1 in 12 teens attempt suicide every year in the United States.
This is her story.
I was sixteen years old and I wanted to die.
Not because the emotionally abusive jerk I had been dating dumped me for the third time, not because my mother had started taking more of her prescription pain medication than recommended, and not because I was failing geometry. I wanted to die because I already felt dead inside, so why not go for a matching set?
Then I met him.
He was three years older than me, and at the time that made him seem like the most mature of adults. He wasn't, of course, but when you're smacked by love at first sight you think up all sorts of nonsense.
For a while, life seemed better. I could forget the slurred speech at home, the disappointed voice of my band director, even the gnawing little voice that said it would be so nice to just cut yourself a little bit more because no one would notice. All my focus was on this great guy who loved me, no matter what.
Then the dark thoughts came back.
It didn't matter that I was in love, or that The Dad had finally stopped cleaning his guns whenever my guy came over, or even that I was finally passing all my classes and had my music down pat. The dark thoughts come back, and being happy only makes them worse. Because if it's so dark when you're happy, how much darker is it going to be when you aren't?
I had a bottle of pills - I can't remember if they were mine or hers - and I was holding them in my hand when he called. He said he was just thinking about me and wanted to talk. It hit me then that if I gave in to the dark thoughts, I would never see him again.
You know how they tell teenagers that suicide isn't like the movies? That you're not around to see how much everyone misses you? I couldn't have cared less about any of that, but the thought that I'd never hear his voice again shook me.
I broke down and told him what I was planning.
He told me he was coming over, not to do anything until he got there. I told him I would try, but I didn't know if I could be strong enough.
Then I hung up.
We lived in a semi-shady part of town that had a police station and an EMS station just around the block so when he called 911, they didn't have far to drive at all. The police arrived with an ambulance hot on their heels, knocking on my door in that authoritative way you see on television, ready to break it down if I didn't answer.
The police asked if I was all right, if I had taken any pills. I told them the truth; I had flushed them down the toilet as soon as I got off the phone with my boyfriend. Just as they were telling the ambulance that they weren't needed, said boyfriend came tearing around the corner in his truck.
Things moved very quickly after that. The police took my name and statement, gave me a lecture about dating a nineteen year old (apparently saving my life wasn't a good enough recommendation for them), and left me with my boyfriend. He didn't yell at me or tell me off, he just held me and apologized for calling 911, but he was afraid he would lose me. I told him I wasn't angry and that I would always be grateful for what he'd done.
I still am.
I married that guy six months ago. We haven't had the easiest life together but we're still just as in love as we were the day we sat on the sofa together and he told me that no matter how bad things get, he'll always be there for me.
I still believe him.
He hasn't let me down.
As the saying goes, hindsight is 20/20. Do you have life lessons that would have helped you through a difficult time? Share those with The Band as you write a letter to your younger self.
Dear 14-year-old Me,
I'm writing you this letter from the future. I know, right? Pretty awesome. The future is pretty cool! No flying cars though.
I'm writing you this letter - specifically to YOU, 14-year-old-self - because I think you really need a hug.
When The Band here announced this month's world tour, at first I felt like I wanted to write a "everything gets better!" letter to you. Then I went to visit my therapist this week, and she asked me about our childhood. She wanted to know what lay behind the self-destructive behavior we had.
I sighed. You know why: it was just so much. More importantly, I just didn't want to go there.
I know you don't want to go there. You don't want to remember the pain, the suffering, the loneliness, the sense of just not being good enough.
Neither do I.
But you know what, babe? I am going to go there.
Because we were lonely.
Because we were scared.
Because we were just a child.
And because our past shapes our present and our future selves.
Believe me, I wish it didn't. I wish I could say that I am where I am, who I am today, despite that past. That I don't 'let' our past define who I am or what I do.
After my therapist visit this week though, I've been humbled. That insecurity, that pain, that loneliness? It's still there. The memories do not go away.
I'm not saying this to make you feel even more desperate. I know you've been binging in secret, trying to throw up. I know you've been trying to cut yourself, to help dull the emotional anguish inside. And babe, I know the incredibly mean voice you've developed when you speak to yourself. It makes me so sad to know that you believed those lies in your head.
You are NOT ugly.
You are NOT worthless.
You would be sorely missed if you were gone.
You ARE loved, even if your parents don't know the best way to show that. Even though they hurt you, and make you believe otherwise. You ARE loved.
Now, let me tell you this.
I love YOU. I love ME.
I am here, right now, sitting next to you. I am giving you the biggest, the best, the longest, and the warmest, most sincere hug you have ever received. I want you to feel how much I care about you, and just how sorry I am that you had to be the parent from such a young age.
I can't write that without crying. I can't write that without imagining our daughter (!!!) being five or six or seven and having to bear all that shit on her tiny, innocent, and beautiful shoulders. My heart aches when I remember the loneliness.
Now that I am embracing you, I want you to feel that I know all this, all of you, and I love you. You are not alone. And you do not have to do this alone.
Please, feel the compassion I am offering you. Feel the love, and let down that strong exterior. I am here now. You don't have to pretend it's all okay, you don't have to be afraid that I'll pull the rug of security from under your feet. Together we are stable.
Together we can cry. It's okay to be sad about the loss of a childhood. It's such a precious thing to lose. Admitting that we lost it - it is hard. But you know what? It wasn't your fault. You were just a child. There was nothing you could have done.
The only thing we can do is be compassionate, and be forgiving.
Through forgiveness, and through acknowledgement, we're offering our baby girl the childhood we didn't have. I am doing my darnedest to work on my own issues, to continue to grow in love and in peace, to make sure our sweetheart knows she is loved. That she can trust in us to make everything okay. So that she can be the child.
With all the love in the world,
Your 29-year-old self.
Many of us have times when we're tempted to pull out our hair. Most people don't act on those temptations.
I do. I have trichotillomania. I've had it since I was very young.
No two cases of trichotillomania are necessarily alike. For me, it's something I do without thinking. If I realize I'm doing it, I can stop. Some people pluck eyebrows, eyelashes, and other hair sources, but I only pluck the hair on my head.
Trichotillomania is thought to fall on the Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) spectrum. It is an impulse control disorder and is related to stress and anxiety. Everyone has stress and anxiety, and there are times in all of our lives when stress and anxiety are more of a problem than others.
I'm pretty sure I started pulling my hair out when I was a baby, which means I've been doing it for as long as I can remember. Most days my mom didn't get me up in the morning or from my nap very promptly because she was busy with my twin brother. I believe I started pulling my hair as I waited for someone - anyone - to take me out of my crib.
My intention here is not to demonize my mother, but to try to help you understand how this started.
My mom lost preemie twins a little less than 2 years before my brother and I were born. When my twin and I were born, he was 6 pounds and 9 ounces, while I was 2 pounds and 2 ounces.
He was a roly poly baby. I made my mother nervous. She bonded more with my brother initially. Eventually my mother and I bonded too, but by then, I was already pulling out my hair on a regular basis.
School was, for the most part, a place where I was happy. I succeeded academically and was usually treated well by teachers and peers. One event, which happened multiple times each year, left me disconsolate each time it happened - head lice checks.
Head lice checks made my hair pulling worse. The ladies checking my head were so insistent that I had lice that they usually convinced me I had them, and I would pluck hairs out of my head at two to three times the rate I normally did. I would then check each root and all along each hair shaft for the presence of a nit. I never found one, though, which was most likely a very good thing because the pesticide shampoos probably would have been very painful on a scalp with so many open wounds.
The person checking heads would almost always be so horrified by the condition of my scalp that she would call my mother to leave work and come get me. I can remember sometimes hearing my mom's voice even as someone from the school nursing staff talked to her on the phone. She'd plead with them and insist it was normal for me, but they would want her to come to school despite her protests so they could show her what they were talking about.
She already knew, but she came anyway because she had no choice.
One time as my mom was taking me home and looking at my pock-marked scalp for probably the tenth time, a school nurse very condescendingly said, "For God's sake,you're a psychologist and your husband's a doctor. Why don't you do something with her?"
My mother shrugged as she walked out with me. Once we got inside the car, she began to cry. I recall just sitting there on that November day as my mom sobbed into the steering wheel of her car, thinking what a horrible person I was to make her feel this way.
Even though in some ways both my brother and I were like the proverbial peddler's children who ran around barefoot in relation to our own parents' professions, in fairness, they had taken me to my pediatrician, an allergist, a couple of dermatologists, an equal number of psychologists and psychiatrists, a naturopathic physician, and even a pediatric neurologist.
There didn't seem to be any fix that would not have left me virtually comatose and drooling. When the cure is worse than the disease, sometimes you have to live with it. They never gave up trying to find a cure, though.
For a while, my mother even made me drink goat's milk because a lady at church swore by it as a cure for plucking, picking, cutting, and all manner of self-injurious behaviors. Mom and Dad eventually gave up on goat's milk because I was suffering from both dehydration and malnutrition. I couldn't keep any food down if I had to consume goat's milk along with it.
The goat's milk didn't seem to slow the hair pulling anyway.
When I used to get my hair cut, the person cutting it would invariably comment on the condition of my scalp. I never knew what to say in return.
I would beg my mom to cut my hair herself. But she always refused, which may have been her way of punishing me for pulling my hair out. My mom used to talk about how nice it feels when her hairstylist shampooed her hair. I didn't know if she said it because she thought it might motivate me to stop pulling my hair, or if she said it to make fun of me because she knew no one would ever willingly touch my scalp.
I wear my hair long and trim it myself now.
I can remember my problem with hair pulling worsening when my mom was battling leukemia. It was also bad when I suffered PTSD after I was assaulted in a school restroom a couple of years ago.
I've just finished my first year of university. Things happening around here right now have caused me to stress.
I'm recovering from a minor car accident that left me with broken ribs, a broken collarbone, and awful bruises in unmentionable places.
There's little I can do other than watch bad TV and pull my hair out.
Nearly 10 percent of the US population has depression.
This is her story of depression:
It ate me up. Destroyed me and everything I had. Friends, hobbies, beliefs, passions? HA! All gone.
It messed with my mind, distorting reality until I was trapped in darkness. I thought I liked it; that the sick twisted happiness of being sad was better than the simple happiness of just...being happy. But the truth was, I was addicted to the dark. And the worst part was, I didn't want help.
I did the stupidest things, and regretted them, making myself even MORE sad.
I lived in a never ending cycle of hating myself and doing things that made me hate myself, and it ate up everything. Everything slipped away. I didn't know what I had or who I was anymore, and I was scared, so scared; of where I was going and who I would be, and everything was in shambles until one day...
...it got better.
No, it didn't really happen overnight. It started with a teeny light inside of me.
One that wanted to be happy; really happy. It drew me to one person, one good influence, who forced me into making better choices. I slowly started to surround myself with the right people; ones that made me smile and laugh, and I realized that being happy; really happy, was better than being sad happy.
I started doing the things I liked to do, gained confidence, and slooooowly started being more addicted to light, than to the dark.
I discovered religion, and it helps me get through the hard nights. I turn to God in the darkest times; instead of cutting, or wallowing, or whatever stupid thing I might have done before.
It took a long time. A really, really long time. I have relapses, and bad days, but I now have the resources to help myself through it all.
So it happens; the light takes over, and one day you look around and realize you are happy.
This weekend, The Band, we're hosting a carnival of posts about Mother's Day. Before you run away gagging, hear me out: these are the kinds of Mother's Day posts I wish I'd read years ago. Knowing that I was not alone in my struggles was a pivotal point in my life. Today, we celebrate the tables forever missing one. Today we celebrate the mothers we've lost and the mothers we've found. We're celebrating the mothers we wish we'd had while acknowledging the mothers we did have.
This year, The Band, I'm proud to celebrate a carnival of Mother's Day posts from perspectives that aren't always storybook. Perspectives like mine. Perspectives like Jana's. Perspectives like yours.
Today, no matter where you are in your life, whether you're missing your own mom, happily celebrating with family, stuck at a table forever missing one, wishing desperately that you were a mother, or wishing desperately that you had a mother, know these two things: you are loved and we are none of us alone.
My oldest memory of my mother is unpleasant. For a few years after that, it wasn't there. Three years ago, the memory reappeared and now I can't get rid of it.
She's yelling at me and I don't know why. I'm being backed into a corner, terrified of her, of her anger. I don't remember her words, but she was loud and angry. The pressure from the words pound against my ear drums. Not painfully but uncomfortably.
And I know I can't cry; showing my emotions is the one thing I can't do.
But I can't help it.
The tears come, and she's now enraged, shouting the only words I remember:
"If you want to cry, I'll give you something to cry about!"
Then she spanks me. Hard, which makes me cry harder. I don't remember if she's shouting, but something tells me she probably is... or was.
I wasn't yet in kindergarten.
In third grade, she said something to me. I told her that she made me feel like less than dirt; that she made me feel that way often.
In eighth grade and again in tenth, she decided my (passing) grades weren't good enough, so I wasn't allowed to play soccer. That took away the one coping mechanism I had. I ended up cutting for over a year. Junior year, she called me a bitch; told me she'd make my life a living hell.
She already had.
So now here I am, and Mother's Day is approaching. I'm a college student living with my parents for the summer. I know she'll probably expect a card for Mother's Day.
I can't give her that.
For me, the word "mother" no longer has a connection to nurturing. Instead, to use her words, my mother is, "the person who spawned me."
She tried once to make me call her "Mommy." So now, because my third grade self wouldn't use that word, "Mommy," because it's not what she was. She's not like a "Mommy," a mommy is nurturing, caring, listening, non-judgmental, loving, someone who apologizes when she's wrong, patient, accepting of my flaws.
Someone who's more focused on the feeling side of mothering than the doing side (despite what she did wrong, my mother did quite well with the doing).
So, please, can I have a Mommy?
Page 1 of 5