It's Not Your Fault

  Written by Devan

First and foremost, please know that this is not your fault.

It sounds so cliché, I think to myself, like any suicide note would start. However, I write it anyway because I do want my parents to know it isn't their fault that I'm choosing to end my life at 15.

Fifteen.

Sometimes, even for me, it's hard to believe that someone so young could be ready to end it all, but I was, at least back then. I'd struggled for years with obsessive compulsive disorder, anxiety, and depression, as long as I can remember. In fact, I do not remember a time in my life when I didn't feel "different." Of course back then I had no idea why, but only knew that it made me sad. At this point, 15 years old feels like a lifetime. I'm battle worn from constantly fighting the demons within me. My armor is cracked and I'm afraid it's starting to show. The last thing I want is for it to show.

My sophomore year of high school has been a nightmare: obsessive thoughts nearly constant, depression reaching a frightening crescendo. I don't sleep well, my nerves torn and frayed, with crying jags all too common. I self-injure making my inside bruises outside ones, as silent prayers are sent up to God to please help me. Looking through a photo album is like peering down at a stranger. Surely that's not me in those pictures. There is a complete disconnect, almost an out of body experience, and I've never felt more like an outsider. On top of everything else, I am bullied relentlessly in school about my appearance until I feel like people must see a monster when they see me walking down the hallway, and my self-esteem is non-existent. I'm pretty good at masking it all, though. I wear baggy clothes to hide the fact that I'm overweight, and plaster a smile on my face. If someone asks how I am, I answer, "Good." I smile and I laugh. I have friends but I don't dare tell them anything.

They'll think you're crazy, my mind tells me.

My grades are also stellar so I probably don't set off any alarm bells or fit the criteria for "student in need of help." Even though I'm able keep my grades up, it's all part of my illness, because heaven forbid I be less than perfect. Any grade lower than a B can send me reeling, thoughts shouting at full volume about what a failure I am, how everyone else is so much smarter than me. Despite getting excellent grades, I still don't feel good enough. I enviously watch other students walking down the hallway, their exuberance practically a cruel taunt, and I feel like everyone is happier than I am.

As I write that note, I've simply had enough.

Did I even have a plan?

It's strange that I can't even recall the means I would use to end my mental anguish but the note stands out vividly in my mind.

I explain that I just can't live with this pain anymore, this unbearable sadness, weighing me down so much so that I physically feel it within, making each step forward a tremendous effort. I'm sure that I've left my parents clues besides this note. They'd always known about my anxiety or "quirks" as they sometimes called them, the things they spoke of in hushed tones because, as I would later learn, they didn't want to put a label on me. However, maybe actually having a name for everything would have made it better.

There were poems I wrote that I read to my mother:

The eternal sadness hurts you through and through, You just don't know what you can do…

She had a look in her eye as if she wondered but didn't say anything. There also had been the music playing in a constant loop in my room, from artists putting feelings into words I couldn't find, melancholic haunting melodies.

Please take care of my cats.

I make sure I add this in and I feel tears threaten at the thought of being without my beloved cats, especially my Panther, more of a soulmate than a cat. Secretly I wish I could take him with me. I finally finish the note, not sure I've described everything, but feel that no one probably wants to hear it anyway even in death, and then I fold it up neatly and I store it away.

I don't do anything then because maybe I wasn't going to end my life right at that second but that note is a security blanket so as soon as I am ready, I can go.

Somehow, it's a year later. I'm a junior in high school, still shy and introverted. On the surface, everything looks fine, but on the inside it's a mess, like a cluttered basement with the door closed. I'm not sure how I'm still around, but I am, and from time to time, I've pulled out that letter, reading it and rereading it. Even when I don't have it in my hand, I think of it when I'm at my lowest, knowing that it's there, that I have the first part of my emergency escape route planned out.

Next thing I know, high school is over, an arduous journey that has been all uphill, definitely some of the most challenging years of my life and graduation is upon me. My grades are still good and I'm college bound. I even managed to get my brown belt in karate. I have a future in front of me, right? Yet again, I return to the note. I read it again, my eyebrows furrowing, taking it all in. I'm not sure why but I ball it up, into a tight little wad, the paper crunching in my hand. The pain is still there and I'm not better, not by a longshot, which is probably why I can't throw it away.

We're moving away, this time just my mom and me. The last few years of my life have been a series of gains and losses, but I think if I tally it up I still come out on the losing end. However, I've learned so much about my illness and I've reached out for help. I'm going through boxes, finding stuff to donate and things to throw away. I stumble upon the note, purely by accident. I uncrumble it and stare down at the writing, slightly faded in some spots but still legible. This time is different, however. As I read the note, I'm filled with an inalienable rage, like a scream crawling its way out of my throat, because no one should feel this way. No one. I take the note and tear it up into small pieces but somehow it's not enough. Those pieces are still there. So I take them outside and strike a match. All that's left are embers. The note is gone, as if it never existed.

The pain? It's still here, now fifteen years later. Unlike the letter, it's not so easy to destroy. However, the note is gone and there has never been another. Looking back I can see the progression. It might have taken baby steps but I was starting to fight, igniting the fire within me, until I was strong enough to know that although my pain remains, I'm coping and I don't need an exit strategy.

The ghost of that note haunts me at times, as I sometimes stand on that precipice, as if it begs to be rewritten, but instead I lace up my skates, my new passion, and I write a different note in smooth lines across the ice. I start the note the same way though:

First and foremost, please know that this is not your fault.

No, it's not my fault that I have mental illness and I'll keep fighting to be here.

About Devan

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