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The Narrative Of Being Sad

When Netflix released Thirteen Reasons Why, it was understandably met with mixed reactions- people either lauding it for pursuing further conversation about suicide, or upset at the producers for romanticizing mental illness. To some, it became an intensely triggering experience. I read the book for a class in High School and we had a class discussion about mental illness afterwards— the good kind. The kind where you could start to imagine other people might actually care about you.

As a suicide survivor and someone who has struggled with mental illness for close to a decade, I appreciate that the conversation is finally evolving into something with the potential to be an agent of change. But at this moment we are fixated on the wrong thing.

All the sad kids like me don’t need to see more sad kids like me. We can look around and see that every single day of our lives. I’ve had six friends that’ve taken their own lives; more than a dozen that have been seriously addicted to one destructive substance or another; friends with severe traumas or disorders- and while that seems a seriously chaotic existence, it’s not unusual.

I’m not unique in these experiences, and that’s the frustrating thing— we are already inundated with not just depictions of those struggles but also real-life traumas as well. I don’t need to see more depressed people on TV, I don’t need more songs about depressed teenagers, that doesn’t do much for me anymore.

I Never Imagined Living Longer Than 23

Two months ago, during a severe depressive episode, I found myself unable to get out of bed. I laid there and cried until my throat was hoarse and my chest was sore— until I was numb. I stayed like this, for three days. It was the music that pulled me out of this pit— Vinnie Paz started the opening verse of Razorblade Salvation with:

Mommy I’m sorry if my first letter made you cry
To be honest with you I don’t think that I wanna die
Sometimes I feel like that I’m cancerous in others lives
That’s prolley why I drink at night and sleep till 4 or 5
It’s kinda hard walking through life with my distorted eyes
When I was younger I was stupid and I thought I thrived
I thought a lot about everything I said in the letter
And questioned whether or not if I was dead you’d be better

I felt that. I knew he had been in my shoes; I had written that same letter to my mother. My introduction into his world was one of brutal honesty. He had nothing to hide, these were the things at the back of his closet. By the time he got to the last verse of Razorblade Salvation he had me believing in some kind of tomorrow:

You ain’t raised me to be a liar ma’ that’s not my thing
I told him that I’d hold him down the whole time that he gone
They kept him locked in a cage but that’s cool ’cause he’s strong
So mommy keep that first letter I wrote you on the low
I think I wanna stay alive and see if I can grow

The sad boys like me don’t need to see other sad boys, we need to see the sad grown-ups, the forty year old mothers and fathers. The thirty-two year olds finally moving into the heavy parts of life. The old folks too— because we need to know that we can survive the sadness. That even though it might keep going and going, we are capable of weathering the storm.

I never imagined living longer than 23 or 24, because I had never seen anyone like that represented in a way for me to relate to, or look towards; so Vinnie Paz suddenly became very important to me for the reason that he represented the potential of survival, even on days when I didn’t believe it to be possible. We don’t need more Thirteen Reasons Whys. And we need less songs about falling in love with other people and more songs about falling in love with ourselves; less movies about victory and more about survival.

 

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