A few years ago I attended a talk by Kay Redfield Jamison, author of Night Falls Fast, a scholarly study of the phenomenon of suicide. She was adamant that all our silence was a large contribution to the ongoing pandemic. Her contention was that if we will talk about it with honesty and empathy we increase the chance of it not happening to somebody we know.
7 Jan 11
I've had a saved draft on this topic somewhere, uncertain if I should publish it. I wrote it a few days ago because I was very inspired by the community at Quora. Yes, there's a topic dedicated to Suicide at Quora, supported by a honest, open community, which gave me some hope that perhaps the society is progressing.
Today, I choose to rewrite this topic from scratch.
I believe in signs, and I was actually deciding not to publish my previous draft, because I was unsure if I was ready to cope with the repercussions. Today, in my twitter stream, I discovered this link through a tweet:
That blog post was written because of another suicide note:
I knew it was time for me to write this, regardless whether people will read, react badly to it, etc.
I think it is the fear of all that judgement, all that unwillingness to share one's deepest, darkest feelings, that is pushing so many people to the brink of despair. I've been very open on this blog so far, but depression and suicide are two themes in my life that I am unwilling to elaborate on. I am in full support of maintaining an online persona that is as authentic as possible, but it is still pretty scary to have people googling my name and finding blog posts on topics like these. There's plenty of repercussions, especially professionally, but I shall have faith – if I cannot even make myself write openly about this, what are the chances of society becoming more accepting and sensitive to others who're in more extreme scenarios?
I'm no longer suicidal, but that's because I was one of the luckier ones. I went through my own spiritual, self-discovery journey, I've met several key figures who were empathetic and supportive. That doesn't mean I've stopped thinking and feeling it. Not wanting to act on it anymore doesn't take the feelings away. Not at least for me. I still go through swings when instead of wanting to kill myself, I think about whether is it possible to remove my existence permanently. If re-incarnation was possible, I would have liked to opt out, thank you.
If you ask me, what is it exactly that is causing me to feel this way? For the record, I wasn't physically abused (emotionally perhaps). I did spend a lot of my younger years having a very low self-worth and feeling rejected by everybody because I couldn't seem to fit into the mainstream. I've always felt (ever since I could remember my feelings) that I didn't belong. But for me, ultimately it wasn't "why should I kill myself", but rather, "why should I live?".
All these were not particularly triggered by any major life events. I simply remember being particularly melancholic since I was a toddler. It would seem I was born with these feelings. Uncontrollable spasms of despair. Not wanting to be involved in the evolutionary process. What is it in it for me? I'm not attracted to power as a human being, from a spiritual perspective, levelling up through lifetimes of lessons doesn't sound very enthralling either. They say it is all about Love. Though it is not easy to convince yourself of that when everything just seems so much of a struggle.
Is it a biological chemical imbalance? Or was I one of those alien souls who found life on earth especially hard (yeah roll your eyes lol)? I have no answers. Just like I have no definite answers why I keep feeling this way. Sometimes I imagine having everything life could give me and I am not so sure if I'll stop feeling this way.
I found some solace in meeting random people who felt the same way. I was very comforted by all the survivor stories I've read on Quora, saddened by those who couldn't make it. Everyone has their own time and space to move through life. Not everybody is ready to receive help from the outside world. But if they are, shouldn't we provide a better platform for them to receive help?
I have started contributing answers to questions on suicide at Quora, all I want to do is to provide a personal perspective to it. When you have never experienced depression or suicidal tendencies before, it is difficult to provide empathy to someone else going through this. The last thing we want to hear is, "pick yourself up", "things can only get better", "get medical help"...etc. What I would personally find helpful, is to hear from others who have been through the same before, in order to gain that small tiny thread of hope, that perhaps, one day, we may be able to pull ourselves out of it. We want people who would truly understand the depths of darkness, not just anybody looking in from the outside, sitting on a cushion asking you to get over it.
There are people trying to seek some form of understanding why their friends or loved ones are suicidal (Some sadly have already made the final decision). I can't describe how it is to actually hear from people who were going through the same. That is one of the best support you can get. True empathy.
Sharing experiences is one of the greatest ways you can give back to society, I believe. Just like a mentor to the student, a mother to a child. Or vice versa. I would say that could be one of the greatest attributes of humankind, imagine how much progress we can make if all of us can be unselfish and open to sharing knowledge.
I am digressing a little as usual. I find it very comforting to read similar experiences, very moved when people find my answers helpful. I cannot be sure that everyone would appreciate whatever I have to say, but all I want to do is to give my best. That would be enough for me.
It is in the same spirit which had probably triggered others to do the same. I am amazed at the amount and quality of contribution to a topic like this. It seems like there is progress in lessening the stigma.
From the awesome community at Quora (you need to be a member):
- If I'm not happy with life, should I commit suicide?
- Why do successful people commit suicide sometimes?
If we could all become a little more unselfish, authentic and less judgmental, perhaps that person feeling that much despair may be less afraid to share his/her feelings, and perhaps death wouldn't be that attractive an option.
Perhaps if Bill Zeller could find that single bit of courage to open up a little bit earlier, he could have found others who have gone through similar and found ways to survive, perhaps, just perhaps, it could give him a little light at the end of the tunnel. Perhaps.
1 May 09
I have avoided writing about the anti-gay sentiments put out by the new AWARE executive committee (exco) because I feel that being in support of the old guard has nothing got to do about anti-gay vs pro-gay, but about women's rights in general. Till I got increasingly disturbed by their anti-gay statements, which I cannot put in words exactly how disturbed I feel to be reading the comments made by them.
They say we are very often abused by our fathers
This was one of the most disturbing ones:
"On a personal front, I've given ministered, I've counselled them. So you need to understand I'm not talking about... They are in pain. And very often...where you have abusive fathers, they do things with their daughters and the daughters revolt, rebel against society. We understand this is what it's all about." – Dr Thio Su Mien
Excuse me?! My father is one of the nicest men you will ever meet and he will feel very personally insulted and hurt to read this. I seriously do not think this self-proclaimed 'feminist mentor' should be even allowed to speak in public with all the insulting rubbish she is spouting.
I cannot decide whether I am petrified or amused that such narrow and un-evolved minds exist in women who had been highly educated and possess high-flying careers. These are the very same women who now want to fight for gender equality.
So, according to the new exco, led by 'feminist mentor' Thio Su Mien, me and my peace-loving, society-contributing gay community are criminals, abnormal, wicked, anti-family – basically in their eyes we do not seem to warrant a place in society, supposed to be abused and in pain.
The consequences & implications
Speaking from the bottom of my heart, I really wonder if they have considered all the implications and consequences before making such statements and having such beliefs? Is there even an absolute truth in anything? Did they even consider the feelings of people like us, or even the youth who are confused about their sexuality? To be marginalised and criminalised in this manner, to be made to feel as though as we do not belong anywhere, have they even stopped to think for a second if they may be causing a lot of hurt?
Supposing if they win the EOGM, and the possibility that the new sex education material is made to reflect homosexuality as a negative word, would there be a possibility that young, talented, confused minds will be driven to depression, or even suicide? What about influencing young minds into being homophobic individuals, subjecting their 'abnormal' peers to gay-bashing and discrimination?
Brainwash people to be gay?
I did not have an abusive father, sorry to disappoint Dr Thio, I do not remember having sex education in my school days, and homosexuality in my era was largely a taboo subject. There were no gay films, no gay propaganda, no media reporting on homosexuality, almost zilch.
Having no gay 'influence' when I was young did not stop me from falling in love with another girl. For me personally, for many of my gay friends, being gay has nothing much to do with preference for bedding the same sex. It is as simple as falling in love with another person. We just don't feel the same for the opposite sex, does that make us less of a human?
Why can't the new exco and paranoid parents simply realise that presenting homosexuality in a neutral perspective does not brainwash your precious kid into being gay? If your kid is gay, even if the poor kid is blocked off the entire media will do nothing much to change how he/she feels. You can probably threaten to disown the kid, make her/him marry someone, have kids, but do you even know how much more pain and suffering that causes for the person and the people involved? What about the marriage partner who was deceived into believing that their partner loves him/her?
The reverse is also true, if your kid is not gay, no amount of external influence can change that as well. I have plenty of straight friends who loves going to gay parties, watch gay films, hang out with gay people, but they would still rather be with the opposite sex. There is a healthy mutual respect, a mutual respect which would be in danger for the youth if the new exco manages to have their way.
I am proud to be who I am. I am in a committed relationship with a partner who loves me more than anything in this world, despite and in spite of my flaws; and I feel the same way for her. We are both doing our best for the causes we believe in – animal welfare and environmentalism. We like to give our time to stray animals whenever possible, she recycles everything that can possibly be recycled. We are not well off, but we are contented with what we have and are both working very hard to pursue our individual dreams. She has been my pillar of support, I would not be where I am today if not for her. Yet, according to Dr Thio, the new exco and their church, we should both seek cures (read an example of their supposed cure program). We have done nothing wrong except to love each other with our hearts, yet in the eyes of the new exco, we are dysfunctional and really need to repent.
I am lucky. My parents accept me for the person I am, we go out all together for family outings and occasions. My mom asks about my partner if she could not be present for some reason. I am out to everyone who knows me personally. I never had a friend who ended our friendship upon knowing I am gay. In fact, I never really had someone dear to me shake their heads in sadness and look at me with pity or distaste, but the harsh reality is, there are plenty of people who are subject to such discriminatory and hurting behavior.
Being in the minority has allowed me to be sensitive to other minorities. From my very own spiritual perspective, I see it as a blessing. I feel the pain and hurt when people exhibit discriminative behavior towards other minorities, be it the foreign workers, other races, etc. In fact, in many parts of the world, Asians are being discriminated upon as well. I do not feel it is fair to discriminate anybody if you do not want to be discriminated upon as well.
I deliberated for a very long time whether I should write this post. Like I mentioned previously, I am out to everyone who knows me personally, but I have never mentioned anything about my sexuality on my own websites, because the possibility of being judged by business associates and clients. I do not think that it is fair to be judged if people do not have the chance to get to know me personally first. That is the precise point I am trying to make. It is not fair to make a sweeping statement representative of gay people if you have not personally experienced their personal lives and relationships.
Yet I eventually decided to write this post, just like how I decided to out myself to everyone I know when I was in my youth, because I believe people will accept me for the person I am and not base it on my sexuality. People who make pre-judgments would not really appreciate me for me anyway.
Lack of empathy
I do not think the new AWARE exco has once stopped to put themselves in the shoes of gay people, or in the shoes of those parents who have gay children. They simply do not understand or empathise and is only concerned on their own selfish agenda of doing things THEIR right way.
Think about those teens who are already confused about their sexuality prior to this whole AWARE saga and take a moment to imagine how they would feel now. Take their adolescent sensitivity into consideration, their pain of not being accepted by society and the people they love, and being labelled as abnormal, disgusting, and other tons of negative words the new exco and their church have used.