Just a fair warning here, folks. I’ve written a lot of pretty intense things on this here blog of mine. Some funny shit, too, but nonetheless. I’ve set the intensity bar pretty high. But this…this is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to write.
Eleanor Roosevelt once said that “no one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” The former first lady was a noble gal and all, but let’s cut the shit, Elle. People don’t need your consent to hurt you. And you don’t always have the opportunity to give consent to someone tearing down the walls of proverbial protection you’ve built around yourself. Because if someone wants to break down those walls badly enough, they’ll tear ‘em down. If someone wants to hurt you, they will. I have a lovely set of walls nowadays. They’re strapping and rugged, and they make mama proud. But they’re young lads. I had to build them a few years ago. Because that’s what happens when someone tears your walls down; when people break your very foundation. You’re left with nothing. And you have a choice. You leave with nothing or you stay and rebuild. You have to pick a lane.
And, so we begin:
My high school experience was a sort of two-for-one special. Paid for two years, got the next two free. Now, that may or may not be due to the fact that I spent two years in a private school and two in a public one, but nonetheless. My high school career was anything but typical.
We see bullying happen in the movies and equate it to some sort of exaggerated after-school special. No one actually shoves a kid’s head in the toilet. Kids don’t really stand in the hallway laughing and pointing at that one girl. Right? Au contraire, my friend. Au con-fucking-traire.
There was this group of girls who would bark sweet nothings like “whore” or “slut” every time they passed me by in the hallways. I had the unique privilege of using a locker spray-painted with that one word that rhymes with “bunt.” My guidance counselor joined in on the fun when I told her about my dream school, telling me that I wasn’t the “kind of girl” who could get into a school like Notre Dame and that I needed to set my sights “quite a bit lower.” These guys in my Chemistry class would throw objects at my head on a daily basis. Seriously. Pencils, garbage, even a stapler one time. Sticks and stones can break your bones, but words can never hurt you. Pencils and staplers can give you a concussion, but “bitch” and “cunt” ain’t no thing.
They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. And maybe it does. Eventually. Today, those girls could yell whatever they want at me. I couldn’t give a shit. I’d gladly take that locker now—with pride. I’d definitely learn to duck when a stapler’s headed towards my temple. And I think that Notre Dame diploma hanging on my wall speaks for itself, Mrs. Smitley. Yeah, they say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. But they forgot one big piece of the puzzle. They gave you the SparkNotes version, if you will. What doesn’t kill you may make you stronger, but first it beats the shit out of you. It breaks you. It damn near destroys you.
And that’s what I was. Broken. Nearly destroyed.
By the end of my sophomore year, it was an absolute shitshow. Breaking point reached. I stopped going to school a couple weeks before the semester was over. I was done. Fuck this school. Fuck my grades. Fuck everyone. I shut down completely. I spent the summer blackening both my soul and my bedroom walls. Seriously, I painted them all black and wrote shit on them with silver Sharpie (and by shit, I mean pseudo-angsty My Chemical Romance lyrics). Shout out to my mom, by the way, for just rolling with those obscure punches.
Living with that kind of depression can’t really be encompassed in words. It’s indescribable in that way. Those who know it don’t need words. And those who don’t could probably never understand anyway. But to give you an idea, to give you something, anything, I’ll sum it up with a cute little real estate metaphor because why the hell not. I grew up in Michigan. In Michigan, houses have basements. I live in California now. No basements here. The way I see it, living with that kind of depression—that crippling, unfathomably debilitating depression is like living in a Michigan house amongst a sea of Californians. From the outside, you’re essentially the same. And, really, most of the interior is similar, too. You both have kitchens and bathrooms and bedrooms and living rooms and that one room that no one ever uses but your mom says is super important for reasons you have yet to discern in your twenty-four years of life, but okay, Cyndi, I trust your judgment. Everything lines up. Everything’s the same. But it’s not. Not really, anyway. Because your Michigan house has a basement; another level that no one knows about, that no one can see from the outside. Another level that most houses don’t have. Underground. Hidden away. A place where you hide thoughts and feelings and pains that others could never even fathom.
When I was little and had to get something from the basement, I’d sprint a 3.5 40 up the stairs going back up to the main floor. Why? Because basements are scary as shit.
Depression is scary as shit.
I don’t know much about real estate, but I do know one thing. Basements and depression have one very important thing in common—they house the darkness.
Pain is one of the only processes that is entirely defined by the person experiencing it. No one else can ever feel your pain. No one else can ever understand your pain. And we all react in different ways. For me, I forget. The brain does us a solid sometimes by forgetting. I don’t remember much detail about that aforementioned summer. I don’t remember the days at all. But I do remember the nights. I remember lying in bed staring at the glow-in-the-dark stars I had put on my ceiling when I was five. I remember the deafening sound of my heart still beating. And I honest to god felt like the universe was mocking me.
By the end of the summer, I had to pick a new school. Michigan has this rad deal called “school of choice,” so you can really go to any public school you want. I chose a rural high school in Farmville, USA nearly an hour from my house. I needed to get away. Far away. And, also, I think tractors are neat.
I remember my first day vividly. I was nervous. And that was huge. I was nervous. I felt nervous. I felt something. I felt an emotion, which was more than I could say for the past slew of months.
I was afraid. Fear—that’s how you know. If you have fear, if you’re afraid, then you’re still here. Because it all really boils down to two things, I’ve learned: pain and death. That’s all any of us are really afraid of—pain and death. And if you fear either of those things, then you’re here. You’re still here. There’s still hope.
At 16, I chose to transfer to a small-town, rural high school 45 minutes from my home. I knew no one and couldn’t explain why I felt drawn to this place, but I did. I in no way exaggerate when I say I felt home on my first day of school.
My first day.
And from that day forward, I never once felt out of place. These people had known each other as toddlers, but I felt just as much a part of the community as any other student. The genuine kindness, the compassion, and the love I received in one day was more than I’d experienced in two years at my old school.
I still vividly remember my senior prom. Taking pictures in our dresses and tuxes—on tractors, of course. I remember “fixing” Coree’s dress at her mom’s request so she didn’t show off too much cleavage (those puppies looked top-notch, though, and I wasn’t about to deny the world that glory). I remember my prom date’s tie matching my yellow dress to perfection. I remember sitting on Hailey’s lap, taking pictures with my best friends in front of an incredibly arbitrary black sheet that I’ve still yet to comprehend. I remember loving every moment. I remember living.
I know myself. I know what I can take and what I can’t. Looking back, I’m even more sure than I was eight years ago. If that hadn’t worked out—if the people of Allendale hadn’t done what they did and said what they said—I wouldn’t be here. So, when I say I owe them my life, know that I am literal. That I am certain. I am certain that these people saved my life.
To the people of Allendale, this is a love letter. This is a thank you. To the ones who picked me up and held me when I fell harder than I’ve ever fallen before. The ones who fixed what I thought was irreparably broken. The ones who convinced me to live when I so desperately wanted to die. To the ones who saved me.
If there’s anything I can leave you with, please let it be this. Don’t you dare let anyone tell you that your actions don’t matter. That your words don’t matter. If anything, go into this week trying to leave people better than they were before. Leave people hurting less than before. Because it matters. What you do today and tomorrow matter. What you do in this life matters. What you say in this life matters. What you do today matters. What you say today matters. Remember that. Always.
Don’t let anyone ever tell you that you don’t matter. You matter. Your actions, your words matter. So, don’t let them go to waste. And, for the love of Jon Snow, don’t use them to hurt people. Because you have a choice in this life. You get to choose who you want to be. You get to choose the words you say, the actions you take.
When I was a sophomore in high school, words and actions made me want to die. A year later, words and actions made me excited to be alive.
So, choose your words wisely. Choose your actions wisely. And always remember that they do matter. That you matter. What you do and what you say matter.
And to the people whose words and actions got me here, whose love kept me alive, my words for you are endless. I thank you. I love you. You matter.
14 thoughts on “A Suicide Note Turned Love Letter”
Nicely stated. Glad that Allendale made a difference! 🙂 Carry on warrior princess!
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It made all of the difference in the world. Thank you so much.
I hope those girls that were so horrible read this and feel bad. Also hope karma has hit them appropriately.
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You are a gift
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Love you so much, Mama T
I attended a small Christian high school in rural Minnesota, and in the beginning of my senior year, our guidance counselor told me to my face that I would never make it thru college. That was the day I lost all respect for that man and feel the same way about him to this day some 25 plus years later. I never made it on the Deans list, or pulled down a 4.0 GPA, but I let my four year college degree speak for itself. To this day,I haven’t spoken to him and vice versa. And never once did he come back to apologize.
Denise, I’m so sorry you had to experience that. People can be unconscionably cruel sometimes. But to hell with the Dean’s List or a 4.0…you graduated from a four-year college and proved that prick wrong! You should be proud of yourself, you badass!
I teared up while reading this. You said it all and said it well. Also screw that counselor
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Thank you for taking the time to reach out, TJ. It really does mean so much to me. And in regards to the counselor, you should see my mother when her name gets brought up. Yikes.
Powerfully written, spiky word choice and all. Pain tends to form that shape, but it also can be turned in its head, dipped in cyber ink and deliver the most piercing messages.
You had me at “cut the $?!+”
A fellow pain traveler,
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I’m pretty happy that I made it in the picture! I’m glad that you are succeeding the way that you are! Still tell people to this day that I went to school with a girl who kept taking her ACT because she had a 35 and wanted a perfect score! Glad that I can say I was your friend in high school!! Keep proving the world wrong!
Hi Morgan…Mr. Remenap here…I am crying in my office. You are an angel…and a hell of a writer. God bless, kid. Miss you and Coree wasting time…errr…studying, in my office. Remember the trick we played on Searles and the “phone call from your mom”? Those were the days. GO IRISH!
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I stumbled across your blog and I know it was not by accident. I’m not in my teens, 20’s or 30’s…. I’m in my mid 50’s…my childhood with my step mother was riddled with abuse until I was 9 when I was removed and went to live with my mom. My high school days, well, they were not many good memories for me. Some of the things they did then would have them behind bars today.
When I was in school we just had to sucked it up, the name calling, pushing, hitting, teasing etc. I wore a back brace for scoliosis which just amplified things for me. I had to waer tops that were maternity because the brace was big, the names, notes etc made me want to crawl in a hole and disappear. I became invisible, never engaging in anyone from high school other than one or two close friends I had known from 5th grade when I moved to Grandville (very hard school clique to deal with) I hung out with kids from other schools who accepted me for ME, brace and all… that didn’t change WHO i was inside!
I thought about “ending” back then but, that little voice kept telling me “they aren’t worth that” So, I got a good job, I worked everyday after high school and every weekend, pretty much a full time job. I was making good money. I was going to better myself, rise above them, prove to them and myself I was MORE. My mom was my rock just like yours and I know she carried a lot of pain watching me go through that.
By my senior year the brace came off and all the money I made the 3 yrs I was in high school, I had saved, bought a NEW car, MY CAR…. mommy and daddy didn’t give me “I” earned it!!! My mom took me for a full make over shopping trip and I got the works. Hair, clothes etc! Those are material things and DON’T make you who you are but it proved something I already knew, that people will still tear you down and that is from their own insecurities they have which has nothing to do with you.
The first day of school, my senior year no one recognized me except those few very close friends who held me up and walked beside me through the tormented last 3 years of high school. I was still the same person just mt look had changed…the brace was gone, glasses gone and I looked different… all of a sudden I was accepted because I “looked” a certain way. honestly, that’s not my style, never has been. I did it more to prove a point and the point was made when the clique realized who I was. The laughs and sneering comments of “just cause you change your look doesn’t change that you’re still an out cast piece of shit” there were other comments not just from the prep girls but the jocks too. I admit, It knocked the wind out of me for a moment but, I stood tall, puffed up my chest and walked away, I remember I actually started laughing and just shook my head. I knew I was a good person, what I had accomplished and I was going to be “ok”.
I’m blessed I had my family who held me up through those rough waters and the friends who stuck by me no matter what, we had each others back always.
Fast forwarding to today…. In the adult work place feels like high school and there will ALWAYS be those who have to create issues, drama and be down right nasty. I’ve learned a lot from my past and I never want to be one of those people who push people down to bring themselves up. I’m a giver and always will be. I’m for the underdog and will stand FIRM when I see someone being treated badly. I still stay in close contact with my close friends and over the years added some awesome friends who like me actually CARE and put ourselves out there for others…. even though our lives have had many trials and U-turns, were here, making memories always willing to help, listen and be there for each other. Life, people can and will be cruel, words DO hurt and sometimes so deeply that they push some to the worst and that breaks my heart.
Your blog is amazing and I want to thank you for sharing your story. It made me realize, even today I’m better for what I had to go through as hard as it was it made me stronger, I made it to where I am today and I’m blessed to be here and help others.
Keep writing! You have a special talent and a beautiful heart!
Morgan, You always had a heart of gold and was one of the best people I have had the honor of working with. I am so glad you are doing well and enjoying California! Keep making a difference, you’re the best! Merry Christmas! Mrs. Kline