I don’t know if you remembered or not; I don’t expect you to, but when we last met, it was the exact date of our last session last year and when I went to the hospital. When you asked at the session before about when I could meet next, I already knew that I wanted to meet as close as possible to the 26th because I knew that day was going to be difficult, and I was going to need a little more support than what my friends could offer me. Going into our last session, I was positive that that was going to be the last time we ever spoke and that you were just going to be another person who vanished from my life, and I was not coping well with that. Hank and I talked about our last session and how painful it would be to say goodbye. Since he and I met on the 23rd, I was already really struggling because that was the second day I almost ended my life last year, but I didn’t get to mention that to him because we didn’t really get to it, though I did want to tell him about it and how it had been affecting me. There’s always so much I want to say, and because I can’t speak like a normal person, I can’t convey everything I need to talk about, and it is internal torture. I had been worrying for the past month or so about our last session, and since I had convinced myself that you were leaving and disappearing, I was so anxious the entire week before. It also didn’t help that I was feeling the trauma from last year plus my fear of you leaving last year.
When you asked me what I wanted to talk about first, I wasn’t sure what was most important, mostly because I thought I was never going to speak to you again, but I figured that I would regret it if I didn’t tell you about how I’ve been doing with my self-harm. Just talking about it was so difficult as I’m sure you saw; I could barely get those first words out. I don’t understand why it’s so hard for me to talk about it, because I know there’s no judgement. I know you’re not going to be mad at me or negatively disappointed or anything like that, but just saying the words cut(s)/cutting, blade(s), scars, wrist, thigh, self-harm, words like those are so difficult to say and hear. I’ve written them so many times in my writing that it’s less uncomfortable to write them, but for some reason, I’m still overly sensitive to those words. Maybe it’s because when I hear those words, I associate them with my shame and guilt as well as the criticism I get from others about it along with the anxiety of what those words mean. I don’t know. In my head, they don’t really seem that bad, and self-harm doesn’t seem like that big of an issue, but then when we talk about it, it seems so much worse.
When we talked about my self-harm and how I’ve been trying to go without, it never occurred to me that I didn’t have to completely stop right away. I didn’t realize that addictions and being dependent on such things don’t exactly work that way. Everyone who knows about my cutting, tells me not to do it and then are disappointed, sad, worried, etc. when they find out I did, but none of them really understand what it’s like to self-harm and how dependent I feel on it. The only person (out of my friends/family) who understands is Matt, yet he too used to tell me not to do it. We don’t talk much anymore. I rarely see him around campus except for at Cru, and honestly, it’s kind of hard not having him as much of a friend, though I know he’s still my friend. I feel like things are just so awkward between us, at least I know I am, but then again when am I not?
Returning from that rabbit trail, I never really realized or processed the fact that I didn’t have to completely stop cutting. I remember last year after I shared one of my first writings with you, you said you didn’t want to take away cutting just yet if I was so dependent on it. I never thought about trying to limit myself to a certain number of cutting sessions, working my way towards not cutting at all. It was really difficult trying to keep myself from cutting at all, and when I did relapse, I was so hard on myself and felt like a failure, which, of course, did not help and only escalated the situation, often trapping me in the vicious cycle of cutting and criticism.
Over the past school year, there have been times where I tell myself that I just have to wait until I return to campus after school breaks before I’m allowed to cut again, so that no one in my family will see the cuts. There have been other times before breaks that I’ll tell myself that if I need to cut, it has to be at least a week before, so it has time to heal before I go home. In the occasional case I need to cut right before going home, I will allow myself to cut my thigh where no one will have any chance of seeing, because to be honest, even if there weren’t any cuts there, no one would be seeing my thighs because I’m so self-conscious about it. I’ve learned a few helpful tactics over the past summer about hiding the scars on my wrist and sometimes even the cuts without it seeming suspicious, unlike the band I wear at school. I think people here at school now know what the band means since I’ve worn it so often, and there will be times I won’t wear it, then out of the blue, it’s back on my wrist. My closest friends know what it means, and when they see it, they check in on me.
At home, when I’m around my family and have fresh cuts, I’ll cover them with a bandage that’s as close to my skin tone as possible, then wear my Fitbit and a few other bracelets or whatever over it so that unless someone is really paying attention, it’s not noticeable. And to keep it consistent, I’ll wear the bracelets and Fitbit all the time. For when the cuts have healed enough that the skin is closed but still discolored, I’ve learned how to use concealer and foundation to cover it, so it’s not noticeable. I’ve managed to make it look normal a few times; actually, the first couple of times was for the play. As for the cuts on my thighs, those are easier to keep hidden because I don’t wear shorts that short. I’m always cautious to keep the cuts covered if on the off chance my shorts were to slide up a bit. Though with theatre and the play, it has been a bit difficult to keep those scars and cuts hidden because I had to change in a changing room with ten other girls, and I’m already self-conscious about my body and changing in front of others, so add trying to hide scars to that, and it was just not good. I’m believing that no one saw the scars because no one said anything, and I have yet to be contacted about being reported again. I’m sure some people did notice them, but I’m choosing to believe otherwise. You mentioned that if I had to cut and couldn’t do it on my wrist, then using a more private area, and I’ve thought about it before, which is why I chose to cut on my thighs. Last summer, there were times where they were almost exposed, like at the pool or something, but I completely avoid those situations, for example, I don’t go to the pool anymore, but that’s not just for self-harm reasons. I have thought about cutting on my stomach instead, but I feel that that is not secretive enough. I have also thought about doing it on my sides/hips, though I’m not sure if I could do it there. I’ve tried cutting on my side/hip, but I’ve never actually made the first cut yet. I know that as soon as I do, I won’t be able to stop.
I also wanted to mention my thoughts about the hug at the end of our last session. Sometime during the session before, you said something about how if I ever wanted a hug that I just had to ask and that hugs show/tell things that words can’t. And then at the end of our last session, you brought it up again and somehow asked how I felt about a hug before leaving for the summer. I’m glad you brought it up and suggested it because I know I never would. Now, I’m all about hugs with anyone as long as I’m expecting it and not in a panic attack, so it wasn’t so much that I was uncomfortable with the hug, more so that I don’t feel like I’m worthy enough to receive any sort of physical contact showing concern or care or affection or anything of that sort from anyone. I feel as though I am so disgusting and repulsing that no one would want to be around me or touching me, let alone hugging me. I’ve struggled with this for a long time, but being at school and having friends has really been helping, so that reasoning hasn’t been quite as loud and powerful, but it was still somewhat there at the end of our session. I was also somewhat hesitant about the hug because I don’t think we have ever had any sort of physical contact, and I’m still very nervous about overstepping proper professional protocol and boundaries. That was the only uncomfortable part of it for me. Hank and I have had some physical contact as he shakes my hand after every session and then this one other time where he held my hand and wrist, (but I’ll get to that later) so I’m a bit less nervous about it now, but I still worry about it. The hug felt safe and reassuring, kind of like what I’ll explain later about Hank holding my wrist. I don’t have words to describe it exactly, like you said one time, how hugs can show and say what words can’t.
As for theatre, I wanted to mention something about the play. If you remember the fight scene and how I was fighting that one girl in red who then “knocked me down,” that was Bethany. She was Gregory, the one who did the frown as she passed by when we were circling each other, the one who wanted to run away from the fight. Well, you had the program and saw all the names and actors, I don’t know why I’m even mentioning this. I guess to finally put a face to a name. Anyways, she’s the one who got me into theatre, and she’s helped me a lot. We worked quite a bit on my voice projection and volume for the play, and hopefully, I was loud enough for everyone to hear. During the show, before my scene, I looked out from the side door and couldn’t see you, and when I was on stage, I was blinded by the lights, so I couldn’t see anyone unless they were in the first row. But after we came out for bows, as we were walking off stage, I think I saw you, and to be honest, I got so anxious, I didn’t want to go back upstairs after we changed because I didn’t know if I was supposed to speak to you or even if that was okay or if I should act as though you weren’t there because I’m not all that educated on the proper protocol. So, I was freaking out, and Bethany had to coax and convince me to go upstairs and that if I did talk to you all I had to do was thank you for coming and even that terrified me. Then when I finally got upstairs, I kind of hesitated at the side doors before walking out, trying to follow Bethany, frantically looking around to see where you went, but trying to be subtle about it, only to realize you left, and I didn’t have to socialize, so then I could breathe again.
I’m hoping to be in more plays next year, and I’m actually writing my own play, which I’m hoping to finish over the summer and present to the theatre club, (of which I’m also the historian of now, but don’t actually have anything to do because the last historian took the record book home with him when he graduated, and we haven’t gotten it back). If our theatre director likes it and approves, we’ll hopefully get it up on stage. When you asked me what I had been doing to avoid cutting over those four weeks and how I had been coping, I responded with writing, and what I had been writing was this play. I don’t have a set title for it yet, but the basic plot is about this student who is battling herself and her mind and starts off her day by seriously contemplating suicide. The battle in her mind is shown through these other characters, the Disorders, and she goes throughout her day, living and fighting with them in different situations. At the end of the day, she talks to the audience, then she makes her decision of whether she will continue living or not.
I also wanted to mention how my relationships with my friends have been going, both about how well they’re doing, as well as some concerns I have. Bethany and I have been really close this semester with theatre and Cru, so she and I have been hanging out quite a bit. I’ve been feeling as though I’ve been too dependent on her lately, and I have been asking her for advice, a listening ear, support, comfort etc. a lot. And I want to depend on other friends for support, but there’s only a few people who I trust enough to go to when I need help. Ever since I lost Marshall as a friend, I have been wary of trusting other people. At the moment, there are only three maybe four friends I trust enough to go to when I need support. One of those friends is Marie, but as of late, I feel as though my difficulties have been bothering her and annoying her. A couple weeks ago, I asked if she could drive me to my appointment with my psychiatrist, and I asked her if she would be willing to go in with me, because she is the only person whose mere presence calms me in medical situations and environments. I also figured it would be helpful in case she remembered something I didn’t, which she did, and tell my psychiatrist about it. The weekend before my play showed, I was really struggling with resisting the urge to cut, so much so that I contacted several different people looking for help and support because I was feeling so depressed and self-destructive. This was also during the time when I had not been to a therapy session in almost a month which was taking a real toll on me. I had not been able to talk to anyone professional about anything, and I needed answers and validation and generally, just a safe space to talk about what I was struggling with. Lately, it seems that what I’ve been struggling with has been annoying her, like I should be getting better and have a better handle on my struggles. After my appointment and being prescribed another medication, I was complaining to Marie about having so many medications to take and how I’m always forgetting to take them because, well, I’m depressed and can barely remember anything. And she responded in sort of an obvious tone like “well, could that be why you’re feeling like this?” etc. Later, during the week of the anniversary of my attempts and hospitalization, I asked for her help again, and I felt as though I was bothering her. She used to seem so caring and compassionate towards me when I was struggling and unable to function, but now this time, I feel as though I was just being a burden to her and that my lack of progress is annoying her. Of course, this is just what I think and feel, and we all know we can’t trust that.
On the 26th, I was hanging out with Bethany, Alexa, and Olive, doing homework and things, and around 10 pm or so, I began having a panic attack. I was lying on the floor at the foot of Bethany’s bed with my sweatshirt over my face and hood over my head, trying to hide how much I was struggling, because I didn’t want to concern anyone or have anyone asking about it because trying to speak would just escalate my panic. Around 11 pm, I began to get a stabbing headache due to lack of oxygen, and I could barely feel my limbs, least of all my hands, and I could barely keep my eyes open. I felt like I was on the verge of passing out, and so at 11:22 pm, I very slowly and clumsily texted Bethany, asking her to help me as she was sitting on her bed above me doing homework. I asked her if she could sit with me and help me to calm down and breathe again, like guiding me in how to breathe because in the moment, all I could think about was being in the hospital, locked up with no way to escape, constantly being watched and monitored, and the pain and discomfort from the anxiety like chest pain, nausea, stiff, clenched muscles, and all around uneasiness and whole body pain. I was feeling the panic from back then, and because I wasn’t around so many people like then, my extreme anxiety and panic was able to present itself full force in the form of a panic attack that lasted over an hour. I could not calm myself down at all, and I needed help before I was going to pass out, or at least that’s what I thought in the moment. I didn’t know what else to do, so I asked Bethany to help me by just sitting with me, comforting me, and if she could, guiding me through breathing normally, because in the moment I didn’t know how to. She obliged and helped me with such comfort and compassion. Within a few minutes or maybe longer, I could almost breathe normally, and she asked me a few questions like if I needed water or to sit on her bed. She told me she would like it if I sat on her bed so that if I did pass out, it would be on her bed and not on the floor. She also told me that she understood what was happening and validated what I was going through. She said she understood how the things that happened last year were really affecting me and how it was a normal thing, that it was okay, that they were just feelings, but no actual danger. She then invited me to spend the night, because I was in no shape to walk across campus or be alone in my room, especially not that night. I thanked her and explained to her that the night was just going to get worse as it progressed and got towards 2:30 am (the time that you had to leave me alone in the hospital). Thankfully, I fell asleep before 2:30 hit, and I didn’t have to be conscious for that pain. Around 4 am, I woke up and began to panic because that was the time when I was taken up to the psych ward and placed in a room, but because I was so exhausted from my panic attack earlier, I couldn’t stay awake for it. A few hours later, around 6:30 am, I woke up again and had another panic attack in my half consciousness, and I believe it lasted for about an hour as I woke up again at 7:45ish and was still hyperventilating.
Later that day (April 27th), around 4:30pm, I began to have another panic attack while my roommate was packing up and moving out of our room. She asked me to do a bunch of things to help her, and I was getting overwhelmed because she was stressed and also really irritable because of some things she found out about her ex boyfriend. Since she was so angry and kept shouting and yelling about how mad she was at him, I absorbed that emotion and her anxiety and that I think sent me to the point of a anxiety/panic attack. I had to stop helping her with moving out because I could no longer function, and I could barely move. I sat down for the next half hour or so hyperventilating, trying to figure out how to calm down and what was keeping me from calming myself down. My roommate didn’t know what was going on and didn’t know how to help me, so she let me be while she continued to move out. I’m glad she didn’t try to interfere because the only thing worse than not trying to help, is improperly trying to help which only escalates the situation. I’d rather someone who doesn’t know how to handle my mental instability stay away and allow me to work through my problem at my own pace than have them try to help and trigger me further. There are only a few people who know how to effectively help me in moments of crisis. Out of my friends at school, Bethany, Marie, Sophie, and Matt. Marshall doesn’t know anymore since he abandoned and replaced me, and Leigha might, but we don’t talk much anymore. There are quite a few people from Cru that think they know how to help me during times like this, and a few of them actually do, but they’re not particularly helpful.
Back to what I was saying before, since Bethany went home for the day, I texted Marie asking her if she could come over and help me calm down. She came over and asked what I needed her to do, but because I was in such bad shape, I couldn’t answer, and it took several minutes for me to get to the point of where I could even look at her, and it took even longer for me to speak, though I should have expected that. Since I was panicking and hyperventilating and doing absolutely nothing to help the situation, it took quite a while for me to calm down. My throat felt as if it was closing up; I couldn’t catch my breath; I was sitting hunched over on my desk chair next to my bed with my forehead leaning on the edge with my back twisted in a weird angle so that it, my neck, chest, stomach all hurt so much as if I was being stabbed. I was in that state for at least half an hour, maybe longer. As I was still panicking, Marie asked me several questions; one I remember was about whether I took any medication yet. After twenty minutes or so, I finally managed to calm down and talk to Marie about what happened. Since this happened at 4:30 pm and continued through 5:30 pm or so, about the time when I had visitors in the hospital, I assumed that this episode was caused by that, a trans crisis response, as Hank called it.
I also wanted to mention this fundraiser I posted on Facebook. So, I keep seeing these charity fundraisers people post about for their birthdays, and so I jokingly suggested to a few friends that I should make a fundraiser for my birthday that was coming up, and instead of choosing an organization or something, the charity would be me. They told me to go ahead and do it because why not. So, I set one up with no expectations of anyone donating. At all. I set the goal at $300 because that seemed like a reasonable amount, not too much, not too little and this is what I said,
“I see all these birthday fundraiser things here on Facebook, and I decided why not give it a try. Worst thing that could happen is that nothing comes out of it. So, for my birthday, I’m in need of financial support/assistance for medical bills and medications (as well as a plethora of other things like college, books, therapy, and basic human needs, but I don’t want to sound too needy; I’ll be working over the summer). Any support you can offer will be greatly appreciated. I’m praying that God will bless you and provide for me through this, but whatever His will is, let it be done. I know God has already blessed me through many of you who have supported me and my family so generously over the years, and I am truly grateful for each and one of you. Let God lead you in this decision.”
Within the first two days, I was a third of the way to my goal. By the fourth day, an old friend of my sister donated $195, which made me reach my goal. That same day another family friend said they were having difficulties with the Facebook donation page, so she was just going to send me some money some other way. She sent me $30 through PayPal. The next day two more family friends donated and put me $90 over my goal. I told my friends here who knew about the fundraiser, and they thought it was so cool and said that I was so loved, that’s why so many people donated to me. I told my mother about it too, and she said the same thing. I was so shocked that people actually donated to me, and when they exceeded my goal, I was even more shocked. I don’t realize how much people actually care about me, and even when they show they do, I still can barely believe it. By the end of the fundraiser, I had been gifted over $500. I was so blown away by the generosity and love so many people showed to me.
Another thing I wanted to mention, though I should probably just stop worrying and thinking about it, is my nonexistent friendship with Marshall. I originally thought that I really missed him as a person, but then I realized that I just really missed that friendship we had. After talking about it with friends and thinking over it again and again and seeing him around campus and at events, I realized that I do really miss him, not just the friendship. I’ve been told to just let him go, get over it, and move on with my life, that he doesn’t matter anymore because of what he did to me, and maybe I’m just blind and naïve, but I really feel like our friendship wasn’t a fake friendship like the others he has. I thought he was real and genuine with me, and just let his power get to his head. I want to believe that he’s a good person despite what everyone says about him. Maybe I’m just letting my loyalty to him blind me. I’m an incredibly loyal person, and that often causes me to get hurt because the majority, I think, of the people I know aren’t as stubbornly loyal as I am. I want to reach out to him and get his perspective, see where everything went wrong. But I feel like that may not be a good idea. A few friends have told me to not engage in any friendship with him for fear of being used and hurt again, but my entire being wants to be with him again as a best friend. I know he’s lost a lot of friends over the semester because of EP. A part of me is cautious about reaching out, because what if the reason he ditched me is because I was too dependent on him, too clingy, too emotional, too anxious and depressed, too much for him to deal with. Maybe it’s my fault that we aren’t friends. Maybe I was/am the toxic person in that friendship. Maybe I was too selfish. Maybe it was just easier for him to leave that friendship because he couldn’t deal with my drama or declining mental health. Maybe I was just too much of a burden. All of these thoughts spin around in my mind, and I don’t know how to make sense of them. I want to reach out, but that might not be the best thing to do if I was the problem in the friendship. I don’t want to force my friendship on someone who doesn’t want it, but I also don’t want to let him go f there’s the possibility of still being friends. I expressed to him, one time, that I was scared of people leaving my life, so what was the point in trying to become friends with anyone or trusting anyone when they are ultimately just going to leave me. He told me that there would be those people who stayed and how his mom and her college friends still talk today. He reassured me that I was “stuck with him forever.” I believed him. I believed that he wasn’t going to leave me like all the previous friends I got close to back before college. I believed that he was going to be my friend/best friend all throughout college and even beyond. I continued to trust him and be honest about my struggles and everything when he asked. I guess I was just so stupid for believing him. Sometime at the end of April, I impulsively texted Marshall asked him what had happened to our friendship. He said that he thought he just got too busy with school and family and “stuff.” But he wasn’t too busy to replace me with other friends? Every time I saw him, he was always with these three friends and posted several times on social media about how much he appreciated these three friends and how much they have helped him and supported him over the past year. Never did he do that about me or his previous friends who were always there for him. So he was too busy to speak to me or text me, but not too busy to replace me with other friends, not too busy to become the president of EP, not too busy to be a Student Ambassador, not too busy for Student Senate, and not too busy to become an RA. Since I felt like I never mattered to this kid, I was overwhelmingly hurt and spiraled into a self-destructive depressive episode. I stayed in my room for the entire day because my mind would not let me leave. I texted a couple people, seeking support. Bethany was off campus and Marie was busy, so I gave in to the one thing I knew would help me. Since I had recently gotten rid of my blades, I had to resort to old implements, pins and metal twist ties. I made about thirty cuts/deep scratches on each thigh. During this process, I got a text from Marie asking how I was doing, so I told her I wasn’t doing so well. Once I read her text, I took a Clonazepam/Klonopin to calm myself because I knew she was going to ask if I had. Several minutes later, she sent a text saying that she just got out of class and was on her way over, but I didn’t see that message as the med nearly knocked me out. A little bit later, as I was mostly passed-out on the floor with my tear-stained face against the cold concrete wall, my bleeding thighs exposed, Marie knocked on the door, startling me and causing me to hastily cover my legs as she walked in. She asked if I was okay, to which I said I was, but since she saw what I had done as I tried to hide, she responded saying that I clearly wasn’t. She sat with me for a little while and asked me if I knew what had caused this and what happened. I didn’t want to talk, and I was slipping in and out of consciousness (I might have taken more medication than was necessary. My psychiatrist said I could start off with half a tablet at a time to see how strongly it would affect me, and if needed, I could take a whole tablet), and I was really ashamed that Marie saw my cuts. I did explain to her what happened, and she stayed with me for a little while until she had to leave for a meeting. She asked another friend of ours, Billie, to come over to stay with me until she was able to come back. Billie came over and sat in my room with me, reading, while I continued to lie on the floor in physically painful mental self-destruction. Marie came back later and tried to get me to go to dinner with her, but I told her I was too exhausted. A couple hours later, I did manage to leave my room for a little while.