I reluctantly made the hike up to the third floor of the Social Science building on a chilly March day to sit through another lecture about American Literature. Having learned about many American writers at my previous university, I never really listened to the professor because I thought I knew all the information. Instead, I wrote my article for the week. I had been writing with The Odyssey for three months at the time and was wrestling with ideas to throw on a document to be published the next Monday.
I joined the Odyssey for two reasons: I was confined to metallic blue crutches and my small studio apartment in the ghetto of Missoula for three months and I wanted to write something that would affect and reach people outside of a literature class of thirty people.
I started off pretty strong -- managing to reach a couple hundred shares on an article here and there. My past few articles had been cliché and mediocre; ranging from how to keep a clear mind to why you should travel young, things most will never do and some things it’s too late for. I knew from day one I wanted to write about a certain topic, I was just waiting for the right time. But more so, the right words.
It had been three months since the one-year anniversary of my cousin’s suicide. There are so many pieces on self inflicted deaths, how could I possibly make an article stand out? It began on paper, a list of things he didn’t have the chance to do in the past year: graduate high school, see his sister cheer at her last college game, turn another year older. Through tears and long hours it came out as somewhat poetic, something I am still not into. Someone told me, “If you make it too political, you will get a lot of backlash.” So I stayed to the creative side, only adding a small paragraph at the end about how to help.
Titled Everything You Will Miss If You Commit Suicide, it went viral within hours. I logged on an hour after publishing and it had hit 2500 shares. Three days later, 30,000. I didn’t know what was happening. My friends and family messaged me saying thank you and how proud they were of me for speaking up about it. I was relieved that my writing had actually had an influence, that’s what I joined this writing platform for.
Then I read the comments on the actual article. The comments that told me I didn’t know what I was talking about, my views were too Western, and my writing made them want to kill themselves. They told me my writing was bullshit and I deserved to suffer through the same misery they were in. I replied to almost every comment on the article defending myself. I searched the title of the article everywhere to see what people were saying. For hours I tried to find every single opinion I could. I didn’t want people to take it the wrong way.
The article had been up for seven days. I sat in the muggy Dallas-Fort Worth airport waiting to fly back to school from spring break. I opened Facebook to see the latest and I received a message request from a girl named Megan in Michigan, Strange as I don’t know anyone in Michigan. “Hi, you don’t know me. I just wanted to say I found your article on suicide very inspiring. I think of suicide every single day, but after reading your article, it made me see something from the other side. So thank you. You saved my life tonight!”
I read the message over and over. After boarding the plane and finding my seat I called my mom and read her the message. “Stop responding to the hatefulness. You’ve done something great and you can’t let them get to you,” she told me. There on the runway strip, waiting to get in trouble for not having my phone on airplane mode I realized that it doesn’t matter what every single person had to say about what I wrote. What matters is that thousands of people are conversing about the issue, something no one does very often. I realized that through this tough journey of finding a new normal within my baby cousin in it is painful, instead of sulking in the pain I have the voice and will to bring awareness, prevention, and light to an epidemic we are faced with daily.