To say there is one single most traumatic experience in a person’s life is a very bold statement to make. To say that you can pin point exactly when you went mad, well, that would be bliss for some. For me? I wish I could say that I wasn’t always mad but I can’t say with any certainty, had this event had not occurred, that I would be any more sane than I am now. Perhaps it was not the moment I lost my marbles. Perhaps that happened long before, but either way, this moment took something from me that I will never get back. It took away whatever I had left of my innocence.
I remember so little else about the time surrounding this particular event, likely because its prominence is so vast in comparison to anything else that happened that day (week, month, year). I wish I could say it was something I hadn’t seen coming, but in some sick way, I knew I was in for a show. I had been dating a boy who was older than me and sicker than me. He was mentally ill in ways I could not imagine at the time. I was damaged; suicidal and self loathing. I was full of resentment towards those who had hurt me over the years. This was something we had in common, the boy and I. We often cursed the world while we rejoiced in each other’s company. This evening was meant to be no exception. I was on my way from school; I took the bus and walked from the bus stop to his house almost everyday.
I could feel something strange in the air. This trip was unusual while remaining familiar. I had done it over a hundred times the past few months. Why did it seem like I was walking in as an unexpected guest? He wasn’t answering the phone and I usually called before I got there so I wouldn’t have to ring the bell. I wanted to avoid chatting with his mother if I could. I waited outside for a few minutes and called another time. When I got his voicemail again, I got a strange feeling in my gut. Something was wrong.
I opened the front door and ran up the stairs. His room was in the attick. When I turned from the stairs to face him in his room, I was met with a sight from a nightmare. Not my own nightmare, of course, I could never think up something this horrible. My boyfriend, the boy I cared so much about that I had forgotten my own needs so I could better serve his, was standing on a chair with a noose around his neck, almost as if he was threatening me. His expression as he carelessly and instantaneously kicked the chair out from under his legs, showed me the extent to which he didn’t acknowledge my feelings.
In an instinctual jerk of my right arm I plunged forward towards a bookshelf containing a “collection” of unusual weapons. Among them: brass knuckles, nun chucks, batons and various switchblades. I reached for the first blade I saw and I hacked through the rope that was tied off only a couple feet in front of my face. When he hit the ground in a loud thump, I ran over to assure he was alright.
He looked up at me with eyes full of resentment and regret. He was displeased by my heroics. He wanted to die and he wanted me to watch him die. I couldn’t imagine what I had done to deserve a fate so awful. To lose a friend, especially someone I cared for so much, would be torture in and of itself. I don’t need to watch it happen to make it hurt even worse. I don’t have to know there was something I could have done to help but didn’t. That is how he wanted me to feel, though. He wanted me to feel responsible. It was somehow my fault that his life was not worth living. It was up to me to make it better.
I was horrified by these revelations. He really thought of me as his only reason for living. This was a grave amount of pressure for someone so suicidal on their own. I never wanted to be that burden for anyone. I never wanted to make life worse, or even less worth living for anyone else. I felt like I was just so defective and horrible and rotten that, not only did I hate myself, but I wasn’t even enough to keep my boyfriend satisfied. He was so unhappy with me, he’d rather be dead.
I instantly withdrew inside of myself. I was unreachable by the outside world. I was probably the most unreachable by him. I could not let him know what I was truly feeling. I couldn’t risk setting him off. I would have felt responsible if he tried to kill himself again and now it was my job to keep him alive. I started seeing him every single day. I had to, there was no other way to make sure he wouldn’t hurt himself. I was also struggling with urges to self-harm and thoughts of suicide, but I had to keep it to myself.
I would put anything aside. I made excuses for his anger over and over again. He always talked about taking me away and getting out of town and making a life together. I didn’t understand why he would ever want to leave Boston. I had a home and that’s where I wanted my life to be. I was only 16 years old at this point, mind you! I wasn’t sure what I wanted out of life, but I assure you I didn’t think I would live much longer, so it didn’t matter all that much to me. I wanted to die in a place where there would be people to mourn me. I was sick and scared. I needed help.
I wasn’t asking for help from anyone. I couldn’t let the world know I was in trouble. I had been in trouble many times before and any advances at getting help only made it worse. Telling the truth, telling an adult, always made it worse. I learned to keep things to myself and suffer in silence; it was the least painful way.
This story doesn’t have much of an ending. The fight to keep my boyfriend happy was very much a lost cause. He was never happy and he would never be happy, at least not with me. He continued to express his frustrations that I was not the saving grace that he intended for me to be. His anger escalated until one day… he snapped.