*Please note this may be triggering for those suffering from depression or contemplating suicide*
I tap the screen of my phone, image upon image on Instagram sharing words of encouragement and support for those struggling. Two celebrities have taken their lives this week. It’s caused an uproar on the internet, globally. Folks sharing favorite quotes, inspiring moments, and beloved times with or from those people. — There’s no doubt they made an impact on the world. They are loved, and they will be missed. The loss has left me thinking much about suicide and the tendency of our community to obsess over people that take their own lives. When celebrities do it, it’s plastered all over the news, social media, and is being turned into a buzzword more and more. Suicide is not a buzzword, it has a permanent consequence that leaves a massive wake of effect.
I have been reading this book lately — rather, my boyfriend has been reading it to me (my favorite thing in the world, even if I do fall asleep on occasion listening to him). The story starts with a celebrity attempting to take her own life, only to be saved by a dear friend and a complete stranger. No one knew about her attempt. She was alone in her home. The two had arrived in time to not let the rope choke her to death. It was enough to save her, but she was weak. When she recovered days later, she confronted them with anger, frustration, confusion, and a deep sadness. Eventually she came to the decision to fake her own death publicly, to start a new life, one unknown to the outside world. The world was outraged and saddened, celebrating her legacy by creating a shrine in her memory. Yet, no one really knew her or what she was experiencing. She shares in the story that the only one who knew her well beyond the walls she had built was her housekeeper. But everyone celebrated her life as if they knew her.
No different than what I’m seeing here today, really. People are lifted up and recognized for their profound impact made on society, but the humanity of their lives seems to disappear. I’m left wondering what thoughts and emotions were running through those that took their live’s brains. I wonder about the support they sought, if they did.. I wonder why they choose suicide, and who even cares about that…
We mourn the loss of people we don’t know. Attach ourselves to stories, ideas, words, and images. We don’t know their reality. Even if we do know them personally, we often are held at arms distance from their thoughts. We don’t understand what has triggered their actions whatsoever.
All life is valuable and deserving of celebration. I’m not afraid to share my honest thoughts on the matter, though: We often over-glamorize the day to day lives of celebrities (or even just other humans) and yes, even their deaths. People can absolutely leave a profound legacy, and still take their own lives. People can be completely unknown and take their own lives, too. I wonder in the secret spaces of my mind who really cares about those people. — The ones without family or close friends, without a profound legacy — do we celebrate them just as much?
I wish I could say we do. Day by day, so many take their lives without massive awareness but when a celebrity takes their life, we are in an uproar as a society. Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem, and its effects are devastating. Too many people struggle without a community or support system, and they see death as the only way out. It’s a way out, no doubt, but it doesn’t fix the problem. We need support. We need more love, more listening, more seeing people instead of overlooking them. Death is sad, but depression is even more tragic in my (maybe unpopular) opinion. To live in that darkness is not even living.
There were several times in my young life that I was heavily impacted by suicide. One particular life lost will remain ingrained within me forever. I never felt more connected to someone I did not have a personal relationship with. I was struggling with depression myself at the time of his death, although I did not know how to label, identify, or explain it to anyone.
I was scrolling through Twitter when I saw the name of a boy in my brother’s grade all over my feed.
Oh no. No, no. This can’t be real.
They were the first thoughts that crossed my mind. I was horribly saddened. Yet, something within me understood. He must have been hurting so badly. My heart hurt for him.
I attended the candlelit ceremony on our school’s front lawn that night with my brother. — His best childhood friend was so close to this young man. I was worried for my brother. Worried he might feel depressed about the loss of life, or about the struggles that came after. I was worried he and his friend’s relationship would forever be changed. I was worried he’d feel the same way I did inside. I dreaded the thought of that.
I didn’t know this young man personally. I’m not going to even pretend I did. But something within me felt for and with him that night as I sat in the grass outside my alma mater. I thought for the first time about what it would be like to be gone from this world. About what it would be like to take my own life. To be rid of the pressures, the fear, the feelings of inadequacy.
I wept by myself and tried to hide it — I didn’t know him, but my heart hurt because I felt as if I had lived some of his story myself. Depression was overwhelming me during that first year at school, eating away at me from the inside out. I could see why he wanted out of this life. I wanted out of this life.
I remember attempting to text my boyfriend as I sat with a candle in my hand, and tears sliding down my cheekbones. All I was able to put into words was “I feel so sad”.
Sometimes, there is no way to adequately explain the suffering or hurt we are feeling. Not everyone understands, and that’s okay. Since then I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter if people fully understand you, what matters is that they hear you, see you, and believe you.
In the story I’m reading, the gal that attempted suicide truly wanted her life to end. She didn’t want to be saved. She was infuriated that she was. Saddened by the idea that things would not be the same.
I can relate. I was sad when I woke up in the hospital, alive and recovering. I didn’t want to be there.
The day I chose to choke down too many pills, and drink myself into oblivion, I just wanted an escape. I didn’t think about it really. It was impulsive. If I’m being honest, I’m not entirely sure I had intentions of dying that day, simply of escaping; my actions said otherwise, though.
I had been sitting with feelings of unworthiness that invaded my every being. I wanted to be done with this world, but hadn’t thought everything through. I grabbed a handful of pills and chased them with vodka, straight. I partied with my best friends as we cheered on our beloved Buckeyes. We took shots, danced on rooftops, and laughed all day. No one had a clue that I was numb to it all. It wasn’t until later in the afternoon that I began feeling unwell. At some point things became blurry, and I remember running to my ex boyfriends house (whoops, not the best idea I’ve had). I needed to see him, for some reason. — I knocked on the door and begged him to come out, screaming at the top of my lungs. In my intoxicated and drugged up state, I wouldn’t have wanted to see me, so I was surprised (now thankful) he came out.
Shortly after he came outside (simply to get me home safely) I began vomiting profusely. I remember that much. From then until I woke in the hospital hours later, I don’t have any memory whatsoever. Here’s what I was told when I came to:
My heart stopped.
I was revived.
I am here, now.
I felt a heavy amount of pain in my chest, an emptiness in my stomach, and heaviness in my body. — Damn it. I was alive. I really didn’t want to be at that time. In that moment, I really wish I had been gone forever. My mother was sitting next to me, ex boyfriend and two of my best friends in the hall. I was still drunk, thoughts of what had happened loosely coming together. — Damnit. What did I do. — I began thinking about how my choices were affecting them. Everything seemed overwhelming. Fuck. I fucked up. Anxiety welled within me. Tears filled my eyes. The doctor asked me repeatedly, “How much did you drink? What was the name of the medicine you took? How many?”.
I wanted them to shut up. I wanted them to leave me alone. I wanted everyone to. I wanted to slip back into the darkness; into the state where I didn’t remember anything. I made a choice that was going to change myself and my relationships with those closest to me forever. There was no going back. — I thought of the boy that I wept for that summer night on the grass in front of my school. My cheekbones became wet with my tears again, as I sat naked under my hospital gown, coming to terms with the choice I made.
To this day, I still have feelings of frustration with myself for the choices I made that day. I have come to terms with what has happened, but I accept there are feelings and consequences attached to the event that occasionally rise (especially in situations such as this). — I realize the selfishness of my acts and I also acknowledge the reality of the suffering I was experiencing. I live in the duality of hating that I made that impulsive choice, but knowing why I did. That much pain, sadness, and feeling of utter worthlessness drives you to cover it up and replace it with anything you can.
I become sad very easily at the thought of suicide. Not necessarily because a life has left this planet, but because I understand the darkest place they were in. — Though its hurtful to think about, suicide is a real “solution” for so many. It is a way out, but it’s not a way through. To be in a mindset where you’d rather be dead then try to navigate the chaos of this life is a very low place. It is not inescapable, and there are people who want to support those that are there.
As I write and rewrite these words, some of them do surprise me to my core. I wish I had different thoughts, I wish I hadn’t risked so many relationships by choosing to end my life, I wish I didn’t understand how people who commit suicide feel. I’m not often honest with myself however, this topic is too important to bullshit my way through (I can be pretty good at that sometimes, though).
These thoughts and feelings are real thoughts I have, real feelings I feel, and I realize the depth of them. Mom, Dad, Maria, Katie, George, and all my friends — I’m sorry to put you through the stress of nearly loosing a daughter, sister, and friend. I’m sorry if I’ve ever made you feel like you weren’t loved. I’m sorry if you thought I didn’t care about you. I care so so deeply. For so long, I simply was terrified at recognizing I was struggling to intensely. I also didn’t know how to put words to my thoughts and emotions. That’s half of the battle; knowing yourself more and learning about your thoughts and emotions. Knowledge truly has been my biggest power in battling depression. With the incredible people at The Ohio State University Harding Hospital I learned to get real and honest with myself, face my emotions, and understand more about myself than I thought possible (honestly, I learned more than I would really even like to understand some days, ha). The knowledge aquired has helped me build on my past, and gain a new and healthier perspective on this life.
While we speculate on the recent suicide of celebrities, It is my hope that it provokes honest conversation rather than buzz-worthy stories. Talk about suicide. Don’t let it be taboo. Don’t let it just be a post on Instagram. It’s real and it affects us all, directly or indirectly.
Please know that you have so much to offer this world, and it wants to give right back. This life is precious. Love is often overlooked. Hug the people you care about, tell them you love them, let them know your honest thoughts — good, bad, and ugly. Don’t miss out on the good shit out of fear. Embrace the chaos in this life. It’s in that chaos that you find yourself a little more.
In the words of a good friend of mine:
“You are loved. You are needed. You are wanted.” — Even on our worst days.
We don’t always want to help ourselves, and it can be hard to accept that we are truly struggling. Please know if you are feeling depressed or suicidal there are so many ways to be supported. If you are feeling like you want to hurt yourself or have thoughts about suicide, please call 1-800-273-8255. There are also several ways to receive free mental health support through Mental Health America. Learn more here. >>> http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/
Book in reference is Unwritten by Charles Martin.
I am, I am trying
the best that I can.