trigger warning: mentions of self-harm, suicidal thoughts, discussion of what it feels like to be bullied and have a panic attack
So this week, I had a mental breakdown.
Ok, I know, not that unusual for me. But this was not just a normal I’m-at-home-in-my-bedroom mental breakdown.
This was an at-school frozen-in-a-chair-in-the-principal’s-office-for-at-least-45-minutes-at-the-verge-of-tears kind of mental breakdown.
Ok, so I’ll give you a little background. As I’ve probably mentioned before, I was bullied in elementary school. Not just by my peers, my friends and teachers as well. To give you some examples, I remember a time when I was feeling a little sick but my mom couldn’t afford to take sick days off. I was in fifth grade, ten years old. The rest of the class was playing some kind of ball game, and because I felt terrible, I was sitting on the sidelines. When we all lined up, my teacher was furious. His voice was shaking. I remember him saying how disappointed in our behavior he was.
How he didn’t want any of us moping like (my name redacted). How he pulled me out of the line, or pointed at me, or called my name out like it tasted bad. How it was always bad. How I was always the different one, the exception, the outsider. All alone at the edge of the fence, looking in on the world.
He would do things like that all the time. It wasn’t just him.
None of the adults in my life really understood me. I had suicidal thoughts pretty much since starting elementary school. I felt isolated and alone. I was the kid you saw crying out in the hallway, waiting for a teacher to deal with them, a teacher who was supposed to make them feel better. A teacher they grew afraid of. A teacher who never came.
To be honest, I’ve never really had a healthy and trusting relationship before. Everywhere I’ve gone, I’ve always felt different, like if I didn’t lie a little bit about myself someone will yell at me or not understand or tell me I’m enough. After a while, all those things start to feel the same. After a while, I just mostly gave up hope on people understanding me at all.
Of late, I’ve been actually making progress in terms of trusting people my age. I’ve made friends, and I tell them about myself. They understand me, in a way no one else really has understood me before, maybe just because I’ve never been this open with someone else. The kind of open that makes me understand what it’s actually supposed to feel like to have best friends. I’m on good terms with all of my teachers, but my English teacher and I are really close to each other, which has helped me a little bit in not being so afraid of figures of authority. I feel safe at my school. All of that fell apart last Wednesday.
So I was working on my own in a study room between my English teacher’s two classrooms (I could explain, but it’s complicated, and I have word count to save, so I’ll tell you all about it later, okay?) and this boy who had bugged me and my Poetry Club friends, who are actually my only friends, and the people I mentioned above a couple times, cracked open the door.
It was really awkwardly silent, so I said, “Hi.” I felt really weak and awkward and scared, like the voice in my head was controlling my words.
He said, “Hi.” It was really hesitant, and awkward, and weird. The thing about this boy is that… he’s good at manipulating. He can have done something a thousand times, and a part of you is still so convinced by his act of being interested in you that you can’t help but collapse, a little. As someone who has lashed out at others before, I guess I overempathize, because I see myself in other people too quickly. I guess it feels like if I can forgive them, it’s all right to forgive myself. So in that moment, even though I knew he was going to bait me into giving some response in the logical part of my head… I let him reel me in. I let kindness become weakness, because honestly I’m still struggling to figure out the difference.
“Hey, do you want to hang out in the summer?” He said out of nowhere.
I bit my lip, fiddling with my computer screen. I was researching stuff about social media marketing and planning the next couple week of blog posts and working on some new poems and I had about fifteen tabs open, but I didn’t want him to see. “Uh… not really.”
“Oh, come on!” He burst out, instantly seeming frustrated with me. “I’ve done this with, like, five people, and we’re already becoming best friends.”
“Um… I’m going to have a job this summer.” I felt like I was trying to explain something to a toddler, which I guess is a defense mechanism. Trying to feel superior. “So I can’t.”
“Yeah, but you’ll be off, and then you can hang out with me.”
“Um, I’m busy with… other stuff.” Like running a website and doing my own performances in my town, I thought in my head, but obviously I didn’t say that out loud. I felt like curling up into a ball and ignoring everything he said. Like, emotionally shutting down. I’m pretty sure self-consciousness and fear of being punished were really the only things that kept me from doing it.
“Um… I have a social life.”
“Yeah, and–” he growled. “Ugh, this is pointless. Why don’t you want to hang out with me?”
“I don’t really–I’m going to be busy–”
And then he went silent. And he started laughing. And he said, “Just kidding, I’m only here to clean the fish tank.”
“I figured that,” I said quietly.
My heart was sort of pounding.
And then it all fell apart.
My English teacher told me to tell her whenever he bugged me so she could deal with him in combination with the principal. It took me a while to come out of the silent, empty study room filled with plant seedings and basketballs and a couple fossilized kale plants. My knees were wobbling and my hands were shaking.
I know it seems little, but it wasn’t.
My emotions had been pried out of my chest. I wasn’t perfect anymore. The armour had shattered, and everyone could see it. I felt like someone was covering my mouth, even though no one was. It wasn’t exactly like a flashback, it was more like I was slipping back into the version of myself I used to be. I don’t remember what I told her exactly, I just know it was something incoherent, and that I felt like throwing up.
I stayed in the principal’s office for 45 minutes, trying to calm down.
The next day, I punched myself harder than I ever had before. It was only twice. It was enough to make me go to my computer and use the Live Chat function to call a helpline from their website. I rated my level of upset at a seven. I felt like my body wasn’t mine. I’m honestly not sure I’ve ever been that frantically honest with a person. I told the Counsellor everything about my life that I had been going through, about my self-harm and about how my family has a history of mental illness that sometimes feels like it defines me. How it feels like all around me, the whole world is dying. I talked about my suicidal thoughts and my self-harm. I talked, and I talked about how I felt like self-care made me selfish because no one around me takes care of themselves so when I take
I told them how much I wished I could lift the pain away from all my friends, who were struggling in their own ways, and who I could comfort and support and listen to and validate, but never take away the bad memories, the mental disorders and the bullies. I told them how I didn’t understand how so many people in the world could be so broken and so terrible.
They said something I’ll never forget. I wish I had taken a screenshot of our conversation, but I was panicking so much I didn’t do it. Anyway, it was something like this.
Maybe every time you take care of yourself, you can imagine that you’re lifting the pain away, not just for yourself, but for your family, too. Like every time you let yourself be all right, you’re healing the scar. You’re making the world as a whole a little bit lighter.
Okay, fine, I’m rewording it a little bit, because awkwardly worded text messages irritate me. But that’s the basic gist.
Hope you’re hanging in there. ❤
If you need to talk to someone about anything you’re going through, no matter how big or small it might seen, find a helpline in your area here. In case you missed it, follow my Instagram here, follow my Twitter here, follow my YouTube here, follow my Wattpad here, and follow my Tumblr here, and read the poems that I posted this morning here and here.