I was a freshman in high school, a mere fifteen years old. It’s funny, because when you are fifteen and it feels like the weight of the world is on your shoulders, you think that your current struggles are your entire identity. I was no exception to that. My struggles were smaller than some, bigger than others, but none the less- they were far too much for me to handle on my own.
I was depressed, majorly, and undiagnosed. I thought it was all in my head, and even if I believed for a second that my pain was real or valid, it quickly vanished when I could not come up with an explanation as to why I was feeling the way I was. But that is the thing about depression; it does not always come with a warning or an explanation. No, it just comes. Unannounced, unwelcome, and out of nowhere.
My spiraling depression along with my crumbling self worth led me to begin self-harming. The self-harm may have stemmed from the depression, but it seemed to come from a whole different demon. An abusive, manipulative, and even more wicked demon than was my depression. I was a little girl carrying a purse that should have been filled with candy and makeup, and yet the contents inside were made up of hidden razorblades that were strategically placed amongst miscellaneous items used to cover up my biggest secret.
From the moment I used that razor blade for the first time, I swear to you, a certain pain that I had been hiding inside came seeping out. The self-harm took on way more meaning than I ever planned for it to. I had heard that cutting allowed you to release pain, to feel better; and it did- for an instant. But then, then came an overwhelming sense of worthlessness and this idea that I deserved to not only feel emotional pain, but to endure my own self inflicted physical abuse as well. This feeling of consuming worthlessness had something unusually addictive about it. I went spiraling, hard, and fast. Before I knew it I was not only using my razor blades every day multiple times a day, but also I started etching words into my skin as well. The words read identities like “worthless,” “bitch,” and “fat.” Suffocating sadness plagued me, and worst of all, I was plagued by it alone.
I thought no one noticed my pain. Or perhaps, maybe the noticed… and they just didn’t care.
But I was wrong. I was so wrong.
One day after the bell rang at school I went to my desk to collect my things. As I went to close my assignment book I noticed two notes that had appeared. One read “you’re beautiful,” the other “If those scars aren’t really from a cat, call me” with a number I didn’t recognize attached.
I was dumbfounded. I was both terrified and relived that someone had noticed. After school I whipped out my phone and dialed the number as fast as I could. It rang several times and then sent me to the voicemail. And then I heard it… I heard the name, of the girl who would soon become my best friend, and eventually my angel.
You see, this lovely girl who left me a note, was sick. She had a terminal illness called mitochondrial disease. It’s a disease that attacks every system in the body one by one, until it eventually strips you from your life altogether. But the death of my best friend is not what I am here to talk about today. I’m here to celebrate her life, and to share with you the life she so graciously shared with me. The life that saved my own.
We became best friends in what felt like an instant. I loved her with my whole heart, and I know full well that she loved me with all of hers. We understood each other in a way no one else could. We were both sick. Hers was physical, and mine mental, but nonetheless we were ill. And when you’re so sick, and so young, people stray away from you. Not because they are bad people, but simply because it is hard to watch someone you love fade away so quickly at such a young age.
Fast forward two years and we both had grown sicker, and yet nonetheless closer to each other. She was no longer in school. She was now on hospice and in the final weeks of her life. I, was now not only wrapped in depression, but was under the chains of the hell that is anorexia and bulimia. We had both lost so much, so many friends, so many experiences, and so much life. But we never lost each other. And that alone, was a reason to stay.
I had recently started going to therapy. I had confessed to my mom about my eating disorder, and was starting to get help. It was not my idea though. It was my best friend’s of course. And even though at the time I did not want to live for me anymore, I loved her so much that I decided I wanted to keep living for her.
Two weeks before she took her final breath, we were lying in her bed. After some lighthearted talks and stomach wrenching giggles, the room fell silent. And then I looked at her. And I made a promise. I promised her that I was not just going to keep getting help while she was alive, but that I would continue to fight once she was gone. Her illness may have been terminal, but mine did not have to be. So I promised with my whole heart, that I would beat mine and it would be our victory to share. We both burst into tears, and hugged each other for what we both knew would be the last time.
Fast forward three more years, and guess what? I am still here. But even better, I’m not just here merely existing, I am here completely living, and well and happy. I wish I could say it was a smooth ride from the moment I made that promise, but it was anything but. I had suicide attempts, treatment centers, and relapses, but you know what I also had? That promise.
I am writing to you today not only from a place of peace, but also from a place full of hope. I am in solid recovery, and I am beating this thing. The view looking out at all I’ve overcome is breathtakingly beautiful. But it would be nothing if I did not have anyone to share the victory with.
Thankfully, ever since that day I received the most random act of kindness from a complete stranger, I have never had to experience anything alone. This is our victory, OUR story of overcoming. We did it. And I could not have, and would not want to have, done it without you.