Chronic Skin Disease, Suicidal Thoughts

This subject was opened for discussion with the following newsgroup post:
Thoughts about suicide have been mentioned by more than one person in the
skin-diseases groups over the last few days. We skirt around the subject
all the time. Perhaps now is the time to open up a discussion of this
taboo topic. These dark thoughts are more common than most people want to
admit. Just talking about suicide is by no means offering it as an option. 

First, I'd like to point to some resources and suggest that everyone at
least scan them before offering advice... 

If you just can't cope any more, please stop here first:   or

There are periodically posted suicide FAQs archived online at:

There is an online organization that offers anonymous counseling:

The group is a good place for sharing your feelings
and getting a virtual <<<hug>>> if you need one. They have a big FAQ that
is easy to access through Philippa's Problem Pages at:

For diehards who want to compare scars, is just the
place. Visit the web site at and read the FAQ
before dropping into the group for a frank discussion about suicide. ...

Please stop and read their rational answers from the point of view of someone who feels they have little left to live for. I am not making light of this very serious problem, even if that may be a way to overcome it. Let's dump it out into the open and talk about it. This is a support group and that's what we're here for. Perhaps we can put some of our problems in perspective. ... Is anyone with a chronic skin disease ready to talk about despair?

Besides the quick answers that ensued, there were several sincere responses, and some thoughtful private exchanges. One of those was rather insightful, and it is presented here, with the author's permission, for anyone else who carries such dark thoughts...

Years ago I would have loved the opportunity to dwell in that bottomless pit and discuss it for hours. But now I've found a relatively stable perch just outside that pit, upon which I can look down into it, and feel grateful for the strength of having crawled out. One thing I've learned: when out of the pit, stay out, and turn down invitations to jump back in. It will drag you in often enough on its own.


I think it's logical and rational for people with chronic illnesses to consider suicide.

Thinking about it doesn't necessarily lead to doing it. For some, it does. For others, it can be a way to vent frustration and release tension.

I consider suicide almost every day. It's a comfort to me that there's a way out if I really need it. I simply maintain a discipline over the criteria for when that extreme measure is called for. Since I have considered it so often, I am able to think to myself, "Well, this really isn't as bad as such and such a time when I was really serious about it." As I mull over various awful things I have survived, the current situation comes into perspective. I realize that most people are not able to maintain such discipline in the face of despair. It takes a type of Vulcan mind discipline, I guess.

Suicidal thoughts often motivate me to keep going because I'll think "Well, not yet. I'm not finished with what I want to do before I go." I have a list of things to do before I allow myself to commit suicide. Whenever I feel suicidal, I tell myself, "If you are really serious about it, then get going on completing that list of things." This includes my will, a list of all my books/records and other things that I want to give to various people, decisions about where to be buried, all the funeral arrangements, what to wear in the coffin, what to be buried with, creative disposal of other things I own, a list of who's invited to the funeral and plans for a wake type of party, where to donate money left in the bank, etc. I've started on all those projects but there's always more details to consider and changes that come up, and at some point in working on them, I emerge out of my despair and move on to other things.

One trick I've learned is to NOT try to force yourself to stop thinking about suicide. Your mind has to move through it at its own pace. I let myself dwell on it and really get into it as noted above and then there seems to be a natural evolution out of it. Your mind gets some need fulfilled by thinking about it and you have to give your mind what it needs before it can move on. But again, this approach requires discipline because some people don't know how to tell when their mind is ready to move on and they get stuck like a broken record.

When your mind is ready to move on, then you have to give it something on which to glide out of the hole, a transition experience that takes you back into life, like taking a walk, or listening to inspiring music, or walking the labryinth at Grace Cathedral, or gardening, or calling a friend, or any activity that feels good. The trick is you need to let yourself dwell enough to satisfy the current need, yet not too much to the point where you're stuck.

If you're really stuck, write the day off as a BAD DAY, and go to sleep until you feel a mental shift. Sometimes takes a few days. You have to let your subconscious and unconscious mind help move the conscious mind. Relinquish your conscious mind to the unconscious: "Here, I can't do anything with this anymore. You give it a try." Put trust in your being's ability to help itself.

Bottom line: Is this really the right time to do it? If you can put it off till tomorrow, put it off and reconsider again tomorrow. I've been putting it off ever since I was a child. That's what's kept me living to my current age.


My daily consideration of suicide has become an inspiration to live life to the fullest. That is, if I decide I'm not going to kill myself today, right now, then I must live this day as if it were my last, for who knows what tomorrow brings? And when you live each day as if it were your last, you can end up more joyful than you expected to be.

Think about it. What are you gonna do with your one, wild and precious life? What can you do today, right now, while you have it for this perhaps last day? You better get out there and take one last look around. As Janis Joplin said, get it while you can.

You know the movie Harold and Maude? Both characters are aspects of my own personality. The depths I carved out in depair created a greater capacity with which to enjoy life when I emerge out of the pit.

So I appreciate my thoughts in all their forms, riding them where they take me, following them through all the way around to the other side, so that when I think of death I don't just stop there...

In Muriel Spark's book Memento Mori (which is Latin for Remember, you must die) a character says "If I had my life to live over again, I should form the habit of nightly composing myself to thoughts of death. I would practice, as it were, the remembrance of death. There is no other practice which so intensifies life..."

Those of us who remember we must die, need to remember we must live as well...

<<a friend>>

June first, 1998

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