I was the boyfriend. The one you never hear about until it’s over. Virtually all by myself, I was selected to be her support system. I kept her secret for years; it almost became my secret too. I had come up with cover stories in case people asked, and I always wore a happy face so no one could tell anything was wrong.
I guess you could say it was my fault. I knew something was wrong and yet I still asked her out. I was her best friend and the only one she confided in. It took me several months to figure out that there was something wrong with her. It was a long-distance relationship, and a lot can hide behind text messages. Growing up in my sheltered world, I didn’t know what to look for.
She told me it was depression, but how was I supposed to know how to care for her?
I knew it was her secret, but not telling anyone also meant not asking for help. We had one mutual friend who lived closer to her, but still an hour drive away. I remember one night sitting on my porch texting our friend, trying to call my girlfriend, and mentally preparing myself to call the police if she didn’t pick up. The next morning, she apologized for what had happened, and she asked if I’d like to see her scars. I had no idea what to say! Either I say no and feel disconnected to her, or I say yes and know just how far this had gone. She sent me a picture of her panty-clad waist, with what had to be thirty gashes on it. She had been doing it for five years, and she hated going swimming because there was no bathing suit that would cover both the scars on her hips and those on her legs. I finally made her get help and see a doctor, and she was prescribed anti-depressants.
One of the side effects of her meds, however, was a loss of sexual appetite. We’d been fairly sexual before, which only now caused a problem because it meant she’d have to choose between her health and her libido, which oftentimes was the only thing that kept her happy. I knew the strain it put on her as she would feel like a disappointment when she couldn’t get in the mood. The other side-effect: she felt like a failure because she couldn’t fix her depression without help. The first, I could handle; the second, I had no clue.
I broke up with her a few months later. I knew that our relationship was not what it should have been. I became bitter towards her and she started to resent me.
And yet, it took me two weeks for me to finally end things. She knew it was coming, but tried to do whatever it would take to keep me with her, including sending me a note thanking me for saving her life that night. She cried when I ended it. Despite not being in a relationship with her anymore, I made her throw away the razor blade she’d been using to cut herself. It was selfish, but I knew people still connected us; she became a part of my life and my reputation.
Over a year had passed, and I got a message from my best friend telling me that my ex-girlfriend had posted on Facebook announcing the one year anniversary since she had last cut herself. I knew that I should have been happy for her, but it hurt me. It hurt that she revealed to everyone what had been our secret, a part of my life I had hidden from the world for years. I was not afraid of the stigma surrounding depression; I was afraid of having to tell people what I knew. Yes, I knew she had depression that had gone untreated for five years; that for months at a time, she would “forget” to take it so she could fix it herself; that she had made people retake pictures for four years in case her bracelets weren’t covering her scars in the first one. How much would people want to know?
But it’s not what people want to know, it’s what I want them to know. Everyone needs to know that you shouldn’t try to do it alone. If you or someone you love are having thoughts of suicide, please call the National Suicide Hotline: 1 (800) 273-TALK
Remember that you’re not alone in this and help IS possible.