Six months ago, this picture found its way onto my feed on Facebook.
And this guy – smiling – approachable – having a laugh over the stupid yearbook photos and the stress behind them and just going next level by doing his own photo.
There was something about it that charmed me.
♥ It’s so hard to be our true selves.
♥ It’s so hard to step out from the pack and do something that expresses the people that we are.
♥ It’s so hard to follow through on unique ideas and dreams we have for fear of being shamed or embarrassed.
Laser Cat Teenager was my new hero.
I named this site and my company, “Danger Dame”
because before I seriously re-evaluated my life before the rottweiler attack,
I felt like the most dangerous thing I could be was my true self.
It was too hard.
It would draw too much attention.
It would be weird.
People would judge me.
Suppose I open my heart and show my true self and the world destroys me?
But then my life changed, and I committed to fight for being my true self every day.
I was willing to do the most dangerous thing I could think of:
Put myself out there honestly and truthfully no matter what.
But it’s still hard.
And here’s this guy who’s 17 – just completely unafraid and out there. Doing his thing. Being him. Not hiding.
I clicked through on the story.
His name was Draven Rodriguez.
At the time of the photo was taken, six months ago, he told the Daily Gazette:
“I don’t want to go in the yearbook with the generic ‘I-look-like-everyone-else’photo,” he said. “I wanted a ‘He looks great. Only he would try that’ photo. When people look at it, they will know that was me.”
I followed him from afar. He got his principal and her rescue chihuahua to pose alongside him and his cat, Mr. Bigglesworth, in a photo that will be put in the yearbook to help bring awareness to rescuing animals.
I was moved at how he wanted to help others. How at the age of 17, he was not only rocking his true self, but he was coming up with ways to make the world a better place.
He told ABC news,
“I really wanted to be remembered and this is kind of my last chance in the area before I move on to college and hopefully do great things with my life. I want people to remember my personality and not just my face.”
He took his own life on Thursday.
It hit me really hard.
You’re probably here because you’re different, too.
Because you fight every day to be your wild, creative, true self.
And that’s why there’s community here….
because you and I know how hard it is to be ourselves and get judged constantly, and slammed, and made to feel not good enough or worthy enough, or too weird, or too whatever.
We know what it’s like to feel like the world is against us at times….
and we find safety and encouragement in each other.
We keep each other going.
I know that YOU keep me going.
And with his loss, just like the recent loss of Leelah Alcorn, I felt it in my bones.
We lost ones of our own….ones fighting to be themselves no matter what.
We lost brave ones that had the courage to put themselves out there to the world,
and the thought of that destroys me.
I believe that we can save each other.
Let’s have a discussion.
What has helped you when you’ve been on the edge?
What advice do you have for others?
If we can talk about it, if we can raise awareness about this, if this can just save one life….
Here’s what I have done:
1. See My Life As A Story.
If I am going through a really hard time, I imagine myself as the main character of a story I’m reading. Sometimes when you’re fighting with depression or pain, it’s hard to get out of the sinking quicksand of it. So I fight back by almost stepping out of it, and imagine that I’m reading this book in which the main character has my name and is going through all the crazy things I’m going through. I try to imagine the good things that will happen in future chapters for her. I always imagine the book as being a heavy beautiful book with many pages….and I think, this is just a bad chapter for our hero…..it’s just a few pages….her story is far from over. She’s got future adventures that need to be had. And I am rooting for her to make it.
2. Reach Out.
Anyone in my life knows that when I’m going through it, I hide. The phone rings and I throw it under my bed. A text bings and I can’t even look at it. It’s this weird, I can’t face anyone now or let anyone see me like this, so I’ll just huddle in a corner until I can figure this out.
There’s still some kind of air of guilt or shame around being depressed in our society
and our tendencies to hide or say “I’m fine” when we are anything but fine, can be deadly.
I hate the advice things that say “reach out” because it means having enough strength to pick up a phone and call someone when you’re feeling almost paralyzed.
But it can save your life.
And if you’re worried or ashamed or embarrassed to reveal how you’re really feeling to your loved ones, PLEASE CALL the Suicide Hotline….they don’t know who you are, you can talk for real about what’s happening and no one is going to judge you. They want to help you more than anything and they are waiting there ready to listen to you. Please do it.
US Hotline: 1 (800) 273-8255
UK Hotline: +44 (0) 8457 90 90 90
Click here for hotlines all over the world.
3. Get Lost In Those Stupid Puppy or Kitten Videos on YouTube.
Yeah. You’re so depressed you can’t leave the house.
So that whole “Go for a Walk” advice doesn’t work.
Maybe try and look at this for a minute and see if you don’t go…what in the holy hell am I watching….
and then I hope a smile goes across your face.
Or maybe you can watch this video that ByRegina posted recently…and we can pretend that me and you are Muhammad Ali kicking the shit out of this….
I am here.
I have your back.
I know you have mine.
I am grateful for you and I love you.
It gets better.
It really does.
Let’s be kind to each other.
If you think this can help someone who is hurting, please share.
Please comment for ways that you help yourself keep fighting.
There might be something that helps you that will save someone else.
Rest in Peace, Draven.
Thank you for the kindness, empathy, uniqueness and inspiration you showed us in your short life.
Your life touched people around the world.
Sending love to your family and friends…..
We’re going to shine on for you.