This post is going to be a little difficult for me to write, but I wanted to start officially telling my story. If at any time, anyone reading this gets uncomfortable, bored, or feels an ounce of pity, you are more than welcome to exit the page.
Most people will tell you that high school was the “best four years” of their lives. When someone tells me this, I just laugh. Unfortunately, I did not have those high school glory days. To put it very bluntly: my four years of high school were shit. Now, I did have some good memories. I left that school with a handful of friends out of the school (7th grade – 12th grade) of 250 students.
Day one of high school was intimidating. Luckily, 90% of the students I went to elementary and middle school with ended up at the same HS, so it was nice to know some people. Of course, I didn’t have lunch with anyone that I knew, so I was automatically tossed into a sea of the unknown. I walked into the cafeteria and got in line for some sort of pasta meal. An upperclassman boy stood in front of me, turned around, and looked me up and down. I remember being confused, but the boy was relatively attractive, so I got excited. He then smirked at me, chuckled, and said “You should probably just go and kill yourself now.”
And that’s where it all started. I was officially alone in the cafeteria. I didn’t eat lunch that day. Why would someone that didn’t even know me say that? Obviously, there was something wrong with me.
October rolled around and we were getting ready for homecoming activities. By this time, I had gained a few friends, but still didn’t feel like I quite fit in. Something seemed off. People would whisper about me in the hallways. I could feel eyes judging me in the hallways. I became paranoid. I began to shut people out of my life.
Then came the rumors. I don’t even remember what they were about, but they were bad enough to make me cry every day on the bus ride home for the next two weeks. I wasn’t going to tell my parents until one day, I broke down in the car and told my mom that I wanted to transfer schools. I didn’t feel safe. I didn’t feel wanted. I didn’t want to step foot in that school ever again. I made up excuses to miss school — I was sick, I was tired, etc. By the end of freshman year, I missed about 18 days of school.
My parents called the principal and set up a meeting to discuss this matter. I was being bullied. We began to explain the story and situation to him, when he abruptly stopped us.
“Well, it’s clear that your daughter is ostracizing herself. The boy that you mentioned would never say these things. He is a football player; he is a good kid. Your daughter must be lying.”
He’s a football player. He can’t be a piece of shit.
It was in that moment that I knew I had lost. I had no hope of ever making it at the school. I wanted out — for good.
This is the year that I really began to consider self-harm. I don’t know why, but there was something so appealing to me about making myself feel something. I didn’t want attention. I didn’t want questions. I didn’t want help. I wanted to know that I was alive, that I was capable of feeling, and that I wasn’t broken. Up until that point, nothing else showed me that I could feel. I was an athlete — physical endurance pain wasn’t enough. I needed something permanent.
So I did.
Ironically enough, I’m very afraid of sharp objects. I always have been, they have always made me feel uneasy. But here I was, crying in my bed, scratching a straight line onto my forearm with an earring. A silver hoop earring from Claire’s. The scratch wasn’t enough to bleed — it was just red and puffy and I suddenly felt so alive. I was crying; I hadn’t been able to cry for months. The release felt so good.
But with that release came a bunch of other emotions. Shame. Anger. Disgust. Loneliness. I put a Spiderman waterproof band-aid on it and told everyone that I reached into my locker and cut it on the metal. It wasn’t an unlikely story.
This is the first time that I am admitting the truth. I have managed to hold this in for almost nine years now. And this is the true release that I have been looking for.
So what can schools do to stop this from happening to other students? A 2009/2010 article and study states that “approximately 14 to 17 percent of children up to age 18 have deliberately cut, scratched, pinched, burned, or bruised themselves at least once” and “[…] 5 to 8 percent of adolescents actively engaging in this behavior”. The article later states:
“Most self-harming adolescents use the behavior as a coping strategy to get immediate relief from emotional distress.”
I pray that schools do not handle situations like my principal did. Start support groups for those suffering from self harm or any other mental illness. Students need to be able to go to school and feel safe and wanted. Furthermore, I truly believe that the adults in an establishment need to be properly educated on how to handle these situations. Do not tell them that it is their fault. Do not make them seem broken. Do not suck up to the bullies because their mommies and daddies have lots of money, or worse, they play a school sport. Take a stand. Do not be silent. If you are or you notice someone suffering, reach out to them. If you see scars, burns, or hear them crying in the bathroom, do not judge. Hear their cries of help. Be there for them; you never know when you could save a life in one small moment.
If I ever saw my old principal, I’d roll up my sleeves and remain silent. So thank you, Mr. Principal, for both ruining my life and opening me up to how the world truly views mental illness. Obviously it was my fault that I wanted to leave and hurt myself. How silly of me.
Don’t be a Mr. Principal. Change the world. End the stigma.