On the Other Side of Silence

 “Almost half of all Americans will develop some form of mental illness during their lifetime. That’s according to a landmark study published this week by the National Institute of Mental Health. And at least half of those will begin to show signs of the disease by age 14. The study also suggests that minorities are more likely to go untreated. That could be because of the stigma often attached to mental illness by people of color.” – Ed Gordon, NPR

Suicidal ideation is no joking matter. I was reminded of this when pictures of Chester Bennington flooded all my social media timelines today. Dead at 41 due to suicide by hanging.

I’m not going to sit here and tell you I was the biggest Chester Bennington fan you will ever meet. That is false. I didn’t even know the name of the lead singer of Linkin Park.

I was, however, very familiar with the band. They served as the soundtrack for a lot of my teen angst years. Linkin Park, Something Corporate, Taking Back Sunday, Goo Goo Dolls and other miscellaneous alternative rock bands (My taste in music is surprisingly eclectic. Don’t be fooled by my ability to rap through most classic rap songs and croon through old school bachatas)

I’ll never forget when Jay-Z and Linkin Park collaborated to mash up two genres of music I never thought possible. (Emphasis on the I as it was brought to my attention that Aerosmith and DMC did it first.) Numb meets Encore. They made history.

Through his music, Chester Bennington helped create an outlet and space for people to feel without apologies or explanations. It is clear to see through the outpouring of love and nostalgia from posts and articles that his memory will not be forgotten soon. It’s unfortunate that this same love and nostalgia couldn’t save him in his darkest moments.

Let it be a reminder to us that the living appreciate flowers more than the dead.

I’ve also seen a lot of messages acknowledging how real depression is. That’s dope. We should talk about that more. About the realness and prevalence of anxiety, depression and other mental health issues – especially in communities of color. Talking about it will make it less taboo. And if more people would be honest about the demons they are facing, fewer people would feel so alone.

I don’t remember having conversations about mental health growing up. Going to therapy was the white thing that characters did on TV while laying on a stiff, brown leather couch across from a professional in glasses. Therapists always wear glasses.

I do remember very explicit teachings, sometimes biblical and other times cultural, about what was appropriate and acceptable. I remember being placed in a compact, metal box of moral absolutes and told that that’s where I belonged if I wanted to be a good girl. There was no room for thinking or living outside of the box – unless it was done in silence.

And that silence – that space outside of the cramped, sterilized metal box of appropriate and acceptable – that’s where people usually end up killing themselves. Removed from all they are familiar with and terrified to reach out for help because they didn’t follow directions or Holy Scripture. Some die abruptly and tragically. Others die one idea at a time.

I like to think that we don’t have to wait until we try and kill ourselves to ask for help.

I also like to think that there is a way for to live outside of the box  – a way to love yourself, all of you, even the parts that you’ve only lived in silence. I sit across from my therapist to try and figure it out sometimes. She doesn’t wear glasses.

P.S. I’m going to sound like the only infomercial right now, but if you or someone you know suffers of suicidal ideation – CREATE A WRITTEN SAFETY PLAN!!! I cannot stress the importance of a written document created to remind you of what you have to live for and who you can reach out to when your darkness overcomes your light, when you feel too paralyzed to reach out.

Here is a link to a safety plan template provided by the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.

**This is essay 23 in the #52essays2017 challenge created by Vanessa Mártir.


2 thoughts on “On the Other Side of Silence

  1. Thank you for this one Nia. You are shedding light over a concept that is held in the darkness. A topic that can bring a knot to your throat and sweat to your palms but you were able to talk about allowing your readers to connect once again.

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