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Eric: On cartoon sound effects and the ultimate in schadenfreude: Questionable Content in review.

Questionable Cerebus?

(From Questionable Content. Click on the thumbnail for full sized trauma in the living room!)

Let's not kid ourselves. The last panel of last Friday's Questionable Content earned the highest accolade I know. Higher, yes, than a biscuit. (Though Jacques should assume he got one of those too.) No, that Questionable Content, after I read it, had me staring at the screen.

"Holy fuck," I said, after a long moment.

"Holy fuck," I said again, mind completely blown.

"Holy fuck," I said a third time -- the sacred trinity of holy fuckitude.

You don't get many of those moments in webcomics, and I treasure them. Like I treasured that moment.

However, I wanted to wait until this morning to snark it, because I wanted to see where we went from here. Because the analytical side of my brain had theories, and it wanted to see where those theories went.

Well, I have seen today's. And it's a good one. It's meaty. And, more to the point, it made me think not only about Jacques's story (and you better believe it made me think about Jacques's story), but about my own understanding of trends and developments in webcomics.

Which brings us to two words that have been quoted to me, e-mailed to me, and IM'd to me rather... often since this storyline began.

Cerebus Syndrome.

I'll pause so you can look it up in the Lexicon if you don't know it, because if I go through what it is again I'm going to have a full scale mutiny on my hands.

All set?

Then we'll proceed.

There was a hanging feeling of dread over this entire plotline. We knew from the beginning that something bad was going to happen. It had been clearly telegraphed. We knew this would be Faye's explanation of why she couldn't love Marten. Why she couldn't, by derivation, love anyone. And we knew it was going to be dark and it was going to hurt.

That telegraphing, by the way, strengthened the impact of Friday when we saw it. A horror movie director -- I want to say Hitchcock -- once said that you can build suspense by having the hero walking down a hall and you don't know what's down there. However, if you know the murderer is in the hall, and the hero doesn't, and is walking down there, you're not feeling suspense. You're fucking terrified. "Don't go down the hall!" you scream at the movie. "There's a murderer down there! You're -- GAH! I CAN'T WATCH!"

Jeph Jacques gave us an entire week where we were shouting at the computer screen. That's not easy to do. But he did it. And part of why it worked so well is because he's been teasing this storyline since... well, almost the very beginning.

And that Holy Fuck moment on Friday was executed perfectly. The flashback scenes we'd been seeing, of Faye and her father, were so beautiful, so bucolic -- rendered in a variation on Jacques's art style that really conveyed innocence. This wasn't what happened, this is what Faye remembered of a time in her life when everything made sense and was perfect, made even better, made cleaner by the filter that memory puts. Her father, in memory, isn't just a nice guy. He is the ultimate nice guy, smiling and nice no matter the circumstance.

And then, while Faye was watching, her father blew his own head off. Out of nowhere. With no warning that Faye had seen. With no note.

Much has been made, over on the QC forums, of the sound effect. "It's too cartoony," they say. Which to me misses the point in almost an epic way. This is the moment when Faye's Disney Life -- her vision of a world that was innocent, where her father was her best friend and would always watch out for her, when her father cared more for her than himself -- was shattered forever. Of course that last sound effect was "cartoony." Up until that moment, she had lived a cartoony life, at least in her own head. This was the last, hideous moment of that life, and it was killed as certainly as her father was. You'll notice today we don't see any more scenes in flashback. We just have the modern, scarred, traumatized Faye -- the Faye without primary colors -- reiterating what happened next in a monotone you can almost hear.

And that was one of the most powerful messages from this storyline. It didn't just convey a sense of why Faye is the way she is. It conveyed the mind numbing selfishness of suicide. This is the ultimate act of callousness. This is the ultimate act of caring for yourself and your own pain more than you care about your friends and your family. No matter what kind of father Faye's father had been until that moment, in that moment he was supremely selfish, and in that act he shattered his family, shattered his daughters -- shattered Faye -- for the rest of their lives.

Leading up to that moment, that horrible moment that we knew was coming, the fans were in turmoil. I was one of them. It was all too perfect. Too bucolic. "What's going to break this?" we asked ourselves. "Is he going to die in an accident? Is he going to rape her?" The smart money was on the latter, which is a hideous thing, if you think about it.

I don't think anyone saw this suicide coming. Any more than Faye herself did. That's storytelling at a higher level.

And it brings us back to those two words: Cerebus Syndrome.

When I saw the suicide strip, I was chatting with Weds. "Wow," I said. "There it is. Cerebus Syndrome."

"Yup," she said.

But then I had to rethink it for a while.

See, the Cerebus Syndrome is supposed to be when a comic strip has been light and happy and gag-a-day, and then the author decides to add depth and darkness and pain, to force the strip to a higher level, to make it deeper, to make it better, to be truer, in the end, to his vision of the characters.

In this case, Jacques clearly intended this storyline to happen from near the beginning if not the beginning. So does this count?

In the end, I have to say yes. What got subverted here was the audience's expectations -- we went from funny, to tense, to explosive, to pain. Yes, I think it was a "planned" Cerebus Syndrome attempt. A masterfully planned one at that. But I don't think that changes the fact that it is an attempt at it. And, the potentials it opens up shows why a well executed Cerebus Syndrome is such a powerful and moving event in webcomics. Jeph Jacques sent a shockwave through webcomics last week. Certainly, it was an event that got as much or more airplay than the revelation of the redhead in the Something Positive cast, and deservedly so. This was a huge event.

Now, the well executed Cerebus Syndrome needs certain elements. Moving forward, there needs to be both humor and pain -- light and darkness -- both apportioned out in appropriate measure. We can't just lurch back to the silliness willy nilly. That leads to a sense of identity loss for the strip. We can't just wallow in the pain and drama without the humor -- that leads to First and 10. It is a very, very difficult balancing act.

But I have faith in Jacques, because of the last panel of today's strip. A panel which, despite everything, has a punchline.

"What," Marten says. "Did you think I was gonna laugh at your pain?" (Yes, I'm paraphrasing.)

"God," Faye says. "That would have been hideous. My head would have exploded." (Again, paraphrasing. Jacques said both better. You should read it.)

Subtextually, what's being said here is "this isn't funny. This wasn't meant to be funny."

And then, a joke is made about it. And it works.

Jeph Jacques gets a biscuit. A tasty, tasty biscuit.

EDIT: As Jeph Jacques himself did, today, it's a good idea to post resources folks can follow if they're feeling suicidal or know someone who is. Suicidology.org is a great site for anyone who needs a little help for themselves or someone they love. If you're in crisis, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) and talk to someone right now. It's free, and they'll listen. They can help. Please.

Don't leave a Faye behind you.

Posted by Eric Burns-White at December 5, 2005 10:20 AM

Comments

Comment from: Tice with a J posted at December 5, 2005 11:30 AM

I have to wonder if there was a better way to convey it than with a big, bright and happy yellow-on-red BLAM! It may just be me, but I find that onomatopoeia detracts from emotional weight.

"Wow," I said.

Seconded.

Comment from: siwangmu posted at December 5, 2005 11:33 AM

There is a problem I have here: I hate discussions of how "selfish" suicide is. Now, this is from a limited perspective of, say, suicides which are the result of deep depression. I see those suicides as people who are killed by depression. Now, everything you said about it as a selfish act is true, but-- (and partly this is a result of the fact that not a day ago a friend of mine went off on how if any of us ever killed ourselves, she would never forgive us, because of what bastards we would be to do that to our loved ones) what exactly is the point of people going on about the selfishness of suicide? For the cases where it is the result of deep depression, do you really think that the person whose brain is so swamped in self-loathing and despair that they literally can't contemplate trying to go in the world is going to be like "Gee, maybe I shouldn't do it, that'd be kind of bastardy of me." Somehow I don't think we should be assuming that they're all "You kinow, this would have negative consequences for the nmetwork of people who love me so dearly" because are we sure they really even can feel aware of said network?

That was a bit of a rant, and an incoherent one at that. And I have to contradict myuself a little bit and say that I do think it is appropraite for you to be discussing the selfishness of suicide in terms of its function in the story and the way it makes the ultimate counterpoint to Alive Dad's behavior. I also think it is sensible to allow the other victims of suicide (the loved ones) to be angry and hurt, because, yes, it is a selfish act.

I just can't be comfortable with the settings (and hopefully I've made clear that it's not just this post) where it feels like the point is "People who kill themselves are such self-absorbed assholes." Because suicide is tragic, and judging it asd a decision made with the clarity of thought and purpose that we assume for things we judge harshly seems... off.
(Is it clear that I'm not saying you're calling suicides bastards but that I'm expressing botheration with what I see as potential implications of a focus on selfishness in suicide that I see as problematic? And which has been reflected in toher places as well as here so I'm doing that "respond to you and also the background in my head" thing? If it wasn't before, hopefully it is now.)

Oh, and also: Yes, it seems her Dad was nto showing signs of depression, so does my thing here even apply to the specific event here? Man do I ever not know.

Comment from: siwangmu posted at December 5, 2005 11:37 AM

On a completely different note: I had completely failed to notice cartoon-ness of sound effect. That sound effect, to me, was like knowledge delivered straight to my brain.

So, uh, for some people, it worked fine!

Comment from: Erik Larsen posted at December 5, 2005 11:48 AM

Oddly enough...

*points to today's Queen of Wands rerun*

That is all.

Comment from: vilious posted at December 5, 2005 11:53 AM

That last panel, with Faye curled into in a tight little egg and Marten's arms around her, is what has been happening from the beginning of the strip. That's their relationship right there. She is very happy to be held, but there is no way in the world she is coming out of that curl.

Marten's a pretty good guy, but he is going to have to be a hero to get out of this one clean.

We had an acquaintance who had episodes of violent depression. He was a big-time drunk, got into AA, sobered up. One day, on his way to a party, he went back to change his shirt and shot himself with the pistol he kept in his bureau. The thing came upon him when he was near a gun, and he probably never even had time to pray. It ruined his family, but what can you say? It is like a man on fire throwing himself into the family well. A bad decision and hard on everyone else, but he was on fire.

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at December 5, 2005 11:55 AM

See, I think it's important that we emphasize how mind numbingly selfish -- how callous and mean -- the act of suicide is.

Why?

Because if it has even the tiniest shred of a chance of penetrating the brain of a potential suicide, we can't possibly hammer the point enough.

A necessary caveat -- I am not discussing medical/assisted suicide here. That's a different situation and a different debate. I'm discussing suicide... well, in the circumstances we've seen depicted. Suicide over depression, or emotional pain, or what have you.

Yes, life sometimes hurts. Sometimes it hurts desperately. I've been there. Almost all of us have. Sometimes you just want to lie down and will yourself dead. Sometimes, you just want to drive out onto the ice and wait. Sometimes, the bottle of pills seems like the only way out.

But that 'way out' is hideous, traumatic and desperately unfair to the people who love you. To the people you leave behind. For the poor person who has to find your corpse. For the people who blame themselves for the rest of their lives, who cry their eyes out. Who wish they could be dead instead of you.

The natural mourning process includes most of the above. But it's magnified a thousandfold when it's someone you love who killed themselves. Because you're now second guessing your whole life. You can't see why they did it, so in the end you decide it's your fault.

That's a shitty thing to do to someone because you can't hack it.

Do I feel for those with depression? With mental anguish? With tremendous pain. You're damn straight I do. And like Jeph Jacques in today's strip, I'll gladly post a link people feeling that way can follow for help: suicidology.org can give people a chance to climb out of that pit. 1-800-273-TALK (8255) can give you a person to talk to right now if you don't see how you can possibly go on.

But if someone goes through with it. If they open their veins or take pills because it hurts too much, or because "she doesn't love me any more," or because "I have no way out," or because "they'll be sorry when I'm gone," then yeah. They're being ultimately, hideously selfish -- because "they" will be sorry when you're gone, and that's a fucked up thing to do to people for any reason.

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at December 5, 2005 12:02 PM

Oddly enough...

*points to today's Queen of Wands rerun*

That is all.

I'd noticed that too.

Comment from: Christopher B. Wright posted at December 5, 2005 12:12 PM

See, I think it's important that we emphasize how mind numbingly selfish -- how callous and mean -- the act of suicide is.

That, and it's a lot easier and safer to take all your anger out on some poor bastard who can no longer defend himself. Or herself.

Comment from: Christopher B. Wright posted at December 5, 2005 12:22 PM

A necessary caveat -- I am not discussing medical/assisted suicide here. That's a different situation and a different debate. I'm discussing suicide... well, in the circumstances we've seen depicted. Suicide over depression, or emotional pain, or what have you.

Really, the only difference between the two is that you tell someone ahead of time and they help stop you. I imagine the effect on some members of the family will be brutal irrespective of the context of the action.

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at December 5, 2005 12:26 PM

That, and it's a lot easier and safer to take all your anger out on some poor bastard who can no longer defend himself. Or herself.

Well, I'm discussing the act, not any of the individual.

But yes, it is in fact easier and safer to do so.

And in fact, it's one of the bitter ironies of suicide. The ones who (typically) will blame themselves for the suicide of a friend or loved one (typically) aren't the cause of the suicide. Those who actually might have done horrible, thoughtless things that contributed to said suicide are generally less likely to blame themselves and more likely to blame the dead friend (or even the friends who are recriminating among themselves.)

The thing is? Suicide is indiscriminate. You don't just leave behind the bastards who'll pay. You also leave behind the friends who loved you -- the ones who'd give anything to have you back. And in the end, the latter hurt far worse than the former pay.

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at December 5, 2005 12:27 PM

Christopher -- I would tend to agree RE assisted suicide. However, the point is it's not the same situation as the one described before.

Comment from: vilious posted at December 5, 2005 12:28 PM

I absolutely agree that it is selfish, and I think people who rationally choose suicide are, um, mistaken. There is a lot less rational choice out there than one might think, though. As I said, sometimes it is like someone on fire seeing a way to put the fire out. I mean, really, when you unknowingly pick up an iron frying pan that has been sitting over a flame, do you make a reasoned decision about where best to place the pan? You do not. The pan goes one way, you go another. Impulse suicides are like that.

By the by, anyone coherent enought to follow this argument is not in that much pain, and should call that number up there if they think they might be. Yes, they really will be sorry when you're dead. In fact, statistically, their chances of killing themselves will rise sharply. We are all tied together here, and if any of us jump, others get dragged with them.

But where there is no choice, there can be no blame. One ought only if one can.

Comment from: siwangmu posted at December 5, 2005 12:29 PM

"Yes, life sometimes hurts. Sometimes it hurts desperately. I've been there. Almost all of us have."

"That's a shitty thing to do to someone because you can't hack it."

But, Eric... aren't those statements rather close to the hilarious comment from "waiting for the atomoxablooegasptine (can't remember drug)" to the effect that "Depression is like sadness, just, you know, sadder?"
I don't know if you mean that almost all of us have been really, really low, or that almost all of us have been subject to very deep clinical depression, which if the former you are in fact doing the thing, and if the latter, man, it's a wonder we're even frickin' here, isn't it?

I mean... "because you can't hack it?" How would that not reinforce a depressed person's sense that they were fundamentally worthless? How would that not play into a seeming certainty that no could could really love them because they do not deserve to be loved? Wouldn't it make as much sense in this person's mental state that if they are this much of a worthless creature they're probably going to destroy the lives of those other people if they stay alive? I'm not saying that makes sense to us.

But... can't hack it? You mean can't find ways of coping with a mental anguish so profound that I highly, highly doubt anyone here who wasn't saved from suicide by some kind of intervention can fathom it? (I can't fathom it, myself, as I've been very deeply depressed but never really suicidal)

The thing is, thinking through the consequences of suicide, the person finding your body, the pain--I think those are things that, if they can be gotten through, should be. I think it would be wonderful to try and communicate to the person "What will happen after you're gone? Are there people who will miss you? Will your mother have to find your body?" because if you can get them thinking about it, you've got them into some kind of awareness of, say, the presence of loved ones, and of a world that goes on. But... for God's sake, telling someone "If you do this, you are a callous, selfish, weak asshole..." It seems to me like the answer a depressed brain would give to that would be "You're right. I'm selfish and weak. I'll never be worth anything." Blam.

I mean... "a shitty thing to do to someone because you can't hack it?" Man, people who are too much of pansies to fight their way out of major depression are such tools! (I'm trying to use that hyperbolic sarcastic tone to communicate clearly what I feel like is implied in that statement, not in any way what I think you think or are trying to say. I hope it comes out right and doesn't just make people mad or something)

Comment from: Christopher B. Wright posted at December 5, 2005 12:29 PM

Sure, Eric, but pointing out that suicide is a collossal fuckup to someone whose mindset is already in the realm of "everything I do is a collossal fuckup" is not, in my opinion, an effective deterrence.

Comment from: siwangmu posted at December 5, 2005 12:32 PM

Or vilious could make an even better point much more concisely and simply. You know, that works too.

Comment from: Rowboat posted at December 5, 2005 12:37 PM

On a completely different note: I had completely failed to notice cartoon-ness of sound effect. That sound effect, to me, was like knowledge delivered straight to my brain.

Same here. I think it's the best way it could have been done, really.

As for hammering the "suicide is selfish" point into people's heads... I don't know. It might help - and then again, it might simply serve to make them feel more horrible about themselves as they pull the trigger (or jump off the bridge, or whatever). I can't claim I've been all that close to attempting suicide, but I think that's the effect it would have on me. (and previewing tells me I'm not the first, nor the only one, who thought of this)

Comment from: Robin Z posted at December 5, 2005 12:57 PM

I agree about the sound effect – it just read as a gunshot to me.

As for the other debate, I agree with siwangmu: it might be better to put the emphasis on others who would be harmed rather than on the suicide being selfish. Then again, I've never been there either.

Comment from: chalcara posted at December 5, 2005 1:03 PM

The problem with the "suicide is selflesh" preaching is that it's usually fullfilled with Righteous Anger.


And before the drama really starts, here a snipped of the page Eric linked too, just for good measure:

"Here are some ways to be helpful to someone who is threatening suicide:

[...]
Be non-judgmental. DonĚt debate whether suicide is right or wrong, or whether feelings are good or bad. DonĚt lecture on the value of life."

Comment from: Eytan Zweig posted at December 5, 2005 1:08 PM

I think a lot of the discussion above is conflating two seperate situations.

It's obvious (at least to me) that taking the "suicide is selfish and irresponsible" line with someone who is actively depressed and considering/attempting suicide is a really bad way to prevent them from going through with it. Christopher's last comment above makes that point very well.

But it's an important message nonetheless, and its audience is us, the people who are not suicidal. It deserves to be harped upon, and made an ingrained part of our psyche. Because if it is ingrained enough, it may make a difference.

When I was 18, a close friend of mine shot himself. About a year later, another friend, who was close to us, attempted suicide. She stopped herself, though, and one of the main considerations for her was the memory of what she went through earlier, and the realization that by escaping her own pain she'll be dooming her loved ones to even greater pain.

In addition to those cases, I've known other people who have either attempted or suceeded at suicide. One thing that almost all of them have in common is that they just didn't think of the effect they'll have on other people, or at the very least seriously underestimate it. They shouldn't have to live through the suicide of someone else to be brought to understand its implications.

So, this isn't about preaching to the depressed. It's about giving the necessary perspective to the rest of us, those that aren't suicidal today but may be tomorrow. And even if only a small fraction of potentail sucidies will be prevented by this message, it's worth it.

Comment from: Paul Gadzikowski posted at December 5, 2005 1:10 PM

When the kids were still home I was outnumbered by the bipolars three to one, and they weren't diagnosed till the kids were well into adolecence. (The reason I draw webcomics and write fanfiction is not that I don't have a life.) The thing that's hard for the rest of us to grasp is that these clinical mood-altering conditions are the equivalent of being drugged by your own body. The rest of us tend to advance from the assumption that rational argument can combat the reasoning of someone who's not literally drugged, and it ain't necessarily so.

Comment from: W. I. Shane M. posted at December 5, 2005 1:19 PM

I didn't notice the sound effect as a comic devise the first time through, just a noise, but on further reflection I decided on the same conclusion Eric reached.



On the other debate I'm not sure where I fall. Suicide is selfish, but people know that. What if I felt like the life I'd live would hurt people more than my death? It can seem sometimes like everything you touch falls apart and fails, whether it's a project or a person. Believing things will get better can be hard, and I think a lot of it is willpower.



Me, I'm too much of a skeptic and procrastinator to kill myself. There's no garantee things won't get better tomorrow, so why not put it off til then? Besides which, why should I trust myself to know whether my life is worth living? Are any of us so infallible as to make a decision we won't be able to take back or even regret?

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at December 5, 2005 1:24 PM

Paul -- in that, I completely agree.

I also accept there are situations where a person literally can't make the right choice, because of biochemistry or circumstance.

But, as Eytan just said, the time to get an idea down into the psyche isn't when they're already suicidally depressed. It's when they aren't.

I stick by my essay's contention. Suicide is selfish. It is an act of the self for the self. And it is not done in a vacuum.

If someone, while they're rational, hears that message -- it becomes more likely they'll remember it when they're irrational. And sugarcoating that message would be a disservice to the power of Jacques's storyline. Because the storyline isn't about Faye's father committing suicide. The storyline is about Faye surviving her father's suicide.

Someone else made a germane point. Discussing an actual, individual suicide is a discussion of tragedy. Discussing the act of suicide, apart from the individuals who do it, is to discuss an act -- I say again -- of selfishness. Of self-centeredness. It is the ultimate expression of "I." "I can't cope." "I can't live without her." "I want to make them suffer the way they've made me suffer."

It may be irrational, driven by biochemistry upon the brain, but the brain is still responding with that core "I." "I can stop feeling like this if I pull the trigger."

If I were confronted with a specific person who was suicidal, would I say this to him? Likely not. I would try to get them talking about that pain. If I couldn't, I'd call that phone number and say "what can I do." I've done it before, actually.

But when I talk about the theory, I'm going to call it like I see it. And suicide is ugly and callous, leaving behind shattered lives and people having to clean up another's mess.

And when the object of the story is someone whose life was shattered by a suicide, I'm going to compliment the writer on the poignancy involved. On the pain left behind. On the anger. On the trauma.

Jacques nailed it. He really did.

And Faye's father, in the end, was selfish.

Comment from: Meander posted at December 5, 2005 1:24 PM

I'm a little confused on the medical/assisted suicied comments. Are you two for or against it?

This is an issue for me, because my mother is dying of motor neurone disease. Eventually her fully functional mind will be trapped in an immobile body. She's discussed how things are going to end, and it's not going to be with her waiting around for the disease to shut down her lungs or possibly live for years and years trapped in her body.

Comment from: Christopher B. Wright posted at December 5, 2005 1:25 PM

Thus spake Ericthustra. :)

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at December 5, 2005 1:39 PM

I'm a little confused on the medical/assisted suicied comments. Are you two for or against it?

I'm not stating either way. Like I said before, that's a different debate than the one we're having here, and I'm not going to muddy the waters any more than they are.

If you want to know, e-mail me at websnark unt gmail and I'll send back my opinion. But right now, I'm only commenting on general suicide, not medical/assisted suicide.

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at December 5, 2005 1:40 PM

Publicly commenting, I mean.

Comment from: Kate Sith posted at December 5, 2005 1:41 PM

what exactly is the point of people going on about the selfishness of suicide? For the cases where it is the result of deep depression, do you really think that the person whose brain is so swamped in self-loathing and despair that they literally can't contemplate trying to go in the world is going to be like "Gee, maybe I shouldn't do it, that'd be kind of bastardy of me." Somehow I don't think we should be assuming that they're all "You know, this would have negative consequences for the nmetwork of people who love me so dearly" because are we sure they really even can feel aware of said network?

::cough:: Well.

I can't speak for, you know, everybody. But, uhm... I'm still alive. For one.

Most of the time, what stopped me from that train of thought was the notion that I couldn't bear doing this to certain people. Everyone, really, but there were names that stuck out. I've been down the hole and back again many times without ever telling anyone during or after the fact, but just the idea of them, and of what would happen was enough to pull me out.

I mean... "a shitty thing to do to someone because you can't hack it?" Man, people who are too much of pansies to fight their way out of major depression are such tools!

In my own case--and again, this may be just me--this approach worked better than the usual 'oh, I'm so sorry, we're here for you' etc. etc. Not that warm fuzzies aren't apprectiated, but I've come to believe that the lion's share of my depression at the time was a function of a craving for attention. Have an episode, get coddled, get e-hugs or whatever, be okay for a while, get lonely, trigger another episode. I just felt that whenever I was bored or lonely or whatever my brain would simply kick that part of me into gear and set things in motion all over again.

Sometimes one may need a healthy dose of 'snap the hell out of it'. Again, perhaps that's simply my own idiosyncracy at work, and I'm the exception to the rule. I'm just speaking from personal experience.

So, uhm... yeah. I don't really like to bring it up that much if I can help it, cos it all just comes off as attention-whorish... even when I do, it's usually behind all kinds of locks and safeguards. So pardon me if I'm a bit awkward, here. But I guess all the instances of 'I had a friend' or 'an acquaintance bla blah' or 'I guess this is what I'd think' made me think they needed to be balanced with a 'this is what I thought when I was at the end of that (figurative) rope'.

(Granted, my credentials aren't the greatest: no professional diagnosis to speak of... and, well, I'm not quite solidly in the 'actual attempt' club, but I assure you that I very nearly made the cut.)

So. Right. Anyway. Yeah.

Comment from: Ceejamon posted at December 5, 2005 2:04 PM

I don't think I've ever waited so impatiently for a webcomic update as I have EVERY DAY since this story arc started.

And Pintsize's "DUN DUN DUNNN" was absolutely hilarious.

Comment from: larksilver posted at December 5, 2005 2:17 PM

Kate: I've had those moments, as well. And yes, it was my own inner drill sergeant who snapped me out of it.

In those moments when you're convinced that not only are you alone, but you're destined to be alone because you're fat, ugly, unlovable... sometimes a sympathetic shoulder actually makes it worse. While I was in the throes of labor, doing pretty well but in quite a bit of pain, my mom called from Texas, and I fell apart. Like when I was a kid, and I would hurt myself, and calmly walk home through the pain of the twisted ankle or what have you, and not even think to cry until she was there to wipe the tears.

Sometimes, you need someone (even if it's yourself) to say "stop being a coward. Go get out and LIVE. Your mother doesn't deserve to outlive you." It's not a fix for the pain, it's not a fix for the depression, but knowing, really, deep-down knowing, that my family would be devastated, and that it would break something inside my parents... how could I?

Clinical depression aside, we all deal with hormones and bad days and bad months and even bad years. We all have times when our lives make us so freakin' tired that we can't think straight, or we would just lie down in the street if it would make the migraine stop. We all have those times when it seems death would be preferable to one more heartbeat, to one more moment of this existence. Everyone has that moment, once or twice in their lives, even if they firmly deny it to the rest of the world.

Everyone has lost hope. Most of us find it again, but to do that, you have to get through the hopelessness. To do that, you have to survive.

Knowing on an instinctive level that what you do will impact those around you for good or ill.. well, if it prevents one suicide, if it keeps one person moving despite their loss of inner hope and faith (even if said loss is fleeting)... then it's worth it.


Regarding sound effects: I noted the blammy blam blamedness, but it felt right, it felt natural. And really.. what else could he have used? Almost any sound effect would have been a bit cartoonish, given that, well, it is a comic, and there's no sound.

On Faye's Dad: Seems to me, if I at the facts as they are presented, that there's only one thing more selfish than suicide at all. It's killing yourself when you don't make bloomin' sure your kid doesn't see, or find your corpse. Or, hell, killin' yerself when you have kids to take care of.

Knowing that dad killed himself is bad enough (and it's BAD). Watching him do it? We're talking about a life-scarring event. Poor baby girl. oh, and this:

Don't leave a Faye behind you.

Brought tears to my eyes. Good show, Eric!

Comment from: Denyer posted at December 5, 2005 2:31 PM

Suicide is selfish. It is an act of the self for the self.

Yup. The question then becomes whether that's a bad thing -- and I'd argue that in some circumstances it's both understandable and a decision to be respected. The logic expressed by some that suicide is necessarily cowardly... well, I certainly don't have the wherewithal to accomplish it. Give it another seventy or eighty years and maybe I'll be more bored, hurting or incapable of doing anything I find interesting.

Because if it has even the tiniest shred of a chance of penetrating the brain of a potential suicide

As noted elsewhere, you're as likely to be the straw that breaks the camel's back. Not something I'd readily take onto my conscience, personally.

In this case, Jacques clearly intended this storyline to happen from near the beginning if not the beginning.

Playing devil's advocate, I think he had the character traits mapped out but sketched in the details (Faye's family, etc) as he's gone along. Much as the art has experienced a series of fractal leaps in depth.

Comment from: Ardaniel posted at December 5, 2005 2:33 PM

I just liked Jeph's response to people who were on his case about the typography in Friday's strip. (NSFW, language)

Comment from: Denyer posted at December 5, 2005 2:38 PM

Not something I'd readily take onto my conscience, personally.

Incidentally, the wanting to reach out and save, I can readily understand. It's just unfortunate that many of the ways we'd instinctively do that have a rather opposite effect.

Comment from: Phil Kahn posted at December 5, 2005 2:45 PM

I dunno. I'm not really feelin' it.

I think I'll write about this tommorow.

Comment from: JediLora posted at December 5, 2005 2:47 PM

On a different note, I absolutely adore the first panel in this strip. Marten is just there, listening, and the angle is so far away. Then the second one is Faye alone, with that wide expanse of couch there. We know Marten is there, just out of frame, but for a moment there, Faye is remote and alone. Marten comes back in third frame, leading to the hug she so desperately needs in the final, but that first one..I've been Marten. I've been there while friends told me horrible things that shattered their lives, and they are gone and away even when I'm right there next to them.

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at December 5, 2005 2:55 PM

Wait...

Phil?

Are you suggesting....

...you have a different opinion... which you're going to elaborate on in your blog?

The critical dialogue works! Kermitarms! YAAAAAAAAY!

Comment from: Wednesday White posted at December 5, 2005 2:56 PM

The selfishness argument makes me uncomfortable because it's so easily subverted: "What about me?! How can you leave me behind like that? How can you do that to me?"

How is that better? You can't blanket-stigmatize selfishness and then expect this particular approach to be anything but an impetus to further guilt. Either you have to distinguish between forms of selfishness, or something else needs to be invoked.

Also, one potential suicide warning sign? Cutting ties. Winding up responsibilities, winding up relationships with loved ones (or, hell, liked ones), doing one's level best to minimize the impact of one's disappearance. (The warning literature is big on dramatic statements being attached to this; "I won't need this anymore" or "I just came to say goodbye." It could be more gradual than that.) Or they might fulfil all of their Being an Asshole dreams in one fell swoop. Drill the idea that a suicide is a Selfish Selfish Act into someone's head, and they're just as likely to try and make their deaths an effective counterargument: I was more trouble to you while I was alive.

(I'm not arguing that the despair-driven suicide act is a good idea, or low-impact, or what-have-you; I do think we -- societally we, not just us-we -- need to find more neutral ways of conveying the concepts at hand.)

Comment from: chalcara posted at December 5, 2005 3:00 PM

I knew someone who killed himself because he decucted he'd be more selfish if he'd force his family to live with his clinical depression than just simply do the deed.

Because, so he reasoned in his letter, killing himself would allow his family to grief and move on; while otherwise they'd been stuck with a clinical depressed son for yet another ten years.


While etablishing the selfishness in more or less healthy people might prevent future tragedies, guiltripping a sucide is a *very* double edged sword. :(

Comment from: chalcara posted at December 5, 2005 3:20 PM

(Sorry for the double post)

Still, I managed to get a friend of mine to promise me that, what ever happens, he'd never, ever harm himself, be it through cutting or suicide. No guilt trip at all, just a plea "Pull through for me, PLEASE", until now he's alive and slowly gets his life together again.

But I am afraid, alot of (attempted) suicides are actions in affect: One's drugged, or has a day worse than possible, hell, even a sad film can be enough and one simply doesn't THINK straight anymore and grabs the weapon of one's choice...

Just one day, or one HOUR of such a mood could be enough to get a person to kill herself, even if she's usually aware of it's affect on her beloveds.

It's just like people drive while drunk... They simply don't think about the consequences of their actions and POOF, a human is gone.

It's kinda scary how fast that can happen. And that's why I still fear for my friend.


And for Faye's dad? Yes, I can see how the family could have missed his intent all the time. Take a clinical depression, just light enough that it can be perfectly covered up - afterall, you love your family and don't want to bother them, ney?

After a year or two (sometimes much faster), and you start thinking over killing yourself more and more, but hell, You CAN'T do that to your family, can you? So you play on, make a happy face and just keep the depression bottled, all because you care for their happyness. And it's not quite that bad, isn't it? You can deal.

Then, one morning, all your carefully build-up mental fences crumble; everything you pent up in the last years comes down at once and simply carries the voice of reason away...

And then you're gone, unless someone (or something) manages to safe you in the last second.

Faye couldn't safe her dad - she was a child and pulling a triggers simply way to fast: Maybe that's why her dad chose the gun over for example sleeping pills or severing ones ateria.

Comment from: Jeff Eaton posted at December 5, 2005 3:29 PM

As someone who's had very close friends and loved ones contemplate and attempt suicide, I'll second the notion that Weds and chalcara advanced: while an argument can be made that suicide is a morally and ethically selfish decision, it's a bit like arguing about the importance of property rights to a starving thief in a bakery.

Comment from: Steven E. Ehrbar posted at December 5, 2005 3:33 PM

I can't think of anything better calculated to drive a suicide over the edge than implanting the idea one should feel guilty about suicide. I know the guilt that I felt about seriously contemplating it increased my desire to go through with it, to make the guilt stop.

You know what stopped me? Fear that my attempt to end my pain would fail, leaving me even worse off. Fear that I'd survive my attempt, adding physical disabilities and a horrified family to my burdens. Fear that an afterlife might exist, so the pain and guilt wouldn't stop when my life did.

I was seeking a solution. Guilt only made me more eager for a solution. The only thing that stopped me was my depressed certainty that anything I tried wouldn't work.

Comment from: 32_footsteps posted at December 5, 2005 3:34 PM

Ah, once more into the breach.

Maybe, just maybe, I wouldn't be so negative on QC if this had come much earlier. There comes a certain point in which the suspense turns to frustration, and QC hit that for me ages ago.

Of course, given that I also think that the "blam" was a really poor decision, that's no guarantee. Not because it ruined the mood, per se. But because it doesn't fit at all. I almost expected that the suicide didn't affect Faye, given how it was depicted.

Funny thing is, I could easily depict in my mind how it could have worked. Get rid of the "blam," but keep everything else but with one change. In that last panel, imagine Jacques drawing Faye with the sharp lines and the muted tones of present Faye while keeping the flashback background.

Now that, it would have signalled much more strongly the end of childhood. It would have depicted an adult Faye, practically ripped from her childhood by a single moment. It would have shown a girl that was still surrounded by her childhood, even though she was irrevocably and brutally ripped from that innocence. It would have shown that in a world of happiness and joy, she was an outsider that didn't belong there anymore, no matter how much she might have wanted otherwise.

Of course, given the link from Jacques' site above, I no doubt as to what he thinks of my little depiction.

Also, regarding the speculation about Faye's father - I'm about to get a bit controversial, if it's alright with everyone. I think everyone pegged sexual assault of some variety over suicide because, in a way, they would have preferred the former in the story. See, people knew something Faye's father did hurt her to the point where she rejects the bleedingly obvious "perfect guy for her" right in front of her. So they wanted to hate him for that, and they wanted that hate to be pure and primal. It's really easy to hate a sexual abuser, because that's a rotten act bespeaking a rotten core, disgusting thoroughly.

However, suicide is much more seen as a terrible act done by an otherwise decent person. An act done often out of blindness and despair (and given that I'm already juggling enough controversy in this comment, I won't go further into my thoughts on suicide) rather than a fundamental evil seen within a person. Thus, people tend to pity suicide victims, even while they're angry with them. People wanted to hate Faye's dad for hurting her. They didn't want to feel any pity towards him, so they mentally chose the storyline that would result in feeling no pity towards him. And that story wasn't told.

Comment from: 32_footsteps posted at December 5, 2005 3:35 PM

Also, I'd be careful equating cutting and suicide, chalcara. They can be very different things.

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at December 5, 2005 3:38 PM

32 -- you have a definite point, RE the story people wanted versus the story they got. They didn't want Faye's dad to turn into a monster, but they prepared themselves for it. As a result, the suicide was all the more shocking, because there was all that potential energy built up, suddenly shunted in directions they weren't expecting.

Comment from: chalcara posted at December 5, 2005 3:42 PM

I know, but in this example the friend of mine did the cutting and attempted later. And after he promised to stop the cutting, he started ramming his fists into the wall until his hand bones broke...

It took what felt for AGES until he realized that he needs frigging therapy.

Comment from: miyaa posted at December 5, 2005 3:49 PM

Classifying 500+ strips is as something near the beginning is about as annoying as saying that the Indianapolis Colts have the best 12-0 start in league history in 1985 or something like that.

I think one biggest illusions about suicides (I've thought about doing it at one time long in my past) is somehow you're seeing yourself as finally in control by controlling when and how you are going to die. What makes death so scary for many people is that you're not in control of how you are going to die. Even if its just dying a happy and natural death, you aren't going to be able to tell God the time and terms of your death. Your death isn't something you can put on your outlook calendar. (Let's see, December 23, 2012, just before the Mayan calendar predicts the end of the world. At 12:15 pm.)

The Queen of Wands rerun strip for today says that aspect of suicide very well.

Comment from: Ardaniel posted at December 5, 2005 3:59 PM

Jeph's news post seems to make it sound like he already knows Faye's father's motivation, and that it was somehow involved with clinical depression, In the context of the strip, though, absent any "out-of-game" knowledge...

for all Faye knows, her father had a terminal illness that he was covering for until he decided to end it. As the daughter of a guy who has a serious medical condition that can be hereditary-- but who didn't find out about it until he was 30-- I'm, uh, less than eager to hit my 30th birthday in another month and change. I can only imagine what sorts of scenarios Faye comes up with in the middle of the night wrt the medical possibilities (assuming that Faye's mom didn't get access to his records and go over them immediately with the kids to dismiss that sort of speculation).

Comment from: Denyer posted at December 5, 2005 4:00 PM

Cutting ties. Winding up responsibilities, winding up relationships with loved ones (or, hell, liked ones), doing one's level best to minimize the impact of one's disappearance. (The warning literature is big on dramatic statements being attached to this; "I won't need this anymore" or "I just came to say goodbye." It could be more gradual than that.

It'd certainly be my preferred exit in that situation. It appeals to two things: control freakery and consideration.

so he reasoned in his letter, killing himself would allow his family to grief and move on; while otherwise they'd been stuck with a clinical depressed son for yet another ten years.

Quite possibly true, though it may be a little less than politically-correct to agree...

I think everyone pegged sexual assault of some variety over suicide because, in a way, they would have preferred the former in the story

Or they misread Faye's recollections earlier in the story, thought Jeph was a bad enough writer to go back on those earlier plot points, or simply missed that stuff altogether... any of which seem as likely to me.

Still didn't guess the suicide angle, though.

Comment from: Sandalphon posted at December 5, 2005 4:03 PM

Denyer wrote:

The logic expressed by some that suicide is necessarily cowardly... well, I certainly don't have the wherewithal to accomplish it. Give it another seventy or eighty years and maybe I'll be more bored, hurting or incapable of doing anything I find interesting.

"Hurting or incapable"--if by that you mean a terminal illness, yes, I see your point. But "bored"? That is NEVER a reason to commit suicide, no matter how old one is.

Comment from: Paul Gadzikowski posted at December 5, 2005 4:05 PM

I get the impression from Jeph's comments about Faye's recollection that there are important and fascinating facts about the event that she doesn't remember or never learned. I don't suspect they'll come out right away just because she's finally Told All to Marten.

Comment from: Wednesday White posted at December 5, 2005 4:15 PM

Boredom has the same nigh-unbearable extremes as any other mental or emotional state. I can see plenty of ways where it'd be a reason to kill yourself, especially if aging has left you in a position where, for one reason or another, there's not a lot you can do to alleviate it.

Say your life has been all about intellectual stimulation.

Lock yourself in an empty room for two days. No stimuli worth mentioning: you, your head, the barest minimum of necessary bedding (neutral at that -- no textures or colours which particularly appeal to you). No books, no television. No diversions to entertain you, no means of communicating with anyone you care about. Keep your food intake bland and minimal; nothing you like all that much, and ideally nothing you really have to chew with any great force or effort. Don't move, if you can help it, except to go to the bathroom. It's all about you and your relationship with the paint.

At the end of the two days, have someone bring you a pile of unchallenging, outdated magazines on topics you don't care about, and a TV which only plays Oprah.

Now, try this cycle for two weeks. Months. Years.

That's a mild version.

Comment from: Sandalphon posted at December 5, 2005 4:15 PM

Before last Friday's strip, I considered for a split-second the possiblility of Faye's dad sexually abusing her. But then I dropped it, because all I've read or heard of parental sexual abuse suggests that it tends to begin when the child is very young. So it seemed unlikely that Faye's warm, gentle, best-buddy dad would suddenly turn into an incestuous monster in her late adolescence.

Comment from: Sandalphon posted at December 5, 2005 4:24 PM

Weds: If I were in that nursing-home type of situation, and still mentally capable of enjoying intellectual stimulation, I for one wouldn't lie there with the outdated pop-culture mags and the Oprah. I would ask either the home, or my children/next of kin to bring me books of the sort I enjoyed. Or books on tape if my eyesight was that bad. If you are bored it is your responsibility to un-bore yourself.

But if I was elderly and in a hospital with an inoperable, metastasized cancer eating my body from the inside, and was in too much constant pain to read or even think clearly, then I might just ask a loved one to smuggle in some sodium pentathol. That's not boredom, that's unremitting and unrelievable physical pain.

Comment from: siwangmu posted at December 5, 2005 4:32 PM

Hmm.. Many things!

A lot of what I still see as my conflict with Eric (and others, it's just easier to pinpoint him) is the issue of value-judgment. Eric and others are trying to emphasize, as strongly and as clearly as they possibly can, that the destructiveness of suicide extends far, far, far beyond the self. That it is an act that permanently damages others. I agree with this completely. Someone said that yes, the depressed brain is/can be selfish, but they weren't sure that's a bad thing. Here's what I'd say: wherein I think the mental state of some potential suicides makes it either impossible or very unlikely that they *can* contemplate the needs and emotions of other people, I would agree that that is denotatively selfish. But selfish, in use as a term, is a value judgment. It says "the person whose action is being described is a bad person." So does irresponsible. So does callous. So does, well, pretty much everything I've seen from you on the subject. Your argument is that while you'd never say this to an individual, since it is true of your theoreitcal conception and since some people may be stopped by bearing it in mind, it needs to be put out there without sugar-coating.

I think there's two separate aspects of this, one of which I strongly approve and one of which I, well, respond to with long rants and consider innapropriate and harmful to the world at large. I think that probably, when you see a close friend die and can never forget it and you end up not a suicide because that awareness was ingrained, what you are seeing and remembering is not that the suicide was a bad person, but instead a fuller and more realistic conception of the impact of suicide than you had before. You are not saying "I couldn't do that to my family" because you don't want to be a bad person, you're saying it because you remember that it would cause them that pain and you don't want to do it to them.

A callous action is one taken by a person who is fully aware of the consequences or the circumstance and chooses not to care. I really am not sure that's what you're arguing Faye's father did--I'm not sure it is POSSIBLE for you to argue that that is what he did unless you have super-secret extra info on his mental state.

Here's the thing. Emphasizing the PERMANENT, INCREDIBLY DESTRUCTIVE consequences of Faye's Dad's suicide in hope that as a result of stories like this we'll all be a little better able to remember how devastating suicide is to others and that it will help us resist? Here is the totally approve part.

Emphasizing, and claiming it is vital to emphasize, what a bad person the father is for what he did to her? I don't understand it.

Also I'm fighting the urge to add another entire response here because I am (not sarcastic) unbelievably fascinated by Kate Sith's account of her experiences with depression. I may give in and come back later and do that and ask questions and such because I can't resist the "this turns a lot of my assumptions on their heads and I wanna know more!" but if I do at least there'll be a break and some other people in between?

Comment from: 32_footsteps posted at December 5, 2005 4:48 PM

I don't know about how your family works, Miyaa, but in mine we have a very strong tradition of the men in the family dying around 6-8 months after their 72nd birthday. Almost always of heart failure. Granted, I live a much healthier lifestyle than any of my forebears. Still, the number of deaths at 72 in my lineage is kind of freaky. Ah well, that still gives me 46 years, so I better get cracking.

As for Denyer's point about Jacques' writing - well, I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt, for once. Given that I suspect he had this planned all along, I don't think he went back on previously-established characterization. Of course, you'd have to do an archive trawl to determine that. And I'm certainly not going to do one for QC.

I didn't peg the suicide angle myself - I put it as the third most-likely scenario (behind sexual abuse and watching her father get killed by someone else, but ahead of watching her father kill a relative in cold blood). I wonder why people didn't see it as a possibility, though. Maybe it's a blindness to how many terrible things are possible to a person.

Comment from: Miller posted at December 5, 2005 4:50 PM

I was just looking at that comic for about the tenth time, when I finally figured out the punchline. "My head would've exploded." After she talks about watching her dad shoot himself in the head.

How is it I never catch these things the first time through?

Comment from: Montykins posted at December 5, 2005 5:02 PM

If I were in that nursing-home type of situation, and still mentally capable of enjoying intellectual stimulation, I for one wouldn't lie there with the outdated pop-culture mags and the Oprah. I would ask either the home, or my children/next of kin to bring me books of the sort I enjoyed. Or books on tape if my eyesight was that bad.

Sure, you would. But that's because you're not clinically depressed. It's when someone can't take those actions that the boredom and isolation can become literally unbearable.

I love how QC and QoW are both all suicidey in the holiday season. Heh.

Comment from: Aeonian posted at December 5, 2005 5:03 PM

Here's my first post on my websnark just to say that if it wasn't for the thought of the pain I would've caused my family I wouldn't have made it past 15 years old.

Comment from: Alexis Christoforides posted at December 5, 2005 5:06 PM

And Faye's father, in the end, was selfish.

Faye's father was a damned bastard, that's what he was. I'm not married, have children, or in any sort of serious relationship right now, but I like to think that when I'll be, there will be a set of people that I will consider more important than me in my life. And I say that even though I'm a complete egocentrical asshole.

And if that was him trying to spare his family from some suffering from an incurable disease, well geez, he did a damn good job.

That said (and I applaud Jeph for making me angry at a comic strip character), Jeph probably has a very good reason all thought out that'll make go "OH" . Or maybe not, maybe this is about how life often lacks closure, and we are forced to move on from things so horrible it doesn't seem right to move on.

I don't know. QC rocks.

Comment from: Buzzfloyd posted at December 5, 2005 5:08 PM

My experience has been similar to Kate Sith's. I thought through very carefully at a young age the implications of suicide, after an acquaintance killed herself at the age of about eighteen. The conclusion I reached was that, if I should ever be suicidal, I should tell myself that I had known when I was rational that suicide was never the right choice, and that if I was considering it, I was irrational and should not take action.

That might sound crazy, but it was part of what kept me going at my lowest points.

The other part came out of my experience working at an undertaker's for three years after I left school. In my first fortnight, we arranged the funerals for two suicides; one was a young mother who took an overdose and one was a teenage boy who hanged himself. Working with those families - and, of course, all the others - gave me a profoundly deeper insight into bereavement, grief and betrayal than I could ever have had otherwise.

That intimately gained knowledge informed the understanding that stayed with me even when I couldn't think straight. I knew that suicide was the wrong option. I knew that I couldn't do to the people I loved what I had seen done to those poor souls who were left behind.

Understanding the impact of suicide - call it selfishness if you will, but I'd say irrationality is a given for contemplating suicide, and that clouds some of the ability to make moral judgements - when I was not suicidal was indeed part of what prevented me going that far.

But a statement like, "That's a shitty thing to do to someone because you can't hack it," would have been like a kick in my already aching gut. There is a moral judgement inherent in that statement that is not, in my opinion, deserved or helpful. If you wouldn't say it to someone who you thought was contemplating suicide, then why is it posted on the internet where anyone can see?

Others have made the arguments more clearly than I have, but that's my two penn'orth.

As for the comic, I've been on tenterhooks all week. The impact of the 'blam' was, for me, straight to hindbrain. I wouldn't have noticed the style of the text if left to myself. However, I found the stronger impact was the panel in today's comic where we saw Faye from her end of the sofa; everything else is so far away and separate from her, an uncannily direct depiction of the feelings so many bereaved and depressed people describe.

As Eric said, this is not a story about a suicide but about the survivor of someone else's suicide. The juxtaposition and interweaving of such high drama with the smart comedy we've come to expect from Jacques only serves to heighten both, in my opinion.

Comment from: Tangent posted at December 5, 2005 5:14 PM

I actually was betting on his committing suicide early on. It made a certain amount of sense. However, what I can't quite fathom (and I'm not alone in this as Friday's "Roundtable Discussion" about QC over at Tangents shows) is how this keeps her from entering into a relationship with Marten.

Though I think Steve hit it on the head when he said: Oh, you WOULD have to ask that. Oh boy. Ohhhhh boy. Okay...let's get visceral. Marten looks ominously like her dad. Every time she sees him, she sees her dad. All the good memories come flooding back, and she's into that, but then she starts thinking about Daddy blasting himself and she smacks Marten upside the head....she wants him because he's the perfect reminder of Daddy, plus a relatively compatible male person individual, all at the same time.

Rather interesting timing, this and the QoW suicide attempt.

Oh, and Eric... as someone who helped talk a girl down (on-line) when she was showing those symptoms (wanting to delete her characters on a MUSH because "she didn't need them any longer") (and yes, it might have been a ploy for attention, but I still took it as deathly serious) and also knowing a little of what it's like to want to seek death... well, I'm not sure if it's selfish per say. Instead, it's escapism. It's the ultimate escape, if you think of it. And it doesn't matter what it does to friends and family, because your pain is ended and there's nothing left after it. Well, unless you believe in an afterlife, and many of those tend to suggest suicides suffer for eternity for that moment of weakness.

I'd never consider it selfishness, nor would I tell someone who's contemplating suicide that it's selfish. I'd just offer to listen, and to help in any way I can. I might not be professionally trained concerning this... but it's the least I can do. And it's what I've done in the past.

And who knows... maybe I did help save a life or two, by not condemning or preaching... but just being there to listen.

I'd like to think so, at least.

Robert A. Howard, Tangents Webcomic Reviews
http://www.tangents.us

Comment from: elvedril posted at December 5, 2005 5:19 PM

32: Yeah I was thinking the same thing about the dark lines as soon as people started talking about the Blam (which for the record didn't really bother me). Not just because the switching styles mid-strip worked so well in Count Your Sheep but also because it would have further driven home the point that all those other memories are just that. This moment isn't just a memory, this is still with Faye. This is now for her.

Comment from: Kail Panille posted at December 5, 2005 5:22 PM

There are a couple of things in this discussion that are hitting the comment centers of my brain.

First, there's been a lot of "Oh, God, don't yell at the suicidally depressed guy! What the hell are you thinking?"

I have to say, in my not inconsiderable, albeit certainly not clinical, experience with clinical depression, coddling the depressive has been the least effective option. The proverbial kick in the pants isn't nice, and isn't universally effective, but it's the only way I've found to shake certain individuals (myself included, by the way) out of the spiral.

I've never tried this on a potential suicide, mind you. And if I were to do so, I certainly wouldn't say, "You're a horrible, selfish person for contemplating this!" But you'd better _believe_ I'd be making value judgements left and right about the morality of wanting to kill oneself.

The second thing that's making me twitch is this: there's an assumption implicit in most discussions about depression and suicide that suicidal thoughts are at the far end of a spectrum, opposite "Happy." That is to say, many people seem to assume that any person who's feeling suicidal is more depressed than any person who isn't. Those of whose .ini files contain the line "suicide=0;" but are nonetheless crippled by depression would like to be able to stop feeling guilty about _not wanting to kill ourselves._

There's more bubbling behind that paragraph, but it's off topic, and not terribly coherent. In the meantime, love to the non-suicidal depressives, yo.

Comment from: Wednesday White posted at December 5, 2005 5:25 PM

Sandalphon: Who says you have next of kin in this scenario? Who says that they give a shit, even if you do have 'em? Maybe they dumped you in the home because they don't want to deal with you.

And maybe you're in that room because you put yourself there, and finances make it a dicey proposition to back out now.

Who says the home or the hospital will listen to you? They don't have any money. That's all they've got: the complete Reader's Digest from 1972, fourteen issues of Chatelaine, and a snowy feed from the local PAX affiliate.

Maybe you're not in a home. Maybe that's your tiny, subsidized apartment, and you lost everything somewhere down the line. Your mind's okay, but your mobility's screwed for some reason. You can afford your food and your prescriptions, or your heat and your prescriptions, this year. Not everyone is fortunate enough to have a caretaker who gives a shit, or is worth talking to, or is going to bring you something entertaining and shiny. And, again, who says you've got access to a supportive family that cares, or can afford to help you if you ask them?

For some reason, this reminds me of a bit in Hothead Paisan on why women talk themselves out of learning to defend themselves against an assailant, or carrying a weapon for that purpose. "Well, I would just never want to hurt anyone, no matter what!" says a character in one panel. In the next, the character's mangled body asks, "Can I change my answer?"

Comment from: kirabug posted at December 5, 2005 5:30 PM

Drill the idea that a suicide is a Selfish Selfish Act into someone's head, and they're just as likely to try and make their deaths an effective counterargument: I was more trouble to you while I was alive.

when my husband's cousin blew his brains out, he did it in the men's room in the emergency wing of the local hospital. walked in the door, turned into the bathroom, did it there. figured if he missed, at least he was in the right place, and if he didn't, well, his family wouldn't have to discover him.

Ooh! I know this one. "Because EVEN IF YOU REALLY LOVE ME, someday YOU'RE GOING TO LEAVE and I CAN'T TAKE THAT AGAIN. I'd rather DRIVE YOU AWAY than LET YOU LEAVE OF YOUR OWN VOLITION." (Bonus points for "Hell, I made my dad do it".)

Comment from: kirabug posted at December 5, 2005 5:32 PM

Well, I screwed that up. Let's try again. The quote:

However, what I can't quite fathom (and I'm not alone in this as Friday's "Roundtable Discussion" about QC over at Tangents shows) is how this keeps her from entering into a relationship with Marten.

My response:

Ooh! I know this one. "Because EVEN IF YOU REALLY LOVE ME, someday YOU'RE GOING TO LEAVE and I CAN'T TAKE THAT AGAIN. I'd rather DRIVE YOU AWAY than LET YOU LEAVE OF YOUR OWN VOLITION." (Bonus points for "Hell, I made my dad do it".)

As for the rest, all I can say of Friday and Monday is ow. Friday's comic was the first one I've read in a very long time that actually made me nauseous with grief. Apparently, I've got issues.

Comment from: Tangent posted at December 5, 2005 5:39 PM

That reminds me of a young lady I met over a decade ago. She realized, as a teenager, that she was gay. The response of her parents? Kick her out. She got emancipated from them, got her GED, and started college... and was forced to drop out.

Why?

Seems her parents made too much money for her to qualify for student loans. Nevermind the fact her parents would have nothing to do with her. Nevermind the fact she was legally divorced from them. Her. Parents. Made. Too. Much. Money. So she was screwed over from continuing her education.

She was working in some little shop somewhere, probably making a little over minimum wage, and barely making ends meet. I could easily see someone like her, in that situation, deciding to end their life because "no one would care." (Ironically... the cops and medical personnel *do* care. They're detached so not to curl up in a ball and cry, but they look at the bodies and they see this death as a loss, as a shame. They feel like they failed, because they couldn't save that one life. Especially if they catch the person while they're still breathing but are unable to keep them from dying.)

I'm not sure what happened to that girl. Last I knew, she was still in Salem, MA, struggling to get by, to make a living. *shakes head* And the sad thing is... I wish I could have helped her. I wish I could have given her money to go to school, to get the education she desired, to achieve something in her life.

Meh. Just went off on another tangent, didn't I. Anyway... for people in that type of situation, I could see how suicide could be seen as something that wouldn't hurt anyone. Especially if they don't have any close friends and their family has turned their backs on them. What's the alternative? To continue subsisting? To eke out an existance day in and day out? *sigh* You know, I'm starting to depress *myself* here. *chuckle*

Well... even when I'm at my darkest... there's a part of me that wants to see what tomorrow will look like. That remembers the double-rainbows, and the butterflies and grass blowing in the wind and other simple pleasures. Which probably means I've never truly gone into the abyss.

Rob H.

Comment from: Eytan Zweig posted at December 5, 2005 5:41 PM

Tangent said:

[quote]
I actually was betting on his committing suicide early on. It made a certain amount of sense. However, what I can't quite fathom (and I'm not alone in this as Friday's "Roundtable Discussion" about QC over at Tangents shows) is how this keeps her from entering into a relationship with Marten.
[/quote]

I think that's because you are taking this too rationally, and looking for direct causes and effects. Seriously, what I've seen from people who were in similar situations, is that if you are emotionally wounded on one front, it carries to all others. Faye's entire world was shattered by the death of her father - everything was different afterwards. She may well feel a need for her world to be whole again before she can start any new relationships (of course, she is in a relationship with Marten, just not a sexual/romantic one. But there are culturally established lines you need to decide to cross, and she's not willing/able to make that decision).

I can sympathize, because I've been in similar positions in my life, though for very different reasons - one thing goes wrong somewhere, and as a result I felt myself unable to proceed in a totally unrelated aspect of my life. It's irrational, it's perhaps self-destructive, but it's also human. I don't think there needs to be any more explanation than that.

Comment from: Eytan Zweig posted at December 5, 2005 5:41 PM

Ok, I don't know how to make quote tags. I guess I should have used angle brackets. Stupid me.

Comment from: Denyer posted at December 5, 2005 5:43 PM

"Hurting or incapable"--if by that you mean a terminal illness, yes, I see your point. But "bored"? That is NEVER a reason to commit suicide, no matter how old one is.

It might be best to say that we have very different views on the sanctity of life (or lack thereof) and leave it at that.

Given that I suspect he had this planned all along, I don't think he went back on previously-established characterization. Of course, you'd have to do an archive trawl to determine that.

Having read the lot and considering myself to have a decent memory for stories, I don't think he's contradicted himself -- the characterisation is there in early strips, it just isn't explicitly detailed. It's tempting to regard the humour as a bit more flippant because the art is sketchy, but it comes across clearly that Faye tries to feel in control of situations. She's hypocritical (pushing a fellow employee to ask Marten out and telling her it isn't a big deal, for example) but people do often push others towards doing things they wouldn't themselves do. As early as #124, she's opening up to semi-explanation... though, again, whether there are concrete ideas behind the explanation or simply a decision has been made that an explanation should exist...

That reminds me, actually: after the ice-cream parlour, I figured her Dad had either died in an accident or passed away due to illness.

Comment from: Tangent posted at December 5, 2005 5:44 PM

kirabug: your story reminds me of a story I heard. A father's daughter was going to die unless she had an organ donation (I think it was heart, or something other that's vital and cannot be done without). He went out into the parking lot of the hospital, called the Emergency room, told them he was out there and committing suicide, and that his organs were to be donated to those who needed them (and his daughter would get his heart). He then killed himself.

He managed to do such a fine job of it that they were even able to use the retinas of his eyes to restore sight in someone. As well as his skin, heart, lungs, and other organs.

In this case... suicide was not an act of selfishness. It was not an act of despair or of depression. Instead... it was the most supreme act of love that he could do... and while his daughter was sad at his loss, she said that he was not truly dead, because his heart continued to beat in her chest.

Just to put forward an uplifting story here. :D

Rob H.

Comment from: Meagen Image posted at December 5, 2005 5:47 PM

I'm not going to claim any great knowledge about the topic. One time, I was at a point where I messed up and it seemed like I was doomed to lose everything that was important to me. I was standing at a tram station at the time, and for just one moment, the rail tracks looked really inviting. Take a painful but quick way out, let others deal with the mess I've caused.

It lasted about twenty seconds - then I thought of my mother and grandmother, of my online friends (would they ever find out what happened to me? what would the feel?), and I decided that I couldn't really do this to them.

So I used the tram in the usual way, to get home. Much stress, family tension, and writing of letters to the Dean ensued, but in the end my life was not a total waste, and later on Terry Pratchett came to Poland on a signing tour and I got to see him and get my copy of Feet of Clay signed. So there's my thought about suicide. Don't do it, you might miss some really cool stuff.

Comment from: Violet posted at December 5, 2005 5:51 PM

And who knows... maybe I did help save a life or two, by not condemning or preaching... but just being there to listen.

I'd like to think so, at least.

I realize that this cannot possibly have been the conscious intent, but this particular passage strikes me as inappropriately self-congratulatory. The focus ceases to be the poor young lady and is transferred to the interventionist. One saves no lives when the decision is in the hands of another; lives are merely saved, and that is all.

As for those who advocate any particular approach to dissuasion, whether modeled after Fred Rogers, Denis Leary, or someone in between, I can only hasten to add that "I would never..." statements are utterly useless here. Even separate episodes of suicidal ideation in the same individual can require remarkably different approaches.

(That said, the Leary approach strikes me as one to use only with severe caution, and only when one knows the individual well enough to know when treading lightly is no longer inappropriate. To use it on oneself is potentially even more dangerous, if one is finally not sufficiently composed to shake the spiral on a given day and not aware of it. I would not like to get into the habit.)

Comment from: Sandalphon posted at December 5, 2005 5:51 PM

Weds: Why paint such a worst-case scenario? The vast majority of elderly people don't face such a dire fate. This is a straw man argument. You might as well ask, "Well, what if you were elderly AND captured by terrorists AND sold in the white slave trade AND AND AND..." I respect your commentary here, as I do Eric's, but I'm calling straw man on this particular argument. Nothing personal. :-)

Comment from: Ardaniel posted at December 5, 2005 5:59 PM

He managed to do such a fine job of it that they were even able to use the retinas of his eyes to restore sight in someone.

I think you mean "corneas." Retinas are pretty delicate and hands-off components, whereas corneas can be removed and stitched onto someone else. Corneal transplant technology is out there and in use; retinal transplant tech isn't feasible yet for a number of reasons that that article illustrates pretty well.

Comment from: Montykins posted at December 5, 2005 6:02 PM

Jeph probably has a very good reason all thought out
Speaking of "all thought out", I really like the juxtaposition between Faye's father (committed suburban family man; committed suicide) and Marten's mother (professional dominatrix and porn star; perfectly well-adjusted). Take that, stereotypes!

Comment from: A Thin Mask posted at December 5, 2005 6:06 PM

See, I think it's important that we emphasize how mind numbingly selfish -- how callous and mean -- the act of suicide is.
That's a shitty thing to do to someone because you can't hack it.
If you are bored it is your responsibility to un-bore yourself.
Faye's father was a damned bastard, that's what he was.

This is why I lie when people ask me if I have ever considered suicide.

Comment from: Denyer posted at December 5, 2005 6:09 PM

experience with clinical depression, coddling the depressive has been the least effective option. The proverbial kick in the pants isn't nice, and isn't universally effective, but it's the only way I've found to shake certain individuals (myself included, by the way) out of the spiral.

Yeah, and personally I respond decently well to self-kicking. Had I tried this with friends, I rather suspect I'd have attended more funerals than I have. Introducing third-parties as a topic of conversation can be seen as an implicit breach of trust; pointing out that I'd miss people, for example, then turning to what practical steps can be taken to improve things involves placing less pressure than bringing in family and significant others directly as a topic.

Kicking may not be a good first step, nor particularly helpful when discussing people in general terms -- start supportive, and you can always try kicking later if it seems prudent.

Comment from: Denyer posted at December 5, 2005 6:20 PM

The vast majority of elderly people don't face such a dire fate.

Let a few get onto the subject of what they consider they live for. Or talk to the staff in retirement homes about their day-to-day conversations with residents. Depression and feelings of hopelessness are possibly just a tad more common amongst the elderly than you credit.

and that his organs were to be donated to those who needed them (and his daughter would get his heart)

Most agreements (in this country, at least) specify that conditions can't be attached to donated organs -- eg, no restrictions on race, beliefs, etc. of the recipient. I think that extends to family members where death is involved, so I'd be cautious that the story isn't urban legend.

Comment from: Tangent posted at December 5, 2005 6:26 PM

Ardaniel - you're probably right. It was a couple months or more since I heard the story, and I couldn't even remember rightly if it was the heart that his daughter needed (but it seems probable, since I believe I paraphrased what she said accurately).

Violet - That wasn't my intent. It was meant to be introspective. *chuckle* I didn't say I saved any lives either. Just that I helped. (I suppose the intent of that final statement was more that we (any of us) can do more to help someone just by being there and listening. Think of it this way... if Marten now had made some snide remark to Faye, she'd have been devastated. Not necessarily suicidal or the like... but it would have been a massive betrayal of trust. Instead, he listened to her, without accusing, without explaining stuff away. He listened. Now you can't always listen. I mean, when I was talking to the girl on-line, she demanded to know what was worth living for. And I came up with some suggestions. But by asking... she already knew the answers. My answer was just affirming what she already knew.)

Comment from: Tangent posted at December 5, 2005 6:30 PM

Denyer said: Most agreements (in this country, at least) specify that conditions can't be attached to donated organs -- eg, no restrictions on race, beliefs, etc. of the recipient. I think that extends to family members where death is involved, so I'd be cautious that the story isn't urban legend.

Heh. I have to use that in a story sometime. "So her dad went out into the parking lot and blew his brains out, after calling 911 and telling them where he was and that his organs were to be donated and that his daughter would get his heart."

"So she got his heart then?"

"Oh no. Some middle-aged businessman halfway across the country got his heart. You can't specify who gets your organs when you donate them after all. She died of heart failure two weeks later..."

Comment from: Aladdin Sane posted at December 5, 2005 6:39 PM

"do you really think that the person whose brain is so swamped in self-loathing and despair that they literally can't contemplate trying to go in the world is going to be like "Gee, maybe I shouldn't do it, that'd be kind of bastardy of me." Somehow I don't think we should be assuming that they're all "You kinow, this would have negative consequences for the nmetwork of people who love me so dearly" because are we sure they really even can feel aware of said network?"

Strangely (to you, perhaps), this is actually what has kept me alive to this day, despite the depression and such.

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at December 5, 2005 6:53 PM

This is why I lie when people ask me if I have ever considered suicide.

Dude, so have I.

I'm just glad neither of us have done it.

Comment from: Wednesday White posted at December 5, 2005 6:58 PM

Weds: Why paint such a worst-case scenario?

Because, where I grew up, that sort of thing really wasn't unheard of. (And, the more digging I've had to do through the community mental health services documentation over here to figure out what sorts of things were available to me and on what sort of timescale, the more I discover that this isn't unheard of in Britain, either.)

Comment from: Wistful Dreamer posted at December 5, 2005 7:19 PM

"A father's daughter was going to die unless she had an organ donation (I think it was heart, or something other that's vital and cannot be done without). He went out into the parking lot of the hospital, called the Emergency room, told them he was out there and committing suicide, and that his organs were to be donated to those who needed them (and his daughter would get his heart). He then killed himself"

This is more of a hypothetical than an urban legend. A scenario like this appears in most medical ethics textbooks. Most prominant medical ethicists agree that giving said organ to the daughter would be an unacceptable action by the doctors (although they split on whether the father's organs could go to other people). A year or so ago, ER proceeded to butcher this concept by having a guest star father blow his brains out so that his daughter could have his only remaining kidney (validate a suicide for a non-vital organ? any doctor that really did so would never work again). Just shows that the writers at NBC need a boot to the head.

Sandalphon, Wednesdays scenario actually seems to be par for the course. Many of us will end up in homes of some kind where there aren't enough staff to help us stay entertained, with failing bodies, all of our friends in life dead, relatives that don't visit often enough, and all of the mediums of easy entertainment (TV, radio, magazines) marketed towards demographics and interests that exclude us. Heck, most people have a hard time finding enough to do once they retire, add on a few physical limitations and societal/financial constraints, and hopelessness can add up quick.

BTW, great work Eric. I've neglected all my other boards, comics and other diversions for all of today, because this thread is so much more interesting. Good job (although Jeph gets alot of the credit too).

Comment from: Recovering Extrovert posted at December 5, 2005 7:27 PM

After reading all of these posts, it kind of amazes me that no one has put up an opinion similar to mine yet; therefore, I must be the first brave soul and expose myself to putting forth a new argument.


Here's the thing: from the very moment the father showed up, I knew he was going to die in a way that would make Faye blame herself forever. Now, I had money on her killing him in an car accident (prehaps "the accident" from her past), so it shows how much I know, but the suicide accomplished the very same thing. To me, the BLAM was necessary, not for any reason other than GUNS ARE HELLA LOUD. It came out of nowhere and was big enough to be a gunshot, so instead of being a stylized little noir scene, the last panel of that comic captured the suicide in the one aspect that would have hit the hardest at the time. To me, friday's comic made sense and captured that big nagging issue inherent in Faye's character.

On the other hand, it really bothered me that J. Jaques had to explain what the suicide meant. To me, the explanation killed all the ambiguity of the comic itself: I don't want to be told how Faye is fucked up by this suicide, I want to be -shown- through the comic. The comics were great until I read that explanation on monday, which made them feel almost like a sermon, a moralistic cautionary tale as to why we shouldn't kill ourselves. Which is not why I read comics; I read comics because the stories of others interest me, not because I want to be told how to live my life. I'm over that frustration, because Jaques has a brilliant story he's telling here and simply must read more, but that moment of anger at the newspost is still a memory fresh in my mind.


Finally, an excellent discussion has come up about suicide, with some even likening the emotions that make such an act possible to drugs, which wrest the control of our bodies away from our selves. This makes sense to me: when I was suicidal, it was BECAUSE of a drug. If any of you missed out on hearing about Accutane, here's a quick recap: Accutane was a daily-dose drug that destroyed acne in three months by severly limiting your oil production. There were several important possible side effects, a few of which I experienced, such as your skin drying out and flaking off as well as your hair losing it's ability to get dirty, but they forgot to mention a really important side-effect that eventually got the drug involved in a class action lawsuit (I got a letter! Yay!): in certain cases, it made you severely depressed. Some number of kids managed to kill themselves while on the drug, and I really consider myself lucky, because all I got was a deep desire to kill myself that was only held off by my knowledge of how much my parents cared for me. Really, it wasn't until I was in college that I found out that the little vitamin-A derivative pill I took in high school made me hate myself, so I felt like I had really dodged a bullet because I wasn't really in control of my own rage. It never really occured to me that I didn't have anything to really be sad about: I was just depressed, despite having no real reason. I don't know what it's like to kill yourself, but I know what it's like to desperately want to, and I know that it's not always our fault. Really, what suicidal people might need most of all is hugs and kisses; unconditional love brings brought out a sense of responsibility in me that pulled me through the days where all I wanted to do was feel what flying without a parachute was like (I developed a rational fear of heights due to my irrational desire to jump off of them). Now that the damn stuff is out of my system, I no longer feel that despair, which is really nice, but I still remember punching furniture and other kids because anger was easier to deal with than sadness.


Suicide isn't really a selfish activity at all. In most cases it's short-sighted and unwise, because the reasons are wrong and the thought process truncated. It's pointless to get angry at a suicide, because what they aren't putting thought into their actions; they need some fundamental knowledge that will pull them away from the edge, I guess. Now, this is all well and good coming from someone who hasn't lost anybody due to suicide (well, smoking your way into lung cancer doesn't count, does it?), but you have to understand that suicide isn't rational, so rational thought processes don't work. That means that you have to make them understand that no matter what, the hole they leave behind will always be bigger that the one they make by merely existing.

Comment from: ranlab posted at December 5, 2005 7:40 PM

In my personal dealings, it's never a depressed voice crying for the end of all things... It's an anxious one struck with fear of some unknown just wanting flight with little more reasoning than a halfdead cornered animal and all the singulaity of purpose (ironically enough).

I truly and sincerely believe that 'Depression' is your body's built-in defense mechanism against anxiety.
"I'll make them pay for ignoring me! I'll shoot myself in the head!" That's anxiety... Depression, from my own experience the voice afterwards "I'd have to get the gun... load it up... and probably clean it... It's in the cupboard... upstairs... that'salike 20 stairs... Fuck it, I'm tired... I'll just sleep for 15 hours after a snack."
Mind you, if there's a loaded gun across the room there might be a problem...

But my point is... not to attack and focus on the tired and sad... but to focus on this shapeless yet all pervasive fear that accompanies anxiety( and depression), as fear can be monumental and epic in scope if left unchecked and vanish like Chernabog getting an earful of churchbells if confronted.

How about we don't demonize the suicidal? How about we don't coddle them either?

How about we just try to understand them and let them know (if we're fortunate enough to see the signs) that there's people who like them, parents, siblings, children and pets who may miss them and people, places and things they might miss and just try and get them some help either from ourselves and/or others? And maybe find out what is so frighterning to them that makes them want to flee this very plane of existance and confront it with them...

Adopting a point of view of shaming people not to commit a 'selfish, callous etc.' act, ie 'Don't kill yourselves because myself and others will think its their fault and we don't want to feel bad because of you' is just as selfish in some ways as that which you'd hope to shame. And makes for sanctimony, hypocrisy and selfishness begetting selfishness...

If you want the suicidal to choose selflessness(living with their shit, maybe fighting it and being there for you by just being) over selfishness(BLAM). Perhaps you have to lead by example and be selfless yourself and be there for them with an open ear, mind and heart instead of preconceived notions, a closed mind and vague contempt.

Comment from: Horus posted at December 5, 2005 8:42 PM

I'm not sure what is more selfish, killing yourself despite knowing the effect it will have on your loved ones, or killing yourself without giving any thought to the effects it will have on them.

When I was in year ten a guy in my grade committed suicide. Apparently he was up late writing an assignment and just stopped halfway through and hung himself. It was pretty fucking awful for everyone, his friends, his family.

My mum (devout Catholic) said to me, God would never send someone to hell just for comitting suicide, because no one who commits suicide can possibly be in their right mind.

Comment from: Sandalphon posted at December 5, 2005 8:58 PM

There seems to be a perception amongst some of the posters here that I am ignorant of/insensitive to the problem of suicide among the elderly. I am neither. I'm just saying that in almost (not all, but almost) all cases there is nothing worth killing oneself over.

I really didn't want to mention this before, because I don't know any of you, but prior to getting a combination of regular psychotherapy and SSRI's--and it took several years at that--I often suffered from depression and thoughts of suicide, and yes, attempted it once (pills--my survival instinct kicked in before I lost consciousness and prompted me to call the emergency line on my campus).

So I know what it's like.

And I'm glad I didn't do it.

And I stand by, and will not apologize for, my deep-rooted belief that every human life is sacred, a gift of God (no, I'm neither Christian nor fundamentalist), and that short of unrelievable pain brought on by terminal illness, there is NO rational reason to kill yourself. Note I said "rational." People who are suicidal are almost never in a rational state of mind, and I would never dream of judging, berating or condemning them. They deserve empathy, a listening ear, and if necessary medical intervention.

I leave this discussion with a Talmudic saying famously quoted in Schindler's List:

"One who saves a single life is as if one has saved an entire world."

Comment from: djcoffman posted at December 5, 2005 9:02 PM

Jeph gets a biscuit, awesome... but can someone PLEASE teach him how to draw emotions on faces, for god's sake.... I mean, the girl is crying, but it looks like he just drew a tear on his standard face.

= the lame.

Comment from: Eric Christian Berg posted at December 5, 2005 9:17 PM

I'm not entirely sure what I want to say here. I tend to get angry at people's weakness. When people are hurt or sick, it irritates me. I understand this and know it isn't fair or correct. So when my first response is to agree that people who commit suicide are weak and selfish, I don't take it terribly seriously. The other side is a survivor focusing on their own pain and being angry and that is just as selfish. That's just how emotions work. Oddly, however, I was never really angry at my father for killing himself. I saw the damage it did, I watched my mother struggle with her anger at him, but it never really touched me. I read his note, I found and read his journal. I have a better idea of why he did it then many who go through the same thing, but I wasn't angry even before that. I don't know why. I should have been, I should be. I just wasn't.

However, when someone close to me said that they had attempted suicide before I told them I wouldn't forgive them if they did. Not sure why I said it, but I knew that I had used up my forgiveness on my father and it wouldn't happen again. If I had to go through it a second time, I wouldn't be able to do so again.

Comment from: Pyrthas posted at December 5, 2005 9:44 PM

Honestly, this discussion is mainly suggesting to me that it's a mistake to try to characterize all people who commit suicide in anything remotely resembling a similar manner. That isn't to say that there isn't some underlying cause of every single instance of suicide (although I'm somewhat dubious of that); it is just to say that if there is such a common explanation, it's not the sort of thing that will be revealed by folk psychology. (And I, not being a psychologist, will thus refrain from trying to make any sweeping claims about what motivates people to commit suicide.)

So far, we seem to have people working from first-hand experience suggesting not just different, but flat-out contradictory behavior when faced with a freind contemplating suicide. I'm not saying that anyone's experiences are wrong or anything like that. I'm only saying that it seems like a recipe for disaster to think that one understands suicide based on at most a handful of experiences.

Of course, this is all tangential to the discussion of whether suicide is selfish.

Comment from: djcoffman posted at December 5, 2005 9:58 PM

Damn, I should totally tap into this "suicidal emo" demographic if he doesnt already have it cornered.

Comment from: 32_footsteps posted at December 5, 2005 10:00 PM

Between snickering, I have to wonder if that was the least surprising DJ Coffman quote of all time.

I really hope to see a strip about that line.

Comment from: Talus posted at December 5, 2005 10:07 PM

Honestly, this discussion is mainly suggesting to me that it's a mistake to try to characterize all people who commit suicide in anything remotely resembling a similar manner. [...] And I, not being a psychologist, will thus refrain from trying to make any sweeping claims about what motivates people to commit suicide.

Although I concur with your sentiments, I feel that many are missing an important concept. People hear "Listen to them", and suddenly the argument is whether they should be "coddled or given a swift kick." In no way are either considered true listening. It's this type of misunderstanding that makes people contemplating suicide ponder whether they are really as irrational as people make them out to be. They feel that perhaps they are correct in their hopelessness, that, "nobody cares, they're just trying to deal with me."

Much has been said regarding this issue, something I've had personal experience with. I am not here to share my story. I simply want to convey a message to those trying to comfort suicidal people. Don't concentrate on how you should react to their story. Concentrate on what they're saying, use some actual conscious thought and only then decide how to best work with your friend.

Believe it or not, the old adage of "keeping your mouth shut and your ears open" would likely save many more lives if it were actually followed.

Comment from: CaptainBooshi posted at December 5, 2005 10:23 PM

I have seen a few similar posts already in this discussion, but I would like to add just one more from someone with actual experience. I was clinically depressed about a year ago, and I can honestly say that I am alive today only because I knew what it would do to my family if I killed myself. I honestly can't imagine how badly it would affect my family, and I simply could not do that, no matter how much I desperately wanted to. By the time that I was so depressed that I stopped caring about anyone and anything at all, I was also so depressed I could barely leave my bed. Fortunately, there was nothing really damaging convenient, so I was never able to injure myself badly enough to succeed for the few days I was that bad.




This is why I say that it is important we show how horribly it affects the people who love you when you commit suicide; I do, however, agree that we should focus on just showing the aftereffects and refrain from accusing suicides of selfishness, since this will just make those who are depressed feel worse. Even if it doesn't have any effect on those who are depressed, if we can ingrain this into those who aren't depressed, it might stay with them if they do become depressed.




Of course, I'm not so arrogant as to say that this will work for everyone, or even most people. I'm just saying, this is what I know personally works, so this is a message we should try to get out there.

Comment from: kirabug posted at December 5, 2005 11:13 PM

Many of us will end up in homes of some kind where there aren't enough staff to help us stay entertained, with failing bodies, all of our friends in life dead, relatives that don't visit often enough, and all of the mediums of easy entertainment (TV, radio, magazines) marketed towards demographics and interests that exclude us.

A) God I hope so. That means I lived a damn long time.
B) I'm pretty sure there will still be the internet to keep me entertained. One of the problems of today is that the folks in today's homes don't necessarily have the experience to use the internet to interact. Those who do tend to be more well-informed and more active as a result.

Now, take the 'net away and that'd just suck.

***

On a slightly different note, considering all the personal experience that's been described in this thread, (and I'm sure there's even more that hasn't been mentioned), can we draw the conclusion that serious depression including contemplating suicide is part of the human condition?

Or is it a function of the types of people attracted to this media (dramatic webcomics, specificially, but the underlying community as well)?

I don't know whether to be mildly intrigued or freaked out by how many other people here share experiences similar to mine; I'll have to settle for feeling at home.

Comment from: Tangent posted at December 5, 2005 11:15 PM

And back on topic with QC... we've gone off the deep end. oO I mean... damn. Words don't suffice.

Comment from: Denyer posted at December 5, 2005 11:28 PM

I stand by, and will not apologize for, my deep-rooted belief that every human life is sacred

I don't think anyone's asking you to; it just doesn't follow that we agree.

They feel that perhaps they are correct in their hopelessness, that, "nobody cares, they're just trying to deal with me."

As with the suicide note example above, in some cases this is true (assuming you meant 'deal with' in the sense of getting them to stop bothering people. 'Deal with' to me implies acting as a sounding board, and not fobbing off or trying to present the One True Solution. However more considerate or effective it is, though, it's still a method of stage-managing events. And many people do that because they care, rather than instead of caring -- because reacting emotionally may be very unhelpful.)

Comment from: Chris Daily posted at December 5, 2005 11:35 PM

djcoffman [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at December 5, 2005 09:02 PM

"Jeph gets a biscuit, awesome... but can someone PLEASE teach him how to draw emotions on faces, for god's sake.... I mean, the girl is crying, but it looks like he just drew a tear on his standard face.
= the lame. "

hehehe. right on, DJ.

I guess this means suicide as a plotline is the new "I'm having a baby" or "let's get married!"

Comment from: Phil Kahn posted at December 5, 2005 11:58 PM

You fools, you've got it all wrong.

Snape killed Faye's father.

Comment from: larksilver posted at December 6, 2005 12:00 AM

OH! Of course he did. Right after he seduced Ms. McConnagall (sp) and danced in the moonlight with Hagrid's Spidery friends. It's all so obvious, thanks for pointing that out, Phil!

Comment from: Matt Wilson posted at December 6, 2005 12:09 AM

who the hell cares

Comment from: Wistful Dreamer posted at December 6, 2005 1:20 AM

Recovering Extrovert, thank you for that. Accutane cost me tne years of my life, two tries at college, approximately $200,000, years off of both my parents' lives (from worry), years off of my life from self-inflicted liver damage (and the decision that it would not be ethical for me to accept a donated liver at the expense of another potential recipient, if the opportunity ever presented itself). Most importantly, that drug meant that I was not emotionally available to be in a position to provide comfort and understanding to my great-uncle when he needed me the most. It's too late now, but not being there before he died is probably the greatest source of guilt in my life.

"Note I said "rational." People who are suicidal are almost never in a rational state of mind"

That's the distinction for me. Suicide in a member of the general population is (as far as I'm concerned), by definition irrational. Why? Because of starving Africa. You see, in places like Nigeria, there are people a day away from death from starvation. I'm an (recovering) anorexic, I can tell you just how painful starvation is. These are people who have lived it for years, not because of a personal insanity, but because there literally is no food to eat. half of their heart has been eaten away, all of their fat cells have apoptosed, such that the couldn't put on weight no matter how much food they had, and their body has absorbed vital proteins in a last ditch effort to stave of death. They have no hope of a sustainable future, and are just going through the motions of continued survival. Guess what? They are doing whatever they can to survive. They are raging against the dying of the light. If people with literally no chance to survive will make any effort to do so, than to wish to be dead must be the product of a diseased mind.

Unless... You use terminal illness as your distinction of note. This seems arbitrary to me. I think suicide can be rational in a situation where a person can come to an autonomous (implying rational), correct observation that their possible continued quality of life is something less than that that they would want to experience. (as a Camus influenced epicurian, I judge the value of a life based on its experience). I think what this boundary is varies for different (rational) people. For some, it would have to be a terminal illness. For others, it would simply be recognizing that nothing future could add to the experience of their existence. I previously lambasted ER, but they did a wonderful episode where guest star Bob Newhart played a macular degeneration suffering painter who (in my opinion rationally) decided that living without his eyesight was not a life worth living.

Personally, I (now that I've conquered my suicidal tendencies) draw the line at the loss of self. If they don't find a cure for Alzheimer's before I start to suffer the effects thereof, I will make arrangements to discontinue my existence before it takes away everything that defined what it means to be me (and such that my loved ones don't have to choose between watching it happen to me or making arrangements of their own). Beyond that, there is no existence I would personally choose not to experience. Viktor Frankl often refers to this quote by Dostoyevsky:, "There is only one thing that I dread: not to be worthy of my sufferings[,]" and I think it sums up my reasoning quite nice. I am more than happy to suffer whatever comes at me day-to-day, knowing that I am living a fuller, more rational and autonomous life than I was when I was depressed, anorexic, alcoholic, but convinced that I was living some kind of "cosmically important drama."

I'm not sure if that added to anyone's appreciation of this discussion, but it was positively cathartic to write, so thank you for listening (even if you don't).

Comment from: siwangmu posted at December 6, 2005 1:30 AM

Yeah, um, I appreciate that lots of people feel similarly to me about the moral judging and stuff, but I would like to point out again that Eric has been totally and completely and utterly clear on how he would not be saying to a suicidal friend "you suck." Not addressing those who are like "so why say it at all, then," but I thought I saw some other responses that were more or less like "You would say this to a suicidal friend so you suck."

So I'm just reminding, cuz, um, the discussion is big and as the one who kind of started the "hate on Eric for saying this" I feel guilty about the possibility of being unfair about it.

Comment from: RoboYuji posted at December 6, 2005 1:34 AM

You know, I'm pretty damn sure I took Accutane back in high school, and besides a couple of nosebleeds, the only thing it did was get rid of my pimples. Which made me a little bit happier, since I was rather mopey in high school (note: BEFORE ever taking anything, because high school blows). Unless I took something else, but I'm pretty sure I didn't.

ANYWAY, I'm rather amazed that Eric pretty much said, "suicide is bad because it hurts the people you love, so don't do it!" and everyone is ARGUING about it. LOL INTERNET!

Comment from: Dragonmuncher posted at December 6, 2005 1:37 AM

"I was just looking at that comic for about the tenth time, when I finally figured out the punchline. "My head would've exploded." After she talks about watching her dad shoot himself in the head.

How is it I never catch these things the first time through?"

-Posted by Miller, like 50 comments up...


Just wanted to clarify that that was NOT a pun about head-explosions... so says the creator's post over on the QC boards. Just in case anyone was wondering.

I'll admit that I thought for a second, maybe, that it was a pun... but I was very happy to find out that it wasn't. Kind of weird, in this story arc that seems to be very carefully mapped out, for that kind of word slippage.

Also, is anyone else kind of amused by today's (Tuesday) newspost on QC?
"It's pretty weird to have your every little word, line, and action under the microscope like QC's been for the past couple weeks"

I've got to sympathize... it can't be easy to seemingly be under the entire webcomic world's collective stare for this amount of time.

Comment from: RoboYuji posted at December 6, 2005 1:39 AM

Oh poop, I didn't want to belittle anyone's bad experiences with Accutane or doubt them . . .

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at December 6, 2005 1:42 AM

For the record? I think this "argument" we've had today has been remarkably civil. Folks have different opinions, and strong feelings. But they've been debating those opinions, not those feelings. And that, to me, is astoundingly cool.

So, I just posted a kudos for that. ;)

Comment from: Recovering Extrovert posted at December 6, 2005 2:21 AM

So yeah, accutane doesn't screw with everyone. It does kill acne rather quick, but not everyone gets the liver problems and the crazy depression from nowhere (I'm happy I avoided the liver bit). I'm not saying that accutane will always depress you, I'm just saying that I'm not a suicidal or depressive person by nature, and was well into puberty when the whole accutane hit me. Hell, my acne was really bad, but I was never depressed over it. I should have figured things were a bit weird, but no one told me to watch for it, so I really didn't understand until I found out about accutane years later. I imagine Wistful Dreamer was somewhat in the same boat.

Comment from: Recovering Extrovert posted at December 6, 2005 2:38 AM

Maybe instead of driving home the point that suicide is selfish we could say that depression is a sickness, and that there are effective forms of treatment. It might be more of a help to know that one's suicidal thoughts are manifestations of an illness rather than further confirmation of one's total lack of worth.

Comment from: Phil Kahn posted at December 6, 2005 2:50 AM

Holy shit, Dragonmuncher. I totally didn't see that until you brought it up.

Now it's extra funny.

Comment from: Prodigal posted at December 6, 2005 4:58 AM

For the cases where it is the result of deep depression, do you really think that the person whose brain is so swamped in self-loathing and despair that they literally can't contemplate trying to go in the world is going to be like "Gee, maybe I shouldn't do it, that'd be kind of bastardy of me."
It worked for me that way at least once.

Comment from: J.A.K posted at December 6, 2005 8:05 AM

On the other hand, it really bothered me that J. Jaques had to explain what the suicide meant. To me, the explanation killed all the ambiguity of the comic itself: I don't want to be told how Faye is fucked up by this suicide, I want to be -shown- through the comic. The comics were great until I read that explanation on monday, which made them feel almost like a sermon, a moralistic cautionary tale as to why we shouldn't kill ourselves. Which is not why I read comics; I read comics because the stories of others interest me, not because I want to be told how to live my life. I'm over that frustration, because Jaques has a brilliant story he's telling here and simply must read more, but that moment of anger at the newspost is still a memory fresh in my mind.

I actually thought it was more realistic this way: as Jeph said today, when someone starts talking they'll often keep going about it, and the way Jeph did it did seem true to Faye. I can't imagine her discussion with Marten ending there, and there's not too much reason to cut away. Plus, now we can see he needed to continue the conversation to give the exposition about the car crash.

Did anyone else feel a bit bad laughing at today's comic (Tuesday's, never Monday's)?

Comment from: J.A.K posted at December 6, 2005 8:06 AM

That first paragraph above was supposed to be a quote. Which makes that clearer

Comment from: larksilver posted at December 6, 2005 10:59 AM

I thought the alien thing was funny, but had no guilt. After all, she's just bared her soul. A wee bit of tension relief there, combined with "are you really listening?" can be useful. One who is accustomed to having giant walls up between themselves and the world can only sit, naked and exposed, for so long before some defense mechanism has to go into play. So hers was mild, and funny. It works for me.

Comment from: Thomas Blight posted at December 6, 2005 2:41 PM

Speaking from my personal experience, the selfishness of suicide is often what stops people who are on the edge from killing themselves. It's what stopped me from ever trying to kill myself. It seems to take extreme trauma to actually push someone over the edge and follow through.

A few years ago, I was dumped by my first girlfriend. Aside from the regret I would've experienced had the relationship ended cleanly, I was also devastated by the way she broke up with me. She told me that she was actually never attracted to me, that she was just leading me on in the hopes that I would become bored of her and move on.

The only things that kept me from attempting to end it were my friends, and although I don't think they know it, my family. Every time I considered it, this little part of me said, "They would miss you," and it was true.

One of the most important of those friends was a girl who was recovering from extreme depression. She had actually attempted suicide, and was going through counseling. She was slowly being waned off of the anti-depressants. Her parents did everything they could to save their daughter. It worked. Every time I thought of it, she always came to mind. "If I commit suicide," I said to myself, "How would that effect her?" I decided that since I had comforted her and helped her through a few episodes, she would be devastated. If I wasn't strong enough to stop it, she would most definitely succumb.

I'm much better now. Though the scar still remains, the wound has healed. My episodes of depression have become much, much less frequent. I am glad to say that I am not selfish enough to commit suicide.

Jeph Jacques has shown the consequences of suicide perfectly.

Comment from: kirabug posted at December 6, 2005 5:32 PM

Holy shit, Dragonmuncher. I totally didn't see that until you brought it up.

Now it's extra funny.

Okay, can someone help me? not only am I unsure what the pun at the end of QC was, but I also don't understand how brilliant naming a coffee house ishmael is. It's a bad pun day.

thanks!

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at December 6, 2005 5:48 PM

"Starbuck" and "Ishmael" are both characters from Moby Dick.

Comment from: siwangmu posted at December 6, 2005 8:05 PM

BWAHAHAHHAHA! I was so about to go post "also, no, I don't get how brilliant that is" but you've saved me the trouble, and dude that is awesome.

Kira, I think they mean the "make head explode," what with kerblooey head being topic of conversation and all.

Comment from: sqbr posted at December 6, 2005 8:39 PM

The second thing that's making me twitch is this: there's an assumption implicit in most discussions about depression and suicide that suicidal thoughts are at the far end of a spectrum, opposite "Happy." That is to say, many people seem to assume that any person who's feeling suicidal is more depressed than any person who isn't. Those of whose .ini files contain the line "suicide=0;" but are nonetheless crippled by depression would like to be able to stop feeling guilty about _not wanting to kill ourselves._

Yes! I was going to say something like that but was afraid it would come out wrong. (Same with the "there's starving people in Africa" thing) Not that I have depression per se, but I have on occasion been so depressed I literally couldn't function, and one bright spot was that I didn't feel at all suicidal. Given that I had self important goth friends in highschool who would play the "Who has the Deepest Pain" game, keeping score with suicide attempts, meaning I lost by default. This is in no way a comment on suicidal people in general!

I have no comments on the main topic at hand because everyone keeps expressing what I might say so much better :)

Comment from: kirabug posted at December 6, 2005 8:59 PM

"Starbuck" and "Ishmael" are both characters from Moby Dick.

Ah, now there's a 15-page paper I've successfully blocked out. I thought it was a Moby Dick reference (I mean, there are only so many Ishmaels in the world" but totally forgot about Starbuck. Now if they'd've named the restaurant after Queequeg I'd've had a shot at it.

Comment from: Wistful Dreamer posted at December 6, 2005 11:11 PM

"So yeah, accutane doesn't screw with everyone."

a hundred credits of molecular biology coursework later, I discover that that is true of all drugs. As much as I want to hate the drug companies when something like this hits the fan, I am now learning that it really does take a million people using a drug before all of the side effects are known.

"It does kill acne rather quick, but not everyone gets the liver problems and the crazy depression from nowhere (I'm happy I avoided the liver bit)."

Accutane has liver problems? I was talking about the damage I did to mine while clawing my way out of suicidal depression. The second part I mentioned was the fact that I couldn't ethically accept a cadaverous donated liver if it would deny someone else a second chance, given that my own damage was self inflicted (90% of cases of liver failure are heriditary disease, not alcoholism).

"I'm just saying that I'm not a suicidal or depressive person by nature, and was well into puberty when the whole accutane hit me...I imagine Wistful Dreamer was somewhat in the same boat"

started taking it at fifteen, first attempt six months later.

Comment from: Abby L. posted at December 6, 2005 11:28 PM

There was an episode of Law and Order ripped from those headlines. It was pretty good. :)

Comment from: larksilver posted at December 7, 2005 1:18 AM

"I am now learning that it really does take a million people using a drug before all of the side effects are known."

And my former S.O. wondered why I wasn't jumping at the chance to take the Depo Provera shots when they were first made available. Granted, I still don't get the shots, but that's because of the side effects listed.. oh, wait, the ones they found after they'd been on the market a while. If one takes the shot to be able to get .. er.. frisky.. without worrying about makin' babies, but it makes you queasy (as the estrogen Pill does to me, even in low doses), and thus you don't want to get frisky, what's the point?

bah, but I digress.

Comment from: Phil Kahn posted at December 7, 2005 3:47 PM

Eric, I have posted my response. Behold, as The Dialogue takes effect.

*sips brandy by the fire*

Comment from: Aerin posted at December 7, 2005 4:49 PM

My mum (devout Catholic) said to me, God would never send someone to hell just for comitting suicide, because no one who commits suicide can possibly be in their right mind.
As I recall from my good Catholic girl days, this is now the official position of the Church.

And can I just say that I knew as soon as Faye's dad showed up that he was going to kill himself? It still got the sacred trinity of Holy Fuckitude from me as well (and I was at work when I read it, so natch), but as soon as I pulled up Friday's strip, I figured it would end with Faye finding her father hanging from a rafter. I figure it's an extra biscuit for Jacques for laying the groundwork for this moment so thoroughly, and pulling it off so well that it still packs an emotional punch even when it's not unexpected.

As for my own experiences with suicidal thoughts and depression, it was definitely more of a self-inflicted kick in the pants that saved me. They say that you shouldn't tell a suicidal person that the act is stupid and pathetic, but those were the very things I told myself whenever I thought about going head first off my balcony.

Comment from: Tice with a J posted at December 7, 2005 11:40 PM

On this topic: today's Anywhere But Here. Again, wow.

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