Fun-Sized Advice

On fun-sized advice

Your advice has indirectly resulted in attempted suicide. So thanks for that.
We both know that’s not the way it works, indirectly or otherwise. Still, you felt the need to reach out, and I want you to know that I heard you. If you’d like to reach out again, please do. I’m here.

How do you get over the fear of abandonment?
Identify and then come to terms with the life events that formed your underlying fear of abandonment.

please make the screaming nightmare stop
I just spoke with Abraham Lincoln. He told me he’d visit you in your dreams and take care of business.

how do i break the cycle of abuse when i’m so in love
Stop using what you think is love as an excuse, have some fucking self-respect, and end the fucking relationship.

My best friend in the whole wide world just called me ecstatic, announcing that she is having twins with her boyfriend who just last month put her in the hospital. They’ve only been together about three months, but I know of at least 3 incidents of him hurting her. Right now she is over the moon… tell me there is way for me to get her out of this situation with minimum damage, please.
Nope. She’s fucked for life three times over, and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. Sorry. (I mean, there’s an outside chance that he beats her into a miscarriage and goes to jail, but that’s pretty fucking dark for a best case scenario.)

I just had an abortion. Thank goodness this was an easily available option to me. I am so grateful.
Amen and fuck yeah.

Coke, I’m terrified.
Nah, you’re just anxious. There’s a difference.

Are some people worth more than others?

Does it ever stop being complicated?

Could anything be considered art?

My friend posts pictures on Facebook and Instagram of herself doing yoga every damn day. Every fucking day. I introduced her to yoga and she took it further than I thought she would. I should be proud and happy but why does it just irritate me?
Because she is an asshole.

Best city in Arizona to live in?
Los Angeles.

What’s your favourite number from 1-100?


65 thoughts on “On fun-sized advice

      • Lin says:

        Can I ask how? I know that’s a very broad question and I’m not trying to be argumentative, but I’m curious how you assign worth or value to human life.

        • The Coquette says:

          It doesn’t matter how I assign value to a human life. The point is that I can. We all can, and for each of us, that makes some people worth more than others.

          • Brooke says:

            I don’t think I follow. Are you saying that people are worth different “amounts,” if you will, because we can all assign value to everyone, and yet, some people are still inherently worth more than others? That sounds contradictory to me. Where’s the difference in inherent value coming from if we’re all assigning value to everyone? Doesn’t inherent by definition mean that something is an innate characteristic, as opposed to one that was assigned to someone by another person? Without ascribing our own value or “amount” to other people, how would we know if one person is inherently worth more than another?

          • The Coquette says:

            You’re using the term “inherent value,” but what you’re really struggling with is the ethical difference between intrinsic value and extrinsic value. Do a little research into value theory and axiology, and I think that will help clear up any contradictions. (Then again, it may just lead you further down the rabbit hole of what it means to assign value in the first place.)

          • The alone says:

            I actually think she’s on the cooperate or convince side of this dilemma because individual conscious choice is the most precious thing a person can have. That coupled with the ends not justifying the means and she couldn’t possibly stop the train without consent. That happens to be where I am on the matter too.

      • VeryOn says:

        I think this is Schroedingers suicide victim. It’s possible to technically interpret the posters statement as though it was a foregone conclusion that the original, deeply wounded man, would attempt suicide. I’m not convinced until stated otherwise that this isn’t someone grandstanding their moralistic conclusion as fact.

        If I’m not correct, it’s an honest mistake but without further information I can only offer proposed sympathy in place of empathy.

  1. Brynn says:

    I have to admit, I thought your advice to the suicidal man was toeing the line. From my perspective, it’s perfectly acceptable to support the decision to end one’s life in a dignified manner. And your stance on how it should be done is directly in line with my principles.

    What irks me, however, is the context. As acutely socially aware as you are, you are not a psychologist or a therapist. No psychologist would dispense that kind of advice with so little information in such a broad forum. They know the potential for harm is too great. I respect your wisdom, and am convinced as to your insight, but there have to be some boundaries that you shouldn’t cross. That was one of them.

    Sure, any of your off-hand remarks and slights have the potential for harm, even some of your best advice. You can’t know where your words are gonna lead someone. You don’t bear responsibility for that, as you have aptly pointed out. But the fact is you were playing with something you shouldn’t have.

    This isn’t an academic think space. This isn’t simply coke’s world. This is where some pretty fucked up people come for guidance. There was a subtle lack of acknowledgement of that in how you just replied to their question.

    As someone with a life-long history of mental illness, I really don’t know how that person should have been answered. But what it sounded like to me was that he was looking for a sign of approval from you. That yes, his suicide was acceptable. And regardless of the conditions you chose to impose, you still gave him the seal.

    What happens from there? I assume you are not making yourself part of his decision making from this point on, but you already did once. You let yourself become a part of his support system. That’s the line you’re toeing. The one I know you think about often.

    You gave him a yes. The person he went to (presumably) first. What happens when everyone in his life says no? Does it give you the result you hope for? Or does that collapse onto him as a new burden? What happens if he doesn’t heed your word at all? What if all he wanted was one nod of approval from one respected figure, even if it was a half-nod? What about all the people here who lack the mental stability to healthily internalize your statement? It’s not that far from a yes. I’ve deluded myself into worse interpretations.

    It’s a thin line in shifting sands, but you know you’re treading it, and I can read the care with which you take those steps.

    I think you slipped up. The dune gave way.

    Worse than that, I think you felt your food slide, and you’re not admitting it.

    • Brynn says:

      “… how you just replied to their question” *That question being the original question, not the current one. I accidentally mixed sentences as I edited. I appreciate the care in your response to the current question.

    • The Coquette says:

      If I felt my foot slide, I would admit it, and if you think I gave that guy a yes, you weren’t paying attention.

      • MK says:

        I felt that you were giving the OP the support they were asking for while at the same time doing your best to ensure they talked to someone IN THEIR LIFE who would be more able to give them the direct and consistent suport they obviously needed.

        I read your response very critically the first time (and many times since the letter was posted) and I truly don’t think it could have been answered in a better way.

        • Brynn says:

          It was as good an answer as I could imagine, but that’s not the question I’m posing. I don’t think she should have answered his question in a public way, if at all. I can’t say I agree or disagree with the choice to respond because both sides of that argument weigh heavily on me, but I can say I don’t think it should have been responded publicly.

          Then again, maybe he didn’t leave his email for her.

          • Gaybeard says:

            It’s impossible to know the effect of what we say, even if it’s said with the best intentions. Yes or no doesn’t matter if someone is far gone enough to make an attempt. Interference might change something, but then again, maybe not.

            The options are responding publicly, privately or not at all. All have their pros and cons, but choosing not to be involved can have as much of an impact as choosing to say something, even though you don’t take on any moral responsibility by not acting. There’s a reason that obligation to provide aid laws are also accompanied by wide ranging absolution for the possible negative side effects of giving aid incorrectly.

          • Gaybeard says:

            If you acknowledge it then what’s the issue? Non-intervention just allows a situation to play out whereas intervention has the potential to create a positive change. Where’s the mistake?

          • Brynn says:

            The mistake is the unforeseen impact. Intervention has the potential for both harm and positive change. It’s a careful balance between minimizing the harm while maximizing the benefit.

            Coke and I have a difference of opinion on how she should have dispensed her opinion in regards to that balancing act. Though we both prodded each other with our comments, there is no issue worth our time or interest to resolve. It’s a philosophical gripe that isn’t going to be settled in the comments section. We simply disagree, and will continue to disagree, and nothing much will come of it.

      • Faith says:

        I disagree. Coke’s response was thorough, empathic, and responsible. Her conditional support of OP suiciding is predicated ONLY on one condition: that OP discusses this with family and loved ones first before ending his life. I am a mental health professional, and have worked in acute settings throughout my career. I think this is a smart intervention. OP has friends and family to go to—this in itself is a huge advantage in a variety of ways. In no way can her comment be logically construed as a green light to commit suicide.

  2. RocketGrunt says:

    In response to the “make the screaming nightmare stop” submitter: I used to get terrifying, vivid, specific nightmares periodically. I didn’t tell anyone for years, and it slowly got worse. I finally started talking about it in counseling and getting to the heart of the real issue, and I haven’t had nightmares in a long time. So maybe it’s the kind of nightmare you need to talk about. Unless Abraham Lincoln shows up. Then you’re fine.

  3. BC says:

    Coke- you do not in any way encourage someone who is potentially suicidal. You overstepped the line. You can listen to and acknowledge people like that without encouraging. You might not, but I think you made a mistake, and a serious one. Please don’t again.

    • The Coquette says:

      Encouraging? Encouraging? Fuck you for even suggesting that. Every idiot is entitled to an opinion, and I’m fine if you want to drop yours into the mix, but don’t you dare come up in here and start telling me where the line is when you haven’t the slightest clue what you’re talking about.

      • BC says:

        I know what it is to be suicidal, long term, if that gives me any authority. I’m just here because it’s a topic close to home, and having grown up with a suicidal father and having had a suicidal partner too, I feel like I have some idea of what might do damage to someone in that place. Your comments constituted that for me, clearly not for you. I just thought it was worth tossing my few cents in with something so serious that I feel like I do actually know a fair bit about. No answer is good enough for someone suicidal, they aren’t in the right place to heed advice sensibly. I think absolutely the right and very noble thing to do is make someone feel heard and to make it clear you do take their feelings seriously and respect them. I think that can be done without giving them the go-ahead to do it. All it can take is the smallest, most nonsensical thing to push someone over the edge- and all it can take is one person listening and saying they believe in that person and in that things will get better to divert things. I can tell you these things from experience. That person worked up the courage to open up to you, perhaps over anyone in their life, and was told that they should do it, was perhaps left without any hope or belief in themself after that. Just explaining how it can come across to people like us who are already in an incredibly unhealthy state of mind. Anyway, what you do is thankless, nobody should be getting messages like that one from strangers in the first place unless they’re a mental health professional.

  4. Ungie says:

    I am a therapist, fully qualified and quite experienced. I thought Coke’s answer to the suicidal guy was excellent. Considered, respected his intelligence, grasped his philosophical stance and carried the thinking right the way through. He was in a planning phase Coke engaged that. We are taught to assess: plan, means, intent and timeframe. As a lay person the response beautifully capture all but means. That’s pretty impressive for an exchange of electronic mail. Sometimes to connect with an idea that terrifies us ‘the right to die’ we take away it’s power. Diverting the path a little maybe a huge lifesaver as opposed to slamming someone with a predictable tired plea to stay alive. We know the most effective way of diverting suicide is connecting with those who would be left behind. Done. Was there implicit permission? Perhaps, that was less of a risk than alienating the person due to totally missing their point.

    • CynicalGrey says:

      This. People want to feel heard, not shut down. You want to effect someone? Acknowledge what they know to be true about themselves.

    • ansuz says:

      I’ve been suicidal. I had a plan, means, intent, and timeframe.
      I wouldn’t be here right now if the people around me had refused to treat suicide as a viable option. I described how tired I was, the ways in which I thought my existence (and tiredness) hurt people, the interventions I’d tried, and the reasons why I thought improvement was unlikely. They listened, and addressed my concerns, and managed to avoid giving me the impression that they were lying because they had to prevent suicide at all costs.
      So I’m here, and comfortable with that.

      I think Coke said the right thing.

      • Livvid says:

        Agreed. The knee-jerk “it always gets better” response never made me feel heard or understood. People who actually acknowledged the reasoning behind me wanting to kill myself is what helped me get through that. It took away the shame of it, and without the shame, I allowed myself to think through it and rationalize my feelings.

  5. Giuliana says:

    I think if one takes issue with Coke’s response to suicide man, it is because on some dark sticky level there is discomfort with someone choosing to end their life. One can agree intellectually with the right to suicide… but when confronted with it, then some trouble. People seemed uncomfortable for his reason, the lack of a penis. Suicide when cancer is going to take one’s life anyway, so it is on one’s terms makes sense to people. Other’s right to define life’s value how they like seemed to confuse readers. Some could not understand ending life because of a lack of penis. They could not understand someone else’s definition of life’s value. But it is a person’s right to define life how they like, and end it when they see fit.

    • Chrissy says:

      Yeah, cosigned. I agree intellectually and even I wanted to coddle and swaddle that guy because that’s been the sole clause in the social contract around suicide forever.

      Regarding the disability/quality of life aspect, I think that we all want to believe that if we were confronted by a permanent disability or chronic illness, that we would be unambiguously transcendent and we’d find a wellspring of gratitude to carry us through it. Sanctimonious claptrap is way sexier than wanting your body to work the way it’s supposed to.

  6. Richard says:

    I’m guessing when you were 17 years old something pretty rad happened and that’s why it’s your favorite number. That or 17 toppings is the most you’ve ever had on a pizza.

  7. M says:

    So if my friend was going to have twins with an abusive asshole, is there /anything/ I could do to help? Within reason, I mean. I’m not talking about sacrificing myself to “save” her, but is there at least a general response that has the best chance of improving her situation?

    • ansuz says:

      Be there. Watch, and listen, and document.

      Be a support. Smile and nod at the shitty justifications for the friend’s isolation, for her injuries, whatever. Tell her she’s a good person and a strong person, even if you don’t believe it, because wearing down people’s self-confidence/self-esteem/self-respect is how abusers keep their victims with them, and she’ll need belief in her ability to survive without the abuser in order to leave.
      Do what you can to avoid letting the abuser turn you into the enemy. Always leave the door open for your friend to follow you away.

      Set aside $5 every month to give to your friend and/or her kids if/when they need to escape. Add more whenever you’re especially pissed or scared for your friend.

      Write up everything you know about the incident that sent your friend to the hospital: date, time, hospital, attending physician, what happened, how you found out, how police involvement was avoided, everything.
      If there are ever any visible signs of injuries, take a photo. Use whatever excuse you can. Document every shitty thing the abuser does. If nothing else, you may be able to get the kids away from the abuser, though that’ll probably burn any chance you have of keeping an eye on your friend (and probably also on the kids; remember that fostering/adoption systems are not known for providing great environments, so consider carefully).

      If she comes to you and asks you to help her get an abortion, do everything you can to make that happen. Help her get an IUD, as well. They’re long-lasting and are hard for abusers to sabotage (reproductive coercion is a thing).

      Accept that what you can do is limited. It’s also draining, with no guarantees that it’ll help. Remember that you have no obligation to stick by your friend. You have more of an obligation to the kids (if your friend goes through with having them), the same way every member of society has an obligation to kids, but they’re not your kids and you don’t have to hurt yourself to help them.
      If you plan to be your friend’s support, make sure your own support systems are solid. Get a therapist if you don’t already have one.

    • J Lynn says:

      I grew up in a home where my father abused my mother.

      Speaking from that perspective, a wonderful thing to do is to be a part of those kids’ lives. If she does end up having them.

      Don’t overextend yourself, of course, because that’s counterproductive, but it helps a kid in that situation to know that others adults care and see him or her as a person independent of their crazy family. You don’t have to be a surrogate parent, just a friend to the kids. Remembering their birthday and engaging in some one-on-one convo can make a difference. Abusers might find dependent babies and preschoolers cute (narcissistic suppliers), but tend to really turn on kids in the early school ages, around 6 or 7, as the kids begin to individuate; that is a critical time to support them. If they can be helped to do well in school, that will open up a whole world of adults who might affirm and mentor them.

      If she stays with that guy, it’s guaranteed that the kids’ needs, especially emotional and intellectual needs, will come second to his childish, narcissistic demands on their mother, even when he’s not hitting her. Ironically, men who abuse their intimate partners are often emotionally dependent on them; see the excellent work of Lundy Bancroft for more. The household will revolve around fear of his blow-ups, even if he doesn’t abuse the kids directly (which he probably sometimes will). Helping the kids be “seen” as individuals can counterbalance that a little.

      • M says:

        Thanks for all these answers and excellent advice. If I ever find a good friend in a similar situation I now feel a bit more equipped to handle it.

    • Giuliana says:

      And call CPS (or the equivalent in your country) every time you become aware that the children are being abused. Your friend is autonomous and making poor choices, but the children are wards of foolish people and need someone who will be the responsible adult the parents cannot be.
      I agree with Ansuz and would add, if you document injury with a photograph be sure to have your friend hold up the newspaper of the current day. This will help add credence to the photograph if your friend needs to go to court.

    • M says:

      Thanks for all these answers and excellent advice. If I ever find a good friend in a similar situation I now feel a bit more equipped to handle it.

  8. Saturnina says:

    I feel for the person who wrote in about their best friend being pregnant with twins. My cousin, who I was very close to growing up, has been stuck in an all kinds of abusive, raging dumpster fire of a relationship for close to 10 years now, and just had a twin pregnancy after a BC failure. She aborted, but it turns out it was only because of a medical issue (idk the exact English term, but basically they had stopped developing), and she is now actually considering having children with him. I’m honestly at a complete loss here. The 10 years have involved multiple intervention attempts and many consultations with various specialists, and nothing has made any meaningful difference. The man is a narcissist who keeps blaming her for ruining ~his~ life (this bit is almost hilarious), but apparently won’t leave her as long as there is potential for more financial exploitation (she is already drowning in debt, but is due to inherit a bit of real estate, once her sole living parent finally succumbs to a long-term illness.)

    My only advice is, tell your friend what you are thinking, and do it now, in no uncertain terms. Do not wait for your friend to wise up – I’ve realized my cousin might well die before she wises up. I’ve found there is no real use in being nice either, various members of my family have tried to be helpful, and this has only lead to being sucked into a vortex of extended exploitation. All the domestic abuse professionals talk about the importance of keeping in touch and staying emotionally available, which I’m doing as far as possible under the circumstances (for example I do not dare to call her myself, because of what it may trigger), but even that seems enabling sometimes – it’s like every bit of outside support just gives her the strength to take more abuse, instead of taking any steps to stop it.

    I cannot tell you if early intervention would work, but am saying it’s worth a shot, because the situation is guaranteed to get worse.

  9. Emh says:

    I agree with the therapist above. Speaking as a med student going into a psych residency soon with a fair amount of experience dealing with suicidal patients, and also as someone who has tried to kill herself and who has had family members and friends committed for suicidal ideation and attempts, and one friend who actually succeeded, Coke gave excellent advice. If your only response to someone who is suicidal is “no, suicide isn’t an option,” you are disrespecting everything about where that person is coming from. You meet them where they’re at, which she did. She acknowledged the legitimacy of what he was feeling and told him that if this was a decision he was going to make, he had to do it in a way that was open with his family. She was in no way whatsoever encouraging him to kill himself. She directed him to talk about his decision and his options with his family. She respected his right to make decisions regarding his life while creating a pathway for him to get the help and support of his family.

    On a side note, no one is ever responsible, directly or indirectly, for someone else’s suicide or suicide attempt. Blaming yourself or others only prevents you from addressing the actual reason (s) why a person wanted to die. Also, I highly suspect that the OP was not talking at all about the guy who wrote in recently wanting to kill himself. This isn’t the first time someone has accused her of giving “bad” advice that caused some sort of mental breakdown. People write in all the time in crisis, whether they’re upfront about it or not. Maybe she tells them something they’re not ready to face, maybe her advice is twisted and misused to justify making an unhealthy choice, but regardless of the circumstance, her advice does not cause what is going on in that person’s life, and their breakdown is because of that, not because of her advice. I understand that friends and family often feel helpless in these situations and are desperate to find some tangible, single reason why a crisis happened. Theyre also trying to deflect their own misplaced feelings of guilt.
    Its much easier to blame someone else than to sit down with the person and say, “I’m so sorry that you’re hurting, please tell me about what brought you to this point. I know I can’t fix it for you but I want you to know you have my love and support no matter what, and I want to know what’s going on.” But that is the best thing you can possibly do.

    I am so grateful to coke for her approach to suicide in general. Anyone who wants to die deserves to be treated with respect and not have trite bullshit thrown at them.

    • VeryOn says:

      Self determination is the most sacred dignity we have, even if that determination is to not exist.

      I loved her answer because it didn’t just carry the weight of empathy but highlighted the necessity of empathy. If that person was bent towards suicide because they felt alone and abandoned, then reaching out to family should help.

      If you try to answer suicidal thoughts with a reason to live, then you’re gambling that you will happen upon the right reason in an infinity you don’t know. And that reason is likely to be your own projection of what is good about life, or why one shouldn’t end. But if you answer with your presence, and awareness, that will buy more than sympathy.

      Sorry it took so many words to say, “yep…what you said.”

  10. tbunny says:

    One way to get over the fear of abandonment is to understand that you will always be there for you. The fear is the child you. That’s ok, you can accept and love that part of yourself, as a part, not the whole. Learning to just hear that part without denial or diversion, that’s a big step. Fighting it like an enemy to be destroyed only makes it stronger, more powerfully depressing. Accepting it is actually the beginning of loving yourself. Who does the accepting: that’s the you that will always be there for you.

  11. Anna says:

    On the suicide thing :
    I’ve just had an idea that I think is a brilliant hypothesis. The Coquette is a time traveler from the future, and her actions can’t actually influence current events, she’s just here to impart the wisdom of an omniscient futuristic civilization. The last letter could be a typical illustration of the grandfather paradox : yes, it’s still technically possible with the info we were given that the OP who was an amputee could be her great great grandfather, and pushing him towards suicide could result in her own annihilation. Therefore there must be some mechanism that prevents her from drastically altering events from her past, and all of the angry commenters should just chill.

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