Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Letter from a reader:
A community I frequent was recently invaded by someone who claimed we had driven a friend of his to suicide. Less than 48 hours later, he finally admitted that it was completely fictional. He does this about once every year or so just for the attention, so it was kind of obvious. It got me wondering, though. I know you have your share of trolls, but have any of them ever tried to claim that a friend committed suicide because of you in order to make you "change your ways"?

Oh wow, talk about drama. I assume this writer means an online community. There’s nothing like the safety of a computer screen to really show the crazy in people, is there?

No, I haven’t had this particular episode of insanity directed at me personally. But I have also seen people try out various versions of this story in online communities. It's a perennial favorite, I think. I’m going to kill myself, my friend is going to kill himself, my friend did kill himself, et cetera. One ambitious lad claimed that he actually had killed himself, and that the post we were seeing had been cleverly delayed to appear after he was dead. Now we’d all be sorry, wouldn’t we!

I don’t think it works as well one-on-one. People who do this seem to crave the mass outpouring of attention that only a large group of total strangers can give.

The idea that such an event would change someone’s ways is odd to me, anyway. If someone I’ve never met is unhappy enough to kill himself, then that’s very sad for his loved ones and I wish it hadn’t happened, but that’s not about me. But then, I’m one of those people who doesn’t accept that (for example) my being happily kinky is somehow contributing to some other woman, completely unconnected to me, being raped or battered somewhere. I think you’d have to be the sort of person who took responsibility for other people’s feelings, and that’s not something I do.

I also just do not understand suicide, in general. I’ve had some unhappy times, but I have never even considered ending my own life. There have been a few moments, in my distant past, when I mused pleasantly about ending someone else’s, but… (No, not really. At least, not in any sort of legally-actionable kind of way. )

So no suicide threats. I have had strangers do what I call “having a relationship with me when I’m not there.” That goes like this: they write to me. I probably read it, because I try to read all my email. But I don’t respond, because I get tons and tons of email, and I can’t possibly answer them all. (Or, I respond just very briefly.)

They take offense, create a whole set of reasons for my non-response, and project them onto me. “How dare you! Obviously you hate me and wish me ill! You're a terrible person! I was going to be your best friend, but now I’m never going to speak to you again, and I’m going to tell everyone how mean you were to me. ”

Um, yeah, okay - you go right ahead and do that. I will just sit here and consider how disappointed I am at not getting to have you for a best friend. Or, not.

A therapist I once had told me, “We’re all so self-centered, we worry that everything others do is because of us. Consider how often you think about yourself during a day. Now consider about how often you think about other people. You think about yourself much more often, right? If someone is acting funny, odds are, it’s not about you or something you did wrong. It’s about them, about something that’s nothing to do with you. So ask, if you really want to, but when in doubt, assume that it isn’t about you unless they say so.”

And sometimes even if they say it’s about you, it isn’t.


I have known, slightly, two people who committed suicide. In both cases it was a terrible tragedy, and I do not take it casually. Please don’t kill yourself, and if you’re thinking about killing yourself, go here and call someone to talk. They can help.

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