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Finding My Voice

As writers, we have one great, powerful tool.

A voice.

And whether we use that voice for good or ill, for something that will make people think or make them laugh, is up to us.

I tended to use that voice to scare people. Until recently.

A good friend of mine took his own life last week. I was shocked, furious, and deeply saddened–not just by the loss of my friend, which was bad enough, but by some of the reactions to it.

Ordinarily I would fume behind closed doors. I would write about it in my journal, rant to The Boy, cry to a couple of close friends, and that would be it. But Stan deserved more than that, so I wrote this post. I thought if I could make just one person understand what he was going through, speaking out publicly would be worth it.

But was it terrifying? Oh yes, it was scary as hell. Instead of telling spooky stories that would give others nightmares, I was scaring myself.

I thought my work was over with that post, but no. Other people decided to write their own posts and columns about my friend, suggesting that his death was due to the fact that we live in a cold and callused world where people limit their interactions with others to social media.

This time, there was no chance that I could fume behind closed doors. And to explain why, I have to introduce you to another friend of mine.

His name is Perry.

When his friend was in trouble, what did Perry do? He gave him a home. He provided a shoulder to cry on, endless emotional support, and hours of distracting entertainment.

He contacted all of us–every single person our dear friend might have lost touch with–and said, “hey, this guy’s in trouble! Please reach out to him.” And we did. And now that our friend is gone, we can at least take comfort in the fact we had another chance to say “we love you. We’re here for you”.

Thanks to Perry.

Perry did not sit idly by while his friend suffered. And that is why he is my personal hero. There were many other friends and family members who also did everything they could to let Stan know he was loved. And he did know, right up until his very last moments on earth.

To suggest otherwise is to spit in the face of every single person who did what they could to support, love, and comfort Stan.

So, wherever I could, I told the full story–how Depression is a disease that took our friend even though he was loved and cared for. Even though he knew he was loved and cared for. Sometimes love is not enough, and unfortunately, this was one of those times.

I wrote a letter to the editor to refute that ugly, misleading column. I told the author how I felt. Seems like I’ve been telling many people how I feel about their misguided comments these days. But I think of Stan, and of Perry, and I can’t stay silent anymore.

Our writing voice is a great power, and with great power comes great responsibility. (One can’t write about Perry without quoting Spiderman; it’s a rule.)

We can lift others up or we can drag them down again. Thanks to the Internet, our words will live forever, so it’s best not to have any regrets.

That can make us nervous to use our power.

I know I was.

But if we aren’t brave enough to speak up when we see injustice, if we’re not strong enough to ask for help when a friend’s in trouble, we don’t deserve the power we’ve been given.

So use your voice and let it shine.

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group’s purpose is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

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20 Comments

  1. Marilyn Parel

    How brave you are. You faced what you needed to do and succeeded at doing it, rather well, I can tell. And yes, voices always matter. Stopped by as part of IWSG day. Glad I did. All the best.

    Reply
  2. Kyla Roma

    Wow, Perry sounds exceptional! People all grieve differently, but it’s really misguided to take a nuanced, terrible human tragedy and chalk it up to something as general and simplistic as social media & how the world (apparently) is now. I didn’t read the column or posts, but it sounds like another way of saying “Oh, it’s a sign of the times! Look at kids these days!”.

    Nothing is that simple, and to me it seems unintentionally disrespectful. Everyone’s life is their own complicated, beautiful heart wrenching maze to navigate. Depression is a real physical illness, just like cancer or a broken arm, that left untreated or under treated can ruin lives.

    His death is about his life and choices, just like all of our lives and deaths are. But let’s not cheapen the loss that his friends and family must be feeling by telling ourselves stories of how it’s part of something bigger that’s completely out of our control because the world has somehow changed.

    Anytime we lose someone we’re reminded of the value of connection, and of being really present with people when we’re with them. Living that out for the coming years and decades with a piece of Stan in your heart seems like a beautiful way to honour him, but no death – and certainly no suicide – can be explained easily. Thankfully, our lives are about a lot more than how we leave.

    Thank you for sharing your story & using your voice! It’s a powerful and nuanced one – which is exactly what the world needs more of.

    Reply
  3. Mystic_Mom

    Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! You said it, and so well.

    Reply
  4. Elsie Amata

    I’m so sorry about the loss of your friend. I also lost a friend to suicide a few years ago. It’s a tough journey. You’re right, Perry is a hero and so are you for speaking out.

    co-host IWSG
    Elsie

    Reply
  5. Lisa

    I can’t imagine telling someone something painful or hurtful in a circumstance like this. No one has the right to judge the depression of someone else, or what their choices were. We all have our moments. We all need our friends, and as you say, we all need a place to vent, to use our voice and let whatever is eating us up inside out before we are consumed. I feel for you and your friend. I’m so sorry that was the choice he felt he had to make. I’m glad you can remember him so fondly even after that choice. I think you were and are still, a true friend to him (and to Perry!).

    Reply
  6. Patricia Lynne

    Sorry about your loss.
    I would be peeved about that column. If anything the online community can be as caring as it is cruel. There is a lot of support in the online world. My IWSG post is an update on how I’ve been doing during my rough patch and the support I’ve gotten is amazing. It’s all from people I’ve met online. Some I don’t even know what they look like. Online voices are just as supportive as real life ones.

    Reply
  7. J.H. Moncrieff

    Thanks for your comments, ladies. It’s great to see I’m not alone here this morning. 🙂

    @ Marilyn: Thank you so much for your kind words. I’m glad you stopped by. I’ll return the favor this evening.

    @ Kyla: The thing that infuriated me so much is that the column negated all the things Stan’s real world friends did to help and support him, and there were many. Just because the author of the column did nothing to keep in touch with Stan (and they weren’t even Facebook friends, so the mentions of social media don’t make sense) doesn’t mean no one did, and he never should have made it seem that way.

    Thanks for your words and support. I still feel Stan didn’t choose to end his life–it was his Depression that did that for him, but I agree about the best way to honor him. Thank you for that.

    And yes, Perry is exceptional. He is one of a kind and always will be.

    Reply
  8. J.H. Moncrieff

    Thanks, MM. Your support means so much to me. I hope you know that.

    Reply
  9. P V Ariel

    This is my first visit to your page, Lot of informative and interesting posts here, I am glad that I landed here via IWSG fb page, A well written post for the day, Keep it up, I too aired one just now, Have a good and blessed day, Phil

    Reply
  10. Kirsten

    Thank you for sharing this! There are so many questions one asks about suicide, and reading your post helped me understand this sad situation so much better.
    You have a wonderful voice, and I’m glad you are so thoughtful about how you use it.

    Reply
  11. J.H. Moncrieff

    Thank you for your comments. I really appreciate them.

    @ Elsie: Thanks for your kind words. They were very nice to read.

    @ Phil: Thanks for being here, and for commenting. It means a lot.

    @ Lisa: Sorry, but it wasn’t a “choice” he made. He was severely depressed, and depression is a disease. This is how depression kills people. That’s exactly the kind of thing I hope to bring more awareness to. Of course I will always remember him fondly–Stan was not his disease. He was a good person. An amazing person.

    @ Patricia Lynne: I agree. Some of the most supportive people in my life right now are friends I met on Twitter. It’s the real life “friend” who wrote this column that I have an issue with. I think his point was that real life friends have come to rely solely on social media as a way to keep in touch, and he’s probably right about that. That’s not what I had an issue with.

    Thanks for being here, and for commenting. I’m sorry you’ve been struggling as well. <3

    Reply
  12. TAH

    I am so sorry for your loss.<3<3<3

    Reply
  13. Doug

    Very powerful. As hard as it is for most to understand, SAYing “I love you” or “I understand” isn’t always enough. Perry did not just speak his concern, he lived it. And actions always speak louder than words. Yes, Kudos to Perry.

    Reply
  14. J.H. Moncrieff

    Thanks for your comments and kind words. I really appreciate them.

    @ Doug: I think that we have some need to put ourselves into any tragedy–to process it in a way where we have some control over the outcome. With suicide, it is even more tempting to think that a call, a hug, a word from one of us would have changed the outcome. And it’s okay to think that if it gets you through the day, but it doesn’t mean it’s true.

    Reply
  15. Alex J. Cavanaugh

    Wow, that is the best IWSG post I’ve read yet.
    Yes, we can lift others up and make a difference. And it can make a huge difference.
    Thank you for being a part of the IWSG and not being afraid to hide.

    Reply
  16. Suzanne Sapsed

    I know two people who have committed suicide. My cousin’s husband had schizophrenia and my son’s friend was 18 suffering severe depression. Sadly so many people do not ‘get’ depression, in it’s severest state, it is every much an illness as schizophrenia. Even though it has brought back sad memories thank you for your post, if it helps just one person understand the seriousness of depression, it’s worth it’s weight in gold!
    Suzanne @ Suzannes Tribe
    xx

    Reply
  17. J.H. Moncrieff

    Alex, that is the biggest compliment you could have ever given me. Thank you so much!

    I am proud to be a part of the IWSG and am so glad I discovered it. Thank you for starting it, and for supporting other writers. It means a lot.

    I apologize for being so neglectful in responding to others’ blogs this time around. It’s been a tumultuous two weeks.

    Reply
  18. Michelle D. Argyle

    This is incredible. Truly, finding your voice and USING it one of the most important things we can in this life. I’m so glad you are there.

    Reply
  19. J.H. Moncrieff

    Thanks so much, Michelle. I’m going to be using it a lot more often from now on. I’m glad you are here, too. <3

    Reply
  20. J.H. Moncrieff

    I’m very sorry for your loss, Suzanne, and doubly sorry this post brought back painful memories. It is a terrible disease, and the longer people dismiss it as something we have control over, the more wonderful people we will lose. For it always seems to be the kind, the gentle, the creative and the sensitive who suffer most.

    Thanks for your comment, and for being here. I really appreciate it.

    Reply

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