Looking back, I guess I’ve always been a little obsessed with self-harm. As a child, if I found that something hurt I always wanted to see how far I could push it before I gave in. Couple this with poor problem-solving skills and sloppy emotional management and you have the textbook definition of upper-middle class preteen despondency. A friend once said, “It really is the middle-class disease. You have nothing else to be upset about, and you don’t know where to put your emotions.” I thought that my depression was a symptom of my entitlement and of my privilege. I blamed myself for my nightmares, for my horrific thoughts of self-harm, of suicide. I was resolute not to receive help–how could I ask that of my parents, my friends, or my doctors? My parents had already given me so much, and, to an extent, I think even they believed that my depression was my way of throwing it all back in their faces.
I went on this way for years. Every time I felt suicidal, I agonized over whether I should tell my friends. Most of the time I got so distracted by what to say or how to apologize that my feelings would momentarily subside, giving way to self-doubt and social anxiety. Instead, I made marks on my body. I started on my hip, but as my cutting became more frequent, I moved to more visible places, secretly hoping that someone would see it and force me to get help.
Eventually, I wracked up the courage to reach out.
“I think I’m having a suicidal episode. I don’t know what to do.”
And just like that, I had a friend to sit with and talk about anything else. We talked about our parents, our feet, about everything, and as the sunlight returned to the room I promised to get professional help.
It was the first time in two years that I talked to a therapist. Over the phone, I told a doctor about why I cut, how I feel when I cut, what my drinking habits are, how often I do my laundry. She asked me why I didn’t contact them sooner. I told her that I didn’t want to be sent home from school for the semester.
“Well, if you die, you won’t be able to finish school, will you?”
Statements like this place the entire burden of depression on my shoulders. They make me feel responsible for my own wellness–for my own safety. They make me feel responsible for the way I make other people feel when I tell them. They make me blame myself. But what I have come to realize is that it’s not my fault. Those thoughts are not my thoughts. I love living, and I love being happy, and the me that wants to jump out the window and erase myself from this planet is not the me that goes to Columbia, and has a younger brother, and loves grape leaves. I may not ever be rid of these thoughts, but at least I know that where I am capable of deep self hatred I am also capable of an equal, if not greater, love of who I am.