“Are you f*&king serious?” she asks me, looking at me in that angry / scared / amused way that only teens can do. I like this girl, this young woman. She’s valiant, honest and has a righteous rage.
I am serious I tell her. Really serious.
Moments earlier she’d whipped out her phone to show me an article that she read on the way to my office. The grim headline read: Ireland has the highest rate in Europe for young girls taking their own lives
And I had asked her why she thought this was the case.
I saw the piece myself on Twitter this morning even though it’s a month old now and it was still bouncing around in my head when she arrived. She’s the age, the profile. Yes, I am serious. She has a history of self-harm, as do many of her friends, many of my clients. Beloved friends and family are lost to suicide every year.
It is serious.
And she is serious. “Here’s maybe why-” she says:
The last few years my friends and I have learned a few terrible truths about what life probably has in store for us. We can expect to be harassed pretty much everywhere. Then we get blamed for being harassed. We get judged for wearing too little clothes or make-up or tan or whatever. And too much. We are sluts, we are ugly, we are too fat, or too thin. We have to look hot. We’ll probably get paid less than boys. We might not be listened to if we complain about anything. We’ll get dragged through a court if we are attacked or raped. We can’t send pics or say things to boys cos it’ll be all over the place the next day and we’ll be blamed. But they still want them. We’re supposed to like porn and it’s gross. I HATE that boys watch it. We have the worst sex-ed. We might get beaten up by our partners. If we are the guards mightn’t even be nice to us. We have to go to England for abortions. Even if we’re sick or our baby is sick. People don’t care. Everyone is fighting over our bodies and lots of us won’t even have a say. We can’t be honest about how we feel about sex and babies and stuff. We’ve to wait months to talk to people we feel we can be honest with. And Instagram. And periods, FFS. Periods.
She cry-laughs at the periods (they’re no joke though. No, I know, God.) She cries properly. Spent.
Will it change, she asks?
Honestly? I don’t know. But I have hope. I do, even though I am also afraid. And have been afraid, and attacked and judged and dismissed. But she is a very, very bright part of our future. I know many like her. They are like sunrises. We have the loveliest young people walking among us, they are wise, they see, they hear. They are relying on us until they can take over. tweet to another lovely person
Will it change? Will we?
My fingers are crossed so tightly they’ll go blue.
She’s given me permission to share this of course. I’ve left out most of the f&%s but think the energy of her spirit certainly shines through. As always.
Contacts and Resources: don’t be alone
- If your friend or child has self harmed this piece I wrote might help
- Pieta House
As a woman advised in the Independent: “hug them close, bind their wounds and bring them to therapy”.
PS – Since I wrote this one of the biggest social changes certainly in my memory has occurred in Ireland. As it’s deeply connected to this piece, I thought I’d add a link here.