I’m sixteen years old. I don’t understand why everything must be so complicated, why the pressure in my head builds rapidly until it finds a way out. It will be years before I learn to channel pain into creativity; for now, it’s a waiting game with no manual.
The safest place I know is the driver's seat of my car, which cradles my back as today’s crisis works its way from the inside out. The nylon is resilient to constant stress and absorbs the sounds of my sadness without judgment. My dreams and secrets lay idle in the vents. When I’m upset, I cut deep ex-marks into the faux gray leather with a razor blade, despite the kindness and understanding it has shown me. I deny that I do it when confronted by my brother, not intending to lie, but rather hardly aware of my own compulsive habit. It’ll be some time before I see the tiny residual damages left in the wake of misdirected pain.
My bathroom floor is no stranger to my struggles. I like the way the cold, white tiles feel on my hands, which swell up like its July as I slap my frustration into the floor. The umbrella wallpaper protects me from total loss of innocence, and I know if I turn the faucet to the right, I will reliably get cool water to splash on my face and erase the signs of another hour on the floor. Sometimes I rest beneath a sheet of morning bath water and look up at the obscured ceiling as my eyes begin to sting. I’m forced to shut them and it’s not unlike the rest of my day; walking, eyes closed, with an empty sense of awareness, hoping if I box up my problems, they’ll cease to exist.
Most of the books in my bedroom feature a character battling something terrible. I am always drawn to memoirs, which feel particularly warm in my hands. I am at home among the characters, but will only read a few pages before I shut the book and abandon them. So many brilliant writers have torn their hearts out just for me – pouring stories of lost hope and broken dreams onto paper – but I reject them because I’m just not ready to listen yet. It’ll be years before I find meaning in this denial; before I bridge the gap between how I perceive things now and how they really are.
It’s now Monday and I am verbally torn to shreds in the locker room of my high school. I deserve it but still it cuts deep because as rigid as I am on the outside, I’m crumbling like something stale within. I walk with my jaw clenched so tightly that my teeth grind, smirking like the jerk I feel I am. When my feet pass through the exit, I drop the act and succumb to the tears filling me up on the inside. The administration has decided that we are far too irresponsible to leave campus for lunch, so a supervisor is planted by the parking lot to keep us trapped. Today he doesn’t ask where I’m going; there’s unspoken acknowledgement that I will be getting in my car and leaving. It is as if just this one time, the deafening silence of my agony exempts me from being a liability to him. With my foot shaking on the clutch, I’m gone. I let my car stall out in an empty parking lot, hoping as the power drains out, my pain will follow suit. I believe I have no potential, living like self-destruction and apathy will bring me closer to ‘enough.’
When I was younger, I found immense pleasure in dumping the pills in my family’s medicine cabinet into a colorful pile. I sifted through them and placed them back in their respective bottles with great care. Shiny colors and oblong shapes slid between my tiny fingers. Ironically, the power, even just the sight, of medication petrifies me now. Though it will save me in a few years, my understanding is skewed and I believe I don’t need it. No one in my life has spoken of psychiatric drugs, so they may as well be reserved for the ‘crazies’ and serial killers. When my team of future doctors, therapists, and dieticians suggest medication, I will resist it adamantly. I will fear that the anatomy of my brain will change and with that, I may lose those scant pieces of my personality I actually value. So, I will fight the ones who try to prescribe me; pill bottles will sit on CVS shelves until it is apparent I’m never coming for them. I will read WebMD warnings that tell me I'll have suicidal thoughts, nausea, headaches, and disorientation. I will learn that I may even die. Sounds about as fun as sticking needles in my eyes, I will think as I scan the menu of terrible outcomes. But could it be worse than this, some tiny part of me will wonder?
Soon, I will realize that it really can’t be. I will embrace the discomfort I have with viewing medication as a last resort, a weakness, and something shame worthy. And then I will pop my first pill and I will in fact become a different person; a pleasant emulsion of positive experience and the wisdom that comes with terror.
Right now, the good does exist - waiting to fight its way into my shell of a body - I just don’t know it yet. It will take a pink pill, a dismissed option, for me to see this; one that will lead me with love, to myself.