Received a letter recently from a reader. While I’m not going to post the letter, I thought it was worth posting my response (edited slightly).
I sent this to him in early October and I haven’t heard anything back, so J– I hope you’re still out there and doing okay.
The first thing I can say to you is that time changes everything. Trying to look forward 70 years, the only question that comes to me is “What will I regret NOT having done?” Perhaps your family will be gone, but there is absolutely no knowing what new people will be in your life. If you do live that long, I seriously doubt you’ll be saying “Man, I wish I’d killed myself when I was in college!” You will be so far beyond the problems you have today you’ll have trouble remembering quite what it was like. I’m almost 20 years out of college now, and while my life is far from perfect, there’s been a lot of good stuff, a no doubt more to come. Time changes everything.
Is it selfish? I don’t really think so. Humans are social creatures–yes, even the “loners”–and I think that suicide diminishes humanity. Your life has worth to yourself AND to others. Family has worth, to yourself AND to others. So no, living your life is not selfish.
I have often in the past wished I were less intelligent, but it’s been a long time since I did. I said it before–that’s a sucker’s game. Intelligence can definitely isolate you, but it also gives you a higher view of the world around you–akin to being higher up on a hill overlooking a landscape. Simply put, you can see more from up here. ;-)
There are two things I would say to you:
1) Look to find people who are like you. They are out there. Are you a closet atheist or open about it? If other people know, there’s probably somebody else who sees YOU and knows he’s not the only one. Look for other intelligent people. Especially if you’re in college you can probably find some. You might try joining Mensa (it’s an organization for people with high IQs). I did a while back and I’m really glad I did. Somebody on the forum said an interesting thing: People don’t join Mensa to feel superior; they join to feel normal. It’s amazing what it feels like to walk into a room (whether real or online) and find that you’re intellectually average. Liberating.
2) Get professional help. Yup — a shrink. I’ve done this as well, and again I wish I had sooner. It’s interesting, but some of the most useful information I’ve gotten from mine is that much of my “odd” behavior is actually not that odd. Be sure to find somebody familiar with high IQs. Read up on the concept of “Positive Disintegration” (Dabrowski), and find somebody familiar with the theory. Even if that’s not what’s happening with you, it will show you that the doctor in question is specifically familiar with our types of issues.
2a) Even if you’re not going to go to a shrink, read up on Positive Disintegration anyway. Really. http://positivedisintegration.com
I’ve been through some very dark times in my life, and all I can say is it gets better. There are friends out there. When you’re a bit older you’ll have a real opportunity to create the distance from your family that you find best — a balance between your love for them and the freedom from their overbearing religious faith. Something I’ve also developed as I’ve gotten older is a real tolerance for religion learn this here now. People are generally trying to do good with it; even if their inspiration is misguided it’s better than the alternative, isn’t it?
People commit suicide because they’re in pain, and they want the pain to stop. It’s more than they can handle. The only thing I can say in response is that you ARE strong enough to get through this if you choose to. The thing about killing yourself is that it can never be undone. If you live your life, things will change. You can change it, and you will change it. What do you want to be in the future? Where do you want to live? And what… are you doing, right now, to move you toward that future? Take a step. Then another. One foot in front of the other. One day you’ll turn around and you won’t even be able to see where you were back when right now was now.