Olivia

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I wasn’t the first person to notice the scars, but eventually it felt like I was the only one who cared they were there. The secret I was hiding wasn’t mine, but I was as involved in keeping it buried as Olivia was. I spent the winter of my sophomore year trying to heal wounds that weren’t mine to heal, and as the cold set in outside, I slowly broke down until I could not remember a time when I did not have to worry about her. When spring came and as summer followed, I realized I had almost lost my own life in my best friend’s struggle to find the good in hers. She made me promise I would not get her help, and I was too independent to realize I needed to. I will never forget the hours I spent begging Olivia to stop hurting herself and to stop talking about ending her life, not just because of the effect they had on my life, but because of the way they taught me that help is never a bad thing.
I refused to tell anyone about Olivia’s secret because I thought I would be betraying my best friend if I did. I had been told over and over again in middle school health class that suicide was something too big for one person to handle, and logically I knew I was supposed to tell someone about Olivia, but I kept quiet. I justified my silence by telling myself I was helping her: that just a little more talking would make the difference and that by getting help I would humiliate Olivia so much that she would have no option but to give up.
I sacrificed so much time talking to Olivia that I became distant from the rest of the world. Olivia and I bonded over her secret. In some strange way, it felt good to know that someone needed me the way Olivia did. I felt useful and liked knowing that I knew something everyone else didn’t know about the girl they all thought was perfect. What I failed to remember was that Olivia’s world was not the real world and that saving her was not supposed my responsibility. My parents worried about how much time I was spending talking to one person, and my other friends noticed as I changed from a happy, bubbly person to someone who was somber and reserved. I did not realize how different I was becoming until I was right in the middle of Olivia’s twisted reality. I scared myself with how easily I had let someone else’s depression alter my bright and optimistic view of the world. Finally, I let myself accept that I needed to get help.
In April I helped Olivia write a letter to her parents telling them what she had been struggling with. I talked to my parents and finally explained why I had stayed up late every night talking to Olivia on the phone. Olivia’s parents took her to a doctor and she started taking medicine to control her depression. For the first time in months, I felt like I could breathe.
Part of me cannot forgive Olivia for how much time she took from me, but I know now that the time was not wasted. I have learned the value of getting help and I have become a much stronger person because of Olivia. Before that winter I thought independence was the most important trait a person could have, but I learned that it could also be the most dangerous. I wanted to heal Olivia by myself, but by not getting help, I let the situation spiral out of control. I jeopardized her life, and lost a large portion of mine.
Since that winter, I’ve had one other person tell me they have thought about suicide. I was strong enough to know that it was not my responsibility to save him. I do not know why people come to me when they realize they are in trouble, but I do know that it is not my place to try and cure them. It is important to be sympathetic and willing to listen, but becoming as personally involved in someone else’s problems as I did with Olivia can be dangerous. The second time someone came to me for help, I talked to parents and counselors right away. I like knowing that people feel comfortable coming to me when they feel like they are lost, but I also like knowing that I have the strength to surrender control of a situation when I cannot provide the kind of guidance my friends need.
I like to think that Olivia is alive today because I surrendered my independence and found help. I still think independence is important, but I know that there are circumstances where staying independent is the worst thing a person can do. I have learned to get help as soon as someone comes to me with a serious problem or secret. There is nothing brave or noble about trying to cure someone alone instead of seeking help at the first sign of crisis. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness; instead it shows a very deep and very real strength. Olivia taught me that.





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TheIllest said...
Jan. 9, 2011 at 11:07 pm
Great essay. It's extremely personal and really reflects some of the unspoken turmoils in a teenager's life. Again, awesome job!
 
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