There is an epidemic plaguing America's youth. It's not AIDS, it's not herpes, it's not homicide, it's all these and more. I became a victim of this epidemic. Everyone thought it could never happen to me, "Not her. She's too bright." But it was me, and there are others like me, too many in fact.
I was always the girl in the corner whom you could cheat off of on tests, the one who would do your homework for you. I was one of those bright children who would "make something of herself." I was supposed to be smart enough to know not to do "bad' things, but I would never live up to these expectations. I had very low self-esteem most of my life and with time this worked against me. I was teased and tormented in elementary school - though no one knew it. I'd go home almost every day and cry. My schoolmates would call me names, make vulgar sexual gestures, hit me, put things in my hair, and it didn't end there. In the third grade on a school trip to the park I was almost raped by several boys of no more than eleven years old. My own siblings would make fun of me and hurt my feelings. I would sometimes tell of my pain, but to no avail. It continued for years. I was also constantly sick, in and out of the hospital. I always tried to hide my sicknesses, my pain, and my fear.
I was never sure of myself and afraid of things that could happen. Upon entering high school I encountered males who would treat me like nothing more than a sex object. I was told disgusting and horrible remarks and gestures soon followed. I was even followed and threatened by a young man at my school. It was during this time that I became ill. I began taking pills prescribed by my physician for backaches which is how my dreadful start almost led to the end of my existence. At first I took the pills as prescribed, but as my life worsened, I took more. I soon found myself looking for anything and everything to take. I'd emptied almost every bottle of medicine in my home without anyone ever noticing. My school work suffered. I was missing two to three days of school a week. My parents thought it was just another sickness I would recover from. Little did they know it would take near death for me to recover from this epidemic called suicide.
I finally hit rock bottom in February, 1995. I was in school and hadn't eaten in days, but had taken nearly fifteen pills that morning. I made it to fifth period, lunch. I fell asleep at the table with my friends sitting by my side. The bell rang but I didn't wake up. The paramedics were called when no one could wake me. I was taken to the hospital, where I suffered several seizures. My heart was beating so quickly I could feel the blood rush throughout my body. I almost died that day ... not just physically. After I stabilized, they sent in a psychologist. They knew I had tried to commit suicide but they never said it to me or my family. I was taken out of school for the last four months of the year.
I always thought I was nothing, I never knew my life had value and I never thought I would be loved. It took a lot of hard work, my family, and God to bring me "back to life." I was one who survived this epidemic. Thousands of youth die each year from it. I am now an A student planning to go to college to become a doctor. I'm making a lot of long-term plans now, which I couldn't do before. But I always keep one short-term plan: live each day to its fullest. I now know I am loved and I am valuable to this world. My life is precious to me and I'm going to use it the way God intended me to. I urge all the victims who suffer from America's epidemic to take this victim's example and change your lives before it's too late. I also urge everyone to listen to that child and hear his/her cries; you may be saving a life. -
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.