I am from the Philippines, one of the most conservative countries in Asia and maybe even the world. We’re still a long way away from legalization of gay marriage–heck, we can’t even implement a law that is designed to help women. It is no surprise then that things like depression and suicide and self-harm are topics that are considered taboo. But we have to talk about these things, because we have a lot more to lose if we don’t.
Let’s go straight to the point then.
In the past few days, I’ve gotten a record total of five out-of-nowhere, late-night troubling phone calls from five different people talking about being on the verge of suicide or self-harm. One of them even sent me a photo of her wrist, bleeding from a self-inflicted cut. These are my friends, people I care about. And all I could do was to whisper platitudes and cliches, because I really had no idea what to do or what to say.
I wasn’t aware my number had become the new suicide hotline, but here’s what I say to all of you: it is never a good idea to check out early. Put down the razor blades and the pills, and how about we go for a pleasant jog or something? Maybe go out for ice cream, or go ice-skating together?
Happy thoughts, people. You have your youth, your minds, and your limbs. Don’t throw everything away. Pick yourselves up and come up with pragmatic solutions to your problems. Don’t just settle on becoming some sob story the world exploits and then forgets a month later. Don’t give those that hurt you that satisfaction. Empower yourself and make something positive and passionate out of your story.
There’s still time for that while you’ve still got a pulse.
Suicide and self-harm is not entirely new to me. My first experience with it was back in high school. A friend called me in the middle of the night, telling me that his life isn’t worth living, that he’s just being a burden to those around him. His words will stay with me forever. What he said, word for word, was: “Who cares? No one will miss me.”
Fortunately, I managed to talk him out of it and he is now living a full and happy life. He’s a college graduate, he has a gorgeous girlfriend, and he’s one of the most committed people in the company he works in. Happy ending.
But I can’t say the same for all the other people who feel as my friend did that fateful night. Suicide and self-harm are very, very serious problems–so serious, in fact, that if you type ‘suicide’ into Tumblr’s search box, you’d get this as the top result:
For those wondering, Tumblr’s Counseling and Prevention Resources page is here.
Once you scroll down Tumblr’s #suicide tag, you’ll get a taste of how sad the world is. You’ll see stories of bullying, of people trying to get away from it all, people who are contemplating suicide because it’s better than what they have to go through everyday. Because it’s better than being depressed.
There’s that word again. Depressed. Depression. As far as I can see, people don’t have a very good idea of what depression is. Most of them think of it as sadness, as a general feeling. It’s associated with dark clothes and long hair. But that’s not it. People are wrong. Depression is the constant feeling of being numb. Being numb to emotions, being numb to lies. You wake up in the morning just to go back to bed again. Days aren’t really days, they are just annoying obstacles that need to be faced. And how do you face them? Through medication, through drinking, through smoking, through drugs, through cutting. When you’re depressed, you grasp onto anything that can get you through the day. That’s what depression is. Not sadness, or tears. It’s the overwhelming sense of numbness and the desire for anything that can help you make it from one day to the next.
Once you understand that, it’s not surprising why some people just give up.
This is another thing I love about Tumblr. If you check the #suicidehelp tag, or some variant of it, you see all these attempts by users to help other users who are depressed and who are suicidal. It’s one of the good sides of the Internet. It makes people feel like they are part of a community, a family, a society separate from the reality that they have to face when they log off. And they care about each other, genuinely.
You also see these success stories, people who made it through. Shane Koyczan, someone who was once bullied and now devotes himself to helping others see that it gets better, has a word for people who live through it all. He calls them graduates, members of class ‘We Made It’.
If you don’t believe me, maybe you’d believe Shane Koyczan. He writes poems and makes videos to help people who are depressed and who are thinking about hurting themselves. This is my favorite one:
I think my favorite line from that would have to be: “If you can’t see anything beautiful about yourself, go get a better mirror. Look a little closer. Stare a little longer. Because something inside you made you keep trying, despite everyone who told you to quit.“
I know that’s hard to see right now, and I know it’s hard to go through it alone. And you shouldn’t have to. There will always be someone there, right beside you, who’s willing to help. You might not notice them at first glance, but they’re there. It might be a friend, a family member, a counselor–someone who knows what you’re going through and who’s willing to listen.
If you can’t find one, or if you’re scared that people around you might judge you if you told them what you’re feeling, there are other options. If you’re somewhere in the United States, this should help:
If you’re in the Philippines, like me, professional help might be harder to come by, for several reasons. For one, you’re in the Philippines, where some of the most judgmental assholes live. Also, we don’t really have the best infrastructures, being a developing country and all. But that doesn’t mean there’s no help available.
According to this Rappler article, “The Natasha Goulbourn Foundation has a depression and suicide prevention hotline to help those secretly suffering from depression. The numbers to call are 804-4673 and 0917-558-4673. Globe and TM subscribers may call the toll-free number 2919. More information is available on its website. It’s also on Twitter @NGFoundationPH and Facebook.”
But of course, not everyone wants to talk to a stranger on the phone about their innermost problems.
I don’t know if there are suicide hotlines where you can just chat. I hope there are, it only seems logical. But, at the moment, I can’t find any, so I give you the next best thing that I can offer: myself. If you ever need to talk, about anything, anything at all, talk to me. You can contact me through any of these avenues, day or night, 24/7. If you’re in the Philippines, drop a comment here and I can give you my mobile number. If you’re on Tumblr, you can talk to me anonymously via my ask box. You can message me on Facebook, DM me on Twitter. Talk to me, I am all ears.
If that’s a bit too much for you at the moment, maybe you could use some cheering up while you decide what to do (hint: talk to me). For those in dire need of virtual hugs, you can go here. If you need to be reminded of the little things that make life worth living, go here. For those who need to calm down, I recommend this site. Just pop on your earphones and meditate. If you need a dose of cuteness, go here. I find fuzz therapy to be quite remarkable when having bad days. If you just need some down time and a quiet place, go here. If you’re disgruntled, this might help.
See, it’s not all that bad, is it?
Also, if you’re someone who has a friend who’s been talking about harming himself or herself, or even attempting suicide, feel free to talk to me too. Together, we might be able to help them. In the meantime, you can check out these links: this link, this link, this link, and this link.
Happy thoughts. Happy thoughts.