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“Remember that I’m doing you a favor:” The Maddie Yates YouTube suicide note

Maddie

Maddie Yates, a high school student in Louisville, KY, posted a video to YouTube on Monday around 6pm. It was, essentially, a suicide note; she killed herself minutes later, apparently. In the “world of social media” (which makes me sound like I’m 57), teens started circulating the video on Monday night/Tuesday morning. On YouTube, it reached about 10K views before it was taken down around 4:30pm on Tuesday. Access to YouTube and Twitter was shut down by the schools in the area for a while, and it became a moderately national story.

Here’s some backstory to Yates’ video and suicide; it appears she may have been (at least partially) distraught over the anniversary of her friend committing suicide. Her friend’s name was Brianna Berrier; you can read her obituary here. (Apparently she committed suicide after a fight with her mother.)

The Maddie Yates video, as noted above, is taken down from YouTube (with good measure), but the full text is below, via BuzzFeed:

I know it’s not OK for me to be doing this, but I just can’t do this anymore. It feels like I’m being swallowed whole into myself. It physically hurts. Sometimes it hurts so bad that I throw up, and sometimes I just get panic attacks. I know this is selfish. You know, the doctor prescribed Prozac for depression and anxiety, but those are just fancy words for “selfish.” I know that I’m going to hurt everyone who loves me, and I really do love them too. But I’ve been like this for so long, and there’s still a chance that the worst day might still be coming. And I just don’t see how this is a bad idea because it’s like someone’s on the 12th floor, and the room behind them is on fire. And they’re standing on the window ledge and they have a choice whether or not to jump and get away from the fire or just stay and die a slow, excruciating death. It feels like that.

But I don’t want anyone to feel like it was their fault. This was my decision, not yours. I’m the one who messed up, not you. There’s nothing, literally nothing that you could have done; you’ve all tried so hard to help me. And I tried too. I guess it’s like I don’t mean to be over dramatic, but it’s like there’s a demon inside of me [inaudible].

You can’t help me. You’ve tried. And I’m sorry. I really don’t mean to hurt anyone. Remember that I’m doing you a favor. Remember how bad of a person I really am. I say awful things. Even if I don’t mean them, I say them. You don’t even want to know the things that I think; I am not a good person. I’m doing literally the whole world a favor. But I love you, and I’m sorry. And I really, really love you.

I don’t even begin to understand the idea behind suicide. I’ve been extremely depressed in my life many a time (I feel like everyone has, even if they’re reluctant to admit it), and I’ve never actively considered that ending my life would be the best answer. That said, I’m sure there are situations where, contextually, that does seem the way to go. I think life is hard, but one of the bigger secrets to it — secret because people don’t seem to understand/embrace it enough — is that you’re ultimately not measured by how things are when everything is successful and great (because anyone can look awesome in that context), but rather how you respond to challenge and adversity. So the simple idea of continuing onward has a lot of power (at least to me).

I guess the broader thing I’d say — and you see this with school shootings too — is that no one really lives in a vacuum. You can be anti-social, sure, but if you’re a human being, two people had to produce you (even if they’re now estranged from you), and there have to be some people around you — be that school, a job, even your next-door neighbors. Whatever it is, it’s very hard for a human being to go through life with no interaction with anyone else. So try to be empathetic when you meet others. That seems like a small, trite thing to say — and in a way, it is — but you have no idea what other people around you are going through in their own lives at the moment (oftentimes, you don’t know what your own siblings are doing at the moment, if you really think about it). People hurt and something pretty simple — like caring, taking an interest, etc. — can begin to reverse the trajectory. It’s sometimes too easy to say “Oh well, that’s a life lesson” or “Thoughts and prayers” and go on with your own life. Realize that, just by being nice and taking an interest, you might be able to help someone else. That’s powerful stuff. I fail at it all the time, but I try to keep it in mind whenever I have new interactions.

Here’s another good article on the Maddie Yates situation.

And here are a couple of reactions from Twitter:

Cool, Entrepreneurial Idea:

I Always Wondered Why People Do This Too:

Apparently from a friend of hers:

And please note, this is her final tweet before tweeting out the YouTube video:

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5 Comments Post a comment
  1. It’s a lot different when you do understand the idea behind suicide. It’s not what most people think, I think it’s not so much about having a reason to die, as not having a reason to live. Pain is endurable, so long as there is hope that it will end, or even that it will matter.

    However she is different, and her situation is….very like my experience. There is a place somewhere in the dark…where everything is wrong. Not the with the world, but with you. The world continues to sing, and you’re only one off pitch. Where everything you do, seems to destroy the harmony.

    Here, everything within you is wrong, it does not fit. It cannot fit. You’re truly isolated, completely unique, entirely alone. There is no one like you out there, what you are is invalid, a glitch, an error, an abomination. You aren’t meant to exist, you are incompatible with living, you exist as a warped husk in defiance of all things natural.

    The experience is something else. It isn’t a refusal of the challenge, it’s an inability to see it. You attribute the pain to yourself, and the pain is an existential one. It’s dysmorphic, it’s…an impossible battle. Because your enemy is seen as yourself, so for you to heal yourself you also have to destroy yourself. When you’re convinced the problem is in fact you, not just a part of you or some circumstance, then you cannot win.

    Your identity is so indivisible from this terrible thing, that the choice is either to exist in misery forever, or to simply surrender the fight. Somehow you even convince yourself there’s good in that. That the world will be free of the perturbation that is you, and no one will have to pretend any longer.

    Getting out of that place was the journey of my life. I’m sorry she could not find the way, not everyone does. Maybe it’s because they’re going back to something before, or maybe to be like the rest of everyone. It’s something far different, and far more important. It’s a Romantic tale, where the hero is the monster, and his victory is also his defeat.

    Romantic tales only end in two ways, either the world never understands the hero and he is crushed by it. Or he finds the strength to be part of the world, and it comes to accept him.

    In the end, they’re all about the same thing: isolation. The only way out is connection–not manufactured on a pedantic level, or a superior one, but an equal one. You can’t go in trying to fix something you cannot comprehend.

    In fact such an approach is fundamentally the problem, the person is treated only as a twisted thing which needs untwisting. All the other things don’t know what it means to be twisted, their demands are just empty, looking at the person for only their problem, and not recognizing the flaws within themselves. They want to get rid of it, like expired milk, and expect it to be as empty an act as just that.

    So the real solution comes from a place of understanding, a place of vulnerability. It begins with candor, and few words given in humility:

    ‘I’ve had my flaws, and I struggle with them even now. I’ve found a bit of strength in the fight, but I don’t know if I would be strong enough to endure so long as you have.

    I don’t know what it feels like to be where you are, but I’d like to understand, if you’re willing to help me.’

    That’s what I’d say anyway.

    April 16, 2014
    • vincentg #

      What an incredibly poignant comment, Brandon. I’ve never posted in the comment section of any article before, but had to after reading your thoughts. Most people, including myself, don’t understand why someone would choose to end their life. I feel that I have gained a better perspective on what a suicidal person is thinking. It’s truly a sad state to be in.

      Thank you for posting

      April 18, 2014
    • Julie #

      I think Maddie explained it best when she said it was like standing on a ledge and the choice was to jump and end it quickly or go back into the fire and die a slow, excruciatingly death. I have suffered from severe depression to the point of seriously considering suicide several times in my 46-year life. I don’t believe I truly wanted to die; I wanted to live a better life. However, things that occurred in my life such as my stepfather murdering my mother, having issues with my father, being abandoned by two husbands, leaving me to raise 3 children alone, being isolated and alone, without good friends, made living in my depression physically painful, like Maddie said. I did not know how my life could or would get better. I could not see any light at the end of the tunnel. I held on so that my children would not have the pain of thinking their mother didn’t love them enough to hang on – which would not have been the case, but I was always cognizant that it would hurt them and damage them emotionally, even when I “knew” they would be better off without me. I am thankful that I found a wonderful social worker who helped me through it and even encouraged me to become a social worker to help others. I am finishing my Master’s of Social Work degree currently, and I truly hope that I will be able to help others who find themselves struggling with depression. I think understanding and really knowing what my clients are going through will add to my ability to help them. Thank you for your words. Understanding and empathizing, and just listening with intent, are essential, in my opinion, to helping clients suffering with depression.

      April 27, 2014
  2. John #

    Wow. You honestly believe that “everyone” has been “extremely depressed” in their lives, and “many a time” to boot? You should have left the sentence before that one on its own; it was 100% true. A sure bet the same is true for understanding actual MDD.

    April 18, 2014

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