See below for an interview with a teenager struggling with suicidal thoughts brought on by OCD and depression.
CyberBully Hotline: When did you start having negative thoughts?
I remember my first negative thought in 2nd grade. Although I didn't know what to call them, I think I had negative thoughts all my life. I struggled with them because I truly thought they were real and what everyone else thought about me until freshman year.
CBH: Did you go to friends or adults for help, and if so, what did they tell you?
Teachers would try and tell me that they understood exactly what I was dealing with, when in reality they had no clue. Also, my friends would minimize my problems by saying, "I think negatively about myself too sometimes. Everyone does." Or, "I get sad sometimes, too!" My least favorite one was, "I am sooo OCD, too, I am a total neat freak!" It was frustrating that they didn't understand the severity of my issues.
CBH: When did you start having thoughts of suicide, and how long did you go on having those thoughts before you told anyone? Did you go to your parents first? Did you tell your friends before you told anyone else?
I started having thoughts of suicide my freshman year [of high school]. I didn't understand what I was feeling or why I was feeling so sad and so anxious, and in that confusion the only way out seemed to be suicide. Thankfully, I did tell my mother and she did (get me treatment so I could learn) why I was feeling the way that I was. (As far as) my other suicidal thoughts or actions, confusion and helplessness were the main reason felt so cornered in. I felt so hopeless that I didn't know any other way. But I always reached out to someone before I was in the position to actually take my life.
CBH: Looking back on it, why do you think you considered suicide? What was your thought process at that time?
Looking back, I think that it would have been the easy way out. I knew that by giving up, it was a gamble, because I was giving up on all the hurt and pain, but I would also be giving up the chance for happiness. And that is why I didn't actually go through, because I knew there was a chance that my future could be amazing and happy.
CBH: Talk about your obsessive thoughts. Did you fear that everyone in your life was against you?
Not against me, but I thought everyone thought the worst about me. And that everyone was constantly waiting for me to fail. Constantly watching me, hating me, talking negatively about me. So I had to be aware of myself all the time. The way others perceived me, what I said, what I looked like. I couldn't just let go and stop worrying. Not even with my parents.
CBH: You isolated yourself from friends after you first received treatment for your suicidal thoughts. Why do you think you did that?
I did avoid them, but I would also lie and manipulate them, so even if they found a way to spend time with me, I would make sure they didn't want to hang out with me anymore. My therapist calls it “self-fulfilling prophecies.” I felt lonely and that I couldn't connect to people, so I pushed people away to validate my feelings and so I could say to myself, "See? No one wants to connect with you."
CBH: Why do you think you found it so difficult to reach out for help from teachers or other adults?
I was so afraid that adults would think badly of me. Not just that they think I was weird, but that they would think was dumb. Still to this day, I find it hard to challenge the thoughts that adults and teachers think I am stupid. Rationally, I understand that they would think that reaching out is a smart thing, but I truly believed that if they saw my work, they would think the class was too hard for me, or that I wasn’t picking up the material like everyone else. So instead of them seeing my imperfect work, it was just easier to turn nothing in, to not talk to them, or not let them get to know me.
CBH: Tell us about how your friends found out you were self-injuring. Did you confide in them, or did they figure it out for themselves?
I was very good at using my self-injury to feel loved by others. I would bring it up to others when I felt low so they would fawn over me and I could feel better about myself. Then, when my friends wouldn't ask about it enough (of course they had no idea I needed them to ask about it, or that they could talk to me about it), I would get low and then self- injure and tell them about it. It was an awful cycle.
CBH: Your friends got frustrated with you when you wouldn’t stop self-injuring. Looking back on it, why do you think they felt that way?
I do think they took it personally when I wouldn't stop. They had given me everything that they could and it wasn't enough. Also, why couldn't I just stop? It made everything harder and they didn't know why I really needed it anyway. Couldn't I just rationally see things like them? I do know they were concerned for me, and just wanted the best, but I know if I was in their position, I would have been frustrated with me, too.
CBH: At what point did your classmates and/or teachers stop reaching out for help?
My classmates never knew I needed to be reached out to. And the ones that did didn't reach out to me. But was it reasonable for me to expect them to reach out to me, when I never asked?
Teachers stopped reaching out when they thought that there was nothing more they could do. And, sadly, there were many times that there was nothing they could do to help my grade or help my demeanor in class. But I am so grateful for all the times that they did reach out. And that they really cared. I didn't appreciate then, but I do so much now.
CBH: You thought you didn’t deserve to have healthy friends and wanted to get punished because you thought you deserved it. Where do you think those thoughts came from?
I think they came from a place of self-hatred and doubt. I knew I didn't do anything to deserve unhealthy friends, but I thought that I didn't do anything that made me worthy of healthy friends. It was a strange limbo place.
CBH: In school, you were academically engaged and ambitious in spite of your negative thoughts. How did you keep pushing yourself?
I pushed myself because of the idea of my future. I knew that my life right then was so terrible, but my classes and school work were the only to a happy and successful future. Although that added pressure didn't help, because when I would avoid school and my teachers, I was also ruining my future. I did not enjoy school, and I can't remember a time I did. I hated the social aspect and all of the anxieties that came with it, but I LOVED the curriculum. I love learning and knowledge and feeling smart. And when I would study for finals or have a big project, it would just remind me that in the future I will always feel this happy, and it gave me hope that the future would be better.
CBH: Tell us more about how self-injury affected your life as the years went by.
My self-injury became a best friend to me. Instead talking out my anxiety and frustration, I would self injure. And as the years went on, I had more anxiety, and more anger and more depression, so I would self injure more, and also more severely. I would only self-injure at night, so that my parents wouldn't notice, but as time went on, I had almost a ritualistic approach to my self-injury. The number, the length, the depth, etc. was always tracked and decided. I wasn't just self-injuring in a state of emotional disarray; I was controlled and calm.
CBH: Many people who self-injure say that they do it to feel some control over their lives and feelings. Was that true for you?
Yes. I felt it was one thing I could control and I could always depend on. It was always going to be there for me.
CBH: Talk about your graduation day. What was it like to know you had gone a year since you had last self-injured?
It was one of the best days that I have had. Not the ceremony, because there were big crowds (and that provoked my anxieties). But, driving away, I just had a feeling of hope. By driving away, I was leaving much more than just my high school; I was leaving a chapter of my life full of hurt and fear. I was moving on to the future that I had been working on for so long.
The CyberBully Hotline can be used to help students report suicidal thoughts and actions. Click here to learn more about the CyberBully Hotline.