As a teenager I seriously
contemplated suicide. Life seemed too difficult to navigate. I felt I
contributed nothing of value to anyone else's life. By 18 I was sure I
had missed my opportunities to amount to anything and I felt
embarrassed by that. I felt unloved and unloveable.
I procured the means to carry out my demise and each morning lay in bed contemplating whether I'd get up and go to work or find peace. I did this for months and somehow found a reason to give life one more day, to see if things would improve.
My parents had no idea I was depressed - they lived 600 miles away, though that made little difference really, as they didn't have a close relationship with any of their 4 children. I actually thought I'd be saving face for them too as my mother had hoped I'd become a doctor and was embarrassed I'd dropped out of school and was working in a clerical job. (I'd left home at 16 to escape my parents' dysfunctionality, a decision I still think was the right one 32 years later.)
I don't know what made my depression lift, but it did. I did seek counselling which was marginally successful, but which led me to reading numerous self help and psychology books. These books helped me unravel some of the puzzle of my family and helped me to see a path that was bright in its own right, without it being the path my parents wanted me to travel. These books also helped me to accept myself as the unique, and perhaps eccentric, person I am - though it's a continuing work!
When Em's friend Niel ended his life in mid June, I remembered my own dark times. I wonder often how his closest friends are coping now. To be honest I think now is a danger time for them as they cope with feelings of inadequacy and struggle with their grief, while the rest of the world moves on with little thought of Niel. I wish I could tell each of their parents to be emotionally close to their child; to be open to hearing their thoughts without judgement or censure; to tell their teen with words and deeds that they have immense value to them JUST AS THEY ARE; that they are loved JUST AS THEY ARE.
Of course this will not guarantee that their teen will not attempt suicide. Nothing can give us that guarantee. And goodness, don't we all know that we are not the only, or even the biggest, influence in our teens lives! I know most of Niel's friends are receiving counselling, and I know it's good counselling. Most, but not all. The girl he was speaking to on the phone when he took his own life is not receiving counselling. This girl needs it most of all, as many - including Niel's parents - have told her she should have done more to prevent Niel's death.
There's the rub with teen suicide. There's always finger pointing. There's always blame. I guess that's the same if a teen dies in a car accident too, yet I argue that suicide is also an accident. An accident of thought. Sometimes it's the result of one impetuous decision on the highway of life. Other times it can be as though a 20 mile highway pile up of negative thinking and icidents crashes into the teen's thoughts and tragedy ensues. It's still an accident. An accident of thought.
Just as we teach our children to drive, equipping them with skills to drive on the road, we also have the task of teaching our children to live, equipping them with life skills. I advocate taking our teaching tasks seriously, but I also advocate for no finger pointing and blame laying when accidents happen.
As I was writing this post, I received an email from Margalit which contained the horrific news of her son's suicide attempt. I wondered if I should still make this post, and decided I should, because it merely demonstrates that accidents can happen to any one of us.
Davey & I watched a well thought out talk on suicide - though we didn't realise that's what it was going to be about when we started watching. I recommend it and so does Davey, here's a link: Max Barry on Risk.