Are You Suffering From Depression? Learn to Enjoy It!

by Khan Amore 2002, Permission to reproduce is granted, provided that acknowledgement of authorship is given.
Yes, life sucks. So what are you going to do about it? If you’ve tried anti-depressants
and counseling to no avail, what options are left? Suicide is probably the first solution
that comes to mind. Indeed, quite a few of the ancients chose to end their suffering with
dignity when it was clear to them that their situation offered no chance improving — no
chance of becoming bearable. Recall Marcus Antonius and Cleopatra, for example. But
today suicide is illegal, so it would be illegal even for me to suggest this as a “viable”
option. If you kill yourself, you have committed a crime, and although any punishment
that the authorities might impose on you after you’re dead may not seem like much of a
deterrent to you, I could in theory be locked up with jail-house sodomites for inciting
people to commit a crime, for under the law, anyone who “counsels, commands, or
encourages another to commit a crime” is himself guilty of the resultant crime as an
“accessory before the fact.” * This is one of the reasons why I’m not recommending that
you kill yourself. The other reason is that I care about you. Yes, I know we’ve probably
never met, but I feel not only a sympathy, but an outright affinity for the down-trodden,
the suffering, and the despondent. You see, I’ve spent so much of my life at the verge of
suicide that I feel fellow sufferers are kindred spirits to me. Moreover, the suffering and
the despondent seem to me much nobler, much more humble, and consequently much
worthier of respect, than the arrogant “winners” of the world — those who are without
sympathy because fortune has smiled upon them and they have never known suffering —
or those who live in denial of life’s injustices. Only those who have known suffering are
capable of sympathy, and these are the people that the world needs most. Although I
know this is a selfish reason, I’m hoping you won’t kill yourself because only those who
understand suffering are worthy of being a friend, and I don’t want to lose a potential
friend. Still, I can’t stop you. It’s up to you. You are the captain of your destiny. All I
can say is that if you’re going to kill yourself, do it right. Don’t increase your suffering
by overdosing on some over-the-counter medication, only to puke your guts out, damage
your kidneys, liver, brain, and maybe go blind, or spend the rest of your life in a coma, as
a vegetable. The only acceptable reason for suicide is to end your suffering, not to
increase it. I spent years researching the best way to kill myself, and I’m willing to share
my findings with you (although I am hopeful that when you have read what I have to say,
you will have reason to choose to improve your life.) Back when I was researching how
best to bump myself off, electrocution initially seemed promising, for, as an organ-donor,
most of my organs would still be usable after death by electrocution, but I felt it would be
necessary to build a special device to achieve the desired result. I reasoned that the
standard 120 volt household current wouldn’t be enough, because I have received such
shocks before and I’m still alive. On the other hand, if I were to use a higher voltage,
(such as the 2000 volts used in the “electric chair”) I would have to add some sort of
timer to switch off the power supply after my death so as to remove the hazard of
unintentionally electrocuting would-be “rescuers,” and to avoid any possible arcs which
might start a fire. After all, I didn’t want to cause trouble for others; I just wanted to end
my own suffering. In the end I decided against electrothanasia for two reasons: 1) It was
too complicated and hence too unreliable, because in order for my organs to still be of
use to anyone I would also have to build a device that would automatically call an
ambulance and deliver a pre-recorded message a few minutes after my death, and 2) I
thought it would be irresponsible to risk burning down the house in dispatching myself,
and furthermore, it would be rude to create a situation where others would be finding my
corpse — I simply didn’t want to do that to anyone, least of all to loved ones. Carbon
Monoxide initially seemed promising, too. The exhaust from gasoline internal
combustion engines contains from 3% to 7% carbon monoxide, an invisible, odorless
gas that combines with hemoglobin in the blood to form carboxyhemoglobin, which is
incapable of carrying oxygen. When absorbed into the system, carbon monoxide causes
edema of the brain, liver, kidneys, and spleen, damage to the heart and nerve cells
(especially those in the brain) and eventually, death by anoxia. In addition to these
wonderful effects, carbon monoxide has another rather serious drawback: It takes a long
time for enough poison to be absorbed for it to work. Concentrations of over 1000 parts
per million cause unconsciousness, respiratory failure and death if exposure is continued
for more than 1 hour. But in that hour, the victim suffers headache, shortness of breath,
nausea, irritability, rapid respiration, and chest pain — not to mention choking on the
many other (smelly) components of the exhaust gases — and if the victim is discovered
by “rescuers” in that hour, the victim can often be revived but may then have to go
through an even more miserable life with permanent central nervous system damage. A
former acquaintance who used to be a police officer once related to me the story of how
she had been called to the scene of a “suspicious” parked car. A man had driven into an
alley, hooked a vacuum-cleaner hose to his car’s exhaust pipe, and run the other end of
the hose into his car through a window which was open only far enough to admit the
hose. When she arrived at the scene, she opened the door and shook the man who was
slumped over his steering wheel, and, much to his annoyance, he woke up. It seems, not
knowing how long it takes to kill oneself in this way, he thought he had enough fuel in
his tank for where he was going, but he was mistaken, and he ran out of gas! I don’t
recall whether the man was charged with attempted murder (of himself) and locked in a
cage with a sex-starved sodomite, or whether he suffered permanent damage to his
central nervous system, but I learned from his story that carbon monoxide is a less-than-
ideal way of dispatching oneself. In my search for the best way of doing myself in I
discovered a great medical reference, the Handbook of Poisoning, by Robert H.
Dreisbach — a physicians’ compendium of toxicological knowledge that features
information about thousands of poisonous substances, including lethal doses of even
common substances. For example, in this book it is stated that the seeds of apple, cherry,
peach, apricot and plum all contain cyanogenetic glycosides such as amygdalin (a.k.a.
“Laetrile”), that release cyanide on digestion, but they are only dangerous if the seed
capsule is broken. I remember reading somewhere the story of a man who, when he was
told that apple seeds are poisonous, indicated that he knew they were in fact safe, for he
had been eating them for years. When he was told that they are only poisonous when the
hard seed coating is broken, the man wanted to prove to the deluded fool just how safe
apple seeds were, so he ground up a quarter cup of apple seeds and ate them in this way,
instead of merely swallowing them as usual. Yes, you guessed it — the man promptly
dropped dead of cyanide poisoning! Thinking that this would be a clever and expedient
way of dispatching oneself — even if one were on suicide watch — I focused my
attention on death by cyanide poisoning. I had of course heard of cyanide. Who hasn’t?
Spies used to be given cyanide capsules to bite on when they wanted to “check out”
without delay, and it is said that even Hitler killed himself — with Teutonic thoroughness
— using cyanide and a bullet to the brain. Cyanide-laced Kool-Aid was also the poison
used by the Christian zealot, the Reverend Jim Jones, to take his 913 followers with him
to the “Promised Land”, at the 1978 “Peoples Temple” mass-poisoning near Port
Kaituma, Guyana. While reading about the cyanides, I discovered why they were the
poison of choice. It turns out that almost every poison has very unpleasant side effects,
and consequently dying by poisoning is often far more unpleasant than the life one is
trying to escape. Mind you, the cyanide salts can have unpleasant side effects too: if the
dosage is too low (around Median Lethal Dose) it may take up to four hours to die,
during which time the victim experiences dizziness, choking, anxiety, confusion, rapid
respiration, vomiting, headache, frothing of the mouth, convulsions and spontaneous
incontinence. But when the dosage is sufficiently high (i.e., 10 times the Median Lethal
Dose, or anything above 20 milligrams of cyanide per kilogram of body weight) then the
cyanide salts become mercifully fast and symptom-less — you pass out almost
immediately, and you’re dead within 1 to 15 minutes (usually within 5). There are
antidotes (such as sodium thiosulfate) but they are not too useful, for the antidotes are in
themselves toxic, and cyanide works so fast that those receiving a high dose of it are
likely to be dead on arrival at the nearest emergency room. Fine, so cyanide (in high
dose) is the poison of choice for bumping oneself off — but where does one get it?
Surely, you can’t go down to your local drugstore and say, “I’d like to buy a bottle of
poison — what the heck, let’s make it cyanide. Will you take a check?” Although I felt I
had found perhaps the best orally-administered poison, this knowledge would do no good
if the poison wasn’t available to me. The problem was solved when I happened upon an
old chemistry text, General Inorganic Chemistry by Sneed and Maynard (D. Van
Nostrand, 1942), which gives the chemical formula of the Bucher Process for preparing
sodium cyanide from household ingredients. Armed with this knowledge, I now had the
power to prepare the suicide poison of choice, anywhere, at any time. Because only an
intelligent person would have read this far, I am prepared to entrust this knowledge to
you. … (obsolete link removed). One Mafia
hit-man used to dispatch his victims by “accidentally” spilling a saturated solution of
sodium cyanide on them, say in a bar, and the victims would succumb later without ever
knowing what hit them, for, so poisonous is sodium cyanide, that even the small amount
which can be absorbed through the skin is enough to kill a man. You might be
wondering why I am making public such diabolical knowledge. It’s because it seems
likely to me that, if there are intelligent murderers reading these words, they probably
already know not only this, but many other ways of killing — ways that would never
occur to most people. The information is already out there, in every decent chemistry
text. Only nice people who would never dream of hurting anyone are unlikely to already
know this. And since knowledge is power, it is my hope to empower nice people with
that which is already known to unscrupulous types, so that nice people may be less likely
to fall prey to the nasty ones. Anyway, back to suicide … As it turned out, at one point I
became sufficiently despondent to use the Bucher process to make sodium cyanide, but in
the end I didn’t take the poison, only because my parents convinced me that killing
myself would be tantamount to killing them — that killing myself would be a selfish act
that might diminish my misery, but only at the expense of increasing theirs. Believing
their claim that they live only for their children, I found myself stymied — unable, with a
clear conscience, to end my misery if to do so meant hurting them. Held in check thus,
either until their feelings toward me change, or until the end of their days, I have been
unable to test the home-made cyanide, so I am unable to vouch for the effectiveness of
sodium cyanide made via the Bucher process. But then, if I had used it and it had worked
as well as expected, I wouldn’t have been able to vouch for its effectiveness then, either.
All I can say is that, if you’re going to be killing yourself, you should at least be
considerate enough not leave your corpse to be discovered and disposed of by others.
Just because you’re suffering is no excuse for leaving a disgusting mess for others to deal
Perhaps the most principled way of dispatching oneself, is by making it look like an
accident (but of course an accident which harms no one else.) This puts less of a burden
of shame and guilt on loved ones (if any) and I won’t even mention the fact that it may be
possible to end one’s own misery in a way which would benefit loved ones, via life
insurance. After all, life insurance companies look very carefully at suspicious accidents
resulting in large pay-outs. As a long-time skydiver, I sometimes thought that a quick
and easy way of ending my life would be by simply not pulling my ripcord. Yet, even
though I’ve made around six hundred jumps, I’m still on this side of the top-soil, so
“bouncing” (as skydivers call such a death) must not be a very good method of suicide.
Given hundreds of opportunities to quickly and easily end my life, why am I still around?
Perhaps part of the reason was that I didn’t want to ruin everyone else’s day at the drop
zone, especially the poor guy who would have to go out to fetch what was left of my
body. But the main reason is that, when you take to the skies you leave all your troubles
back on Earth. When you’re in freefall, all of life’s woes fade to insignificance far
below, and you find you’re having so much fun that, suddenly you want to live — so you
can go up and do it again! One thing seems certain, though: If you have a death wish,
skydiving will surely cure you of it, one way or the other, because when you’re
skydiving, death is automatic unless you actively take steps to save your life. In other
words, skydiving forces you to choose life, every single time you jump!
So much for the practical considerations of suicide. But what about ontological
considerations? In the final analysis, suicide makes sense only if you have reason to
believe that killing yourself will allow you to escape life’s miseries; but just what makes
you think that there is any escape from life? Think about it. You’ve been dead before —
for the eternity preceding your birth. Did anyone ask you then if you wanted to be born?
What makes you think that when you go back to non-existence, that this time around you
won’t be forced to live again? Just like the last time, you won’t be around to object! For
all we know, maybe when they die, hunters come back again, to live as bullet-catching
Bambis, or pleasure-forbidding female-supremacist feminists might come back as
detested sex-starved males. One thing seems certain though — if we should be
reincarnated into human form again, all tyrannical sexually-repressive parents will
certainly come back as those oppressed slaves we call “children.” But then, such notions
of reincarnation are all just unproven speculation, right? Well, the hypothesis that
reincarnation actually occurs may be unproven, but unfortunately it is not entirely
unsupported by Reason. Back when I was giving a lot of thought to suicide, I wanted to
see if there was any way to prove mathematically that when you die you stay dead
forever. If I were to be able to prove that life is a one-shot event, then I could go to my
death confident that suicide would end my suffering. I started with the assumption that
before your birth you were non-existent, and when you were born you came into
existence. Anything that has happened before has a non-zero probability of happening,
so we can say with confidence that back when you were still non-existent there was a
non-zero probability of your coming into existence. Perhaps the probability was
infinitesimally small, but time was evidently long enough that even so unlikely an event
was able to happen. The theorems of Probability and Statistics enable one to precisely
calculate the probabilities of uncertain events, so I set up what I call Khan’s Infinite
Binomial Probability Experiment … (obsolete link removed). — you may find it
interesting to check out the mathematical line of reasoning which makes reincarnation
seem inevitable. I’m hoping that there is a flaw in the reasoning, and that someone out
there will be brilliant enough to put a hole below the water line of this unfortunate
theory!) This line of statistical reasoning evaluates the limit of the standard Binomial
Probability Function, when we allow the probability of success on each trial to approach
zero, (“success” being taken to mean that you make the transition from non-existence to
existence) while we allow the number of trials to approach infinity. Evaluating the limits
of the Binomial Probability Function seemed daunting to me so I instead substituted the
simpler Poisson Probability Function (which seemed equally applicable to the given
problem) and when I evaluated the limits of this function I got an answer I had not
intended to arrive at. According to the laws of probability, it turns out that (and please
disprove me, if you can!) if your transition from non-existence to existence is a random
event, and you’ve already made this transition before (you have, or you wouldn’t be
reading this), then your chances of living only once and then returning to non-existence
forever are zero. In fact, your chances of living for any finite number of lives appears to
be zero, so this unfortunate line of reasoning forces us to conclude that you are doomed
to come back to life again and again, ad infinitum, and there is no escape from life, ever.
Under this scenario, if you kill yourself, you’re doomed to be reborn again, possibly
under circumstances far worse than the ones you’re facing now, so it wouldn’t make
sense to kill yourself. Killing yourself would do you no good. So as long as you’re stuck
in existence, you may as well do all you can to improve life — to help make life less of
an unbearable ordeal — not only for yourself, but for all living things, because you never
know what you’ll be coming back as, the next time around. It turns out that the ancients
had similar lines of reasoning which led them to this meliorist approach to life, and,
millennia after having been silenced, some of these ancient views are once again given
voice in my novel, HYPATIA. In fact, if you’re still depressed after reading what I have
to say here (and in the FORUM section) I strongly recommend that you read this book.
What have you got to lose? Although HYPATIA is a tragedy that will shock, disturb, and
challenge you, it is utterly frank and it may just be the cathartic needed to purge you of
all the denial that has sapped the joy from your life. It had this effect on me, anyway.
Although I have had more cause to feel depressed than ever before, since writing the
book I haven’t cried once for myself. Before writing the book, I used to cry almost every
night. Nowadays, it seems I can only manage to cry in response to sweetness, beauty,
and the rare indication that love still exists somewhere in this world. It seems that
HYPATIA has caused me to cast out Christian denial and embrace the tolerant acceptance
of the ancient Greeks. You see, the ancient Greeks were a brilliant shameless people
who always faced the facts, and even though they lived in much harsher times than we
do, somehow they always seemed to manage to stay in love with life. Somehow, without
resorting to denial and to the brain-washing and self-delusion we call “faith”, these
people were able to rise above depression, to do great things in life, and to suffer and die
nobly. How did they accomplish this? For the surprisingly inspiring answer to this
question — plus an in-depth (if heretical) analysis of depression — read my answer to
Question 10 of HYPATIA FORUM. … (obsolete link removed).
To conclude: Yes, life sucks. But dying is no spring picnic, either. You don’t really
want to die — you only want to stop suffering. Dying is like jumping out of the frying
pan into the fire, for (like being born) dying seems to be the highest pitch of suffering, at
least until death comes. Once you’re dead, suffering seems quite unlikely (for then there
is no you to experience any suffering) but because there is no guarantee that you will not
be reborn, death may not put a permanent end your suffering, either. It may well be that
there is no way to escape your existence. If this is so, then it is only by making peace
with yourself, that your suffering will end. In other words, the only way to stop your
mental anguish is by cultivating a forgiving tolerance and a philosophical equanimity that
puts you at peace with the world, that ends your struggle with the inevitable, that makes
you accept the unalterable facts of human nature, and of existence. Only then, after
having found your stillpoint, can you turn your attentions outwards, toward what you can
do to help make life more bearable for all, and, having thus transcended yourself, find joy
at last.

* Given that, under U.S. law, anyone who “counsels, commands, or encourages another
to commit a crime” is himself guilty of the resultant crime as an “accessory before the
fact,” it makes one wonder why it isn’t illegal for leaders of nations to command soldiers
to kill innocent men, women, and children in war. To illustrate this point with an
admittedly unbelievable scenario, let us assume that a great Western nation has been
attacked by individuals not under the control of any government, and that the attackers
were themselves all killed in the attack. Let us further assume that the leader of the
attacked nation seizes upon the attack as an opportunity to improve his popularity, and to
push forward his own personal agendas now that none will dare oppose him, out of fear
of being called “unpatriotic.” Frustrated by the lack of anyone to punish for the attack,
(remember, the attackers are already dead) and afraid of appearing effete and un-macho,
the Western leader (not noted for his brilliance) declares war on not a nation (for no
nation has attacked his), but on a concept: “Terror” (not Terrorism, mind you, but
“terror,” meaning extreme fear). Of course, it is difficult to destroy such an intangible
enemy (fear) using guns and bombs, so this modern-day Caesar spends many billions of
dollars his nation no longer has (thanks to retro-active tax breaks he has given to the
wealthiest corporations since his assumption of office) and sends his Nation’s military to
attack many scapegoat nations around the world, even threatening to use thermonuclear
weapons on the most demonized of these former allies if any freelance attack on the
Western nation should recur. Yes, I know that this scenario sounds extremely far-
fetched, and could only be expected to occur if a pious simpleton raised on cowboy
movies were to somehow get into power against the wishes of sagacious voters, but my
point is this: If a man — even if he be the leader of a great nation — orders his soldiers to
commit a crime against humanity (namely dropping many tons of bombs upon inhabited
areas, thus killing thousands of innocent men, women, and children), is he not, by law,
himself guilty of mass murder as an “accessory before the fact?” And in what way is this
leader any better than those who attacked his nation (for they, too, felt that the point they
were making was more important than the thousands of lives which making that point
would cost)? It would seem that the law is merely a tool by which the rich and powerful
control the poor and weak. The powerful are apparently above the law, at least until
someone more powerful comes along. I’m hoping that someone better versed than I, in
the philosophy of law, will be able resolve this apparent inconsistency. Is killing those
who do not yet wish to die wrong, or is it not? If it is not wrong, then, when our people
have been attacked and killed, we have no cause to become violent, for under this
assumption we have not been wronged. On the other hand, if killing those who wish to
live is wrong, then it is wrong for us to do this, too. If we blithely kill innocent people in
retribution for wrongs that we have suffered, then we only prove that we are deserving of
what we got when we were attacked, and deserving of what we will continue to get in the
endless retaliations of the international feud which we have embarked upon. If we
believe that violence and killing are justifiable so long as they serve our interests, then
how do we differ from those who attacked us? We are then just as bad as our attackers,
and deserve no better.