During the last few days, I have been exploring the darker side of the internet, specifically Instagram. Hashtags can take you on a journey. My journey led me to #suicide. There I found a difficult mixture of images and captions. While some were images tagged simply to increase viewership, most were tagged with the honest pain you feels when you are suicidal, when mental illness has gone too far and led you to believe that you are worthless and that life will never get better for you.
These young people are often called "Attention Seekers" because they post images of self-harm or threaten suicide often. While that may be true about some of the posters, I will not be the one to make that call. You never know who is truly in pain and how they are going to react to it. Sharing such things may be the only way they can think of to reach out. Many of the posters say that they feel a fellowship with others on the social networking sites that they cannot find in the real world. #SecretSociety123 is a not-so-secret society of young people who have suicidal ideations.
While some of the posters promote and support diseased behaviors such as cutting and restricting food, others find a way through the haze of mental illness to truly support and strengthen each other.
Some individuals create Instagram accounts specifically to spread support and messages of hope.Reading and viewing these Instagram posts that were filled with so much pain brought back memories of those feelings. Hopelessness, Self-hatred, Despair. I decided to do what I could to be a voice of reason among the tide of negative messages.
I did what I could to navigate the darkness and find the individuals who seemed to truly be lost. I wrote messages encouraging them to get professional help, but I know so many are too stubborn to do so. I wrote that I waited almost fifteen years too long before I asked for help and how I wished I had done so sooner. I wrote about my recovery journey, that it takes hard work and often a helping hand, but that it was possible. Happiness is possible. I shared coping skills and hope. I reminded them that suicide is not the only option to end pain, nor is it the best one as it eliminates the possibility of being happy again. Some told me that no one would listen or that everyone thought that they were okay. I told them that sometimes because our problems overwhelmed our very being that we forget that those we love cannot always see what we're going through, even if we think it's obvious. Sometimes you have to talk, shout, or scream until they see. And some people will never understand, but there is someone in your life who will and you shouldn't give up until you find them. You are not alone.
I spent many hours writing message after message last night. I didn't even realize how the time flew by. I have no idea how many messages I sent. I knew many would fall on deaf ears. Sometimes we are not ready to hear that our pain can end. Sometimes we hold on to our pain as if it were a life jacket when in reality it is a anchor pulling us down. In the morning, I found messages of thanks on my phone that I did not expect. Individuals reaching out to me. There were not many, but I was touched by what there was. I did not expect anything but indignant responses but I received none of those. I know I didn't change any lives with a few hours of messaging but I do hope that I planted a seed. A seed of hope.
(I encourage anyone else who feels up to sharing their experiences to speak out. Write a blog, post on Facebook, go on Instagram and #suicide [Warning: this hashtag and others like it sometimes display disturbing images] and spread the word that recovery and happiness is possible! What better use for our painful pasts than to help inspire others that life can get better. And you don't have to be a mental illness warrior to let someone know they are not alone and that they matter.)