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When we were young my sister and I used to play in the bath together. One of our favorite games was to cup our hands and see which of us could hold the most water for the longest amount of time. It always fascinated me the way water slipped through our fingers so smoothly. One moment it was there and the next… it was gone.
I spent my sixteenth summer in a whirlwind of imagined happiness assailed by frequent explosions of extreme pain and depression. It wasn't until I was hit with the scariest thing I had ever seen, what haunts my dreams at night, that I was forced to open my eyes
My life took a 180 degree turn when I nearly lost my baby sister to a suicide attempt.
Em is the only person who knows and understands who I really am, and the only one who has any idea of how I became who I am. My body became detached from my mind. I’m not sure if my mind even existed for a while. When the reality hit me that Em might not always be here for me I lost trust in everyone else around me.
From the second I understood what I was seeing I couldn’t stop crying for all it was worth.
Her hair was still dark and damp from swim practice. Her head was thrown back against the bathtub, mouth gaping pink, her face creamy white. One arm was draped over the toilet, her bloody wrist dripping into the bowl, dying the water and vomit dark red. Her other arm, limp at her side. Next to it were 36 pills, separated into little groups of five, like a child would separate candies. The piles surrounded a blood-crusted knife and an empty aspirin bottle. Wearing a tank top, its bottom stained ruby from the slashes in her stomach, and shorts, her legs bled onto the bathroom mat. I couldn’t look away. I felt like I was on a downward spiral.
I was encompassed by the fear and insecurity and the possibility of what could have happened. I became controlled by my irrational need to control everything. Finding Em cut open and bleeding caused me to lose a little bit more of the small amount of sanity I had had.
And I continued losing other things, little by little.
I acted out. I for all intents and purposes gave up on school. I tried to drown my guilt. Partying was the only way I felt like a normal kid; it was my escape from reality. I stopped eating entirely. I lost 20 pounds in three months. I tried to make myself feel anything at all, searching for something in meaningless relationships with meaningless people. As I started clinging to those close to me for the fear that they would leave me like Emme almost did, I unconsciously pushed everyone away. I lost the two people who at that time I believed were the most important in my life. More and more, things slipped through my fingers. It was like trying to hold water in my hands, watching my life dribble away, helpless to stop it.
One day I woke up not knowing who I was. I looked around me and saw nothing I recognized and no one I knew, including myself. When I looked in the mirror the reflection was completely foreign. As I realized that I was headed down the same road my sister ventured, I knew something needed to change. I couldn’t do that to myself or to the people close to me. Even though most of the time I wasn’t so sure there was anyone that cared for me, the image of my sister pale and bleeding on the floor drove me to change. To become the person I wanted to be, because I did not want to look like that.
Looking back, sometimes I feel like all of the awful things I did are scenes from a movie I once saw, or a book I read, not something that happened to me. I honestly cannot even explain the logic (or lack thereof) behind my actions. I look back and see a mess and if I turn to right here I see absolute chaos but when I look ahead I see the possibility of real happiness.
It’s not easy to live a real life. It’s not easy to hear the screaming or feel the sting of a slap, the soreness of bruises. It’s not easy to be afraid in your own home. It’s not always easy to smile. It’s not easy to live through the things that make you mature. Growing up and figuring things out isn’t always the most fun but at some point the drama and unimportant things need to stop controlling you.
In a way, loosing so much saved my life.
I was never going to write this down. I was never going to read this out loud. I was never going to tell a crowd of faceless, uncaring strangers my story.
But my sister, my best friend, my pookybear, my baby girl, was taken once again to the emergency room Monday.
Water still slips through the gaps in my fingers, and it always will. If we have someone to hold our hands it may stay a little longer.