I first wrote this post June 2014 and am sharing it again, for the theme is still timely.
Monday afternoon while shopping at Party City for some sugary treats for my son, in front of me in line stood a teenaged girl with wrists covered in fake blood depicting gory razor slash wounds. She told the older woman she was with, “I don’t see why the school says it’s offensive. It’s just makeup.” I was tempted to step in and educate this young woman, but I did not. Perhaps I should have. She was completely oblivious to the effect she might have on others, specifically on those who suffer or have suffered from suicidality and those who have loved and lost someone to suicide. Her special effects make-up I consider constitutionally protected speech. Unfortunately, she was completely unaware of the power of that speech.
Driving home from my writers’ group Tuesday night, after having drafted this post, I remembered how flippant and irreverent I was in high school. My friends and I anonymously published and distributed around our campus a treatise entitled, “A Beginner’s Guide to Suicide.” As I recall, our “underground” collection of stream-of-consciousness writing contained no instructions for how to kill oneself. The title just suited our non-conformist New Wave quasi-punk teen angst. We meant it sardonically. One of my friends got in trouble for the publication. He managed to protect those of us who had high collegiate aspirations. I, for one, hoped to go to an Ivy League school and could ill-afford disciplinary action. That same year I wrote an article in our school paper in which I imagined receiving a rejection letter from Harvard. In the short fictional article, I wrote that I reacted by hanging myself with an attached suicide note saying something to the effect that life was not worth living if I couldn’t attend Harvard. As fate would have it, I was rejected by every Ivy League school to which I applied. UCLA, in fact, informed me that I had to attend remedial summer school before my freshman year because my SATs totaled under 700. Apparently, the Educational Testing Service had screwed up and sent the wrong data to all the prestigious schools to which I applied. That freshman year at UCLA, I experienced deep and unbearable depression and suicidality. My satiric article was prescient, but I had been completely oblivious and insensitive to how deeply painful it was to be depressed and suicidal.
Although I would never take away the right to offensive, objectionable, or insensitive speech, I do believe that we should be aware of the effect we may have on others, or at least listen to the responses we provoke and show compassion. As a teenager, I, like the girl with the fake slashed wrists, was completely in the dark as to the objectionable or offensive nature of my speech, of my writing. As an adult, I failed to engage the young woman in a conversation about depression and suicide, and how her make-up might cause pain to those whose lives have been affected by depression and suicide. Instead, I rushed to finish my errands before picking up my son from school.
Many mental health bloggers offer trigger warnings before presenting disturbing material. I argued in an earlier post that I do not, nor would I do so, that my blog’s title says it all. But, I get it. I understand the consequences of my speech, and I understand the importance of showing and teaching compassion. On the one hand, we must speak the truth; on the other, we must show compassion.


  1. Kitt,
    Sorry so late in replying. Thank you for reading my post. I’m in the process of a total remake of my website and have been working 10 hour days on it so kinda got behind in my correspondence. If you get a minute stop by the new site. I value your opinion. Hope things are peaceful for you.

  2. Well said. Tragic. Our healing journey is ongoing, especially when you are healing from severe complex trauma. I wish you the best as you continue your battle.

  3. I became aware that you could take your own life when I was about six years old. Our neighbor locked herself in the garage with car running. At that time I was suffering from crippling anxiety and was being tortured physically, mentally and sexually. The concept of killing your self was a new and fascinating concept to me. Having no concept of death beyond you went to heaven where everyone was happy. I endured my mental illness and abuse occasionally thinking that death was a way out of my situation. The thoughts became a comfort to me. Feeling so alone and abandoned I could get out if I wanted to. My first attempt was when I was 11 years old. Then I discovered marijuana and alcohol and self medicated myself through my teen years. Although I wasn’t actively suicidal, I was extremely self destructive. During my college years my social anxiety overtook me again and my hyperactivity transformed into Bipolar Disorder. My first hospitalization was at age 21 due to an overdose. Since that time suicide has been my friend multiple times. A graduate degree, two wonderful boys, a family that love and supports me and yet there are still times when taking my own life makes sense to me. It is the desperate act of a desperate person. Mental illness is a terminal disease if the ill person is not getting treatment or as in my case the illness is resistant to treatment. Suicide is the ultimate and final symptom of a chronic illness.

  4. You are right. Thank you for pointing that out to me. When I was in my twenties I didn’t even consider myself depressed because moderate depression was my normal and didn’t compare to the hellaciously severe depression I experience when 18.

  5. When I was a teen, I was undiagnosed with Bipolar, but had full on symptoms. Was just dismissed as being a teen. I think many teens are dismissed that way. I think that is why so many are not helped. It’s very sad. I do wish more was taught in the schools…and more was taught to parents. Know that certain behaviors are not just your kids acting out, or hormones. Well yeah, some kids it might be, but some kids need help. We are failing our kids….but that’s another subject.
    I probably would have been the one with the fake slashed wrist. And said something like she said but I would have already tried to commit suicide before….however no one knew it…luckily I failed miserably.
    I wouldn’t have thought it would mess with others, because I was so messed up. The macabre was fascinating to me…when I was a young child I wanted to be a vampire because they were so powerful they could take care of themselves and fight off those who hurt them.
    I know this is all over the place, but I think I’m trying to say that even though that girl may have just seemed flippant and not thinking, she may herself know more about the issue than we know.
    I just keep finding over and over that we can’t know until we walk in someone’s shoes.
    I do love that you believe in being very responsible about your writing…and compassionate. It is important for people who do take it flippantly to understand. But I sure wouldn’t approach someone specific, because you just never know.

  6. Wow. This is very powerful….kind of chilling in a way. But brings up a very important point. Thank you for sharing it.

  7. It’s a tough subject for sure, but I’m with you about not giving the trigger warning because really, anything can trigger anybody. I won’t go into what triggers me, but it’s certainly not something anyone would ever think possible. We can only do our best and hope that it’s enough.

  8. Amazing how our perspective changes. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Thanks for reblogging!

  10. Thank you, Leslie!

  11. Reblogged this on mythoughts62 and commented:
    I’m glad I’m not a crass teenager anymore…

  12. Reblogged this on and commented:
    Love this!

  13. Reblogged this on Just Plain Ol' Vic and commented:
    This post is deep and gives you things to consider. For sure a must read.

  14. Oh, good that she was sent home for that. I’d love it if you would reblog the original post, with your comments. That is such an important topic!

  15. She was shopping with her mother in the middle of the school day because her school asked her to leave, or so I surmised from their conversation. Had to read this post to remember it. It would be a good one to repost.

  16. Teenagers. God, I would never want to do that one over again. This weekend I’m camping at a state park in Northern Kansas. I thought I had a big piece of it to myself, but no, a family of parents with teen children, their friends, and five Chihuahuas parks next to me. One of the chi-chis keeps running over to my camp, trying to start up with my dog, who is tied up. One of the teen girls keeps yelling at her little dog. After many yelling bouts, I calmly said, “Why don’t you just tie your dog up?” She gave me a “look,” dumped off, and has given me the cold shoulder ever since. Teenagers are perpetually confused. It is their baseline condition. Still, they need guidance, because other confused teenagers might just be suicidal, and that girl with the fake slashed wrists might have been tormenting someone she knew who HAD attempted suicide…And we know that this kind of psychological bullying has pushed young people over the edge. I hope she was not permitted to go to school with that.

  17. Thank you, Steve. I held my tongue, which is actually uncharacteristic of me. It is important that people understand how their speech may psychologically harm someone. They still have the right to free speech, just as we have the right to inform and educate. I hope and pray that you receive the help that you need. I know from experience how painful it is to want to die.
    In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255
    National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

  18. Thanks for posting this. I agree that too many people are fascinated with suicide and don’t really realize the triggers their behaviour has on those of us who have tried suicide or cut themselves, both of which I’ve done in my past. I’m still suicidal too often, even yesterday, so it’s a current concern for me. I’m grateful you wrote this and I hope there are some people who “get” your message and chill out a bit with their “free speech”. Unfortunately we often don’t learn these things until we’re faced with them ourselves. Then we really get them deeply. I speak from experience…
    Peace to you,

  19. Wow! That’s my second nomination of the day for that award. Thank you so much!

  20. I nominated ***YOU*** for a “Very Inspiring Blogger Award” – please check out the details here: http://proudlybipolar.wordpress.com/2014/06/06/very-inspiring-blogger-award/

  21. I’m glad right back that you came over and said hello. There’s a lot here that I nodded my head at, in my quick look around 🙂

  22. Thank you. Yes, humor can be healing, and appropriately distancing. Humor is a fabulous coping mechanism. It helps to take a step back from our symptoms and see them as irrational. Humor can be a form of cognitive restructuring, a way of rewriting our thoughts, and thereby rewiring our brains.

  23. Here by way of Lizzi (LRConsiderer) and her tweet.
    I have dealt with suicidal tendencies and cutting myself, as well as mental illness (which I’m managing rather well, all things considered). I’d rather laugh than cry, so I can yet see some humor in my struggles. I do agree, however, that many people misunderstand how free speech does not eliminate the consequences of expressing said speech. If I understand you right, you found this out the hard way. Kudos and blessings to you for sharing this.

  24. Indeed. Thank you for reading. I am so glad that Hastywords introduced me to you and your blog.

  25. Always, ALWAYS compassion. I love that you ended with that.

  26. Yes I agree, physical and mental health should be part of education. And I think Michelle Obama is doing great, a lot of folks will thank her years from now if they follow her advice.

  27. I love connecting talented bloggers….it’s even better than Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food!

  28. Rob, thank you. Your blog title is enough of a heads up to readers. Since you are blogging about what is going on inside the bipolar mind, please do go ahead and share disturbing material. I’m looking forward to reading your latest post right now.

  29. I won’t tell anyone if you keep it a secret that you are one of my favorite bloggers. Definitely my favorite advocate for women with postpartum bipolar disorder.

  30. Love the post. Came over here from a post Dyane had mentioned you in. I’m new to the blogging world and had only really been thinking of the good I might can do by sharing my stories and my experiences. I hadn’t given any thought to the fact that something I write could be a trigger to someone. You just helped me mature as a blogger, and I thank you for that.

  31. Don’t tell anyone…but you’re one of my favorites!

  32. Thank you, Dyane. You are truly a God-send. So supportive of so many women. Thank you!

  33. p.s. you’re an outstanding writer!

  34. First off, I would not have spoken to the girl with the bloody wrists either. For me, that’s way out of my comfort zone. It was very interesting to learn of your high school days with that treatise, and what happened when you applied to college. I am so sorry you suffered such pain. I hated them before, but now I officially hate the ETS for making such a ginormous screw-up with your test scores. They’ve made a ton of money off us poor teens for years, and they can’t even do their job correctly! Shame on them!
    What will stay with me from reading this post is the importance of compassion in writing. Sometimes I get so angry and freakish when I write that I forget who I’m writing for. It’s all me me me. The fact that you understand the consequences of your writing and that you want to be compassionate when you share it speaks volumes. Wasn’t Jesus known first and foremost for compassion? All other concerns can fall to the wayside.

  35. Interesting. I haven’t studied cross-cultural differences. Daily physical education starts in middle school (6th grade or 7th grade). No doubt it should begin earlier. First lady Michelle Obama has led an effort to improve physical and nutritional awareness and education. Certainly everyone could use psycho-education.

  36. The other day, I read a poem by a young person about suicide. I must admit, I do not understand this fascination with suicide in the US, particularly among young people. It might have something to do with the media presentations, I don’t know. It is typical for adolescents to have thoughts along these lines from time to time, but it seems to me, suicide almost has a cult like status in the US. Which I cannot understand. Perhaps this issue should be addressed in Health classes in school, along with Nutrition, Physical Exercise, etc. That might help.

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