Catchy title, eh?
Kate says in her intro:
"I’ve had a lot of reasons to kill myself, and a lot of time to do it in, and I stayed alive by doing things that many consider to be immoral or illegal. I’m glad I did it, because I’ve really enjoyed writing this book."
SB: Your book includes ALL the naughty, politically incorrect, fucked-up, backwards, not-exactly-healthy ways that people DO keep living instead of dying. That surprised me.
You were fair about every alternative, every pro and con. Drug binges, cutting, fasting, retail hysteria, and soulless fucking, etc. are not "great mental health"— but sometimes if they’re the only thing you can do to keep ticking, then you bloody well do it.
It also makes the more "wholesome" alternatives look more credible, instead of patronizing.
KB: Thanks... I wrote the alternatives to suicide by diving into a deep depression, and then getting myself out of it.
And I did that 101 times.
So it was a pisser of a couple of years while I was writing this book. Most of the alternatives are kind of sweet, but the naughty, bad, politically incorrect ways saved my life many times over, and they always have.
If I didn’t tell my truth of that, my whole truth, and nuthin’ but my truth, then why bother writing the book at all? Besides, the fact that I *did* go on ticking made those otherwise crappy things I did to or for myself sort of mentally healthy, no?
SB: You weren't a goody-two-shoes about what might be necessary.
I don’t think I've ever seen a “Suicide Prevention” scheme that included such frank talk about the "compromised" ways people sometimes stay alive. Why did you decide to this? Is it controversial among the therapeutic community, or am I just clueless? What made you decide to get on the level about it?
KB: Well, I set out to write a book on suicide prevention, but that meant that the first chapter would have to be all about all the many irrefutable reasons you shouldn’t kill yourself.
And being the freak I am in this world, I couldn’t think of any. So, I looked through several bookstores and I used a flock of search engines to see if someone else had a bunch of good reasons I shouldn’t kill myself. Nothin’. Nada. Zip.
Everything out there told me to be "good" (by someone else’s rigid and moralistic definition of good); told me to get with God (a God who was totally pissed off at me, even when I wasn’t being mean to anyone); told me to straighten up and fly right.
And I didn’t wanna do any of that. I didn’t wanna be ashamed of my desires, oddball as my desires might be. I didn’t wanna give up what little joy I’d managed to find for myself in this fucked up right-wing world.
So I stopped trying to *prevent* anyone’s suicide, including my own; and I tried to write a book about making life worthwhile living, especially if it wasn’t living life on the terms set by the powers that be.
Once I decided to write a book like that, I realized I couldn’t pull any punches.
The book hasn’t been out long enough for me to know if it’s controversial in the therapeutic community. I do know that every therapist who’s read the book has (sometimes grudgingly) congratulated me. I guess time will tell if the book gets to sit on the shelves of medical schools and public school libraries.
SB: I liked that you pointed out why some of the more radical alternatives to suicide don't work in the long run, or why they might have disadvantages. Was there anything you had a hard time defending, personally?
KB: My editor, Crystal Yakacki, and I spent a long time honing down the more obviously edgy alternatives like drugs, anorexia, and cutting; but it wasn’t that difficult once we got past all the social myths and legal proscriptions.
I personally think the scariest alternative in the book is #68: Go completely batty. Losing yourself in madness doesn’t lend itself to any easy rational defense.
Interestingly enough, no one has complained about alternative #11: Tell a lie. I guess no one wants to throw the first stone on that one.
SB: I liked that you emphasized "no one thing" always works, or works forever. You say that you have to keep mixing up your survival techniques, or be open to something new. What made you realize that, once and for all?
KB: The perspective of old age. Here I am, nearly 60 years old, and there’s not one single thing that has ever worked for me every moment of my life.
The closest thing I could find to universal workability was the one rule in the book: don’t be mean. Being mean has invariably made my life miserable. Everything else has possibilities.
SB: Your book has a lot of youthful message to it, about having your whole life in front of you.
I have friends who are elderly, who’ve made plans to check out, to plan their death, willfully. They aren't depressed, they just want to be in control of their departure.
What do you think of that? Is it ever okay to say, "Hey, it's been great, but I'm leaving now, au revoir!"
KB: So few people have asked me about that one. But recently, the father of a friend of mine called me out on it. He said he didn’t want to go on living if he got to the point where his old age totally screwed up his quality of life.
I agree with him on that one, and I was able to tell him that the last five alternatives in the book can function as a runway to consciously and rationally taking his leave.
They even read that way I think:
97. Take a walk in the woods
98. Learn moderation in all things.
99. Make your peace with death.
100. Tidy your campsite before you move on.
And if you wanna put the brakes on at the last minute:
101. Try to keep someone else alive.
SB: Why can two people go through identical life circumstances, and one be suicidal, while the other one stubbornly clings to life?
KB: It’s a great question, but it beats me. My best guess is that no two people view the world identically, ever.
It’s the old “one person’s meat is another person’s poison” sort of thing. And frankly, that makes life worth living: the fact that someone, somewhere, is going to have a positive take on what you think is the worst thing in the world; and it might just be worth staying alive long enough to find that person.
SB: Why do some people make suicidal gestures, but really aren't going to go through with it? —While others make damn sure that they do?
KB: I haven’t studied the field of suicidology. Yep, there’s actually such a word, and people actually study it, thank goodness. You can meet a lot of them at www.suicidology.org.
But I can tell you some interesting statistics I found out while I was prowling around the web.
It seems that women and girls are 3 to 4 times more likely to consider suicide than boys or men.
But guys are 3 to 4 times more likely than gals to actually go through with it.
And that’s an international set of statistics. There’s a good gender string for someone to pull to find out what’s on the other end, doncha think?
SB: People often describe suicide as springing from a series of current tragic events: a heartbreak, a loss, a tragedy. But I tend to think of suicidal motivation as more of your emotional makeup and deep background, with events playing a secondary role.
I remember a scary night with my mom when I was a teen, when she decided to kill us both... (I'll leave that back-story out of it for the moment!) Anyway, I was sobbing, and beseeching her, "But I don't wanna die!"
And she kept saying, "Too bad!"— like Humphrey Bogart in a film noir. Those lines were like the tag lines of our lifelong stances.
However, as you can see, she didn’t go through with it, and she also never told me what pulled her back from the brink!
KB: Oh, hon! I’m so sorry to hear you had to go through that!! Had I been peeking over your shoulder (and without knowing any of the back-story) I might have referred you to one of several alternatives:
#12 Send out a distress signal.
#14 Run away and hide.
#93 Bring on Goliath!
So what *did* you do to live through that moment??
It’s pretty obvious to me that you eventually kept yourself alive using alternative #30, Go out there and be a star. You’ve always been that to me, and to so many sex and gender outlaws of all ages. Bless you a whole lot.
SB: I'd like to re-imagine that whole scene and take all your suggestions! I certainly didn’t at the time; I was petrified.
My mom was a huge star in her own way. If you ever saw the two of us in a room, she is the one who would shine! You know what they say about those crazy diamonds...
Kate has a blog devoted to the "the journals of a desperate and unrepentant pervert" that I recommend for even the straightest of arrows. And her audio interview with Betty Dodson is better than Johnny Carson on ecstacy.