Traverse City Record-Eagle

Generation Why

September 7, 2010

I felt something when I cut

And now I'm back from the abyss and healthy

Self-esteem is a trait I've worked very hard to acquire, and no degrading comment or snide look is going to steal that away from me.

Four years ago I was not a happy person. Unhappy doesn't even put the frowny face to it. I was struggling with crippling depression. I didn't like my life or myself. Every day was a struggle. My grades plummeted, and my social life dwindled. No one wants to hang out with a sad sack, and my friends were no exception. I didn't blame them. Who respects someone with no self-respect?

Things were so bad that they were surreal. I didn't feel real. Jagged bits of plastic and metal dragged across my tender arm made me feel ... something. Hoarding sharp things in my drawers, bags and purses consumed my thoughts. I would plan my next appointment with a broken piece of mirror or, if I was desperate, a broken Tic-Tac box. If I was ever far from a cutting implement, the jitters, the anxiety returned.

It is an interesting paradox that hurting myself made me feel at ease. The pain was real. If I was feeling the pain, then I was real too.

Counseling didn't help. I lied about my feelings and denied depression. Listlessness was my go-to emotion. Life didn't seem worth living. It felt like I had been sad my whole life and would remain so forever.

When life feels like it doesn't matter, what is precious doesn't matter either. The joy of my books, my friends, my shopping outings were a misty fog off in the distance. Death seemed like a fantastic idea. After my sixth suicide attempt I was delivered to a mental-health facility.

After a brief hospitalization, four years of therapy and numerous medication adjustments, I moved on from despair to healthy. Some cocktail of my medications and therapy made me see my life again.

I feel normal. Bad days don't descend to bad weeks, months or years. They don't regress to one-on-one time with a pointy object. They're just days, the gift of these days.

So when snarkiness surfaces, I smile. I'm content in my own, uncut skin. My life is just that: mine.

The bounce in my step is back. I know who I am, have myself all figured out. I have been to the abyss ... and returned.

My future is mine, and I intend to live every precious moment of it — the real deal.

Tess Bastian graduated from Traverse City Central in June.

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