Friday, June 17, 2011

30DC: Week Five


High school was hard for me. I’m sure I didn’t have it as bad as some people. I had friends, I had a Homecoming date, and I was moderately happy. As happy as one can be while being a teenager. I had some major self-esteem issues and always wished I was more outgoing so making friends wasn’t so hard for me. Luckily, I transferred to a charter school in 11th grade where I met the most fabulous group of girls ever. They were exactly what I needed.

The people I went to high school with for 9th and 10th grade were a little messed-up. Ninth grade was especially hard. It was tough being a new high-schooler with a whole new set of friends, learning how to survive in that environment. One thing that really stood out for me was a girl who was touted as a modern-day hero after her stint in a mental hospital. She had been placed in a straitjacket and kept in the hospital over the weekend and when she came back, she was all smiles and stories. She told everyone about what happened and everyone was so impressed.

You see, it was the thing to be suicidal/depressed. It was cool to be “dark and twisty,” if I want to use a Grey’s Anatomy reference. I saw girls freely flaunting their sliced wrists and arms. I remember one friend in particular who had three long lines of cut marks in a row on each arm. They were deep, but perfect. (In proportion.)

Listening to dark music, wearing dark clothes, having a perpetual frown on your face. That is what made you cool.

At first, I tried to play along. I tried to be as dark and twisty as others. Once, I even posted an AIM away message with the words of a song that spoke of suicide, which my brother (just 16 at the time) saw and questioned me about. My brother has never been one to go with the crowd and I admire so much his ability to always do the right thing, always do the moral thing, even when people around him aren’t. I would have been lost without him in high school.

It wasn’t until I was sitting in the tub one night, eyeing my razor and wondering if I could be as brave as the people in school and cut myself. Brave. This is what I thought they were. I didn’t even know why people were cutting themselves, I just wanted to be one of the crowd. And I tried it. I took my razor and tried my hardest to make a tiny cut, but I just couldn’t go through with it. I couldn’t be like them. Suicide and cutting is not a popularity contest. It’s not a game. It’s real life and it’s scary.

I have never been depressed or suicidal in my life. I have someone in my life who is right now and it’s scary to be on the outskirts of it, not knowing how you can help or what tomorrow may hold for them. What was going on in my high school was sad. These girls were just trying to fit in and while I have no doubt some of them were indeed depressed, it became a game of who was worse.

I’ve never shared this story, because sometimes I’m embarrassed at how far I almost went to fit in. I never fully “embraced” what they were doing, but at the same time I admired them. But that’s the way it goes when you’re 15 years old. I was blessed to have a brother who remains one of my biggest role models and supporters. I’m not sure he even knows the extent to how he helped me see how going with the crowd and fitting in somewhere you don’t belong can be detrimental.

I love my life. It’s not the perfect life. I have my issues and there are many things I want to change. But I know I am strong enough to overcome anything and I hold the power to change.

Suicide is nothing to play around with. It’s not a game. For many people, it’s a daily struggle to survive. I cannot imagine living that way and I hope to never experience it.


  1. When I was in my mid-20s, one of my cousins committed suicide.  It's been over 5 years since this happened and it still haunts me.  I have his picture on my fridge as a daily reminder to choose life.  Yes, life is incredibly hard at times, but when I see how much the family and friends would have helped my cousin Chris if he had asked, it reminds me that life is worth living and there is ALWAYS someone who will give you a hand.  At the funeral mass, the priest said, 'if you would have helped Chris or talked to him, please stand up.'  The entire congregation stood up and there were hundreds of people packed into this huge church.  I looked around and thought - we are never alone.  That message will stay with me forever.

  2. KJHartenstein6/17/11, 10:04 AM

    I'm really, really glad you shared this.  I went through some really dark days during my first year of college and depression and suicide are definitely not something to be taken lightly.  I'm glad you figured out that you don't have to act a certain way to be cool!

  3. School was rough for me in pretty much every grade. But especially middle school. Seventh grade was so bad, I think my mom thought I was depressed, and that was also the same year she looked around at private schools for me to transfer to, but they were all too expensive. Then in eighth grade, I started fainting a lot, and a lot of kids thought I had an eating disorder, which wasn't true. Pretty much all through high school, I think the eating disorder thing was still how some people saw me, even though I hadn't passed out since eighth grade. I'm not going to lie and say the thought of suicide has never crossed my mind, but I've never actively done anything to pursue it. It's always just been fleeting thoughts, and I'm glad they stayed that way. I'm more of the type of person to say, suicide is "the easy way out." In my heart, I know I have to stand up to my fears instead of quailing at them like a beaten puppy.

  4. That's really bizarre (for lack of a better word) that being suicidal/self-harm was a "trend" and "cool." I'm glad you didn't give in to the peer pressure!

  5. It's such an important message and so many people think they don't have that option. They feel isolated, alone. And important to remind people you're always around to help them if they need it. 

    I'm so sorry about what happened to your cousin. 

  6. Not at all. It was a weird time of my life, but I'm glad I "saw the light" before things got worse. 

  7. I don't know if I'm the type to say suicide is the easy way out, because I can't ever be in the mind of someone who is contemplating suicide. For them, it's the only way out. I'm just glad I've never had any serious thoughts of suicide, because I can't even imagine being in that frame of mind.

  8. High school twists everything you believe like that. I felt the same way, but the whole dark & twisty thing wasn't a cool thing at my school. Sadly there was a boy just a year younger than me who genuinely tried to commit suicide and my school lost a lot of students while I was there to accidents and cancer and whatnot, so I think we all knew not to pretend with that. But smoking and drugs were the thing at my school and I debated for a long time whether it was worth it, but in the end, like you, decided it wasn't. I think that we're stronger now for standing up for our values. Maybe it took you getting THAT close to doing it, but now you know without a doubt that that just isn't who you are. That moment just helps define who you are today, you shouldn't be embarrassed by that! 

  9. So brave that you wrote about this. I don't think I have ever been suicidal (highschool actually was one of the happiest time for me!), but it's so great that you share your story.


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