"Speak what you think now in hard words..."-Ralph Waldo Emerson
When I returned to teaching last year after Peyton's suicide, the first unit I taught was American Romanticism. Included in this unit was Emerson's "Self-Reliance". It wasn't the first time I had taught this highly quotable essay, but this time, it took on new meaning, especially when he told people to "Speak what you think now in hard words". I truly thought about that line and how it applied to me.
I knew that I was not going to stay quiet after Peyton's death. I felt as though I had some how failed him, and needed to make up for what had happened to him. I began with social media and talked openly and honestly about what had happened to him. I talked about his battle with depression and anxiety. His torment at the hands of his classmates, and his all too early death at the age of 13. I spoke to any reporter who would listen, and I spoke at schools. Any chance I had to talk to others, I took. The more I talked, the more I opened up, the more other people opened up to me. People began to tell me their stories about losing loved ones to suicide, their experiences with bullies, or their own dark moments where their demons and pain became so overwhelming that they considered or even attempted suicide.
Many of these people had never told any one before. They had kept this inside waiting for some one else to open up and allow them the opportunity to tell others. They had been told not to talk because it made other uncomfortable, it was a deep family secret, or it was frowned upon in our society where things like suicide and mental illness are taboo subjects. It was then that I realized that when I spoke, blogged, or posted, that it wasn't just for me, or for Peyton, it was for all of those that, for what ever reason, couldn't.
In the past year, I have come to realize that I am not alone in my grief, nor was Peyton alone in his pain. There are thousands of people out there that remain silent about the suicide of a loved one because society wants them to. People that are ashamed to ask for help because of the stigma of mental illness. People that take their own lives because they feel that the world would be better off without them because no one has ever told them otherwise. It is for these people, the silent, that I will continue to speak in hard words.