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The confessions of a self-proclaimed lost cause
*Note: Some names have been altered, and some scenes have been condensed or rearranged, in the interest of length and others’ personal privacy.
My eyes were swimming. Drops splattered to my hip, diluted red dripping down like crimson paint. Metallic teeth sliced my skin, light glinting off their smile. The tip of the canine dug deep, burning me with its words. S***. As the t is finished with a flourish, the blade clattered to the floor, I leaned against the wall of the bathroom, my breaths shallow, vision blurring. S***. It said it again and again, tormenting me. S*** s*** s***.
Stop it! I wanted to scream. Leave me alone. What did I ever do to you? The tears were coming now, and there was no stopping them. They shook my body, broke my soul, red-faced and clinging to my sanity. Spots of red were dripping all over the floor; I wished I cared. All I could hear was that goddamn word, slamming itself around in my brain. The one that was now ingrained into my left hip forever, parallel from its sister word, B****, carved into my left.
With shaking fingers, I reached up and grab the toilet paper, ripping it and folding it once, twice. I placed it over my wound as a mock-bandage. The blood seeped through in less than five seconds. This has gotten so bad. The thought is a tiny one, quickly beaten back by its bigger, stronger opponents. You stupid f***ing w****, why are you alive? You don’t belong here, you’ve never belonged here. Your family doesn’t want you. Your friends don’t want you. You’re fat, you’re ugly. You disgust me. You deserve this. Just kill yourself, nobody would care.
I staggered to my feet, clutching my face in my hands. Trying to press the thoughts out. Turning around, I smashed my head against the wall, sinking against it. Collapsing into it, as it is the only shoulder I have. The only one that knows of the war happening within myself. I turned, facing myself in the mirror. Frizzy hair, puffy eyes, chubby stomach, fat arms, wrong wrong wrong.
“Who could love you, you fat b****.” I whispered.
Emo; I detested the word, and the image that came with it. Black-clad teenagers with their dark dyed hair, permanent frowns etched into their faces. I hated the attention that they drew to themselves, and how oblivious they were that every 'wrist slashing' joke thrown their way was like a hard slap in my face.
They don't know. They couldn't know. I told myself, in a desperate attempt to remind myself that they were not talking about me. My fingers curled around the gray cuff of my sweatshirt, tugging it down to my palms. The hallway smelled like adolescents; AKA sweat and perfume with an overall cloud of axe, which I hated the smell of. Gross.
I shoved my headphones into my ears in an attempt to drown them out. One more hallway and a sharp right turn to advisory. Cody would be there, it'd be okay after that. As I rounded the corner into Mr. Bowen's room, I saw his familiar mop of brown hair over the divider in the room.
"Hey there, S***." He said, cracking a smile as I dropped my backpack next to his on the floor. The comment stung a little, and my mind flashed to my hip, but I tried not to dwell; Cody didn't mean it, that was just his standard greeting for me. I smiled back at him, pulling a stool across the floor, cringing at the sound of the metal scraping against the concrete. I let one of my headphones fall out, resting my head on his shoulder to see what he was looking at on his phone.
"Did you know that all clownfish are born male?" He asked me, eyes completely serious. "When they need to reproduce, the biggest male just like, turns himself into a woman. Surprise sex change." Cody was prone to randomly spewing out facts like this. He was constantly on OMGfacts, and his results never ceased to amuse me.
"No, I can honestly say that I didn't know that."
"Maybe I'll use it as an ice breaker for a certain somebody." He said suggestively. Of course he was talking about the upperclassman he'd had a borderline-obsessive crush on since the start of Freshman year. I laughed, relieved that I'd at least be able to spend this period and the next with my best friend, and away from the rest of the judgmental b****es in our school.
"Think he's into fish reproduction, eh?" I teased.
"Yeah, and girls."
"Aren't they all?" I said. It was starting to get hot, so I pulled my sweatshirt over my head and threw it on top of my bag. As I straightened, I noticed the concerned look on Cody's face.
"What?" I asked, even though I knew perfectly well what. He didn't say anything, just placed a hand on my shoulder. I knew he was referring to the dozens of white lines peeking out from under my T-Shirt sleeve, not visible enough to be noticed from a distance, but fairly obvious from as close as he was.
"I'm fine." I lied, pulling the sleeve down over the offensive scars. Cody didn't say anything, his face a mask of disapproval. Bowen saved me then, his booming voice calling for us to grab a stool and form a circle. Having learned my lesson from Cody's pursed lips and haunted eyes, I put my sweatshirt back on and grabbed a stool.
"Here he comes." Cody said after that block, waiting with me for my boyfriend, Will, to come over from the East building. Though he was talking again, his voice still had that tone of disapproval in it. I looked in the direction that Cody had nodded, even though Will wasn't exactly difficult to pick out in a crowd. At 6'5", he towered over most of his peers.
"Hey there." I said once he was in earshot.
"Don't get pregnant." Cody called over his shoulder as he walked ahead of us down the hall; another one of his famous catch-phrases. Will and I hooked a right, headed for the auditorium.
"How's your day?" Will asked.
Shitty. I'm so tired and I feel worthless and I wish I was dead. My head said.
"It's been alright." My mouth said. "What about you?"
“Better now.” He said, literally smiling down at me, since there’s more than a foot difference between us. I forced myself to smile back. It wasn’t that he didn’t know about the stuff that had been going on; I just knew it made him sad to think about me hurting myself, so I didn’t mention it. We rounded the corner, Will chattering about something funny his friend Ethan had done. I tried to get lost in the story, and push the constant stream of thoughts inside my head away.
I pushed the food on my plate around, mashing it together.
"So how was everyone's day?" Dad asked. Ryan, as usual, simply grunted in reply. He turned to look at me.
"It was okay." I mumbled, pretending to be extremely interested in the detail on my plate.
"Learn anything new?" He asked.
"Not really." I concentrated on the spaghetti, counting it out in my head. I'd eat a quarter, maybe. My stomach growled. I looked down at my chubby legs. Yeah, definitely no more than a quarter.
Keep eating like that and you'll weigh three hundred! The familiar family voice screamed in my head.
Weigh three hundred...
I pushed it around some more, cutting it with my fork. Dad glanced at me and I took a big bite, smiling. Thankfully, he moved on to Lindsey. I forced myself to swallow the bite, feeling disgusting. My stomach groaned in protest; I hadn't eaten since dinner the night before.
And what have you got to show for it? Same fat ass, same chubby arms.
Weigh three hundred...
"I'm done." I said abruptly, taking one last bite and shoving my plate forward.
"Eat at least half of it, Emmy." Mom said.
"I ate when I got home." I lied. "I'm full."
"Okay." She said hesitantly. "At least take your vitamin."
I nodded and rose from the table, wood scraping on the tile floor. The little pink bottle was sitting on the windowsill above the sink; I grabbed it and twisted the cap off, shaking a big fat capsule into my hand. I downed it dry, taking in the scene of my family. My baby sister sat at the end, Short blonde hair bouncing as she entailed a story from her history class today, blue eyes flashing. Ryan, as always, was quietly brooding, occasionally cracking a smile at Lindsey's story. Beside him was my dad. He was a pretty big guy, with brown hair sprinkled with gray and glasses perched on his nose. My mother was your typical soccer mom. Short brown hair spiked in a pixie fashion in the back, with bright blue eyes, still wearing her scrubs from work.
I skipped over my spot at the table. It looked better that way.
The second I was excused I rose, practically sprinting up the stairs. I'd been itching for a cut all day, but I didn't dare carry my blades at school and risk getting caught with them. I shut the door behind me, leaning against the cool mirror attached to the back of my door for a minute as I listened for footsteps on the stairs, insuring that nobody had followed me. Assured, I went to the closet, pulling the curtain aside and grabbing the pink box labeled 'CDs', fingers shaking with anticipation. I hadn't bought CDs since I was young, but my parents didn't know that.
I popped the lid off and threw it, revealing the contents: Two boxes of band aids, three rolls of gauze, a box of disposable wipes, two ace bandages, two tubes of disinfectant and scar cream, five shaving razors still-intact, a paring knife, a pair of scissors, and six loose razor blades. Grabbing the newest of the blades, I rolled up my shirt sleeve and dug the blade in, applying as much force as I could bear before pulling the blade swiftly.
I could tell it was a good one as the nervous, jittery feeling I had been experiencing before gave way to a sudden euphoria, my breaths slowing as the pressure drained out with the blood. Unsatisfied with just one, I repeated the process six or seven more times, until blood dripped down my arm to my wrist, where the word 'ugly' was engraved. A lone red splotch made its way to the carpet before I caught it, grabbing a wipe and placing it over the open wounds. The blood soaked through the wipe fairly quickly, staining my fingers red.
After the blood had seeped through two more wipes, the relief disappeared. I started panicking. None of my cuts had ever bled so much before. I applied pressure, hoping that would make a difference. It didn’t. Suddenly, I had an idea as I looked across the room, eyes trained on the lineup of hair products on my desk.
Hair gel stops bleeding. Suddenly I was back in a freshman classroom, soaking in this knowledge as it left the teacher’s lips.
I was up on my feet, holding the wipe to my arm and trying to navigate across the room, tripping on random articles of clothing.
I used my free hand to pop the top off of the gel, and momentarily took the other hand off my arm. Dabbing gel on my fingertips, I let the wipe fall off and dabbed the clear goop over my open cuts. Expecting it to sting, I was surprised when the blood merely gurgled up to the top of the gel, and after a few minutes, stopped bleeding.
Grabbing yet another wipe from the box on the floor, I cleaned up the blood and hair gel, then wrapped my arm in gauze, pulling my shirt sleeve over it.
Flicking off the lights and crawling into bed, I pulled the blanket up to my chin, and stared straight ahead, too numb to think.
The next afternoon, Cody sat beside me in study hall, plugged into his iPod and quietly scrolling through Netflix for a movie to watch.
Still shaken up from the incident the night before, I sat silently, hands in my lap, staring straight forward. Knowing not to bug me, Cody simply kept scrolling, occasionally glancing up at me.
Some guy named Elijah sat behind us with a ‘friend’ of mine, Branden. This was a bad combination, since both of them were plenty obnoxious all by themselves. They were busy being gross teenage boys, talking about Branden’s girlfriend in a way that I know for sure she wouldn’t appreciate. I
ducked down in my seat, pretending to scroll through my tumblr dashboard.
“You’re a dumb b****.” Branden said suddenly. He was prone to spontaneously breaking out into abusive rants like this, thinking he was being funny. Today, I just wasn’t in the mood though. I stayed turned around like I couldn’t hear him, and continued flipping through my dash.
“You skank.” Branden said. I could feel the blood rushing in my head, every muscle in my body tensed and ready to spring. My fingers clenched around my iPod until my knuckles turned white under the pressure.
“Stop ignoring me you stupid b****.” Branden said.
“Branden would you just shut. The f***. Up?” I snapped through my clenched teeth. Tears were pricking at the back of my eyes, but I bit down on my lip to avoid releasing them. I would never give him the satisfaction of knowing that it hurt, even though his harsh words ripped at my heart, cutting me more deeply than any razorblade ever could.
“Whatever, be a b****.”
I bit down until I tasted blood.
Suicide. The word plagued me, popping out at every turn. As f***ed up as it sounds, my life had become a bully, shoving me around, kicking me whenever it got the chance. I was broken. The idea of letting it all slip away was similar to the feeling of comfort one gets from putting on clothes fresh out of the dryer, or waking up on the first day of summer. When life had become too much for me to bear at the moment, I was consoled by the fact that I could make it all stop whenever I wanted.
That particular afternoon, I was no longer comforted by the idea of suicide. My romanticized version of it had been replaced by something more deeply rooted inside me. It was more like a need now. I didn’t have a choice, I couldn’t take it anymore. As I walked home from the bus that afternoon, I felt completely and utterly hopeless. I felt like someone had just sucked all the color out of the world, and I was walking through an old black and white film. I’d walked slowly, allowing my sister to gain a lot of distance on me, for I didn’t want to talk to her at the moment.
I’d been bullying myself for years. The difference between being bullied by an external force, and being bullied in your own mind, is one of escape. You can come home after a shitty day at school. You can turn off a computer. You can’t run from a bully that’s inside you. I wouldn’t have had the slightest idea how to stop if I tried, it had become a part of me. The only way to stop it was to kill it, and the only way to kill it was to kill me.
There is a fork in the road as I get off the bus. To the left is my road, and to the right is another neighborhood. A car was rapidly approaching from that road to the right, though at the time I didn’t even really see it as a car. I saw it as a cure, a remedy for all my problems. If I just took a few steps to the right at the wrong time, it’d be done. Just like that.
Many probably think I was crazy, and maybe a little. I didn’t even feel as though I was part of my body in that moment, I might as well have been an innocent bystander. My foot shuffled forward, followed by the second. I couldn’t breathe. I could hardly think. My foot moved forward again. I was a mass of contradictions.
Stop. You don’t want to do this.
You deserve to die.
What about everyone that loves you?
That’s irrelevant you dumb b****, nobody loves you.
One more step forward. The car was approaching fast, no longer a spot in the distance but I real thing, a thing that could kill me. All I could think is that I was doing them all a favor. One less person sucking up air. Would anyone even come to my funeral? Would anyone cry? Probably not.
Just a step or two more to go, the car was so close, they weren’t going to stop, I could already tell.
Everyone says that you see your life flash before your eyes when things like that happen, but I didn’t. I saw faces. People. Cody. Kenzi. Becca. Emma.
Dancing at homecoming. Being taught how to skateboard. Listening to music, painting the walls in his room.
Butterflies and hearts he drew over my scars. How when he’d found out how f***ed up I am, he didn’t hate me, didn’t love me any less. He’d asked me to stay.
I’d promised I would.
My resolve wavered, then crumbled. The car sped by, so close that I was forced back a few steps by the wind given off by the moving vehicle. Face to face with what I’d almost done, my knees suddenly felt weak. For once, the monster inside me was silent, too stunned to speak up. All I could hear was one thought, over and over again.
I need help.
Cody had preferred that I speak to a guidance counselor, but I was vehemently against that; when I’d first started cutting I’d gone to a guidance counselor and she made me feel like a freak. I knew it would have to go through guidance eventually, but I wanted to keep my role in that as small as possible. I chose a teacher that I would speak with. Obviously, they would have to report it, but I probably wouldn’t have to speak with guidance.
That morning, with Emma and Cody in tow, I started my journey to recovery. Originally, I had chosen my Freshman English teacher to speak with, however that morning he wasn’t in his room when we came in.
“Can it wait?” Emma asked me. I shook my head. I didn’t want to put this off any longer. She asked me if I would be comfortable with sharing with my former History teacher, Mr. Walker* instead. I thought it over for a minute, then agreed that that would be okay with me. Cody started objecting, but I ignored him for once. I needed this.
My heart was slamming against my chest as we entered the room. Emma went ahead of me, but I was stuck in place at the door, struggling to move forward. My former teacher was sitting at his desk. He looked up.
“Marquis, I never see you anymore!” He said.
“I know.” I forced as much cheer as I could muster into my voice, and took a few more steps forward.
“Can we speak to you alone?” Emma asked. The jovial expression disappeared, replaced with one of concern. He rose from his desk and went to fetch someone to watch his room as Emma, Cody and I stood in the middle of the classroom. Cody looking unbelievably uncomfortable, Emma waiting patiently, and me frozen in place staring at the ground. I was suddenly concerned that I wouldn’t be able to conjure up a single word to describe what I’d been through.
As Mr. Walker returned, he ushered us into a small room off to the side of the classroom, and shut the door behind us.
“What’s up?” He asked. The question was so blatantly simple, yet I couldn’t think of a single way to answer it. I opened my mouth, but the words clogged my throat, choking me. I glanced at Emma, begging her with my eyes to help me. Unfortunately she wasn’t much better equipped than I was.
“She's been struggling with depression.”
Mr. Walker’s eyes widened, and I averted mine to the ground, too ashamed to look him in the face. I was supposed to be stronger than this. I didn’t want anyone to see me in this pathetic state.
“And she’s been cutting.” I cringed at the word. It seemed so final now. There wasn’t any going back, or denying that this had happened. I had to accept the consequences now. I couldn’t watch the scene unfold. My eyes stayed on the ground as Emma told my story, to the best of her knowledge, anyway. When she’d finished, Mr. Walker spoke. He told me that I was strong for doing this. I almost laughed at the irony, at how pathetically weak I felt. I asked how I could possibly be considered strong.
“For talking.” He replied.
I have struggled with an addiction to self-harm for roughly 2 ½ years. After my meeting with Mr. Walker, guidance contacted my home, as expected. My parents sent me to a therapist that I visited for a few months before we stopped going, since I found that I could not talk to her about my past. Though I did not get the help from the meeting that I had hoped for, I did draw a very important piece of knowledge from Mr. Walker.
Being depressed, or having an anxiety disorder, or an addiction to self harm, does not make you weak. Staying silent about it does not make you strong. For years I kept it hidden, because I was afraid of what people would think of me if they knew that I was so broken. Even today, it is not exactly information that everyone knows about me. It’s deeply personal. However, I’m not ashamed of what I’ve been through anymore.
I’m not ashamed of my scars. They are a symbol of the battle that I’ve fought, and will eventually overcome. And I will overcome it, I’m certain of that. Many self-harmers stay quiet about their disorder, because they feel like they’re the only one that has it. That’s so ridiculously untrue. Studies show that one in every two hundred teens exhibits some kind of self harm. I bet that out of every class you have in school, there is another student that is fighting the same battle you are, and you wouldn’t even know it. Self harm knows no race, weight, or social status. Anyone could do it.
As for Mr. Walker, I have started and discarded at least a dozen emails, but the words never seemed right. Until now, I wasn’t even sure I would be able to tell a story that I’ve kept silent so long. Self-harm is often referred to as a silent struggle, but it doesn’t have to be that way. If we took every cutter in the world, and stood them side by side, we would all see that we’re not alone. We’re an army. We are strong. We are beautiful. We will make it through this.
I will make it through this.