Suicide Is Rational

Recently, someone I greatly admire and probably even love, said to me that when people are suicidal their brain chemistry is basically off, which prevents them from realizing that things will get better. I didn’t want to disappoint her, so I didn’t say that I respectfully disagree. I’ve always thought suicide makes a lot of sense—maybe the most sense. I acknowledge brain chemistry is involved, and am obviously no expert on biology or medicine. But I also believe suicide isn’t necessarily a product of chemical imbalance. I think someone can rationally, and so completely understandably, conclude that suicide is the right option. 

Life is a terrible mess. It’s unbearably lonely. It feels like a cruel joke, an insurmountable task, all too often. Nobody prepares you for all the times you’ll want to claw your way out of your skin, only to be met with the intolerable reality that you’re trapped. Or for the sad truths that descend on you in moments of quiet and still manage to pull the rug out from under you, even though you should know better by now. You never quite figure out how to bounce back. The things that torment you elude your mastery, and you can’t forgive your profound shortcomings.

Sometimes, there are moments of peace. Like when you see fireflies for the first time and remember there is magic in the world. Or when someone with infinitely more reasons to despair chooses to forgive and see grace. Or when you hear a joke so funny you think it might just save your life. But it doesn’t. It usually falls short.

Of course, then, suicide is appealing. To act as though people who are suicidal just haven’t experienced enough to know the good life has to offer, or just haven’t tried hard enough, or just haven’t found the cure, is presumptuous. Some of the most brilliant, beautiful people have committed suicide. Probably because they were too smart to bear living under the delusion of contentedness. 

If you’re not miserable, I personally think you’re in denial. But I’m not inside your head. It isn’t my place to convince you how you feel, or how you should feel. Nor do I have any particular interest in doing so. The same goes for suicidal people.

I also think our societal aversion to suicide is fundamentally selfish. When someone kills themselves, how much of our pain is really for them, and how much is for our loss? We’re sad, but for ourselves—that we don’t get to see them, talk to them, breathe them in anymore. Which, too, is understandable. But they can’t stick around just to make us laugh. To act as if we’re disappointed on their behalves seems pretentious.

To me, the fact that we’re taught suicide is bad is a reflection of our inability to cope with being human. For some reason, we’ve decided that everyone must want to live. Maybe we’re scared if we admit that it’s ok to not want to be here, we’ll be accepting the utter meaninglessness of life. But the truth is, none of us decided to be here. So isn’t it kind of twisted that we insist on forcing people to live? Why are we (or some of us, at least) ok with assisted suicide when it comes to terminal physical illness, but not terminal mental illness, or terminal suffering of any kind?

I can’t say with certainty that if I walked past someone about to jump off a bridge, I wouldn’t intervene. But I also vehemently believe that everyone has the right to choose what to do, or not do, with their life. If we don’t have autonomy, what do we have? There are few things more dehumanizing than dictating how someone gets to live, or not live.

Maybe you think I’m wrong or crazy or sad or pitiful. Maybe I am. I’ll never know bliss and I might never know grace. But I’m not fearless enough to commit suicide, anyways. I think it may be the bravest thing anyone can do. The only braver thing might be living. But if living is unbearable, what courage is there in suffering?

As Featured on News Cult: How to Deal with Your OCD

To my fellow sufferers of OCD: I am in the trenches with you. OCD is, on its surface, charming and endearing (“awww, how cute that everything on your desk has to be perfectly neat—parallel lines ONLY—or you’ll have a complete meltdown!”). But really, it’s awful. It’s a prison that keeps you trapped in an endless cycle of obsessive thoughts, compulsions, and rituals, for fear of something catastrophic. Of course everyone who has OCD experiences it differently, but over eight years of therapy and counting, I’ve found some effective ways of dealing with it that I think others may find helpful too. So if you’re struggling with OCD, here are some coping mechanisms you can try.

Exposure therapy

I’d recommend visiting a therapist who specializes in this, but the poor man’s DIY version is to simply exposure yourself to what you are afraid of without engaging in any compulsions. You start gradual and work your way up to more intense exposures. For example, say you fear that you will run over a child, so you won’t drive anywhere near where children are likely to be (i.e. schools, playgrounds, parks, etc.). The exposure would be to have sessions where you drive around while your therapist throws strollers at your car, and keep driving (but seriously—this is a thing). You may start with driving around for just 1 minute and work your way up to 10. Or start with 1 stroller and work your way up to 10. The theory is that the more you are exposed to what you fear, the less you will eventually fear it and need to engage in compulsive behavior in order to stop it from happening—because through exposure, you’ll see that your fear is exaggerated, and possibly even completely unrealistic, depending on the context. Of course there is not one right way of doing exposure therapy, and it can get fairly complicated and nuanced, depending on the case, but generally I think it’s beneficial and makes sense. (If  you decide to put your exposure practice to use in the real world, though, by, for example, deciding to drive by a school one day, and you actually do run over a child, you should probably just kill yourself).

Nip it in the bud

Literally force yourself to stop obsessing/engaging in your compulsion of choice. You have to just stop—you can’t try to reason yourself into stopping, because that, too, will lead to more obsessive thinking. Do whatever you have to do to snap out of it—punch yourself in the face (localize the pain!), get up and go do something (go to the grocery store—there is literally always something you need to pick up from the grocery store at any given point in time), turn on the news and distract yourself with the terrible state of affairs in the world, actually do some work at work, burst into song/laughter/tears/laughter-tears… Just get your mind onto a whole different track.

Reach out to someone

If you’re engaged with someone else, it’s a lot harder to be engaged with your OCD. So call someone—anyone. Your mom, your best friend, the girl who waxes you. Ask the Time Warner Cable customer service rep for their life story. Ask the Trader Joe’s cashier if they want to hang out (because they are literally the coolest people in the universe and you would be honored). Get into a conversation that will force you to interact outside of your own head, and be accountable to someone and something other than your own compulsive urges.

Exhaust yourself

Do something that will physically exhaust you so that you won’t even have the mental energy left to spend on your OCD. Run in place, mop your floors, exert any slight bit of bodily effort—anything that will tire you out quickly. This shouldn’t be hard to accomplish given that you are a member of the sloth species.

Have a fallback plan

If you have to spend time trying to figure out how to dig yourself out of your OCD spiral, it will take longer to do, which means risking spiraling further and further to the point of no return (and trust me, you do not want to get to the point of having to spend any time in a mental hospital—the food sucks). But if you have a plan of three things you can fall back on that can engage you immediately, every time your OCD starts to overwhelm you, relief will come quicker. For example, your plan of attack upon the onset of an OCD flare-up could be to either:

1. Make a really difficult recipe that will require a lot of focus and concentration (which you will inevitably fail at and have to try at least four more times before you get it right—BAM, time-suck initiated!)

-OR-

2. Hand-wash your car (and wax it too. AND clean the inside. This will take you forever because you don’t own a hose, haven’t cleaned your car since you got it… 9 years ago, and have no clue how to wax a car, despite having watched The Karate Kid).

-OR-

3. Do your coloring book. I don’t care how juvenile this may sound, because it’s the most relaxing, absorbing activity. CHILDREN: HANG ON TO YOUR YOUTH.

Featured on News Cult: http://newscult.com/actually-winning-battle-deal-ocd/

As Featured on News Cult: How to Talk to Guys About STDs

We went over how to talk to guys about condoms, but sometimes you have to rewind even further and start with the STD talk. Like a colonoscopy, broaching the subject of STDs is awkward and uncomfortable, but necessary. So drink that gallon of laxatives, because it’s time to grin and bear it. Here’s how. #youcanthankmewhenyoudon’tgetherpes

Be the one to bring it up

Because he sure as shit won’t. In my experience, guys will avoid the STD talk like it’s the truth and they’re Hillary Clinton—whether because they’re just too embarrassed or think that so long as a condom is used, STDs need never be spoken of (which is just not true—don’t make me go into all the ways you can and will have ‘intimate’ contact outside of the condom, because for one I hate the word ‘intimate’ and it makes me really uncomfortable and for two we all know it’s true—a condom does not provide 100% coverage or protection against anything—so don’t waste my time). Thusly, you have to be the bigger man [ironic] and start the dialogue. #they’rewelcome

Get it over with

Don’t wait to do it, because before you know it, you’ll find yourself moments away from penetration, which is not the best time to bring up who does/doesn’t have gonorrhea. Do it before, and when you’re far far away from, any sort of sexual or potentially sexual situation, so there’s no risk of having the talk after it already may be too late (one orgasm is not worth the price of contracting Hep C. Plus, we all know he’s not going to make you come anyways, so risking it is extra not worth it). I.e. take him to a soup kitchen to volunteer and bring it up when you’re ladling baked beans. Or at church. Or at dinner with your parents. Wherever and whenever you can have an honest, non-hormone fueled conversation about sexual health and safety.

Be thorough

Ask him when he was last tested and what for, and tell him your answers to those questions as well (if it’s a super uncomfortable/tense situation, offer to go first—this will disarm him. Lead by example. Like you would if you were teaching a child something. So, congratulations, your sexual partner is basically a child. I’m just gonna let that one sit with you). My understanding is that it can take up to 3-6 months for some STDs to show up on tests, so you should be tested 3-6 months after your last sexual contact/potential exposure to STDs (remember that STDs can be spread via lots of different types of contact/activities). This of course depends somewhat on your lifestyle, so obviously talk to a doctor to figure out what’s right for you (I sound like a prescription drug commercial. But don’t rely on me, because I’m not a medical professional—I would totally go to med school except I have a sneaking suspicion that being a doctor is not as scandalously fun as Grey’s Anatomy makes it look).

Don’t allow yourself to be talked out of it

I really don’t care if he doesn’t think it needs to be discussed for whatever insufficient excuse he makes up—the bottom line is that you need to be open with any sexual partner about their STD status and vice versa, unless you don’t give a fuck about your health or others’ (in which case, by all means, proceed sexually with other people who, like you, are self-interested fucking morons, and get alllll the genital warts the world has to offer. #youdeserveeachother #butkindlyleaveusoutofit).

Consider applying it to oral sex

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I know, I know—like no one talks about STDs before oral sex. But, again, I don’t really care what’s socially acceptable (I didn’t when I had—some may say, “rocked“—a mullet-rattail hybrid as a child, and I sure as hell don’t now). The fact is that a lot of STDs can be transmitted through oral sex (in addition to the plethora of other ways they can be spread, which we won’t get into now, but just some food for terrifying thought). Yes, this is a bummer, but life is terrible, so this is nothing new. So unless you want a throat full o’ HPV, I would have the talk before you put anything in your mouth, or anyone else’s.

Be open-minded

STDs don’t mean no sex. Some of them are curable, all are treatable, and none are some sort of definitive barrier to sex. Yes, they complicate sex, but you can have an STD(s) and still enjoy your sex life. They’re not any kind of death sentence—even the “scariest” one, HIV/AIDS, is getting more and more manageable. If you or your partner find out you have an STD, simply ask your doctor the best way to deal with it and still have sex. Coming from a completely OCD germaphobe, I know it can be tempting to refuse to have sex when any STD is involved. But honestly, unless you want to be celibate forever and join a convent, get the fuck over it. Life is messy. Sex is no exception. And I think that when you find that while sexual health may seem super complicated, it still is completely manageable, and grappling with it doesn’t require sacrificing the enjoyment of sex, you’ll just be more at peace with your existence (I’m pretty sure it was Buddha who said that. Or Charlie Sheen.)

Featured on News Cult: http://newscult.com/talk-guys-stds/

As Featured on News Cult: How to Talk to Guys About Condoms

Men, the brilliant pieces of shit that they are, don’t like to use condoms. Or maybe it’s just the assholes I’ve dated. Either way, condom use is a negotiation, the navigation of which requires special skill. Which is bullshit, but what else is new in gender relations/sexual politics/dating/interpersonal relationships/having to deal with people in any context ever.

1. Remind them of how sex works

Apparently they didn’t pay attention in 7th grade health class. Pulling out doesn’t work, gentlemen. To be successful, it would require precision, calculation, and thought, none of which you are capable of. If you have sex without a form of birth control, spoiler alert: the chance of pregnancy goes way up. If you have sex without condoms—just stick with me on this one, I know it’s hard to wrap your head around—your chances of spreading STDs goes way up. What’s that, men? Condoms feel less pleasurable? Awwww, I’m so sorry for you—I mean, between all of the male privilege and all of the male privilege you face on a daily basis, that must just be really tough on you.

2. Tell them you have STDs

I don’t care if you actually have any or not. If you say, “Well okay, I guess we won’t use a condom and then you may just get Syphilis from me…” they’ll be unwrapping those Trojans like the Patriarchy depends on it.

3. Ask them for their STD status

Ten bucks says they won’t know or have been checked recently. And even if they do/have, there are things that they can’t be tested for, like HPV, or they could have a dormant case of Herpes, so then you get to put the pressure on them and say, “I don’t know where your dick has been, but I tend to sleep with terrible men, so it’s probably been in some questionable-at-best places, and I’m sure as shit not risking my sexual health when my odds are about as good as a priest’s who tries to walk past a playground without jacking off.”

4. Refuse to have sex without a condom

Simply refuse. Guys will take sex with a condom over no sex any day, given they are simple creatures, driven by their base, most under-evolved, instincts. #theyreallyshouldbeputinazoo

5. Involve your doctor

Have her give the guy a call—just a friendly reminder that he’s a fucking idiot if he doesn’t think he needs to use condoms. And it can’t hurt for her to send him an accompanying email with some JPEGs of wart-encrusted genitals attached.

6. Ask him if he would like to get pregnant

Until you get a signed affidavit from him saying he would willingly piss out a watermelon, he can go fuck himself because you surely won’t be.

Featured on News Cult: http://newscult.com/talk-guys-condoms/

As Featured on News Cult: Why I Support Planned Parenthood

After the extremely maddening, unjust, horrific shooting that took place at Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs on Friday, I think now is an especially important time for me and others to show their support for Planned Parenthood. I’ve always supported it and always will, as long as it continues to be what it has been and is—a safe, accessible place for everyone, regardless of gender, to receive affordable and necessary healthcare. Regarding Friday’s shooter, I’ll just say this: why is it, that when the attacker is a Muslim, he’s an “evil, radical Islamic terrorist,” and when the subject of police force is black, he’s killed before he gets to exercise his right to due process, but when the shooter is white, he’s a “mentally deranged lone wolf,” brought into custody alive, and no one presumes to know his motives until he has his day in court? That is the most fucked up, backwards, infuriating inconsistency in societal judgment and law enforcement that exists. It seems more than safe to say that Robert Lewis Dear, a man who’s been accused of and in some cases charged with rape, domestic violence, animal cruelty, and being a peeping tom, decided to put his hunting gear on and shoot up his local Planned Parenthood, killing three innocent people and wounding nine others, all in the name of “no more baby parts”—another completely illogical, sick display of hypocrisy, which was clearly influenced (some may even say brainwashed) by the far-right bigoted propaganda in the form of doctored videos that represent a completely false portrait of Planned Parenthood, and countless other slanderous, hate-filled, ignorant displays of fundamentalist intolerance by extremist conservatives.

To set the record straight, let’s start off with some facts about Planned Parenthood. It’s been a healthcare resource for men and women for 99 years. There are 8 million+ Planned Parenthood activists, supporters, and donors. 3/4 of Planned Parenthood’s clients receive services to prevent unintended pregnancies. 34% of all Planned Parenthood health services are contraceptive services. The estimated number of unintended pregnancies averted by Planned Parenthood contraceptive services each year is 584,000. 3% of all Planned Parenthood services are abortion services. The increase in male Planned Parenthood clients from 2000 to 2010 was 105%. Planned Parenthood provides nearly 5 million people worldwide with sexual and reproductive health care and education each year. 76% of Planned Parenthood clients are at or below 150% of the federal poverty level. 8 in 10 Planned Parenthood clients are 20 years of age and older. And 1,000,000 clients are served by Planned Parenthood-supported partners in 10 developing countries.

I support Planned Parenthood because all of those things, all of those facts, are good. I believe that everyone, regardless of age, race, socioeconomic standing, sexual orientation, creed, should have equal access to healthcare. Unfortunately, because of the overwhelming disparity in wealth in the United States and worldwide, and the incredibly high cost of healthcare in the U.S. especially, a lot of people don’t have access to healthcare. But everyone has access to Planned Parenthood. Even if they don’t have insurance, or can’t afford treatment. Planned Parenthood accepts and will care for everyone, regardless of potential compensation. People who refer to Planned Parenthood as “an abortion clinic,” are, simply, wrong. And while I’m happy to take the wind out of the crutch that is the “Planned Parenthood is bad because ABORTION” argument, I also want to make it clear that I support Planned Parenthood BECAUSE it provides abortions, among countless other vital healthcare services. Abortion is safe. Abortion is legal. Abortion is a choice that is made individually. I don’t care if you don’t like abortions—don’t get one. But you sure as shit don’t have the right to tell me I can’t get one.

Don’t try to argue that abortion is the same as murder. Murder is what the Colorado Springs shooter did to those three innocent people, each of whom had spouses and young children. And no one should be forced into parenthood, especially if they aren’t ready for it or don’t want it. I don’t care if you think sex is a sin, and don’t believe in birth control because of your antiquated, unnatural, suppressive beliefs that cause most of you to end up molesting little boys—then don’t have sex. But you have no right to tell me or anyone else that we’re not allowed to have sex, and, furthermore, enjoy it, without having to reproduce as a consequence. There are lots of scientific arguments for why people shouldn’t reproduce, not least of which is overpopulation, which is leading to the rapid environmental degradation of the planet—but how about, I JUST DON’T WANT TO HAVE A KID, so I’m not fucking going to. Period.

Planned Parenthood is a safe haven from hyper-critical, imposing, overbearing attempts to control individual rights and freedoms. It provides non-judgmental, supportive healthcare for people in most need of it. It’s easy to step up onto a pedestal of moral superiority and cast shame upon people who don’t share your beliefs. It’s easy to operate from a place of violent power—which is what people who oppose Planned Parenthood to the point of voting to defund it on a federal level, and attacking its clinics, do. But despite all of those obstacles, Planned Parenthood fights every day to support everyone—whether that means providing a safe place to get an abortion, distributing free condoms, counseling patients on STDs, giving cancer screenings, or providing an affordable routine pap smear—no matter what. It’s a hell of a lot harder to fight against hate, and violence, and ignorance, than it is to perpetuate it—what Planned Parenthood does takes courage, and without it, so many of us would be lost. So I stand with them, and am not going to stop, despite acts aimed at terrorizing doctors who provide crucial, feasibly attainable healthcare and women who exercise their right to reproductive freedom.

Featured on News Cult: http://newscult.com/support-planned-parenthood/