My name is Sibyl Vane. I am 17 years old, and by the time you read this, I will be dead by my own hand.
In the days ahead, those of you who knew me while I was still alive will come to my funeral, cry, some of you will pretend to be sad, and all of you will bemoan my death with words such as these:
“But..she was always so happy!”
“How could someone be so selfish?”
“We never saw it coming!”
And in a way, that’s the point…..Of course you didn’t see it coming. When you take your own life, no one ever “sees it coming”. And, then, they all have the nerve to ask the classic question.
“Why did you do it? Why did you swallow those pills? Or tie that noose? Or pull the trigger? Why?”
Well. Let me tell you.
You see, most of you know me as the girl who you never paid much attention to, but who was always around. Always there for you. Always had a smile on my face, a cheerful word for you. The strong one, the one who never fell. The happy one. The anchor. The one you’d call when you needed something, but otherwise ignored her.
What you don’t know is that that’s all a lie. See, behind the happy fairy mask, is a girl who’s depressed, cuts, starves, overdoses, purges, is hurt and hurting and heartbroken and falling apart. And no one notices. No one cares. The few times I’ve attempted to broach the subject, I’ve been told that I “have a good life” and I have no reason to be depressed. Or, I’m told I need professional help…which is just your nice way of telling me I’m too messed up for you, therefore I ought to be shunted off to others. Trust me, I learned early on that no one really understands what I’m going through. Even my own family….and on that note….
Mom and Dad, I am so sorry. Sorry that you’ll be the one to wake up and find your baby girl dead. I truly am sorry…. But, in a way, I’m not. Because you never noticed either. All those times you asked how I was, and I said “I’m fine, just tired”, and you actually bought it! Or the times I came out of my bedroom at midnight with bloodstained wrists hidden behind long sleeves and you never thought to question me. Even after you found out I cut, it never occurred to you that maybe everything wasn’t always well. You claim you love me, but, if I’m honest, you’ve an awful funny way of showing it. There’s so much I can’t tell you, can’t say. Like, that I’m not the pretty perfect little girl you wanted. I’m just not. He broke my heart and I broke my soul, and I am damaged and he took what wasn’t his to take and I can’t handle all the pressure and this is the only way I know to cope! But I’m still sorry. Sorry you don’t like my friends, my clothes, my music…who I am. I disappoint you, I know. But..can’t you also see how hard I try to be good and make you proud of me? You’re my parents, for crying out loud! You’re supposed to know me better than anyone else! Do you not see my fake smile? My forced laugh? You expect so much from me. Perfection. And I’m not perfect. I can never be perfect. I am destroying myself slowly, mind, body, and soul, trying to keep your impossible standard. It’s better that I go now.
To everyone at my school, you, of all people, have no right to even be at my funeral. The stares, the whispers, the mean comments both behind my back, and to my face. The way you stare right through me as if I don’t even exist. What did I do to deserve your hatred? I know, believe me, I know I’m no beauty, but does that give you the right to call me names? To viciously cut me down the way you do? “Ugly” “Fat” “Worthless” “You’ll never be loved” I’ve come to define myself by your definition of me. Just because you’re pretty, popular, and have a boyfriend doesn’t mean that I’m less than human! Just because you’re a size zero doesn’t mean you have a kind heart! I know I’m fat, I know he doesn’t want me, I know I’m not the prettiest, or popular, or fashionable…you don’t have to remind me every single day! You told me to kill myself, anyway. You should be happy.
And to all my friends, I love you, more than you’ll ever know, but please, please, please don’t promise to “always be there” when you’re really not! You may know me better than anyone else, but you don’t apply what you know of me to your daily interactions with me. You’ve let me skip meals. You’ve seen fresh cuts on my arms and completely ignored them. When will you learn that “fine” means “I need you to just love me because I am breaking and I can no longer hold myself together with my own tiny hands”. But I’ll never tell you that because I don’t want to seem attention seeking, weak , and dramatic. I don’t need to be told yet again that I should “get professional help” or I “just need to pray more” or “suck it up, Buttercup”. I will never tell you this, but I need you. I need your love. Realize that I will hardly (if ever) ask for your help directly. But that I’m also never “just curious”. If I ask you a series of seemingly unrelated questions about pill popping or some other dangerous behavior such as “how many (insert drug name here) would it take to kill someone”, chances are, I already know the answer. My asking you is my way of asking for help; begging you to notice I’m drowning right in front of your eyes and you could save me just by opening them!
But, while this is my goodbye note to the world, it is also a plea of sorts. Please. Everyone. Open your ears. Open your eyes. Open your hearts! If someone says they’re fine, or okay, or alright, or just tired….don’t always accept it! Don’t take everything people say at face value, especially if you already know they’re struggling! Dig deeper and actually care to know the real answer. Listen to understand! Not just to reply! I’ve used the phrase “Oh, I’m just tired” more times than I can count. Not once has anyone come back with “tired of what?” No one asks if I’m actually fine when I say I am. You’re all so busy rushing on with your own lives that you forget you could have saved a life just by reaching out, paying attention when people talk, and actually being there when you promise to.
It’s too late for me now, but please. Next time someone says “I’m fine”, ask them “are you really?” and then listen! Prove your trustworthiness. The next time someone says they’re “just tired”, ask them “tired of what?”. The next time you see that boy who always sits alone at lunch sitting alone again, go sit with him! The next time you bump into that girl in the hallway and she winces and pulls her sleeves down, go befriend her! The next time you’re sitting with your little sister at breakfast, and she thinks coffee constitutes a meal, get up, get her a plate of food, then, tell her you love her, give her the food, and don’t get up until she finishes her meal!
The next time someone asks you about a harmful behavior or the effects of such-and-such drug, grab them by the shoulders and force them to meet your eyes and tell you the truth! The next time you pass that kid in the hallway that you always see but don’t know, say hi! The next time his shorts slip up and you notice his scars, promise me you’ll love him just a little harder because of them. The outcasts, the broken, the off the cuff kids, the ones who put on a good little girl mask, the party kids, heck, even the potheads. Everyone. My God, everyone. Brokenness doesn’t discriminate!
If you love someone, if you care, tell them you love them! Tell them how much you care! Tell them that they are beautiful and worthy and loved and important and special, and everything that would have kept me here, but you didn’t know.
And, really, all it could take is something as small as just a few minutes out of your day, a smile, a touch, a “hello”, a kind word, a generous impulse acted upon, an ‘I love you and you are special to me’ and you could save someone’s life without even realizing it!
But on that note…
I must go.
( While this letter is fictional and I wrote it in honor of National Suicide Prevention Week, too often we underestimate our own responsibility in preventing suicide. We can save life. Let’s do it.)