Friends. This story is not for the faint of heart. 13 years old. Recently switched to the public school (from a private Christian school) and on a cross country running team. Let’s do this.
I picked up a leaf and twirled the stem, making it dance. In the middle of the woods, I had both a strange sense of freedom, peace and oppression. Apparently, this is a dangerous recipe. I was in the extensive forest engulfing my neighborhood. 30 minute rewind: I asked my mom if I could go outside and check out the woods. She gave me a blank look; It was permission enough for me. I trudged down the steep driveway to my parents’ house and worked up partway to a neighbor’s drive. I broke off into the woods as the drive curved, continuing to go straight. I stepped, ruminating, through the canopy of heavily leafed trees but shortly found myself stonewalled by thorny bushes. I decided to try to step my way carefully through the two hundred feet of tthem, wanting to get further away from the house. I moved very slowly, but halfway through, I felt thorns cut into my lifted right leg. Off balance, I was forced to put it down. The spiky branch cleaved easily through my skin, leaving long, deep cuts in my leg. Once I was balanced, I felt an odd sense of relief. I felt a trickle of blood, then more relaxation. Somehow, the pain had made me feel better. I trekked on more aggressively, sustaining more slashes in my puny little legs. With every step I grew more reckless; somehow the pain of the slashes made me feel as if I was setting free toxic gas from beneath my skin. I moved faster and soon I was running. The thorns shredded my skin and I felt like I was setting something underneath it free. It was as if the stress pressure from slowly and steadily being imprisoned was suddenly releasing. Suddenly, I had made it to the other side.
I stood at the top of the hill I had climbed and looked out over the gauntlet of thorns I had traversed. Somehow, the pain brought me relief. The relief raised a raging sudden thirst for more and I did the unimaginable; I plunged BACK into the thorns, this time running through them. The thorns ripped long gashes in my legs. Panting, I reached the beginning of my thorny trek again. I turned around and sprinted the knife-like route one last time. When I reached the end, I collapsed, sobbing. For the first time, I had experienced relief.
I lay there for nearly an hour. I was confused as to why pain had brought me so much comfort. For the first time in my life I felt slightly in control. Blood spilled from my shins, knees and thighs, but it didn’t hurt. It…relieved the pressure. Standing atop the hill I climbed, I gazed own again at the thicket I had fielded three times and I knew: pain was helping me.
The next day I murmured the same excuse to my mother and returned to the thorn patch. Not much further from the bushes was a slow walk along a gully, overlooking a tranquil grassy field. This place has almost instantly become my getaway. I found a sheltered spot with what initially looked to be a secured stump on one side of it. Leaning on it, it came loose and and idea formed in my mind. I hurried back to the house and returned shortly with my secret stash of belongings, a hand trowel and a large plastic container. I set everything down, moved the stump and used the trowel to dig. A few minutes later I had a hole big enough to fit the plastic container in. I added my little secret treasures to it. I had a few dollars (I wasn’t allowed to have cash), several little pocket knives and some pieces of paper that I had scrawled my despairing poetry on (I also wasn’t allowed to write poetry). Lovingly, I placed the lid on the container, double-sealed it with a trash bag and replaced the stump. I stepped back; it was a perfect disguise. The stump looked as immovable and rooted as before. Smiling, I returned home.
For the next several weeks that little resting spot was my home. I would rush there after school and write poetry, cut myself and sleep. I felt safe there, like no one would ever find me. I started dwelling on how hidden my new home was, and if I died for some reason here there would be no chance someone would find me. The thought turned into an idea.
As some point my friend (let’s call her Alexa) came to my house. I didn’t want her to be in the home. I knew nothing would happen to her but for me, it was an unsafe place. I took her through the thicket (which by then had a path worn into it) and to my secret spot. She was unimpressed, but all the same I was so happy to share it with someone.
Over the course of the next week, I began to feel that the pain, fear and uncertainty in my life was to no end. I didn’t believe in a God that loved me; if I was to live and die in my pitiful, pain-ridden life, I felt it wasn’t worth stretching out the agony. A plan began to form in my mind. I was exhausted trying and failing to please my family and I was so desperate for love that making friends was an impossibility. I had no one. After grieving and mentally fighting for my life, I lost.
The plan was relatively simple. I had stolen a massive bottle of aspirin; I knew they thinned blood. After school, I rode the bus as usual to the senior high and stopped Alexa for a hug. This girl NEVER cleaned out her bag, so I knew when I slipped the note into it that she wouldn’t find it until it was too late. My mom picked my brother and I up. My little sister was already in the car. We went home.
I already had everything I needed stashed under the tree stump.I told my mom I going for my usual hike; she wasn’t suspicious. What could her kid possibly get into in these woods? I clambered through my usual trek, saying goodbye to every plant I was used to hiking past. It felt right.
I don’t care what people say about suicide being easy; it takes a monumental amount of courage to kill oneself. One by one, I swallowed the Costco sized aspirin bottle. I knew once I made the cut, not even emergency doctors could save me, I wasn’t quite ready to make the cut. I slowly re-slashed the wounds on my legs and added new ones to my arms. I was waiting for the aspirin to kick in. Finally, I couldn’t wait any longer and I placed my pocketknife on my wrist. It was time to escape the pain and isolation. I was ready. Still, I held it there, breathing deeply, preparing myself for the one thing I knew I couldn’t come back from.
There was a crashing in the bushes. I assumed it was a rabbit and continued to press the blade against my wrists. Then I heard my name, screamed in an almost animal-like cry.
I didn’t know what do do; I was confused. There was no way she has cleaned her backpack out the day I left her a note. She sprinted up to me and seized my wrists. Whether I wanted it or not, my plan to kill myself had been utterly foiled. I was too shocked to be angry, but at the same time, I had this annoying bud of hope in my heart that maybe I was loved. Maybe things could be different. Alexa led me by my hands through the thorns, across a field and to the road where her mother was waiting. Before I knew what was going on, she had pushed me into the car and we were driving away.
Her mom, whom I adored, was very kind and didn’t say much. Alexa clamped me to her side and held me tight the entire way to…yes…an ice cream place. There’s nothing quite like a vanilla cone after committing to go slasher on your life. As Alexa held me, I felt something. My mom was all about hugs, but they had never felt like they were loving. She didn’t hug me for me; she held me for her. This was different. It woke up some starving hunger for love in me. I felt like I had finally had a taste of the one thing I craved, and I wanted MORE. I’d do anything to get someone to hold me like that again, and that desire would control me for years.
We arrived at the ice cream joint. I sat on a bench outside, hanging my head. I didn’t really feel anything; I was just suddenly completely exhausted. Alexa’s mom went inside to get cones and we sat on the bench. Someone put a cone in my hands. I didn’t want it. As it slowly melted and dripped down my fingers onto the stomped out grass, she spoke to me quietly. She told me about how she’d been through some hard times and had wanted to give up too. She said she didn’t know much about my situation or my family that would drive me to want to end my life and hugged me tight. She said she would be my mom, if I wanted her to be.
If I wanted. If I wanted??? Her words were echoing in my head, completely unfamiliar. I never got to decide what I wanted, but why wouldn’t I want her to be my mom? I loved her. Mind you, this is my friend’s mom from Runaway Attempt #3. This lady was my hero and my advocate.
I don’t remember much of our exchange after that. We went back to her house for a minute and she asked me if I had taken anything. I told her I had taken an entire bottle of aspirin and she called a doctor. Thanking him and hanging up, she told me there would likely be blood in my urine for a few days but that I would be ok so long as I was careful to not cut or bruise myself. I numbly nodded, trying to wrap my head around the fact that I had already done that. My whole plan and all the mental gumption it had taken had been for nothing. She packed Alexa and I up into her minivan and she took me home.
On the way, Alexa explained that she had recently started smoking. Knowing this, her mom has searched her backpack that day and found the note crammed at the bottom. She had called my mom and asked to talk to me, and my mom had told her I was out hiking. Together, Alexa and her mom headed out. Alexa had known I would go to my secret spot. I was floored. Her mom had never searched Alexa’s backpack before. We pulled up at the bottom of my parents’ driveway, out of sight of the house. We got out and everyone held me tightly. The hunger grew.
I walked up the steep, curved driveway and back into the life I still wanted to end.