You may have seen it around Twitter or elsewhere; the It Gets Better initiative, formed in response to the recent suicides of young gay teens (and tweens) in the news. Zach Quinto just weighed in on Youtube and it pretty much broke my heart.
I've seen some objections voiced on this initiative, and I just wanted to state for the record: I think that this message is a very good idea, not just as a message for gay teens, but for any young person at the receiving end of a lot of social judgment. (In fact, that might be my only objection, that it's not more clearly inclusive of ALL commonly bullied groups of teens, but I'm not such a dipshit as to assume that every good thing must pander to my causes.)
This is a very good idea, for a few reasons.
1. There are few things more effective when dealing with the suicidal than the simplest of facts: "This feeling is temporary." Depression may be pervasive and long-lasting, but a deep, ready intent to kill yourself is far more likely to be a temporary state of mind that, once shaken off, can often feel quite irrational in retrospect.
Some of you may remember that NYTimes article I posted about some time ago, talking about suicides and bridges. Studies showed that suicide rates dropped when safety rails were added to bridges that made them much harder to jump from. WHY would this work, scientists wondered? Because those who intend suicide tend to have a firm scenario in their mind, and if something goes wrong with it, they don't simply switch methodology. If a suicidal individual was thwarted from their bridge-jumping plan, they would not simply go home and use a handgun. Suicide is more complex than the mere desire to die by any means possible. And it can be prevented. It is possible to prevent suicide with an obstacle or delay.
That is a remarkable fact, and one well-encapsulated with that simple message. "Wait. Give it time. It gets better." For the suicidal, this may not always be true, but it's true an overwhelming proportion of the time.
That's what suicide hotlines are for. Not because you can talk someone out of wanting to die; but because you can talk someone through the danger zone until they reach a rational state again.
2. I'll be perfectly frank: it's anecdotal, but dude, not everything in life has to conform to the scientific method in order to be useful or valid. I have never known someone who was tormented or miserable in high school who did not experience at least some improvement when they got older. Have you? They're rare cases, no?
Life simply gets easier for those of us who are a little different, once we leave adolescence. You have more privacy, more anonymoty, more power over your own circumstances. You have more choices. A later bedtime, the ability to make your own money. The ability to move. The ability to blow off a real jerk without destroying your entire social circle (although I know some adults who still refuse to do this, trust me, all it takes is some practice). The ability to drink, or take a long walk without a chaperone, or drive off into the sunset, or own fifteen dogs and live on a ranch if you darn well want to. The ability to find other people who are like you.
The freedoms and responsibilities that come with real adulthood can be particularly kind to those who suffered in their childhoods and young adulthoods.
But that's all just external.
3. Simple psychology. Over-emphasizing the importance of the opinions of others is more than just a typical trait of teens; it's a developmental stage that a normal human passes through on their way to adulthood. I asked my mother once if there was anything good about aging, and she told me something I will never forget: "The best thing about getting old is that you genuinely stop caring what other people think."
It gets better, because you grow in your understanding, and your skin thickens. I speak as someone who grew up with the emotional hypersensitivity of a naked nerve ending. Seriously, I used to think there would never be a time in my life when everything and everyone DIDN'T HURT ME ALL THE TIME. But now, even as young as my thirties, I can feel it happening: things don't hurt the way they used to.
I just don't care as much if people don't like me. If someone finds something to criticize about me, I just don't take it as personally as I used to. A lot of this is learning and experience, a lot of it is the practice of accepting myself, and some of it is just getting tired of the rules of others... rules with no reward for following them, and no real punishment that matters if you disobey, not when compared to the consequence of being forced to live as something you're not.
You learn as you get older to not take things personally, because people hurt you because of their problems, not because of yours. You learn to understand what makes people lash out and attack. You learn to let go, and forgive, or maybe just let go and despise people, but whatever path you take, it's a path away from trying to please everybody, and a path toward being who you were created to be. You learn that agonizing just isn't worth it when you could be singing, or dancing, or loving someone. You learn that you would rather be yourself than someone who hates you; you would rather be yourself so much, in fact, that you learn to feel pity for those who are trapped in hating.
You realize you're going to die someday and you've reached the point where you don't want that to happen any time soon, and your days are numbered, and there simply isn't time to waste on the opinions of people who don't know what the fuck they're talking about when it comes to your life and your purpose. You realize life is a good thing, but partially because you make it that way.
It gets better. It does.
Hang in there.