There Is Support for All of Us January 8, 2011

There Is Support for All of Us

Bill Zeller, a blogger and computer programmer, killed himself a couple days ago. He was sexually abused as a child and it clearly affected him the rest of his life. After living with the depression for so long, he just didn’t want to keep going.

He left a heartbreaking suicide note before he died.

Joel Johnson at Gizmodo prefaced his posting of the letter with these thoughts:

I think a person has the right to live or end their life as they choose. If Zeller really felt that suicide was his only option, so be it. But as someone who has had similar experiences in my own life, I want to say to anyone else who feels the way Zeller felt: You can’t escape your past. Not completely. But you can deal with it. You can contextualize it. You can learn how to prepare for the times when you feel like it’s not even on your radar and then it totally broadsides you.

I’m grateful I’ve never had to experience depression that bad, but what saddens me so much about this story is that I know there are always people who want to help you, who can empathize with you, who might have gone through the same things themselves. They might be strangers, but they exist. And I wonder what could’ve been if Bill had simply told someone about the thing that was eating away at him.

I had a good friend kill himself a few years ago and the same thoughts went through my head then. I can’t imagine what they must have gone through to see no hope for the future.

Some of you sent me Zeller’s note because of a religious reference made toward the end — it’s clear from the message that Zeller could never trust his parents with his secrets because their loyalty rest with their fundamentalist Christian church and god, instead of with their son. It’s awful how religion tore his family apart and it’s just another example of how faith is capable of doing so much more harm than good.

I suppose one thing we can do to make sure his death is not in vain is to remember to treat others in such a way so that they feel comfortable telling us whatever secrets they have to hide from people who are less open-minded and empathetic.

This is the note Zeller left behind (emphasis about religion mine):

I have the urge to declare my sanity and justify my actions, but I assume I’ll never be able to convince anyone that this was the right decision. Maybe it’s true that anyone who does this is insane by definition, but I can at least explain my reasoning. I considered not writing any of this because of how personal it is, but I like tying up loose ends and don’t want people to wonder why I did this. Since I’ve never spoken to anyone about what happened to me, people would likely draw the wrong conclusions.

My first memories as a child are of being raped, repeatedly. This has affected every aspect of my life. This darkness, which is the only way I can describe it, has followed me like a fog, but at times intensified and overwhelmed me, usually triggered by a distinct situation. In kindergarten I couldn’t use the bathroom and would stand petrified whenever I needed to, which started a trend of awkward and unexplained social behavior. The damage that was done to my body still prevents me from using the bathroom normally, but now it’s less of a physical impediment than a daily reminder of what was done to me.

This darkness followed me as I grew up. I remember spending hours playing with legos, having my world consist of me and a box of cold, plastic blocks. Just waiting for everything to end. It’s the same thing I do now, but instead of legos it’s surfing the web or reading or listening to a baseball game. Most of my life has been spent feeling dead inside, waiting for my body to catch up.

At times growing up I would feel inconsolable rage, but I never connected this to what happened until puberty. I was able to keep the darkness at bay for a few hours at a time by doing things that required intense concentration, but it would always come back. Programming appealed to me for this reason. I was never particularly fond of computers or mathematically inclined, but the temporary peace it would provide was like a drug. But the darkness always returned and built up something like a tolerance, because programming has become less and less of a refuge.

The darkness is with me nearly every time I wake up. I feel like a grime is covering me. I feel like I’m trapped in a contimated body that no amount of washing will clean. Whenever I think about what happened I feel manic and itchy and can’t concentrate on anything else. It manifests itself in hours of eating or staying up for days at a time or sleeping for sixteen hours straight or week long programming binges or constantly going to the gym. I’m exhausted from feeling like this every hour of every day.

Three to four nights a week I have nightmares about what happened. It makes me avoid sleep and constantly tired, because sleeping with what feels like hours of nightmares is not restful. I wake up sweaty and furious. I’m reminded every morning of what was done to me and the control it has over my life.

I’ve never been able to stop thinking about what happened to me and this hampered my social interactions. I would be angry and lost in thought and then be interrupted by someone saying “Hi” or making small talk, unable to understand why I seemed cold and distant. I walked around, viewing the outside world from a distant portal behind my eyes, unable to perform normal human niceties. I wondered what it would be like to take to other people without what happened constantly on my mind, and I wondered if other people had similar experiences that they were better able to mask.

Alcohol was also something that let me escape the darkness. It would always find me later, though, and it was always angry that I managed to escape and it made me pay. Many of the irresponsible things I did were the result of the darkness. Obviously I’m responsible for every decision and action, including this one, but there are reasons why things happen the way they do.

Alcohol and other drugs provided a way to ignore the realities of my situation. It was easy to spend the night drinking and forget that I had no future to look forward to. I never liked what alcohol did to me, but it was better than facing my existence honestly. I haven’t touched alcohol or any other drug in over seven months (and no drugs or alcohol will be involved when I do this) and this has forced me to evaluate my life in an honest and clear way. There’s no future here. The darkness will always be with me.

I used to think if I solved some problem or achieved some goal, maybe he would leave. It was comforting to identify tangible issues as the source of my problems instead of something that I’ll never be able to change. I thought that if I got into to a good college, or a good grad school, or lost weight, or went to the gym nearly every day for a year, or created programs that millions of people used, or spent a summer or California or New York or published papers that I was proud of, then maybe I would feel some peace and not be constantly haunted and unhappy. But nothing I did made a dent in how depressed I was on a daily basis and nothing was in any way fulfilling. I’m not sure why I ever thought that would change anything.

I didn’t realize how deep a hold he had on me and my life until my first relationship. I stupidly assumed that no matter how the darkness affected me personally, my romantic relationships would somehow be separated and protected. Growing up I viewed my future relationships as a possible escape from this thing that haunts me every day, but I began to realize how entangled it was with every aspect of my life and how it is never going to release me. Instead of being an escape, relationships and romantic contact with other people only intensified everything about him that I couldn’t stand. I will never be able to have a relationship in which he is not the focus, affecting every aspect of my romantic interactions.

Relationships always started out fine and I’d be able to ignore him for a few weeks. But as we got closer emotionally the darkness would return and every night it’d be me, her and the darkness in a black and gruesome threesome. He would surround me and penetrate me and the more we did the more intense it became. It made me hate being touched, because as long as we were separated I could view her like an outsider viewing something good and kind and untainted. Once we touched, the darkness would envelope her too and take her over and the evil inside me would surround her. I always felt like I was infecting anyone I was with.

Relationships didn’t work. No one I dated was the right match, and I thought that maybe if I found the right person it would overwhelm him. Part of me knew that finding the right person wouldn’t help, so I became interested in girls who obviously had no interest in me. For a while I thought I was gay. I convinced myself that it wasn’t the darkness at all, but rather my orientation, because this would give me control over why things didn’t feel “right”. The fact that the darkness affected sexual matters most intensely made this idea make some sense and I convinced myself of this for a number of years, starting in college after my first relationship ended. I told people I was gay (at Trinity, not at Princeton), even though I wasn’t attracted to men and kept finding myself interested in girls. Because if being gay wasn’t the answer, then what was? People thought I was avoiding my orientation, but I was actually avoiding the truth, which is that while I’m straight, I will never be content with anyone. I know now that the darkness will never leave.

Last spring I met someone who was unlike anyone else I’d ever met. Someone who showed me just how well two people could get along and how much I could care about another human being. Someone I know I could be with and love for the rest of my life, if I weren’t so fucked up. Amazingly, she liked me. She liked the shell of the man the darkness had left behind. But it didn’t matter because I couldn’t be alone with her. It was never just the two of us, it was always the three of us: her, me and the darkness. The closer we got, the more intensely I’d feel the darkness, like some evil mirror of my emotions. All the closeness we had and I loved was complemented by agony that I couldn’t stand, from him. I realized that I would never be able to give her, or anyone, all of me or only me. She could never have me without the darkness and evil inside me. I could never have just her, without the darkness being a part of all of our interactions. I will never be able to be at peace or content or in a healthy relationship. I realized the futility of the romantic part of my life. If I had never met her, I would have realized this as soon as I met someone else who I meshed similarly well with. It’s likely that things wouldn’t have worked out with her and we would have broken up (with our relationship ending, like the majority of relationships do) even if I didn’t have this problem, since we only dated for a short time. But I will face exactly the same problems with the darkness with anyone else. Despite my hopes, love and compatability is not enough. Nothing is enough. There’s no way I can fix this or even push the darkness down far enough to make a relationship or any type of intimacy feasible.

So I watched as things fell apart between us. I had put an explicit time limit on our relationship, since I knew it couldn’t last because of the darkness and didn’t want to hold her back, and this caused a variety of problems. She was put in an unnatural situation that she never should have been a part of. It must have been very hard for her, not knowing what was actually going on with me, but this is not something I’ve ever been able to talk about with anyone. Losing her was very hard for me as well. Not because of her (I got over our relationship relatively quickly), but because of the realization that I would never have another relationship and because it signified the last true, exclusive personal connection I could ever have. This wasn’t apparent to other people, because I could never talk about the real reasons for my sadness. I was very sad in the summer and fall, but it was not because of her, it was because I will never escape the darkness with anyone. She was so loving and kind to me and gave me everything I could have asked for under the circumstances. I’ll never forget how much happiness she brought me in those briefs moments when I could ignore the darkness. I had originally planned to kill myself last winter but never got around to it. (Parts of this letter were written over a year ago, other parts days before doing this.) It was wrong of me to involve myself in her life if this were a possibility and I should have just left her alone, even though we only dated for a few months and things ended a long time ago. She’s just one more person in a long list of people I’ve hurt.

I could spend pages talking about the other relationships I’ve had that were ruined because of my problems and my confusion related to the darkness. I’ve hurt so many great people because of who I am and my inability to experience what needs to be experienced. All I can say is that I tried to be honest with people about what I thought was true.

I’ve spent my life hurting people. Today will be the last time.

I’ve told different people a lot of things, but I’ve never told anyone about what happened to me, ever, for obvious reasons. It took me a while to realize that no matter how close you are to someone or how much they claim to love you, people simply cannot keep secrets. I learned this a few years ago when I thought I was gay and told people. The more harmful the secret, the juicier the gossip and the more likely you are to be betrayed. People don’t care about their word or what they’ve promised, they just do whatever the fuck they want and justify it later. It feels incredibly lonely to realize you can never share something with someone and have it be between just the two of you. I don’t blame anyone in particular, I guess it’s just how people are. Even if I felt like this is something I could have shared, I have no interest in being part of a friendship or relationship where the other person views me as the damaged and contaminated person that I am. So even if I were able to trust someone, I probably would not have told them about what happened to me. At this point I simply don’t care who knows.

I feel an evil inside me. An evil that makes me want to end life. I need to stop this. I need to make sure I don’t kill someone, which is not something that can be easily undone. I don’t know if this is related to what happened to me or something different. I recognize the irony of killing myself to prevent myself from killing someone else, but this decision should indicate what I’m capable of.

So I’ve realized I will never escape the darkness or misery associated with it and I have a responsibility to stop myself from physically harming others.

I’m just a broken, miserable shell of a human being. Being molested has defined me as a person and shaped me as a human being and it has made me the monster I am and there’s nothing I can do to escape it. I don’t know any other existence. I don’t know what life feels like where I’m apart from any of this. I actively despise the person I am. I just feel fundamentally broken, almost non-human. I feel like an animal that woke up one day in a human body, trying to make sense of a foreign world, living among creatures it doesn’t understand and can’t connect with.

I have accepted that the darkness will never allow me to be in a relationship. I will never go to sleep with someone in my arms, feeling the comfort of their hands around me. I will never know what uncontimated intimacy is like. I will never have an exclusive bond with someone, someone who can be the recipient of all the love I have to give. I will never have children, and I wanted to be a father so badly. I think I would have made a good dad. And even if I had fought through the darkness and married and had children all while being unable to feel intimacy, I could have never done that if suicide were a possibility. I did try to minimize pain, although I know that this decision will hurt many of you. If this hurts you, I hope that you can at least forget about me quickly.

There’s no point in identifying who molested me, so I’m just going to leave it at that. I doubt the word of a dead guy with no evidence about something that happened over twenty years ago would have much sway.

You may wonder why I didn’t just talk to a professional about this. I’ve seen a number of doctors since I was a teenager to talk about other issues and I’m positive that another doctor would not have helped. I was never given one piece of actionable advice, ever. More than a few spent a large part of the session reading their notes to remember who I was. And I have no interest in talking about being raped as a child, both because I know it wouldn’t help and because I have no confidence it would remain secret. I know the legal and practical limits of doctor/patient confidentiality, growing up in a house where we’d hear stories about the various mental illnesses of famous people, stories that were passed down through generations. All it takes is one doctor who thinks my story is interesting enough to share or a doctor who thinks it’s her right or responsibility to contact the authorities and have me identify the molestor (justifying her decision by telling herself that someone else might be in danger). All it takes is a single doctor who violates my trust, just like the “friends” who I told I was gay did, and everything would be made public and I’d be forced to live in a world where people would know how fucked up I am. And yes, I realize this indicates that I have severe trust issues, but they’re based on a large number of experiences with people who have shown a profound disrepect for their word and the privacy of others.

People say suicide is selfish. I think it’s selfish to ask people to continue living painful and miserable lives, just so you possibly won’t feel sad for a week or two. Suicide may be a permanent solution to a temporary problem, but it’s also a permanent solution to a ~23 year-old problem that grows more intense and overwhelming every day.

Some people are just dealt bad hands in this life. I know many people have it worse than I do, and maybe I’m just not a strong person, but I really did try to deal with this. I’ve tried to deal with this every day for the last 23 years and I just can’t fucking take it anymore.

I often wonder what life must be like for other people. People who can feel the love from others and give it back unadulterated, people who can experience sex as an intimate and joyous experience, people who can experience the colors and happenings of this world without constant misery. I wonder who I’d be if things had been different or if I were a stronger person. It sounds pretty great.

I’m prepared for death. I’m prepared for the pain and I am ready to no longer exist. Thanks to the strictness of New Jersey gun laws this will probably be much more painful than it needs to be, but what can you do. My only fear at this point is messing something up and surviving.


I’d also like to address my family, if you can call them that. I despise everything they stand for and I truly hate them, in a non-emotional, dispassionate and what I believe is a healthy way. The world will be a better place when they’re dead—one with less hatred and intolerance.

If you’re unfamiliar with the situation, my parents are fundamentalist Christians who kicked me out of their house and cut me off financially when I was 19 because I refused to attend seven hours of church a week.

They live in a black and white reality they’ve constructed for themselves. They partition the world into good and evil and survive by hating everything they fear or misunderstand and calling it love. They don’t understand that good and decent people exist all around us, “saved” or not, and that evil and cruel people occupy a large percentage of their church. They take advantage of people looking for hope by teaching them to practice the same hatred they practice.

A random example:

“I am personally convinced that if a Muslim truly believes and obeys the Koran, he will be a terrorist.” – George Zeller, August 24, 2010.

If you choose to follow a religion where, for example, devout Catholics who are trying to be good people are all going to Hell but child molestors go to Heaven (as long as they were “saved” at some point), that’s your choice, but it’s fucked up. Maybe a God who operates by those rules does exist. If so, fuck Him.

Their church was always more important than the members of their family and they happily sacrificed whatever necessary in order to satisfy their contrived beliefs about who they should be.

I grew up in a house where love was proxied through a God I could never believe in. A house where the love of music with any sort of a beat was literally beaten out of me. A house full of hatred and intolerance, run by two people who were experts at appearing kind and warm when others were around. Parents who tell an eight year old that his grandmother is going to Hell because she’s Catholic. Parents who claim not to be racist but then talk about the horrors of miscegenation. I could list hundreds of other examples, but it’s tiring.

Since being kicked out, I’ve interacted with them in relatively normal ways. I talk to them on the phone like nothing happened. I’m not sure why. Maybe because I like pretending I have a family. Maybe I like having people I can talk to about what’s been going on in my life. Whatever the reason, it’s not real and it feels like a sham. I should have never allowed this reconnection to happen.

I wrote the above a while ago, and I do feel like that much of the time. At other times, though, I feel less hateful. I know my parents honestly believe the crap they believe in. I know that my mom, at least, loved me very much and tried her best. One reason I put this off for so long is because I know how much pain it will cause her. She has been sad since she found out I wasn’t “saved”, since she believes I’m going to Hell, which is not a sadness for which I am responsible. That was never going to change, and presumably she believes the state of my physical body is much less important than the state of my soul. Still, I cannot intellectually justify this decision, knowing how much it will hurt her. Maybe my ability to take my own life, knowing how much pain it will cause, shows that I am a monster who doesn’t deserve to live. All I know is that I can’t deal with this pain any longer and I’m am truly sorry I couldn’t wait until my family and everyone I knew died so this could be done without hurting anyone. For years I’ve wished that I’d be hit by a bus or die while saving a baby from drowning so my death might be more acceptable, but I was never so lucky.


To those of you who have shown me love, thank you for putting up with all my shittiness and moodiness and arbitrariness. I was never the person I wanted to be. Maybe without the darkness I would have been a better person, maybe not. I did try to be a good person, but I realize I never got very far.

I’m sorry for the pain this causes. I really do wish I had another option. I hope this letter explains why I needed to do this. If you can’t understand this decision, I hope you can at least forgive me.

Bill Zeller


Please save this letter and repost it if gets deleted. I don’t want people to wonder why I did this. I disseminated it more widely than I might have otherwise because I’m worried that my family might try to restrict access to it. I don’t mind if this letter is made public. In fact, I’d prefer it be made public to people being unable to read it and drawing their own conclusions.

Feel free to republish this letter, but only if it is reproduced in its entirety.

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  • Anytime someone who killed themself left a really long suicide note like this, it always makes me think that they had a lot more to say, than what all they said during their life. It’s sad, but it’s more of a shame that someone with so much to say didn’t stick around longer to say it. We could probably learn a lot from all of the people who ended their life having a lot left to do and say.

    It’s when they don’t leave any note at all that we tend to assume that they didn’t have anyting to say. But of course, that’s often more about the difference between a careful exit, and a fight to the death with oneself.

    My son didn’t threaten to do it, didn’t try it and fail a few times first, and didn’t leave any note. He just did it with no warning, and in a few minutes, it was done.
    A note would serve to explain a few things, even though no note does explain a few things by itself. I’m glad that some people give at least that much to their loved ones, before their exit.

  • thebigJ_A

    Is it strange that this makes me feel bad about my own contemplations of suicide? I was never molested, I come from a loving family, I’ve had very few tragic or shameful experiences. And yet, for most of my life, at least from my tweens, I had occasional desires to end it. I managed to get over it (at least, it’s been a few years since I’ve thought that way).

    I’m surprised he made it as long as he did. He was stronger than he knew.

  • Having dealt with depression for several years I can sympathize but one thing I’ve learned is that there is hope and it rests with reaching out to others in finding the light in ourselves.

  • Josh

    Damn, there are so many things I wish I could say to this guy. I wish I could have told him that no one who matters cares (except in a good way) that he was molested. I wish I could tell him how much it helps to talk to someone. I wish I could tell him that embarassment is better than the guilt he seems to have been carrying. Finally, that there’s no shame in having problems and there’s no shame in asking for help carrying around what I’m sure seems like an unbearable burden.

    Please anybody, if you have a problem, try talking to someone. We are often our own harshest critics. My issues are minor compared to some, but I can’t stress how important it was for me to share my thoughts and feelings. I still want to die now and then, but not as often or as badly as I did when I was younger.

    Even now I feel a little better having said that. This post left me in a pretty bad mood.

  • I agree completely with Joel Johnson’s preface.

  • Pete in the Netherlands

    wow.. just wow’s not very often that a blog post makes me cry but this did.

    I’m lucky ..I was abused emotionally and physically as a child by my stepfather but never sexually…but I have had the “darkness” that Bill describes and I’ve got through it…. but it’s still always there at the back of your mind.

    I admire Bill, his courage and his clarity…. and he’s achieved something…for the short time he was on this planet he made a difference..and thats something we should all aim for.

    As for his fundamentalist family… I cannot express my utter and complete contempt and revulsion for everything they “believe” in their delusional faith and stand for and the way they even judged their own son.

  • I had a friend who was abused as a child. She went on to get a law degree at Harvard, sued her parents for the abuse. Won and then killed herself. She said she was tired of being terrified all the time. And, even though I had known her from the age of four and never lost touch with her. And even though I had wondered why she went grey at the age of 11. And even though I wondered why she did all sorts of reckless things, I had no idea what had happened to her until she killed herself. Apparently only one person knew. I still miss her terribly. This just brought it all back. Child abuse is the problem – needs to stop.

  • PrettyButterfly

    As a person who was molested as a child, I’ve been fortunate enough to have family members, friends, and loved ones who care and cared enough to talk with me about what happened. Suicide was thought of, but I never seriously planned anything or had any desire to self-inflict fatal pain. I think alcohol was also way to deal with the pain, but I realized that option is unsustainable. I have talked to therapists and it’s painful to talk about what happened, but I find that it is even more painful not to talk about it. There are some bad days when I relive what happened, but those are now few and far between. Perhaps talking about it on a public forum will help someone else who has also been molested or at least gives perspective to those more fortunate to have never have experienced this cruelty. At the very least, it helps me to talk about it in relation to others who have also been molested as some sort of bond.

    As for religion impacting things, it has been said to me by numerous theists that being molested has led me to my atheism. No, actually, I never believed in a god even before being molested, so that assumption is wrong. Once again theists misinterpret causation and ignore stories I tell on how I became an atheist (through reading the Bible and knowing reality to be very different). It is this heinous disregard and wrongful blame throwing that may truly harm a victim less strong-willed than me.

  • Mike

    This makes me sad on so many levels. As someone with a close family member suffering from mental illness, this just reinforces to me, once again, how often we as a society miss the mark when it comes to recognizing and helping those who suffer from these horrible afflictions. In this case, Mr. Zeller kept it so bottled up inside that it was almost impossible that anyone would recognize what was going on inside of his mind. But there was a larger reason why he kept his internal horrors such a secret. A combination of the stigma that our society puts on non-visible afflictions such as depression, coupled with all the horrible baggage that comes along with the fundamentalist Christian side of this, and you end up with someone taking their own life out of a sense of desperation and futility. Feeling that they have no other apparent option, other than suicide, to escape the pain and constant mental torture. How very, very sad.

    Yes, the religious side of this situation bears some responsibility, but probably not the lions share. The religious community is no better equipped to deal with things like this than the average layman. In my family’s case, our pastor at the time tried to tell my mom that she needed to consider the possibility that my brother was possessed by demons when his mental illness first began to show itself when he was in his early twenties. This obviously did not help the situation at the time. I will never forget my mother’s horror at that suggestion.

    Mental illness is a problem that crosses all human boundaries, both real and self created. Across the country we continue to see community mental health efforts pared back due to economic and political factors. And this makes me angrier than I can put into words. Mental illness is the most widely suffered affliction in this country and we continue to act like those who suffer from it are simply weak-willed or just need to pick themselves up by their own bootstraps and decide to get better. Well it doesn’t work that way, folks. Until we as a society decide that it is important enough to apply the efforts and resources, both in people and in funding, we will continue to lose very bright, energetic and wonderful people such as Bill Zeller. And it will continue to fly under the radar of almost everyone in this country, until it happens to your parent, sibling, spouse or close friend.

    Then I can tell you with confidence that it will become very, very real. You will then become a member this large but unrecognized community that is swimming against a very strong current. And you will be as sad, pissed off and frustrated as I am right now that this evil disease has claimed another victim.

  • When I was in my twenties, I was in financial trouble, dealing with the fallout of growing up with an emotionally abusive, and incredibly frustrated with life. I had thoughts of suicide often.

    However, I found support,and things got better for me. Looking back at how things have changed and the people I’ve met since then, I am glad that I didn’t kill myself. When I think about that cats that found their homes thanks to me, I am glad I survived.

    Even recently, I’ve had thoughts of ending it all, but I know that it can, and does get better. Things are now looking up for me, and I am so glad I didn’t act on those thoughts.

    Life will have its ups and downs. There is pain, but there is also joy. Don’t throw away the only life you have. There is help out there.

  • NewEnglandBob

    I know someone who was/is a friend of Zeller at Princeton and had talks with him. There was little outward indication of Bill’s inner tormented life.

  • Einmaliger

    I am with Metha here: This guy should have sought help.

    There is one acceptable reason for suicide: That is when there is objectively no hope for ever being able to feel good again. When you realize that you will never be able to leave the bed your are lying in and that no medication in the world will ever release you from your pain. Many old people end their lifes in such a situation, often assisted by doctors. People don’t like to talk about it, but it happens quite often. Actually, I think that is the most prominent reason for suicide.

    However, just “feeling that suicide is the only option” without having talked to people how know about such things does not justify the act. It is the wrong thing to do.

    This guy, it seems, suffered from a severe chronic depression. Many things he writes describe such an illness quite accurately. It’s not important what may have got it started in the first place; it is an illness. The molestation this guy sufferend in his childhood is not what killed him and neither are his stupid fundie parents. The guy rightfully suspected that “the evil” in him may not even be related to what had happened to him. This may sound cruel: Memories, especially form childhood, become greatly exaggerated and inaccurate over time, even the strong or traumatic ones. I have worked with people (during voluntary work for psychiatric institutions in my free time) that during therapy realized that many of the things that kept them awake every night couldn’t possible have happened. That “darkness” that is described in the letter, may have been cured. In fact, the chances are quite good. I am convinced of this as I have got to know quite a lot of traumatized people who lived through hell and still learnt to live very happy lifes. Now matter how fucked up every day of your present life has been, it is always possible to start a new one. But the man who wrote this suicide letter didn’t trust doctors and as it seems never talked to a psychotherapist, either. That was a mistake, and the death was unnecessary.

    If he had tried to get professinoal help, if he had been given all treatment we have for such a problem, and it had failed (which it sometimes does – some people simply cannot be cured by current science), then I would feel sorry for him and somehow accept his decision to end his life. As it is, according to his letter, I cannot feel sorry for him. I feel that he and the people around him made a mistake.

  • Granted there is a physio-chemical aspect to depression and thoughts of suicide but there is also a psychological aspect that can be addressed. Some people fall victim to this mindset that there is some kind of ideal state of being and that to fall short is somehow painful and devastatingly frustrating. Undoubtedly, this pursuit of perfectionism comes in part from our cultural religious roots. Personally, I think the pursuit of perfection or the ideal is misguided and can have harmful side-effects. I think a more realistic outlook that life sometimes sucks but it is the only life you have so enjoy it while you can is a more healthy perspective. It at least gets you through the downward moments.

    I am saddened that suicide sometimes comes down to one very bad day and then there is no going back.

  • I wonder what could’ve been if Bill had simply told someone about the thing that was eating away at him.

    “Simple” it ain’t, and Bill knew that. Einmaliger, I’m glad your experiences with therapy have been positive ones, but some of us have had experiences speaking to counselors that are so bad, they rival the original abuse. Not everyone who offers to extend help is actually ethical or competent. And when you’ve been burned by that–on top of the original abuse–how are you supposed to trust someone again?

    However, just “feeling that suicide is the only option” without having talked to people how know about such things does not justify the act. It is the wrong thing to do.

    If you’re making a moral judgment there, your opinion is totally irrelevant. If by “wrong” you mean “less effective,” that’s as may be, but the person in question can only work with what they have. We can use our hindsight to say, oh, there’s somebody nice who would have listened, but if Bill couldn’t find that somebody without putting himself through the ringer, than it wasn’t a real option to begin with.

  • Greg

    That’s left me in tears. I’ve been suffering from depression for longer than I can say. Although the circumstances are different, so much he said in that I can relate to. I wish he could know that he wasn’t a coward, or selfish.

    But as well as that, it makes me angry. I’m angry that he should feel that way, because I’m sure that the belief that killing himself would be selfish, or cowardly, contributed to his problems.

    All that belief does is make the depressed person feel worse: more worthless; more useless; more isolated; more miserable; even less willing to admit their problems.

    It’s not like this happy event where you think “I’m going to kill myself, and everything will be fine.” It’s…

    Every sinew of you is torn in two. You’re scared of dying, scared of the temporary pain you anticipate, scared of – worst of all – failing, and someone finding you and ‘rescuing’ you. But the pain gets too much to contemplate, and you don’t see any other way of ending it. Nobody wants to kill themselves. They want the hurt to stop.

    You’re certain something is wrong with you – that you were somehow made defective – because you know there are people going through worse, and surviving; not just surviving, but happy, even. You’re weak, useless, and then you have some fucking self-satisfied ass going around saying suicide is selfish and cowardly. The one exit you feel you have available to you.

    I’ve seen psychiatrists, psychologists, and only once have I ever told anyone anything approaching just how bad I feel. And why? Because doing so makes you appear (and feel) even less worthy a person.

    I swear the sentiments that ‘suicide is selfish’ or that ‘suicide is cowardly’ causes more people to stay quiet about their problems than anything else.

    If you were contemplating suicide, and you thought someone viewed suicide that way, would you tell them you were thinking about doing it?

  • P.E. in Kentucky

    Powerful stuff. I don’t agree with a lot of the “there’s always someone you can talk to” stuff, though. I’ve dealt with depression all my life. I’ve talked to family, friends and therapists of all stripes. None have EVER been able to help me. Drugs, legal or otherwise, never did, either. I have just become resigned to the fact that I will never be happy. Suicide has crossed my mind, but I care too much about my family to do that too them. Zeller clearly didn’t have that saving grace (not meant in the religious sense, I assure you).

  • Greg

    I’m sorry, I probably shouldn’t have written that – at least without giving myself a cooling off period to make changes if necessary. If anyone got offended by anything I just said, know it was written in a strength of feeling which may have overridden my better judgement. Of course, waiting until I was less emotional before posting it might not have helped because I feel so strongly I guess.

    I think I’ll get myself off the net before I embarrass myself further. :-/

  • Sean

    I have to say that I’m glad he left this note. I understand the individual emotions that are being described, depression, contamination, mistrust and fear of intimacy… But the total picture is very difficult to understand. I may be incapable, by this stage in my life, of feeling like that; depersonalization is not the best coping mechanism, but it has pulled me through some difficult experiences. This note is a sort of window into something I’ve been lucky enough to never experience. A friend of mine seems to have partially overcome similar symptoms related to childhood abuse. I feel like I perhaps understand him better now. I’m not convinced in either case that the molestation was the entire problem; it seems to be the seed for a very dark pattern of thinking that, over time, grows far beyond the original cause. This is something that I hope can be scientifically unraveled over time; introspection is illuminating but not nearly good enough.

    I do have to say, perhaps unnecessarily, that I can’t buy Bill’s reasoning for not seeking treatment; given that suicide was an option he was considering, and that this was decades in the making, he had little to lose, and a lot of time to make something work. His mistrust was his condition speaking, not defensible. That said, there’s no point in blaming him; he’s dead, and anyone in a similar situation today does not need the burden of further moralizing.

  • Tony

    I was never given one piece of actionable advice, ever. More than a few spent a large part of the session reading their notes to remember who I was.

    This is why I won’t see a therapist any more. I’ve sat through my share of these situations. The docotor has one hour to see you, he spends most of it reviewing his notes and then says “Let’s try this medication.”

    Never again, no thank you.

    I am sad to hear about anybody taking their own life but I understand why they would.

  • Rich Wilson

    Greg, I for one would much rather you say it than not say it.

  • Ms. Crazy Pants

    Greg, I think you had it nailed. Most of us who have had to live with depression and abuse learn pretty quickly to be very careful about who knows, and if you really want to kill yourself, you don’t dare say anything to anyone or they lock you up with some really crazy loons that make you a lot worse than when you started.

    Einmaliger would be one of those people who I would never talk to, because nothing’s worse than being told that you’re just imagining things. [quote]that during therapy realized that many of the things that kept them awake every night couldn’t possible have happened. [/quote] So, child rape is not half as bad as people remember it? Really?

  • Greg, after reading this article, I read one on BlogHer about a woman’s experience with her father committing suicide. She makes the argument that suicide needs to be talked about more so that people who are contemplating suicide will understand that they will be hurting the people they leave behind.

    The victim-blaming nature of that argument doesn’t sit well with me. I think what you just posted is a much better argument for why suicide should be more widely discussed. I’d kind of like to see it reposted on that thread on BlogHer.

  • Palaverer, I’m totally with you on this. Excellent point about judging his decision using hindsight. “Man, if he had only tried this thing I think he should do, and if that hadn’t worked, it would have been an acceptable situation for him to have killed himself.”

    I also like what Greg said about how the idea that “suicide is selfish” tends to reinforce to people that there’s just something so evil and wrong about themselves that it’s too shameful to talk about. Shame on top of shame on top of shame.

    It seems to me that Bill had shame driven into him so thoroughly throughout his life, and that’s what’s kept him from talking or feeling better. The initial horrible shame about being raped, and his parents reinforcing shame to him through their flawed religious beliefs, and then the shame he felt with his experiment of falsely admitting he was gay simply just reinforced his worst fears.

    I can relate to that kind of shame, and I understand that it can be emotionally paralyzing. Obviously and unfortunately, Bill suffered from it worse than I can imagine.

    Also, to that comment above about how childhood memories can be exaggerate and blown out of proportion to affect us more than they should: some people go through things in their childhood that leave such an impact that the impact left behind spreads and grows, and it’s doomed to become worse than the actual event. That’s obvious. Many of us who’ve dealt with childhood trauma have already put ourselves through the ringer about whether or not we’re overreacting about a memory, and then the idea and fear that the person you seek help from could possibly suggest to you that “it’s not as bad as you remember it” is absolutely maddening and can really just reinforce one’s fear of talking about it.

  • Thanks for writing this. It’s so important for everyone to know that they’re not alone, but particularly those who are dealing with depression. It’s a horrible illness and the loneliness that can result needs to be addressed by people regardless of their faith. We don’t have to share a faith to sit and listen to one another’s story over coffee and give a hug.

  • And then there was the case this last month where a young man attempting suicide was discharged from the hospital psych ward so they could send him home for the holidays to be with his family — the very family that had driven him to this state in the first place! And, any outsider was not able to object or enlist the police or a social agency because they were not a member of his family! The hospital staff knew best! They also needed to reduce the staff in the psych ward during the holidays so they discharged the patients they did not think were in any danger! Yuk!!!!

  • altar ego

    I don’t even know what to say, really. It’s so sad and I, too, wish he could have known that he was stronger than he thought. It’s terrible he was unable to find a professional or anyone else who could really help him.

    I agree that saying “suicide is selfish” is unhelpful. Perhaps it is in some ways, but sometimes people really do feel like it is their only viable option. (Besides, I think the real selfishness can be placed on the abuser.) And there is such a stigma on depression and suicidal feelings that many people do not want to talk about it.

  • Wendy

    This post has touched me somehow…no words are worthy.

    Honestly, from what I read in his note and on meta he TRIED therapy, he tried the routes. Should have he tried more? Maybe. Is it possible he couldn’t be fixed? Maybe. I can’t imagine the horror of his childhood. It does make want to find his parents and shake them. how could they not know? Abuse to the point of massive physical trauma? How did they not KNOW?

    GAH sorry, bit of a tangent. Mom of two little ones, stuff like this makes me so sad.

    I won’t say suicide is not always the answer….sometimes it is. We give the ok for terminal patients, ones that won’t have a good “quality of life”, what’s the difference here? It’s quite possible the asshole that did this to him, injured him beyond fixing

    Sorry my post is kind of rambling, this whole situation is so very very sad.

  • Todd

    Maybe this is weird, but I support him in his decision. He sounded rational and sane, and as he suggested, we will all feel sad for a few weeks and then forget about him and the world will go on. I think it would have been a better place is he was in it, and maybe if some of the people he mentioned weren’t, but we can’t change that. Is there really help for someone in his state of mind? I can’t even imagine being so misserable and traumatised that I would have given the cause a name and lived with it for 23 years. As an atheist I know he is gone for good; his suffering is over. But I can’t help feel that some kind of a life is better than no life at all. What a waste of an intelligent person.

  • Christopher

    I’ve re-read Bill’s suicide letter several times over the last day or so and several things bother me about it.

    I sometimes have a strong internal reaction to stories of child sexual abuse but I don’t usually express my opinion out loud because I know it will seem like a harsh one. But with the relative anonymity of an internet forum, I figured it might be safe to express these feelings without any repercussions.

    Every time I read Bill’s letter I get the impression of someone who is writing about their fantasy of what depression is like. He uses words like “darkness” and “evil inside me” that are hard for me to take seriously. He might as well be talking about demonic possession.

    And then we have this suicide letter of epic proportions. Strangely, for all of its verbiage, it does not include many details. No one is named, situations are not described. In fact, the majority of information that we get is in regards to his internal states and feelings. The letter is so long and so unproductive that it seems very indulgent and it reads like a list of excuses.

    And then there is this whopper:
    “There’s no point in identifying who molested me, so I’m just going to leave it at that. I doubt the word of a dead guy with no evidence about something that happened over twenty years ago would have much sway.”

    What a horrible rationalization. There is EVERY point in identifying his molester. Do you think Bill would have kept quiet if the molester had abused his best friend, stole money or murdered his parents? Of course not. But since he was sexually abused, he gives the abuser a pass!! What would Bill say to other children who were molested after him? “Sorry I was so ashamed that I didn’t report this to the police so the monster got to you too.” Our lives are not totally our own and we have responsibilities to our fellow human beings. Since there is no god to bring this molester to justice, it is up to humans to catch him. It has always been this way. But now, there will never be justice. And the same monster that destroyed his life will destroy others. Maybe even today? If Bill had named his abuser then maybe other victims still living would come forward. There is a weird disconnect when it comes to sexual abuse victims, as if once they are abused, we give them a pass and they have no responsibility to protect their fellow humans.

    So from my armchair perspective, I can’t help but think Bill was a gay man, who could never become comfortable with his own sexuality, and used past tragic events as an excuse to shipwreck his life and hurt others with his emotional immaturity. Yes, I know diagnosis via an internet forum is about as worthless as a three dollar bill.

    I too have struggled with depression throughout my life. I am a gay man who came out to his religious parents over 15 years ago when our culture was much less accepting of homosexuals. That first Christmas was rough when they told me to stay away. But they eventually came around and my relationship with my Mom is closer than ever (although my relationship with Dad is rocky due to other reasons). My partner is accepted in our family without reservation. I lived through the rough times of these relationships and now my homosexuality is hardly a factor in my life at all.

    Instead of feeling sorry for Bill, I wonder if it wouldn’t be more productive (and helpful to other depressed people) to point at him as an example of a mistake to be avoided rather than making yet another internet martyr. I wish we, as a culture, could approach suicide and depression without relying on these exceptional cases. To be fair, I am not sure how that can be accomplished.

  • Hemant Mehta said

    Some of you sent me Zeller’s note because of a religious reference made toward the end — it’s clear from the message that Zeller could never trust his parents with his secrets because their loyalty rest with their fundamentalist Christian church and god, instead of with their son. It’s awful how religion tore his family apart and it’s just another example of how faith is capable of doing so much more harm than good.

    But there’s another aspect of this case that almost no one has mentioned and it likely involves a failure on the part of religion too.

    While Zeller doesn’t name his abuser, the fact that he says it happened repeatedly almost certainly indicates that it was a relative or close friend of the family who was responsible.

    From the National Center for victims of crime:

    Incest has been cited as the most common form of child abuse. Studies conclude that 43 percent (43%) of the children who are abused are abused by family members, 33 percent (33%) are abused by someone they know, and the remaining 24 percent (24%) are sexually abused by strangers (Hayes, 1990). Other research indicates that over 10 million Americans have been victims of incest.

    If, as I said, you add the repetition factor (which is not mentioned in these statistics), the likelihood of the abuser being a relative or family friend rises from 76% to near certainty.

    It’s not much of a stretch from that to conclude the perpetrator was a fundamentalist Christian whose religion did not deter him (or her, I suppose) from committing these crimes nor confess them or even admit to having a sex-related problem and seek help for it.

    Quite probably, to paraphrase Hemant, this is also another example of how faith is capable of doing so much more harm than good.

  • Eskomo

    I started this before, but deleted it. Didn’t want to open up about it. After rereading Hemant’s comment about being open to others, I’ll try again.

    I have always felt closed off from others, mostly because of my lack of belief in God which happened to me around age 12. Over the roughly 40 years since, I have personally met three other atheists. The internet is the pretty much only place where I can contact any atheists. It is the constant presence of “God is good, atheist bad” in the US that keeps me in the closet.

    I lost my permanent job over 5 years ago, and the temporary jobs in the same field ended 2 and a half years ago. Since then, I have only found a low wage very part time job (15 hours a week.) No one else will touch me, engineering is stagnant and other low wage employers see my degree and think I will jump ship shortly. I have lost sight of my future. The phrase “Live one day at a time” is what I do.

    I do understand that a bleak outlook is terrifying and agree with Greg that ending this is not selfish. I guess I am posting this to give others an idea of what some people go through. I do still have a tiny voice saying that it will get better. Finding reinforcement is the hard part.

  • Defiantnonbeliever

    Wow, I don’t know where to start but will get back to this.
    In the meantime I’d like to offer my warmest condolences and empathy to all who have suffered from depression or are presently. To offer hope, I can say I survived, and it’s diminished greatly, with the help and in spite of some of the ‘help’ and ‘support’ I could find and couldn’t. I recommend reading about Beck’s cognitive therapy as it was the first thing I found that made sense to me and gave me a sense of control over my mood…

  • MelissaF

    I understand completely why Zeller commited suicide. On the one hand I think that at least he’s not hurting anymore. On the other, I know myself that it can get better if you just hang on. I was molested by my stepfather when I was 12, & although it never went as far as rape, it destroyed me. I finally managed to tell my cousin, & my mother confronted my stepfather & he left. But as a Christian my mother felt forgiveness was important, & divorce was not allowed. I was discouraged from reporting the crime, & at 13, wasn’t strong enough to go to the police on my own. My mother kept seeing him until I was 20, & gave her the ultimatum that it was me or him. She chose me. I’m now mostly past the trauma, thanks to my amazing husband who stuck by a broken, self-harming, angry girl, because he could see past all the damage to the spark inside, & my wonderful toddler who gives me meaning. But as someone who lost all self-worth, permanantly scarred my legs by cutting, & who lived constantly in that darkness, I understand why Zeller did it. I just wish that he could have trusted someone enough to reach out for support, to tell his story. Because that’s really all it takes to begin the (admittedly long) journey to heal the damage. He could have gotten better, & it’s tragic that he’ll never get that chance. Also, I think what Zeller said about religion makes it sound pretty likely whoever abused him was Christian. It reminds me of how I felt anyway. Apologies for the rambling, I guess this kinda got to me.

  • Deepak Shetty

    I think a person has the right to live or end their life as they choose.

    This question has always troubled me. In most cases the suicide(non medical related reasons) seems to have been avoidable(in the sense that friends/ relatives/ doctors/ could have counseled the person).

  • Alex O’Cady

    Just offering my own 2 cents about the “suicide is selfish” argument…

    I was suicidal for most of high school, and heard that argument plenty of times. When I finally attempted it, it was because I had come to the point where I realized I was causing the people I loved more pain being alive than (in my mind) I would be causing them if I ended it. Living with someone who is suicidal, or even having regular contact with them, is not a pleasant thing. I fought with people, I manipulated them with guilt and lashed out at them to keep them at arms’ length – where, I figured, they couldn’t hurt me.

    Obviously I can’t say that this is what Bill was going through, but it seems logical. He didn’t exist in a bubble; he had relationships with people (or tried to), and while imagining the darkness overcoming them might be an exaggeration, it’s not too far off the mark.

    The “selfish” argument is flawed. I’m sure there must be someone out there that it’s worked on, but I can’t imagine it really reaching a suicidal person in the right way. Either they will come to the place I did, where it’s the lesser of two “evils”, or they will be shamed into not talking about their problems until the problems become impossible to bear.

    Suicide is tragic, but it is not shameful. There is so much shame in this world, and most of it is needless; the people we think ought to feel shame rarely do (murderers, child molesters, etc), while the most vulnerable people, GOOD people, are the ones who end up choked with it. If we could cut back on the shame factor, this world would be a much better place to live in – and I’d bet there would be less suicides.

  • Annie

    “There’s support for all of us?” Bull fucking shit.

    It’s weird as well as angering that so many people think if only Bill had found the right therapist he could have been “cured”. I wonder if you people even read the letter in its entirety.

    As one poster here noted, seeing a therapist is often a trauma nearly equal to the original abuse or trauma. I’ve been to a few myself. If there are any good ones, I’ve yet to meet one. The main reason I didn’t kill myself long ago was that I have children to consider, and I know how much damage a parent’s (or a family member’s) suicide can cause. Bill’s letter stated he had been to a number of therapists. Was he supposed to keep on submitting himself to more and more abuse at the hands of the so-called professionals in the naive belief that somewhere out there was “the one”?

    Abuse takes a different toll on different people. For one thing, I think there seems to be a lack of recognition of the severity of Bill’s original abuse. Second, it does not seem that his family was loving or supportive outside of the sexual abuse. And third, Bill was an extremely sensitive and intellectual person for whom the trauma was simply overwhelming. I doubt that the “therapist” exists who could have helped him.

  • Wendy

    Eskomo, I don’t know where you live, so I have no idea what the jobs are like. But one can HOPE it will get better. It can’t stay the way it is. It will change.

    As for not meeting other atheists. Know we are here, we are supportive of you and your life.

  • Demonhype

    Seriously, I’m glad plenty of people have come down on that odious “suicide is selfish, I have no pity for you” attitude. Besides the total ignorance of such an attitude, as it usually comes from someone who has no idea how it feels to be trapped in a miserable situation and feel there is nothing you can do to escape it, it is also part and parcel of that “mental illness is just you being weak, just get over it” mentality that stigmatizes mental illness and is so much a part of why people commit suicide in the first place. Hint: Calling suicidal people selfish and cowardly? You’re not helping.

    I relate to his reluctance to seek counseling, though it sounds like he did try. I have been told by the few people I have felt comfortable enough to open up a little with that I should see a psychiatrist, but I find it impossible to trust anyone who is only listening to me because I’m paying them. It’s hard enough for me to open up to someone who is just there with a genuine desire to listen and help, so how could a mercenary ear be easier? And it really struck me that the doctors he saw had to spend several minutes visibly reminding themselves of who he was. How hard is it to do that somewhere a little more private? How can you honestly expect someone to trust you and believe you want to help them when you demonstrate that you only remember who they are from your notes? Too many doctors in general seem to see their patients as a paycheck, and that is especially unconstructive when you’re talking about a mental illness where the patient really needs to believe you give a damn–even more so than with physical issues.

    One thing that I found helps sometimes is when you can open up online, anonymously. Because you have that anonymity, so you don’t have to worry that it will get back to your family or friends or employers, and you don’t have that “I’m only listening to you if your check clears” barrier either. You also have the benefit of wording things just right and not interrupting yourself by breaking down in front of anyone. And with the right site, you know that anyone who comes in and trivializes your problems or tells you to just “get over it” will be summarily told-off–which can also help a lot in feeling that you are not alone and that there might actually be others who understand or have gone through similar feelings or problems. There really should be some kind of forum where people can all talk in such a manner. That might have been something that could have helped where face-to-face discussions or professional help might fail.

    @ Greg:

    I feel the same way. I didn’t go through the same kind of trauma–my problems were mostly emotional issues and internalizing what others thought of me and how they treated me. But the feelings are so similar to what is described in this suicide letter that it is scary. You pretty much said it in your comment, which was spot-on, but this part here needs to be particularly noted:

    You’re weak, useless, and then you have some fucking self-satisfied ass going around saying suicide is selfish and cowardly. The one exit you feel you have available to you.

    I swear the sentiments that ‘suicide is selfish’ or that ‘suicide is cowardly’ causes more people to stay quiet about their problems than anything else.

    If you were contemplating suicide, and you thought someone viewed suicide that way, would you tell them you were thinking about doing it?

    That’s pretty much it. My mom didn’t want to believe I had been suicidal at 12, and justified her response by saying “you never told anyone!” But whenever I told her about my problems or the abuse I got from the kids and teachers at school, she’d tell me to “get over it” or tell me that I’m weak or that I’m an ugly person who obviously deserves it. And she often loudly proclaimed the evils and inadequacies of those who commit the Ultimate Crime of Suicide. Why the hell would I ever tell her that I was planning to kill myself?

    Then she tells me “I was suicidal. I used to wish I could get the pills, but I couldn’t so I’d just sit there and wish I could stop breathing.” Mostly because she seems to regard “sob stories” as a contest, so if I say I was suicidal, she has to figure out some way to make herself suicidal too. I said “I wished I could get the pills but I couldn’t, so I got a kitchen knife.” I’m sorry, but I have trouble believing that she was really suicidal when she has always gone around loudly displaying the same sanctimonious attitude that those who have never been suicidal usually display–and she continues to display a complete lack of sensitivity or understanding toward those who have suicidal tendencies.

    And I love my mom and I realize she always did what she honestly thought was best and that she genuinely had no intention of hurting me, but this particular attitude still pisses me off about her–that and the “I have to have the saddest story” competitiveness, as if sorrow or suffering is a contest.

    “Fucking self-satisfied ass” pretty much describes those sorts of people, though perhaps it doesn’t go far enough. I don’t know if the words even exist to fully describe such people. Seriously, instead of smugly judging people who are suicidal or commit suicide, why don’t you sit down, shut up, and listen to what they are saying, and maybe try to realize that these people are experiencing something that perhaps you are “blessed” enough to have never experienced? And try to understand that instead of knock them down?

    @ Eskomo:

    I’m in a similar situation, though in my case there are few jobs in my field where I live right now. And I need some kind of work so I can possibly relocate if I could find something elsewhere, but I believe that employers see the degree and don’t want to touch me. I’ve only been able to find seasonal employment right now. Plus there are other employment issues I won’t get into right here. It can be so overwhelming to feel trapped, like there’s no way to get out of your situation and get a real future, and my suicidal tendencies have been flaring up again, almost as bad as when I was 12. I mostly just try to bear up, because the feeling usually levels off after a few hours–kind of like what they say with that “it gets better” campaign. And in this case I know that a little turn of my fortune will go a long way to defeating it. It still sucks though.

  • Hypatia’s Daughter

    In November, a young man I had known for 15 years & who I considered my 3rd “son” left home one morning, drove to a local park & killed himself. He left no message telling us why. Wracking our brains, going over months of conversations, we saw not one hint as to why he made that choice.
    Over 100 people were at his service and not one (I do not exaggerate) had a bad word to say about him. He was the kind of guy who didn’t fight with people; who always found a way to joke his way past a problem….

    But I think that was why he did it. Like Bill Zeller, he was ashamed to admit to those he cared about the most, that there was a darkness inside. That is the most painful thing in Bill’s letter – that he was so afraid that his “dirty secrets” would get out, he would not reveal them to anyone. To kill yourself because you’re ashamed to reach out and confess feelings that every honest person will admit to feeling in some degree or another……that is the hardest for me to accept.

  • he’s in a better place now.

    rotting in the ground.

    and that’s nice to think about.

  • too sad.

  • Hemat, why haven’t you put a trigger warning on this post?

    It’s not very hard, it allows those who are depressed and have suicidal idealisations or who have been depressed and suicidal, to consider whether or not they are in the frame of mind to read that post. All you’d have to preface the post with is:

    [Trigger warning: This post discusses suicide and publishes a suicide note]

    PLEASE put trigger warnings on your posts where it is appropriate.

    If you don’t know what trigger warnings are for, here is a good post on them:

  • TrogloDyke

    Joe Zamecki, I’m so sorry about your son. I cannot imagine the heartache you must feel everyday, especially since he left no note. My heart is heavy for your immense loss.

    I am sad for all here who have written of their pain and thoughts of suicide. There are a lot of traumatized people out there, and those of us who have not dealt with great depression often simply do not realize how much those around us can be hurting. It sounds pat and trite to offer “people who don’t even know you are here for you, in some way. You matter.” But it’s all I have.

    The only thing I can say is that I imagine if you feel like suicide is your only option, please leave a note. It won’t make the pain those around you feel go away, but I think it would make it easier.

    Think about it. Have you ever heard anyone affected by suicide say, “I sure wish he hadn’t left a note”?

    Zeller’s note is the longest I’ve ever read or heard of. I wish he had “outed” the rapist. I’m sure he had reasons not to, but I still wish he had.


  • VS

    Greg, like many of the others, I think your post was spot on. It’s what I think when I hear “suicide is selfish” but put so much more eloquently than I ever could.

    I’m going to try to articulate something else that I feel when I hear that phrase. I apologize if it’s garbled or someone else has already said it. Often I feel like the person who says “suicide is selfish and cowardly” is being selfish themselves. They don’t want to hear or think about it too deeply so they want to shut down any conversation about it. Declare suicide selfish and you’re pretty much guaranteeing that you won’t be hearing about someone’s suicidal thoughts. It makes the person who says it the victim of the suicidal person. “How dare you, in your deepest misery, not put MY feelings first.”

  • I’m a survivor of domestic violence. Before it happened, I had a handful of mental health issues. After… well, I acquired a new one (PTSD), and the others got worse — as in, “seriously considering suicide” worse, “my parents have confined me to the house” worse.

    As a depressive, I know well the depths of despair one can sink to, the lure of Oblivion, the sweet siren song of the peace that lasts forever. I know the crippling numbness that sucks the joy out of everything, the almost-physical pain that is your world collapsing around you. I have stared into the Darkness, and it has stared back.

    That Darkness, along with Light, is part of the Whole that is me, and to reject one of these aspects is to reject both of them. Thus, I am forced to embrace my Light and my Darkness, forced to find a balance, and in turn, to find (and rebuild) Myself.

    I still have depressive episodes, I still need meds (and probably always will), and I still have some difficult times. I’ve found that sometimes it can be the simplest things of all that keep one going. Petting a cat, reading a book (or series of books), opening up and pouring my words onto the (virtual) page… Mostly it’s just living for the (often momentary) joys of life that keeps me out of that dark and bottomless pit.

    *I speak of Light and Darkness metaphorically.

  • Nameless today

    Hope this post is not too rambling… I will go ahead and put my major point up front: If there is anybody who wants to do something to actually help some depressed folks: Please help find a way to get Humanist or Non-Theist Chaplains into the U.S. military.

    This story about a tragic suicide is a little timely for me.. I just listened to last week’s This American Life podcast that had a suicide story: Act 1 featured a conversation between a young man who had just failed an overdose and his friend. It made me cry.. (a good thing)

    I have fantasized about being dead and non-existent since I was around 8. Depression and psyc illness are rampant in the family. I have been doing pretty good at managing my depression, but have recently been feeling a growing need to find someone to talk to. It took me a very difficult and long time to learn to manage my depression through talking, and it is still very scary and hard to trust my emotions to people, but I learned that for me – it can be done.

    The problem – It will be a while before I have a chance to find someone safe who I can talk to face-to-face. Why? because I am in the military and I am deployed. If I go to a doctor or a counselor here, even if it’s just to vent my frustrations and emotions, it will be documented and I will ultimately be in danger of losing my job. The only confidential option open to me is to go to a chaplain, but they are all pretty much evangelical christians and quite frankly, any jesus or god talk will simply make me more upset. I would LOVE to have a humanist chaplain available to me in the military, but they are not recognized. I do not suffer PTSD and have not been abused by anybody – but, here I feel compelled to bottle my emotions while 24-7 I am surrounded and vastly outnumbered by people who have drastically different philosophies than my own (and many of those philosophies are sexist, racist, and subtly violent towards anybody too different.)

    Military suicides are on the rise for many reasons. I understand many of the reasons why and their solutions involve things the military will never consider. But I do have one idea that could help a few folks like me – people who need someone “safe” to talk to without fear of getting reported as a ‘liability’ or receiving a guilt trip about jesus. Please help find a way to get Humanist or Non-Theist Chaplains into the U.S. military. In the military when you are stressed out and have trouble, if you go to the doctor it gets put on your record and you may be removed from your job, especially if you require medication. There is stigma and your boss then the rest of your unit/co-workers find out. If you go to the chaplain, you are considered ‘strong’ for seeking ‘spiritual’ help. The chaplain is legally bound by military rules to give complete confidentiality, regardless of his religious affiliation. I wish I could go to that office and just find someone to talk to and vent my frustrations without dreading the stupid god lecture. (I would consider trying to talk to a non-christian chaplain despite my atheism, simply for the non-jesus assurance, but christian is the only type of chaplain at my current location)

    Thank you for listening.
    -Nameless- for fear of being exposed as ‘depressed’ in the military.

  • thebigJ_A


    You show a startling ignorance of what it is like to suicidal, tormented, and chronically depressed.

    Some of us have “darkness” and “evil inside”. What we call it matters not a whit. Who fives a shit if you think it’s melodramatic?

    I would take a three dollar bill over your useless, incorrect attempt a rewriting a dead man’s suicide note for him any day.

    I’m cutting off the second half of this comment. But I’m glad I wrote it as it let me blow off some of my fury at your comment. Just because you are posting anonymously doesn’t mean your words don’t affect people.

  • Today I am recommitting myself to look for distress in others.

    I am guessing that during his life many people said to Zeller things like, “You seem upset by something. Do you want to talk about it?”

    It’s not likely, but if one more person had said this to Zeller, maybe he would have been in just the right place to finally open up to someone.

    My experience with depression is that when I am in a depressed state I am very reluctant to talk about it. But if enough people indicate that they are willing to listen, I do eventually say something.

    I am grateful to everyone who has noticed my troubles and so I try to notice the troubles of others.

  • Lynn

    Zeller stated that going to the bathroom was a problem for years for him because of the rape(s). It should be easy enough to determine if he was abused during the autopsy. So for him to claim he had no proof of this abuse as the reason for not publicly naming his abuser… is a cop out. Thanks for keeping a violent predator out on the streets!

  • Neigh

    Many of you have touched me with your insights and personal accounts. As somebody who has suffered through the shame of unwilling childhood sexual experiences, I can understand to a degree what Bill has gone through, though I have survived with greater success. I must admit, my experience was not as horrifying as Bill’s, but it was terrible.

    This time last year, I felt absolutely hopeless. For some reason, I couldn’t escape my frustration and pain. Every haunting memory and unanswered question attacked me on a regular basis, and all I felt was constant shame. I had this constant feeling that I was stifling myself and holding something horrible back. I had urges to sabotage my life, before I got too deep and ruined my life and other lives at the worst possible time.

    I’m married to a wonderful woman who is also my closest friend. I knew I needed help, but the shame was unbearable. I finally worked up the courage to take a chance with a therapist, and inform my wife. It took several weeks of trying, but I finally took that step. My wife reacted like any loving person would, which I was not used to. I didn’t know what that was like until she was in my life. Nobody has shown me love without judgement like she does. And yet I’m always expecting that to disappear, as if it’s not real, even though I know it is. It’s still something I work on.

    Anyhow, I went to the therapist for several months. I HATED the idea of paying somebody to listen to me, but I just knew I had to get everything out. I didn’t even care if she listened to me. I talked non-stop for probably 10 sessions. Starting with my very first memories. Everything was relevant, I figured. I realized so many things about myself from just speaking words out loud, some words for the first time ever. I’m not healed, and I doubt I ever will be, but the things I learned allow me to cope much better. I’m still working on it, and my wife still has to deal with all of the damage, but I’m happier than I’ve ever been in my life.

    My step-brother doesn’t have it so easy, I’m afraid. He was raped repeatedly by his much older cousin when he was very small, over a course of 2 years. This has caused unbelievable damage to his life. Our parents are Christians, and they live their lives for god above all else. I abandoned their religion years ago, because it just didn’t make sense to me. In fact, I hate their religion. My step brother (who still believes in god) has absolutely no relationship with his dad. When he was 17 years old, he told our parents (his father, my mother) about the rape. He had been acting very strange, stealing very expensive things, and there was absolute discord. He let the cat out of the bag, I believe, as a cry for help. He didn’t want it known. He wanted it private. So nobody reported the cousin to the police. Nothing was done! Except one day, I was with my step dad when he confronted the cousin. The violent display of human strength potential and maddening adrenaline that ensued from the cousin verified to me that my Step Brother had been telling the truth. Had we not been inside a truck, while he was on the outside, he would have killed us. He personally stopped the truck with his body as we tried to back out of his drive. Truck wheels were spraying gravel rocks, and we went nowhere. This disgustingly evil man with inhuman strength raped my step brother.

    Fast forward to today, 16 years later. My Step Brother goes through these horrible cycles that nobody understands. He marries, has children, leaves the wife, has nothing to do with those children, and starts over again. He works 60+ hours a week, and occasionally is found several states away on a cocaine binge, or claiming to attempt suicide in his car at his grandparents grave site. He spends a few days in the hospital, and then he goes home. Everyone in our family talks about him like he’s the most selfish person alive. Everyone talks about how he’s messed up, and how he’s got problems, and “why can’t he just do the right thing?” They talk about how he “needs god in his life.” I know for a fact that he’s never given up trying with god. It’s never helped. It’s never made a difference for him, yet according to some, he’s not trying hard enough.

    A few months ago, I learned something dreadful about my parents. The cousin who raped my step brother is now attending my parents’ church. He’s there every Sunday on a pew, sitting in the same service as my parents. Nobody knows about what he’s done except my parents. Not only this, but I hear he’s got plans to become a pastor himself. My parents believe in forgiveness. That god forgives us for our sins if only we ask. I believe that it’s nobody’s place to forgive that man except my step brother’s. So not only have I lost faith in their religion, but I’ve lost faith in them. Religion has destroyed my family just as much as the cousin did.

    To put icing on the cake, my step brother had a cancer scare last spring. He reported to us that doctors thought he had Pancreatic Cancer. Whether or not he was being honest didn’t matter to me. I felt it was important to care about him and to show him that I did. Because they weren’t on speaking terms, I told his father about the cancer possibility on my step brother’s behalf. My step father’s words were “well, god’s not going to let him go on living his life this way.” Fuck that! I’ve only personally had one conversation with my step brother about him being raped. It was last year, when he thought he had cancer. I just tried to be there for him, and tell him that I cared about him like a brother does. He opened up for me that one night, but he hasn’t returned my calls since. I think he’s too ashamed, and I know what that’s like. My real name isn’t Neigh, after all.

  • Defiantnonbeliever

    I’m at a point where I can mostly not get enraged or even angry at the victim blamers, they’ve got their own ignorance of the symptoms severity, difficulty of finding adequate treatment, of sever depression. They’ve got their own religion based cultural self reliance victim blaming conditioning, and I can understand that they suffer some depression systems themselves in reaction to a suicide, they have a right to express themselves even if they show their own personal problems that contribute to the general societal problems facing depressed people and others with related or other mental health challenges.
    Sever depression is as or more debilitating as cancer, as painful and in some cases as hard to cure. I’ve described one of it’s effects on me elsewhere as what it would feel like if your whole nervous system had turned to molten lead, a trauma that’s never forgotten once experienced. I hope the victim blamers who’ve contributed their $.02 can find help for their scratches and pangs and made some good tangent points. In the mean time I want to say stfu, this is major trauma stuff,but that may just my own oversensitivity.
    There is huge need of better online support free of religious sensitivities to offense that has often shutdown all discussion of peoples problems on ‘mental health support’ sites, censorship so tyrannical as to cause it’s own trauma, as science/reality takes a back seat to the sensitivities of the religious who musn’t be offended with challenges to creationism and everything happens for a reason, and countless pseudo-science ‘cures’. Anger, let alone rage at some of the causative problems in society, religious beliefs and it’s entangling tendrils tend to be squelched on such sites instead of being explored and dealt with.

    A general mental health support seeker’s bill of rights is sorely needed especially online where the ‘beneficent tyrannies’ of site owners governed by voluntary best practices guidelines at best, is the status quo.
    Freedom from the religion mental health support is sorely needed. It was a shock to me that anger at cults, religious infiltration of the mental health system, politics, un and under employment, ei. some major contributory stresses that precipitate depression are banned from postings or hounded out by moderator goons.

  • Xaivius

    As one of the many who has experienced these feelings of abject distress and loneliness, it saddens me to see another person leave. I can see some of my own emotions reflected in the letter.

    The commenters here seem to express an odd form of grief, bemoaning that “he could have talked to someone,” or “Why did noone help this unfortunate person,” yet it seems to come around to sounding (in my opinion) like “He shouldn’t have killed himself.” this is an action that I think is the last bastion of choice.
    I will never criticize someone’s conscious, informed choice to self-terminate, not after my own personal experiences. Yes, it can hurt others. Yes, they leave a hole. But at least the person in question finds peace. Most of the arguments I see against suicide seem to revolve around moving the focus from the person suffering to those around them, to convince them to continue living for the sake of others, and ofter becomes degrading of the “selfishness” of wishing oneself dead.

    That’s nice, but it’s not your choice. In the end, that rests with the person in question. You cannot say that suicide is “unjustified” in any case, as each individual’s life is different, and we cannot fully “grok” their situation.

  • Greg

    Firstly, thank you so much to the people who have left supportive and otherwise kind comments. It means a lot – I left the net yesterday regretting what I had written. Apart from anything else, I find it very difficult to even mention any of my problems, and the fact that it is anonymous only slightly helped.

    I came back today, and changed my mind: I’m now glad I wrote it.

    Palaverer, I won’t go to that site and post myself, but if you would like to reproduce my post there, and feel you need my permission, then you have it. I’m not sure I could (personally) have put that post up there in many other places on the net than here, because I’ve been visiting frequently, sometimes lurking, sometimes posting, and – with the exception of a very few people – find the folks here a likeable lot!

    I know that getting into a heated argument on this kind of subject might make me lose my cool so I’d like to stay on what feels like home ground. But like I said, feel free to reproduce it, if you wish.

    Also, I’d just like to write a few quick words on good and bad medical help. I see a lot of people have had very bad experiences with people who are meant to help them. I have too. However, I’ve also had one fantastic experience and one pretty good one, so I just want it out there that they’re not all bad!

    I’ve seen psychiatrists who spend most of your time with them reading your notes as if for the first time, and then spout of dozens of pointless questions which could have been answered if only they had read the notes. Always the same questions. I could have memorised them at one stage. I’ve also had ones who seem to think that the only way to make you better is to give you different drugs, or increase the dosage on the ones you’re having already. I’ve then had ones that go the other way, and say that you shouldn’t be on drugs at all, and whip you right off them. You’re left feeling confused and as if you’re being treated by people who don’t know what they are doing.

    However, I was in a different country when the above happened. I’m now in the UK, and maybe the NHS is remarkably good when it comes to this, but I have had a lot of better experiences here. I mentioned in my original post that I had only once even approached telling someone how bad I feel – that was quite recently. I was being given Analytical Psychotherapy, and the guy I saw was fantastic. It takes a lot to break my barriers down, and for me to feel reasonably safe, and although he didn’t accomplish it entirely, he got a long way there.

    I would add, that it’s my experience that psychologists tends to be more sympathetic than psychiatrists.

    I guess what I am trying to say is that if you have had really bad experiences with the professionals who try to help you, don’t despair. There are people out there that truly can help. I don’t know how the systems work in other countries (especially those that don’t have things like the NHS which I can’t say enough positive things about), but if you are seeing someone who just seems to dispense drugs, then I’d suggest you make it clear to them you want to feel you are doing something proactive towards getting better, and ask if they can suggest some kind of psychotherapy for you.

    I’m not saying that it’s just a matter of finding the right person and you’ll be cured – I’m not entirely sure how much the sessions I did actually helped me – but there are better people out there than some of you have seen.

    Bringing this back to atheism for a moment, a lot of people claim their faith helps them through bad times. Well, in a funny kind of way, my atheism has helped me. It’s helped me indirectly, for it provides an intellectual interest for me to converse with people about, even if only on line, but it’s also helped me a bit more directly.

    Because I believe this is my one life, and once I die it’s over, I have comfort in that knowledge. When I do die, I believe I will no longer be unhappy, or in pain. That is comforting.

    I also know that when I die I have no other chances to do anything I enjoy, or find out anything I burn to know. This is my one chance, and even when I’ve had enough, that knowledge has always make me reconsider. I don’t want to leave certain things undone, unknown, or unsaid.

  • Claudia

    I feel I’m wading into dangerous waters, given that I’ve never suffered from depression or suicidal thoughts or anything related, but I would like to ask a question to those who have and are still reading.

    I’ve seen a lot mentioned about what not to do; victim blaming, bad therapists etc. I wonder though if you have any insights into what the average friend/family member/significant other can do right. I think a fairly large proportion of people who have no emotional issues of their own have at some point (or will) been around someone seriously depressed or even suicidal. I have (though I think suicide was never a serious threat, but I can’t be sure of course) and I can assure you it feels pretty helpless from the other side as well. Trying to point out the nice parts of life, saying you’ll feel better later, reccomending therapy or telling them that you’re on hand whenever for whatever is the only thing that really occurs to one, and it feels really inadequete. From the side of the one suffering, any words of wisdom as to what people with depressed others in their lives should do or say?

  • ash

    There are some fantastic comments here; thanx to all who expressed with honesty, integrity and clarity. Fuck your potential shame and embarrassment, it was important to the other commentators, the community here who didn’t know what to say on this particular thread, and those who choose to remain so anonymous that they only read.

    To address another point that has been raised – should a victim of abuse be held responsible for naming their attacker?

    This is a question that can and should only be answered by the individual assaultee. The people posing said question seem to have a remarkable naivety towards what making such an accusation actually entails; and little to no recognition of the trauma these people have already been through. Abuse will often leave a person feeling scared, guilty, ashamed, angry, isolated and depressed. Once feeling that they cannot even look after themselves, they are then told that they have to be responsible for the whole community around them that did shit all to help the individual when the abuse was happening. No, most or all would not have known it was occuring, but if you think ‘well gosh, I didn’t know’ makes the victim feel any better, you’d be wrong.

    As for reporting, even before the consideration of a legal case, there will be the possibility of some or all of these scenario’s – being called a liar, an attention-seeker, accusations of spite and malice, the shattering of both your and other people’s relationships, humiliation, gossip, avoidance by well-meaning people who don’t know what to say. Then there’s the stigma and difficulty of being sent to interviews with disspassionate strangers, the necessity of physical exams with physical abuse cases, the likelihood of your attacker dragging your name through the mud before, during and after a court case. Then the possibility that they will either be found innocent, get a laughable ‘punishment’ or find you again once they’re released. It’s terrifying even if you come at it from a happy well-adjusted place.

    Don’t get me wrong, I applaud anyone who is able to free themselves from the fear and shame often attached to abuse by way of legal action; for many people it’s a positive and empowering step they should take in order to begin to heal. I know people who couldn’t have recovered from their ordeals without standing up and getting to say ‘you hurt me, you were wrong, now everyone knows what you are and you get to pay.’ I know others who will never get to that place, but are still managing to find happiness. But fuck you for judging someone who cannot deal with that.

    This particular man left only his name and the hope that he wouldn’t hurt his loved ones too badly. Even with the physical evidence of the abuse that happened to him, he could not be sure that by naming his attacker he would not just be remembered as a lying, spiteful pervert.

    I am very glad that he found a way to never be hurt again, even if it involved his death.

  • ash


    short answer; not a lot 🙂

    Longer version that you might find more helpful; I have quite severe deppression and anxiety. If nothing else, this has given me an interesting perspective. Anyone who’s known me for a while knows about my issues, and because I can be a very difficult person to get on with I tend to connect with people who are a bit ‘odd’ themselves, or people confide in me when they’re really down ‘coz they know I wont judge. Don’t let a deppressed person depend on you (it’s too easy to get used to relying on someone else, and it will eventually get too much for the person being relied on); reassure them, love them (and never presume they’ll just know without being told), try to recognise the difference between ‘down’ and ‘desperate’. If they’re just down, encourage them to do shit for themselves, if they’re desperate try to be around – a comfortable silence or even knowing someone’s there whilst you fall asleep can be far more important than someone badgering you to talk at times. I have a friend I rarely see but talk to by phone – she sometimes sends me texts telling me how important our friendship is. It sometimes bemuses me, and I often don’t respond because I don’t know what to say, but it’s important to me too, and those texts can often be a lifeline without me feeling pressured or like my space has been invaded. I also appreciate another friend who asks me about and then offers to come with me when I have official appointments (doctor’s etc.). I wouldn’t tell without being asked, and I certainly would never risk imposing my company on him (or risk asking and being rejected), but even knowing that he cares enough to offer matters.

    Depending on the person, don’t be afraid to lighten the mood. I’ve found that when I or others are down (rather than desperate) a really sick black sense of humour is much appreciated and can help move on from damaging repetitive thoughts, where you’re obsessing about how broken and hurt you feel, to how fucked up the world is at large – and thus a connection with other people generally. It helps lessen the isolation. Distraction is also good, try sticking on a film or music. If you both talk over the top of it, great, but you won’t have those awful, dark, intimidating silences where the depressed person wonders if they’re boring you and you secretly hate them/can’t wait to escape.

    Let a depressed person have options, but try not to put them in a position where they have to make loads of decisions, because it can feel like anything you pick will be wrong. If they seem uncertain for ages, try taking charge and saying ‘ok?’ at the end so they know they’re allowed to say no.

    Above all, never feel responsible if someone does get to the stage of suicide. Chances are if they’re really going to go ahead, they’ve made that decision and you won’t have a clue ’til after the fact. There aren’t any definite signs, and desperately unhappy people can be the best actors in the world. As has been vaguely mentioned, suicide rarely has anything to do with anything except the feelings of the one committing the act. It could be considered ‘selfish’, but not nearly as much as the selfishness of expecting another person to suffer through a lifetime of torment and anguish just for your benefit (general comment not aimed at anyone in particular, just to be clear).

  • andrew

    :-(…I’m so fucking sad!!!! Damn it! 🙁

  • Beck

    Wow. This was a really hard post to get through.

    As a child, I underwent similar (though not as violent) abuse. My fundamentalist family moved away and proceeded to pretend it never happened. My whole life I heard about the evils of sexual immorality and the importance (as a young girl) of being a virgin, and how nasty and filthy it was to be otherwise.

    Oddly enough, this week I am attending a sentencing at the local courthouse for the evil prick who molested my baby sister for 3 months. I can’t help but compare her situation to mine — and Bill’s.

    I never got to go to the police. I don’t even recall having a conversation about it after my parents asked me if it was true. Like Bill, I lived in a violently abusive fundamentalist Christian home for several years, never able to vocalize the problem or really grasp what it was. Cutter, suicidal, wildly and darkly imaginative, it’s thanks mostly to the one or two really good friends I’ve had that I’m still alive and (relatively) sane.

    My little sister, after being asked if it was true, immediately demanded to go to the police and have the perp arrested. Because my family dynamics had changed enormously from fifteen years ago (and because my mom was not besties with the perp’s mom), she was taken there immediately. Though appearances can be deceiving, she seems to be (and is, according to the psych) recovering well. No huge burden of shame, no inability to engage in normal behavior, no crushing, mind-destroying depression.

    I wish Bill had that kind of support and catharsis after what happened to him. Hell, I wish I had been able to get that. As many posters have mentioned before me, being able to pay someone to sit in a room and ask me questions without looking me in the eye is not a very comforting proposition. Counseling is not always the answer, and even if it could be the answer it’s excruciatingly difficult to be able to open up about something as intimate as abuse, and near impossible after having been burnt.

    As far as the merits of suicide, I can’t say. I think it’s rather arrogant to say that there are never situations beyond hope, but I am so glad that I failed my attempt. I’m glad I didn’t die. And I’m glad no one tried to tell me I was selfish, or cowardly, for trying to kill myself. It would have destroyed me.

    Religion sounds like it definitely played a part, and I know first and secondhand how religion can aggravate mental illness and magnify it. It’s certainly not the sole cause of the situation, but this is a big part of why I left religion in the first place. Anything that explicitly or implicitly condemns and accuses victims is an impairment of the functionality of a healthy society.

  • cutthroatjane

    so much of this letter reminds me of my life before I tried to commit suicide, the only difference is my little brother was there to save my life. I know exactly how he feels, you would think all you have to do it just tell someone but it’s impossible, it’s not an option. even after the fact when I did try to open up and talk to doctors and therapists, it’s like they never got it. they couldn’t even get passed the fact I didn’t believe in some sort of god. It was frustrating and cold.

    it breaks my heart that people have to live this way, that he had no one. I at least had my family and a very understanding boyfriend who I am now married too. While I wish my life hadn’t come to that, I can’t say I completely regret what I did. It opened my eyes. My life changed so much, and for the better! The old me died that day when my heart stopped and allowed the other me, the better-and-less-depressed-and-happy-to-be-alive me, to live, when they brought me back to life. I learned that you don’t have to live in the darkness. I wish that Bill could have experienced that. At least he doesn’t hurt anymore, at least he is finally at peace.

  • Defiantnonbeliever

    @Claudia- Understanding and patience are helpful, and showing an interest in understanding is a big step along the way. Some families have been able to stop further hurting through learning about the problems faced, mine became less angry after taking a family to family education course, this one I think

    While I’ve got some significant problems with NAMI in their zero sum gain focus on sever mental illness seemingly taking help from those with milder forms of depression for instance, they seemed to do some good. I distrust their stances on substance abuse as too tied to the misinformation machine of the ‘war on drugs’ but that may be changing, I don’t know.

    In the end, it’s very hard to tell with some if they are on the brink of suicide. I lost a good chat room friend who I mistakenly thought was doing ok and improving her condition when in fact her increased activity was oriented towards permanently ending her pain. I miss her humor and wish I’d been able to help more. Much can be done and I hope things are improving although budget cut amputations of whole mental health system body parts instead of mere reductions of perceived excess doesn’t help. In spite of lots of caring people, and medication ads with big promises, sometimes depression kills.

  • Bobby

    As someone who was raped by his cousin at the age of five, I feel like I can say that memories of abuse can fade away entirely. Until I started going to therapy, state mandated, I didn’t remember a damned thing about what had happened that night. I never thought about it or had nightmares about. At fifteen I was suicidal, depressed, angry and a bunch of other things that had nothing whatsoever to do with being raped. My therapist agreed with me. And, once I started thinking about it and started to remember, I didn’t care. However, I am a rarity.

    The thing is, I’ve been around a lot of kids who have been molested in therapy, and a lot of the pain and sadness they went through was not due to their molester, but their families. A lot of families will tell the child, the person who did that to you is sick, bad, and all sorts of other things. Of course, little kid logic turns that into, “I’m sick, bad,” etc. And a good deal of parents unconsciously drift away from the kid who has been messed with, and, if they have siblings, the siblings usually copy their parents. So, on top of having been molested, the kid also has to deal with what amounts to being emotionally abandoned. This is what happened to me.

    I also want to say that therapy does not work for everyone. I am depressed to this day, and I refuse to take medicine to “help” deal with it. I am angered by the very notion that just because a person’s mind does not act like everyone else’s, that they don’t think like everyone else makes them mentally ill. By now, people who are disbelievers of religion should realize that there is no absolute truth. There is no morality, no normality other than what we try to impose on the world and those who inhabit it. Like any good atheist would ask a religious person, “What makes you religion any more true than any other,” I ask, “What makes your version of normality and morality, your mind any better than mine?”
    One last thing, some of the kids I went to therapy with literally couldn’t name their offender. They would breakdown if they tried. No one could make contact with them until they decided it was safe to come out of their shell. Maybe this is why he didn’t name the person. Or, he could be dead and he didn’t see any reason to disrupt the lives of the person’s family and the community. Who knows? You certainly don’t, Lynn, so don’t be so damned judgmental. Besides, it was his choice whether or not to do it. You’ve no right to criticize it, as it most likely has absolutely nothing to do with you.

  • Jeff Ritter

    I have discovered another reason why I like this site. I emailed the link to Hemant, although I don’t think I was the first to bring this to his attention. As I told Hemant, it seemed to me after reading about the religious upbringing that readers of this blog may find this whole episode useful in some way. From the comments I would say my assumption has been justified. One thing that has stuck out is the amount of genuine sorrow that emanates out of the majority of the comments. A few of the comments I saw on other sites demonstrated a callous attitude towards Bill, no sympathy let alone empathy. Maybe it was anger or just a self-righteous attitude, but I am glad that I didn’t see that here. To anyone reading this that may be considering suicide, please know that it is the LAST resort. For those of us that do not believe in the afterlife it is of incredible permanence. Before you take that final trip talk to someone, anyone. It is possible that it won’t help, but only POSSIBLE. Not talking, not giving it a chance will GUARANTEE it will not help. To all those who have commented, thanks for living up to Hemant’s blog and being Friendly Atheists.

  • Pam

    I lurk around this website on a daily basis but don’t post because I usually don’t feel I have much to contribute. On this one I feel compelled to comment because this story and more importantly some of the comments have really frightened me. I grew up in a very abusive home and nsuffered from depression and thoughts of suicide on a daily basis. My answer to that was drinking and drugs. I spent many years self medicating. During that time I saw many therapists but nothing changed. After many years I finally got clean and sober. Instead of my life getting better it became much worse. All of the events of my childhood came to the surface and at that time I considered ending my life because I felt like I had solved everything when I stopped drinking. I hadn’t I had made it worse.

    For some reason I had this tiny spark somewhere that kept me going. Even through my depression I suppose I really wanted to live. I checked myself into a mental hospital on my own. The doctor put me on medication. For the very first time in my 45 years I knew what it felt like to want to live. However, I still had a lot of work to do on me. It took years of therapy and work on myself but I am at peace these days.

    What upset me about the story is that he seemed to give up too soon. I understand how he felt and just maybe he was not as fortunate as I was to have that small spark to live even though I wanted to die. As most others experience when on medication there are times when it stops working and the depression returns. I have experienced that often over the years. Then I am back to the doctor (which often takes ages to find one that works for you) and on to more or new meds. When I am depressed I can’t remember when I was NOT depressed but again there is this small spark that makes me keep trying. It has now been 24 years and I am able to realize almost immediately when I am becoming depressed and run off to my doctor.

    Some years ago I retired and moved to a different state and was terrified at having to change doctors. The first one did not work out well but I managed to press on and find one that worked for me.

    I still think about suicide at times but never in a serious way. I have been told that the thoughts are very normal and not to worry until I take the next step such as buying a gun or pills. That is the time to reach out for help. Seems that doesn’t and didn’t work for all as it didn’t work for Bill. The entire story leaves me sad because I feel that I was in the same place but for whatever reason was able to make it. I am sad for Bill and wish I had known him and would have seen the flags. There are always signs. It is a matter of recognizing those signs. I encourage anyone who suffers from depression to not give up before the miracle happens. No I don’t believe in god but I do believe that we can create our own miracles.

    I believe like most of the posters that he is at peace now.

  • Beck


    You’re a sick, sick person if you actually think that. Whether or not there may have been evidence of abuse that the coroner could have located, that can’t be traced to the original abuser. If, as is highly likely from the information available, the abuser was a member of the family, no surviving relative would be likely to back up allegations made in a suicide note. In fact, had the abuser been named, the likelihood is that they would have been exonerated and then held up as a victim.

    Attitudes like this drive victims to self-harm and suicide. How dare you try and put the responsibility for imprisoning a violently abusive person on their victim? Have you ever been abused? Have you ever been a terrified child, threatened with harm to yourself and/or family members if you dare to tell anyone? Have you experienced the destructive emotional trauma associated with violent sexual crime? Have you ever seen a 4-year-old so emotionally scarred they can’t speak for months on end?

    I deleted the rest of this because I don’t think Hemant would appreciate it. I hope you see this comment and I hope it makes you thoroughly ashamed of yourself.

  • Silent Service

    I don’t know what to say today. Having read through all the comments I feel very small and petty for having ever felt like my life was shit. I know depression doesn’t care if you’ve been physically abused or molested. It strikes who it strikes, but the emotional guilt trips and bullying I when through growing up just do not seem to compare to what so many here have endured. I never feared being alone in a bathroom or that one of my own family members might come to visit. I’ve never really even felt that my family would turn on me, just that they don’t really understand me. I can’t even wrap my mind around what too many of you have endured.

    Those of you that have gone through so much that nobody should ever have to endure, you have my sympathy, my respect, and should you ever need it my shoulder to lean on and my ear to bend. You are an inspiration to me in moral strength and courage. I just wish I could tell Bill Zeller this. I don’t know if it would have changed his final decision, but if it would have given him a bit of comfort in his final moments that would be enough. These words seem so small in the face of so much tragedy this last weekend but they are all I have to give.

  • Nameless

    I envy Bill.

    Honestly. I keep waiting and hoping one day soon there will be no tomorrow; not because of religious beliefs – I lack them completely – but because I’ve tried to force it and failed in the past. My story of how I got to this is of little consequence. The same tale with slightly different actors; of a childhood lost and viciously deep emotional scars.

    I’ve had psychologists, therapists, prescriptions. I’ve written all of my life I can remember out over 200 pages in a notebook, so I could go back and read it and identify the causes and effects. While it identified the true perpetrator who had also abused by brother, it also nearly destroyed me with grief in both the writing and subsequent reading. I would not willingly go back and do either again.

    None of the people who were hired to help me ever took away the self-loathing, the pain, the fear, the alienation. I might as well have been talking to a dog or a tree. When I spoke of what had happened to me to my therapist, her main concern was that I did not cry uncontrollably when I was telling it. That I did not rage, or get angry. That I could have enough self-control to be dispassionate in the telling. Months later, she became upset because I did not express my greeting or leave-takings to her in physical form (hugs). That I am not and never have been comfortable touching those I do not know, mattered not. She got upset. I explained that I do not hug those I have a business relationship with; that I would never be coming to her house to hang out, nor she to mine, we would not see each other casually and thus we did not fall in the category of ‘friends’ as she said I was supposed to treat her. I left and never returned.

    That was 11 years ago. I told my parent who was not the abuser what had gone on in the house while they were away each day (I have no interest in either naming names, genders or telling too much: information, particularly online, comes back in interesting ways), and was told that they suspected something of the sort. I was at once relieved, and infuriated. How could a parent suspect, yet do nothing? Not even ask basic questions? How? I got past that part after a couple years, because the parent I told was the one bright spot in my childhood. The one person who was not actively abusive in our little pretend-perfect family. The one person I know actually loved, and still does love me.

    Religion? Oh, yes. Tremendous amounts of it. I choked on religion in that house until the day I left for good as a teen. The irony that the abusive parent was the biggest bible-thumper, was never lost on me. I wonder at times if pursuing religion might be the way some abusers attempt to absolve their own desires and actions. Likely, I’d guess. Doesn’t make me or any of the other adult survivors feel any damn better about it, I think. Maybe their god forgives them. I, however, do not.

    I freely admit to a great deal of personal satisfaction upon hearing several years ago, that my abusing parent is now semi-senile and incontinent. Funny that a person so sure they would be ushered into ‘heaven’ with a freaking parade, is so deeply afraid to die. How odd that I, the nearly lifelong Atheist, would be completely unafraid of death. I never needed fear to make me be ‘good.’ I knew all too well what being ‘bad’ could do to others, and how it could make them less of a person inside, where it counts.

    “Selfish?” Bah. You know not of what you speak. Be silent on what is or is not selfish unless you have walked in our shoes. Selfish is sexually, mentally, physically abusing someone you are supposed to care for, who depends upon you and trusts you. Deciding that a toddler is an appropriate target for your personal demons is selfish. Bowing out? Not so much. I would applaud those who upon finding in themselves the desire to harm a child, decide to instead remove themselves from the equation. Better you, than your intended victim.

    It’s like I was fatally wounded 40+ years ago, and never stopped bleeding though my body kept on going. I’m tired. Physically, mentally, emotionally. Every year there is less and less of me. One day – soon, I hope – I will finally disappear.

    *This is not a suicide note. I’m afraid I don’t have the courage to do it. Maybe someday I will, but that time is not yet. I wrote this because Bill’s note spoke to me on many levels, and I guess I felt I needed to express the thoughts I had. Big ups to those who are thrown onto the darkest path and manage to come back. May it be all the way back.

    Me, I…just really don’t have the strength to keep trying any more. Nothing changes but the date on the calendar. I’m still broken on the inside, and the pieces never fit back together no matter how hard I tried.

  • Stephen


    Never have commented before, but your post moved me. I can’t pretend to understand what you went through, but I also have thoughts of suicide. I just wanted to say that I’m very sorry for all you’ve suffered, and I hope that you’re able to find some peace in this life. I know there’s probably nothing I can say that will help, but just know that someone cares.

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