Thirteen is a perilous age for a young girl. For me, it was a period filled with self-doubt, familial struggles & plain confusion. I was felt like the only person who understood me was my 7th grade Drama teacher.
Mr. G set aside 10 minutes of every class for journal writing. The class (anonymously) wrote in large black binders about any topic. Mr. G’s responses were equally private.
One day, after I’d methodically dragged a needle across my arm until it puckered & bled, I turned in my journal with this sentence: I want to die.
Afterschool, Mr. G greeted me on my parents’ couch, tears in his eyes, my journal binder in his lap. I burst into tears as my mother approached me. She sobbed when she noticed the clotted blood on my neck. I’d made a large curlicue just under my ear that snaked down to my collarbone.
Despite the fact that his family was waiting at home, Mr. G held me for 6 hours as I told him & my mother just how displaced I’d felt. He drove us to the ER (my neck wound required 5 stitches), comforted my mother & helped us find a therapist.
I spent the following week at home, under my parents’ watchful eye, & their loud silence. They blamed each other for my suffering & we never attended one therapy session.
Mr. G called everyday, & I told him my toxic environment made me want to disappear. With my parents’ permission, he arranged daily meetings for me w/ the school counselor, Mrs. S.
And during those meetings, where the first time in my young life someone truly wanted to know me, I began to feel human again. Mrs. S shared w/ me how her family history of mental illness propelled her to aid others whose cries for help could only be heard in their troubled minds. She was my safety net & Mr. G, my anchor.
I spent everyday w/ Mrs. S until I graduated from junior high the following summer. While I’d stopped cutting myself, my non-existent relationship w/ my parents had led to an eating disorder.
My uncle, himself a once troubled youth who’d only recently rejoined our family, left me a note that said: You’re too special to not be here.
In a drastic move, he insisted that I move in w/ him to “save her life.” It took months before I overcame my eating disorder, even longer before I could look in the mirror w/out crying.
My uncle was my saving grace. He provided me w/the tools I needed to live a better life: self-love, self-respect & self-worth. He never judged me, but more importantly, he never allowed me to judge myself.
I met an unbelievably honorable man who loved me for me & we married in college.
Ten months later, my beloved uncle died from AIDS related pneumonia. If not for the love & guidance from my husband, that familiar path of self-destruction was avoided.
I’ve always believed in guardian angels because 3 saved my life. An educator who valued his students’ lives; a school counselor whose tragic personal demons compelled her to try to save as many lives as possible; a brilliant gay man who spent the first half of his life being ostracized for his lifestyle & the latter part pulling his beloved niece out of an abyss.
Recovery is suspect to those of us who victimize ourselves before our tormentors take their turn. It is a ghost whose whispers of self-fullfilment are mocked. I made a sewing needle my co-conspirator because it made me feel something.
I know what it’s like to split open your skin & look forward to the deep, fire-tinged ache that follows. The only time I felt alive & able was when I self-mutilated. But the moment I said goodbye to that needle was when I truly started to feel.
I know what you’re thinking: no one sees my scars. You’re wrong, because your mental scars are more evident than your physical ones. If you’re reading this, you’ve already made the single, most important discovery: I need help.
And with this discovery comes an opportunity for recovery. Reach out. My family never tried to understand my suffering, or participate in my healing, but you are different. Why?
You’re surrounded by others in pain like you who can (anonymously) turn to community outreach groups, blogs & social media. Tell your story, change your life.
Value yourself because I do. Respect yourself because I do. Love yourself because I do.
Put down the tools of self-hate & self-harm.
Look at your reflection. Smile through your tears. See what I see: beauty, freedom, capability, courage.
Know what I know: YOU ARE TOO SPECIAL TO NOT BE HERE.
Reach out to me on twitter: @ChangeIsUnity