World Suicide Prevention Day
Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. As one who has literally stood on the brink and looked over the edge, I feel compelled to mark this day and share my story. Below is an exact re-posting of a post from 29 May, 2012, titled It Gets Better and STOP Teenage Suicide.
My last 2 entries in the 30 Days of Truth series got me thinking quite a good deal about the struggles I’ve faced throughout my life, and in particular about how I often felt incredibly lonely, alone, and misunderstood as a teenager. While I am absolutely certain this is true of nearly every teenager on the planet — after all, shifting hormonal levels combined with re-appropriations of neural pathways as the brain circuitry is re-wired is enough to cause frustration in anybody — it is no small secret that teenagers who identify anywhere within the LGBTQ spectrum face more isolation and persecution than any other demographic subset, especially in conservative or fundamentalist countries (or sections of countries, such as the Southeastern United States). A great deal of evidence supports this, but even without the evidence, I know how that struggle feels. As trite and cliche and overused as the phrase may be, I have been there and yes, it does get better.
I am living proof that it gets better. Nor am I alone in this proof. Dan Savage started the It Gets Better Project. At the time of this writing there are 520,703 people who have pledged to support and spread the word about the IGB Project, myself included. This is an absolutely invaluable resource for ANY person within the LGBTQ community who feels lost, alone, isolated, depressed, or in despair. Featured front and center on the site are videos from people who have face the same struggles and found a way through to the other side (no, I am not among that number [yet?]) to find something bigger and brighter. These people were shunned, beaten, persecuted, isolated, excommunicated, and whatnot, but they got through it. They found love and support and happiness. If the videos are not inspirational enough, however, at the top of the page is the link to Get Help, wherein is the number to the Trevor Project along with a drop-down box to select each U.S. State, which results in displaying every available help group and center in the state. Within my current state of Florida there are 49 entries listed!
I’m sure if you’re a teen and you’re still reading this you’re probably wondering what some 30-something sex blogger could possibly know about feeling isolated and alone and scared and depressed as a gay / bi / trans / queer teen. For background, read my entry Growing Up Bisexual. I’ll give you a moment.
Did you get all that? If you skipped it, the tl;dr version is this; I grew up bi/queer in Alabama within a Fundamentalist Christian Air Force family where I was taught that being gay or engaging in any same-sex act for any reason is a sin. I didn’t even come out to my parents until 2 years ago; they still haven’t accepted it. They pull the Christian cliche of “hate the sin, love the sinner” while telling me that they love me even while they can’t accept me. I found my support group among my friends and girlfriend (now fiancee) and in online groups like It Gets Better. Had it not been for them and my stubborn refusal to let other people define who I am, I might still be quietly, shamefully closeted.
It was this shame and isolation and loneliness that very often during my teenage years had me contemplating suicide. There were nights where the pain was so strong and so deep I thought a giant was stepping on my chest. My entire Senior Year I sat alone at lunch, with nobody but my current book for company. None of the other cliques were comfortable with me, nor I with them. The only place in school I ever belonged to a group that entire year was on the soccer field. As soon as the season was over, though, even that ended. Were it not for my girlfriend and our friend from (of all unlikely places) church I would have had nobody that year. I certainly didn’t have my parents.
I wish during those troubled, difficult times for me that a group like STOP Teenage Suicide existed. While I obviously never took that final step, I wanted to. I craved it. I madly, deeply, desperately wanted the pain and agony and suffering to go away. I didn’t know where to turn, or to whom I could turn, for help. I found a way within myself to keep going, and in that I probably do have my Christian upbringing to thank. In the churches I attended I was taught that there is no struggle that cannot be overcome, no burden that cannot be borne, because God will never give somebody more than can be handled. In a way, it’s a very similar attitude to the Buddhist teaching that life is full of pain and struggle and that without the struggle one cannot find happiness. I found my way through the struggle, but not everybody is so lucky without somebody else lending a hand. STOP Teenage Suicide understands this, and on the main page offers a like to Befrienders Find a Helpline. The added benefit of Befrienders is that they offer access to helplines worldwide via both telephone and email.
I am a firm believer in helping out in any way I can to bring others through the struggles I faced alone. I have been incredibly blessed to have found Mrs. AbsinthePassion, who has been encouraging me to understand myself and overcome my demons while always being available for support. I have wept in her lap more times than I can count as I’ve faced the feelings I’ve had buried for years, and dealt with the pain and the hurt and the despair I tried to push aside just so I could keep going. She’s helped me learn to face and overcome myself, something nobody else had ever been able to do. I want to do the same, even if it’s through no other method than providing this page, this story, this catalog of my experiences and thoughts and feelings.
I know it gets better, and hopefully, I can help it get better for you.
Stay SINful, friends.