I told my friend that I’d tell her my story. I wasn’t sure where to start, or how much to tell. I couldn’t tell everything…16 years is a long time. 16 years. Over half of my life. This is Part 1. Heads up: I talk about suicide, cutting and an encounter with my high school’s guidance office.
My story starts when I was 13. That’s when all of this mess started. Like so much has been since then, it was like someone flipped a switch. All of a sudden I was depressed, and then the cutting followed. All of a sudden I was thinking about suicide. I started writing notes to my friends about how miserable I was, and they quietly started dropping out of my life. I wasn’t bullied and my grades didn’t fall. Good for my education, bad for adults to spot that something wasn’t right. I wasn’t even sure something wasn’t right. Books I’d read and stories I’d hear…they were so dramatic, full of signs for adults to pick up on. I didn’t match those. Was something really wrong?
9th grade got worse…and I really think that year was the defining moment for so many years. Until grad school. That’s a long time.
I started the year depressed. I remember writing in my journal that I wanted to die. I found a few new friends and started writing notes to them about how miserable I was. So many things stick out in my head about that year….
Crying on the band bus on the way back from games and trips.
Writing poems and giving them to my English teacher, hoping she’d pick up that something wasn’t right.
Wishing that my other teachers would say something to me.
Marching around the school at band practice daydreaming about what would happen if I died.
I don’t remember the angry outbursts, but apparently they happened because all of a sudden my family was afraid of setting me off.
And that was before October.
What really sticks out in my mind is when my best friend talked me into going to the guidance office. She was worried about me and the only one with the guts to push me to do something about it. Needless to say, they called my mother and had her come in. I remember everything, who said what and how I felt. You don’t need to know the blow by blow, but here are the parts that really stuck with me.
My mother was intent on keeping it quiet. She had me switch seats so no one would see me through the window. She (and the guidance counselor) fabricated an excuse for me to tell people about why I missed class. (Never mind no one bothered to ask me, including teachers….probably because an e-mail immediately went out to them). I still don’t know if she told my dad or sister.
No one used the words suicide, cutting, hospital, depression, therapy, etc. They didn’t even ask me if I was suicidal, they asked me if I wanted to hurt myself, or have ever tried to hurt myself. I didn’t even understand what they were asking me. I thought they were talking about cutting, not suicide. Very different answers.
They brought in other adults. I don’t remember who they were….probably part of some sort of crisis team. This part is fuzzy. I was really upset at this point. They told her that either A) they were going to send me somewhere (I don’t think they used the word hospital or psych ward) or B) My mother could take me. My mom said she would take me to a counselor.
And then I went back to class. I only missed 1st period.
That was on a Friday. The following Monday, my mom took me after school to a counselor. Three things I remember.
- My mom asked me if I was really hurting myself (again, no one would use the words). I said no because I was terrified. She said “I thought so”. My mother just told me that she didn’t believe I was cutting. Or at least that is how I saw it.
- I was crying so hard I couldn’t talk. The hour was spent with the guy trying to calm me down.
- The secrecy. I think it was supposed to make me feel better, but it didn’t.
Did I mention that this guy was the father of one of my friends? He should have told my mom that he couldn’t see me.
The next day I told my mom that I was fine and didn’t need to see a counselor, that I was just overreacting. She believed me and told me I didn’t need to go back.
Everyone thought I was actively suicidal, and yet it was remarkably easy to get out of getting help. It’s easy to pretend everything is OK when everyone wants to believe you are OK.
It was never spoke of again. No follow up from the school. No words from my family. Like I said I still don’t know if my dad even knows. I don’t want to know. Either I’ll be pissed at my mom for not telling, or pissed at my dad for not saying something. I don’t need to go there.
It was a secret. The worst kind to have.