*Trigger Warning: Although I do not go into details about my self-harm, I would still like to put this here.
You know, self-harm is a very difficult thing to write about. My family keeps telling me to stop writing about sad things. My grandpa told my mother that my writing was beautiful, but that I needed to start writing about happy things. My mother told me the same thing after a recent Instagram post. Although I can understand how reading about my tribulations may be sad, writing about them makes me happy, because it is a reminder of how far I’ve come. It is a constant reminder of how I’ve progressed, of how I’m able to introspectively understand who I am. My essays on the difficult times on my life aren’t meant to be sob stories that leave you with feelings of hopelessness, they’re meant to be stories of strength that leave you with feelings of inspiration and hope. When I write about something sad and turn in into something powerful, I think that is what people should notice. I want to make an impact not only on readers, but on myself.
I’ve written a lot about my self-harm and my depression but this post is different because it’s not about those times I stayed up late crying and wondering why I am alive. It is not about those times my anxiety and depression got in the way of my social interactions. It is not about any of that. It is about that light at the end of the tunnel; the good stuff. What came after all of that. With bad comes good, and although it’s an awful pattern and we hate the anticipation, it’s life.
I told my parents that if I didn’t attend an Ivy League school (or even an ultra-competitive school) I would kill myself. This wasn’t something I casually said over dinner or inappropriately joked about – I was 100% serious. After attending a summer camp at an Ivy League school and making other high-achieving friends, while also setting a standard for myself at my very own high school, I felt that I had something to prove to the world.
So, I am going to tell you a secret. I was embarrassed of the college I had to go to. People kept asking me, “Well, what if you transferred to Columbia or University of Chicago? You don’t have to go to this school forever!” That statement in itself hurt me, but I went along with it because I wanted people to think I was smart, that I was capable, that I could be a part of the elite crowd, that I could be something. I was miserable for months watching my summer camp peers get accepted into elite colleges while I faced rejection letter after rejection letter and waitlist offer after waitlist offer. I wanted to kill myself. I wanted to kill myself because I felt that I had wasted four years of my life sacrificing parties and reckless behavior and being a teenager so that I could reach those goals I had set for myself – especially the new goals that formed after summer camp. I had to make sure that I gave my actions reason. In my gut, I knew I wouldn’t go to an elite school. But I kept telling myself that it might happen. And when it didn’t, I realized that I just might have to kill myself.
I made a fool of myself in high school, especially during my senior year. I held my intelligence to a high standard, so much that I inadvertently treated people like they were inferior. It was an unhealthy pattern; jealousy towards me existed, subtly and not so subtly, and by having a superiority complex, I gave people all sorts of reasons to hate me. I distinctly remember telling myself, “Upasna, it’s okay if you treat some people like they’re shit when you stand up for yourself. You’ll get into an Ivy and you’ll get the hell out of there and everyone will know your worth.” I screwed around on social media, getting into silly arguments with people. I allowed myself to engage in slut-shaming with my temporary friends and I subsequently allowed myself to ruin any chance of forming solid friendships. Maybe it was the people I went to school with, yes, but in some ways it was me, too. I did get bullied a lot, granted, but my defense mechanism was to be a total bitch. So when I failed everyone’s expectations and even my own expectations of myself, I didn’t want to be alive anymore. What was the use? I made myself look like a fool for nothing.
It did not help that I was a part of a toxic relationship for two and a half years. I was emotionally abused and the truth is, I was emotionally abusive, too. But it feels good, though I am ashamed, to admit that. This relationship was so unhealthy, and due to the popularity of our intimacy, people at school knew who we were, and hated me for any rumors that were subsequently spread about the both of us. People said I was psychotic, that I was a whore (according to a rumor that I lost my virginity on a school staircase). It hurt, and it didn’t help that a certain teacher and multiple administrators got involved. It didn’t help that my so-called boyfriend decided to tell the two girls that hated me most that I was suicidal so they could let the rest of the student population know through their own version of that “Telephone” game. On top of being labeled a psychotic girlfriend, I also felt that I was labeled a failure because of my college plans. Everything was falling apart. My love life, my academic life, my family life (due to my sudden introversion and daily anxiety attacks). I sacrificed my mental health every day so I could attempt to alter my image. In the end, I ended up looking like a terrible person and I wanted to kill myself everyday.
You may be wondering if I ever tried to go through with it. Although it’s easy to type this as a writer, it hurts me to type this as Upasna. As a daughter, as a granddaughter, as a niece, as a friend, as a creation of God – it hurts. I did try to kill myself. Somehow I am alive right now. By a small chance – a very small chance – I am alive right now. I cannot even begin to explain how confounding this is for me. For a second there, I would have ceased to exist. I would not be typing this. I would have missed out on a lot of kissing, a lot of hugging, a lot of arguing, a lot of good food, a lot of life.
But that one small chance has changed my life. Many months after my suicide attempt, things began to look up. After years and years of battling suicidal thoughts, self-harm, depression, and anxiety through middle school and high school, things began to look up. The college I had decided to go to began to look more appealing, and I started to feel excited for a new opportunity to grow as a human being. I ended my toxic relationship with the help of my mother and some friends – yes, FRIENDS! I built up the confidence to go to therapy and figure my feelings out. I also had time to figure out the kind of person I wanted to be by reflecting upon my past mistakes.
I have been granted so many opportunities to learn how to express my beliefs and my opinions while also being kind to others. I have learned to not regret my mistakes but to learn from them, and most importantly, to not be ashamed of them. I have learned that I can never be perfect and that I can’t please everyone, but as long as I can make myself happy (while knowing actions I take for my happiness shouldn’t equal complete sadness and anger for others) that is what matters. That is the only thing that matters.
I look at my life now and I am insanely happy. I have so many beautiful people in my life (so many people I cannot BEGIN to name) that have taught me the true meaning of friendship and what it really means to be a “good” human being. I have an inspiring mentor and friend named Manilyn who teaches me how to embrace my leadership abilities and use my experiences as a woman of color to teach and inspire others, while also being empathetic and humble. I have a wonderful boyfriend named Kevin who doesn’t make me feel guilty for my past. I have hardworking and understanding editors at Rookie who help me express my feelings and explain my experiences in a way that can benefit and positively impact other people. I have mother who constantly supports me and never lets me feel bad – not even for a second – about who I am.
These people, and even myself, taught me what a good life is. A good life isn’t perfect, but it’s the kind of life where you go to bed realizing you have all of the things a human being could ever want. Even the small things – like good weather, or a good grade on an assignment, or a funny joke. It can be difficult to see past “the now,” but the tragedies and tribulations of life are placed before you not so you can give up but so you can find enough hope and courage to build yourself back up, no matter how difficult it is. It’s a challenge, not a dead-end. So looking at my life now, I am happy that I gathered the courage to move forward.
Looking at my life now, I know why I put the razor down.
Featured image taken by Besiana Useni.