it gets better

Why Death Isn’t The Escape You Need by Iwundu Wisdom

When we’re faced with something unpleasant, we make the first move by finding a way to push it away or we then find a way to put an end to it. There are always options and it’s a choice we make to either face it or run. Sometimes, unfortunately, our choices are more unpleasant than the circumstance itself.

It’s very common to hear of teens (especially teen girls) who end their lives because their love interests broke up their relationship. And only last week, I heard again, from news coming out of the radio, of a teen girl who subjected herself to “eternal freedom” because she wasn’t careful enough not to get pregnant. I wouldn’t lie. When I used to first hear these things, my quick response was to shun their decisions and criticize their actions, even going as judgmental as calling them stupid.

But I notice I quickly forget that there was a point in my life when I, too, wanted to end it all, wanted to escape from the noise and quick-moving demands of time, wanted to be in a place that’s timeless, where there’s total peace and calm and I knew only death could give me that. We all may have entertained such thoughts in maybe varying degrees and forms and most of the time, they’re unjustifiable. I think now as I should have thought then: If I could think these thoughts when I hit an emotional low that’s not too uncommon, how much more then if I was given the very reason to seek this escape?

For anyone to seriously consider suicide, they must have believed they’ve hit rock bottom (and many very well have) and I think there’s a saying that goes like, “when you’ve hit rock bottom, the only way to go is up”. But potential suicides look up and see not the tiniest glimpse of light or hope but a sea of faces and endless tradition hovering over, waiting to ridicule, judge and condemn. When they look at the end of the tunnel, they see light; not daylight, but the dazzling glare of a train barreling in on them. And some, because they have an idea what they might see, do not even look up and are quick to seek the emancipation they believe death could grant them. We cannot blame them. Yes, we cannot.

Some time ago, following press reports about the suicides of gay teenagers subjected to bullying in their school, I looked around the web and found the initiative of Dan Savage, a sex advice columnist, very appealing. Dan organized a series of videos centred on the theme of “It Gets Better“. The message is obvious. I may never know what it feels like to be gay, but I do know what it is to be a teen and what it feels like to carry suicidal thoughts.

Maybe before we begin to condemn the next suicide, we should consider firsthand if things could have turned out better had that suicide had someone whom he is certain would hold his hands and tell him “it gets better”. Because it really gets better. Because those sea of faces aren’t going to be up there forever. Because what it takes to turn a circumstance completely around could be just a moment, an hour, a day or a year. However long, it gets better.

I have this uncanny whim to look into the eyes of every teen and tell them boldly that it gets better. It’s wrong to assume that death could bring peace, and it’s also wrong to assume you understand death, because no one does. Death could be an endless silence with opaque depth or it could be something completely darker than our imagination could ever permit. But death is definitely not the answer. Killing yourself as an end to your predicament only closes one more venue of brightness and cuts short a bright purpose.

I imagine you must have fallen in love with a cluster of stars dotting a night sky. Now, imagine if each of those stars, one after the other, decides to retreat and dim into oblivion, what’d be left of the beauty of the sky? Nothing. Emptiness. Just an endless roll of grey and black.

That’s what happens to someone else’s life when you decide to end yours. It’s what I feel when I hear of yet again another person who has ended his life. It’s one brightness forever dimmed. It’s one light forever engulfed in darkness.

Death posing as escapist is as deceptive as it is damning. I believe anyone who’s ever been unconscious or sedated has, at least, had a glimpse into what death may look like and early in January, I underwent a major surgical operation. My bowels had been obstructed and my stomach was hastily distending for eight days before protocol was duly settled and I was taken into the theatre. Somewhere amid the dizzying light and less-than-comforting verbal prodding, I lost it; the ability to see or feel or do anything at all. Of course, it was the anaesthetic that induced the anterograde amnesia (the inability to form new memories) but those seven hours of been in the “twilight state” has firmly inspired my belief in the stark finality of death and the endless emptiness that comes with it. There’s no remembrance, no will, no sensation. It’s just emptiness, that emptiness that takes away knowledge and everything you’ve ever known. It’s important to note that I wasn’t unconscious in that theatre, though, I was only sedated, but looking at the more common form of semi-consciousness, that is sleep, I think we can draw a surmise about the numbness of this thing called death.

Now it’s tempting to believe this could be the total freedom, the certain escape from all the ridicule and shame that are believed to follow actions that prompt suicides, but what if, at some point, that emptiness begins to condemn your decision, what if you hang around and find out things could return back to normal again, what if up isn’t as “occupied” as you have believed? What if death isn’t really the end?

Hang on. Hang around. It gets better.

Of course, hitting your rock bottom signals an end, but only an end from running farther down and not an end to your race. When at your emotional lowest, when your world seem motionless, there are only two places to look to.

First: up. Because when you’ve hit your rock bottom, the only way to go is really up.

And second: within. Because things happen to us and things happen around us, but the only ones that matter are the things that happen within us.

Take, for example, an illustration I found on the web. A coco-yam, an egg and a teabag are each placed in a different kettle of boiling water.

A coco-yam goes in strong and fit, but comes out very soft, able to be beaten into a pulp. An egg goes in with a shell that’s easily breakable to protect the liquid in it, but comes out strong. A teabag goes in pliable but changes the entire water into something sweet, something desired. Each underwent the same predicament, but reacted differently (I especially love that teabag, turning his circumstance into an advantage).

So which would you rather be? A coco-yam, an egg, or a teabag? You choose.

Ending it is necessary, but killing yourself is no option.

Start your climb from that depth where there’s no one else and things might just have gotten better before you reach the top. Because it gets better. It really does.

There’s a saying in Yoga that I love and especially want you to know: “When it gets better, it only gets better”.