Friday, 31 January 2014

An important message

I want to catch you early. You're 15 and this is a pretty important year. It's the first time you truly contemplate suicide.

You don't get that low very often. We're talking two, maybe three times in your life so far. And you're really lucky that your depression combines apathy with despair... The more desperate you become and the more you want to end it all, the less able you are to even move.

Your pits of despair are one and all characterised by absolute stillness.

I can't do anything about that, but there's a song around today called Little Me and when I heard it I got to wondering what I'd say to you if I could.

There's only one thing I would say.

Forget everything you think you know about yourself. You're wrong.

First, the easy ones: You're intelligent. Right now you're third in your year and all you can see is that Barry is number 1 and that means you're not good enough. Your year has approximately 240 people. 3/240 Do the fucking maths.

You're funny. I mean that. When you talk, people laugh on cue. That doesn't happen much outside of your family to begin with, but there is a time where your success at work literally depends on your skills as a speaker and entertainer, and you fly.

You're creative. It's something you lose when you're hurting, but there is a fire in you that is made of fantasy. Your life journey will be to take that fantasy from within and put it out there. So far it has helped you often, but you have so much farther to go. This is a long, long journey.

You're beautiful. No, don't skip this. I mean it.

You're so beautiful. When you are in 6th form, in 2 or 3 years, a photographer will come to take the pictures of everyone in your year. He does them alphabetically so you're almost at the end of the queue. You don't have many friends there, so it's inevitable you become interested in what he's doing. As each girl is photographed he tells them: "You're Kylie, you're Mariah, you're Alicia Silverstone" Each girl smiles and wanders off. It's false, you know that, but you begin to wonder who he will think you look like. You decide you'd like it to be Catherine Zeta-Jones, but you know you'll be happy with any woman you think is pretty.

It's your turn, you're excited. You turn your eyes to him with anticipation. He looks at you, pauses briefly then takes the picture. No name. No comparison. As he glances down at the display your heart freezes into a ball of shame. He takes another shot and waves you on. As the next girl sits down you close your ears to whatever he tells her as you cling to the pathetic remnants of your dignity and refuse to burst out crying.

Even a guy who was paid to say it couldn't lie to you and pretend you're pretty.

When your mother sees the photo a month or so later she comments how it makes you look so much older than you are and your last hope that there was some reason he didn't tell you you're beautiful dies.

Since you turned 12, you've drawn your face so often you can't see it any more. Just the bits and pieces. So you can't even look and see the truth for yourself; you are wholly dependent on the external validation that never comes.

For six years that picture gathers dust. But then you move house and you pull it out. You've had different hairstyles, different glasses, contacts and you've switched to a different style of makeup over the last few years so the face you look at is of a stranger.

And she is so beautiful.

That guy, your mother, everyone seemingly thinks there is no point mentioning the obvious. They all think you know. And that doesn't make it any easier for you - it hurts and you feel so isolated, confused and you can't figure out what is wrong. But now you know.

And more importantly, you know it's worth jack. "Before" and "after" you were pretty - you were exactly the same person. People didn't treat you any differently. You didn't become better or worse. You didn't even stop beating yourself up about being unattractive.

The point is, despite everything you believe about how self aware you are and how you constantly re-evaluate everything you think you know about yourself; you are doing it all through this filter of lies. Without knowing these fundamental things about yourself you cannot possibly be right in your ideas of yourself, thoughts, plans or in fact anything.

One more thing you need to know. And this is truest of all.

You are loved.

And you deserve to be.

Alicia