Sunday, July 22, 2012

Am I A Coward For Blogging About Suicide Anonymously?

In December of 2009, I bared the first tiny bit of my soul to the universe in "This, Too Shall Pass?"

There was no place in my life where I could tell the truth about what led me down the path of suicide.

So I created one for myself. And for everyone else who didn't have a place, either.

In real life, you can't tell people to STFU when their idea of" helping" you is spouting some cliché like, "God never gives us more than we can handle."

In this blog, I can say whatever I want...because I do it anonymously. Which means I don't have to deal with stigma. And judgment. And rejection.


In a perfect world, I wouldn’t be shamed into silence for my feelings. I could speak openly about what I have been through, what led me to the brink, and how I found my way back.  I could look forward to compassion and understanding ... instead of condemnation.

But that is not the world we live in. It is a world where people believe it is easier to die than to be looked upon with the stigma of mental illness.

It is a world where people internalize the hatred of everyone around them and pull the trigger. 

BUT.  Can I keep hiding forever?

All the lying and pretending that alienates me from myself as much as others … isn’t that precisely what got me into this mess to begin with??? 

BUT.  Can I afford NOT to keep hiding?

Some, like The Bloggess, write courageously about their battles with depression. Others, like JD Schramm, have broken the silence by bravely sharing how they survived a suicide attempt.

But what about people who don't have a well-established career and hefty savings account to fall back on if honesty backfires?

So I brought my dilemma to Penelope Trunk, the authority on blogging about taboo subjects, and she asked if she could publish her advice to me in her Mailbag

"You should blog under your own name. Of all the things that are terrible, doing something this good, that you are this devoted to - doing it anonymously is too close to a metaphor for suicide. So you have to use your name. To do it anonymously is to give up on everyone around you -- their ability to see the site and see you for who you are. Your ability to be yourself in the world and be accepted. All that stuff is really important given that the topic is suicide."

Now THAT, that made me cry.

Because I DO continue to split off (i.e. murder) the parts of myself that I can't quite own.

And I HAVE given up on every single person around me.

When I try to think of 1 co-worker, 1 friend, 1 family member who I would even THINK of telling that I write this blog, I don't anticipate acceptance as the outcome.

I know what I stand to lose: my job, my credibility, future employability, professional respect...and control. Not that I've ever HAD control over what others think of me, but I DO control which parts of myself I share.

What do I stand to gain? It's one thing to play the odds, but when it's all risk and no reward, I can't help but think I would be a fool for rolling the dice.

Fellow blogger Izzy put it to me this way:
"In regards to human nature, most people are incredibly compelled by those that are willing to be authentic. Your blog is an interesting combination because by not revealing your identity you are able to completely hide yourself ... Yet, at the same time, you completely reveal yourself."

Therein lies the conundrum. 

Keep hiding…or come clean?  Could you bear the exposure of people seeing into your soul?

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  1. Being out in the open, being vulnerable, is hard. I've deleted three blogs because I felt too exposed. But it also allows for more real connections to form with people and that makes it worth it to me. And I think you can use it to reinforce your sense of self, perhaps.

    I don't see anything in your blog that would get you into "trouble." It's well-written, interesting, deep, sometimes funny (at least your comments are), and proactive. The employment thing is important if that indeed would be affected, but since you're not currently depressed or suicidal or at all critical of your workplace, I don't see how an employer would look askance at it.

    I have to confess I really liked finding out that your name is Bri. It's just nice putting a name to the thoughts and then a little more... :)

    1. What do you mean I am "sometimes funny." I am always funny, lol. I could see myself getting freaked out and hitting DELETE, too! I was wondering where your one blog went....

    2. Yeah, heh heh. I deleted that one more because it was becoming a pain in the ass having two blogs when I sometimes don't feel like posting more than once a month. And the Brazilian blogging community was annoying me.

  2. Hello Down from the ledge,

    I felt compelled to write a comment. I have to say that I strongly disagree with Penelope Trunk:
    "You should blog under your own name. Of all the things that are terrible, doing something this good, that you are this devoted to - doing it anonymously is too close to a metaphor for suicide."

    I see what she is saying. That by not revealing your name you are killing that side of yourself. But that is working under the guise that you either must reveal yourself this minute or never reveal yourself. I do not believe it works like this. Rather, I think it can be a gradual process that is natural.

    Even this post, shows a step towards revealing yourself. Would you have ever even dabbled with this question a few years ago? Would ever dare to ask your readers this type of question?

    This is the type of thing that can slowly come out. It can start small. You slowly reveal it to those you trust. In time, a few more, and then more.

    Just to show an extreme version. What what would you think of someone who tries to commit suicide on Tuesday, fails, then starts a blog and reveals it all to the world on Wednesday? Sounds like a little bit much to me!

    But if, overtime as this person comes to grips with their situation, their past and their reality they may eventually realize how they can help others. In time, when it is right, they may reveal themselves and consequentially provide words that those who are going through the struggle need to hear.

    Please understand I am not saying you should or should not reveal your name. I am just saying I disagree when someone says that you should go one way or the other. I also do not think you are lying to anyone by withholding your identity for the time being.

    1. It definitely doesn't have to be so black & white, and I think your "extreme example" illustrates that very well. Most of us are not well-served to adverstise our problems, unless it serves a clear purpose. Part of my predicament lies in declaring this blog to be "busting open the taboo," when clearly I have not done so in my own life. Like you're saying, however, it doesn't have to all be so cut and dry.

    2. ...and no, I most certainly would NOT have dabbled with the question a few years ago!

  3. I think it's up to you and you should only do what you feel comfortable with.

    Screw everyone else. I know that might seem hard.

    Good luck

    1. Well-said. In the end, it WILL be only what I am comfortable with.

  4. LIke Izzy says, you're not hiding, you're coming clean. Why not put some of your basic identifying information - or actually just your personal bio without name, location or city. Or not - I'd do whatever you're comfortable with. When I had a job, I was anonymous on my blog - I used my first name Vishnu and Vishnu's Virtues and provided some basic info but not too much identifying information. An employer could definitely have an issue with some of the things you write on this blog in the pc world of work, etc. Although, we as your readers love it, an employer might not. I don't think being open is a deal breaker - just think about it and evaluate it every few months - for now, I'd just write like crazy, build up your blog and continue providing value to your readers. the rest will fall into place.

    1. My instincts are in line with yours: an employer wouldn't like it. Maybe if I worked in a more generic field. Although I recently learned that my profession is in the highest insurance risk category because of suicide rates, which doesn't surprise me. This spring, someone who worked for my former employer drove her car into the river. And that's part of my issue with me internalizing things as all "MY" problem, when I know others are affected by what is allowed to go on at some workplaces.

    2. also, i don't forsee this being a suicide blog for very much longer. I think we're all on the edge and your stories apply to 99% of us, suicide-bound or not. I think once you make that shift of big picture focus from suicide to life, your hilarious blog becomes a general life interest blog and no employer should really care. and you'll be public.

      I think in the meantime, you should let us all chose a nickname for you (got this idea after Izzy called you Down from the Ledge)

    3. Bri isn't good enough for you? I'm scared to think what you might call me, lol. But your point, that this is LIFE, the human condition, is the irony underyling the whole deal of it being taboo.

    4. You wrote "When I try to think of 1 co-worker, 1 friend, 1 family member who I would even THINK of telling that I write this blog, I don't anticipate acceptance as the outcome."

      That made me feel very sad - are your co-workers, friends, and family members that uncaring, that close-minded? When I am scared/apprehensive, I always imagine the worst outcome and project it on others. When I actually go through with whatever I need to, the outcome is always better than expected.

      However, should they all be as unsupportive and unaccepting as you predict, perhaps that is a sign to find new friends and co-workers that share some of your values and compassion :-) (note I didn't say pick new family!)

      BTW, thank you for writing to Penelope's mailbag, as I was delighted to find your site. My mother took her own life at 55.

    5. PS I think the fact that you are asking "Am I A Coward For Blogging About Suicide Anonymously?" shows what *you* feel about it. You think that you are a coward... and your vote outweighs everyone elses. It would be nice if readers convinced you to stay anonymous, but I think your inner judgment will not be changed. That said, I agree with the comment above that this does not need to be a black/white or overnight change. This is bigger than the blog though - it sounds like you are not sharing yourself with your friends/co-workers/family. That is, they have no idea that you deal with depression, which (having suffered myself) could make you feel so much more isolated and make the depression even more painful. Over the years, I have slowly revealed my depression to friends and co-workers, and I most often find that they or someone they know also suffers.

    6. Thanks for your reflections on this. I am really sorry to hear about your mother; it's hard to imagine how survivors could make sense of something that suicidal people can't fully make sense of themselves.

      I think I fear more that they would pity me or adopt a "handle with care" approach to me, or somehow see me as less than. My parents think people who post pictures of themselves on Facebook are crazy! So I can just imagine my family worrying that it is such a stupid thing to do and I would be throwing my career away.

      I'm actually not sure *I* believe I'm a coward, but I do think some others might. I operate more under the guise of 'it would not be smart to attach my name to this.' As for not sharing the extent of my strugle with those're absolutely right. I think I underestimate what I might get in return from some, out of fear of gossip and what people REALLY think but won't say to your face.

  5. I find myself struggling with that as well... we should talk.


    1. I stopped by your blog a few weeks ago, on your birthday post. Real insight into the self-hatred and isolation that accompanies depression.

  6. Hi Bri,

    "In real life, you can't tell people to STFU when their idea of" helping" you is spouting some cliché like, "God never gives us more than we can handle."" I have a question to this - why not? (tell them to STFU that is).

    I know we have discussed this before, but ultimately you need to do what you are comfortable with. Your writing style has a certain freedom allowed it through the anonymity, which is brilliant. You may be stifled once you start wondering what people will think. As you know, I struggled with this choice at the start. But being honest, it does sometimes hinder me, and I hold back. So instead of struggling with the anonymous v coming clean debate, I struggle now with every post. But that was a choice I made for me because I wanted to force myself out of my shell. Bit by bit I reveal a bit more.

    So I think either way you will always have that inner debate going on whether you come clean or not. All you can do is keep coming back to the question and you will know when the time is right, if it ever happens. What is most important is the writing, and that you have the chance to express yourself comfortably in a way that is real to you. That is the litmus test. I get a strong sense of feeling from your writing that I am not sure would be there if you weren't anonymous. And you are still sharing great insights. That doesn't change because you are anonymous.

  7. Ummm...technically I could, but I'm suuuuuch a nice person, so I wouldn't do that;)

    A lot of my posts do start with a feeling, so I'm afraid they'd become too cerebral, or that I'd stop hearing my own voice because of the "How would this sound?" clutter.

    You're right, I'll know if/when the time is right. Good luck to you in working through the dilemma of how much to share; it's a toughie.

  8. Penelope Trunk clearly doesn't understand the stigma suicide carries in our society, or the fact that it likely would impede your ability to get a job later. In addition, if your friends and family were reading it, you'd likely self-censor to avoid alarming or insulting them. Given the subject matter of the blog, this is far more relevant for your blog than say a blog on camping, politics, or movies.

    Clearly she IS trying to be supportive, but she just doesn't get it (maybe she's just awesome and doesn't judge but forgets the world is full of people who do). Either way, embrace the anonymity of the internet. If you decide later you are comfortable sharing your real name you can always do that then (though honestly you could probably get all the same benefits by making up pen name that sounds like it could be your real name). Unsharing things on the internet is a little harder.

    1. I think there are people that can get away with it, and people that can't. I ultimately decided that I could not gamble on it, because my gut told me I couldn't handle the fallout. Maybe it would've all turned out sunshine and roses, but I don't have any faith that future employers would like it much. Also, there were 2 people I thought had the biggest chance of understanding...that never spoke to me again after reading my blog. The world is what it is.

      That being said....I agree with her that it IS a metaphor for suicide, and I continue to pay a price for what I hide.

    2. Blogging about suicide and doing it anonymously is not gutless not is it cowardly. In our society, you can be detained, hospitalized, and who know what else, against your wishes, for being candid, open, and honest about suicide. Not everyone wants to live tomorrow, and that does not make them 'sick', 'depressed', nor a victim.

    3. I have seen all of that firsthand, and had it come close to happening to me personally. The truth is, we never know where it is "safe," or with whom, to be honest about anything.

  9. I never had a face book and I deleted the app 2 years ago(that i never used) I still get text messages saying you have 3 new friend requests. I feel like the 40 year old virgin. Never I never remember making an does it have my phone number I even changed it. creepy!

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  11. "Suicide once in a while continues from weakness, yet not generally; for weakness now and then counteracts it; since the same number of live in light of the fact that they are hesitant to kick the bucket, as bite the dust since they are reluctant to live."עורך דין פלילי