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  • “No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.”—C.S. Lewis

    His legs were straddling the back tire; his head was next to the front one on the driver’s side. He was taking in raspy, labored breaths. The door was pinning him down, pushing him into the mud.

    My heart is pounding, pounding, pounding. My eyes are squeezed shut, fists clenched tightly. I struggle to push back the memory and focus on where I am. I’m in my friend’s house. We are watching a movie. There’s a car accident in it, obviously. I get the impression that Hollywood believes plot lines are lacking if someone doesn’t get thrown from an exploding car. I’ve come to expect it, but that alone doesn’t make me feel better.
    Ugh, I’m annoyed with myself. I can barely go an hour without having a flashback. I’ve never really discussed it with my parents. I wonder if they are ever reminded and upset by movies and stuff, or when people talk about car accidents. That’s the worst. It would be rude to walk away, but listening leaves me in shambles. I can’t just be like “Can you not talk about that?” because then they’ll want to know why and then they’ll think I’m crazy.
    I wish people would be more sensitive when they’re speaking. I know how much words can negatively affect me, even when they’re not meant to. I try to avoid talking about anything that could potentially hurt someone. I guess that makes me a pretty quiet person.
    I haven’t always been a quiet person. I was never an obnoxiously loud child, but I was pretty average before. Before the accident, that is. I don’t know why it’s making me different. I’m scared, I’m hurting. I feel like I’m harboring a huge, horrible secret. I feel as if I’ve killed someone….

    I wonder if he ever wishes that he would have just minded his own business and assumed everyone was alright. I wonder what his faith is like now. This fellow appeared to be in his fifties, at least. He had long white hair and he was openly weeping. He instructed us all to try to lift the truck off of the driver.
    There were eight of us, maybe, now all in the same boat. I have never felt as helpless as the day I tried to lift a truck off of a dying man. Eight people were not enough. Maybe it would have been if I prayed more, harder, with more conviction. Maybe he died because I didn’t believe in God enough.

    Some days I want to shout about it. I want everyone to know who I am; to know my guilt and shame. Who would stay? Most of the time I just try to slink by unnoticed. At school I read Harry Potter and do my work and stay out of trouble. I think if I had to confess to anything at all, I would end up spilling all of the metaphorical beans. Sometimes the teachers ask me if I’m okay, if there’s anything I want to talk about, anything going on at home?
    At home I read Harry Potter and do my work and try to stay out of the way. After school, my mom will ask me about my day and I’ll update her on the newest ninth grade drama. I’ve never read Harry Potter before, so it’s the perfect excuse. There are seven books, which makes it completely reasonable to be reading all the time. So that’s what I do.
    I have friends at school; I think they’re losing interest in me though. I find company at Hogwarts. I wish Professor Snape was one of my teachers. He would know I’m lying. I’m not okay. Maybe he wouldn’t care, but I don’t think anyone here does either.
    I began reading The Catcher in the Rye. The whole time I was thinking that this kid is obviously depressed and needs some help. Then I realize the irony and shove the book in my backpack. I hate Holden. I hate me.

    Freshman year is over and I feel alone. I read books and start a blog. I go to my best friend’s house and I lie, lie, lie. I come home and sit in my red chair by my window and I wonder. I question and doubt and pray. I cry, but I don’t feel better.
    I go to church and feel even lonelier than I did when I was sitting in my red chair alone. Everyone greets my parents, spouting “How are you?” No one talks to me here. I try to hide my inevitable teenage scowl for a couple hours so maybe someone will talk to me. I go home and sit in my red chair. I can’t cry anymore. I get a thick feeling between my heart and my eyes. I start to get angry.
    Sometimes I’m angry at God for letting him die. Sometimes I’m angry at my parents for letting me see him like that. Sometimes I’m angry at him for dying and subsequently changing my life. Mostly though, I’m angry at myself. I can’t quite place the blame for myself. It’s too complex.
    I come to a decision with my anger. I’m going to kill myself. Not yet though, because I might go to hell. So I conclude that once I fix my relationship with God, then I can kill myself. In the back of my mind I hope that maybe if I’m closer to God I won’t want to die anymore. I keep that a secret from myself though. I try to think about how I’ll do it but my chest closes up and I can’t breathe. My eyes remember all too well how to cry now. I try to comfort myself. No one else is here to try; only four a.m. knows this part of me.
    School is starting up again soon… thinking about it is overwhelming. My stomach is always upset. I guess my stomach and my head make a good pair. The only redeeming factor is that I signed up for art classes. Art is the only thing I can even imagine doing when I am upset. Sometimes it’s the only thing that can make me feel okay for awhile.

    I used to love school. I loved learning, not only about what was on the curriculum, but also about my teachers and classmates. I used to love people. I wasn’t an extrovert, but I liked the sense of community. Now I just want to go home, to be alone. The schedule is confusing and apparently mine is mixed up. I go to my guidance counselor to have it fixed. She tells me the only way to sort it out is to replace my art classes with other classes. I start to cry. She mocks me; she says “it’s not like it’s the end of your life.” So I cry some more, because what if she’s wrong? I don’t know if I’m ready….
    I convince my parents that homeschooling is the way to go. I tell them anything they want to hear so I don’t have to go back. I don’t particularly care for homeschooling. I learn best when things are explained to me, but I can’t go back now. I join a homeschool group and start going to youth group with my best friend. I wonder if anyone here could help me. I try to pay attention. I’ve never doubted that there is a God. I know there is, but I’m still mad at him right now. I wish I wasn’t though, it makes me feel guilty.

    Today I went to a funeral. It was my first time going to one for someone I knew. Previously it had only been funerals of distant relatives who I couldn't quite place, and they were always really old. This person wasn’t even 30. It’s sobering. I feel sorry for wanting to die. I look to the way her family responds: grief, of course, but there is also faith. They have hope because of God, even in the wake of death. Maybe that’s possible for me, too.
    Sometimes my mom asks me if I am depressed. I am so ashamed of my weakness that I say I’m not. I don’t know why, I just blurt it out. What would happen if I said yes? I feel embarrassed. I feel like a burden. I think maybe I could talk to someone. It can’t be someone I know though. I can’t be that vulnerable in front of anyone I know. Maybe I could go to a therapist.
    I’ve been borrowing a lot of psychology books from the library. I love reading them. Maybe I will become a therapist. That way I can learn all the therapy stuff without having to talk to anyone and I can get better.
    Awhile ago I joined a small group. I like the leader, she talks to me and she’s kind. I think she can see me…the real me. The one that only four a.m. has met, and maybe that’s okay.
    My mom has been sick a lot lately. I don’t know what’s wrong, but her throat has been swelling closed. I’m scared for her.
    I think that overall, tenth grade has probably been the worst year of my life. I hate not enjoying school. I hate feeling worthless because I can’t figure out Algebra. I hate that I don’t like myself. It’s over though, tenth grade. I’m 15 and a half and I’ll never be this young again.

    Mom is getting worse. I’ve been trying to help her, to take care of her. I’ve been cleaning up around the house and going to all her appointments with her. The doctors don’t know what’s going on either. Whatever it is, it’s progressing quickly. She’s been spending a lot of time outside, because even just being in the house makes her throat swell up and she breaks out in a rash. One night, I slept in the car with her, another night we camped in the back yard. We have been staying in a hotel across the street from our house.

    I am excited to use a new curriculum for school this year. I’m interested to see what the Bible class will be like. I feel a bit frazzled too, though. Tomorrow is my first day of school, but we’re staying at my grandma’s house. All my schoolwork is online, but it’s a taxing situation nonetheless. I haven’t been home in awhile. I wonder if I’ve received any letters from my pen pals. I have a lot of pen pals from around the world. The anonymity of it is nice. I’ve told them a lot of things I’ve never told anyone else.
    I think I’m going to write a letter to my small group leader. I know she wants me to open up, but verbalizing all the things in my head is not a strong suit of mine. The words get jumbled up or stuck in my throat with all those tears I forgot how to use. I find some paper and borrow a stamp from my grandma’s office. I write out my secrets, not in detail, but I hope it’s enough to be understood. I want so badly for someone to understand my hurt and fix me. Maybe that’s not something any one person can do for me, but I put my hope in man and give it a go. I send the letter off and the adrenaline makes me giggly. I feel so much lighter. I feel like I can breathe.
    Grandma says something that upsets my mom. It’s been a common theme that people think my mom is faking an illness. It hurts her. It hurts all of us, and there’s nothing to say that can make her feel better. I know that sort of desolation well; I wish she didn’t have to know it too. We go back home and mom starts boxing stuff up. She says maybe there’s mold in the house and it’s on all our stuff. I feel like I’m being pulled in a hundred different directions, like taffy in an old-fashion candy shop. I try to help but I am so exhausted. I think I could sleep for a thousand years and probably a couple hours more after that.
    I don’t know how to make myself feel better. I feel like something inside me might snap, like I’m spring loaded. Please don’t pull me too far; I don’t know what will happen. I get a crazy idea that maybe if I hurt physically then I won’t hurt as much emotionally. I feel swollen with emotion, so I lance it; I began cutting myself. It doesn’t help the emotional pain but it makes me feel like I have everything under control. It’s as if I’ve done something to improve the situation and now I can breathe easy. Logic got lost somewhere but now I can rest.
    We have been having garage sales for the past few months. We are all buzzing with static electricity, from all the friction. Don’t get too close, you might get a shock. Although we are all unbalanced in our troubles, we help to gather items and set them up and act friendly. Mom is upset because she is sick and scared. Dad is upset because mom is sick and his job is shaky. The sister that lives at home is upset because things are changing and being at home could be considered “unpleasant”. I am upset because mom is sick and vehicular manslaughter is ruining my life and I would really like to die and no one seems to notice.
    The stress levels are higher than ever and mom is yelling at us. She says we don’t help enough and we’re lazy. I feel worthless and wonder if I could possibly make it to heaven at this point in time. My depression is crashing over me. I’m trying to stay above the water, but it’s high-tide, it’s hopeless. Mom directs her frustration at me and I cry because I need so much help. I crave a hug more than anything in this moment. I think ‘ya know, it might not be so hard to say “mom, I am depressed.”’ The opportunity passes though and my mom says to me, “I am so mad; I don’t care what you’re crying about.” I don’t think that was anger though. I think it was fear and rejection and hurt. I take it, even though I have my own load, and I resolve to keep it. I won’t ask for help because if my own mother doesn’t care, then why should anyone else?

    We are on a train. Mom needs to go stay with her parents for awhile. She asked me to accompany her, to babysit her, she says. I watch out the window. The scenery changes in such extreme ways, from the bustle and grime of a big city train station, to the miles of green that meet the horizon, and finally to the red, rocky south west. The sky though, it stays the same in its habitual patterns wherever you are. I like that.
    Arizona is hot like my grandpa’s temper, but mom can breathe. I hate missing my best friend’s birthday, but the way my mom relies on my presence makes me feel calm.
    My sister and dad stayed home. People came out to check for mold, and they found some in the air ducts. Mom still can’t breathe well at home after the mold is cleaned out, so my parents sleep in the mini barn in the backyard for a few nights. My sister has friends over during those nights and they offer me drinks, but I decline, I decide I’m going to learn to draw.
    I replace the red chair by the window with a desk and I begin a self portrait. The reference picture I choose shows a slight smirk. I almost choose a fake-smile picture, but I want to draw the real me. I am comfortable sitting in my room drawing until the not-quite-drunken singing to Guitar Hero dies down, in the early morning.
    I go to youth group and small group on Sunday nights now. We have three leaders in our group. Can they see me? I’ve come to really enjoy being with my group. Sometimes the other girls seem sad and I think that maybe we have some things in common. We go on a retreat one chilly weekend in November. It makes me feel brave. I need someone to understand me… I ask the leader I sent the letter to if we can talk. I feel so sick and scared and broken. I tell her about the accident and I realize that it’s the first time I’ve ever spoken about it. It’s been three years and I’ve never spoken about any of it, but they have become the only thoughts I know. I expect to cry, but I don’t. I blush though. I feel like this is a pivotal point. Maybe talking will lead me down the right path. It makes my stomach hurt though, and my throat feels tight. I think caterpillars are crawling down and hatching butterflies in my tummy. She prays with me and I don’t even resent it.
    I feel strong. I get my learner’s permit. Some people my age can already drive by themselves. My pride smothers any embarrassment creeping up and I tell my small group leader about my accomplishment. She tells me that she’s proud of me, and a goofy grin is plastered on my face for the rest of the day.

    It’s my first driving lesson with my parents. I put the car in gear and take my foot off the brake. The car moves forward gently, but my mind lurches back….

    When my parents and I get out of our van to see if the authorities have been contacted, I am happy for a detour. We had been driving for awhile through cornfields, and our destination was a family reunion. None of it appealed to the self-centered 14 year old kid I was.
    The first person we talked to was a young man involved in the accident. He was sobbing but appeared unhurt. My mom talked to him awhile, asking him questions to keep him occupied for the time being. I didn’t know him, but he was going to the same reunion we were headed for. That could have been us. We could have been in that accident if we had been in this spot a few seconds earlier. I feel like I got punched. My mom asked him where the other driver was and he pointed to a truck, maybe 10 yards away.
    Upon nearing the truck we realized the driver was beneath it. His truck appeared to have flipped a few times and his door was bent down at an awkward angle. He was being pinned against the ground, under the weight of a pick-up truck. I heard my mom gasp and I felt my stomach drop and I had my first true taste of panic.

    Now my panic is in perfect ratio to the speed of the vehicle I’m in. A few of my friends can drive already. It takes me awhile to warm up to being a passenger with them, but I learn to enjoy the freedom.

    I don’t like school very much this year but the Bible class is nice. Being kept accountable to read my Bible makes it much easier. I feel like I know God. Sometimes I feel a glimmer of happiness; it’s fleeting, usually, but it builds my hope.
    I look up to my best friend. She is strong and she works hard and she is a genuinely nice person. I admire the way she sticks to her morals, even when she’s going against the crowd. I miss public school sometimes, but now I get to spend so much more time with her, which makes things a lot easier. I’ve gotten pretty close to some of the other people in our homeschool group, too. I even picked up playing the bass and joined a band my best friend started! In the fall she’ll be moving away for college. It’s only spring, but thinking about it makes me emotional. My sister says that she will also be moving into an apartment with her friend this year. The changes are becoming a little too much. I feel sick.

    I can’t fake smiles anymore. I want help but…what if I’m just making things out to be worse than they are? I want to die, but maybe it’s a phase that will pass, like that time I thought I wanted to play sports. What if I ask for help and they laugh because there’s nothing wrong with me? What if they keep telling me that I just need to stop dwelling on the past? I wish I could, but that’s my problem. What if, what if, what if…what if I don’t ask for help?
    One time during small group time someone was talking about a story that was on the news: A little girl was in an accident. The car was on top of her and some passersby heroically lifted it off of her. She lived. I nervously rubbed grooves into my lap with my sweaty palms. I squeezed my eyes shut to push away the intruding images—

    The shaky movements of shallow breaths; the hope and horror of sirens; the smell of mud in the summer; the thump, thump, thumping of my heart in my throat; the way I had to keep swallowing my fear….

    ‘Not right now, not here!’
    “Are you okay?”
    “Are you sure?”
    “Yeah.” I lied. I wasn’t okay. I’m not okay.
    I think about dying a lot. I wish I could die without killing myself. I wish I could die in lieu of someone with a fatal disease, or maybe someone who was in an accident. I wonder if dying could be any worse than living. I laugh, but it sounds hollow and callous; I know there’s no smile in my eyes.
    I reach out sometimes but it’s never enough. I end up more hurt than I started. I don’t want the manufactured, cookie-cutter answers. I know that I should pray. I know that I shouldn’t live in the past. I know. I hear you, but my depression doesn’t. It’s a strong barrier to fight against. I don’t have the words to let you in, so I plead with my eyes. Please help me…. Ultimately, I still feel broken. Is there anyone who can put all the pieces back together? What if something is missing from me?
    I can’t sleep one summer night. I am my depression, and it never sleeps. I feel like I am at the end. I am 17 years old, but I feel like I have experienced so much more life than that number implies. Maybe not “life” exactly, but I am exhausted by what I have experienced. I have this foreboding notion that I won’t live an average-length life. My life will be fore-shortened and I don’t know why I feel like that. I don’t see myself living to be an “official” adult, or getting a driver’s license, or having a career. If anything, I think I might lie in this bed until the life is drained right out of my body.
    Mostly, I spend my time trying to sleep, although I’m not very good at it, or running my blog. It’s strange the way the internet glorifies suicide; death; hurting the beautiful body that your soul dwells in.
    I don’t want to be a statistic. I don’t want to hurt.
    I don’t want to give in. I want to give up.
    I struggle.
    I am alive, but I’m not living. How did I get here, to this dark place?
    I have all these sleeping pills at my disposal. Do I deserve what I want? My hand shakes. I have been crying inconsolably for a few hours. It’s two a.m. and I am contemplating really actually killing myself.
    “Life is too short.” They say. I think about what it would be like to slip into death and decide last second that I don’t really want to die. I pray with more desperation than I knew was possible. Please, help me, God. I try to think logically… killing myself because someone died? You would think seeing someone at the end of their life would make you want to live that much more.
    I put the pills back. I go to my parents’ room and I snuggle up to my mom. I let myself cry and be comforted. My mom asks me what’s wrong and I say that I am sad.
    “What are you sad about?”
    “The accident.”
    “The accident?”
    “The car accident.”
    “The one that happened a few years ago?”
    “You still think about that?” That was my dad.
    I sleep well that night.
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