Shawn Maxam shares Bill Zeller’s suicide note which illustrates the true despair of depression.
Suicide is a fundamental human right. This does not mean that it is morally desirable. It only means that society does not have the moral right to interfere.
-Thomas S. Szasz
I recently read a suicide note I wrote when I was deeply depressed three years ago. It is very hard to articulate the power of suicidal thoughts for those who have never experienced them. Many people are usually unable to grasp how such an unthinkable act becomes justifiable. I believe if we can adequately communicate the sense of despair and hopelessness that a suicidal person suffers daily than prevention of this irreversible course of action is possible.
Until non-sufferers can empathize with their fellow human brothers and sisters our society will have difficulty implementing the care needed for these amazing individuals. People will continue to needlessly be lost to tragic circumstances.
The stigma that people who commit suicide are weak and misguided needs to be dispelled but that can only happen if stable and successful individuals share their own stories of survival and triumph. Just as cancer survivors create a network of support where stories can be shared the same must happen with suicide/suicidal ideations. If we don’t realize that everyone from government officials to restaurant dishwashers struggle with existential questions than we cannot offers folks help until it’s too late.
Below is an excerpt (click here to read the full letter) of a suicide note left behind by the brilliant Bill Zeller. He was earning a his Ph.d from Princeton University and had successfully created two widely used computer programs. On the surface he looks like a happy man with everything to live for but no one was aware of the “darkness” and pain he was experiencing. Please read the excerpts below and when time permits read the full note (which was Bill’s last wish). Thank you.
Excerpts of Zeller’s note:
I have the urge to declare my sanity and justify my actions, but I assume I’ll never be able to convince anyone that this was the right decision. Maybe it’s true that anyone who does this is insane by definition, but I can at least explain my reasoning. I considered not writing any of this because of how personal it is, but I like tying up loose ends and don’t want people to wonder why I did this. Since I’ve never spoken to anyone about what happened to me, people would likely draw the wrong conclusions.
My first memories as a child are of being raped, repeatedly. This has affected every aspect of my life. This darkness, which is the only way I can describe it, has followed me like a fog, but at times intensified and overwhelmed me, usually triggered by a distinct situation. In kindergarten I couldn’t use the bathroom and would stand petrified whenever I needed to, which started a trend of awkward and unexplained social behavior. The damage that was done to my body still prevents me from using the bathroom normally, but now it’s less of a physical impediment than a daily reminder of what was done to me.
This darkness followed me as I grew up. I remember spending hours playing with legos, having my world consist of me and a box of cold, plastic blocks. Just waiting for everything to end. It’s the same thing I do now, but instead of legos it’s surfing the web or reading or listening to a baseball game. Most of my life has been spent feeling dead inside, waiting for my body to catch up.
I feel an evil inside me. An evil that makes me want to end life. I need to stop this. I need to make sure I don’t kill someone, which is not something that can be easily undone. I don’t know if this is related to what happened to me or something different. I recognize the irony of killing myself to prevent myself from killing someone else, but this decision should indicate what I’m capable of.
So I’ve realized I will never escape the darkness or misery associated with it and I have a responsibility to stop myself from physically harming others.
I’m just a broken, miserable shell of a human being. Being molested has defined me as a person and shaped me as a human being and it has made me the monster I am and there’s nothing I can do to escape it. I don’t know any other existence. I don’t know what life feels like where I’m apart from any of this. I actively despise the person I am. I just feel fundamentally broken, almost non-human. I feel like an animal that woke up one day in a human body, trying to make sense of a foreign world, living among creatures it doesn’t understand and can’t connect with.
I have accepted that the darkness will never allow me to be in a relationship. I will never go to sleep with someone in my arms, feeling the comfort of their hands around me. I will never know what uncontimated intimacy is like. I will never have an exclusive bond with someone, someone who can be the recipient of all the love I have to give. I will never have children, and I wanted to be a father so badly. I think I would have made a good dad. And even if I had fought through the darkness and married and had children all while being unable to feel intimacy, I could have never done that if suicide were a possibility. I did try to minimize pain, although I know that this decision will hurt many of you. If this hurts you, I hope that you can at least forget about me quickly.
People say suicide is selfish. I think it’s selfish to ask people to continue living painful and miserable lives, just so you possibly won’t feel sad for a week or two. Suicide may be a permanent solution to a temporary problem, but it’s also a permanent solution to a ~23 year-old problem that grows more intense and overwhelming every day.
Some people are just dealt bad hands in this life. I know many people have it worse than I do, and maybe I’m just not a strong person, but I really did try to deal with this. I’ve tried to deal with this every day for the last 23 years and I just can’t fucking take it anymore.
I often wonder what life must be like for other people. People who can feel the love from others and give it back unadulterated, people who can experience sex as an intimate and joyous experience, people who can experience the colors and happenings of this world without constant misery. I wonder who I’d be if things had been different or if I were a stronger person. It sounds pretty great.
I’m prepared for death. I’m prepared for the pain and I am ready to no longer exist. Thanks to the strictness of New Jersey gun laws this will probably be much more painful than it needs to be, but what can you do. My only fear at this point is messing something up and surviving.
Please share this with friends, enemies and temporary allies alike.
Thank you so much for reading, sharing and commenting!