Of Courage and Cowardice

Trigger Warning: Mentions of suicide and self harm

 “I’m sorry that I’m such a coward.”  

It was a WhatsApp text from a very close friend that I’m not sure was really meant to be sent, because it got deleted in a few seconds.  I was just about to question the meaning behind it, when the bell ringing distracted me. Quickly throwing my phone inside my bag, I rushed to the front bench, as a proper student would do, and forgot all about the message. 

That was two years back.

Fast forward to two days back, and I was sitting there, tears streaming down my cheeks, stuffing my face with popcorn, watching ‘A Star Is Born’.  

*Spoiler Alert*

To those of you who haven’t watched it, A Star Is Born is a musical romantic drama movie about a famous singer battling alcohol addiction (Bradley Cooper) and a young woman who also aspires to be a musician (Lady Gaga). Long story short, they fall in love, marry, and she achieves her dreams at the cost of his life. 

That’s right. Jack (Cooper) commits suicide at the end of the film, which gives Ally (Lady Gaga) the tearful motivation to pursue her ambition. 

At the end of the movie, Ally is (understandably) guilt-stricken, and feels that she is to blame for his death. 

*End of Spoiler*

I felt that it was like Beauty and the Beast with an alternate ending, what with the gradual falling in love, learning about each other, secrets kept, and all that, but the movie did get in a few points in it’s favour. Like the songs, for example. 

Though I felt that Lady Gaga’s voice didn’t really go with some of the lyrics; that she could not convey the depth of the lyrics, the soundtrack was very good, so kudos to Cooper and her. 

If asked for a review, I would give the movie a 3.0/5.0 and declare it as worth a one-time watch, just for Bradley Cooper’s charm. But we’re here to discuss more than that. 

Let’s go back to when I was 19 and naive.

Two months after that deleted WhatsApp message, I almost lost my friend to a bicycle accident, as we had everyone believe. 

My friend was rubbish at lying when it came to me, so I  managed to coax out the truth. My friend had decided to die that day, getting on a bicycle and riding down a busy road with closed eyes. 

“I’m so sorry.” Were the first words my friend said to me. 

Next came the words I had read two months prior; ‘I’m sorry that I’m such a coward.”

I found that I disagreed at that point, once I had gotten over my initial anger and shock.

I’ve always felt that suicide requires a certain amount of courage. The courage to leave your loved ones behind, the courage to give up all your hopes and dreams, and the courage to look past the potential consequences of your actions.  It is quite obvious then, that the people left behind, your near and dear ones, should require an even greater amount of courage. It is they who have to deal with the consequences of your actions, who have to choose to go on without you in their lives, and most importantly, they who should absolve themselves of blame and guilt.

One way in which you can alleviate your guilt is by identifying someone else who is going through a rough phase and helping them get over it.

Here is what you can do if you know someone who might need help:

  1. Notice the signs: Another thing that ‘A Star is Born’ got right was the signs of depression that Jack pulled off quite well. The addiction, the mood swings, the fits of anger, and the deep sorrow are all things that people suffering from depression often exhibit. Severe depression also reflects itself on the physical attributes of a person, like fatigue and insomnia. If you also notice one of these signs and see someone giving away their possessions or speaking with a sense of finality, chances are that they are about to take a bad decision.
     
  2. Speak out:  Most of those suffering from guilt, like Ally, think that maybe if they had shown enough love, it wouldn’t have happened. I used to think that, too, in the days following that incident. That’s a wrong notion, I realized, because depression is a sickness, and suicide is a decision that very sick people take. We are not all doctors, and we cannot all have cured them. Love or affection couldn’t have just changed Jack’s mind, as Bobby (Sam Elliot) tells Ally at the end of the movie.
    But if you identify someone else with depression, you can take that first step; you can talk to that person. Tell them that everything will be okay; provide constant encouragement.

  3. Never give up:  You can convince yourself into thinking that if only you had given that smile, if only you had said those words, your loved one would have been there with you. The list of ‘If-only’ is endless, and every one of them will seem true to you at the moment of guilt. But they’re all impossible because unfortunately, every known piece of Time-Turners was smashed during the fight at the Ministry of Magic.
    On a more serious note, you can help the next person. You can help by never giving upon them. no matter how difficult that person is being, no matter how hopeless they seem. Keep talking to them; make them realize that you’re there for them. In most instances, the person would need professional help, so support them while they take that step.

The answer to the most commonly asked question, ‘What could I have done differently?’ is this: nothing. But the question, ‘What can I do now?’ has a more positive answer.

What is it that C. S. Lewis said? “You cannot go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.”

So reach out to those who need help; especially those who do not ask for it. 

Teach them to dance in the rain and count stars in the dark.  

Show them that self-love is the first step towards living a happy life. 

After all, as a wise man once said, “Happiness can be found in the darkest of times if only one remembers to turn on the light.”

-Pooja Krishna H A

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