Back when I was in my first year of high school, I spent most afternoons on the couch watching Seinfeld, feeling numb and sleeping my way through as many emotions as I could. I was swallowed by something bleak; it ate at every ounce of my self worth and colored even the happiest moments a gray with lots of red in it. I felt like I couldn’t be honest with anyone because there was something wrong with me, and like there was something wrong with me because I didn’t feel I had any friends.
As far as I was concerned, I was alone in what I now know was depression. In my eyes, everyone I met knew it, and even a hair out of place was an imperfection worthy of my own self loathing. Depression messes with your perception of the world. My skinny wrists weren’t skinny enough, and though I could run my fingers over each rib, there was still too much fat between my skin and my insides. I wanted to do well in school, but in doing too well I brought on jealousy and mean-spirited people (who were likely as self-conscious as me).
So much of who we think we are is constructed by how we feel we’re seen by others. We navigate our place and what we can aspire to become relative to those around us. In such a formative time, I assumed that I couldn’t aspire to much; I could hardly even hold a conversation I was so controlled by anxiety. I lost any hope for the future, and that’s when the insidious thoughts of offing myself began. I felt compelled to do things like drink cleaning supplies or run a car off of the road. I was tenacious though, and luckily I kept hold of an ounce of wanting to stick around, just to prove those around me wrong, or just to prove myself wrong.
I spent the summer that followed in a similar rut, but toward the end I made a conscious decision to push myself to break the negative feedback loop. I got involved at school (I turned into Max from Rushmore) and started exercising. I made friends and things got better. I constructed a much more exciting future to hold onto when things were difficult, and I’m glad I’ve been around to experience it.
People always talk about what a selfish action suicide is, and I can’t stress this enough. I think often about my mom and how much she cares about me. Unfortunately, I’ve seen far too many parents lose their children to tragic accidents; it would have been unimaginable for me to have taken myself away from her at my own hand. Having said that, at the time, my own bleak fate was all I could think about, and I felt burdensome to those around me. It’s for this reason I also stress that even in the moments it feels like the future is too far to be worth waiting for, the odds are good that it will eventually get better. What made the better future come faster for me was taking an active role (a role I wish I’d taken earlier) in pushing myself to be uncomfortable. If I had to do it over again I’d talk to a counselor or teacher I trusted.
Something else I think is really important is that, especially with the popularity of the show/book 13 Reasons Why, there’s an idea that suicide is a way to get revenge. It’s not. Even if there are people around you who are causing you to feel the way you do, I can guarantee there are people who want nothing more than for you to be happy. Regardless of how you feel about the former group, the latter doesn’t deserve that devastation.
Finally, be kind to people. I don’t think anyone I knew other than my family had any idea I was struggling, and I can imagine there are people I talk to daily who are in the same place. Be the reason someone smiles every day, and be honest with people about why you think they’re awesome. Everyone deserves to have some love poured into them.