It was a shadowy end of the year in our family, punctuated by peaks of brightness from our silly six year old boy anticipating Christmas. While everyone else was finishing their holiday shopping, word came that my young niece attempted to commit suicide. It struck me that this attempt was made now, at the darkest time of the year. As we slowly regain the light, how will we all move forward?
We have seen meanness and bullying normalized and promoted in politics, in entertainment and on social media. The effects are far reaching and can be deadly. Reeling with feelings, I processed this the best way I know how and started to write. I decided to share the letter that I wrote to my niece. There is a good chance you know another young person struggling with depression and bullying. Reach out, be that safety net. (Note that the name has been changed to preserve anonymity.)
Let me start by saying that I’m so happy you are still here, that your attempt to kill yourself didn’t work. I have been struggling with what to say to you. This brought up so much feeling… shock, sadness, anger, confusion. Mostly there are just questions. I want to understand why.
If it is bullying that drove you to this, look at it this way… when you hurt yourself or if you were to kill yourself, the bullies have WON at that point. There is no love there. They won’t spend much time at all feeling sorry for their actions. Meanness is a poison that just tries to consume everything around it. Your family and true friends on the other hand, we will carry the weight of our sorrow for the entirety of our lives. Your death would leave a huge hole in our hearts and our family. You want to know how to combat bullies? You Live, you find a way to Shine and to Grow and continue to reach out with Love. You do it in spite of them. Maybe someday even a little seed of compassion will grow. You will realize that only hurt and broken people bully because they themselves feel powerless and in pain so they seek to inflict that on other people, to try and syphon off power from people around them.
Don’t you remember that just two years ago I was fighting for my life… and now you were ready to just throw your life away?! Where did things go wrong? Is there something more that I could have done? How do we go forward so you never ever try something like this again? I realize a letter is one sided, but if and when you are ready to talk about this, or about anything really, I am here. I want to listen. If it’s not me, you know that Grandma loves you so much too. Your Mom and Dad and brothers and sisters love you immensely. You have to understand that when you hurt yourself, you are hurting all of us.
I can only imagine how hard it is to be a teenager now. When I was your age, I struggled with feeling worthless and unlovable. I didn’t talk to my father for 5 years and had been going back and forth between families since I was a little baby. I grew up around a lot of anger and animosity and blamed myself for a lot of it. It was toxic. You have your own set of challenges, your own family dynamic. Add to that, the regular pressures of being a teenager; school, friends, trying to figure out what you want to do with your life. I can’t imagine what it is like growing up with social media, with this constant fake facade where people get to paint pictures of their perfection and beauty, or get to spout horrible things about others with little to no consequences.
What can I do to help Jamie? How will you reach out for help next time? Who will be your safety net if you start to feel yourself backslide into feeling like you want to hurt yourself again? You have too much to live and too much to give to just throw it all away. You were put here on this earth for a reason, and we need your gifts and talents, we need your ideas and your light. We need your spirit and your heart. I love you Jamie. I say all of this, even if it is painful to hear it and think about this stuff, only because I love you.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255
TeenLine, Teens Helping Teens 310-855-4673