Kiese and Tressie both wrote for, to, and about those of us who carry Blackness with us everywhere we go. The thin white woman beside me folds her legs all the way up and gathers her knees to her chest. Her elbow is in my way and it nearly pokes me. “I’m so tiny,” […]
Death Isn’t a Blessing — You’re Just Ableist
I was looking at my Facebook feed at 5 in the morning — craving death and also cupcake pancakes from IHOP. That’s the thing about depression: my sleeping patterns have been out of control lately, making me wake up at weird hours.
On the feed, I read an article from xoJane titled, “My Former Friend’s Death was a Blessing.”
I had to read that title again.
Then — because I hate myself and misery loves company — I read the article (archived, so xoJane wouldn’t get the click). It flooded me with disgust and triggering thoughts, reminding me that this was territory that I didn’t want to touch, especially as someone who has something similar said to them before.
I’ll share (and dissect) some of my favorite parts of this article that were definitely not helpful to xoJane, but especially not to mentally ill people who already feel like the world would be a better place without them:
There was always something about her that wasn’t quite right. While I was admittedly, for a while, not the best adult, there was something about her mindset that had just stopped evolving after high school. Her apartment was always filthy and her bedroom had clothing strewn about everywhere. She didn’t take pride in her home or respect her own property.
As someone who is depressed and has clothes all over the floor of their bedroom, I can tell you that Leah (the mentally ill friend’s messy room) was part of her illness. When you are literally thinking about death, going through a severe manic episode or even thinking about the delusions that make you think that everyone is plotting your death, you don’t give 95 fucks about your bedroom being filthy.
When you are mentally ill, it zaps a lot of your energy. It makes you not want to get up — you assume that laying in bed might allow you to eventually die. You have breakdowns trying to clean your room and then give up when you realize nothing you do will ever be good enough for the voice taunting you in your brain. Instead, you watch reruns of Maury and Jerry Springer because you don’t have enough energy to change the channel and it’s not like you’re even paying attention! All you’re doing is just crying and wishing you had enough courage to kill yourself already.
And this is the thing that irks me. If you are as close as a friend to someone this writer claimed to be, wouldn’t you address the room with your friend? Instead of talking shit behind their back, you can ask them if they need help cleaning. You could ask them what’s wrong. You could offer an ear to talk. A friend doesn’t allow someone to go down an abyss without check-ins. If you didn’t have enough of a heart to do this, you could’ve ended the friendship there.
Here is another gem:
It sounds horrible to say, but her death wasn’t a tragedy, her life was. Her sister died when she was in college. Schizoaffective disorder robbed her of reaching her potential. There were some other things along the way. She was alone and terribly unhappy when she died. Leah with the big heart didn’t deserve that. Judging Facebook pages, we all compare ourselves to other people, what they have, what they don’t, and their accomplishments. This girl had nothing to live for.
I realize there are plenty of seriously mentally ill people who take meds and get better. I don’t think the prognosis for all people diagnosed with severe mental illness is death. There are people who learn to manage and live happy and productive lives, but with parents on the other side of the country and no local support system, Leah would never be one of those people. What would the rest of her life have been like? She would have either been institutionalized or a major burden on her family. There was just no way she would have survived on her own. Drowning to death was relatively painless compared to what she had to endure in life.
One of the first questions that comes to mind is: did xoJane even vet this properly? The ending of this article basically says that mentally ill folks are just burdens who deserve to be institutionalized because they can never be functional members of society (whatever that means). My main issue is that the author tried to redeem herself by calling her friend a wonderful person, ignoring her implication that her friend’s death was necessary because her life wasn’t worth living.
The writer said she would go on her ex-friend’s Facebook page and consider anything her mentally ill friend wrote “attention seeking.” Not a cry for help out of loneliness, pain and frustration, but attention seeking. Some folks might not be able to survive on their own; this is a fact. However, this “friend” never reached out to the person or even acknowledged her achievements, however small. She just complained and took a sick, voyeuristic view.
In the end, I was able to see through all of that.
XoJane later deleted the article with a note saying that they’ll try to properly vet things, but it was too late. I write this as someone who has been told my death would have no effect on someone’s life, which added more fuel to my severely depressed fire.
But here’s the thing: my death would not be a blessing to the people in my life. To my partner. To my blood and chosen family. To my friends. To the staff at Wear Your Voice Magazine. My death, despite my depression telling me otherwise, would not be a blessing. It would not be the loss of a burden, but the loss of a person who was severely hurt and needs love and support.
To all the severely mentally ill people: suicidal thoughts are OK to think. But your death would never be a blessing. You are not a burden. You are not trash because you need help.
Fuck that article.