For some reason, the last few days have made me feel like blasting Ray LaMontagne. I don’t know why. Maybe because his music always makes me feel like he’s responding to some great sadness. Maybe that’s what we need right now.
I’d like to move on from the events of last week but it just doesn’t seem possible. As horrible as it is, I think it’s important to continue talking about this. That’s the one theme I’ve heard repeatedly in the last few days: let’s talk. And I’m glad for that. Because this needs to be talked about. Whether it’s talking about making change to gun control, or change to mental health, or whatever, let’s talk. When bad things happen, I firmly believe that one of the most important methods of coping is to talk. Get those feelings out. Because if they stay inside you, they start to multiply and take over like a virus. And that’s when explosions happen. That’s when those feelings bust out and sometimes it’s dangerous.
I’m not saying this as a psychologist or a therapist or anything. I’m none of those things and I’m not trying to be. I’m just saying this as someone who has experienced the depths of pretty serious depression and I know what personally helped me. And I think it’s something very simple that could help many people especially when we deal as a societal collective with tragedies like this.
What prompted me to write this post is an article I read this morning that had been posted on the New York Daily News website. (Someone had posted it on Facebook.) It was about the killer’s mother, Nancy, and how she had spoken to a friend about how Adam’s depression (and whatever other problems he suffered from) was getting much worse. And the one thing that stuck out to me was this:
““Nancy told me he was burning himself with a lighter. In the ankles or arms or something,” he recalled of a conversation they had about a year ago. “It was like he was trying to feel something.””
“It was like he was trying to feel something.”
That, right there, was what rang a big loud clear bell for me. And I’ll tell you why.
I used to be a self-abuser. A cutter. And this is not a big secret. I will tell anyone who asks the truth and the reasons why. I haven’t cut in a really long time but I feel like there is so much misconception and stigma about self-abusers and people who suffer from depression that whenever this stuff comes up and theories get thrown around I feel like raising my voice and saying something, maybe for all the people out there who don’t want to or can’t say something.
Now, before I go any farther I’m going to say this: not every self-abuser’s experience is the same. And I do not mean to generalize when I say what I am about to say. I just mean to point out what happened to me specifically, as it relates to the situation at hand.
The reason that the line from that article spoke so loudly to me is because when I was cutting, I was doing so because I felt like it was the only way I could feel anything. My depression left me in such a numb state that cutting and self-abusing was the only way for me to feel anything. It was, several times, the only thing that kept me from committing suicide. I recall quite vividly once when I was a freshman in college, driving home from school and feeling like I had to do something or I was going to drive my car off the road. It was a very powerful, physically overwhelming sensation. The thing was, I didn’t necessarily want to kill myself. But that thing inside my head, the depression, was overriding all the things in my head that made sense. So instead of driving off the road and crashing my car into the woods, I one-upped that sensation by digging my fingernails into my arms till they bled. For me (and this is very important, please remember, for me), self-abuse was my method of coping with the depression. Most people I’ve talked to, through no fault of their own, believe that self-abuse is a pre-cursor to suicide. My parents were in this category–and please note that I do not blame them for this. Some people believe that a self-abuser is about to commit suicide. And sometimes, he or she does. But several self-abusers I’ve talked to have said the same exact thing that I felt–it wasn’t a pre-cursor to suicide. It wasn’t a cry for help. I wasn’t ready to ask for help. It was simply a way to feel. Anything. Even if it was pain.
And obviously, when we examine what happened to Adam Lanza and what happened at that school, we have to consider that depression was more than likely not the only thing that he was suffering from. But the fact is that someone was aware of what was happening to him. And for whatever reason, be it denial or money or the healthcare system (I don’t know, so I’m not going to point a finger at any one reason), not enough was done to help him. Sometimes you can’t help people. But it’s the exact reason why I believe it is so important to never be afraid to talk. Talk to anybody. For me, it was talking to my teachers (in high school) and a therapist in college, because that resource was available to me. The more I kept things inside, the worse I got. The feelings and emotions dragged me down like a stone to the bottom of a pond. But when I opened up and talked, those feelings escaped me and gave me buoyancy again. Obviously this does not work for everyone. But not everyone out there has depression–but everyone out there is a member of the human race and we are all in this together.
I wrote about this because it helped me to deal with my depression when I realized I was not the only one. That I was not alone. And so my point in doing this is to hopefully create a space for even maybe just one person to read about my experience and say, “I have felt that too.” My point was to hopefully just reach out to one person out there in the cybersphere and make them realize that they are not alone. Nobody is alone. We are all members of the human race, we are all suffering the human condition. But we do not suffer alone. And so–to get back to my initial point–I hope that by saying all this, it might get that one person out there to talk to another person before they bottle too much inside them and allow it to consume them. My hope is that if people talked more to each other we would realize that nobody’s experience is unique in the grand zeitgeist of the human experience and that maybe someday someone out there will turn to a friend and talk to them about their problems instead of resorting to much worse things.