Guys, I’ve had fucking enough.
Two. Two suicides recently of teenage girls who have suffered unspeakable things. Worse than that, in trying to move through what happened to them, their communities around them let them down in unspeakable ways by questioning, blaming, and dismissing what happened to them. I don’t even have words to describe what they likely went through – and even if I did, most people would not understand.
These events followed another widely-publicized suicide last year of a victim of extreme bullying. And these are only the few that we know of. How many more have died silently without anyone in the media taking notice?
Let me tell you something about suicide and self-harm from someone’s who been there and has learned to quiet – not silence, but calm and lull into submission – the urges. At the core, any serious self-harm is an outlet: for feelings, for sorrow, for emptiness and darkness, for loneliness, for fear, for that unshakeable lump in your throat… for anything so intense that it can’t be put into words, and even if there were words there’s a huge risk of being misunderstood. Of being abused again. Of being marginalized, isolated, and judged. The embarassment and trauma of being labeled a self-harmer and/or being put away in a psych ward is often worse than the original behaviour.
Anne Sexton calls the desire to harm or kill oneself “the most unnameable lust”, and that is probably the most accurate description I have ever heard. It’s not a natural lust, it’s a learned one. The learning comes from trauma and abuse, whether mental or physical or both. Sometimes genetics are a factor, admittedly, but they’re not the only factor. Without going into the hard science of it, suffice to say that a serious trauma (such as a rape) combined with increased bullying is going to overload the brain, especially when allies are few and far between. Like a puppy separated from its family and kicked repeatedly, chemically speaking someone in that situation would be nearly devoid of any of the “good” chemicals, and have ones like adrenaline and cortisol flooding in. And logically, that’s going to trigger extreme behaviours.
Most people can’t understand why others commit suicide, because they’ve never had that special brain cocktail. And I pray to whatever higher power may be listening that those people never experience extreme trauma and that suicide doesn’t become even more of an epidemic than it already is. (Which is not to say that I don’t agree with assisted suicide in cases like terminal illness. But that’s a whole other discussion.) My point is that those girls – and certainly countless others – were so isolated, so abused, so shamed, so vulnerable, and in so much pain that death was their only option to make all of the voices stop. I understand how the urge to die works, because I have fucking been there. I’ve been through enough trauma that I’ve kept my back pressed to the wall and legs glued to the floor as I stared down subway trains… but at the end of the day, I’m not good at quitting, and apparently that extends to quitting life. So, in that respect, I guess I’m lucky.
They say that suicides are either under- or over- stated. Hanging oneself at home, or anything done in private, is an understatement. Anything that happens publicly where many others are likely to be impacted is an overstatement. One thing I’m sick of hearing is that suicide is a selfish act. It may be selfish, but the hard truth is that we as a society have become so selfish that we don’t seem to notice or care when someone else is struggling. Like a pack of animals we think only of tearing down the weak and vying for alpha leadership.
And I’m done. I’m done with being selfish and with letting this happen to young women. Done with letting young men believe that rape and death are acceptable to inflict on anyone. This goes both ways; recently in my city, a young man was raped by four women. I find this just as appalling and I hope those women are caught. Here’s the thing though – punishment and fear are just going to lead to more of the same. And I’m fucking tired of our society being caught in a broken loop where we create broken people.
So, I’m starting something new: set-me-free.org (it’s currently in development). I believe we can be free of rape culture, free of abuse, free of bullying, free of gender issues, free of eating disorders, free of the desire to harm ourselves. I need to let those suffering out there know that they are not alone. And I need your help. I’m running an Indiegogo Campaign to get the site up and running and to start reaching out to schools and social networking sites to build partnerships. Please help spread the word; share this blog post if you want. I don’t want anyone else to follow the siren call of “that unnameable lust.”