I was 15 when I first tried to kill myself.
I just came home from school and the house was empty. I can’t remember what prompted the action (if there was any recent event that triggered it), but I do clearly remember wanting to end my life so much that I downed x number of anti-depressants all at once.
I woke up some six hours later in the same room. I tested my body; I wriggled my toes and pinched myself to see if I’m still alive. To my disappointment at the time, the answer was yes.
I was 18 when I tried to kill myself for the second time.
This one has been more ‘planned’ for the lack of a better term. Farewell letters were written, a last ‘will’ that includes notes for which possession goes to whom after my death, a goodbye text message was sent.
The letters were, ultimately, scrapped in the end. The attempt failed.
Still, I told myself I’ll never make it past 20.
Three years later, I’m still alive. I’m already three years past the deadline I once imposed on my life.
I’m in a much better headspace now, I think. I still get episodes but the ‘urge’ to want to end my life is no longer stronger as before. There’s still that voice that lingers at the back of my mind — the what if’s — and I don’t think it’ll go away completely, but at least I know better now, or maybe I can handle my demons better now than say, nine years ago.
I’d like to believe I have already come a long way in terms of strength.
From those days I battled depression and anxiety as a teenager up to this day as an adult, there has been another constant: idols.
It’s safe to say I honestly don’t know what it’s like to not obsess over an idol. I’ve gone from worshipping American emo rock stars, to fangirling over j-pop idols about 20 years older than me, to loving j-rock icons, to stanning kpop idols again.
Not many can understand, but those who do know the feeling too well of finding happiness and comfort in simply watching an idol you admire. The pure, unadulterated joy of seeing them succeed and achieve their dreams, watching them soar and improve even more as the years go by.
For almost nine years, I experienced the simple joy of watching them from afar through constant updates. I was used to seeing their photos almost everyday, seeing their schedule for the week, watching them bag awards while they hone their craft. Perhaps, that’s the reason why they feel closer to me than say, Western celebrities, even though I’m essentially nothing more than a stranger to both.
Perhaps, this is also the reason why Kim Jonghyun’s death affected me as much as it did.
As someone who suffers from depression myself, I know the feeling all too well. His battles are different from mine, but I understand the feeling of spiraling into that crippling loneliness, succumbing into that pit of utter hopelessness until you start feeling numb and thinking there’s no end in sight but death.
This doesn’t lessen my grief. If anything, it makes it even worse, because there’s the knowledge that a man I admire so much went through so much pain and I, as a person, wasn’t able to do anything to help him.
The juxtaposition of being an idol — a profession that involves making other people happy by entertaining them through their music and art — and being the one of the loneliest people in the world.
As a fan, it really hurts, because Jonghyun was one of those idols who once helped me cope and gave me comfort in the days I felt like I had nothing left. I wish I could do the same, because now I realize that I can’t even give back half the happiness that these idols give me, even though they don’t know it. It’s a reality I have to deal with.
What I could do at the moment, though, is to spread awareness. Jonghyun’s death is another prime example of why mental health should never be undermined and should be given just as much importance as physical health. I think everyone needs to realize that compartmentalizing the mind and the body shouldn’t be the case. Our thoughts could affect our physical health, in the same way our physical health could affect our mood once strained. These two are part and parcel of who we are as one human being and we should take care of both in all ways that we could. Workplaces in each and every industry should hire an in-house therapist or make psychiatric services more accessible for their employees at the very least.
Depression is real. It bears no name, no status, no age. It’s not a matter of who can handle themselves better or who has a ‘higher’ EQ. Instead of contributing to the stigma, let’s take the time to talk more about it and put more effort in understanding it.
If you or someone you know is feeling emotionally unwell, don’t hesitate to call the HopeLine Hotlines at (02) 804-HOPE (4673); 0917 558 HOPE (4673). Alternatively, you may want to check out these self-help apps:
Pacifica is an app that provides daily tools for you to handle your stress and anxiety better. This is my favorite so far, and one I’ve been using religiously since my anxiety relapsed again this year. It checks in on you by letting you track your mood each day, lets you reframe your (negative) thoughts, and also contains relaxation resources (their meditation feature that allows you to listen to peaceful sounds while guiding you with your breathing is my absolute favorite). It’s basically an all-around resource for helping you manage stress.
7 cups is another app I recently discovered. If you ever feel the need to talk your feelings out, I highly recommend this app. It connects you with trained listeners and therapists for free, and even has sub-communities for discord (I downloaded this precisely because I didn’t know where to talk about my feelings about Jonghyun’s death).
Help is available. But ultimately, I wish for everyone to have more strength and for the world to lessen your pain, despite how unforgiving it may be.