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Your Choice Is Evident
Dear Everyone Who was/is/has/will/won’t be involved in my life,
My name doesn’t need to be said here, but everything else can. I’m 14. I was born in Buffalo, New York. I’m pretty odd, I guess you could say, but that’s just my opinion on things. I mean, like, you don’t just get hospitalized three times in two and a half years without NOT being a bit odd. Sure. Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone trips on their own feet sometimes. I’m always an out, never an in. And that’s okay sometimes. But most of the time it really isn’t.
One time, when I was very little, I made a sailboat out of macaroni noodles. I was super proud of it but I never showed it to my parents. In fact, I never showed it to anyone. It just sat there, behind the hamper in my closet, slowly cracking and collecting dust. Finally, I was no longer proud of the little boat so I took it out of the closet and tore off the macaroni. Once it was in the trash, it was as if the noodle boat had never been there. Just like that.
You can destroy things much easier than you can build them back up. And unfortunately, and luckily, that was and still is my outlook on things sometimes. Just as Finnick from Catching Fire says, “It takes ten times as much effort to build yourself up again than it does to knock everything down.” Luckily sometimes. Luckily because I can still keep my eyes open. And if you don’t understand what that means, then maybe you need to take a look at yourself, too.
Right now I’m far away from the real world. Most people would say I’m a facility girl. Or that I’m in treatment. But I see it different: I see it through eyes of colors and shapes and sounds and songs. I’m a butterfly stuck in a tangled web of a sticky chrysalis that’s left behind. I can fly away; or I can choose to stay and work things out. I’m on an island where nobody can hear me, unless it counts. That’s how I’m seeing things. I’m seeing things through the eyes of the angel of time.
I want to talk to my friends. I want them to see my face and know that I’m still here. I’m still alive, barely, but I’m here. And it sucks. It really sucks being stuck in a pool of water with grapes hanging over your head but you can’t eat or drink. It’s exactly like the Greek story about the king Tantalus.
Up until 6th grade things were different. I was on top of the world; no fear of death, no fear of life. I was weird, then, too, but I could smile. I mean, like really smile without faking it. I wore what I wanted, which wasn’t exactly cute or anything, but I didn’t care. Making friends and keeping them was easy. It’s sad that I didn’t get to enjoy that for long.
6th grade was hell on a string. Imagine being skinned and dipped in acid. That’s what it was like, multiplied by the stars. I guess everyone started discovering how cool Facebook and GBuzz was for the first time. I lost my confidence. My sense of self disappeared. Soon, time became the only thing I saw in my eyes. Tick, tock, tick, tock. I was sensitive to anything and everything. I started to see bad things in front of me; the date to my exploding, how long I could last, how long until I went insane. My love and hate for time became so ferocious that one evening I saw something in my head, and the clock struck twelve, and I did something very stupid. I thought it was my time to vanish from the city, but it wasn’t. I was hospitalized, right when the fun barely began, and sent home to be homeschooled.
The rest of the year went by with time still ticking in front of me. I was the literal definition of a ticking time bomb. Only a matter of time before the thing in my head makes me mad. Only a matter of time before I explode, taking everyone down with me. Lashing out at people I love and having violent meltdowns became daily very quickly.
I often found myself sleeping in the basement because I couldn’t face my family. I’d cry for hours. Soon, I started finding solace and “peace” in doing nothing. After all, if you kept getting stung by the same situation wouldn’t you become used to it? Truth was, I never became used to it. It would just make me crawl into an even deeper hole. I tried to stop seeing through the views of clocks, but for some reason, I just couldn’t.
“I don’t know if I can do this any longer.” My mom said to me one day. She had rings around her eyes, and she was sipping out of a mug of coffee. She would say it a lot. And every single time she said it, it stung worse, because I knew (and so did everybody else) what she was talking about.
Seventh grade flew past me. The same old, same old. I would be going to a private school. And for once, I was popular. But soon, the ghost of time and anxiety followed me there, and I was never the same. There’s no escaping an angel. That’s the thing. You can’t just run and flee and hope the ghost won’t haunt you. You have to turn around and tell it to leave you alone. Which I couldn’t do.
The angel of time and clocks has a hideous face. That’s why no one ever turns around and stares it straight in the eyes and tells it to go. And sometimes, you have to stop being so afraid of things and let them go before you can release the angel of time. But I was so afraid.
It even reflected at school, too. Soon, I was repeating the 7th grade. And it wasn’t at my prestigious Christian school. I was back in the public school system (whoopee) with lots of public school kids. And not to say private school kids aren’t as mean, because they really are. Private school can be worse sometimes. But these were kids running amok with a lack of rules, doing whatever they wanted. And it was a cruel year that bit me in the butt.
In a sea of demons, I found some kind souls that took me in. My comic relief, I guess. My friends. I was starting to like my school. The sound of ticking clocks became more and more distant, the happier I became. This was the year I found my best friends. He was a year and 2 months younger than me, but I ignored the age difference and we became friends. She was thirteen, with huge green eyes and brown hair. She was loud and careless. I don’t really know why. But that’s just how life was for her I guess.
It was my first school dance. I had never been to a school dance in my entire life before. I didn’t know what to wear. I remembered watching TV and seeing in the movies, all the girls in their pretty pink and white dresses. I obviously didn’t understand at the time that middle school dances were casual, and most everybody wore shorts and shirts. Nevertheless, I showed up in a sleeveless white dress with black swirls that came up to my knees.
She showed up in jeans and a tank. So there I was, feeling like an overdressed kid in a dress her mother had picked out. Standing next to her I always felt like a big cyst that everybody was just too scared to pop. And even worse: the tick-tocking of clocks would always be louder when she was near. Only a matter of years before she graduates and you become a nothing. Only a matter of months before everyone realizes I’m the one to pick on, not her. Only a matter of days until she sees me for what I am. Only a matter of seconds before she comes over and stands next to me and everyone compares us. It wasn’t just clocks anymore. It was hissing; snakes everywhere, girls and boys, whisper-hissing about me.
Then I saw him. He was over there; just dancing around like there was no tomorrow. I couldn’t focus on anything except the hissing in my ears, so I found myself next to him and his friends. And then we were all dancing like stupid, foolish seventh graders. He was trying to teach me how to pump my fist, but I couldn’t. And it was soon that I realized I couldn’t hear snakes and clocks any longer. Then she joined us, and for once, nobody compared us. We all danced, not caring about the group of girls who were trying to do this weird looking “sexy” dance in the corner. And then it was time to go home.
The video ended up on facebook. And for once, I smiled at what I saw. We were dancing. I was laughing. And I had friends. Overtime, those two would become my best friends that year, and it would end tragically.
I didn’t get social cues. I didn’t quite get that if your best friend called you, crying hysterically, that you would be sad.
“My mom and I are in a fight again.” I choked into the phone.
“Dude. What’s wrong? What happened? Are you ok? What the hell?” So I proceeded to tell him everything. And then something even stranger happened; he still wanted to be my friend.
“And why would that change what I think of you? I’ll take your problems…and I’ll accept them.”
After that, all day long, I only saw blue. Calm blue. My mother was blue; when she scolded me and told me to clean up, I couldn’t hear her words. Her mouth moved, but all that came out was the sea. Because nothing mattered except for the fact that someone had taken my self-harm, screaming meltdowns, and beat-up personality and turned it into something beautiful.
I was hoping friendship would save my life. But that was my action to take, not his or hers. Because even though I had two people who loved me, the hissing wouldn’t stop. It kept going, going, going. Clocks ticking in the background. Time. All about time.
I started substance abusing in mid-April. I’d come to school, very sick, nearly every morning. But I’d hide it under a layer of concealer and a very pained-looking smile. Nobody noticed that it was a hangover. But we had started the Substance Abuse of Alcohol unit in Health, of course. I’d hide my face in my hands every day, hoping nobody would notice.
Soon, my friends became more and more distant. I was falling, falling, falling. I knew it was coming but I wanted it to come faster. I had to get it over with. Soon, I was going to hit the cement and my heart would spill open with everything I’d been holding in. I stopped nearby his locker one day, on the way back from the nurse’s office. He was there, packing up his stuff.
“I’m going to the beach.” He told me. I nodded my eyes blank.
“Cool.” I said back. Suddenly my heart felt very heavy and I became very tired. It dawned on me that I was losing the two best friends who stuck by me.
“I don’t know what’s going on for you,” He started, “But we’re not completely gone.” He pulled me into a hug and I squeezed my eyes and ears shut, blocking out the sound of time, and blinding myself from the snakes. When I opened my eyes, he was halfway to the office.
My mouth felt like sandpaper. Nothing was blue anymore. Everything was red. The color of velvet cake and tiger blood. I was either silent or screaming. A mute puppet or a screaming banshee.
Soon enough, I had started listening to the angel of time. She was there, hanging over my face, screaming silently to me.
“I know how I’m going to die.” It slipped out of my mouth and scraped at my mother’s ears before I can stop myself. She looked up from her show. I didn’t see any concern in her face. I wondered if she was feeling any.
“Really? How is that, exactly?”
“I don’t know how exactly, I just know it. I’m done with everything. I’ve been researching…I have so many ways planned out, and even if you lock me up I’ll find a way.” With that, I turned on my heel and marched straight back up to my bedroom.
My mouth would open and close, over and over again. I was serious. I knew my intentions: and I had it planned already. All because I had given in to the ghost of anxiety and the angel of time. I’d shake violently when I was intoxicated: and I don’t know why.
Once again, I stared in the mirror. Time circled around me, and the snakes whispered things like,
“You’re revolting and disgusting.”
Nothing changed for me. Because even though I had read so many books on how to change your life, and went to therapy like a good little screw-up, I had failed to save my own life. I couldn’t control my anger. I couldn’t cope properly. I couldn’t be normal. Couldn’t, couldn’t, couldn’t. Shouldn’t, shouldn’t. Tick, tock, tick, tock. Time is dragging on. I was going insane. I could see it; that’s how seriously warped my thinking was. I could see and plan when I wanted to die.
I had thought my mom hadn’t taken me seriously but apparently she had. In my usual therapy session, I found myself pale white with my hands crossed, staring at a spot above the doctor’s head. I’m here to say my goodbyes to a lady who tried to help me,
I kept telling myself, Goodbye, and nothing else. Don’t turn back. No one can stop me now. My heart pounded in my head as I subconsciously told my therapist my plans for leaving the world. She studied me like a subject, so carefully, I thought at any moment I might shatter. My mom sat on her other side, crying.
The next thing that happened shattered me for sure. Their mouths moved slowly, but all I heard was the angel, perched on my head, screaming into my ears, something I couldn’t understand. Police came into the office. They told me, and somehow, I understood.
“You’re going to go to the hospital.” For the third time in 3 years, I saw pure black, the color of night.
I sat in The ER with my dad. I put up a front. Everything was a Halloween party. Lots of fake masks and fake smiles. The Psych lady came in. She looked like a Siren: beautiful and reassuring, but if you got to close, she would drown you. She asked me questions about why I was in the ER, and did I feel unsafe, blah, blah.
I fell asleep on my cot once she left. I dreamt of clouds. Not just any clouds, but the ones me and my friends liked to give names to.
“That cloud looks like it should be named Queen Shatilla of India.” The grass gleamed under the November sun, for this was the beginning of my second chance at seventh grade. Almost a year ago.
“More like Queen Latifah.” She had giggled. We stared some more. It was the greatest feeling in the world until she turned over and asked, “Sami, are you ok?” I felt like someone had dropped a bowling ball on my heart, but I continued to stare at the white sky and smile.
“No,” I said, “No, I’m really not ok.”
When I woke up this time, I was in the ambulance, on the way to the mental hospital. I was strapped down to a cot. Tears filled my eyes. I was so scared, because all I could hear were clocks and snakes. And it was 6th and 7th grade all over again. Like I said in the beginning, I see through the eyes of color and sound. All I saw was black and red. I longed for calm blue to help me breathe; the same blue he had shown me when we became friends. The light, sky blue she had shown me and I had shared. The aqua-cobalt that my mother and father had blanketed me under when I was five.
I spent the week in the unit, doing nothing, hearing nothing, and seeing the same colors. If the butterfly wanted to fly away she couldn’t, because she was stuck with a broken wing and had to suffer. I called her. All she told me was that he was very, very mad at me.
Fantastic, I thought to myself, There goes another friend. I spent hours on my small, plastic bed, time haunting me. Sometimes I could feel her breathing. Other times, her crooning would be replaced by the hissing of snakes.
People fly away just like butterflies.
I faked my way through the hospital visit. I smiled and nodded, telling the people things like, “Yes, yes, I’m so much better now.” Then they discharged me.
One thing you should know about me is that when tears pour down my cheeks, it’s because I’m trying to push out everything, but it’s very difficult.
I spent one night, just one small night home, when the ship came and whisked me away to the small island where no one would ever know where I was. I had let time defeat me, I thought. She’s holding onto me so tight and she’ll never let go. I had let my emotions control me and my anger get in the way.
Eleven curious faces stared back at me. I wondered if they all were like me. Or maybe they were enormously different. I smiled, but it wasn’t real. I didn’t know what to do, not in front of all of these girls who could either destroy or rebuild me.
I lay awake that hard first night, not sure what to make of my life anymore, when the familiar hissing and tick-tocking started up again. My blood froze. It had followed me across the country to drive me crazy again. Tears flew down my face as I struggled not to wake my roommates.
“Revolting and disgusting,” Time snickered in my ear, “Now you’re nothing but a nobody. Always was, always will be. You’re a facility girl.” Something stirred in my stomach. Not here. Not anymore. For the first time in my entire life, I turned to look Time in her hideous face, and said seven words that would save my life:
“I don’t need you. Leave me alone.”
Sometimes I still feel like Time haunts me. Other times I can almost hear the clocks ticking, but then I look up and realize there’s no clock. Time will always be there. But if you learn to block her out, and stay in the moment, she’ll leave you alone.
It looks like a house, but it’s really a chrysalis. The other girls don’t see it, but I do. I’m still a butterfly. And I chose to stay. I can’t fly yet because I’m still growing. I need to find myself before I can go out and find everyone else. It’s hard for me, sometimes, because I really want to call out so someone back on the mainland will hear me. But then I remember no one back there can hear me.
Please know that it really is your choice. It’s always your choice to turn around and decide.