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Why you shouldn't do what Aaron did
519 points by Pitarou on Jan 12, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 158 comments

TL;DR If Swartz's death is triggering suicidal thoughts, you must understand that this will pass, and life will be worth living.

After seeing the impact of Aaron Swartz's death on the Hacker News community, I am concerned about the Werther effect (the tendency of a prominent suicide to trigger other suicides). I hope I can help by sharing what I learnt through 10+ years of depression and recovery.

Depression robs you of the ability to: 1. remember happiness 2. feel happiness 3. anticipate happiness 4. make considered decisions

#1-#3 make you miserable, but #4 is the killer. Bits of your brain actually shut down, and you run on pure emotion. For example, when I was depressed, I was easy prey for offers like "4 for the price of 3 on this crappy overpriced chocolate" because I couldn't weigh it up. All I could think was "chocolate: good. 4 for 3: good. 4 for 3 chocolate: irresistible". But if you're running on pure emotion and your emotions tell you "everything sucks" well ... suicide looks like a good option.

So why didn't I kill myself? Somewhere in my guts, there was a stubborn belief that "this will pass". You might even call it a sense of entitlement: "come on world -- you can give me something better than this!" And you know what? It DID! Thanks to some wonderful people, and to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, I found a way to recover.

With the best 10+ years of my life lost to depression, starting from scratch in my 30s has been hard, but it's still a life, and I swear that life is worth more than you can possibly understand when you're depressed.

Stay strong,


The following probably won't see the light of day-- few of my posts here seem to, for whatever reason. And it's not a lengthy diatribe on reasons for living or reasons for suicide. Much smarter men than I have written on that subject, both recently and throughout recorded history. If it's in such words you find your personal solace, please disregard what I have to say. I never found any solace in it, though; I don't believe in Epiphany Theory.

Currently 24, I've dealt with depression and suicidal thoughts on and off for 4 or 5 years now. That heavy depression where you don't take care of yourself, don't shower, don't brush your teeth, you eat just enough to stay alive (I once subsisted on 2-liters of Mountain Dew and 99-cent bags of Utz cheese puffs for weeks-- dropped my deuces like a wood-chipper). You avoid going to sleep because after 31 episodes of Futurama, all you can think to do is watch a 32nd. You avoid waking up because you don't want to...be alive.

You shut yourself in, you stop going to class, you don't answer anyone's phone calls, you cut yourself off from the outside. You set yourself up to make it as easy as possible. How can your parents miss you if you haven't talked to them in weeks? If anything, you tell yourself, the fact that their calls have gone from hourly to daily to weekly is a sign that they've almost let go...can't let them in now, or it'll be too hard for them when you're gone. Emotionally hard, anyway. Really, they'll be better off with me out of the picture. Everyone will. I'm doing everyone a favor--Mom, Dad, my brother and sister, my friends who obviously just pity me, everyone.

That was me 3 years ago. Today I'm happy! :) I'm fine. I'm doing awesome. I don't attribute the turnaround to blog posts, I attribute it to taking my goddamn anxiety medication. Consistently. Every freaking day. If you forget, fine, but take it the next day, and the day after, and keep freaking taking it. It helps. Take your meds, everybody. Give it a shot for a couple months and see if things change. If you still feel down, go back to your psych and tell them, and they'll prescribe something else. Epiphanies always feel like the answer, and meds feel like the enemy, but do everyone who loves you a favor and give them a shot. Please.

I'm really glad your meds worked for you.

In my case, the meds did very little for me. Prozac did nothing. Seroxat made me worse. Venlafaxine moved the needle a little but not enough to make me functional.

And I quite agree that there's no such thing as a blog post epiphany. "Epiphanies" only happen after a whole lot of other preparation behind the scenes.

Studies of suicide[1] show it's an escape from yourself (kinda obvious), but I think the insight is: it all starts with blaming yourself.

If you don't blame yourself, the chain of suicide doesn't start. People don't suicide themselves because somebody else has annoying life circumstances. Circumstances are relative too. Modern society is constantly throwing other people's success, joy, accomplishment, and bravado in our faces. It can make us feel less than what we are. It can make us feel like our lives aren't good enough. Stop comparing your life to anything you've read anywhere anytime. We live in an age of magic. Be a wizard.

Blaming yourself is a dangerous path to go down. Don't blame yourself. The world is big and time is long. Things will work out.

[1]: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2408091 and summarized at my http://suicidescale.com/ site.

> The world is big and time is long. Things will work out.

The best advice and totally true!

It is totally true. And it's very hard to understand this when you're twenty-six years old.

My heart just breaks . . .

So why didn't I kill myself? Somewhere in my guts, there was a stubborn belief that "this will pass".

This is a critical point. If you know someone who is prone to depression, it's important to understand that they may simply be incapable of generating this kind of hope within themselves. Depression is not merely the loss of happiness, but the loss of the belief that you can ever be happy again. That's why intervention is so important when someone is suicidal: http://www.save.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=home.viewpage&p... .

In general I would agree. But if I were facing prison, it's tougher to say what the rational course of action is. It might be the decision I'd make if I were starkly given the option of suicide or decades in prison. The biggest question would be determining whether that's really the stark decision, or if there's a possibility of finding a way out of it. If acquittal is a possibility, making a decision too early would be tragic (but I'd also be afraid that making a decision too late may be tragic in a different way).

It's true that it's important to make sure that depression is not coloring your assessment of that: it's quite common for depressed people to have a view that things are hopeless when they aren't. But on the other hand, sometimes the world sucks, and not every situation has a good way out of it. For most people, things get better and what seemed like insurmountable obstacles will pass. But I don't think you can honestly tell someone that a major felony criminal case is a temporary setback, something that will pass, and only their depression is making it seem more hopeless than it is. In a large percentage of cases it doesn't pass, and the person isn't able to continue their life as a free person. A situation I hope never to be in, but I don't think the correct decision, if you're actually facing a choice of whether to go to prison for a long time or not, is obvious.

I can't say whether that was Aaron's own motivation, though, or how rational his thinking on the subject was.

Actually, I think you can do quite a lot from prison. Blaise Pascal famously stated that all of man's problems stems from the inability to sit in a room, alone, quietly. Indeed, many important actions have been taken from prison. But even if activism isn't your taste, but rather self-improvement, it seems like prison is a good opportunity to work on meditation. Indeed, meditation cells in the east are substantially smaller than a prison cell.

Personally, I wish Aaron (and Lessig, and everyone) had made more of a stink. I wish he would have threatened suicide, and then not gone through with it. Maybe swallowed some pills and then rushed to the hospital. That would have gotten attention, and it would have saved a brilliant mind.

If imprisonment just meant being confined, but in otherwise reasonably humane conditions, with decent access to reading/writing material, I could see that as a stomachable option. That's what the historical imprisonment conditions for the upper class were in many countries, and from what I've read is how Scandinavian prisons are run. But everything I've read about the conditions in American prisons does not make them sound humane. They are highly overcrowded, often have purposely punitive conditions (limited access to reading materials, forced labor, etc.), and your risk of suffering violence and rape is extraordinarily high. I don't think I would consider it an acceptable option. And the trouble is, you have to decide ahead of time: if you go to prison on a 30-year sentence and realize sometime while there that you'd rather be dead, it's difficult to do much about it at that point. Even the possibility of that feels horrible and claustrophobic: being stuck somewhere with literally no way out, not through any regular means (change of city, change of friends, restart your life), not even suicide as a way out. Just stuck there.

I think of it as "defense in depth". They can do whatever they want to your body. They can be cruel and abusive. But the psychological stuff, the horror that this is America, the horror at the wanton abandonment of anything like justice, these are the more serious threats. It is an opportunity to see through the illusion that we as a species, but I think especially as Americans, have about ourselves as honorable and good beings that hold people innocent until proven guilty, and which offers trial-by-jury to anyone accused of wrong-doing.

There is no doubt that life would have been the harder path for Aaron. But I think it would have been the better one for him, and for us all, had he continued to fight with every ounce of strength, physical and mental. I wish he had not given up in the face of even overwhelming strength and odds.

You shouldn't learn everything solely from media.

America has a whole range of prisons see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prison#United_States

The lower levels have plenty of reading material and even internet access. There is little risk of abuse from the other prisoners since they too are there for non violent offenses.

I agree it varies, but what I've read (not mainly from the media, but from government and academic reports) still doesn't paint a particularly pretty picture overall. For example, here is the Bureau of Justice Statistics on prison rape: http://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=pbdetail&iid=1149

And here is the Government Accountability Office on overcrowding in the federal prison system: http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-12-743

He was not incarcerated he could always buy a bus ticket and head over the border. In his situation that is what I would do, run for it. If they really wanted me they would have to spend a lot more effort getting me.

It could be that he had an electronic monitoring bracelet attached, and the police would be able to see his location from GPS and intercept him before he got there.

According to Lessig, he was broke -- and even if he wasn't, his bank might have been under orders to refuse a large cash withdrawal.

The police catch defendants who run away from trials all the time; they're professionals. He's never done it before, presumably made no advance preparations before being investigated, and presumably didn't hang out with a crowd that had experience with law enforcement tactics and effective countermeasures; he's an amateur. He might have judged the probability of success sufficiently low that he didn't want to endanger family and friends for trying to hide him.

That being said, even if there was a very low probability of success, he might have been able to take a risk-free shot by running as best he could, then suiciding if it looked like the police were closing in. If there's a 1% chance he escapes the police and makes it, and a 99% chance he's forced to suicide, that's better than just staying at home and committing suicide -- a 1% chance of living is still infinitely better than a 0% chance.

He might have been taking nonzero risk in this scenario that he wouldn't have been able to suicide successfully. E.g. the police surprise and restrain him before he's able to suicide, or are able to revive him and now he has to live on wounded, permanently crippled and/or brain-damaged in addition to his other troubles. This risk may have been unacceptable to him. It's not unacceptable to me, but then again, I'm not suicidal.

The electronic monitoring bracelet scenario could be gotten around by chopping off his leg. Losing a leg would suck, but it would be better than losing your life. Then again, that scenario also has a pretty high risk of a botched attempt resulting in an even worse position.

For me, when my life is on the line and it's double-down and probably lose, or sit back and certainly lose, it's a no-brainer: raising the stakes is the only option of the two even worth considering. But I'm not suicidal.

He was way over the level of intelligence of an average criminal, he had connections all over the world, he could most likely borrow few thousand $$ just based on his word from a lot of people and I am sure he was not considered a flight risk. I do not know I think he had a damn good chance. But again I am not suicidal either

Life is precious, even in prison. If Aaron had lived, and gone to prison, I'm sure he'd have made a difference there, just like he made a difference in the outside world.

>Depression robs you of the ability to: 1. remember happiness 2. feel happiness 3. anticipate happiness 4. make considered decisions

I've spent many hours thinking about how each of us can dig ourselves out of our dark places when we unfortunately get stuck in them from time to time; I don't think I've seen the core symptoms of depression expressed so succinctly in these few years since my own difficult times.

I spent Christmas week with friends in Hawaii, and I told my friend (who has lost an older brother to suicide -- so we talk about this sort of thing from time to time) that being conscious of "happy times" like this and making an effort to remember these great moments during our difficult moments is probably a key factor in preventing suicidal thoughts in us. He agreed.

If you react really negatively to the news of this suicide, one thing you can do is seek out company. I have basically been suicidal for years but I am rarely alone. I am actually pretty pissed off and disgusted by the bullshit I am reading on hn today. Most people are assholes most of the time, then someone commits suicide and they try to say something nice for a change. A forum I belonged to posthumously reinstated a former member whom they had banned. I thought they were assholes. They couldn't be supportive while he was alive but he committed suicide so now they have to find some way to make peace with the reality that they were assholes to him while he still lived. Suddenly, the faux niceties come out. Try being supportive and tolerant to the living. The dead don't need your bullshit fake nice words. They are beyond helping.

I may need to start a blog post. I am sure hn isn't interested in more of my cranky ranting about what is very normal behavior but which I happen to think is completely shitty behavior.


If you are at risk for finally offing yourself because Aaron did, try to avoid being alone. Suicide usually occurs when one is alone. Never being alone is a big part of why I am still alive, in spite of having abundant reason to say "fuck you, world, I have had enough of your shit".

I just see a lot of people talking about cognitive behavioral therapies. I guess it's one of the differences in the "psy" area between the US and Europe where psychoanalysis is more widespread.

I've also known some deep depressive years (after my mother committed suicide). The cure has been to read ( Nietzsche mainly), to embrace it, to listen to my brain, to little by little understand it. Understanding that depression is a pure symptom of our humanity : it's the moment you loose meaning in your life ( as Nietzsche says, the Human being is the only animal who needs meaning to live ). And then, you realize that the meaning of your life can only come from one source : yourself. We are easily trap by the need of approval, the need of existence within the eyes of the one who surrounds us. These approvals do not exist and are only projected, forecasted, approvals, it's our own devils. We are free to put whatever meaning we desire on our lives, as long as we respect others. Life is a permanent challenge to ourselves. This is the reason this is the most beautiful journey... Life is short anyway, let's make it a beautiful adventure. There is nothing to lose, everything to gain.

I also found Nietzsche uplifting when some time ago I was "loosing faith in humanity"... but I never thought it a good idea to recommend him to anyone else as it seemed quite bad for one's mental health on the whole, though it worked great for me... I'm glad there are others that found inspiration in these writings :)

Psychoanalysis has never passed muster in a randomized clinical trial. When it has even been submitted to a trial, psychoanalysts have never accepted it, and they have not cooperated in carrying out such trials.

This is significant when Freud held his cures to be the primary evidence for his theories - and review of his published cases mostly found he was wrong about them.

If someone I loved were depressive I would seek out therapies which provided some real reason to believe they worked, not pseudoscience. Being European shouldn't mean that you reject science in favor of something which seems more local.

Thanks for posting this. I too am alarmed at the HN community's response. It is surprising how such strong talent can feel so powerless- you'd think hackers would be less susceptible to giving up given that we can change things with our bare hands. It's easy to give up, it's incrementally harder to say "this will pass", it's hardest of all to snap ourselves out- slap ourselves in the face and remind each other of the immense privilege we all were born into, and see problems in the world with a sense of duty and responsibility, not despair. Honestly- I'm a bit shocked at the sense of entitlement people have of life sometimes, expecting happiness to be delivered on a platter (or via API). Life is a startup, it is a fucking war: keep busy and fight the good fight. If we're on HN we're already in the top 1% - if we have problems we should get out there and do something about it.

>> Depression robs you of the ability to: 1. remember happiness 2. feel happiness 3. anticipate happiness 4. make considered decisions

Just a friendly reminder that depressed people cannot, for the most part "snap [ourselves] out." If the solution was to double down and power through I'd have cured my own depression years ago.

The shitty thing is that it's a long-living subconscious emotional drain. It's a downward slide that for me happened so slowly I didn't even notice until I'd lived at the bottom, completely burned out on life and barely functional for two years. It's not only a mental disorder, it's technically called "psychomotor depression" because it will by degrees affect mind and body in a downward spiral.

I've never lost sight of the bigger issues, the disorder and opportunity for change in world-at-large, but it's impossible to make meaningful progress toward /anything/ whilst waking up every day with a gnawing emotional emptiness and pain thrusting itself into the center of my consciousness. It's care about those bigger issues and for my family that has kept me in this world.

My point is this: whether you mean to or not, you suggest that people can get themselves out of depression. In general, this doesn't happen. Therapy, medication, and support of friends, combined with healthy living have begun to move me forward in my own struggle.

I hope to see in my lifetime an elimination of the social stigma of depression. We're not miserable entitled bastards that need a reminder of our incredible opportunities. We're folk who feel sad and whose brains work in a way such that we can't always see the way forward. That's all there is to it.

Thank you for this, I've been meaning to author something similar, but I'd choose the exact same words.

After 20 years of depression my death was averted by the words "I'd rather see you institutionalized than dead." Two weeks on the psychiatric ward and an ongoing series of changes later, I now lead the happiest life possible. You can, too.

So now, I give these words back to the community. I don't know who you are, but with all my heart: I'd rather see you institutionalized than dead.

I am very happy those words changed your life.

But personally, I would rather be death than institutionalized.

Why people need to feel so depressed to commit suicide? I don't understand. Programmers are supposed to be rational, non-emotional. Take it easy. It's just another day in the universe. It doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things.

I believe you are taking good mental balance for granted.

Remember that 'you' are running on top of a very complex biological computer consisting of billions of neurons, with hormones and other chemicals influencing its operation. It needs to constantly be supplied with nutrients and oxygen to function at all.

Sanity is actually a finely balanced thing. You need to worry about the appropriate things, but not too much, and not too little.

Little tweaks to neurotransmitter levels can have enormous effects on your cognition.

Edit: in addition to what the OP had said, also remember this: When you are well and truly depressed, you don't even want to get better. You don't want to feel good. Some part of you is fine with pain and suffering, and more pain and more suffering.

Actually I have read studies that indicate that depressed people have a better grasp of reality and that the state that we consider normal is the state of a slight delusion.

depression is not rational, it's an illness, it just happens ..

The first two parts of your sentence are correct. The last one not necessarily correct. Depression can be caused by a chemical imbalance. It can also be caused/exacerbated by your own thoughts and approaches to life. It doesn't just happen it has causes and is correctable and in many circumstances is preventable.

I think the general point you were trying to make is good. Depression can crop up in the best of us. But acting like it's unavoidable and just something you have to live with is perhaps not the best way of approaching it either.

Oh, I guess he just wanted to point out that it 'happens' just as 'flu' happens or any other disease: it is not something that you try to get and in most cases it is hard to prevent.

I previously struggled with intense depression that lasted about 4 years. At the end of the four years, I had a realization that was so powerful that I haven't entered a period of depression lasting more than a week in the subsequent 4 years. My hopes are that this story, and the lesson learned by the end of it, may help others. In addition, its important to state that this is my story as it happened. I am one man, with one limited perspective on the world. I do not claim to know the details of everyone's situation and therefore do not pass judgement on their decisions regarding a very serious topic.

The story goes like this... In senior year of high school I 'formalized' my atheism. I'll save those details for another day, however, it suffices to say that I was confident that I was drawing the correct conclusion about the nonexistence of god. In thinking about the implications of a godless universe I realized the vastness of time, the insignificance of myself, and how nothing actually mattered. There is (or so I thought) no reason to do anything at all because its all going to be washed away in time. My drive to carry on vanished. Everything was futile, hopeless. Nothing I did mattered so why do anything at all -- why feel happy about anything at all?

I constantly thought of suicide. The ways I'd do it, the statements I'd try to make with it. It was an awful time, and it was all right in the middle of my undergraduate college experience. This continued on for a couple years as I tried as best I could with school while investigating how other people are able to cope with the magnitude of this concept. The reality I found was that most people don't cope with it, or rather, they cope with it by never even considering it. That only made things worse of course, everyone I'd talk to about this had almost nothing to say.

One day I decided I'd actually go through with it. As I lay on my bed I thought to myself "Alright, its been long enough. I've felt terrible and thought of suicide for years now. Either I'm going to man up and get this over with, or I'm just going to keep dreaming of doing it every day." So I bullied myself into finally committing to finish it, and there was a sense of relief. I asked myself why I hadn't decided to do it sooner. That was when I made the most fantastic discovery of my entire life, but first, some other things you should know.

During this time I was also struggling with being gay and, as a gay computer scientist myself, I found Alan Turing very interesting. It struck me as awful that he died in 1954, not long before The Beatles, free love, and the full onset of the civil rights movement. Just a few more years and he could have lived in, and possibly even helped to shape, a much more liberal society.

When I asked myself why I hadn't decided to do it sooner, I realized it was because I was never sure. I always hoped that I would find some clue that would change my mind. So I thought to myself: am I sure now? Do I have conclusive evidence that killing myself is the right thing to do? Am I certain there won't be some dramatic unforeseen shift in circumstances that would improve my life and make me not want to kill myself (like Turing missed out on)? No, I was not absolutely certain that life had no meaning.

We know so little of the universe and theres no way that any of us can be absolutely certain that suicide is the best choice without research that would take hundreds of years in understanding physics, the mind, and probably fields that don't even exist yet. Its possible that life does indeed have a purpose and we simply don't know it. The optimal thing to do is to continue on and do as best we can to discover this purpose -- because if there is a purpose, then actively looking for it is the smart way to find it. If there isn't a purpose, then the time we 'wasted' in search of a purpose wasn't really wasted after all because theres no way to judge whether it was time well spent without an ultimate purpose.

Getting back to the discovery... Probably mere hours away from killing myself, I realized that there was no way to know if killing myself was the right thing to do. There may be something to live for that I don't know about -- some overarching infallible truth embedded in the fabric of the universe that gives life meaning. This was a powerful idea: I should not kill myself because there may be a purpose of life. Now I decided to not kill myself...but what should I do next? I had no plans; after all, I had expected to be dead later that day. Well, it was simple. Nothing mattered except the thing that had kept me alive: the potential for a purpose of life.

I realized that every bit of my life should be based on discovering the purpose that may be embedded in the universe. The most important thing, the driving factor in all aspects of my life, indeed my very own reason for existence and purpose of life was to discover the purpose of life. "The purpose of life is to discover the purpose of life." It is beautiful.

There are many questions and implications that come from realizing this purpose of being alive but for now this comment is long enough. If you're interested in hearing more, let me know. I've thought a lot about this and (in true HN fashion) am building some tools which use ideas that stem from this one. I hope that my story of how I walked right up to the precipice of death and decided to turn back to life helps anyone who is also struggling with such issues.

I'm glad it works for you, but I find it sad that atheism and life having no purpose depresses you. That life has no purpose effectively means that there is freedom. It is very scary, but we have to choose the purpose for ourselves.

What we "lose" (it was never there actually) is the belief in an external, all-knowing guiding force that somehow makes everything we do ok. However, there are still guiding forces you can choose to follow. They are within us.

Personally I think if there was such an external guiding force, it would make life meaningless.

>That life has no purpose effectively means that there is freedom. It is very scary, but we have to choose the purpose for ourselves.

I think that this is precisely what drives many people to insanity. We are not brought up to think that we are free. When we experience freedom (either intellectually or actually) we become overwhelmed. We quite literally don't know how to handle it.

We (in most of the West) are taught from birth that we must always subject ourselves to some authority. In the beginning, there was the parent. If we didn't please him/her, we did not survive. Then there was the teacher. If we did not follow his/her instructions, we were punished (regardless of whether or not our undirected pursuits were fruitful). Then there was our boss. If we did not execute tasks handed down from said boss in precisely the proper way, we were terminated. The fact that most of our (this generation's) parents were not entrepreneurial means that entrepreneurship was generally looked down upon. The "get a job, obey your boss" gene was passed down to the vast majority of us.

This all not even considering religious commitments (pastors, imams, rabbis, etc.). Or Government Officials, who we must subject ourselves to if we need social services of any kind. Then there is The Community, who indirectly pressure us to live as they do at risk of shaming and/or shunning. Then there is ... etc.

All of this is an incredible burden to bear for anyone. That is why most people don't explore this line of thought. Religion, workaholism, or familycentrism are all a whole lot easier than actually facing the void. If you've legitimately seen darkness and have decided to let it empower you, damn -- I commend ya. Most of us can't do it. Even Nietzsche -- who was pretty much the first to verbalize our secular freedom -- lost control in the end.

Life is what you make it. That doesn't mean it is a void, it means you have influence over how it turns out. If you find it scary, then I'd suggest you might want to look around you... there is a world that exists outside your head. Think about this conversation we're having, we've probably never met, yet I am more than just a thought that exists inside your head, I am a sentient being, and I am different to you yet I am your equal.

Whilst I cannot tell you what life means to you, I can reassure you there is more to life than nothingness. As Descartes put it "I think, therefore I am"... to me, in a funny way this is a precursor to duck typing, it doesn't really matter the form that life takes, if it resembles life then it is life.

>Life is what you make it. That doesn't mean it is a void

Life means nothing. There is no moral standard, universal ideal, or God to live up to or for. "Making" your life is painting a picture on a blank canvas. That is filling a void, and your saying "get out of your head!" is nothing more than your way of filling said void.

Regarding our conversation, yes, it is neat. However that it is neat doesn't magically infuse life with meaning. We are wherever we are, conversing, and life is still meaningless. I am still gazing into the void. And the void is still gazing back at you.

Regarding the cogito. That life exists in many forms does not give life meaning. The likeliest case is that life means absolutely nothing and that all there is is nothingness. We have no purpose here other than what we've invented for ourselves, and even then we have different conceptions of what that is. "I think therefore I am," and what next? That is the void.

Our wires are getting crossed here because of the differences in the use of the word 'void'. I'm saying the life we know is not devoid of other life, you are saying life is devoid of meaning. I think you accept that life exists, so the question moves onto what meaning does life carry...

There's an important point to consider here, and I hope you don't take offence... perhaps the reason you believe life is devoid of meaning is because you're asking the wrong question...

Let's consider the question... What is the meaning of a tree?

A person asking such a question has set out to find a succinct answer that fits with their understanding of what constitutes meaning. If they cannot find an answer, their conclusion is that trees are meaningless. However, this is us projecting our desires onto the tree, what we're really asking is 'what message do you have for me?', and message implies there was a sender of the message, so for those that do not believe in a higher power there is no sender of a message, so really you could predict the answer before its even asked (based on who is answering it).

Furthermore, it's important to understand just because a question is simple to ask, does not mean the answer has to be simple, or even mean there is an answer at all. Let's say I asked you... What do words mean? The question was posed in 4 words, and is a valid English sentence. However, when you think of answers, you see that the question is nonsensical, words don't have one meaning, each word has its own meaning. The same is true of the question... What does life mean? The English used to pose the question is valid, but the combination of words rules out any single answer.

Furthermore, there's a difference being meaningless and worthless. Going back to the tree example, if a tree was worthless the environment it existed in would not be changed depending on whether it existed. However, we can see that the tree has an influence on the world around it.

I've stopped the tree example there, because there's one more point that must be addressed otherwise this conversation is unlikely to progress. Whilst the 'meaning of life' question does not make sense, the reasons for asking it do, and that is to work out what we should do with our life. Whilst I still maintain that 'life is what you make it', I think it'll be helpful to share a little of my personal story and philosophy.

In 2012, I tried out a religious retreat, and whilst the people there were well intentioned, I reacted badly to it, which resulted in quite a bit of soul searching. Something that helped me balance myself what the teachings of Socrates, in particular that he was the wisest man because he knew one thing... that he knew nothing. This helped me change my perspective on life... instead of reaching up for answers about higher purpose (that I could never claim knowledge of), I instead chose to embrace the life I can experience now. I find value in enjoying life and in being a positive influence in the life of others. Seems like a perfectly fine approach to me, and you see I didn't need to find a universal answer to the 'meaning of life' question to choose this path either, your path is up to you.

As for universal ideal, perhaps the Golden Rule will suffice?

Thank you for reading this longish post.

Well said! I think I'm going to make this comment into a poster :)

Thank you for your positive comment. :-)

I'm atheist, and I find a godless universe stretched across the vastness of space and time exhilarating. I can do anything I want.


Don't know why you were downvoted, so I voted you back up. It would be nice if HN users used the downvote button to indicate useless or offensive posts rather than something they personally disagree with (particularly on topics with a wide spectrum of opinions where one's opinion is closely tied to his identity).

Its not surprising that it depresses me. You say "choose the purpose for ourselves" but how can one be absolutely confident they are making the right choice? If they are not absolutely confident -- then why would they let the guiding principles of their entire life be something they're unsure of?

Should they simply do what makes them happiest? No, most people agree that doing what makes you happiest is not an answer for everyone. Some people like to murder, and as a society we agree thats not acceptable. Everyone would feel good taking heroin, but that wouldn't be good either. Also, simply striving for happiness is messy - when do you go for immediate gratification and when do you strive for long term happiness?

Should people's purpose be helping others? Maybe, but there are problems with that too. Mostly, when do you help others and when do you help yourself? Perhaps if you helped yourself just a little more you could help a lot more people. But if you help yourself you stop helping others...so the advice of "helping others" really isn't a complete thought/advice. (Though, I do agree I like to help others.)

Honestly I don't know how anyone can place any value on anything without a purpose for themselves, and while many people have assigned purposes for themselves, I'm curious how they came to the conclusion that that purpose was the right one. So many people base decisions on what others do, or what feels good...and not many people sit down and think through the logic of it, I think.

So, back to my point about not being surprised that it depressed me: without valuing anything, nothing feels good. Art is seen, understood, and neither liked nor disliked. Comedy is seen, comprehended, but not fulfilling. Physical rushes are felt, experienced, and let pass. There is nothing to base happiness on because nothing matters. That is, until a purpose is understood. Its the most important thing of all and so any time you take a step that supports it, you can give yourself a pat on the back for doing whats right. The purpose I understand is to discover a purpose. Every time you exercise so that you can think more clearly and live longer, every time you build something or accumulate wealth so that you can better yourself and put yourself in a better position to make life a little longer and promote research a little more, or even every time you relax you can actually relax because you know all these things will help you in the long run. Its a deep confidence in knowing that I'm doing as best I can because nobody knows the purpose, if there even is one, and so the only way we can have piece of mind that we haven't wasted the little time we have here is by doing as best we can to figure it out.

I think you are mixing some things together. For starters, you should distinguish between a "life's purpose" that you set for yourself, and one that you assume for other people. You can only decide for yourself, not for other people. You may wish other people had specific values, and try to enforce them with violence, but you can not decide for them.

Next, you should distinguish between a goal or purpose and the means to achieve it. If you goal is to achieve world peace, it doesn't imply that you know about a sure way to achieve it, and you don't have a guarantee that the steps you take are the right ones. That doesn't imply that it is useless to try, though.

Ultimately, what I find sad is that apparently you need some external validation for your existence. You can not stand on your own. It is as if you were missing a leg - that would be sad, no?

I am not sure how to describe it better. I think if you are feeling emptiness and can't appreciate things, very likely the reason is much more basic than "a general lack of meaning in life". Personally I think it is much more likely that the root cause are emotional problems in your life, loneliness, not getting along with family and friends and stuff like that.

Good luck in finding your way!

The physical laws of the universe iterated for a long time to produce a way to know itself: the individual conscious being. The individual conscious being is the only part of the universe capable of exerting control over itself, and thus the singly most powerful object in the universe is you, except for the competition and collaboration of your fellow conscious beings. Your local basis for value is what is good for you vs bad for you. Abstract this to the basis for value to all individual conscious beings and you can see why preventing others from doing what is best for them by using force is bad. Not only would it trigger others to try to protect themselves by harming you, but it would also remove the benefits of collaboration.

My great fear is our brains (both individually and collectively) are simply unable to comprehend the universe in its true fashion....just like my cat cannot comprehend how a door opens by pushing on it.

There's a qualitative difference between our brain and cat's brain. We can do abstract reasoning, and with it we can "close over" ourselves and talk about how to improve. If we reach the point when we realize our brains are "unable to comprehend the universe" (and won't blow ourselves up before), we'll redesign our brains.

I hope this happens (the brain redesigning part, not the blow up ourselves part).

I find it sad that you find it sad. There is nothing sad about depression caused by the acknowledgement of purposefulness. Lack of purpose is sad.

I agree if you talk about a subjective feeling of purpose. It's depressing to feel you can not achieve what you aspire to.

I don't agree that an external power that prescribes some random notion of purpose is necessary.

Life has no purpose. It's just applied randomness, like everything else. This is difficult for the non-religious to swallow, that's why religion exists.

HN isn't a support network but I fully understand and appreciate your post.

If there is no God, then our lives are even more important, because those things we value as humans--like love, friendship, kindness, happiness, curiosity, and humor--only exist because we're here to value them. As Harry James Potter-Evens-Verres put it:

"There is no justice in the laws of Nature, Headmaster, no term for fairness in the equations of motion. The universe is neither evil, nor good, it simply does not care. The stars don't care, or the Sun, or the sky. But they don't have to! We care! There is light in the world, and it is us!"

Have you ever considered why you value what you do? You can't have a rational conversation and say doing whatever you value is justified by the act of valuing it.

Following your hypothesis, it's impossible to have a rational conversation about anything. Look at solipsism for goodness sake. We can't even know that anything outside our own mind really exists.

If someone chooses to define a purpose for their life, then can be perfectly rational in doing so. Inasmuch as we accept that there is a reality (which we can't definitely prove btw), we can accept any number of truths based on our experience in that reality.

You can have a rational conversation about anything as long as you don't use irrational arguments.

Solipsism proposes that the world is just a creation of the mind. However the only way to define the mind is in the context of the world outside of it. So no, the world isn't just imagination, and the imagination isn't just an artefact of the world. You can only define each one of them in function of the other. Just like you can't define good without bad.

No one I know has been able to define a rational purpose for their life. You can't have purpose to yourself, just to others. Either way it's an infinite purpose chain.

Find me anything in our universe that isn't, in effet, an infinite chain of purpose (or cause, if you will).

Just because the "purpose" of the cosmos is irreconcilable with the purpose that one being defines for themselves, doesn't mean that purpose is nonsensical.

I use the word nonsensical over the word irrational, because there are many things in the world which you would term irrational. One of them is the emergence of intelligence (yes, you can rationalize this as an evolutionary adaption, but the basis of everything is irrational, so who cares?). Irrational though it is, we are still, to some extent, rational minds trapped in this irrational world. To dispose of any presupposition as irrational, simply for the sake of logical consistency, is an irresponsible way to live.

It is neither rational nor irrational to live as a solipsist. It is simply an axiom on which you base the rest of your rationalizations. Choose your axioms wisely, and the world will unfold accordingly.

I think you mean't "To dispose of any presupposition as irrational, simply for the sake of logical consistency, is an responsible way to live." Not to, is irresponsible.

As an agnostic, I've found that the philosophy of social contract works well to explain where values/morals come from.

Excellent quote! I couldn't agree more.

I like Viktor Frankl's solution to this apparent conundrum: the purpose of life is to find a purpose.

If you haven't read his book, I would highly suggest it. It's called "Man's search for meaning". He was a holocaust survivor, suffering through perhaps the most pointless of tortures, and he developed a philosophy that not only brought him through the situation, but has touched millions of lives sense then. I've never known a prominent motivational speaker/life coach/happiness expert who hasn't read this book.

If life doesn't seem to have a purpose, it's because you haven't created one.

Thanks for posting this. That phrase is the conclusion I came to in the parent comment of this chain. I have not heard that phrase elsewhere though. I wonder if he means it in the same way as I do? I'll have to check out his book.

Can you prove it?

His whole point is that there is no conclusive evidence that there is no purpose to life, and there will never be if there is none to be found, and that is precisely why the only way to find one is to keep looking for it.

Specific religions as we know them have nothing to do with this. Indeed, even he said he had logically convinced himself there is no God. It doesn't all have to be about God-in-a-book.

What would it even mean? What if the purpose of life is to build as many feeling entities as possible and kill them all at once in a slow and torturous way, so as to maximize the amount of pain that can be dealt in a single moment?

What I mean by that example: even if life had some purpose (for whom, set by what?), why should it be a purpose you agree with? Why would some external purpose override your own values?

If the purpose of life is to "build as many feeling entities..." then that is what should be done. You see, it is the way that we arrive at our understanding of the purpose that convinces us that it is right. By using the scientific method we can feel confident that we have discovered truth. Science provides us with evidence for why we should believe things and when we have evidence we have two options: we can either be rational and change our beliefs based on evidence, or be irrational and ignore the evidence. The type of "purpose of life" that I'm talking about would only be discoverable by intense scientific activity. It would be like the laws of physics: so undeniably true that you'd be a fool to not believe them. That said, I think your postulated "build as many feeling..." purpose of life is particularly unlikely. However, because no one has ever seen the purpose of life before, we must be careful to not rule out things prematurely, no matter how absurd they seem. I imagine most people of Darwin's time were so set on the idea of creationism that evolution was inconceivable, thankfully Darwin saw through that.

This is the first time I've publicly posted about this, and I'm glad to see that someone (you!) understands it. You're comment is spot on. I'll add a bit:

Venus says life has no purpose. After venus makes that statement, what does venus do next? Lets say it is some action, X. Why did venus do X? Well, because of Y1 (Y1 could be 'to sustain living' or 'to be happy' or 'to help others'). Ok, but why is Y1 important? Because of Y2. Ok, why is Y2 important? Because of Y3. And why is Y3 important? And so on and so on...and eventually there is no answer because venus believes life has no purpose. Any action venus takes, at its core, is illogical without a purpose.

So that is why I am saying that I was depressed: everything I did was meaningless, I had no idea what I should be doing. Then I realized the most important thing I could be doing was figuring out the most important thing I could be doing. If it turns out that venus is right, and there isn't a "most important thing I could be doing" then the fact that I wasn't doing "the optimal thing" doesn't matter because there isn't an optimal thing to be doing and I can be confident that I gave it my best shot.

Firstly, thank you for talking about it - I do not mean to argue with you about your own thoughts. But I think differently.

When I said life has no purpose, I didn't mean it was futile or nihilist or anything else. I mean that words like "purpose" simply do not apply. Purpose is an anthropological term and is meaningless in this context. To what "purpose" do mountains rise, volcanoes erupt, meteors explode in the sky? It is inappropriate to try to find purpose in these things. Purpose is a human concept.

This applies to life too. We are here because we, by whatever crazy turns of chance and happenstance, are here. There is no other answer; indeed that is not even one. We may be wiped out by a meteor tomorrow and the universe cares not one whit.

Why, you ask? Who on earth are you asking? There is no "why". Why did the coin come up heads or tails? Why does someone live and someone else die in an automobile accident? Why is that rock here, and not over there? There is no "why". For there to be a reason, someone needs to have thought about it, and there is no someone. There are causes and effects, yes, but no "why".

So what do we do next? We do what we are programmed to do, after thousands of generations of trial and error - we love one another, treat each other with kindness, some of us screw up, but mostly we try to pull together to improve our world and the lives of the people we love. Because that is all we are, animals with organic computers for brains and this is the program we are running, and there's no "why" for that, either.

These types of responses always reek of the need to be right (thus claiming very important Internet Points). Or, closer to home: "I've given up looking, and so should you."

Purpose is essential. You can cut it out, claiming you're somehow above it all, but you're cheating yourself, ultimately.

> Can you prove it?

There are depressingly few subjects in the world amenable to anything like what the mathematicians would call "proof".

I have no "proof" of anything philosophical. No-one does. But in my experience, laymen banging on about "proof" are likely doing so in defense of some ludicrous belief whose nonsensical tenets they loudly invite all comers to "disprove" - an impossible task. Let's hope you're not one of them.

I can prove you have no purpose to yourself. If you say you have purpose to yourself, you then ask: but then what's the purpose of myself? You enter infinite recursion.

You can only have purpose to others. Life can only have purpose to something else other than life. Does that other thing matter?

> Life has no purpose. It's just applied randomness, like everything else.

What makes you so sure of yourself? Smarter people than you have both believed and not believed in a greater purpose or in God. It's something that's been debated since man has existed, yet you seem unusually... certain... that you are correct.

> This is difficult for the non-religious to swallow, that's why religion exists.

If every human's behaviors and motivations were so simple as to be summarily condensed into one sentence like this, things like depression and suicide would also be easily assessable.

EDIT: In what strange circumstances is a post that says "Life has no purpose" upvoted, and mine -- that says "How can you be so sure of yourself?" -- downvoted?

I'm sure smarter men than myself believed the world is flat, or that leeching drained bad humours, lacking as they did proper knowledge or even a proper way of reasoning. But we do not lack for these things today.

The reason I sound sure of myself is because all of supernatural religion is impossible. It is all impossible. It is against every single thing we understand about the physical universe and, should evidence emerge confirming any of it, all we knew should be upturned - but that has not and will not happen because there is no evidence whatsoever. What would you do with a theory in total conflict with every other (working!) theory you have, and with absolutely no evidence in its favour?

Show me any evidence, at all, that any of it is even remotely possible, at all, and I'll promptly eat my hat, your hat, any other hats around, and join you at the altar. Until then, it's nothing but a bunch of ludicrous superstition.

This won't convince you (and in fact I never try to convince anyone), but if you're curious where someone with a scientific mind who also believes in God is coming from, perhaps this can at least give you a little insight into why we think what we do. I wrote this a few days ago:


Life has no purpose.

Bullshit. We don't know how long life lasts, nor whether supernatural purposes or intentful[0] beings exist, nor what (if anything) is after. That does not mean there is "no purpose" to it. It is its own purpose.

Personally, I am most in line with Buddhism and think reincarnation is likely, and that mind (consciousness) itself is a first-class citizen, but existence doesn't have to be eternal to be meaningful. In fact, if a finite existence were meaningless, then an eternal one would be meaningless and infinite, which would be far more undesirable than death.

[0] "Intentful" is not a dictionary word, but nothing else captures what I am trying to say so I am justified in making a word up.

I agree with many parts of Buddhism but sorry pal, reincarnation (and heaven/hell) is totally BS. You have been cheated and ask yourself a question? Do you remember what happened before your present life? No? Then how come what you do now effects your "future" life that doesn't even care about your present life. Reincarnation is unfalsifiable(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falsifiability), which means it is as believable as the Flying Spaghetti Monster(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spaghetti_monster) And you could also ask how you are even reincarnated to a human when the probability of being a virus/bacteria is several magnitudes larger? Accept life does not have a purpose, and all that exists are patterns, consciousness itself is only a complicated pattern.

Do you remember what happened before your present life? No?

Not in this state. The forms we take are conditioned by our karma. One aspect of the human form in this world is the inability to remember previous lives until extremely high spiritual states are attained, and even that latter bit is questioned by some.

The karmic effects and impulses continue on, invisibly. The memories (and much of the personality) die with the body. This is not a satisfying answer to some, but it's the most realistic.

And you could also ask how you are even reincarnated to a human when the probability of being a virus/bacteria is several magnitudes larger?

That discussion could go on for days: which lifeforms are sentient and which not, whether human birth makes future human birth more likely, etc. For sure: human birth is rare. Buddha compared it to an ocean with a wooden ring on it, with a turtle who rises to the surface once every 100 years. Human birth is as rare as that turtle surfacing inside that ring.

well put

The objective of life is dying.

The journey is the purpose.

Thank you for your candidness. I hope you discover your true purpose one day. I suspect it is the net result of digging for it for decades, and that it is one of the most important aspects of our life. All the shit (I rarely curse, but it is apropos here) people obsess about - money, power, fame - is but a pale shadow next to the feeling of working toward one's purpose.

I have only a faint idea of mine, and it involves helping people and probably making things.

Atheism should not depress you, some religions are atheistic like Buddhism. If you don't see a reason or purpose for life, then make some for yourself. Don't let evil people win who push you towards suicide. I know the feeling I've been bullied and abused by people who told me to kill myself. But I refuse to let them get to me anymore.

At least live for friends and family members who care about you and want you to live. That has to be some sort of rational reason to live right there. If not then find a irrational one like live to see what is new in comic books, movies, TV shows, technology, science, medicine, etc. Just live to see the new stuff come out and enjoy it. Some people live with no known reason or purpose to live, they live because they are alive.

You define your own meaning to life, don't let others force theirs on you. That is your rational reason and rational purpose to live, to find meaning in life. See you are on a quest to learn that, so live it the best way you can without harming others.

Your journey sounds somewhat like mine. Reading too much of Albert Camus and HP Lovecraft didn't help in looking to the bright side of things. Two key findings for me: 1-I am here to help making a better next batch 2-I am one of the myriad of consciences that the universes uses to watch itself and understand. So it is pretty much normal that there are tons of weird unknowns and unsettling things going on. No need to commit suicide just because I see no meaning in all of that. Note: It was close for me to just go away from my own hand, I was hit twice by a car, and about died from peritonitis.

I am also glad that everything works out for you. I have recently read a story posted on my university (UBC)'s compliment facebook page. I think it is very similar to your own story. I want to share it with you and all the people on HN. I hope this story could inspire all of you the way it has inspired me.

I tried to post the story here but it says my post is too long. I will just post the link to the story below. http://www.facebook.com/UbcCompliments/posts/222319324569761

I really like your thought, that "The purpose of life is to discover the purpose of life". I'm not atheist, although not very religious too and I'm not person who feel any happiness, really until now I can't define what happiness is, if happiness is about money, relationship, social interaction, belongings, success, etc. I will disagree with it, I can feel 'happy' when I'm read some papers, re-proving theorem or coding. I don't know if this kind of 'happy' really a happiness or just my brain that make this things a happiness.

What specific actions have you taken in order to discover the purpose of life since you decided you set yourself up to do it?

I think this is a good question. My first conclusion I drew as an undergrad was that since I cannot currently grasp the purpose, I need to put myself in a position where that would be more likely. My grades went from just barely passing to near 4.0. I knew I needed to do well in school so that I could learn more, so that I can be more valuable to others, so that I may obtain more wealth and influence, so that I can have the ability to do more things...and perhaps one of those things would be discovering the purpose.

Since no one before has ever extracted the purpose from the fabric of the universe, I knew I needed to be able to do things that none, or very few, have been able to do. I decided I cannot lead an average life. Even if the average life of an American in the 2000s offers much more than an average life even 100 years ago, my rough estimations suggest that this still isn't enough to find the purpose.

I also went about abolishing my depression. Depression served no purpose other than to limit me by sapping energy, making me disinterested in things, and disinterested in people. I forced myself to find meaning in things based on what they meant to my new ultimate goal, that is, discovering the ultimate goal. With a goal in mind that I actually believed in, I could feel happiness and accomplishment every time I took a step towards it. The depression ended.

I studied what it is that makes people successful. It appears to me that being valuable to other people is central. Luckily I'm already fairly smart, because large scale success (as opposed to just being successful in your social group) implies a higher bar of ability since your social group is now "the world". Being smart is good, but isn't quite valuable to other people in a large way. So, I'm developing tools to help people improve their lives and simultaneously aim to elevate myself by elevating other people.

The final piece I feel I should share is that eventually, my ability to search for the purpose will run out. Specifically, I mean death. However, unlike previous generations, my generation has the luxury of believing (through medicine and technology) that there is a small probability that we can escape death far longer than those who've lived before us. I am torn about how to approach this. Should I drop everything and go study medicine and be a direct contributing factor to possibly escaping death, or should I gain wealth and influence and promote research through those means? I have decided on the latter for now. It is a bet, and its one I'm unsure of. In the end, though, if it becomes clear I'm on the verge of death... I can at least have piece of mind that I did as best I could and have no regrets for the way I spent my life.

Either there is a purpose or there isn't, and I will find it or I won't. If there is a purpose and I find it, win. If there isn't a purpose and I don't find it, then things like 'win' and 'lose' don't make sense because there is no way to be doing the right or wrong thing without some purpose to judge it against. If there isn't a purpose and I do find it -- thats not possible. If there is a purpose and I don't find it then, while perhaps its sad that I missed out on discovering it, I can rest assured that I've done everything in my ability to discover it, and hold no blame on myself for not living more optimally / doing the right thing.

Do you know philosophers can prove you that can't be a purpose or that just the simple act of asking for one doesn't make sense?

I'd like to add that I went through something very similar, although on a smaller scale. The prosecutor was charging me with ridiculous things, giving me the option to plead guilty or go to trial and keep appealing until I went broke, and ending up in jail on top of it.

When I read Aaron's story, I understood exactly how he felt. I felt like killing myself so many times. The prosecutor destroyed my family, my livelihood, my reputation, my life. And there was no "victim" either. I was completely alone at the end of it.

I'm on year 2 of starting again, and I'm telling you it does get better. A lot better.

I hope that Aaron's story sheds some light on the lack of empathy, and straight up bullying the prosecutors employ against vulnerable people. They went harder on me when they found out I lost my job. They are bullies, plain and simple.

I too am concerned about the Werther effect.

Traffic on reddits /r/SuicideWatch has exploded. [1]


Just as a heads-up, his last name is spelled "Swartz".

Argh! Thanks.

I also spelled my name wrong. I'm actually "Pitarou" rather than "Pitaroua". Post in haste, repent at leisure.

I am currently suffering from a depressive episode. I am diagnosed OCD/ADD/Motor tic disorder... I also am in recovery after an addiction to oxycontin. I must say, reading the news was very sad, but at the same time, I know why he did it. I CAN understand why someone would do that to themselves, b/c I have considered it myself. But, I always remind myself that these feelings are transient and I will have good days.. You can't take life so seriously, you need to live and laugh regardless of who you are and how smart you are. Like the force of gravity, depression knows no socioeconomic boundaries -we are all susceptible to its effects.

The "rationalist" approach that I use is to consider :

- death is a final state

- it always happens, sooner or later

- there are ways to alleviate pain, whether physical or moral (drugs and such)

- suicide is a capital sin

Even if death seems or is a better option, it makes sense to wait for it (and even to hope for it - there are really bad moments in anyone's life).

And if you do not believe in god, the first 3 items are good reason enough to wait, and a valid 4th one can be :

- suicide means killing perfectly good organs, than in other situations could have save many people needing transplants.

Feelings and emotions are fallible, especially during depression, a disease of our emotion-processing system.

Here's another way for hackers to think of it:

- Depression is a failing test suite.

E.g. it's a signal that there are bugs, and they need fixin'. What do you do when this happens? Give up on the whole project? NO! You dig in, dig deeper, and figure it out. Yes, it is a matter of ego, at least at first.

That's what meditation is for. I like http://dhamma.org but there's others. It works.

Yes, this is quite difficult to convey and to explain but some times it seems like you have to just stay on and believe that it will pass.

Because it will pass.

But the hard thing is to believe it and that is where help is needed, I would say.


Somone sent me this when I asked about a programming problem, "The 0th step to solve any problem is to make sure you really understand the problem statement. If you are unable to understand what you read, seek help, you really need it." It triggered suicidal thoughts and I've had many in the past but those times a very kind person got me on better thoughts. But I don't want to waste his time anymore, and I don't want these thoughts either. Is there anyway to stop them?

It takes work. It's about listening to your pain and guiding your life away from it. I can't emphasize that enough - pain is a profound teacher. It tells you when you need to fix something. It takes work to understand pain, and then to pursue its solution.

Well, the problem is that I don't have anything to be proud of. All things I've really worked hard with I do without progression. I've tried to learn programming, failed. I've tried to get abs, failed. I've tried to get girlfriend, failed. And I still trying but now after years and years I feel so worthless...

Language is stronger than you imagine. When you tell yourself "I have failed at X," you are telling yourself that it is no longer possible. You stop trying, and your lower mind stops presenting you with ideas for how to proceed or potential opportunities to pursue and learn from. Reframing is a powerful technique, both when dealing with bad thoughts and with other people. Change your internal language to something along the lines of "I have an incorrect assumption about X that is preventing me from achieving it. It is worth it if an experiment for achieving X doesn't work out, because it has a good chance of yielding information that will help me get there eventually. I want X because in learning how to achieve it, it will make me feel A, B, and C."

You are far from being able to say that you have failed at anything. You are making ridiculous assumptions that bring you endless suffering for as long as you hold them. So stop assuming so many things that both prevent you from improving and make you feel helpless. You are feeling pain but you aren't listening to the assumptions about reality that it is trying to educate you about. The pain will continue and most likely become worse until you put in the effort to understand it.

Suicide Hotlines (USA): http://suicidehotlines.com/national.html



Please if you are depressed or suicidal seek professional help.

It's a repeat of what others have said, but thanks again for posting this - much of the comments in the other thread seemed to be.. unhelpful, if not downright antagonistic.

I'm currently going through CBT and on multiple meds. None seem to be working and my uni life suffers, as does my work life. Having no social life and no friends doesn't help. Yet I keep at it. Life is full of so many possibilities, so many variables that I have yet to consider. I hope when next it comes time for me to contemplate my existence, I can hold on to that hope for an unseen, unspeculative future.

I'd also like to add one more thing Depression robs you of: Self worth.

Good post, don't let any news affect your judgement of what you need to do in life.

At the same time, the general attitude towards suicide makes me even more uncomfortable being alive. I don't feel ill and it seems really condescending to say that I haven't been in my right mind much in years. I find it really consoling that some time I'll happen to die or get around to killing myself.

To me, suicide would bring immediate advantages. I'd never feel bad again. I'd never be happy again too, but that doesn't bother me and I wish it wouldn't bother you either. It's fine to say you feel uncomfortable with others killing themselves and it's definitely important to consider that prior to committing suicide, but please don't claim that not killing myself would benefit me. Maybe you think that's an example of my inability to make considered decisions/judgements. To me it just resembles any other moral or political argument where calling either side mentally ill doesn't help.

Suicide is wrong, usually. It just affects the people around you way to much. But for me and many other people it would also be really awesome.

Good post, but it is much more difficult to believe in "this will pass" when you could be sentenced for 35 years.

Quite so. But I don't think he killed himself because he feared prison. I think the fear of prison caused the depression, and the depression led him to kill himself.

It may seem like I'm hair-splitting, but it's an important difference.

What kept (and still keeps) me running: I don't want to let the suckers win. I want to see the movie of my life for as long as possible, no matter how wrecked that could be. And record yourself when you are okay. Play the movie back to yourself when in the dumps. It helps.

Watch out for "I used to be happy, those days are gone." you need to remember the repeatable happiness, that you can look forward to.

Actually, you just need to trick yourself into committing to seeing or doing something in the future, repeatedly.

True. I'd add: stop thinking the brain doesn't need help. It may be linked to a chemical imbalance. I have got to help my serotonin circuit or it will just get bad. Diet is really having a huge effect on emotions as far as I am involved. When I reached 40+, it went downhill and I needed serious supplementation to keep up. Aaron has serious diet related challenges. It didn't helped for sure.

The main thing to realize is that it can be a long process but it WILL pass. To be honest, I'm not sure when it disappeared from my every day life, but after one of my therapy sessions I looked back at the last six months and realized it had gone and I was actually happy. Previously, I had become convinced that it would never leave me, and that it was just a part of who I was. In fact, I was even at the time attached to it and didn't want it to leave as I was convinced that it was where all my creativity came from. Looking back I realize that it now only hindered it.

Things do get better - just make sure you get help as no one should do it alone!

As somebody who flirted with depression before, I can assure you that what I'm feeling now is pure, unadulterated rage.

The world was robbed of a genius by petty bureaucrats and greedy, hypocritical "non-profit" profiteers. This is obscene.

> TL;DR If Swartz's death is triggering suicidal thoughts, you must understand that this will pass, and life will be worth living.

This is a common refrain but it won't always really pass. Our society is so harsh at times (mainly due to you-know-who type of people), with the damaging effects staying strong until death, that leaving can be a reasonable choice. What I wish Aaron had done is left in a different way, perhaps to a country with no extradition treaty with the US. There are few of those places left however, as the US tightens its depraved grip on the whole world.

You misunderstand. I didn't say that the troubles would pass. I said that the depression would pass, and that life would become worth living again.

I don't know. I've been coping with chronic depression for over a decade and I'm absolutely sick of hearing "oh, you're still young. It will get better". Reading that just pushes me towards the edge.

Even if I was to be "cured" somehow—is living half a life of misery worth living half an enjoyable life? Not to me. No amount of "happiness" can offset the misery.

I know everyone means well but it might not have the intended effect. At least not for me.

You don't know what will happen. That said, you're getting angry because those words are dismissive of your current situation. You are being invalidated.

Personally, the thing that gets me is when people say stuff like "God doesn't give you a burden you can't bear." That's survivor bias if I've ever heard one - the people who didn't survive the burden aren't really around to quibble, are they!

Instead of telling you it'll get better, I'd tell you this: learn to stop thinking. It sounds weird, but it's possible. It doesn't mean go catatonic, it just means learning to recognize the thoughts that resonate with your negativity, and moving your focus away from those. Technical detail: there are actually two layers of thoughts, those that resonate, and then a deeper layer that seeks that negative resonance. The default state of the human brain is no-thought. If you can experience that for even a moment, you will feel relief. Then you can see the old thoughts return, like an incoming tide, and you can choose to not focus on them. That's the key: those thoughts that resonate so negatively, so strongly, require your focus to have power. If you acquire control over your focus, then you have denied those thoughts power, and you are free.

What you do with that freedom is a whole 'nother ball of wax. :)

Check out http://dhamma.org for some donation-based intensive meditation training (called vippassana). It requires a tremendous amount of will. The fact that you're still alive probably means that you have that will.

> You don't know what will happen.

You're right. But I do know life in general will always be difficult for me. Say I knew for certain things would get better in 10 years. I don't if I could wait that long.

> Instead of telling you it'll get better, I'd tell you this: learn to stop thinking. It sounds weird, but it's possible. It doesn't mean go catatonic, it just means learning to recognize the thoughts that resonate with your negativity, and moving your focus away from those. Technical detail: there are actually two layers of thoughts, those that resonate, and then a deeper layer that seeks that negative resonance. The default state of the human brain is no-thought. If you can experience that for even a moment, you will feel relief. Then you can see the old thoughts return, like an incoming tide, and you can choose to not focus on them. That's the key: those thoughts that resonate so negatively, so strongly, require your focus to have power. If you acquire control over your focus, then you have denied those thoughts power, and you are free.

Huh. So, I can choose my thoughts and get out of this mess? Not sure if you really believe that or trolling.

> I do know life in general will always be difficult for me.

Life is always difficult for everyone. The thing about depression isn't that it makes life easier or harder. (Lots of illnesses do that.) It's that it robs you of your perspective -- you only see the bad things.

> Huh. So, I can choose my thoughts and get out of this mess?

Not easily, no. If you could, you'd have fixed yourself long ago. But there are techniques you can learn. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, mindfulness meditation, and so on. They really work.

Here's a simple trick that's as old as the hills. When you're facing a psychological obstacle (e.g. "Why can't I write this letter? Why is it distressing me so much?") write down what you're thinking and feeling. The act of putting it in words allows your conscious critical faculties to enter the loop, spot some of the erroneous subconscious beliefs that are screwing you up, and shoot them down.

>Huh. So, I can choose my thoughts and get out of this mess? Not sure if you really believe that or trolling.

Well, not trying to troll anyway. The best metaphor I can think of is this. You have a desktop, and a bunch of malware keeps popping up, blocking the screen, steeling, well, focus from keyboard and mouse. The work that you want to be doing is obscured. It's frustrating, angering, even depressing, because even your terminal session is obscured, preventing you from finding and deleting the malware. Note that within this metaphor, you cannot turn off the machine, or ssh in from a known good computer (that would be telepathy, heh). What do you do? You have to be patient. An vigilant. And not get mad. You have to close each window as it comes up. New ones keep coming. It seems never ending. But as long as the rate of closure > rate of new windows, eventually you catch a glimpse of your terminal window! Eventually you get to type a character in there. Still they pop up, but you handle them. They steal focus for an instant, but by now you've grown adept at closing them.

Another remarkable thing is that as you get better at closing the malware windows (the negative thoughts) the rate of intrusion decreases, which actually makes your job easier. Eventually you may go for long periods without a single unwanted popup.

Of course, the actual experience of a thought is far more organic. It's more like the popups fade (or ooze) in from the edges. You may not notice it. But when you do, you close it, and carry on.

The Buddhists have all kinds of explanations for what the malware actually is - they all mind malware is written in a scripting language called "karma". I'm not sure about that, but it doesn't matter, really. Your job is to keep clicking close, hitting CMD+W, until you've got a clear desktop.

Oh, what is the desktop in this metaphor? Actual, physical reality. The experience of breath, for example. Or sitting in a chair, or walking, or typing. All experiences which, devoid of unwanted popups, are actually intrinsically pleasant.

It's hard to get started, though, because you've probably lived for many years with nothing but popups, and the desktop seems like a fiction. I suppose that's where a little bit of faith (and not a little bit of moxy) comes in handy. Good luck, my friend.

I know hardly anything about formal meditation, or any formal theories on managing depression for that matter, but I would submit that there is truth to javajoshs' larger point, at least as I read it.

A big part of managing my mood is to do something like what he says. I don't know if you can, with enough work, literally choose your thoughts---I certainly still can't. But you do have some amount of control over your attention, and you can train yourself to have more. You can learn to recognize your negative thought patterns, to pick out when your thoughts are trash, and to let those thoughts float away, rather than latching on to them. You can learn not to focus on them and not to wallow in them for hours, days, or weeks. Once you are more adept at letting these thoughts come in and out of your conscious attention, you will find that there is again space for happier, more constructive thoughts---latch on to these and they will multiply.

I still can't avoid the occasional storm, nor can I be sure that the full-fledged, incapacitating, depression won't come back sometime, but I feel that I have made great progress. I'm much happier than I was a year ago, or two years ago. I think such a strategy could help a lot of people, and maybe you too. It is, however, hardest to learn how to do this when you are in the midst of a depression. Progress is slow, and requires the sort of effort that is painfully difficult to muster, when you often can't even summon the concentration to bathe or eat. You have to go one step at a time. You can't put too many expectations on yourself, as painful as it is to accept that you will lose even more time to your depression. You can't rush it. But, after a bit, you will (I think---take all this with a IMO at the top) start to feel like you are building up a resistance to your depressive thoughts, and the momentum will pick up. One day you have a feeling, say of really-moving-empathy, for the first time since you can remember. After a little more time, you look back and realize you were more or less happy all week. Then maybe a week turns into 6 months.

I understand your skepticism, but I urge you not to be so dismissive. Other people have been through what you are going through, even though it doesn't feel like it is possible. Those who have recovered probably don't fully understand what led to their recovery (I don't), but they do bring back some insights. Everyone on this thread is just trying to express those insights. We can't say exactly what would work for you, or even fully express what we experienced, but if you dig deeply enough, I think you will find a lot of truth in much of the advice offered. I think there is a lot of truth in what javajosh said. I guess your response just struck a chord with me, because it sounds so much like me. I remember being dismissive of everything, because I felt like I had tried everything, and I felt like no one really understood. When people said anything like "You just need to choose to be happy", I decided that they were just callous or obtuse. While some of them probably were, I'm pretty sure some of them understood. It’s just that there is this barrier--- in the same way it is hard, while you are depressed, to remember being happy, it can be very hard, while you are happy, to remember how painful it was to be depressed. Perhaps this barrier can be a goal?

Anyway, something in you does have to "decide" to get better, to learn to manage the depression. I'm not sure "choice" or "decide" is the right way to say it, but sometimes language is a blunt instrument. It's more like slowly learning to commit yourself, in each moment, to attending to your thoughts. It's like learning to guide or steer your mind, as well as you can with the handles you can find, to a better place, all the while searching for more and more handles. I hesitate to use words with negative connotations, but language is a blunt instrument, so I'll say sometimes it even feels like manipulating yourself, or conspiring against certain parts of yourself. In this process, you have to accept that there will be many failures, and you have to practice tenacity---learn to keep getting up (and then getting up gets easier!).

In the end, I don't know your personal struggles. Perhaps they really are far more intense than mine. And I tried really hard not to sound dismissive of you, myself. But, I really want to urge you, and anyone else who is really down, to try to glean from what I, and others, have written. Try to tease out what it is that we are trying to say. Please just give it a shot for a week or two, instead of reflexively lashing out. I'm not trolling you, and I don't think javajosh was either.

I wish you the best of luck with all I've got.

> is living half a life of misery worth living half an enjoyable life?

Yes, it is. Like I said in the original post: I swear that life is worth more than you can possibly understand when you're depressed.

Thank you for this post and helping to get the word out.

Fortunately common suicide logic, which should be defeated whenever it comes up, doesn't apply here. Aaron had extenuating circumstances. Those that are shaken because you thought Aaron was too strong for this: you're probably still right. There are plenty of smart people like Lawrence Lessig and Cory Doctorow who have cited the very real threat of a long prison sentence as a factor.

If all the encouragement isn't doing it for you, this one helped me: Your death won''t stop the pain - you won't feel any (if you're lucky - there are many more failed attempts than successful ones) but your family, your friends will never recover. At least you can handle it - too many people don't understand what it's like to live with the pain, think about them before you go.

"Your death won''t stop the pain ... your family, your friends will never recover"

This thought has stopped me from attempting suicide more times that I can remember. Fortunately, the one time that I did try was a failure, and the reactions of my family were enough to make me vow to tough it out, no matter what.

Aaron's family and friends have my sympathy. The truly creative lead troubled lives, because they see what could be, not what is. He was truly creative, and acted on his beliefs.

I have been trying really hard to fight my own depression for the last 5 years, and this news hit me at a particularly low point. I really want to thank the OP for posting this and helping me derail some suicidal processes I had running since discovering this. I really need help, but I am not in a position to get it, so thank you for helping me live just a little bit longer.

That really means a lot to me. I hope you'll be in a position to "pay it forward" some day.


I think this is the stage where the religion or faith come to rescue. We in life faces things where you find no logical way out other than looking for someone who we believe is superior than us. We surrender to that force and try get calm as much as we can.

Possibly. I was deeply religious for most of my life, but that unraveled about seven years ago.

I would love going back to that life. My father is a pastor, and he and the Christianity and Christians I grew up with were the 'good' kind. If I were gay, he'd be one of the first to know, for example.

The problem is that being a Christian without actually believing any of it is 1) difficult, if not impossible to keep up, and 2) less effective, perhaps almost ineffective.

And I can't just 'will' myself to believe it, unfortunately...

Is it possible to have a rational discussion on suicide without it offending someone's own will to live?

Is there a natural law that suicide breaches, is this why it upsets and offends so many at the thought?

I'm personally of the deep belief that suicide is an option. And it's also something I think of at times. I think of suicide when I'm up, when I'm down... but generally never when I have a struggle and something to fight for. I think of suicide semi-frequently and always have.

I view suicide as an option because I don't believe in afterlife, or that life is a gift (from whom? we're supposed to be thankful how?)... life and personal existence is a bizarre improbable thing, we are here but nothing follows and nothing will remain of us in the grand scheme of things.

When you know life is fundamentally irrelevant, that we are but a speck of dust... what's the difference between a span of 40 years and a span of 80 years?

I like to think that life should be qualitatively lived, struggles endured in a constant hope of experiencing a high-quality of living.

Is there anything so deeply flawed with viewing my life as being mine to do with as I please, and also acknowledging that if I come to some point that a remainder of my life would be lived in misery that I might choose to exercise a right over my life to end it on a qualitative high?

I don't find that these arguments differ greatly from those in terminal illness (whom most would sympathise with), but like many things that are unseen (mental illness, emotional state, state of happiness or sadness)... the unseen seem to be accepted as being unreal, fixable, unacceptable.

Yet there are times that suicide can almost be thought of as noble. When a lover dies and the lone lover pines so greatly and finds that they cannot continue to have any quality of life without the other person.

I don't believe that I've ever been clinically depressed, and am a very optimistic and hopeful person. Yet my reasoning isn't offended or appalled when I see reports of suicide, and nor could I make a claim that I would never consider it. It is, for me, part of living... as death is for everyone... and as we ponder death beyond our control, I also ponder death within our control.

I find it hard to comprehend the reaction of others to stories of suicide that seem to follow misconceptions about someone having to be depressed, or the time of year... I don't think suicide is the product of a person with a fault in some way, I find it to be a rational thing.

In the West, the vast majority of people who kill themselves do so as a direct result of depression. Their perceptions distorted, and their decision-making skills are impaired. If you find this "hard to comprehend", then perhaps you should re-examine your assumptions.

The vast majority being 75% ( http://www.csun.edu/~vmd53178/misconceptions.htm )

Which still leaves a quarter of suicides by those not clinically depressed. Hence my argument that generalising depression as the cause of suicide without knowing the individuals involved is a gross generalisation that is in itself offensive to the 25% who are not depressed.

I've known two people reasonably well who committed suicide. One was a family member, the other a good friend. Neither was clinically depressed, or even occasionally so.

Both had attempted to have rational discussions on it in the many months and years before... hence my question: Why is it that we can't seem to have rational discussions on suicide?

If you think there is a rational case for suicide, fine, but I really wish you'd discuss it elsewhere. The purpose of my post was to nudge people who are affected by irrational thoughts of suicide out of that state of mind. Pro-suicide input (rational or not) is the last thing that such a person needs.

Organisations such as the Samaritans in the UK (which runs an emergency help line to support those feeling suicidal) explicitly do not denounce or avoid debate on suicide.

I haven't got a pro-suicide position, I have a rational position that accepts suicide as an option. And in my life it's been an option I've considered at times.

Yet, you would have people who have had suicidal thoughts think that they were irrational, and that they must adopt an anti-suicide position.

The very best thing that anyone can do with those with suicidal thoughts is listen. Not judge, not prevent the debate... and my point now very strongly and bluntly made, is that people are fundamentally unwilling to listen, or have any real debate.

Thanks for posting this, Pitaroua. It is really well put and important stuff for people to know.

== Ross ==

Kill oneself? Why the hell would I do THAT? Yes, humanity sucks. Yes, people are swarms of mindless creatures. Yes, the law is not fair. Yes, politics sucks. Yes, pollution is bad. Yes, children curse and get worse with each generation. Yes, everything is more or less pointless. But I don't fucking care. Life is too good to be being rid of.

And there still are chances I might once again would want to live on this planet.

How I feel about Aaron's (or whoever's) death? I don't fucking care. Seriously. Get over it. He accomplished as much as any other of us (don't ever underestimate yourself) -- it's just very subjective. And he was weak enough to kill himself. Don't think any person committing suicide is worth the praise Aaron is getting.

The fact that HN's front page is full of links more or less related to Aaron's death makes me sad and disappointed and not want to live on this planet anymore.

I can't tell if you're trolling or not but I'll bite.

If just to say that describing mental illness as "weakness" is abhorrent. You wouldn't say someone with a malfunction of the kidneys, heart or lungs was "weak" would you? Then why is it okay to say it about someone whose brain is not functioning as it should? What's the difference?

I don't think I ever was in a depression, but my understanding is that it is akin to a mental illness. You simply cannot understand what it feels like unless you were there yourself. Would you tell a schizophrenic person to simply get over it and ignore his hallucinations.

I'd also suggest anyone that has ever faced depression or currently is facing it checks out this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GGp25fn25Cs

Thank you for this.

Depression at any level is very real and very serious. Most people will tell you to talk to friends and family. You will be alone, it will be hard; but most importantly, you will be OK. It does get better.

I wonder if Swartz ever had to deal with that as a kid. He was well-regarded within the tech community before he was a teenager. Maybe he skipped the awkward depressing phase most of us went through and landed straight in success. So new adversity was very uncomfortable for him.

Argh. I hate this. I disagreed with him on so much but I wish he were still alive to argue with. :(

This Kid, and he was still a kid, accomplished more and ended his life in less time than I've been alive. Both a motivator, and a tragedy.

Remember Happiness.

It is good to know there are others with my thoughts. Sometimes I feel like it's only others that keep me going. Nothing about myself.

Life has been shitty to me. I've attempted suicide about 13 times and failed. I decided not to attempt suicide anymore as my survival meant the universe (even God) didn't want me dead yet and there is more to learn and more to do in life for me.

Since a young age I've been bullied and abused by my peers (if you can call them peers, children can be mean and so can adults) and it drove me into a depression. I vowed I would not become like the bullies, and took a stand of non-violent citing that "Might does not make right" and after being beaten up for a while for not fighting back I took up martial arts to defend myself. I learned how to avoid fights and how to defend myself without seriously harming the other person.

Eventually I got into computers, when every other teenager was out getting drunk or stoned, I was writing programs on a Commodore 64 (The only computer my father could afford for me and my two brothers, and I got laughed at for not being able to afford an IBM PC or Apple //) and kept track of my brother's baseball statistics for one of my first programs (saved to a Datasette cassette drive, before we could afford a 1541 Floppy Drive) and I wrote other programs in BASIC as well.

Before I left for a university with record ACT scores, so I didn't need to take the SAT to get in (Combined ACT and SAT scores were required and my ACT score along was high enough) my father bought me a Commodore Amiga 1000 with the 5.25" external floppy drive and the PC-Transformer software (to run MS-DOS programs) and a 1200 baud modem. I joined a fraternity and half the guys were nice and the other half just hazed me and bullied me and harassed me and finally I took up under-aged drinking and smoking cigars. I feared what I was becoming as I developed a hubris that I knew everything (it was the alcohol talking) and so I left to take up college elsewhere.

I went to a college earned a degree, worked in their computer labs and helped out students. It was nice, but not ideal.

When I was working I was always picked on and bullied and harassed by managers and other employees. No matter what job I had, I was always given more work to force me to quit, etc.

I had a job as a programmer, big salary lots of benefits, I did really good work but was bullied, harassed, and abused, and management did some of it as did other employees. Finally from the stress of a toxic work environment I developed schizoaffective disorder. After that I was on short-term disability and when I came back I was fired two weeks later for having a panic attack at work because they moved me to an open area near foot traffic and a book shelf and people walked by and mocked me and laughed at me.

Any job after that I was just hired to take them to the next level and reach goals, and after that fired. I was mocked, abused, and harassed and bulled at those jobs too.

Eventually I ended up on disability, too sick to work.

I am doing my best to get better and try to get back to work. I am working on some ebooks and trying to write programs again, but due to the emotional, psychological, physical, traumas I developed writer's block, so my work goes slow.

I was able to finally clear the negative thoughts out enough to write a Fibonacci Sequence in ANSI C on GCC under Ubuntu 12.10, I wrote psuedocode in a paper notebook and ran the code in my head and wrote the variables down on paper to debug it. Then I wrote it in under 15 minutes on Ubuntu. It isn't much, but at least I was able to do something. That much is worth living for.

I have a wife and son, so I live for them as well.

Well said, and thank you for posting this. Really

I'm going to put my thoughts down here.

The sections will be: Work Escorting and sexuality Drug and alcohol addiction Family Attention What I want The plan


I work as a software engineer. Well, I would, if I was able to hold a job for more than 6 months without the company getting tired of me. I'm good at what I do. My bosses love my output. I have open source projects and contributions. Even on my first programming job at a startup at 18, the CTO was shocked on my first day. Repeat that shock for every job. But the companies get tired of me because I have a reputation for coming in to work straight from nightclubs, drunk, drugged up, tired, needing to snort coke at work just to stay awake and productive.


As said above, I can't hold down permanent work. One nice thing I have going for me is that I'm a young, pretty good looking girl. I don't look my age. I look 15. Men love that. They get off on me being their little girl and them being my daddy who want to fuck their little hot teenage daughter. The sex is boring for me. I like girls. I went through a long period of not knowing if I'm straight, lesbian, or bisexual. I think I like men but only in the sense of having a "daddy". I have a real birth dad of course, but I want a "daddy" - that older guy who looks after me, loves me, helps me get through my early twenties, gives me advice. I suppose this is what people call "having daddy issues".

Escorting can go really wrong. Sometimes clients beat the shit out of their hookers. It's only happened to me once, thankfully. I got tied up in a dark room and beaten and whipped. On the positive side, getting beat up escorting builds character. It makes you really, really strong. I can take a ton of abuse from other people (but not in my own head).


It's debatable whether I'm a coke addict. I don't desperately need it, but I want to use it. Thanks to being a hooker, I get lots of easy and free access to cocaine. I use 2-3 times a week.

Alcohol is what will destory me. I used to be a teetotal, innocent, quiet, shy teen. Now I'm an alcoholic, confident, loud party-girl with an arrest record of "Drunk and Disorderly", "Drunk and Disorderly", "Drunk and Disorderly". I love vodka. I need vodka. I have two bottles in my fridge right now that I'm going to start pouring once I finish this letter. I'm having a quiet night in (been out 4 nights in a row now) so will drink myself to sleep.


They hate me for reasons I won't go into.

Shit, this is the hardest bit to write. I've been typing non-stop for 10 minutes and now I'm unsure what to say and hesitating.

My mum... she doesn't want me anymore. I know she doesn't, even if she says she loves me. She never shows appreciation to anybody for anything. My dad worked hard to provide for my sister and I (because my mum hasn't worked in decades, lazy bitch). My first memory of my dad was when he took me to a party that his workplace threw for the children. I was the shy one who was too scared to talk to anyone. He eventually dragged me out and into the car and shouted at me. I was a fucking disappointment, obviously not (yet) the outgoing loud confident child everyone would prefer. I wish they had just got a divorce instead of the constant arguing they've had since before I was born. I was desperate to move away from home because I couldn't take their arguing anymore. Now when people argue in public it still upsets me.


It makes me happy. It didn't used to, because I was such an awkward kid and teenager. But now I fucking love being the center of the dance floor; the one up on the stage; the naked girl; the one guys talk to in clubs and pubs.

I was at a gangbang last night. I was there through an escorting contact. I was the first person to get naked and fuck. And then I just didn't put my clothes back on. Walking around nude and having the men look and me and wank at me was what I wanted -- attention. I wanted to fuck the other girl, though.


A secure job. A better flat (my current place is a tiny studio). Not having to suck dick to afford things. Not having alcohol withdrawal symptoms after just 48 hours sober. A family.


Obviously, because this is a suicide note, the plan is suicide. The question is "when" and "is there anything I want to do first?". Suicide has been the plan for as long as I can remember.

My first genuine suicide plan was two years ago. I was going to travel South East Asia, spend all my savings having fun and fucking hookers (haha, but I've become one! twist!!). And then die. That didn't get executed - instead I ran away to another place and just did nothing.

Like I said in the "Attention" section, I enjoy that and it makes me happy. So maybe I should just seek that out. I was reading a story earlier - http://longform.org/stories/little-girl-lost - go read it, it's good - and this story is about a girl who ran away to Los Angeles to seek out fame. She got the fame. She became one of the biggest porn stars of her era. Then she shot herself in the head at 2am.

Another thing I read earlier - http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/13/magazine/here-is-what-happ... - about Lindsay Lohan. She still gets acting gigs despite being a crazy bitch.

If they can do it, why can't I? I could run away to LA, Hollywood, whatever. I'd have a go at trying. I would be homeless but I have enough saving to last a year. If it doesn't work out, I can end it all. Finally end it all. It would be a relief from my stress and problems and this suicidal voice in my head that's taunted me for my whole life - which is ironic because I wouldn't get to feel the relief, because I'd be dead.

There are two kinds of addiction: physical and psychological.

Pure physical addiction is easy to fix. You just reduce the dose slowly enough to keep the withdrawal symptoms manageable.

Psychological addiction is much harder. Psychological addiction is a bit of your brain screaming, "I know how to solve this problem. Go out and get drunk / wired / naked right now!" And it works -- you feel good for a while. The habit becomes so ingrained you don't even notice the triggers -- just the compulsion.

On a deeper level, you have other habits of thought -- automatic assumptions and emotional responses baked in from childhood. These are the cause of the distress that led you down the path of addiction.

There comes a point when these coping reflexes cause more distress than they alleviate. You're reaching that point now, and you recognize that you're tipping into a crisis. So now you have a real choice: plunge forward, or step back from the brink.

Perhaps the best thing for you to do is to find an environment devoid of all the triggers for your compulsions (no vodka bottles or horny sugar daddies) and someone who can help you examine what's compelling you. Maybe some kind of spiritual retreat? I've mentioned this before, but Cognitive Behavioral Therapy really is effective.

Whatever you do, don't give up on yourself. And don't go to LA -- that town already has more than enough crazy bitches.

My email is in my profile, drop me a line.

I live and work in London, I lived on the streets for a while, I have a shit family (which I frequently regard as no family)... and ultimately, I have the same plan but constantly deferred as I also seem to have a qualitative view of life and an appreciation for the simple things... I've found peace enough that today is a day worth living and tomorrow worth waking up to. It's years since the bad stuff, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

I also am a programmer, have a startup (own company), and if you need to talk to someone who might comprehend, I'll do that. Won't try and talk you out of the plan, because it's my plan too... but there's a lot of reason not to execute the plan today, tomorrow. Take each day like that and you can get a lot from life.

Oh, and startups... I know mine doesn't watch the clock on employee hours, but then I'm busy coding Sunday evening. It's possible to find a stable job that helps you transition through the addictions into stability.

Also saw this in a post below as another option

Suicide Hotlines (USA): http://suicidehotlines.com/national.html 1-800-SUICIDE 1-800-273-TALK Please if you are depressed or suicidal seek professional help.

Yeah, it doesn't sound like your life is that horrible objectively, and could easily improve. It sounds sound objectively empty, and you could easily be depressed in addition to that, but "empty" isn't the worst thing in the world, and isn't permanent, unlike death.

Why not just contract (so the 6mo thing isn't a problem), and ramp down the coke/liquor. Other than that, it sounds like things will get better with time, just a few years. Also it sounds like you're in the UK or Europe; GTFO and move to the US or something.

Hollywood or LA is a bad idea; SF or NYC if you want to be a SW engineer (which will probably make you happier and more fulfilled than being Lindsay Lohan).

"ramp down the coke/liquor"

It's not that easy. Tried to quit before and I can't last more than 48 hours without hallucinating.

"SF or NYC if you want to be a SW engineer"

Would love to move to SF, but like you guessed I'm in the UK (London). Getting a visa is very difficult.

I didn't say cut it out -- just ramp down. Lower quantity, and do alcohol/coke in "boring" ways, like medicine, vs. associating them with fun stuff. Or, replace with somewhat less destructive drugs (alcohol abuse is way worse than coke, IMO, except that coke is illegal)

Do visa waiver for 3 months, and work for cash/informally, or as a contractor. I'm sure you can figure out a way to stay past that. (if a company really likes you, they could help) Or, Vancouver, BC is probably adequate. If you're otherwise going to kill yourself, I don't think pushing the limits on a visa is a big deal.

The other thing would be get into a US university. If you can't get into a top-tier school, go to an ok school in an interesting location (I'm not sure how they do foreign students, but even something like Foothill College in the Bay Area would get you near a bunch of startups).

I have survived clinical depression and drug abuse, including long term suicidal ideation, plans, and gestures. I will talk to you, if you want. Email in profile.

As a computer programmer, I know that you are solving so many logical problems day by day. Think of this situation as a code block or project. You know that in every second of every project, you can always start from scratch. And sometimes, starting from scratch is the best way to keep up with hard times. I hope you find a solution, and make it last a whole life.

Sounds like you need help, or help finding help? Suicide is not the answer. I don't know who your are or where you live, but if you need help just email me, you can find my email in my profile. I don't know exactly what I can do for you but I will try because I know this post is a call for help.

I need contract coding work at times. I can send that to you if interested? Also willing to help in any other way I can. I'm in US and can point you to people/places if you land here.

hey amy, this thing is more powerful than coke http://www.dhamma.org/ please give it a shot!

quick read about it -> http://www.urbandharma.org/pdf/mindfulness_in_plain_english....

email me whenever you want to chat

in the end, it's a good thing hope's a double-edged sword

Thanks for posting!

Beware, there are no respawn points in RL.

Incorrect; witness every uterus on earth.

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