So it’s Friday and I’m probably supposed to write something light and fluffy but something happened and I can’t shake it off. I don’t want to shake it off. I want to remember and keep remembering. And I want to share it with you.
I found out yesterday that friends of ours lost their beautiful and vibrant fifteen year old son to suicide. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for youth aged 10-24, following motor vehicle accidents in this country (Canada). And rates among young people have been increasing to such an extent that they are now the group at highest risk in a third of countries, in both developed and developing countries.
I don’t have the specific details or the answers as to why our much loved young friend took his own life but there are many reasons why people take their own lives ranging from mental health disorders to socioeconomic, family and issues with identity. From when I was eight years old to when I turned ten I was bullied. The ‘ringleader’ of this campaign was a girl called Celia and yes, she was the meanest but also the most popular girl in our small primary school. Why are the meanest so often the most popular?
She was tall. I was not. She was Barbie/Prima Ballerina. I was not. You see, Iice showed up in my hair and my mother, horrified, shaved it all off and since my hair was never going to be anything more than what it is, thin and lifeless, she decided to keep my hair short. Really short. So I got teased a lot. I was called names. Hurtful names. I learned at a very young age about intolerance and prejudice. I learned your looks hold a lot more sway in this world than the contents of your mind. I learned that words are weapons and if you let them they can wound even kill you. I learned all this at a tender age because I was picked on and pulled apart not only by a girl called Celia but by my peers and teachers too. Because my teachers thought I was odd. They thought my mother was odder and told me so. My mother was a very young single mother. Back then a very big no-no. So I was the ‘possibly- Hare-krishna-lesbian daughter’ of a single mother. I shouldn’t have made it. But I did. Because of two things:
I had two very devout grandmothers. They weren’t necessarily always emotionally available but they introduced me to God and took me to church. So I believed with all my heart in someone Greater and something Bigger than all my problems. And it made all the difference because I didn’t feel so alone with God on my side. Even when Celia was dragging me around the school yard by one of my skinny legs and the other kids jeered. I’ve been told by people who should know (they hold PhDs in Mind Reading and the like) that I survived because I’m the resilient type. I’m not saying I didn’t hit the bottom of my own personal Marianas Trench. I did at the age of eight. I swallowed a handful of some pills I found in the bathroom cabinet and waited for death. I was still very much alive when my mother got home from work so I told her what I had done and she drove me to the hospital. Turns out I tried to overdose on contraceptive pills. I don’t remember being reprimanded. I don’t even remember being hugged.
Here’s what I think:
Maybe we should talk about God.
Maybe we should read more.
Maybe we should talk more to our children. Maybe we should be more alert to the warning signs.
Maybe we should turn off our smartphones/tablets and listen more.
Maybe we should sit around a table with our children.
Maybe we should bless our meals and the people sitting at the table with us.
Maybe when the people who are supposed to love us simply can’t or don’t know how to we should reach out and find those who will.
Maybe we think only children are capable of bullying. Think again. If you know or suspect you are a bully get help.