Life is difficult for everyone. There are some people in the world whose lives are full of misery. I'm talking about people in third world countries who have to work all day just to survive -- people who have no one to look after them, people who have no time for fun or leisure because all their time is devoted to work or rest. And some of these people have no friends or family at all. And yet they continue to live and work, for whatever reason. Some of them commit suicide, but I'm talking about the ones that don't. Why do they stay alive? Some of us might look at these people and admire their bravery and perseverance and unyieldingness. To some it might seem admirable. But to me it just seems illogical. The reason these people stay alive is because they have some sort of survival instinct embedded deep within the primative animal part of their brains -- it remained with them through the millions of years of evolution. Animals don't commit suicide -- suicide requires human intelligence. I used to think lemmings were the exception to this rule, but then I found out that the lemmings thing is just a myth. Suicide is one of the things that separates humans from the animals. Somewhere deep in the pre-history of humankind there must have been one person who was the first person to commit suicide, the first one to overcome the survival instinct, although history does not record his name, or her name. Nowadays we have thousands of people committing suicide, but still the survival instinct lies deep within every one of us, regardless of how happy or sad or lives are. After all, the human race would not have survived without that instinct.
The same goes for respect for human life in general -- most people regard the preservation of human life as very important and they wouldn't kill another person, unless it were a kill-or-be-killed situation. There are exceptions to this rule, of course, same as with suicide. But people have these values ingrained into their minds -- that life is good and death is bad. And therefore the mass slaughter of millions of humans would have to be the worst thing of all. That's what people think. And you never hear anyone arguing that we should actively try to reduce the earth's population to what it was a hundred years ago, even if it would mean a higher standard of living on average. People have this thing in their heads which says that increased human life has got to be good.
The point that I'm getting around to is, I have a different attitude towards death. When I think of death, it doesn't scare me. I find myself looking forward to it. I'm not a religious person and I don't believe in the afterlife -- I regard death as being truly the end of a person's mind. That's supposed to be a scary prospect but to me it's not. To me it seems like an eternity of sleep, and that means no having to get up in the morning. Do you hate getting up in the morning? I do, when it's an early morning and I'm still tired and I just want to go back to sleep. But on the weekend, when I can sleep in, I eventually get up of my own accord because it would be boring to just lie there in bed all day, wide awake. But if I were dead than it wouldn't be boring. If I were dead then I could have the relaxation without the boredom -- the best of both worlds.
I'm talking about this as if it makes sense but I know it doesn't, really. You see, I'm a happy person. My life is good. There's more happiness than sadness in my life. I used to be sad, years ago, and I used to tell myself that this sadness was the reason for my suicidal tendencies. But now my life has improved. So if there's more happy stuff than sad stuff in my life, then how can death be better? After all, if I were dead then I would feel neither happiness nor sadness. But somehow, I do want to die. It doesn't have to make sense -- this is just how I feel, and no matter how much you argue that it doesn't make sense, that won't stop me from feeling it.
I've had a death wish ever since I was very young. In Year 7, at the age of twelve, I remember wishing for death, and not just fleetingly but permanently. I didn't contemplate suicide back then because I was a religious person and I was afraid of hell. But I wished I was dead. I remember in Year 7 drama class, which started halfway through the year, the teacher wanted to get to know us so she told us to each say our names and something about ourselves, something interesting and she told us to Not Hold Back. The example she gave was, "If you want to say 'Hello my name is Johnny and I think this school really sucks', that's all right with me." So we went round the circle and each said something about ourselves, and when my turn came, I said, "My name is Stephen and I wish I were dead." Of course this kind of put a damper on proceedings -- later the teacher took me aside and spoke to me privately, about how she once knew a boy who had expressed similar feelings, and drama class had helped him to feel differently, and how maybe it could help me too. She was a good teacher, but she was way off the mark there.
Once I stopped being a religious person there was nothing to hold me back from attempting suicide, and so I did. But after the attempt, I was held back from further attempts by a combination of things -- 1) the dramatic reduction of stress in my life, and 2) the thought of my family being devastated by my death. I didn't care much about my family's feelings, but I cared enough to not want to do that to them -- so I held back on the suicide attempts but I still wished for death, deep down.
Other people's deaths don't bother me either. I remember my grandfather on my father's side passed away in 1987 -- it happened after he had been in a coma for a while so everyone had been expecting it. When I heard my grandfather was about to die, I smiled. This was an inappropriate reaction and my sister Carolyn criticised me for it. But I wasn't sad about my grandfather's impending death -- I had always regarded him as a stern authority figure whom I had never felt comfortable around. This was the first death in the family in my lifetime so I regarded it as something of an exciting experience. During the whole coma thing I kept a straight face because I had to hide my true feelings about it. But I didn't cry or anything. It was a sad experience for everyone else, not me. In 1995 my other grandfather died, the one on my mother's side. It happened while I was in psychiatric hospital and it was kind of a non-event -- the guy lived in England and I'd met him a few times, but he wasn't the kind of guy I particularly liked -- I know that sounds cold -- that's 'cause it's honest -- I have a cold mind, like a machine.
Sometimes I feel like I'm not human. I mean, clearly I am human, physically, but deep down I'm lacking certain qualities that everyone else has. One thing I'm lacking is the value for human life -- it seems to me like it would be no great tragedy if the whole human race was wiped out. I mean, put yourself in mother nature's shoes -- humans are the bane of her existence. Humans are destroying her. I mean, maybe it was O.K. back in the old days when there were just a handful of us, but nowadays we've become a plague and we can't avoid doing damage to nature in our current numbers. When I hear on the news that someone has died, that doesn't make me feel sad. Princess Diana's death didn't make me feel sad. The Columbine High School massacre didn't make me feel sad -- on the contrary, it was good entertainment. That massacre made me wish I had been there in that high school -- I could have seen the panic and felt the fear in the air, and it would have been an intense experience to remember. Those gun-wielding high school boys probably wouldn't have killed me, and it would've been no great loss if they had. Not to me, anyway.
Maybe it's a little bit scary. I mean, if some guy came up to me on the street and pointed a gun at me and yelled at me, I would be scared. I know because I had a dream about that recently. But a person with a gun doesn't wield much power over me. I mean, suppose I'm in a bank when it gets robbed -- the robber takes out a gun and shouts, "Everybody lay down on the floor!" I'd be scared, but I don't think I'd lie down. Not for long, anyway. And if the robber says, "Hey You! Lie Down!" I might try to say, "Hey, you're not going to shoot me! I don't think you've got the guts to shoot me! I'll bet that gun's not even loaded." It's a dangerous thing to say, but I would regard this as an opportunity -- the opportunity to get killed by someone else. After all, if someone else kills me, then it would technically not be suicide. My family would be devastated just the same, but they wouldn't blame me -- they'd blame that criminal who shot me. And, as a bonus, that guy's life would probably be ruined, and it would serve him right. You see, everyone regards suicide as the wrong option, and I don't want everyone after my death to think that I made a big mistake. If I can shift some of the blame onto someone else, then it would feel O.K. in my own mind just before I die.
What makes me sad is when I hear about suffering -- I regard suffering as being bad, and death as being good, as an end to suffering. Death causes sadness in people, because when someone dies, their friends and family mourn for them. I can't understand why they get so sad about death, but I know that they do, and therefore death is bad -- for them, not for me. And when I hear about people who continue living even though their life is miserable, like people who suffer from clinical depression, it touches me deep down and I know that if I were in their shoes I would have committed suicide long ago, but somehow they keep living because their survival instinct rules them like a harsh master.
My life is happy. I regard life as good. But I also regard death as good. These two phrases dance around in my mind without fighting eachother -- death is good, life is good, death is good, life is good -- I feel like one of those characters in George Orwell's "1984" who can hold two conflicting opinions simultaneously. They called it doublethink. What it really is, is mental illness. I'm aware of that. But I don't want to change it. Why should I want to have a survival instinct? That would leave me with no escape route if things really get rough. I feel like every other person is a slave to the survival instinct, and they're also a slave to those natural urges which force them to get sad whenever someone close to them dies. I feel like I have more freedom than them.
I'm very different to all the other people, and these differences are important to no one but myself. They don't show on the surface. I don't act on them, and generally I don't talk about them at all. People don't understand. 'Cause when someone says, "I want to die", it's regarded as being an indication of depression. People can never understand how I feel -- they can't believe that I can be happy and still want to die -- that goes against everything they've learnt. But it's not important. It doesn't affect my everyday life. You could meet me and ask me questions about myself and you'd come away thinking I have a pretty ordinary life -- you'd never suspect that I'm like this underneath, because I wouldn't tell you. It's not really a problem, nothing urgent and weighty, it's just weird, that's all.