A young, beautiful woman committed suicide this week. And one of the many tragic aspects of her death is a paragraph buried in a news story about it.
The woman was Lex McAllister. You’ve probably never heard her name. You might have seen her face. But you’ve definitely heard of the show responsible for her 15 minutes of fame. She was once a contestant on the popular reality show “The Bachelor” during its 14th season in 2010. Her tenure wasn’t long — she was eliminated on the first night — but she was a part of “The Bachelor” franchise nonetheless.
On Saturday afternoon, she called a friend with a grim message: She was thinking about suicide. By the time the friend called 911 and police arrived, it was too late. McAllister, from Ohio, overdosed using prescription drugs. By Tuesday, her body began shutting down and she was taken off life support. She was 31.
Ex-contestants quickly began posting farewell messages. News stories started spreading the word. It’s one of those stories that caught my eye. Buried in the fifth paragraph of USA Today’s writeup, is this sentence: “A financial planner and wealth manager, McAllister’s Instagram page contains many happy pictures of her with friends and family, and no indication she was suicidal.
Think about that for a second. It may seem obvious to some, but here’s why that’s a problem: It’s a practical example of an epidemic in society. Our lives on social media rarely reflect our true reality. Our Facebook feeds are fake. Our Twitter feeds are misleading. And our Instagram photos are a facade.
That’s why what Melissa Camara Wilkins wrote recently is so important. In her post, “Why you don’t need an Instagram-perfect life,” she says:
I want to spend my days creating the life and the art that are mine to create, not pretending my reality looks like someone else’s idea of perfect.
Fitting in might seem safe, but belonging feels so much better.
Wherever you go in life—online, offline, or to that elusive cupcake shop—show up as you. Show up with your one beautiful, messy life. That’s how you find your people, the ones you belong to, the ones who belong to you.
They see your reality and they say: Me too. They say: I can relate. They say: I know that story, that’s my story. And you both heave a sigh of relief at having found each other.
Share that with the world. Because your life—the real one, the one you’re already living—is pretty Instagram-perfect, just as it is.
I wish so much that Lex realized what Melissa does. I want you to realize that. Go and read Melissa’s entire post. There’s hope. And there’s someone offering it.
Remember, reality — far different from reality TV — is messy. It can be ugly. But that ugliness and messiness is what is truly beautiful. Show that to the world.
The selfies can wait.
If you’re struggling with thoughts of self-harm, there is hope. You can call 1-800-273-TALK to chat with someone about it. For a list of other resources, visit the website of To Write Love on Her Arms here.