On Teenage Suicide (Prevention Week)

This week has been South African National Teenage Suicide Prevention Week.

Granted, some of you will be wondering why I’ve been such a twit and haven’t spoken up about this earlier, seeing that the SATSPW started on Valentine’s day – and I assure you it’s not because I was too busy with my valentine – and why I’m posting this so late.

The truth is, I don’t know what I want this post to be. I don’t want it to be just alarming statistics and frightening facts, and motivational quotes and sad stories. So, as expected, this post will be a complete mess of everything.

  1. Around the world, the third leading cause of death in teenagers is suicide. 20% of teenagers  suffer from depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, eating disorders, bipolar disorder and countless other mental disorders.
  2. I have been and am part of that 20%.
  3. I’ve written an anthology on mental disorders in teenagers which I can send to you if you comment your email address!

Seeing that it’s suicide prevention week and not mental disorder awareness month (when is that?), I’m going to fill you guys in on some suicide facts:

IT’S TERRIFYING.

Not only for everyone who is affected by it but also to the victim of suicide. As someone who has been through some rough patches, and someone who wishes she didn’t have the suicide patch on her sash, let me tell you something:

Suicide isn’t always something that happens after you notice you’re once smiley friend retreat into themselves and the darkness that consumes them. It isn’t always forecastable by looking at the scars on someone’s wrists, thighs, calves, shoulders, hips. It isn’t always recognisable by a smile that you think is false. It isn’t funny, fun, or anything of the happy variety: its death. It’s awful and untimely and terrifying, and it’s not a good experience to be on either side of the suicide line.

I don’t know how to make it better.

I know that psychologists are EXPENSIVE and that therapy doesn’t always work, and that people aren’t always there for you, and that sometimes it feels like the darkness in the world is big enough to swallow you whole, and anyone you reach out to will be swallowed along with you, and the last thing you want is for anyone else to get hurt so you may as well just erase yourself from the catastrophic picture you may not have even drawn, but even something as small as sharpening the pencil seems like a big enough offence.

This, friend, isn’t always the case.

I used to be suicidal. I used to want to die, every day. I used to hate getting up, and I despised the fact that my lungs were still working in the morning. I tried to die. Often. And the experience is something I wouldn’t wish on any being or creature in the universe.

But friends, I’m still here.

If you’re looking for a sign not to kill yourself, this is it.

If you’re looking for someone who will miss you if you die, I am them.

I found myself in a hole of darkness and I won’t even lie and say I’ve climbed out. Because I haven’t. I’m still climbing and I climb every day. I can tell you that it’s far more difficult than I would have ever imagined, but also, far more worth it.

Regardless of where you are in the world, here you can find the number to call if you’re feeling suicidal.

In South Africa, we have SADAG (South African Depression and Anxiety Group) and they’ve helped me tonnes. You can contact them on 0800 567 567.

Please don’t ever hesitate to send me an email if you ever need any help. We’re all survivors here, and I’d be so, so honoured and willing to help.

I leave you with some lyrics by my favourite band:

Friend, please don’t take your life away from me.”

Love and light,
shalom

 

On Being a Mediocre (but not really) High School Student & Person

<<prompted by Jessica Craven’s post here>>

I used to be clever.

Screw clever: I was brilliant. I started talking at 3 months of age, and I could read when I was two. I was sent to several educational psychologists because at the age of five, I was ready for grade two. I had an impeccable memory, I didn’t forget anything. When I was eight, my teachers would give me extra books to read and then would send me to the other teachers for more, because I would finish 30 page books in 10 minutes.

My point? “WAS”.

I think that people don’t realise how difficult it is to feel like you’ve gotten less intelligent. Granted, it’s believed that losing intelligence can’t actually happen, but it’s easy to feel that way. Using myself as an example for the tonnes of other students like me, let’s carefully look at where thing went wrong:

Everything was fine, kind of, until grade six: I was quiet, got into competitions, beat myself up when I wasn’t first, absolutely adored my title of “Smartest Girl In The School” and was constantly looking for ways to be better than my main competition: a boy named Slade. Granted, my unusual sadness scared me a little from grade five, but it was okay – I was still clever.

Grade seven came, and I started to feel the effects of depression. I felt lethargy at its worst, and felt the most lonely I ever had, up until then. I got my first detention. I tried to cut my hair (DIDN’T WORK). I tried to accept that I wasn’t pretty so there was no need for me to talk to anyone. Then I tried to talk to everyone. I tried to be friends with the pretty girls (DIDN’T WORK) and I tried to be friends with everyone (DIDN’T WORK). I tried so hard to be popular and became the confidant of many, the carer of most, but the friend of none. NOT. ONE.

My grades started slipping. I remember a meeting with my head of year, because I wasn’t in the top ten in the grade. I was 13th. From 2nd to 13th after 3 months of hardly eating, trying to become less less less, utter loneliness and extreme confusion. I was told my slacking was unacceptable and that it didn’t look good. I was externally apathetic, but internally sobbing- I just wanted to be enough. I was sad because I wasn’t as special anymore.I was just at school, not even mattering. But I was still smart enough to laugh it off,I was still brilliant.

Most people have the people that they leave primary school and go to high school with, or the friends they’ve had since they were tiny. I never had that. I never had anyone who was my friend; I just knew everybody because I talked a lot.

High school came about and I tried to create a new name for myself – Shalom became Scoot – and went to a completely different school than my brother and sister. I tried desperately to re-invent myself.  I coasted through grade eight and nine and was a B student, shocking all of my primary school teachers. I studied for subjects I enjoyed. I laughed at the ones I didn’t. I was still put into the ‘smart classes’. But then, I noticed something: I wasn’t as smart as they were. 

I started thinking, “what if I studied? Would I be as smart as Nina? Or Jessica or Sarah or Tamsyn or Slade, all who managed to stay smart?”

I found myself in trouble: I had never studied before. I felt no need. All of these people had spent their time working hard, and I hadn’t. I had been great, or at least alright, without the work they had to do.

Then, grade ten. Read: the first year I failed a subject (kinda).

I got really bad at maths despite my new attempts to work hard. People laughed at me and my efforts because I got moved into a weak  maths class. I studied ridiculously hard and only just managed Ds when I would get a B+ without any effort just a year prior. The people I sat with? All super intelligent. All taking AP classes, while I barely managed to stay in school. All swimming, while I choked – despite my flippers and floaties.

I’m in grade twelve now, and I’m still sad that feel that I’m not as brilliant as I used to be. Simply because I used to think that I could move mountains with my mind, because I was told so. I was told I would change the world because I would have the potential to do so. And all of a sudden, my mind switched off. I don’t know how or why, but I wasn’t smart anymore, and people tried to make it better by assuring me that I was smart, just not at school. That didn’t help at all, because I SHOULD be smart at school – I used to be.

I should still have the potential for brilliance.

This year, I’m trying to do well at school, because it does matter to me. I’m trying to get better at eating, because I value my health. I’m trying to have a positive outlook because I want to manage my depression better. I actually care, people! So many people think that I just waltz around, looking into people’s faces, giving sound advice, saying “wow! Cool! Lovely, wow!”  and pass through.

Learn this: I AM NOT JUST THAT.

Last week, a foolish boy called me a shallow character. I stopped, and looked him dead in the eye and said,

“I am not a character. I am not shallow. I am a hurricane with more brilliance inside of me than you will ever dare to find, and I am stronger than you will ever know.”

Dramatic? Yes, God yes. But true. I felt so powerful, and so plainly honest, that it couldn’t have been anything but the truth.

I tell people this:

Another person’s beauty is not the absence of your own.

I’ve decided that it applies to brilliance too.

I’m still brilliant, and that’s all I’ve been trying to get across. I refuse to treat myself as less, and I refuse to be treated as less.

apologies: this may have been a load of utter, utter crap.

love and light
s

On Why University Students Know More Than They Think They Know

HANDS UP FOR THE LONGEST TITLE EVER
(alternately titled: it doesn’t matter)

Today (tonight?) I stopped by my old school.

I’m not entirely certain that stopped by is the correct term, seeing that I was there for roughly five hours. In any case, I came to a couple of realisations, conclusions and utter WHAT-THE-HECKLING-tions today. Allow me to fill you in, friends.

1. People are more viscious than you think they can be.

Granted, we all love a skandal, but the amount of shade-throwing and utter hate that goes on in high schools is fairly ridiculous. Is there a reason for this? Possibly. Am I aware of it? [insert obviously not meme]

2. There are so many people in the world to love.

Ugh. I feel like a sappy, and hungry (but mostly hungry) wreck. Most of the people I saw tonight -even the almost accidental run in with some twins- made my metaphorical teenage girl heart swell. Sometimes, it was a swell of sadness. The most of it was an “I’M SO FREAKING EXCITED TO SEE YOU AND YOUR LOVELINESS” swell. In any case, my heart is so full, but there are still so many people to see. Hence, title of paragraph,

3. University students are quite flippen’ rad.

I had the pleasure (PLEASURE LET ME TELL YOU!) of sitting in front of four students in second year, all studying accounting majors. They were the greatest. Apart from chats about the Sims with Kyra, Sim murder wth Kyra and Chen, rapid fire talk with Bradley and an utterly, utterly beautiful Daniella, they made me fully (mostly) grasp something that’d been swimming around in my brain for a while:

It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if you had a full colours blazer in high school. It doesn’t matter if you were the nerdiest of nerds and landed up studying accounting, because you’re freaking great at it. It doesn’t matter if you hated high school. You’ll still love  the annual crappy-but-exceptionally-talent-filled showcase. You’ll come every year that you can. It doesn’t matter if someone told you you weren’t cool in high school because you were a chess champion. Know why? YOU ARE STILL A CHESS CHAMPION. Nothing of that sort matters because the right people and energy really make the sun (moon) (artificial light that’s also beautiful) shine out of your face, and in this case, you both look and are lovely.

 

From left: Chen(Lillian), Kyra, Daniella, Bradley. Also known as "the cool uni kids I've dubbed my cool friends without asking".

From left:
Chen(Lillian), Kyra, Daniella, Bradley.
Also known as “the cool uni kids I’ve dubbed my cool friends without asking”.

Granted, being relatively ambushed by an aspiring teenage blogger who had too much coffee with her medication this morning is something that should matter. Tonight, however, it was all marvellous and wonderful and everything good I could have hoped for.

I have masses of History homework. Hell, I have masses of all homework, and it’s 00:32.It’s already Friday. Intentions to complete said homework exists. Making these intentions into actions into reality? Debatable.

Have a beautiful Friday, darlings.
shalom