Go to contents

[Provocation by Kim Sun-Duk] Things you must do when you want to die

[Provocation by Kim Sun-Duk] Things you must do when you want to die

Posted February. 14, 2019 16:57,   

Updated February. 15, 2019 10:33


It felt like it was him. When reading a news article on the last day of 2018 that a psychiatrist was stabbed to death by his patient, I instantly thought of a collection of essays written by a doctor suffering from depression. I could not remember the doctor’s name or the title of the book, but such bad feelings were never wrong.

Dr. Lim Se-won was a professor at Sungkyunkwan University School of Medicine and a psychiatrist working at Kangbuk Samsung Hospital. We can easily figure out how good doctor he must have been from the fact that one out of five condolers at his mortuary was his patient.

I do not have any intention to disparage the deceased but he described himself in his 2016 book “No One Wants to Die” as “a person with a prickly relationship with others but a person without amicable personality.” Back in 2013 when he was studying in the U.S., Dr. Lim had an opportunity to change himself because complete strangers saved his two sons from drowning. He was deeply touched by “good deed done without expecting anything in return.”

“People might not think that I’ve changed greatly, but I’m just doing my best to be kind to others…I believe the biggest help I can give to others is to do my best to the patients I meet every day. When I meet patients, I literally give all of my heart and strength to them.”

His patients, who had seen him more than 10 years, say he was a “kind doctor.” So I guess Dr. Lim was being modest when he described himself as being prickly, and also there would be few people, who can always be kind and generous to everyone. Despite his severe chronic back pain, Lim tried to be kind to his patients all the time, so much so that his patients thought he was kind by nature. That makes him all the more admirable.

He once wanted to die because of severe physical pain. I looked into his book again, and it was full of stories that readers regardless of having depression or difficulties might relate to. Dr. Lim, who used to lead a painful life as well.

One Friday in June 2012, which seemed like to be at the peak of his career, Dr. Lim played golf in the early morning after a farewell party for celebrating his overseas training the previous night. When he came back to his apartment and got out of his car, he suddenly felt a severe pain in his lower back as if someone was stabbing him. He might have had a bulging disc. The pain did not subside even after trying everything he could do, including receiving a surgery. A doctor, who treated patients with depression, had to undergo depression.

As he did not want to live in pain, causing inconvenience to people around him, Dr. Lim thought of killing himself and planned on disguising his death as a car accident. It was because he knew that how much his family would be hurt by his suicide (back then, he was serving as the chairmen in charge of education at the Korea Association for Suicide Prevention). On the very day he planned to carry out suicide, he looked everywhere to find his car key but could not find it. Finally he entered his sons’ room to find the key and saw them sleeping. As soon as he saw their faces, he felt his eyes burning with tears. After that, he gave up on suicide and started writing a book to share his feelings with other people.

We all think about suicide at least once during our lifetime when we feel depressed, have no pleasure in life, or want to end the pain by death. When you have such feelings, there are so many things that you must not do. First of all, do not rush into doing things, including killing yourself. You must remember that you cannot revive like in movies. Secondly, do not try to find reasons because the cause of illness is unknown in most of the cases. Even if you know the cause, it does not mean that you can cure the illness. Lastly, do not throw a tantrum to your family because you will regret immediately. Dr. Lim kindly tells you easier things you can do when you feel like killing yourself. At least you kill yourself after trying the following.

Firstly, maintain your routine.

You must feel like giving up on everything, including your job. It must be painful for you to wake up in the morning, eating meals, meeting with someone, or talking with people. If you are in that state, it is all the more important to maintain your daily routine.

Most importantly, you must not quit your job. In the most difficult time of your life, you might want to give up everything but you must not quit your job. Your psychological pain could be so intense that you cannot think rationally, but quitting your job will not help you alleviate the pain at all.

Maintain your daily routine, such as waking up on time, eating three meals a day, and attending your class reunions as if you are undergoing spiritual training. If you do not have a work you go to everyday, regularly visit library or gym in the morning. If you continue to maintain your everyday life like this, you will learn to live with whatever pain you are experiencing. What good is it?

“To acknowledge something is completely different from giving up. To acknowledge means not only admitting that there are things you cannot do anything about but also allowing it to be a big part of your life. It is a foolish idea to get rid of other parts of your life just because of that one small part,” Dr. Lim wrote in his book.

“Even if you suffer from pain throughout your life, getting through everyday life is meaningful in itself and worth remembering,” added Dr. Lim, who seems to have reached the level of a saint.

Secondly, immerse yourself in something.

Immerse yourself in things such as working, watching movies or reading books you like, or at least eating something you like. If you do not anything, you will feel more pain and just want to die. What if you do not have anything you like or want to do?

Or try doing something new. Working out or playing computer games are also okay. Learn a new language, such as German, or participate in a group tour. When you immerse yourself in something, time passes fast and you will forget about your pain for a moment. Here is a really important tip for you.

Dr. Lim says that you would not feel like going to a lesson that you have to pay your good money. “When you don’t know what to do, just stick to your original plan,” he said. “Basically, anxiety results from unpredictability. People, who easily get anxious, often make a mistake of making the future even more unpredictable by changing their decisions frequently. It is never too late to change your decision after carrying out your plan.” Who knows? You might find something you really love and it could become your reason to live.

Lastly but not leastly, find someone who will listen to you.

The third tip is not from Dr. Lim but from your reporter. People around you might not know that you are struggling. Even if they do, they might be hesitating to help you because they do not know how to help. Nevertheless, find someone who will listen to you. If you don’t have anyone, any kind person at your work is fine or you can call LifeLine Korea at 1588-9191, and tell them you “want to die.” No one will say “go ahead” after hearing it. Most of them will offer words of comfort. Even if those words lack sincerity, they can unexpectedly work as an albumin shot for you.

It is a great idea to get help from a professional counselor or receive psychotherapy as well. Fifteen years ago, this reporter wrote an article that “attention industry” is on the rise in the United States. It was because professionals in the industry listened to customers like their best friend and told them what they wanted to hear regardless of the truth (That’s why people pay their good money to them).

Sometimes we do not need the truth. We just need someone who tells me that you are a good person even if you are a nobody. Today this reporter wants to become a person who tells each one of you that you are a good person. For those who read my article to the end, you are the best to me. Thank you so much.

Kim Sun-Duk dobal@donga.com