A life-saving adventure
Social media was made for sharing and travel blogger Karriem Sharrieff made it his work. His six-part series about his time in South-East Asia drew attention when he launched the trailer last November.
When he finished editing 2016: A Year in Review, something did not feel right. So, he prefaced it with a line: In 2016, I planned on committing suicide. This is what I would have missed.
The videos show him in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Malaysia. There are vivid scenes of waterfalls, parties — and lots of girls.
“It was initially going to be [a way to say] look at this awesome year I had. And then I realised, it didn’t feel true,” he said.
“We have this social construct of feigned interaction. Everyone shares their food on Instagram. You’ll have hundreds of conversations in a day, but it’s sports, it’s weather, a lot of superficial things.”
Comments of support and concern poured in. Many warned him of the dangers in being open, telling him it would harm his personal and professional opportunities.
He doesn’t care.
The conversation about it with his mother was the best they had ever had.
“We may have never had that conversation,” he said.
“I would be so much in my head that I wasn’t interacting with other people the way I should have been.
“It was a daily struggle of trying to convince myself and other people that I was OK. I wouldn’t be able to get out of bed for days at a time or not show up for work because I couldn’t face being around other people.”
His plan was to leave Bermuda and “not come back”.
“No matter how depressed a person is, they realise there are people around them that love them. Sometimes it isn’t enough of a deterrent. You still want to pursue that avenue without hurting the people you love.
“It’s nothing to do with them, it’s just that you’re exhausted and it’s really hard to keep fighting. I had to leave. I had to literally, physically remove myself.”
He gave himself until his birthday, April 18, to see if he felt any differently.
“I was 30 at the time,” he said. “I didn’t want to get to 31 and still feel this way. My thinking was, well, if I just go away and go missing, nobody has to deal with it. There’s no funeral, there’s no burial. It was almost a way of escaping while impacting people as little as possible.”
He started feeling depressed at about the age of 7 and was given an official diagnosis at age 12.
“I had tried medication, therapy, self-medication, substance abuse. I had tried everything for 23 years.
“After two decades of trying to come to grips with myself and not coming up with any solutions, I was just tired.
“By nature, I’m an optimistic person [but] I had no other option. This was the only thing I hadn’t tried. The issue is, people don’t talk about this thing. So many people are affected by it and it’s still taboo.
“I had an opportunity to talk about it at length through therapy. That’s why I made it as far as I did, because I was able to vent.
“[Why is it] that you can say it in a psychologist’s office, but you can’t tell your friends? You can’t talk about it with your family?
“That’s really destructive because everyone goes through struggles and we should be able to ask for help and offer help if people ask for it.
“Maybe that conversation gives them a little bit of hope to keep fighting and keep pushing through.”
He decided to talk about his planned suicide after he showed the trailer to friends.
“[People were saying] ‘Your life is amazing. It looks like party, party, party’. And, yeah, some of it is, but at the same time, it took a lot of fighting to see those beautiful things. It took a lot of ugliness and a lot of darkness to give the beautiful things, perspective.
“If I didn’t give it that context, it would just be another one of those superficial things. Life is up and down. you can’t just block out one side of it and only show the highlight reel.
“If people can realise the context behind it and say, if this person felt that low and created good out of it, maybe I can as well.”
He believes the people he met on his travels unknowingly played a part in “saving my life”.
Since he returned home six months ago, Mr Sharrieff has been busy with video projects and also set up a resource for those suffering from depression: http://exist270.com/sos
He said editing has been “bittersweet”.
“When things are good, you value it more and when things are low again, you can say, if I created happiness at this other time, then there’s something to look forward to.”