The Hamlet Dilemma

What do you do if you do not want to live because living is so awful and painful but you are scared of dying. Not scared of oblivion because that would be very welcome. But scared that death may be something different to that and possibly worse than being alive. For someone who had a religious upbringing and for whom suicide is a sin, that thought is there.

This is the place I found myself in many times during my illness. And often for extended periods of time. I did not want to be alive because the place I was in was so unremittingly dark that I could see not hope or chance of life ever being anything but painful again. But there was always that nagging fear of what might come after that acted as a brake. And a nagging worry of the effect that my suicide might have on people who are massively important to me. Sometimes that worry was tiny but it was nearly always there. Without it I am sure that I would not be here now. You often hear people talk about suicide being very selfish. To say that is to have no understanding of the place that people have gone to. Ostensibly it is selfish because it is always going to hurt those left behind. But that is to place feelings in the mind of someone that they can no longer feel because of their illness. Your mind is so messed up that you can not feel emotions such as empathy etc.

One of the things I frequently said to my psychologist was that I wanted to just go to sleep and never wake up. At the time I actually craved that. My drugs were being “rationed” for precisely that reason. I even went through a phase where I stopped taking my medication so I could stockpile it. But my OH rumbled this and that was the end of that.

I began to seriously plan suicide. I even got as far as writing long letters to loved ones explaining that it was not their fault. My problem was finding a way that was not messy, slow or particularly painful. And always the little doubt of what would come after and the bigger worry of what would happen to those people I loved. There were a few times that I sat by the Thames thinking that I could just walk in and that would be that. But then I would have a black comedy moment. I am a reasonably strong swimmer. I had this ridiculous Monty Python image of my instinct for survival taking over from my will to die and the whole thing just being a mess.

The closest moment actually came out of the blue. I was walking to an appointment with my psychologist and a bus was coming towards me. It was haring along as they tend to. I had a very strong thought that all I had to do was step off the pavement. One big bang, maybe a moment of pain, then that would be that. At the last moment an image of my OH held me back. I would say I was about one-quarter of a second from death!

One final thought to the massively unhelpful person (who should have known better and owed me better for sure) who told me at the time to stop talking about death and suicide. To be Frank, I had severe depression and chronic PTSD. It kind of goes with the territory. Got that off my chest!


4 responses to “The Hamlet Dilemma

  1. Good morning Guy, very insightful thoughts from you on what is lets face it not the most comfortable of subjects to discuss.

    A few years back a friend of mine decided to take his own life and jump under a Tube train. He was an addicted gambler and by the end, felt himself to be in a totally hopeless position he thought could never be solved. Pure despair and pain. He was only in his 20’s and to an extent kept most of his addiction to himself. He had reached his ‘rock bottom’. A very tragic loss to all his close loved ones.

    However in some cases suicide is all too often treated lightly and as an excuse to leave life early because of a trIvial issue which others would have dealt with by lunch time. Others overplay the suicide card and keep telling you they are going to ‘top themselves’ but you have to take it seriously, even though you know it is the hundredth time they have told you! With any illness, physical or mental you are always going to get people who will try and milk the sympathy card for as much as they can. This may sound harsh but I believe it is true.

    I can understand where people are coming from when they say it is a selfish act. Example, that bus you were seconds from jumping in front of, what if you had of done it, the bus swerves, violently brakes and crashes into a lorry and explodes into a ball of fire? Perhaps extreme, but what about all those innocent people who potentially could have had their lives ruined, due to one act of uncontrollable madness. The intention is not to hurt others, but I guess the consequences to the public are not fully taken into consideration during a persons darkest hour.

    I believe anyone contemplating suicide is not choosing this option, they have Hobsons choice about it, as their mind is disturbed enough to have these dark irrational thoughts. Thankfully in Guy’s case he has somehow managed to drag himself through and hopefully finds eternal happiness for the rest of his days.


    • Thanks again for another thoughtful comment.

      To iterate I agree that ostensibly it seems very selfish. But it assigns emotions and thoughts to a person that they are no longer capable of feeling. I don’t think it’s possible to fully understand that unless you’ve been to that place.

  2. I agree Guy. You put it across well. Even the MH ‘crisis line’ came up with that chestnut when I was in that place. As I said at the time, I still thought they’d be better off without me. Fortunately my OH was around and dashed me into hospital.

  3. This totally resonates with where I’m currently at!! Thanks for writing it!!

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