I was twelve the first time I thought about suicide. That’s a pretty disturbing sentence, isn’t it? Wasn’t Pippi Longstocking twelve? I feel like Pippi Longstocking was twelve. Twelve just screams cherubic faced children on television shows, with hair twisted into some sick-ass braids. Lunch boxes. Just little kids. Upset about homework and laughing until ribcages get sore. Some beautiful picture of innocence, oblivious to the harsh realities grown ups start to become numb to. That’s what I imagine twelve looks like.
Maybe the older I get, the harder it is to remember ages correctly. Because I Googled it, and turns out Pippi was nine. Dammit.
Suicide isn’t a word you just throw in casually in conversation. It isn’t recess, or asking if you can have a sleepover at your friend’s house. It has no place in the world of a twelve year old. It shouldn’t have a place anywhere, really.
But it’s something we need to talk about. We can’t let it be the elephant in the room. Because it will still sit there, taking up space, whether or not we ignore it.
I remember it so vividly, the first time. I was in 6th grade out on the blacktop with a few friends during a break in between classes. I don’t know what we were talking about. Probably boys we had crushes on or teachers who were totally unfair (for something I’m sure we deserved) and it just hit me. I was so dreadfully unhappy. Painfully unhappy. And I was consumed with the sudden thought that it was going to be forever. And if it was going to be forever, I didn’t want forever to continue going. I wanted to end forever right there and then. But I kept smiling with my friends, let this dark thought fester inside.
Now years later, I’ve wondered if that first serious dip in depression had to do with all those hormonal changes going on in my body. Seriously, puberty is THAT bitch. Your body and emotional state are essentially tossed on a roller coaster and someone says, “Hey, buckle up. Maybe this ride will be over soon, maybe not. Good luck!”
I had thought about death before, but more of in the abstract, hard-to-really-grasp-as-an-idea way. Can you remember the first time you tried to process death as a thought? All religious beliefs aside, the concept of dying is bizarre. One minute, you’re here. The next, you…aren’t? That’s hard for kids to understand. Hell, that’s hard for anyone to understand. That’s why so many of us try to figure it out. We crave a definitive answer that we can’t really get.
High school gets a bad rep, and though I would never, ever wish going back there on even my worst enemy (which I don’t have because I’m not a Superhero), middle school isn’t exactly a walk in the park either. In fact, it’s a damn minefield. It’s this sudden huge leap from true childhood to that next weird in-between stage. By high school, you’ve started to figure it out. It might suck, but at least it’s not as new. Being a preteen? Hell. That, and the DMV. True Hell on Earth.
I went from being an overachieving little 5th grader, wearing flood jeans because I couldn’t care less about fashion and bangs that stuck together in a sweaty mess, to this lethargic 6th grader, sitting frozen in front of the television.
I became sucked into Friends. Not like, real ones, but the beloved 90s sitcom. That show became my tiny, little world. My mom bought the box set of all 10 seasons and we were watching them together from the start. I was convinced life outside of a TV screen sucked. And sometimes, it really did. I liked my little orb of a laughing audience and clapping in unison. I knew it was irrational and delusional, but I almost thought, if I can’t just hang out on that damn couch with those 6 people, I don’t want to be here. The dark thought stayed in the back of my mind, and I didn’t want to acknowledge it. But at night, it became undeniable. I had to ask for help.
And I did. My grades had plummeted because I stopped caring. I stopped doing my homework. I would beg my mom to let me stay home from school so I could just watch another episode of Friends. I tried to avoid reality as much as humanly possible, and at a certain point, it became unavoidable. I told my parents I was thinking about killing myself. And they got me the help I needed.
I can’t tell you how grateful I am that I got help. I think back on all those moments of wondering if the “everything sucks” would be forever, of being SO sure I just couldn’t handle this life thing, that maybe I just wasn’t cut out for life, and I’m so appreciative I kept going.
Because here’s the truth, life is going to knock you the fuck out. Sometimes, it’s going to challenge you to a bar fight and you’re going to walk away bloodied with missing teeth. Sometimes, it’s going to seem like everything in the world is against you and admitting defeat would be the easier choice. The safer choice. Maybe, just maybe, you aren’t supposed to be here. There will be days when not being here seems like the better choice.
But those days will turn into nights. And those nights will turn into a new day. And if you let forever suck you up, you won’t have the opportunity to see if that new day is, in fact, a better day. If you let that elephant sitting in the back of the room crush you until you are positive you can’t ever breathe properly again, you won’t get the chance to test out a new set of lungs.
You can’t leave us, okay? You just can’t.
We need to talk about suicide. We need to talk about depression, anxiety, mental illness and do so in a way that doesn’t alienate people. We need to be honest about how we’re feeling and when we need help. Because newsflash, there will be moments when we ALL need help. Whether it’s having someone to talk to, or someone helping you move your couch. It’s the same thing. And you shouldn’t be embarrassed or ashamed to ask for either.
We need to talk about this so we can stop it. So that more beautiful souls can stay with us. So that we can find ways to push through the pain and the hurt. So that we can work to understand one another, and also recognize the ways we can’t.
We just need to talk. Because the silence will become deadly.
1 (800) 273-8255
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Available 24 hours, 7 days a week