SUICIDE, SELF HARM, ABUSE
I woke up on the 5th May 2005 sprawled on the floor next to an empty bottle of painkillers. I was still alive and I wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or not. I swatted the bottle away as I stood up and looked at my disheveled appearance in the mirror. What do I do now? I thought as a few tears escaped my eyes. I can’t keep doing this.
This. Harming myself.
What had begun as a few cuts on my wrists to actualise the pain I was feeling inside had evolved into me fully losing the will to live. But, as it turned out, I couldn’t even kill myself properly. I sat on my bed as thoughts of what to do swirled around in my head.
Should I try again? Do I want to try again? Do I want to die? The answer was no. I just wanted the pain to stop, both emotionally and physically. But the only way that would happen was if I was dead — or if I finally spoke up. I knew doing so was a huge risk. If nothing came of my plea for help, then things at home would get 100 times worse for me. But did it make a difference? I was clearly already at rock bottom. It was either try and get someone to listen or try to kill myself again, and I was beginning to think that me not dying was some kind of second chance for me to speak up.
After being ill in the bathroom a few times, I finally got myself together enough to head out the door and get on the bus to go to school. No one was awake in my house at that time of morning, so I didn’t have to face any last minute interactions that might have intimidated me and driven me to change my mind about asking for help. I cautiously walked into my first period English Honors class as groups of kids chatted away about what steps to next take with their Shakespeare presentations. I sat at my group’s table and pulled out my copy of Romeo and Juliet as my partners’ voices all melded together. All the while, I remained transfixed on my English teacher, Mrs. Hill, as she sat at her desk talking to another student. Could I do this? What would I even say?
Almost without the consent of my mind, my body raised from the seat and walked over to Mrs. Hill’s desk and waited until the boy in front finished receiving his answer and returned to his seat.
'Hey there, Christine! What can I do for you?' Mrs. Hill said cheerfully as was her usual demeanour.
I very lowly replied, 'Um, I tried to kill myself last night, and it didn’t work obviously, but I need help because I don’t want to try again.'
She looked dumbfounded at how calmly and emotionlessly I spoke for a moment. This certainly was not how she imagined her morning going. After a momentary pause she said, 'Okay. Okay, well just stand outside for a moment, okay? I’m going to call the dean and we’ll get you some help.'
I gathered my things and walked outside of the classroom, slumping against the brick building. Had I made the right decision? Didn’t really matter if I had or hadn’t. The wheels had been put into motion now, so all I could do was wait. Oddly enough, I had found myself in a similar position the night before thinking the same thoughts as I waited to potentially die.
Mrs. Hill came outside and knelt beside me as she explained that the dean of students, Mrs. Booth, and our school resource officer, Deputy Cardosa, were on their way to get me. 'They’re going to get you some help, okay? I think I heard you say you tried to kill yourself?' she asked me as I nodded in response. 'We can’t have that. No, no. We can’t have that.' Her voice cracked as she put her arm around me and turned her head away from me. Mrs. Hill was tearing up. Up until that point I had always felt all but invisible to Mrs. Hill. I didn’t think she disliked me, just that I was just another face in the classroom to her. Seeing her have this reaction to what I said made me realise maybe more people cared about me than I knew the full scale of.
Mrs. Booth and Deputy Cardosa came zipping around the corner in a golf cart and very gently asked me if I’d like to come with them. Fear started gripping my chest as I sat on the back of the vehicle as the gravity of what I was about to do began to wash over me. For a split second, I thought about jumping off and running away, but there was nowhere to go. I had opened my mouth and now I needed to follow through and be honest.
The three of us settled into Mrs. Booth’s office, with Mrs. Booth taking her position behind her desk and the deputy sat to my right.
'So, Christine, Mrs. Hill told us you tried to hurt yourself last night. Do you want to talk about why you would try to do that?' the dean asked me.
'I’m very depressed,' I muttered.
'Okay, and why is that?' she pushed.
'I’m tired of being hurt,' I answered staring directly at the ground.
'Hurt emotionally or physically?'
'Who’s hurting you?'
I stopped and looked up at both of them for the first time, but remained silent.
'It’s okay, Christine. We’re here to help you. You can be honest with us,' Deputy Cardosa spoke for the first time. My eyes focused back on the floor as I fidgeted with my hands.
'My mother,' I finally uttered. And for the next hour, I unearthed the darkest moments of abuse that I could recall of the past eight years or so, but I didn’t shed a single tear. I was numb, and more so than that, I was terrified at how much worse things would get for me if these two people I had chosen to be honest with didn’t do something to help me.
At the end of my soul bearing, the two adults looked at each other and then back at me. Mrs. Booth told me to sit there as she and the deputy stepped out into the hall. A few minutes later, they came back in and took their places once more.
'We’re going to try to call your parents, okay?' Mrs. Booth said as my eyes got wide with panic. 'But we’re not going to let anything happen to you. We’re just obligated to speak to them before taking further steps.' I nodded and she proceeded to dial our house phone. The line rang and rang, until the dean was forced to leave a voicemail.
'Okay, so what’s going to happen now is I’m going to take you to a hospital and they’re going to help you and make sure you’re safe. Does that sound okay?' the deputy asked me. Of course it did! Any place that wasn’t home sounded like paradise!
I nodded, grabbing my backpack and standing as the deputy did the same. He led me to his police cruiser and opened one of the rear doors for me as I got inside. Being in the back of a police car usually meant that you were in serious trouble, but at that moment the cramped confines of the backseat felt like the safest place in the world. He put the radio on for me as we drove, but I zoned out staring out of the window.
I wasn’t sure what to expect next, but there was no going back now.