On Friday evening, the 26th, Nicole was sitting in the Eagle’s Nest drawing trying not to give into her self-harm urges. Instead of giving in, she was sketching her hand and wrist in different positions then drawing cuts and scars on the wrists. It had almost been a week since the last time she cut. She managed to make it five days clean and was trying so hard to make it farther. She had been drawing for the past three days or so trying to distract from her default coping mechanism.
At 4 pm, she met with her friend, Laura, about Cru Monday Night Team. She had joined the team because she needed some way to serve others and be involved in order to fill up some of her free time to keep her distracted. They met in the Eagle’s Nest and talked a little bit about the team. After they had discussed this, Laura explained that she was doing a Daniel Fast, only eating fruits and vegetables. She confessed that she had been feeling like her relationship with food hadn’t been so good lately. She decided to do this fast, trusting God, giving up her urges and thoughts to eat junk or overeat to Him, and trying to work with Him through what she had been thinking and feeling. She told her that she didn’t really know if she had an actual eating disorder or if it was just something below that (like disordered eating). She explained more that sometimes she has unhealthy eating habits. One example was if she’s home alone, she’ll want to go to the kitchen and eat so much to the point of feeling sick, but then she’ll feel bad about it, so she will restrict and not eat trying to make up for she did. She added that she tries to hide it as well because she’s so ashamed of it.
After Nicole listened to Laura talk about this, she reassured her that she was not alone in experiencing this and confessed that she too has similar issues with food but was not sure if it’s an actual eating disorder or just disordered eating. She shared that she too will overeat to the point of feeling sick, then try to compensate by not eating when she needs to. She also does try to hide it because she’s so ashamed of it. It also triggers her self-harm urges sometimes, but she didn’t mention that part. Nicole told her about Nutrition class last year where she had to take an eating disorder assessment and write a reflection about the results for an assignment. Her results told her that she is most likely struggling with an eating disorder. Afterwards, her professor sent her a message saying that if she was concerned about it, she should go talk to Hank Rook. She was a bit concerned but also too scared and ashamed to say anything about it to any professional. What Nicole didn’t mention was that she really dislikes talking about her relationship with food and is so ashamed of how gluttonous she can be at times. It is one of the things she hates about herself and wishes to change, but it is not something she is willing to talk about. Laura and Nicole continued to talk and share for a while longer, being H.O.T. (honest, open, and transparent) with one another. Afterwards, they both felt like they were closer and had a better understanding of each other with this impromptu H.O.T. date.
At about 7 pm, she went upstairs to get dinner then attended one of her friend’s play with several other friends. After the play, she went back through the Eagle’s Nest into the Student Life Suite to the EP office with the intention of helping with publicity. She said hello to several of the EP members then went into the office to talk to Marshall. She began to talk to him by asking how the event that night had gone. Originally, that event was supposed to be hers, but since she was asked to step down, it was now Marshall’s and Skylar’s event. She found out that they did not have the original planned event that night because the act that night had gotten a flat tire about seventy miles away, and they were unable to make it. Instead, Marshall had to plan a Bingo event in an hour and a half.
After only a minute of speaking to each other, Marshall got up to leave and said,
“I’ll be right back.”
He went to the SPAARC to talk to crew about publicity and what they were doing. He was gone for at least ten minutes. As soon as he had left the EP office, Nicole started feeling emotional and felt extremely out of place and unwanted. She tried not to believe all the lies her mind was telling her, but they were being so persistent, and she couldn’t not believe them. Tears began to fill her eyes as she sat in the office waiting for Marshall to return. After several minutes of constant abuse from her mind, she left and went outside into the rain. She wanted to go back to her room, but she knew she wouldn’t be able to be alone there.
[TRIGGER WARNING From below this line the contents are graphic.]
Instead, she went to her relatively new hiding spot on the little porch on the side of Scott Hall. No one really knows of that place, or at least, they don’t notice it much. She sat there for about half an hour crying and beating herself up for feeling and being the way that she is. She rolled back her left sleeve and gently rubbed her fingers across the healing cuts and scars on her wrist, wishing she could add more. Her mind was screaming at her to add more injuries, wishing to feel the cool metal against her scarring skin, wishing to feel her warm blood dripping down her wrist, wishing to feel physical pain to distract from her emotional pain.
“You know you want to cut, to slice through your fucking skin, letting your blood drip and run down your wrist, down your arm as physical proof of just how fucked up you really are. You need to just slice right through your scarred skin, letting out the blood you don’t deserve to have, the blood that should have come from your veins when you should have ended your fucking life, your absolutely pathetic life. But you’re not going to do that tonight. No, tonight, you get to suffer within your mind. That kind of relief is not an option tonight. You’d be too much of a burden if you ended everything tonight. You’d be even more of a disappointment if you killed yourself. Instead, you are going to suffer and think about how weak you are. You are so weak, you can’t even handle one student leadership position with all your stupid, pathetic problems. You are so fucking weak. Why can’t you be strong like everyone else? Why are you so fucking weak that you can’t even handle doing simple tasks like just doing your fucking homework for once in your fucking life? You are so fucking weak, and I hate you so fucking much. Why can’t you just be strong enough to help with EP? You couldn’t help with publicity because you are so fucking weak. You couldn’t even sit in the EP office without crying. You are a fucking pathetic and weak disappointment, and no one wants you around.”
“Please stop, I know. I know I’m weak. I know I’m not strong enough. I know; I know. I don’t want to be like this. Why can’t I be strong? Why am I such a failure and a disappointment? Why can’t I be good enough or strong enough? Why is this all happening? I thought that being in EP as a PD is what was supposed to happen. I thought that was what You (God) wanted for me, what You had given me the opportunity to take and pursue, to help me overcome my social anxiety and depression. I thought it was something I was supposed to do. I thought that’s what Your plan was for me. How could I be so stupid? I should have known that it was something I shouldn’t have pursued. So many people were telling me I should pursue this passion of mine, that I would do so well, that I would be a great PD, that I was going to be fine despite my doubts and fears. I should have listened to my doubts and fears; they would have protected me from this rejection and failure. I hate myself so fucking much. Why couldn’t I have just fucking listened to myself when I knew that this was something I could never fucking do? Fuck, I hate myself so fucking much. I’m so fucking stupid. Fuck. I want to cut so fucking badly, rip my skin apart, make it bleed, hurt myself so much for fucking up so badly. I know I’m not supposed to, but I can barely resist these urges. Why am I so fucking fucked up? Why do I do this? Why do I want to do this, to hurt myself? It’s so stupid and destructive, and it solves absolutely nothing. Why do I even do it? It just gives me more problems and things to worry about. It solves nothing, yet I so badly need to slice my skin open. Fuck. Why am is so fucking fucked up? Why am I such a fucking pathetic mess? I’m so fucking stupid I can barely handle it anymore.”
She tried to get her mind to stop for even just a second. She was so tired of being ripped apart by her mind. She needed to stop thinking somehow. She needed to be around someone, so she wouldn’t slice her wrist like deli meat. It was about 10:15 pm, and she texted a friend asking if she was still up. After a few minutes, her friend responded and invited her over. Nicole attempted to stop her tears from flowing down her face as she walked over to their apartment.
Once she got to their door, she texted her friend, Laura, again, asking to be let in because she could not unlock the door with her swipe. Laura came downstairs to let her in, then they went upstairs to sit and talk for a while. Their other friend, who is also Laura’s roommate, Cara, sat with them as well. They sat on their couch until about 12am. They talked, and Nicole cried several times. This whole experience she believed to be helpful, but when it came time for Nicole to leave, Laura said that she and Cara kind of needed to go to sleep and that Nicole was welcome to stay over but that they were going to go to bed. Nicole immediately felt like a burden and that she needed to leave at once. She quickly apologized, got her things together and told them goodbye. She hugged both of them, then left the apartment as quickly as she could.
As she stepped out the door, she immediately felt the need to rip her skin apart, to grab and just tear it to shreds. She wanted so badly to stop feeling like such a burden, to stop feeling like she was bothering everyone, to stop feeling like she was an inconsiderate jerk who kept some of her friends up late.
“Why are you so fucking stupid? You should have known you were overstaying your welcome and bothering them. Now they hate you because you were being so inconsiderate, and you kept them up so late. You just bother everyone you talk to; you’re always asking for help and you can never say thank you properly. You’re always so ungrateful and bothersome. They really hate you and are just pretending to be nice. Why do you have to bother everyone you interact with? You should just go and die because literally no one cares about you. Why would they? You are so fucking selfish and pathetic. No one fucking cares about you. You are so fucking stupid, and no one wants you around.”
“Why am I so stupid and bothersome? I should have known that I’m not wanted here. Everyone is just pretending to care about me. I don’t know what they actually think, and they all could just be putting up this façade that they care about me. They probably just feel bad for me and how helpless and hopeless of a person I am. They probably just feel sorry for me. That’s why they say they care and want to help. It’s just out of pity. Why am I so fucking stupid? I should have never texted them. I should have never asked them for help. They don’t really care. I should have never burdened them with my existence to begin with. I should just leave them alone. They don’t care either way, no matter how much they say they want to be around me. Who would actually want to hang out with an overly anxious, pathetic attention seeker who always bring her dark clouds of depression with her, dampening everyone’s spirits? I’m not wanted here. I don’t belong here anymore. I shouldn’t be here anymore. I don’t want to exist anymore. I want it all to end. I can’t take my mind anymore. I want to cut so badly for relief. I need to cut so I can stop thinking for just a little while. I need to slice my wrist and thigh up, so I can feel something besides this mental pain I can’t deal with anymore. Fuck, I hate myself so fucking much. I’m so fucking pathetic. I’m so fucking stupid, so fucking pathetic, so fucking stupid. I hate myself so fucking much. I shouldn’t fucking be alive. I don’t want to keep being a fucking burden to everyone. No one deserves to have me bothering them all the fucking time. I need to stop burdening them. I’m such a fucking burden. Fuck, I hate myself so fucking much. Why can’t I help people instead of always being a fucking problem? … …”
Once she got back to her residence hall, she went into the bathroom and finally relieved some of the anxiety and pain she had been battling. She pulled her sweater off then took out her blade from her phone case. She pressed the blade against her wrist, and as she slid it across, she felt the slight sting of the cool steel biting into her skin. She lifted the blade up and watched the cut turn red. Small crimson beads appeared on the red line. She cut again. And again. And again. She cut at least fifteen more times without pause. Scarlet beads appeared on each of the wounds, some larger than others. Several rolled across her wrist and down her arm. She wiped the blood from her wrist then moved to her thigh. She cut her thigh multiple times, and again, each cut was lined with crimson drops, but these ones grew larger faster. Finally, she felt calm. She could breathe again, her mind had stopped spinning, she no longer had the urge to further rip her skin apart. She wiped the blood away several times, then put a compress on until she could get an actual bandage.
That night, she slept better than she had at all that week. One thing she has learned about her self-harm is that she always sleeps better and sounder after cutting. She slept so soundly that she did not fully wake up until 1 pm. A few times throughout the night she awakened part way but mostly only due to being startled by her dreams. One of those dreams was particularly awful and partially about one of her worst fears. The only part worth mentioning took place in her room while she was asleep. Her friends, Billie and Cara, were across the room from her and were whispering and talking about Nicole’s mental issues, mainly about her social anxiety and how she was so socially inept she seemed mentally disabled. They were talking about how the night before, they had to basically tell her to leave because she couldn’t pick up on the social cues saying when she needed to leave. They expressed how she doesn’t know how to leave conversations and that they are always having to save her from them, so she can leave. As she listened from beneath her blankets, she could see them and heard their tones. They didn’t seem too annoyed, more like weary of her. She heard them talking about how she is always asking for help in the rudest manners, that she’s always complaining, is always anxious and depressed, that she never speaks unless she must or unless it pertains to her in some way. They continued talking about how socially incompetent she is, how sorry they felt for her, and how pitiful she is because of all her issues. They thought she was asleep as they discussed this, but she was half awake hearing everything they were saying.
A little while later, she woke up from the dream and felt so depressed and hurt. Even though she knew that none of it was actually real, it felt like it was, and she couldn’t shake everything she heard. Her mind latched onto it and wouldn’t let it go. Once she was fully awake from this dream, her mind still spinning with self-hatred, she cut her wrist and thigh again to find some relief. Afterwards, she bandaged her wrist and did her best to keep it hidden.
During her English class, on Monday, the 29th, Nicole was trying her best to stay awake. She began writing poems in her notebook, mostly about self-harm, and as she wrote the second one, she started to personify her wrist, giving it a victim’s point of view. It gave her a new perspective, and she sort of felt bad for her wrist for cutting it. She has also decided she is going to do something to keep track in some physical, tactical manner of how long she has gone without cutting, so she can see how she has been doing. She still needs to figure out what that thing will be.
That evening, one of the theatre students was holding auditions in Scott Hall for two plays he was directing in December. Starting at 5:30pm, a few people trickled in, some sitting down, others looking at the script excerpts for the auditions. Nicole arrived a bit before 5:30 and found a seat. A little bit later, Franklin, the director, came out in front of the stage to start giving everyone audition forms. Once everyone filled out their forms, he told everyone to pick a script and find a partner to practice and audition with. Nicole ended up paired with Chris. Chris is a very talented and experienced actor which slightly intimidated Nicole as she has no background with acting or even much theatre. Chris has performed in the most recent play, Men On Boats, as well as several others in the past.
As they rehearsed their lines and practiced how they were going to act and present themselves, Nicole felt her anxiety rise. She could tell she was becoming stiff and frozen the closer they got to their audition. While she practiced her lines, she tried to add character and depth to her voice, but she couldn’t quite get the right tone or voice for this character. Towards the end of their rehearsing, she thought that maybe once she got on stage and started acting, she would be more comfortable like she is in class and hopefully, less anxious. As per usual, she was wrong. Being up there on stage, her anxiety only increased more, and she became stiffer and her voice flatter with less character. They were asked to repeat their lines, but this time Franklin asked Nicole to sound like she was angry at the other character, but all she managed to do was sound annoyed. Her performance was far from what she should have been able to do. She was so disappointed in herself for not trying harder and not being able to modulate her voice. As soon as auditions were over and as she was walking out of the theater, her mind was spinning with self-hate, a tornado of emotions, all overwhelming her to the point of being so furious and frustrated with herself that she had to physically express her anger. She retreated to a restroom and cut a few times, mostly because she felt she wasn’t good enough, but also because she was so emotional, she needed to calm down.
After a couple days, she mostly able to let go of her disappointment. Wednesday afternoon at 12 pm, they got call backs, and Nicole was not on the list. This didn’t disappoint her as she really didn’t like the plays and some of the other people cast were, in her opinion, annoying. The only disappointment was her audition and acting that could have been so much better if she tried harder.
The same day at 3 pm, Nicole went to her psychiatrist appointment. Matt gave her a ride there, and on the way, he told her that he noticed her wrist was bandaged several days before. He said he was going to mention it and ask her about it, but since there were people around them, he didn’t say anything. He asked her if she had been cutting again. She had, so she told him she had, and admitting it, she felt embarrassed and so ashamed of herself. He told her he wished he could give her some advice or something other than just not doing it. He repeated this multiple times as she sat in silence wishing she wasn’t such a mess. She told him what she had been trying to do lately to distract and replace and that it had been working a little bit, but only to a certain point. After she spoke she wished she never had and immediately began criticizing herself. He continued to talk about cutting and reasons why he used to cut and why she shouldn’t cut.
A few minutes later, they arrived, and after a little while, she met with her psychiatrist. Nicole and her psychiatrist talked about her hospitalization a little bit as well as EP, her cutting, and alternatives and triggers. For the majority of the appointment, they talked about her self-harm, and it made her very uncomfortable. They discussed her meds of course, and she expressed to her that she hasn’t been able to feel happy, only depressed and empty, since coming off the Wellbutrin and that she has felt the same as before she started it. Her psychiatrist told her she should go back on it because she believes it was working. Since starting it, she has been able to feel genuine happiness and less empty. The depression is still there, but it has subsided some.
After her appointment, they returned to campus and Nicole went back to the Eagle’s nest to do some studying. Guy Johnson stopped by her chair on his way back to the offices and began talking to her about how her classes were going. He mentioned that she wasn’t doing too well in two of her classes and that he was just finishing writing an email to her. Nicole was confused, so he asked her if she had seen her midterm grades yet, to which she replied she had not. She checked them right then and explained that those classes she had not completed the major assignments yet for them as she had been in the hospital over midterm week and had not been able to finish her homework. He was very understanding and wished her the best in getting caught up. Their conversation ended, and Nicole began to feel like an absolute failure. She was failing her English class and her Professional Writing class, of which the latter was one of her favorite classes.
The next day, she went to the writing center seeking help from Billie about two assignments from her writing class. Billie was unable to answer her questions, so she suggested going to talk to the professor. This terrified Nicole as this particular professor is very intimidating but really quite kind and understanding. She expressed her fears and Billie reassured her that everything would be okay. Thankfully, Billie, being the kind soul she is, accompanied her in meeting with her professor and even took some notes for her. After about fifteen minutes, they finished their conversation having all of Nicole’s questions answered, and they went back to the writing center.
Over the weekend, EP had Terror Tour, which was a large maze, sort of similar to the Triwizard Tournament, they had last year. The story for the maze was about this haunted movie theater where these two people are stuck in the theater and horror movie characters have come to life and zombies and ghosts of patrons wander around. The two were punished with never being allowed to leave, and people would buy tickets to go through the theater. Originally, Nicole was going to be Jason from Friday the 13th, but someone else took her place, and she ended up as a victim in the Freddy Krueger room. The other rooms had themes from movies like The Ring, It, Annabelle, Friday the 13th, The Shining, Psycho, and Halloween. Chucky and his bride, Tiffany also made appearance running from room to room in the maze.
Nicole played Freddy’s victim and was supposed to scream or yell, “run” to the tours who came into the room being led by one of the punished. Freddy would then come out of a slit in the tarp maze wall, grab a plant, (someone who was put in the group for the purpose of being taken and murdered, we weren’t allowed to touch students but having a plant who volunteered to be taken would scare the group), then leave. Each time, she failed to do this, never being loud enough so Freddy could hear. She felt like a failure after each time and was starting to get overwhelmed by her anxiety. All she wanted was to be alone somewhere dark and silent to try to process through everything that was going through her mind or even sleep, so she didn’t have to think about it. She was so exhausted from the week and the day, she couldn’t think straight. As each tour group came through she became increasingly anxious, and after each failed attempt of yelling, her urges to cut became stronger. Instead of leaving to cut, she snapped the hairband she had around her wrist over and over in between the breaks of tours. This gave her that stinging sensation she was craving, but it left no noticeable physical damage, and she didn’t have to leave.
At about 10 pm, her anxiety got so bad she could no longer be the victim, and her friend, was becoming overwhelmed by being Freddy, so they switched places. Once they switched, her anxiety calmed some, but after the first scare, she began to be so disappointed in her own performance. When the first tour came into the room, she ran out and was supposed to grab the plant but couldn’t find them. This happened a couple more times, and she became more frustrated with herself. She soon became overwhelmed by her role and considered taking her mask off and leaving. She didn’t though as she knew she had a role to fulfill, and she didn’t want to be that person who quit when things got tough. She persevered through the hot, stuffy mask, suspenseful, horror music, strobe lights, the dark, poorly lit room, maniacal laughter, and anonymous screams of terror.
Several people came to check on her to see if she was doing okay, Laurie included. She wanted to tell them that she was not doing okay, that she was feeling claustrophobic in the mask and just having a major anxiety attack, but all she said was “Sort of, yeah.” Only one person was able to tell that she was struggling some and that was Devon. He asked her multiple times if she was okay and if she needed anything. She responded saying she was sort of okay and that she didn’t need anything. He gave her a hug and then went back out to the lobby area. Nicole barely knows Devon and has only talked to him maybe three times. For some reason, he seemed really concerned, and she didn’t understand why.
After some time, Chucky (Jay) and his bride, Tiffany (Kayla), came to ask if she wanted help because they noticed somehow that she was struggling with her role. Her friend, aka her victim, had left because she was having an anxiety attack, so that left Nicole there all alone to scare the tours. Jay asked if she needed help and offered to be the victim. He suggested that when she came out, she would grab his shirt and throw him on the bed then slice him with her knife glove thing. She agreed, and this worked out well for the most part. Several times when Jay threw himself backwards, he went sliding off the bed, along with the mattress and bedding, but it at least looked realistic. Once the event was over, she left the room and went to help clean up. They were there until about 2 am cleaning, and by the time they were done, everyone looked deader than their characters.
Sunday evening, the next day, Nicole was sitting in the Eagle’s Nest, trying to do homework, but she was distracted and instead, was browsing Pinterest. Erin, a friend, more or less, came up to her at about 5 pm and asked if she could let her in to the Student Life Suite because there was an EP meeting that evening for the EP Free Daps event. Nicole obliged and went to scan her card at the door. The light remained red meaning her card no longer had access to the Student Life Suite after hours. She should have seen this coming and should have known it was going to happen sooner or later. The shock of everything being actually real hit her.
Again, she began to feel like she was a failure, like she wasn’t good enough, strong enough for the position of PD, or even as an EP member. Her mind started spiraling downwards as she thought about everything she was losing, including friends and an activity she used to cope. As the weeks have come and gone after being asked to step down, she has noticed in some ways her anxiety has decreased, but in other areas it has increased. In her theatre class, she has been more anxious during acting activities, as well as walking around campus, in the KCC, etc. Her friend pointed out that this particular feeling of anxiety could be from a loss of confidence. It would make sense as when she was a PD, she could see that people valued having her around, that she was important and necessary to the process of keeping EP running. Now that she is no longer a PD, she feels like she is not good enough, not strong enough, not responsible enough, that she is no longer important, that she doesn’t matter and isn’t valued, that she’s just seen as another student.
Not being in EP, she feels she is losing one of her good friends, if not her best friend, Marshall. She has barely talked to him in three weeks, has barely seen him except for in EP at meetings or in passing. Whenever she reaches out to suggest hanging out, he says he is too busy and can’t. She understands that he is very busy with EP and Student Senate as well as his Biochemistry major, but it still is painful not to see someone you used to hang out with multiple times a day almost every day. She feels like she has lost him, and since she’s not really a part of EP, that’s just one less place they’ll see each other.