The little girl sits in her room, her face illuminated by a screen, the room dark apart from this one square of light. She plays melodic, dramatic songs, songs you’d never hear on the top 40 or on the commute to work. Her slim figure is drowned in an enormous black hoodie, the sleeves of which cover her hands down to her fingers, revealing chipped and bitten nail polish. In all senses, the girl is no different to any other thirteen year-old, holed up in her bedroom, connecting with the internet world far more than her real world. It’s what teenagers do, so they say.
But this thirteen year-old is still a little girl and she’s researching suicide.
The year is 2005. Mental health is still kept firmly behind closed doors, along with sexuality and gender identity. The term ‘suicide’ is usually only spoken of by mentally healthy people, commenting on the selfishness of the act as if the decision was an easy one and not a last resort out of desperation. The little girl knows this, because she has heard her mother make such comments, and that is why she conducts her research alone in her room. She knows, because the world has told her, that she is being incredibly selfish, but she has to disagree. The world will be a much better place once she has checked out of it.
I watch this little girl look at pictures of gunshot victims, of people run over by trains, of souls hanging from their cupboards with their eyes bloodshot and glazed and I want to smack my hands over her eyes and pull her away before the images can sink in. I want to shield her from these images, to keep her from the sadness that perpetuates the world, even though she is now aware of it to such depths, they horrify me. I look over her shoulder as she looks up the success rates for hanging, slit wrists and overdoses and I think, you are a child, what are you doing, why is there no one to save you?
Because nobody knows. Nobody can know because depression is shameful, suicide is shameful and you cannot be seen as selfish, as inflicting your pain on others, because what a horrible person that will make you.
So I kneel down beside this child and I turn her desk chair towards me. I grip hands that I’d forgotten had been so tiny once. I run my thumbs over bare fingers, where one day I will have rings to symbolise my marriage and the birth of my daughter. I look deep into her eyes, eyes that haven’t seen the wonders I have seen, and tell her the honest truth. She has yet to read her favourite book, hear her favourite song or see her favourite movie. Chances are I haven’t either, but that potential is there, isn’t that exciting? I tell her the world extends far beyond the four walls of her bedroom. I explain that one day she will understand; that her brain is trying to process things too great for it, beyond its potential, but it will grow and it will develop and it will understand. I grip her hands and I promise her that, one day, she will outgrow her mother and will be confident enough to make a stand, to talk about mental health without shame and to stare down anybody who dares to label it as selfish. I swear that, with time, she will understand what has happened to her and she will regain her power and realise she was not defeated then and she will not be defeated now.
I tell her with absolute confidence that, in life, everything is temporary and in death, everything is permanent.
I hold her frail body close, remember the times when my shoulders were as narrow as my hips; a body of a child with a brain desperately trying to figure out things that baffle adult minds. I turn the computer screen off and nudge her away from the desk and promise, with the certainty of one who has walked this path before, that all she has to do is get through tonight, for tomorrow will take care of itself.
Additional Info; In case you didn’t guess (you probably did), this is a ‘sort of’ letter to my own 13 year-old self and what I wish I could do/say to her.