how badly you have been feeling. If you can’t afford a doctor or don’t have one, go to your county health clinic and tell them about how you feel. Help is available, go and get it. Check out - for more information


  1. I probably need to write more from a secular Buddhist perspective since it's very close to what you're saying but different in many ways.

    A secular Buddhist would agree the the purpose of live is to live. However, they'd talk about how attachment to the idea that life must have some purpose is part of the problem.

    Similarly, you see people get trapped into the "pleasure/pain" trap. Each of us naturally tend to be attracted to and desire please and want to push away and avoid pain. Those create cycles of happiness and sadness and can lead to someone feeling that too much pain means life is not worth living.

    Anyway, I'm not here to write an essay, but those are some thoughts.

  2. I live in the world of suicide quite often. I have severe panic attacks to the point where I am agoraphobic. I live in parents' home and they have shown me time and time again that their own personal agendas matter more than my well-being. So, I sit and watch all my friends and old school mates grow up and move on while my life sits on idle.

    Being suicidal is being on that last string where nothing matters, and where you're still attached to worldly things. It's really tough, especially being an atheist, to find those worldly things. I have to force myself to think, "is this forever", and, "has this lasted forever for anyone else?" I also have to think about eternity. The things we do get passed down to our friends and family, and those things can be passed to their friends and even offspring. Is it a true legacy to leave behind sorrow?

    It's very tough, but I know that I can beat it. I have a few times in the past, and I can't make the same mistakes. By January, I will be back on my parents' insurance until July, and my dad says he's putting his foot down. We'll see, but until then, I have to remain like this.

  3. @ Ron - totally agree - thinking life needs to have meaning is part of the problem and results in a lot of unnecessary fear.

    @Greateighthsin - I used to suffer from 3 or 4 panic attacks a day. Woke up, experienced a panic attack. Once I got the breathing under control and convinced myself I wasn't going to die of asphixiation from choking on my own vomit I would then I have to convince myself to get out of bed and at least take a shower. Once moving, I would then be treated to at last one, maybe two panic attacks throughout the day and then right before falling asleep I would have another one. That was all in addition to almost loosing my job because I would cry if a pin dropped. That was my life for a couple of years.

    If you are suffering from a mental illness, which you are if you developing agoraphobia, get help! My panic was brought on by a stalking. I found myself a therapist that specialized in treating PTSD, and within a few months my panic attacks were under control and I have been basically panic free for several years now. Check out the free services offered in your area - you may be able to get free mental health counseling so you can go out and start living life again and beat this. And people do. Granted, I haven't had agoraphobia, but as a result of the stalking it took every bit of courage I had just to leave my house for fear of running into the guy. I beat it. It was the hardest thing I have ever done - harder then loosing a child even, but I beat it because I refused to live like that any longer. And I refused to give up on life.

    Don't be harsh on your parents. They don't really understand what is going on with you and that is actually a good thing, because if they did, it would mean they were suffering like you are. People who haven't experienced panic attacks have no idea how debilitating they are. I couldn't stand talking to my mom during the stalking because she was constantly trying to minimize what was happening to me and it wasn't helpful. I was in a state of panic and that was real. I still love her as I know she meant well, she just had no basis of personal experience on which to draw to help me.

    My therapist helped me by teaching me breathing excersizes, she helped me by helping me figure out what was triggering my panic attacks and she helped me by giving me the tools I needed to learn how to cope for myself. There really is help out there, you just need to learn the coping skills so that you can work around whatever it is that is going on in your head.

    Insist on getting help. Go out and get it. The hardest part is admitting you do need help. After that, it starts to get easier. Also, I find for me that a big part of getting better and getting through these things is making the positive choice to do so and to demand of yourself that you do so. Is it easy? No, but it is totally worth it.


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