I stand there, pacing along the length of my bathroom. I can feel the cool tile on my bare feet, and the sweatpants that I have had since middle school drape along my legs. I stop walking and look in the mirror. My face is red and baby hairs that do not fit in my ponytail fly in every direction. Reaching for the cold, silver knob, it clicked in my head that I was about to do something I have been afraid of for years. I walk down the hall towards my mother’s office. I feel the rough carpet beneath me and the stale air hitting my face. My mother sits at the desk in her trousers and a pajama shirt with a highlighter between her fingers. I stand in the archway for a minute, adjusting my weight between feet until she glances away from the screen.
The piles of paper stacked along the perimeter of the hall were being lit up by the kind of artificial lighting in classrooms from the sixties. The basement had a few windows that were covered in white blinds and spider webs from when the house was built. I had moved down there from the second floor when my brother, Aaron, was born. Another bedroom was needed, and I wanted more privacy. It was perfect. The room did not get much daylight, but the floral duvet and artwork from my summers at camp made it comfortable.
When It All Started
When the thoughts started in elementary school I felt like I was crazy. I remember sitting in Tefilah (prayer) with my group of friends, not wanting to be there. I did not like talking to them, I did not like coming to school, and I just wanted to be in bed. There were days where I spent hours paralyzed, just staring at the wall. My nightly routine consisted of sitting on my butt feeling helpless, browsing every website for signs and symptoms that proved I wasn’t insane. It took four years of reading over the same self-help articles and trying self-care techniques from Pinterest before I considered the possibility that maybe I wasn’t just being too sensitive. Maybe my feelings were valid.
During this time, I was tested for learning disabilities. For two days, the doctors gave me tests and asked questions. There was one point where a psychologist came and asked about my life. She told me everything was confidential and then asked about my friends and life at home. I did not know why they thought something was wrong to begin with. But, when she asked me if I had ever thought about taking my life, I did not want to answer any more questions. For years afterward, I wished I had just been honest. Everything would have been easier. I was young, and no one would have expected me to explain myself. No one would make fun of me.
Some nights I thought about doing it. Some nights it was really bad, and all I had the energy to do was sit on the floor shaking. Everything was emotionally exhausting. Conversations with friends and family were draining, causing me to isolate myself for days to recover. For months I brought my food down to my room during dinner. Sitting with my family, even for a few minutes, was overwhelming.
Finally Telling My Mom
It felt like I was outside of my body, watching as I did something I told myself I could never do. I knew that things were going to be different. I thought to myself, “How would Dad react? He tells me I am a stupid teenage girl that wants attention. That I am a brat. G-d, I just hope he doesn’t say anything to me. Maybe Mom doesn’t have to tell him…”
I told myself it was just a rut, that I was stuck in a phase, that I just had to snap out of it. Maybe once middle school was over, things would be better. Once exams were over, things would be better. Once my life was over, things would be better.
“Mummy?” I giggle quietly, flattening the baby hairs around my ponytail and tightening it. It snaps in half, and I pull it away from my head, shoving it in my pocket. I reach the desk at the end of the hall. Pages cover the wall, and two cups with coffee rings around the center sit on top of the printer. A few tears start forming in the corners of my eyes, and I blink them away.
“Yeah?” She responds, looking back at a patient’s file that is open on the screen.
“Uhh, I think I’m depressed.”
The chair swivels towards me, and she pushes her purple glasses up to her forehead. They were dark and rich, complementing her smooth, ivory skin. The tears start pouring out, dripping down my cheeks and onto my neck. I giggle again. I move my eyes around the room. Watching through my foggy lenses, she stands up and wraps her arms around me. In fifteen years, I have never seen my mother walk away from her computer without hitting the save button multiple times. Her skin is cool, but her body leaves a warm pressure around my torso. I stand there as she loosens her arms and walks into my bedroom. She sits down against the wall next to my bed. Across the room, I sit at my desk. Pushing my feet off the desk, I spin around slowly a couple times.
“Are you going to kill yourself?”
“No,” I respond quickly. I had thought about it before but had never gotten close to doing it.
“Are you sure?” She asked again.
“Yes! Oh my God, I already said I’m not.”
“Okay, I’m sorry. What can I do? Tomorrow I’m going to call the doctor’s office. Do you want to go to the hospital tonight?” My mother sat on the floor with her legs sprawled out on the carpet. She had never been this focused when I’ve talked to her before. This type of concentration is something I only see when she’s working.
“I don’t know.” I kept spinning in the chair. My head hurt, but I knew that if I stopped, I’d have to look my mother in the eyes.
The hard part was over. I told my mother, but I was still uncomfortable sharing more. Being vulnerable was not a common thing in my family. Despite whatever backlash I was going to get from my father, I was proud of myself for finally opening up. Knowing that my mother was supporting me gave me a sense of relief. I had reached the point where I would not have been able to live much longer in the state I was in. My life was a mess, but reaching out for help brought me hope. I was not sure if things would get better, but I was certain that they could not get worse.
I knew that my life could only go up from here.
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