This week is National Suicide Prevention Week. All week we have been active on our Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram accounts raising awareness of suicide within the LGBT+ community. Yesterday we called on everyone to help erase the stigma of suicide by sharing stories of your own personal struggles and to use #IHaveStruggled. Today, Punk Out's Operations Manager, Brian Rentas, shares his own story of struggle.
By Brian Rentas
"I never understood that. I never understood why you hated yourself so much."
My mom has a way with words -- that way being quite blunt if not entirely sincere. Since moving back home, I've been making an effort to reconnect with my parents. The physical proximity of having to see them each day begets this sort of effort, of course, and that proximity was a major factor in my decision to move back to Staten Island, a place that I'm quick to berate but I'm slowly learning to love.
Quite slowly, to be fair, but that's another story.
I've always kept my distance from individuals, but that behavior is quite exceptional when it comes to my parents. It isn't as though I have an adverse relationship with them -- they've done nothing but champion my dreams and support me in all my endeavors, as loving parents are wont to do -- but I distinctly remember spending a large portion of my youth believing they'd never truly love me for who I am.
When your anxiety manifests itself in such a way that you're convinced those around you, family or otherwise, would revile you for reasons beyond your control, it is not a far stretch to get to the point that you will start taking that feared (though wholly unconfirmed) revulsion and lay it on the self.
On this rather ho-hum late summer afternoon, I was talking with my mom about how I came out to her. I was also discussing how, when I was a teenager who realized he was gay and wanted no part of it, I was depressed and suicidal.
As it is for literally everyone under the sun, my early adolescence was filled with undue strife. I was lacking confidence, I was overweight and resented myself for it, and no matter what I did to occupy myself, I hated myself for reasons beyond comprehension.
It was a period that I'm not particularly proud of. Yes, almost a decade separates my current self from that time, and in that decade, I've become a wholly different person... But I realize now that I have a tendency of blocking off that time from the collection of memories I like to revisit when daydreaming and/or procrastinating.
Granted, who can blame me for wanting to hide from the tumultuous insecurity that categorized my early teenage years. But I don't want to expend energy attempting to forget the shame, the sadness, the utter hatred I felt. I no longer want to give that period of time power over me.
And in order to rid of its power, I need to give voice to my experiences.
I need to grant myself the courage to admit that yes, at a time in my life, I wanted nothing more than to give up my life as quickly and as easily as possible -- that the thought of killing myself was easier to interact with than the thought of having a love for myself. The courage to broadcast that internal repugnance, that nameless disgust, which caused me to hide every little facet about myself that made me the person that I was.
I need this courage to interact with the reasons why I hated myself so substantially; I need to dig up those skeletons I've so proudly buried in the recesses of my mind. I need to do this for me to recognize, and for me to embrace, that I'm not that person any more.
I left that person behind when I left high school.
I left that person behind when I embarked on the path I took to start loving myself. And I can't fully recognize the love I have for myself if I don't recognize the lack of love I faced in the past.
"I hated myself because I convinced myself that I was something to detest."
Voicing that self-hatred is still a tough challenge for myself. It was difficult to recall that time of my life to my mom, as it was difficult for her to conceptualize the feelings that over-arched my early adolescence. But what is amazing is that I did it, and it was cathartic.
This isn't me saying that everything was peachy at the drop of a dime -- I do not aim to minimize the duress I faced when I was younger, nor to claim that it's an easy task to shoulder and bare on your lonesome.
Nor am I saying that I'm a perfect human being now. Hell, I could rattle off a list of anxieties and neuroses I wish, and I want, to tackle on this still continuing path toward self-acceptance.
But I guess what I'm saying is this -- you are a collection of stories, a collection of struggles, a collection of happiness and pain. No one knows your life experiences as much as you do. But don't be embarrassed, or ashamed, over the strife you have faced, or are facing, or will face, in your life.
As Brendan mentioned yesterday, you have struggled. Embrace every little thing about yourself -- embrace your satisfactions with the same energy you embrace your struggles.
Use them as power and as motivation to continue your journey. To continue your path toward self-acceptance. And don't ever, ever be afraid to share your story.
You are currently living an important life. Share it. We want to hear it.
If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal ideation, you are not alone. Contact the fine folks at The Trevor Project for support and resources. However, if you or someone you know needs immediate emergency assistance, call 1-800-SUICIDE or your local authorities.
Editor's Note: The views and opinions expressed on our Artist Corner and Blog are exclusively of the author and do not reflect the views and opinions of Punk Out as an organization.