This is the first post of a series of articles called Left Unsaid. The project will be dedicated on analyzing various social and personal aspects of life, usually subjects of ambiguous debate. We wish to use this series as a tool to go deeper into our own experiences and to help other people through mutually beneficial discussions. We believe that the world is beautiful and we wish to make it even better. This is one of our contributions to this effort.
As a teenager I remember a word very intriguing to me: death. When I truly started to think and analyze the world around me, the majesty and absolute power of death seemed overwhelming to the eyes of this young boy. Like many other kids my age, I felt like it was something I desired to experience. On this article, I am using volume one of Confidential Confessions (CC) and the story of its heroines, Manatsu and Asparagus, to talk about my own experiences and explain how manga art treats one’s wish to voluntary abandon life.
a. How it begins
Both in real life and in the world of CC, family ties matter a lot to a teenager. If they are strong and based on willing participation, they can empower a young man. If they are weak or non-existant, they can hurt a person for the rest of his/her life. I can understand that very well, for there were times I felt my family breaking down and I could do nothing to help it -or so I thought. Not being able to count on your parents in days of crisis means that you cannot do the things you need in order to improve as a person; to share thoughts, ask for advice and learn from the experience of others. You cannot confess the things truly important to you in such a situation.
When there is no way to release the negative feelings, they grow roots deep inside one’s soul. It will turn into self destuctive energy in no time, as mighty and hard as an olive tree. That is I believe where the wish to kill yourself begins to sprout in a person’s heart and mind. For an adult it may be easier to use past experiences as a defensive mechanism, but it is not the same for a teenager. When you have never chopped down a tree, it is very difficult to find out the proper way to do this without getting hurt.
b. The state of a suicidal life
What sort of things may one wish to share? For Manatsu, that was her loneliness and lack of self esteem, her worries . For her friend Asparagus, it was bullying and her need to be accepted as a person. For me, it was the indecisiveness of sexual orientation. For every teenager who fantasizes death, there is a different wish, sometimes bizarre, sometimes commonly understood as extremely serious. One of the adults’ grave mistakes is that they always underestimate the needs of these young girls and boys. Like Manatsu’s mother told her “what makes you think you can commit suicide?” Little do people understand that the urge to prove that you can do it and hurt them is only growing this way.
Suicidal teenagers see the world in very simplistic terms. Such is their ignorance, that they think they know everything. That sort of arrogance can easily make you believe in a doctrine as absolute as “suicide is not the end, it is the beginning!” Just ask Manatsu. But for people who think themselves as holders of the meaning of life, suicidal teens have many questions unanswered:
c. Deeper in the wounds
The toughest thing about being suicidal is addiction. Worshiping death can be a dear habit after you have repeated it long enough. It can become the very first and last thought of the day. Intellectually, being near death can be hurtful but, for many people, it also becomes something familiar. If your problems grow and you are as emotionally fragile as CC‘s girls or myself, you become so desperate for that dark shelter that it becomes as much of a need as food. To feed that hunger most suicidal teens are eager to do almost anything. I was willing to try drink my father’s medicine, to stop caring about cleaning and taking care of my body. Asparagus used cutting as a potion. The girls had no hesitation to even sell their urine to an old man. The list could be endless.
It is important to note though that it is not, for example, the repeated hearing of death metal or Marilyn Manson that makes one wishing to die. It is how you use these “tools” that helps you reach to that state of mind. Once upon a time, I used biblical teaching and religion as a tool to justify and increase my paranoia and tedency to harm myself. That does not make necessarily religion a hurtful tool -even though my opinion on that institution remains negative ever since I stopped being a believer.
Not all people put themselves in danger on their own will. In cases like Asparagus’ bullying, it is even harder to change one’s path because that person has to deal with his/her weaknesses and the cruelty of others. In a way it is like trying to stop your murder.
d. A Therapy for Pain
When I was as young as 15, I really wanted to ask questions of the kind that you read above. I think most suicidal teens have the same inclinations. But there are many ways to express such concerns and not all of them are negative. I found more and more inspiration for my art from that dark wish of mine. Manatsu preferred to collect pieces of her dead skin and keep them in a diary. Every mind needs to express its needs and very often that is a way to survive. Art had given me the will to live many times, whether through creativity -painting and sketching- or joy -music, films and anime. If one tries to cut that expression he/she actually hurt the person in need. That is what Manatsu’s mother did and led her daughter to cut her veins in front of her.
In the end, when faced directly with death, most people realize they do not really wish to die. They simply want their life to change towards a different direction and someone to show them how to overcome its obstacles. I remember that in every single attempt I tried, no matter the different ways, I wanted someone to step in, save me and hold me dearly, to tell me they wish for me to live.
There is always a reason to live. As Manatsu had to find out through a painful loss, suicide does not give you a solution to life’s problems. It is similar to a rushed ending for a film that never got completed. Thankfully, neither I nor Manatsu ever got to write that ending ourselves, thus we can breathe freely, taking it one day at a time. It is my wish that people going through the same, or even worse, difficulties manage to do the same.