World Suicide Prevention Day – You Cannot Be Replaced
Suicide, a word that hits home for some and yet to others is a joke – two completely different extremes but the same powerful word. To some, suicide is nothing more than “an easy way out” or “a cry for attention” that is not taken seriously. To most, it is a word that sends chills down your spine and overwhelms you with emotion, be it from the loss of a friend or family member, or your own personal struggles. It disgusts me that there are people out there that laugh and joke, telling people to kill themselves because they don’t matter and no one will miss them… but that is the furthest thing from the truth. You DO matter, and you cannot be replaced.
When I was 7 years old, my brother passed away due to a gunshot wound to the head. It was ruled as a suicide. At that time, I didn’t really understand what that meant. I remember coming home from school, excited that I had just received the items my parents let me order from the Scholastic book club catalog. I remember sitting on the floor in the living room, flipping through the pages of one of the sticker books I had gotten. Then the phone rang, and my parents had looks on their faces like I had never seen before. There was pain and confusion, and I didn’t understand why. I was simply told to gather my things and that we had to go to the hospital because my brother got hurt with a gun. When we got to the emergency room, there was so much noise and chaos. Many members of my family were there, all fluttering about like busy bees, but with that same pained look on their faces. I remember asking where my brother was and why I wasn’t allowed to go see him. All I wanted to do was see my brother, why wouldn’t anyone let me see him? So many people were crying and extended family members that I barely knew were constantly coming up to me and hugging me and holding me. All I wanted to know was what was happening and why I still couldn’t see my brother. Eventually it was told to me that my brother was dead. Suddenly everything was starting to make sense, and I too was crying. I didn’t understand why God would take someone from me that meant so much to me. Was it because I loved them too much? Did I do something wrong and this was my punishment? From that day forward, I shut myself off from caring. I feared that if I showed or said that I loved someone that they too would be taken away from me. I would cringe away when people would try to hug me, worrying that something would happen to them. It was like a part of me had been taken away and I was never going to get it back. That’s a lot of emotional damage for a 7 year old to endure.
It wasn’t until my middle school years that I started to understand more about suicide and depression, because I too was starting to feel those lows. When you’re a kid, you don’t really stop to think about how painfully you are effecting someone when you insult or make fun of them. I was the low-income fat girl with the thick glasses that hid from the world, yet somehow the world found me and decided to be cruel. I couldn’t even ride the bus without having kids make fun of me or sexually harass me, all for their personal enjoyment. No one stood up for me, I was alone in a world where you were cool if you made me the butt of a joke. By 7th grade I had developed a stomach problem from getting so nervous about having to go to school, I would make myself sick just from thinking about all the bullying and meanness that I knew I would be dealing with. The school system, in an effort to make things better, put me in a special class with “delinquents” and other kids that had problems focusing in school or were absent a lot… which, of course, was even more reason for kids to make fun of me. That year, I did so poorly that I was held back and had to complete 7th grade again. While it delayed me in my studies, I thought it was a gift, a way for me to start new with kids I didn’t know yet and that might not make fun of me as much. The school still kept me in a special study period class, but it was there that I met other kids who were “weird” like I was, which nowadays those kids would be considered to have ADD (not me, I was just withdrawn and depressed). It wasn’t until my English teacher started to stick up for me and take time to get to know me that I finally started to not feel as in the shadows. I think she knew that deep down I was fighting with depression and that she wanted me to feel that it was ok and that I was not alone. She knew I had a love for music, so she would use that to connect with me and make me feel like a friend. I will never forget her and the fact that she was one of the first teachers to actually take interest in helping me both emotionally and educationally. It didn’t stop the torment though. Whether it was the fat jokes in the gym class locker rooms and just in passing through the halls, the mean girls asking me sexual things so that they could make fun of me for not having a boyfriend or kissing anyone, the kids that would make it a point to make fun of the “poor kid” clothing I was wearing instead of the big name brands their parents bought them… it was always something. I got to a point where I thought that I wasn’t worth anyone’s time and that I was doing more harm than good by being alive. Suicide would cross my mind, but I would always promise myself that I would never let things get that bad and give in, especially after seeing the pain my family had gone through in the past.
I wish I could confront the kids that tortured me in school and let them know just how much damage they really did. Thanks to them, I will never be happy in my own skin. I call myself a fat chick and embrace my largeness so that it takes the power away from others that try to insult me. In my mind, if I beat them to the punch then they will have nothing to attack me with. It’s not a healthy way to think about yourself, but in such a cruel world its better than dealing with the pain that I did as a child. What’s worse is that I see grown adults that still use words to harm others, including their own children. I once overheard a mother say she didn’t like a photo of her 8 year old daughter and when she asked her mother why, she told her it was because she looked fat. Way to go mom, you’re starting your child down a path of self-hate and depression… let’s just hope that there is someone in her life that will prevent her from taking her own life.
Here I am, at age 32, and I still find myself struggling with things that could lead me into a downward spiral of depression. No matter how hard I try to avoid it, there is always someone that will go out of their way to make you feel like shit. To this day, I can’t wear “cute girly things” like dresses or tank tops because I look in the mirror and hear all the rude things that people have said to me in the past about my size or what I think will be said if I wear something that doesn’t hide my skin. Is that any way to live? Sadly, too many people in situations like mine would answer that it is not, and some of them can’t take the pain and choose to end their lives. It took me many years before I would open back up and start letting people in again. Through the love and support of a few close friends, I was slowly allowing myself to be happy and to love again, but I still struggle with demons from my past. I wish that there were organizations like To Write Love On Her Arms when I was growing up, maybe then I would have turned out a little better. I am proud to say that no matter how bad it got, I never took the easy way out and ended my life.
Today, on World Suicide Prevention Day, I ask that you take a step back and look at yourself and how you treat others. Do you treat them with kindness and respect? Or do you find a way to bring them down to make yourself feel better? Next time you’re going to make a comment on how ugly or fat someone is, don’t. You never know if those words will be the one to drive them over the edge and cause pain and sorrow in many people’s lives, all because you wanted to sound like the cool kid in front of your friends. I also ask that you do something nice for someone you don’t know. Complement a stranger on how nice they look today. Or if you see someone with a troubled look on their face ask them if they’re ok. It may not seem like much to you, but it could mean the world to them. Stand up for those that may be too weak to stand up for themselves and help them realize that it’s not so bad and that they cannot be replaced.
It took a lot for me to be this open and write something that makes me so vulnerable, but I know that there are many people that have gone through things similar to what I have. And as afraid as I may be, I want to be stronger. I want to help others become strong enough to open up and crawl out of the hole that they are in. Know that there is always someone out there for you to talk to, whether it’s a friend, family member, crisis hotline or even me. My email is on the website, don’t be afraid to reach out. I know first-hand how rough life can be, and I know it takes a lot to pick yourself up from it… but you CAN do it, I did. – Envy