Very few things enrage
me. I'm known for cold contempt
putdowns and calm but brutally
incisive observations. There isn't that much that can make me turn red with fury
and yell at the top of my lungs
. Teenagers who say they want to die
can do that to me. They can make me want to shake them and scream
until I knock some sense into them. It's an irrational
response. I know that the teenage
years are a turbulent
time emotionally, mentally and physically. I know that the rigidity
of the High School Castes can take their tolls on anyone. I know that Clinical Depression
is often caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain and there are probably many teenagers who suffer from this. I'm not insensitive
, but teenagers who shout, "I'm going to kill myself" whip me into a livid
frenzy all the same.
It's not that my teen years were marvelous and untroubled. I was an intelligent, sullen, ugly boy who was almost universally shunned by my classmates. I hated everyone and figured everyone hated me. From the ages of 12 to 17 I had maybe two people that I could call "friend".
It was a miserable time, and I'm glad to be out of it. But I survived it.
I tried, in my own quiet way to kill myself several times over those years. None of the attempts were accompanied by any loud pronouncements or tragic scenes; few were sparked by an particular traumatic event. Most of my attempts were caused by an unbearable fatigue and the idea that death, at least, offered respite and rest. Most failed spectacularly and went almost unnoticed; a few came close to doing their intended work and I still have a scar on my left wrist running along the vein. It was nothing sexy or glamourous. My last attempt occured when I was 18, I had swallowed a bottle of cheap depressants and drank most of a fifth of scotch. By happenstance, a friend of mine came across me. She kept me up all night walking, drinking coffee and forcing me to vomit. She promised not to call the police if I swore never again to try to kill myself. I swore. I haven't.
So why do teenagers who say they want to kill themselves raise my ire? I don't know. Maybe it's because my method of dealing with emotions ensured that my suicide attempts were with as little fuss as neccessary, and people who make grand announcements seem to me, a little phony. Maybe it's because there have been too many times when I've gotten myself emotionally involved on behalf of someone who screams that they want to die, wearing myself out trying to convince them to live, only to find out later, once I'm emotionally exhausted, that what they really wanted was attention or sympathy. Maybe it's because it seems to me that there are very few people who understand what wanting to die really is like; it's not mere heartache.
Or maybe it's because the lack of perspective makes me furious. My teen years were largely punctuated and delineated by trauma; at 12 my father decided I didn't exist, at 14 I was raped and at 17 I was jumped by skinheads. I had no friends and I was so constantly lonely that I am even now surprised to discover that suddenly there are people around me. And yet, when I compare my life to some other people I know, my suicide attempts seem pathetic and foolishly selfish. A friend of mine was beaten and kicked out of the house when he was 15, ended up supporting himself from that time on, and considers himself lucky when he compares his life to another friend of ours who was murdered a few years ago. Another friend of mine has a gypsy grandmother who spent her teenage years in a Concentration Camp in Eastern Europe; and she considers herself lucky when she compares her life to the Jews who were in Auschwitz and Dachau. I think my life was pretty comfortable when I compare it to theirs.
One thing that has always been close to my heart is a quote from Maya Angelou that I will paraphase badly here; "Someone was heartbroken before you, someone was hungry before you, someone was cold before you, someone was hurt before you, someone was beaten before you, someone was raped before you. Someone survived". When I think of that, I remember that my problems really aren't that bad and I'm grateful for what my life has been thus far.