In the first few years of #bellletstalk, I scoffed at it. How commercialized, I sneered, How campy and dreadful. It was baffling for me that anyone would want to talk about the things that they were going through, and even more that anyone else would actually want to listen.
I didn’t know how to vocalize any of the black masses swirling inside of myself, and wanted to even less. I didn’t know how to form the words with my lips, how to structure any of my raging thoughts (as loud, thrashing, and overwhelming as the Niagara Falls) into any meaningful words. By speaking them out loud, it would have felt like I was making them real when I wanted nothing more than to hide behind my own delusions that they would go away and that it was nothing.
The reality is that I wanted to be nothing for the tail end of 2014, and all of 2015. I wanted desperately to die: I dreamt about it, I let it live with me, I yearned for it.
It was the height of my dark period, the black hole era of my life.
I refused to believe in the concept of #bellletstalk because I’d lost faith in the institution of talking. We, after all, talk all the time (I certainly talk all the time, much to the chagrin of my professors and strangers eavesdropping on my obnoxious conversations) but, really, how much do we really say? I was dogged by the fear of not being listened to, to feel like I was talking but that I wasn’t being heard.
And so, I stayed quiet.
In my black hole year, I didn’t speak (couldn’t, lest I’d choke) about the darkness in my life, so I instead did many other, less productive things, like:
- Cry: in the dark, while calling my parents on my walks to school, in class, in my room, until I felt like I didn’t have anything left in me to sob out;
- Freeze: in place, paralyzed by my own obsession about my sexual orientation, lying still when I felt my gender dysphoria taking up all of my space in my brain that I couldn’t think about anything else (and even now, I see its effects still, in how much more difficult it is to remember things, to store them away in my long-term memory);
- Overload myself: with extra-curriculars, with activities, with clubs, so I was surrounded by people and didn’t have time to slow down, to think, to let myself drown in the unrelenting noise in my head, screaming at me that you are not worthy, that no one will love you, that your body is wrong, that it’s better to die;
- Beg: my parents to cut me off so they wouldn’t need to associate with me, so I couldn’t disappoint them in front of their friends; beg my friends from home, after having laid myself bare to them, to continue loving me, be terrified of them leaving;
- Cry more;
- Lie on the ground;
- Want to die.
I still have trouble looking at pictures of myself from that span of time because when I do, I am instantly transported back. I remember my revulsion at being photographed (a departure from my selfie-happy self of now), being swollen and overweight, mostly miserable and overwhelmingly depressed. I can remember all of the uneasiness I had with my own looks, how I presented myself, how I felt so uncomfortable in my skin and gender. I have journal entry after journal entry from that time that I’ve been too scared to re-read because I’m frightened of dredging up all of the sheer terror that I’ve let settle to the seabed of my heart.
But, in spite of it, the noise slowly, slowly quieted and even now, I don’t completely know why or how.
I saw a counselor, briefly, at the height of my suicidal mess, and in the year before things got really bad, I was seeing a psychotherapist every second week. I didn’t take medication– I was never prescribed. Instead, I slowly let myself drift until I, astonishingly, felt myself touch land, somehow in disbelief that I had made it to the other side.
But this was my experience and I want to emphasize above all else that mental health, gender identity, sexual orientation happens so differently for every single person. What happened for me will not be the same for anyone else (though there will undoubtedly be common threads and narratives).
While I haven’t felt that overwhelming desire to lie in the snow, close my eyes, and sleep myself into eternity, I am still queer and still unsure about my gender: sometimes I am so proud of being a woman, so comfortable in my body, and other times, I feel like I’m holding my breath to keep it all in and feel like throwing up when I am called a her–I still, after all and to my own shame, snap at my parents when they slip and call me “daughter” in Mandarin because I can’t handle the discomfort clawing at my insides. I still have those questions and those fears, but they’re no longer accompanied by a keen desire for death.
I don’t know what helped the turmoil settle. Maybe the chemicals shifted in my brain. Maybe I somehow became more certain, less scared and frightened about my future. Maybe I started sleeping again, properly, and taking care of myself better. Maybe there is no real explanation. I’m not sure.
In spite of all that, memories of the bleakness stay with me. I don’t like to think about it, don’t like to ask what happened, because I’m terrified of being drawn back in.
I still have trouble talking about it. In fact, I still can’t talk about what I went through out loud–I just can’t bring myself to do it. Talking, saying, speaking feels so much more real: on the occasions when the turmoil, the black, inky mass, the panic come back into my heart and head, it’s just mine. It’s just me. I’m just imagining it. I can deny myself. When I don’t talk about it, other people can’t talk to me about it. They can’t talk to me about it when I’m not ready. They can’t bring it up, can’t trigger me, can’t ask me questions, can’t prod. They can’t touch me at my most vulnerable because they don’t know that I’m vulnerable, least of all where.
But I’ll do the next best thing: I’ll write about it. I’ll write about it because I still hear Garfield Dunlop, former MPP, tell us so innocently about a young man in his riding who had killed himself and how he just couldn’t understand how anybody would want to die. I’ll write about it because of the police inspector I called about the death in UWP, how he told me told me that it was our responsibility as a community to watch out for each other, to be aware of the signs, to take care of each other.
I’ll write about it because I’ve heard so many stories of lostness from students younger than myself who feel so desperately alone and I’ll write about it because I go cold seeing the same darkness as mine coming in the futures of so many others. I’ll write about it to tell them to be aware, to be courageous, to look out for each other, and because I know I have a responsibility on campus as a student leader.
Mostly, though, I’ll write about it because I still desperately don’t want to. But I’ll write about it all the same because I’m hopeful that, one day, I’ll be ready to talk.