Many of you reading this, sadly, know what I mean when I mention the disgusting reality of rape culture. The fact that more people respond to a girl yelling fire opposed to rape. We have desensitized it, distanced ourselves from it, made it seem non-threatening in order to ignore reality.
Yet, over the past couple of months, I have become more aware of another growing culture and societal view of another tragedy. Suicide.
I truly believe there is no one in this world, including myself, who has not said the following phrases: “I just want to kill myself”, “Shoot me now!”, “Ugh I could just hurt myself.” And these phrases aren’t left in suicide notes, or mentioned in serious conversations, but day to day ramblings about awkward, dramatic situations, used to drum up drama and self-pity.
It’s just slang, I know that, but if we look back at the history and trend of our language, our slang, we see a similar pattern of phrases being introduced, used, and then deemed disrespectful. Words referring to one’s color of skin, mental disabilities, or sexual orientation. All of these words or phrases have been used loosely and freely, defended with remarks of “It’s just a joke!” or “I don’t mean it in that way” at one point or another but society decided to take a stand, to respect that the people of this world are in one way or another connected to each other. You cannot look at someone and know their background, their family, their struggles.
That’s why when I hear people say they “just want to shoot themselves” over a 5 page essay assignment, or deem suicidal people as attention seekers, drama queens, or selfish, I’ve simply learned to walk away. People are not perceptive enough to look at me and know that I have seen the aftermath of a suicide, that someone I loved and called family took the words “just shoot me now” and put a face to the pain, suffering, depression and desperation that we call suicide. There were no dramatics; only failed therapy sessions, a deep depression, daily struggles and so deceiving an exterior that I couldn’t see any of it. It is true what they say. Some of the people who smile the brightest, laugh the loudest, and bring the most joy are the most desperate and sad of souls.
I won’t lie to you. There was a time when I thought many of the same things. Those who attempted and failed to take their lives were selfish, attention seeking people who sought to be martyrs. What’s even more upsetting is that we view our peers who threaten, attempt, or succeed at taking their own lives selfish, yet we worship and cry over the celebrities who do the same with no cries of selfishness on our lips.
We have created another culture of shame, just as we have done before with rape. Instead of listening to those who truly threaten their lives, we walk away and claim they’d never do it. They just want the attention. And that may be true and disgustingly disappointing. But someone you may know may say the words, “kill me now” and deep down somewhere they mean it. Yet we brush it off, laugh at it, make it a joke. I know a lot of this comes from my personal experience, but it shouldn’t take a person we love to die to realize how our words and views affect the people around us, how we will never know the depth of pain or experience the people around us may have and therefore shouldn’t assume that our views and opinions are universally accepted and shared. Because when the words, “Shoot me now,” leave your mouth, those words hold a weight for me you may never know. And if not me, then millions of others who are in similar shoes.
I can’t persuade the world to see my side. I can’t make everybody think about what they’re saying the next time they “jokingly” threaten their life. But I hope people will look at suicide not as a selfish act done in attempt of eternal remembrance. There is no glory or victory for the dead. They don’t cherish our tears, our desperate questioning, or our anger. They don’t think of how they will be remembered. My dad always says that if someone wishes to take their own life, then it’s their choice. It may sound cruel and apathetic, but I think what people want most in this world is an inner peace and everybody has a different way of finding it. I think what my dad is trying to say, and what I want so strongly to believe, is that in some cases, death is that peace. And it’s tragic, and I wish it wasn’t even an option to consider. But I have to believe they succeeded. Not in taking their lives, but in finding peace. That someone I love doesn’t carry the burden he did before, that he found what he was searching for and couldn’t find. Peace.