Brave Face est un roman autobiographique de l’écrivain américain Shaun David Hutchinson, connu pour plusieurs romans dans le genre Young Adult. Dans cette autobiographie, il raconte son adolescence, marquée à la fois par la découverte de son homosexualité et par la dépression dont il a souffert, au point de l’emmener à une tentative de suicide.

“I wasn’t depressed because I was gay. I was depressed and gay.”

Shaun David Hutchinson was nineteen. Confused. Struggling to find the vocabulary to understand and accept who he was and how he fit into a community in which he couldn’t see himself. The voice of depression told him that he would never be loved or wanted, while powerful and hurtful messages from society told him that being gay meant love and happiness weren’t for him.

A million moments large and small over the years all came together to convince Shaun that he couldn’t keep going, that he had no future. And so he followed through on trying to make that a reality.

Thankfully Shaun survived, and over time, came to embrace how grateful he is and how to find self-acceptance. In this courageous and deeply honest memoir, Shaun takes readers through the journey of what brought him to the edge, and what has helped him truly believe that it does get better.

Je ne vais pas vous raconter tout le roman, je vais simplement me contenter d’expliquer que l’auteur nous raconte son adolescence, au sens strict du mot teenager, puisque le roman commence quand Shaun a treize ans et prend fin lorsqu’il en a dix-neuf.

L’auteur nous raconte sa vie de famille, ses difficultés au collège puis au lycée, ses amitiés, ses tentatives avec d’éphémères petites amies avant de découvrir son homosexualité, ses premières histoires avec des garçons, avec toujours en toile de fond cette incapacité à s’accepter qui va provoquer une profonde dépression jusqu’à le pousser à vouloir mettre fin à ses jours.

J’ai envie de dire que c’est tristement classique, tragiquement banal. J’ai l’impression d’avoir déjà lu ou vu ce genre d’histoires, mais cela n’enlève rien ni à l’intérêt ni à l’utilité de ce livre. C’est un témoignage touchant de ce que signifiait grandir comme jeune adolescent homosexuel au milieu des années 1990 et je ne pouvais évidemment pas y rester insensible. Au-delà de la question de l’ homosexualité, il y a aussi le sujet de la dépression dont souffrait, et souffre toujours, Shaun, qu’il évoque avec beaucoup de justesse.

Je ne vais pas en dire plus, juste vous encourager à lire ce livre, et vous laisser avec quelques extraits pour vous en convaincre :

Depression speaks. It screams. It’s not like actually hearing voices. I know the voice in my head isn’t real and I know that it’s lying, but knowing those things doesn’t make it go away. I still hear it, and it dredges up my worst fears and yells them at me until it drowns out everything else.

I hated small talk then, and I still hate it now. When I go to a party, I either find those one or two people who are willing to get into a really intense conversation for a couple of hours about why the Oxford comma is the best comma or why Captain Janeway was superior to Captain Kirk, or I wind up sitting awkwardly by myself in a corner because I’d rather gag on a cocktail shrimp than spend five minutes discussing the weather or traffic.

In the final scene, Jamie is standing in this little piazza in front of their apartments. Ste comes walking down the stairs toward him, dressed up and looking handsome. Mama Cass’s “Dream a Little Dream of Me” drifts out of Leah’s open windows. Jamie holds out his hand to Ste and asks him to dance. Ste thinks Jamie’s joking at first—people might see them! His father might see them!—but Jamie isn’t joking. Tentatively, Ste takes Jamie’s hand, and they embrace. They dance. When nosy neighbors begin to peek their heads out, Leah and Jamie’s mom join the dancing, daring anyone to screw with their boys. And as the camera pans out, Ste rests his head on Jamie’s shoulder, leaving us with the image of two boys together and so totally in love. Happily ever after. The end. Beautiful Thing was a revelation. I walked out of that theater smiling. I walked out of the theater beaming. I walked out of the theater shooting rainbows out of my ass and firing them from my eyes. Jamie and Ste were like me! They were just average teenage boys. Like me!

I was a nineteen-year-old queer boy with depression who’d spent years pretending to be whoever I thought I’d needed to be to make people like me and was so terrified of being alone that I often thought I’d be better off dead.

So here’s the thing. Did I actually want to hang out with Parker or did I just want Parker to want to hang out with me? That’s a question I still don’t know the answer to. I think it’s probably closer to B) than A). I was lonely. I wanted someone to believe I was worth spending time with. The voice in my head told me I was utterly worthless, so I derived any value I had as a human being from others.

“The next time you feel like you want to, you ask for help.” Emily smiled and declared rummy, laying out her sets for me to see. I tallied the points and shuffled. “I checked myself in here.”

“Really?” That caught me by surprise. I’d also checked myself in, but only because Dr. Smith had threatened to commit me if I hadn’t. I was having a difficult time imagining anyone willingly checking themselves into a psychiatric facility.

“It’s true,” Emily said. “My life just became . . .” She paused, looking for the right word. “Overwhelming. I felt like I couldn’t handle the stress I was under, and I worried I might do something bad if I didn’t get help.”

“So you just asked for help? Simple as that?”

“It’s not really that simple,” she said, laughing. “But yes. I told my husband and kids I needed a mental vacation, and then I checked myself in.”

A mental vacation. I’d never heard anyone talk about mental health that way. Emily wasn’t ashamed of being in Fair Oaks, she wasn’t worried anyone was going to think she was weak for needing help. In fact, she was acting like she’d done something brave by recognizing she needed help and asking for it. And she had.

I’d begun to realize that my fear of being gay and my depression were two separate issues. I wasn’t depressed because I was gay. I was depressed and I was gay. Being gay doesn’t make a person depressed any more than being depressed makes a person gay. My self-hate was caused by my complete misunderstanding of myself and what being gay meant.

I wanted to write Brave Face because, while I love the message of “It Gets Better,” I worry that it’s not enough. When does it get better? How long does it take? How does it happen? Those are the unanswered questions I wanted to try to tackle. Because getting better isn’t something that happens overnight. It can take years. Sometimes it gets better, then it gets worse, better, worse again, and then better. And sometimes it’s not a simple either/ or. Sometimes it gets better and it gets worse.

The problem had never been that I didn’t know who I was; it was that I’d assumed who I was wasn’t good enough. But he was. I was. And you are too.

It took me a long time to come to terms with being gay and fitting into the community and accepting myself for who I was instead of trying to become who I thought others wanted me to be. And I have been much happier since I got to that point. But none of that made my depression go away. Depression is something I’ll always struggle with. The difference is that I understand now what that voice in my head is. It’s a fucking liar.

There are so many treatments for depression, and I found what works for me. That doesn’t always make life easy, but it makes it manageable. And when it gets too bad, I’m not ashamed to ask for help.

There are always better days beyond the bad. It gets better. Sometimes not as quickly as we’d like, but eventually. You get better. You learn and you grow and you accept yourself for who you are and know that you are good enough. It takes work, it takes patience, and often it takes help. But it does and will get better. And you don’t have to do it alone. You don’t have to put on a brave face and pretend that everything’s okay. It’s okay to hurt, and it’s okay to ask for help. You can show people who you really are, and you’ll still be worthy of being loved.

Brave Face, Shaun David Hutchinson

Note : ★★★★☆

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