Buzz The Bee, Mental Health Monday, The Crew

The High School Experience

How am I not dead? How am I not dead? In the last few months, I’ve found myself stumbling over this question a lot. And it’s not because I’m having an existential crisis…been there done that. Everything will end. No, I’m not asking myself that question because I’m in a bad mental state. I’m asking it because I’m finally clear-headed.

How am I not dead?

This blog is normally full of anecdotal advice, sarcasm, and even a smudge of darkness. But occasionally, I get a bug up my butt. Buzz, if you will. And I just have got to get it out.

Like the wise old owl on this post, this blog is going to be honest. This blog is going to be open. There are a lot of things that have sat on my chest for many years and it’s the notion of meeting my husband’s parents that started this ball rolling. I like being transparent. I love people asking me questions. I want to be someone who breaks down the walls of stigma surrounding suicide, eating disorders, anxiety, depression, and everything that packs itself neatly into my baggage. And I’m honestly tired of not having it out in the open.

So please, if you don’t know me…come learn. Let’s talk. If you do know me, pull up a chair because you’re about to really know me. From here on out, I won’t be afraid to touch these kinds of topics. I refuse to.

Before I start this, I have to say a few things. One: do not pity me. Two: this is not the whole story, not even half. Three: please reflect on your own life, struggles, and pain and see how they affected you.

Let’s start with this. I tried to kill myself. I am a recovered, atypical anorexic. I used to self-harm. I have struggled with depression since I was 11 and I’ve finally conquered it. Hi, it’s me the author…Nathalie Daux.

My high school experience was something else.

And a lot of people think less of me for it. By the end of my senior year, I’d been taken to court, dragged through the mud, and completely slandered. I graduated high school feeling hollow, worthless, and betrayed by all my beliefs, morals, and friends. The few people who didn’t hate me or try to destroy me ruined me that fall.

By August, everything was over in my head. I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t do anything. I wasn’t eating, I was cutting, and suicide ran through my mind like a faerie in a forest, gleefully hoping to disappear with the sunrise. As I entered college I entered my most severe fight with depression ever. And I almost lost. I really almost did.

But how did I get there? How did I get to a point where I almost killed myself? Why did that seem better? How did no one know?

I’ll tell you. It was easy to get there. There was hope and no pain. And everyone knew.

Yep, that’s me throwing everyone under the bus. Every single person in my life thought that I could get through it on my own because I was strong.

Never ever assume someone can get through it by themselves. Sometimes, an intervention needs to occur.

I stood on top of a lot of bridges, I held a lot of knives in my hands, and I stood next to the train tracks too many times for it to be considered anything but lucky. I shouldn’t have gotten through it and here I say, “How am I not dead?” But we’ll get to that. All of it.

There was a starting to point.

When my grandfather, whom I’ve never met, told me…an 11-year-old child… to tell my father that his brother had killed himself, I did. Because I did what I was told. Always. That was a bad moment and a bad call on that man’s part. But that’s where this starts, kind of.

My self-perception had already not been doing too great. Diaries from fourth and fifth grade showed that I knew too much about my family’s finances and health. I eavesdropped too much. Since I was an only child, I took everything onto myself. Everything was my responsibility, even the welfare of my parents.

When I watched my father sit on the couch that New Year’s Eve after finding out his brother was dead, I knew I had done this and I knew I had to fix it. I tried to cheer him up, but the train had already crashed.

There was no way for me to get it back on the rails.

Of course, in retrospect, none of this was my fault. But we’re playing along with my narrative, the place my mind was at the time.

Now, this train crash set into motion a lot of very bad things. Already I was an outcast. A weird kid and that was fine with me! I enjoyed being myself. Except that because of this event, my brain lost control. I looked at myself like a sinner because in my head I had done something terrible. So I figured that everyone saw me like that. 11 years old and already thinking the world hated me…I really was an artist (ha ha, some humor).

So, seeing myself as a weird, unlovable, strange thing that was much fatter than my peers, my mind settled on that. A place I could control.

For the next three years of junior high, I would enviously look at other girls and engage in pre-eating disorder behaviors. Chopping up food, meticulously counting my bites, refusing to allow food to touch, etc. By the time high school arrived, I was suffering from atypical anorexia. Atypical meaning I never dropped into the underweight category.

In junior high too, I started cutting. I needed control, that’s where this action stemmed from. I cut for ten years. Ten. All throughout therapy. All throughout high school. And a few people told me they had a suspicion. I’ll let that sink in. High school was bad. People knew, no one cared. In fact, a lot of people told me to bleed out. A lot.

Eventually, I scared myself by accidentally slicing open my finger on a razor. It was 3 a.m and one of the scariest incidents of my life. Then I stopped.

In junior high, the depression kicked in. I didn’t understand it at first, but by the time I was 21, I knew it like a brother. With it came anxiety and behaviors that I still can’t always control. With it came suicidal thoughts, but they popped by later.

The real beginning though was one night, as my mom and her friend drove me and my friends home from Aikido. God, it was a great night, great class. Thursday. About five or ten minutes from home, my mom said she couldn’t reach my dad or something. At this point, he was already suicidal. And depressed. And an alcoholic.

We came home and both cars were there and I can still feel how I felt at that moment. Terrified. My mom dragged him half dead out of the snow, it was sub-zero temperatures and only about a week after my birthday.

I didn’t cry.

When she dragged him inside though I started yelling and there was this tiny little thing inside of me that I felt shatter like a glass ball. I felt myself break and it took nearly ten years for me to create something else inside of me to substitute that broken thing. I think, from this point forward, my mind wasn’t right.

I chose not to visit him in the hospital.

High School escalated all the problems I had.

That was the true beginning.

Let’s look at high school.

As if I wasn’t struggling enough with my father’s alcoholism, my mom’s depression, and my own existential crisis, my dad left, went back to France halfway through my Freshman year with the promise of someday coming home. No one knew. Immediately, my grades dropped. I went from A’s to D’s. I got into a relationship, a very bad one, a few months later. I just wanted…something.

If you see someone making a terrible decision, please tell them. Even if they get mad, tell them.

I couldn’t sleep at home anymore and I distinctly remember feeling sleepy at my friend’s house because I only felt safe there. I fed off everyone’s fear that my dad would come home and kill me and my mom, so I just didn’t sleep. Enter insomnia.

Now! Sophomore year rolls along, I get cheated on and I’m told it’s because I wasn’t good enough. I was fat (I wasn’t). I was too depressed (whoops, sorry). I had too many problems at home (are you serious). And *drumroll* she was prettier. Already in a bad state, this screwed me up. I took it to heart. Did I mention that this man gave me stolen jewelry from his mother? Pinned it on me?

And everything got worse. I started restricting calories more, exercising more, my depression got out of hand, and I wanted to die. It was too much. I couldn’t handle it. So I hopped into another bad relationship with a very abusive, manipulative little boy. Who, you guessed it, cheated on me.

Now, I’m not trying to throw people under the bus. But the excuse of “I cheated on you because you have too much baggage” is really dumb.

And damning. This guy made me feel pretty bad pretty often. But we had some good, great times. At first.

Junior and Senior year I dated him and Junior and Senior year were bad for me. I fought with my mom every single morning. Bad things were going on at home. Very bad. Every day I came to school around 6:30, didn’t go to bed until three. I was in advanced classes that would give me college credit. I was the captain of the color guard. I was halfway through writing a book. I was working towards taking my black belt test. I was going crazy. And I was running from the feeling of wanting to die.

How did I not die?

Second time we ask ourselves this.

By this point, because of everything in my life, I felt that I was evil. Pure, untouched evil. I was sin incarnate. I now cut and restricted calories to punish myself because I needed punishing. And really, in my senior year, every single peer and close friend I had confirmed that this was true.

The stigma of depression almost killed me.

Three things stick out in my senior year, and in future blogs I might talk about more things, but three things stick out to me that made me think, “I should kill myself”.

The first was when my boyfriend in my senior year told me that an adult we both knew had told him to break up with me because girls with baggage aren’t worth it. There was more, which I’ve worked very hard to forget, but I was absolutely heartbroken. This father figure practically told me I was worthless. And, to make matters worse, he pulled me aside later and told me I needed to figure out what I was doing with my relationships, plural. Enter court dates.

The second thing was that I was taken to court over an order of protection. Whatever. It was blackmail and slander. But while in court, what turned the tides was when I heard the words, “Your Honor, she’s a cutter”. And I realized that every person in that room hated me. They all looked at me and you could see their thoughts, the disgust wrinkling up their faces. I cried for weeks and weeks and weeks. I really was worthless. No one in that room saw someone struggling, they just saw a suicidal, unintelligent, first-world pansy. I lost my credibility. I lost me.

Stigma kills.

The third was right after the court dates. I had finished my book and my teacher reserved this room and I got to be interviewed and have class discussions. He assured me it has always worked so well in the past. And it would have.

When I walked in, on time, it was empty. Just the theatre lights on me. No friend. No boyfriend. Just my teacher and the head of the English department. It remains as the single most painful moment in my life. And I sat down, tears burning my throat and my eyes and gave that interview. I talked to those teachers and enjoyed myself. When I walked out of that school, I burst into ugly sobs. I wanted to die. No one loved me. No one cared. No one showed up. Not one single person in a sea of thousands.

Turns out, all the flyers had been ripped down every time they got put up. By someone.

How did I not die?

Suicide…and a very apparent lack of help.

That brings us to summer and I’ll leave it at this. Two people I loved very much told me to my face several things. The first was that my cuts weren’t that deep and my scars weren’t that bad so I was lying. The second was that I was too fat to have an eating disorder. The third was that I was a whore. And the fourth was that if I tried to kill myself in that moment, they would only try to stop me so that they wouldn’t be responsible. But that they really did want me to kill myself. I was yelled at like that for an hour. Some first date.

Now we’re at my first year in college. By this point, my dad had popped in and out of my life, I had already sat by the train tracks and on top of bridges, I’d lost so much in ways I don’t even feel like talking about. I made it through that first year. I got my black belt. But I came unhinged.

I thought about killing myself every day. I wanted to die so badly. I cut every night. I was down to 300 calories a day. But I had pulled myself together for that black belt test. “Recovered” for about a year eating 900 calories a day. (Now I’m actually recovered and eating a health 1,700).

But everything that had happened had wounded me. I was walking on thin ice until one day it really did crack. And I dropped into freezing cold water.

I’m here to tell you that I really did almost die. For a while, I had an arrhythmia from my eating habits. I cut too much and did lose blood.

But I almost killed myself and almost succeeded. “Almost” paints headstones. You’ve got to hear me when I say this: No one tried to stop me.

Did you hear it?

No one intervened to stop my suicide plans. 

Do you hear that?

Instead, they made fun of my depression. They mocked my eating disorder or plain didn’t believe my struggle. They scolded me for cutting, for my depression. I was just an angsty teen. I was told I was a straying from God. I was demonized. And it almost killed me.

I think that I lived out of spite. I think I pulled through purely on spite. But I don’t know.

And when I look back on my life, the things I mentioned and the million things I didn’t, I ask, “How did I not die?” Because you know, I should be dead.

I should be dead.

And I defied those odds.

Then one glorious day I started running and little by little, I found my worth. It’s taken me a few years but I can say with confidence that I’m strong, beautiful, good, and depression free. Sure, I still have problems and hang-ups. I still wear my scars inside and out but I wear them proudly! I’m not dead. I’m not dead.

But how am I not?

I don’t know. I can’t attribute it to any one thing. But I know this. Aikido saved my heart. Writing saved my soul. And running, well running saved it all but really all it did was save my mind.

There’s a message here. A few actually.

It’s that very few people asked if I was okay and those that did, believed me. Either that or they didn’t care enough to risk our relationship and save my life. It’s that I couldn’t reach out for help. It’s that there was shame and people taught me that it would be better to die than tell someone you’re struggling. It was that I was sick and a sick person can’t always care for themselves. It’s that you need to keep living.

If you see someone who is struggling help them. If they say they are fine, you are allowed to think they’re lying. You can tell them that, there are options for you to help them. You can even have them placed in care and yes, maybe they’ll hate you. But maybe you’ll save a life.

I wish that someone had stepped forward and proved that they cared as much as they said because there are very few people I believe in, fewer still that I trust because they let me down years ago.

If you can, if you have one moment of clarity please reach out and get help. Please, please, please don’t blow these resources off. They are a google search away!
1-800-273-8255 suicide hotline

You get to decide if there’s shame. That’s what I’ve learned. Just like clothes, you get to pick. If you walk in hunched over in a bold shirt, people will tell you you’re crazy. If you walk in with a confident air, people leave you alone. I wear my scars on my arm proudly because I know they represent my life, my struggle and that hello, I’m not dead. And no one bothers me about it. I decided my struggle was not a shameful one.

Whoever you are reading this, remember this: you have got to keep living. Don’t kill yourself, don’t end your life. And to those of you who are not in that place. Be nice. You do not know what your actions will do. You do not know how close someone already is. You don’t know and you’ve got to change your actions, your attitude, and your mindset. Be kind.

So, in under 3,000 words, that’s me. Well, most of me. Hate me? Love me? I don’t care, now you know me.

2 thoughts on “The High School Experience”

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