[Content warning: suicide]
I believe that just as risk is relative, so is life and death, and the rewards of each at any given time are weighed upon scales we fabricate in the moment, often without thought. Conscious and unconscious biases place the fulcrum, weight the scales, and a judgement is rendered. Then the cause happens, which leads to an effect.
Each of my and others’ effects adds to scale weights I carry, created throughout my life like sandstone. Layers upon layers of decision sediments have fallen like unceasing snowstorms and hardened to stones, guided by internal eddies and gusts of sentiment.
And then there’s suicide.
All the positive weight in the world doesn’t matter when the lever is long and the fulcrum is placed. Anthony Bourdain’s suicide, like Kate Spade’s, like Chris Cornell’s, like Robin Williams’, like Kurt Cobain’s, like the others who weren’t rich and famous who I’ve known of who have killed themselves, is another grain on my, ‘But you’re a survivor,’ weight.
I’ve had two abyssal moments in the past decade, both precipitated by staying stuck while trying to choose a path forward when I knew all paths would pass through excruciating emotional pain. In both instances, I reeled in panic, seeking to escape seemingly hopeless fates, until resignation restored me to a manageable despondent depression. It was only then that I recognized the life-ending placement of my decision fulcrum and was able to edge back from oblivion.
I’m better now, much better. Those two days are now like nightmares where the details continue to fade.
I’m also better and faster at spotting and redirecting the creeping suicidal thoughts, which plagued me in early adulthood and expressed themselves as driving way too fast, drinking way too much, taking stupid physical risks, and sometimes doing all in combination. Today I get out my survivor weight and it’s enough to help me decide to make better choices in my life.
Bourdain’s suicide hit me hard, even though I haven’t seen or read much of his work because it’s painfully clear he was also a survivor, and now he’s not. All the weight of everything good in his life to live for wasn’t enough to convince him in his moment of decision. His death hasn’t made me feel suicidal, but it has depressed me by way of realizing I’ve been in a form of stasis and avoiding risk for the past year.
For me, risk reminds me I’m alive. It’s the adrenaline exhilaration of hugging the boundary layer between life and death where it twines together in its infinite fractal beauty. It’s led me alone and with others up mountains and down into the sea, into boardrooms and bars, provided riches and poverty, and revealed to me the beauty and grotesqueness of the world and humanity while I gave and received love and hate, pleasure and pain, and creation and destruction.
Saying I almost killed myself twice feels like a risk. I think I risk being treated differently because of it but my reward is feeling more alive, and that feels like a good decision.