It was something I never expected to hear in high school. I walked into the school, running late and missing the normal crowd of people I usually enter the school with. Everyone was already in their classrooms so I rush, trying to get into class before everyone settles down in their seats and begins their work. What I walked into was not my normal History class with students laughing and the teacher cracking jokes. When I entered the room I could see the walls that have been raised around the students and the teacher. Some of my classmates sat in groups, some hiding their faces between their arms while their bodies slump across their desks. The teacher was sitting in one of the small desks and was comforting a student who was crying, her friends surrounding her with their eyes just as strained red and lips quivering.
Walls grew around me as I felt a sense of seclusion and a desire to be alone, without even knowing exactly what has happened, I just knew there needs to a separation from me and the class as everyone else has created a barrier to hold in emotions, to seclude themselves, to be alone.
I sat at my desk and remained quiet, the air was deep and heavy as it weighs down my body as the stone wall grows higher. I have never seen my class so still before. Between the sniffles and the tears running off of desks and cheeks, I saw the troublemakers sitting at their desks, still in their click but all at separate desks facing forward, eyes down on their desks and phones out of sight. There silence was something I never knew existed. The normally social and energetic kids were with no desire to move or be heard. They were separated from the class as if their bodies were only an outline and their souls have slid from their mold and just went away.
Soon my teacher got up and moved to the front of the class, his voice was soft as he spoke and his eyes were drained cold and welled up as he said “If you need to, feel free to leave class whenever you feel the urge and go to see a counselor. The principal has brought in a few extra people who can offer you assistance.” He then handed out a piece of paper with questions on it and put on a tape of a show from the History Channel. He went back to his seat next to the student he was comforting earlier. No one did their assignment, the teacher didn’t ask for us to turn it in.
Before class was let out the morning announcements came on. Instead of hearing a student’s voice being loud and obnoxious the principal came on. He didn’t address the footballs team big win or events that would be taking place through the rest of the week, but I didn’t expect him to. He started with “I know many of you have already heard the terrible news about one of our fellow students. Please come to the office to speak to a counselor if you feel the need, we are here for you. Let’s try to make this day as a time of remembrance and positivity as well as we can.” What I soon learned was that one of the students has commit suicide and was discovered that morning by her father when she didn’t wake up for school. She was a star athlete, had straight A’s, was a popular girl full of positivity and was loved by all students and faculty, and by her twin sister.
I didn’t know her directly but I had class with her sister. I felt like my sheltered life has been hit with a sledge hammer and started to crack and crumble. We have all heard about suicide, seen it take place on television or in movies, even read about it in books, and despite dealing with my own anxieties and depression, this feeling was unknown territory. I felt terrified and I couldn’t explain why. I was scared for my friends, how were they dealing with this? Are they depressed or suicidal? Do they need help? I began to visualize every person in that school as glass dolls, dangerously close to breaking, their own fragility becoming more and more apparent with every step they take through the hallways.
After graduating high school I heard the news of another suicide of a female student. Although I am unaware of the reasons for either of these suicides or of the students themselves, the news hit me and rattled my spirit. Facebook blew up with posts about suicide awareness, depression, hotlines to call if you’re feeling like hurting yourself, and support from everyone in the school system and community. Everyone stepped up offering support, some even posting their numbers to call if you wanted someone to talk to, however, all this love and support would then vanish back into nothing as the daily routine was rediscovered and everyone went back to facing their own stressors. Everyone began to move on.
Now I’m a junior in college, scrolling through social media and seeing various posts about suicides. I begin to think about my experiences and about how I feel on the subject. Since my two encounters with high school suicides, I have been exposed to the death of a friend’s significant other and a friend’s grandfather who took his own life. Suicide and depression is a topic that is shut out from reality because it is viewed as personal and something you need to deal with alone, behind closed doors. From all of this I felt as though I needed to evaluate myself and come to terms with my own reality that I’ve kept hidden behind closed doors.
Time and time again you hear a suicide take place and everyone says “We had no idea she/he/they was feeling this way.” This made me think, if my depression and anxiety got any worse and I begin to greatly consider ending my life, who would I turn to for help? My first thought was on my family. Could I confide in them? The quick answer was no. Why? We’ve never been an open family, freely discussing emotions. I thought about when I broke off a past relationship and how when I told my mom I found no comfort in her. I sat on the couch, trying to hold back tears, she sat in the rocking chair across the room. I thought about when my parents came across a post I wrote on my blog about the bullying I faced in high school and how I had to deal with it alone. It wasn’t until my parents had a glass of wine or so that they addressed the post, they said I made them feel like bad parents because they didn’t help me with my “issues.” I thought about the time I was being called bad names for giving an answer to a question in a way that my dad didn’t like and then he said that if I’m upset about something I need to just get over it.
As much as I’d hate to admit it and accept it myself, I have gone through phases of dealing with depression and anxiety, never being able to find comfort in the people you should be able to always rely on. Maybe they weren’t phases, and instead I’m still trying to make light on a subject that really shouldn’t be, but I’m a conservative person who has problems with opening up to people. My last relationship lasted four years and even then I struggled to let him in. I would fight myself from telling what I was actually feeling in the moments of crying and panic attacks. I felt like a fool for behaving this way and was too embarrassed to explain what was going on in my head because I never wanted to be looked at as weak or crazy. One day a panic attack hit when we were sitting in his car and I began to cry uncontrollably, unable to catch my breath, and my whole body hurt and shook with every gasp of air and thunder of sobs as tears exploded. I balled myself up and hid my face as he just sat there and waited for me to finish.
To me, having depression meant you were a statistic, one of the millions of people who claim their life is something less than stellar and relies on mind altering drugs to be happy. I didn’t want that. I didn’t want to be someone broken, I wanted to have a perfect life, to fit in with my family, have good grades effortlessly, to be pretty and perfect and normal.
I’d fight with myself at night, often crying for no reason and beating myself up for the way I am: my body, my face, my style, my brain capacity, anything. I would do things that I’m not proud of in these moments as a way to control what I was feeling and to take back any sanity I had left with myself. I hated who I was and dealing with the feelings I have with who I am today, but I still remain silent.
Depression, anxiety, any other mental illness, and suicide are not something you should walk around. I know I’m being a hypocrite when I say this, but we need to be open. We need to find ways to allow ourselves to heal. I feel like I’ve wasted so much time on being unhappy without ever addressing it, and still…
I guess what I am trying to say is that to prevent suicide there needs to be more done within a household, within a community, and within the school system. The only time there is light shed on these topics is when depression has run its course and a life has been taken. We need to prevent this from happening instead of focusing on how to move forward after it is already done.