Home » Sarah Liberti on Casually Suicidal at TEDxAdelphiUniversity (Transcript)

Sarah Liberti on Casually Suicidal at TEDxAdelphiUniversity (Transcript)

I made the mistake of assuming that in all of these situations the people were fine. That because they were talking about pain with humour, they were okay. That they did it for a laugh; they did it to relate. But it got me thinking: what if that was their flare? What if instead of laughing, they were screaming? What was it about having to present their pain through humour?

I believe it was because they were uncomfortable actually talking about these hard feelings to discuss. So what do we do if someone actually, boldly says, “I want to kill myself.” We get uncomfortable and retract into our shell, and we don’t know what to do. Discomfort is something that tore an old best friend of mine and I apart.

A few years ago, I actually drove myself to the emergency room in the midst of a panic attack. I learned two things that day. Never drive when you’re having a panic attack. It’s not good. And number two: it feels really good to get help. It feels so relieving and wonderful to tell someone: “I’m hurting, look at me, help me!”

I was released from the psychiatric emergency room at 6:30 in the morning, and I was sitting in this ugly green waiting room, waiting for my parents to come pick me up because I didn’t feel like driving back. And I realized that people were still coming into the emergency room, that the Sun was rising, and people were still going about their day. And because it was 6:30 in the morning, my best friend was getting ready for school to start at 7:00.

I call them and, to my surprise, they pick up, because they weren’t a morning person. The first thing to fly out of my mouth was: “You won’t believe the night I had. Can I see you in 12 hours?” 12 hours come and go, I’m sitting in their bedroom – at the time, one of my favourite places in the world. It was their bedroom; we made so many great memories there. They have a really comfortable bed, a computer, and a piano, and a fish tank, and most importantly: my friend and our friendship.

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I tell them everything that happened. The drive, everything that led up to the thoughts, the actual thoughts I had, and what happened in the hospital. There was silence after I spoke for a solid 20 minutes. My friend looks me in the eye; I could see a glimmer of confusion, and they say to me, “Sarah, you’ve always known what I thought about people who want to kill themselves: let them; they’re weak, and we’re better off without them.” I don’t talk to my best friend anymore.

I don’t know where they are or what they’re dealing with their life. And I don’t think they’re a bad person. We were so young. And if you hadn’t dealt with mental illness directly, you don’t know it. If you weren’t educated properly, how are they supposed to know what to do, what to say, how to feel? Discomfort is what drove us apart.

Discomfort crumbled our relationship. I feel sorry for them. And I feel sorry for every little boy who can’t cry and every little girl who can’t get angry. Because they have to keep it inside; because if they let it out, they would make the other people uncomfortable, and we’re told that that’s wrong. Discomfort is at the root of all of this emotional turmoil people feel. We don’t want to share out of the fear, it’ll hurt someone.

And we’re too afraid to ask because it just might not be our place. Let someone deal with their sadness alone; it’s a journey they have to take alone. Let me tell you, it feels good to share; it feels really good to ask for help. I actually told a friend of mine recently that I’m trying to start up therapy again.

And my friend, a rather intelligent woman, can’t look at me the same ever since I told her this. I bumped into her a couple of days ago, and the conversation went something like this: “Hello”

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“Hi, Sarah”

“How are you?”

“Good. How’s it going with your doctor?”

I just stare at her for a little while. “My therapist is a great woman”.

“That’s good.” And she wouldn’t leave, like she wanted to help me, but she didn’t know how, so I just lingered in the discomfort for a little longer, and I wanted to say, “We can grab lunch the three of us some time”, but I didn’t, I just said goodbye. I feel bad for her. How uncomfortable she was with me, her friend. And I feel sorry for this religion teacher I had. When I was in middle school, we went to after school religion class.

She was an older woman. One day, she taught the class that people who commit suicide go straight to hell that there was no chance of them getting into heaven because they took away the most precious gift God can give you: life. I agree with her that life is beautiful, but I feel sorry for her because she was so uncomfortable to see the pain a person is in when they actually end their life. She’ll never understand that people can hurt so bad that they end a life. We need to stop oversharing online and undersharing in real life, start reaching out.

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