When I was nineteen years old, my ex-boyfriend committed suicide. He was always a bit of a colourful character – clinical genius in his own right, introverted, loved breakbeat and trance music, adventure, and good food and beer. He was awkward as all hell at the best of times, which I totally related to. He often turned to drugs as a way of dealing with his awkwardness. We were still friends after we broke up, and I spent a lot of time hanging out and watching British comedy (like Black Books) with him as a way of hopefully helping him out of his shell. As they say, laughter is always the best medicine, but it was only ever a short term fix.
I remember breaking down after I heard the news – I received a text halfway through my first date with a new boyfriend (Pink Floyd experience – dating like a boss), but my night was ruined. I went through all the motions – sadness, emptiness, anger, guilt, hysteria, more guilt, more anger, aggression, even more sadness… It was the oddest sensation because I often felt like he was still there – watching my every move, trying to tell me something, but I could never figure out what.
Since then, I’ve dedicated a good chunk of my life committed to helping others – whether it’s offering a shoulder to cry on, lending money when times are tight, or writing music about believing in yourself and your self worth, or holding on when times are tight. My band Static Era are about to release a new song next month on this very topic, in fact.
New Zealand has the highest rate of youth suicide (between 12 and 25) in the world. Statistically, the more “at risk” are our young Maori and Pacific island boys. The next highest is our middle aged Pakeha men. This information staggered me – but on the other hand, it makes total sense. We live in a community that celebrates staunchness and strength. “It’s lonely at the top” celebrates the concept of relying 100% on only yourself. Our “She’ll be right” attitude brushes off pain, suffering and everyday problems by essentially ignoring their existence. But “Want a cup of concrete?” (my favourite one) is the worst. Instead of acknowledging that sometimes life is actually just really fucking hard, we add to the pressure with the idea that whoever is in a bit of a funk not only is on their own to battle their demons, but they lack the strength to deal with them. Add to this the societal pressures of having to dress right, having the right body type to appease the affections of the opposite gender (or same gender, as the case may be), earning enough money to satisfy the materialistic goals the media places on us, having the “good enough” job to make our parents proud…
No wonder so many people aren’t coping. That’s a buttload of pressure to put on ourselves.
Granted, these are only my opinions – the forever forming ideas that are shaping and molding and changing form everyday as I discuss more with those around me – but here’s my thoughts. We need to stop being so tough. We need to love more. We need to love each other more. We need to give each other strength, and allow ourselves to accept strength from others. Life is not a race, or a competition – not really. And if it IS a competition, aren’t team entries a lot more enjoyable than competing alone?
If you’re struggling, or feeling things are a bit out of kilter, there’s NOTHING more empowering than reaching out for help – and getting it. We tell ourselves that vulnerability is a curse, but my personal opinion is that’s where the strength comes from. If you can admit you need something, you’re allowing yourself an opportunity to learn, grow, and obtain that something. Win/Win/Win. Even better; if you feel like you can’t ask your friends or family for help, there’s FREE organizations in New Zealand who are there specifically to help! Lifeline, Youthline, 0800 What’s Up – all incredibly rad organizations doing incredibly rad things for us.For you. For me.
So why am I writing this? Yesterday I found out one of my good friends’ daughter committed suicide on Sunday night. She is an extraordinary woman who gives a lot of her time and energy to others, and her daughter had a gorgeous soul. Sometimes those souls need more light. So as of today, I’d like to encourage everyone reading this to be that light. If you see someone who’s not coping so well, don’t be afraid to hold out your hand and offer support – or if you’re that person needing a bit of balance, don’t be afraid to look for, or accept that support.
And embrace the bullshit life can throw at us – it makes great fertilizer to grow your own garden with.