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When I was in my first year of college, many years ago, my mom came home from the school she worked at and broke down at the dinner table. Another teacher’s daughter had hung herself in her kitchen. The daughter was a newly wed who had come home to visit and when her mother left for school and came back in the evening, she was greeted by her daughter’s body hanging from the ceiling. This was years before I saw a Pulitzer prize winning picture of the public self immolation of a Buddhist monk, Thich Quang Duc, who was protesting against the policies of the Vietnamese government.
This was also years before I realized lingering feelings of doom were responsible for teenagers to jump from parking garages, for poor farmers in despair to throw themselves in front of speeding trains, and male students in alarming numbers to find new ways to kill themselves in Ivy league schools where expectations are high and the pressures of perfection from within and from outside sources are high.
Fast forward to 2017, and there’s a trend you don’t want to hear about among teenagers. And that’s the trend of teenagers committing suicide live on camera on social media. Two months ago, I read a story about a girl from Rome, Georgia, Katelyn Nicole Davis, who had hung herself in her front yard and shared a one hour video of her death on Facebook Live. She was 12. The live feed ends when someone searching for her finds the phone.
Here are the last words as she kicked the bucket underneath her legs:
“I’m sorry for everything. Sorry everyone, I’m really sorry. I don’t deserve to live. I’m sorry. I know I’m making an act of selfishness. I am so sorry everyone. I’m sorry. I’m nothing but worthless.”
Signs of suicidal behaviors:
Yesterday at the pool, I overheard my son being teased for not being friends on Instagram with a girl he likes in class. “Give her 48 hours and if she doesn’t accept your friend request, you know what that means?” Was his friend’s observation. My son is 12 and is such a baby that whenever he sees me with a pout at home, to cheer me up he sings, “Are you depressed? Have a peanut butter sandwich. Are you depressed? Have a peanut butter sandwich.”
I told my son last night about how his self confidence cannot be determined by how many friends he has on Instagram or how many likes he has on Facebook. He tells me he understands, which I have no way to validate. Frankly, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter and other horse shit apps like these make me nervous. Teenagers are exchanging cries for help using DMs (direct messaging) on social media sites and they are acting as one another’s therapists. They some times openly post their feelings for everyone else to see, but don’t find the help they need from other children of their own age. Most of these go unreported by other kids who see them, because these children don’t know the significance of such dangerous posts. Here are some posts on public social media profiles of children that were found after their suicides.
“I want to kill myself.”
“If life doesn’t break you today, don’t worry, it will try again tomorrow.”
“I’m not good enough.”
“I’m not going to achieve anything.”
“I don’t know who I’m anymore.”
“I can’t take it anymore.”
How to continue living when you feel suicidal:
* First. Don’t despair when your phone dies. People have lived for 70,000 years before the damn smart phones became mainstream around 2007.
* Second. Don’t die every time you see a great video or a sick dress. Do you know when people die? When they outlive their children. Don’t trivialize death.
* Train yourself to think of what problems you have and to separate those that you really have control over and those that you don’t have absolutely no control over.
* Go to the sauna. Heat makes the brain release Endorphins to numb the pain of “suffering”. Its how you can get high, naturally.
* If anyone has violated you, its they who has to die. Of shame. Not you. Duh.
* Again, if someone has taken a video of you in your most private moments, he’s the one who should die for his actions.
* Broaden your horizons. Remember if science is a necessity, arts are entertainment.
* Don’t just pop pills for your “depression” and “anxiety” diagnosis. Ask how will medicines cure the pain in the brain.
* Meet your triggers head on. What is it? Hatred, bullying, jealousy, death of a loved one?
* Atleast once a day, ask someone, “How are you?” and mean it.
* Look into people’s eyes when you speak, you might see cries for help. You’re not the only one in pain.
* Touch is anthropological. It comes to the rescue when you can’t see visible signs of trauma.
* Atleast once a week, tell someone, “I need help.”
* You are what you eat. Junk food has the four letter word Junk in it. Duh.
* Be mindful: You only have this moment right now.
* Flourish, thrive and prosper on a positive purpose of the mind.
* Breathe, smile, throb. Its the celebration of being alive.
* Cull your emotions, but cultivate your thoughts.
* Thoughts are powerful. Go back to your childhood home and your favorite toy and you can get there in less than a nano second.
* Practice gratitude for the things you have. Subtract what you already have and you’ll be amazed to see the richness of your life.
* You’ve a choice to leave anything that doesn’t give you joy. Even the feeling of hopelessness and being lonely. They really suck.
* Problems never go away, they only build up. But, so does your ability to face them.
* So what if life wants to overwhelm you? Surrender to it with grace. Not timidity. Soak in everything.
* Experience failure. Train yourself to not repeat those mistakes.
* Do you want freedom? F*** what anybody else thinks. Charge on.
* You alone can infuse meaning into your life. Search for what’s larger than yourself.
* There are many ways to get attention. Start by asking what the bigger picture looks like.
* Don’t let anyone or you set unachievable standards for you. Just take a cue from politicians.
* Martin Seligman, the father of positive psychology says that we go into victim mode after a personal tragedy. Here’s how:
a. We PERSONALIZE it, even though we are not necessarily to blame for it.
b. It’s PERVASIVE in all areas of our life, and we can’t not think of it all the time.
c. And we feel it’s PERMANENT, although nothing in life really is.
* Time is all you have, to make that one shot, to make it all better, to achieve your dreams and to move away from all the pain. Don’t take that one thing away from yourself.
Parents and Caregivers:
* Lock your guns! No gun control debate here, this is just a common sense rant.
* Practice compassion. Children need your charity, hint, its not your monies.
* Again. No amount of material possessions will make up for the lack of your mindful presence.
* Preach kindness and walk the talk.
* Please keep an eye on your loved ones. Keep an eye on what their Internet footprint is.
* Don’t think its futile to talk to them. You have to do your duty of planting seeds of great thoughts that will blossom at the right moment. Please.
* Please give your validation, please show your acceptance.
* Think you’ve existential angst or a mid life crisis? Just imagine what your teenager is going through.
* Tell your children that if they see other kids posting inappropriate thoughts, adults need to be alerted to such things.
* Discuss your joys, dreams, fears, concerns and insecurities.
* Don’t throw pills at them and wonder if everything is going to be OK.
* If you see huge changes in your child’s behavior, open up the topic of suicide with them. Nothing is off limits for children who seek thrill in planning and executing clandestine missions.
If you’re depressed, you’re living in the past. If you’re anxious, you’re living in the future. If you’re at peace, you’re living in the present. – Lao Tzu.
* Minimize your social media consumption.
* All those things on your screen that you see happening on Instagram happened because someone’s living an awesome real life.
* Practice meditation. No? OK, atleast practice self compassion.
* You don’t belong here and neither does anyone else.
* You can live with activism in your heart.
* Set goals to dig your way out of pain. Take baby steps.
* Shut sick losers out of your phone, like those who leave nasty comments hiding behind their anonymous social media handles.
* None of our real presence matters, you think social media presence mattered to anything?
* Discuss your joys, dreams, fears, concerns and insecurities.
* Sleep. Sleep. Sleep. What’s the need to be on your phone until 4am?
* No one cares about your decisions anyway. So why not be deliberate about them?
* Always be in self preserve mode. Remember you were born a happy baby.
Serenity Prayer says: ‘God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.’
Adam Maier-Clayton, a Right to die activist from Canada recently committed suicide. He was fighting the legislation to allow mentally ill people to die with dignity. He was finally compelled to kill himself because of chronic unbearable pain and because he couldn’t wait long enough to change the thoughts of law makers. When you see his Twitter profile, you realize how he would reach out to people when he felt lonely.
“Can’t sleep due to pain. Anyone want to talk on audio for a few?”
“Anyone want to Skype for 5min? I’ve barely spoken to anybody all day due to pain.”
On a recent morning, I woke up in sweat and felt anxious about my future. I had been worrying about quitting my job, and about my future and aspirations as a writer, but this is the first time I actually broke into sweats in my sleep for that. My children know about my dream to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. And they ask me “What if, you don’t mom?” questions. Each day, I am getting better, and I’ve come to a place where I can tell them, “Its OK. I will just think, I’ve tried my best. And that’s good enough.”
Still not convinced you can survive this terrible life? Do me a favor and ask your mom to put a bullet in her head before you do yourself harm. No matter what your mom is, an angel or a monster, she will not survive outliving her child. End it for her before you end it all for yourself. Because her heart will tighten in one fraction of a second and explode in the next. You’ll be gone forever and she will have to live with that. Don’t leave her with that unbearable burden of your loss. Note, no note, there’s no solace.
In conclusion, #Dearchild, the world won’t stop because you’re feeling terrible. Its upto you to seek help and pull yourself together. Cheer up!