On Being Seen in Stories
CW: Mental health issues and frank discussion of Suicidal Ideation
There are two times I felt especially seen. Both times had to do with finding words for my feelings.
The first was an article about passive suicidal ideation, which gave me the courage to discuss it with my therapist (though I was extremely worried I'd get put in a hospital again).
The Second was reading Verona Comics by Jennifer Dugan.
I was filled with both despair and delight reading this book. I am struggling to figure out a way to include anxiety in my prose, and I promise I won't steal Dugan's approach, the important thing is it showed me that including anxiety is possible.
But that's not the important part. The book was a difficult read, because one of the viewpoint characters is an extremely mental ill kid who struggles with intrusive thoughts and general anxiety. So in short, I'd keep putting it down and going: “this book is making me extremely anxious and that's really unpleasant!”
But I'm So glad I stuck to the book.
As you may guess from the leads being called Ridley and Jubilee, and the fact the setting is a comic shop called “Verona Comics” it's supposed to be reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet. It's not that it's not, but if you focus on details like “Who's Mercutio and when does he die?” you will miss the point very hard.
The book is about trying to pursue a relationship when your baser needs aren't met, to get a bit Maslow-y.
I first got a glimpse of Maslow's hierarchy of needs in like, elementary school, so some of this might be confused or out-of-date, but bear with me.
Jubilee has a loving family, she has friends, her needs are met, she's striving for the top of the pyramid. Her ruin is that she is an enabler. Co-dependent.
Ridley, a sweet cinnamon roll, technically has the base of the pyramid met, other than the fact no one will buy him clothes and he's basically living out of a duffel bag. Then you go a step above, and he does not have the security needs met. Both parents are abusive, and only his sister begins to understand him. And despite the fact his mental health is in tatters, he tries to pursue a relationship.
And it's not that he shouldn't, it's that if the lower needs aren't met he's basically destined for failure.
It is in that sense he and Jubilee are star-crossed lovers.
Now let's talk more about me. For starters, I am rather poor. Always have been. Also my parents aren't narcissists; I know, I've asked my therapist. But child of narcissists or no, it hurts when you know your sibling is loved more than you and that effectively nothing you do matters. This is why I, much like Ridley at the end of the book, live with my brother. Because my brother, like Ridley's sister Grayson, realized I needed support and I wasn't getting it from my parents, and living with my parents would doom me to failure.
Like Ridley, I have struggled with suicide. The only reason I don't talk about it more openly is because my brother gets extremely anxious when I talk about it, because I got committed to inpatient once for suicidal tendencies. It effectively means I lose a support, because I have to be the strong one, but that's fine. But what really got me Seen as I said before, is the fact he constantly struggles. And very few people get that. You demonize the thoughts, not understanding you need to help the person get in control of their thoughts (to the extent that they can) or that they need support.
What got me sobbing is that the relationship is destroyed because of Ridley's mental health. But as a minor, he had done what he could. Unless something has changed in a decade, he cannot get himself help if his parents don't give a fuck.
I know, because I had constantly been trying to get therapy since I was 13, and several guidance counselors told my mom that I needed therapy. It wasn't until I had a breakdown at 16 that I got any mental health help.
Sometimes I wonder about the what ifs. If I had gotten treatment at a younger age, would my depression be less deep, and not untreatable? If my parents had listened to me when I was 13, would I be getting shocks to the brain every 3 weeks now?
It's really not worth thinking about, but it's where my mind drifts sometimes.
Ridley is not a coward for jumping off his roof at 13. I'm obviously glad this fictional character lived, and in a dark part of my mind I admire him, because he tried. I very much wanted to die when I was that age, and at 17, and the only reason I'm here is because I couldn't find a surely certain death route because my mother didn't own a gun.
At the end he finds an in-patient place, a really nice place. It's not a hospital, more of a camp. And he gets the help he needs.
Jubilee is damaged from their relationship, and they halt it for the rest of the book, but it implies there is hope for them, now that Ridley is getting the help he needs. It suggests hope. And maybe there is. Or maybe he is also destined for the route where everyone treats him like he's fucked up because he has to do Electro-convulsive Therapy for his persistent depression.
Now, I have to do the obligatory stuff here. Obviously, don't kill yourself. I don't have a fail-safe plan (though I am experienced in being alive). One, hotlines will not judge you. The only reason I am not including them here is that this is the World-Wide Web, there's no point in including a US-hotline if you need one in France, you know? Use your search engine of choice for Your Country plus “Crisis Hotline”. When I need them, I prefer to text, as no one can overhear you when you do that. And you don't need to be suicidal to use a Crisis line. Lots of things qualify as a crisis. Needing a reason to live is one. And I can tell you from my experience using them, they will help you find a reason to hang on. Two, go to bed and see if things are better in the morning. I won't say this always helps, but many times once the panic has abated and I'm staring the next day in the face, I feel a lot better.