Sitting on the edge of my bed, I looked down apprehensively at the envelope in my hands, taking a deep breath. My hands were shaking slightly, and I made an effort to straighten them, to deliberately slump so my stiff posture would be forced to relax. This was something I knew I must do, to move on- something I was finally ready to do.
The envelope was a perfectly ordinary one, plain white, just a standard envelope- but inside, it held the connection between now and the past, the person I was and the person I had been. If I was to do what I was preparing myself to do, I would finally be acknowledging that I had moved on for good, that there was no going back to the person I had been once- ever. Once, I would never have been able to even consider this. Once I would have held tightly to the contents of this envelope, refusing to let go... refusing to heal.
But now, I was sick of it- sick of myself, my self-centered view of who I was in the world. I had, by seeing only myself, only in the ways I wanted to, only succeeded in alienating myself, isolating myself from anyone who wanted to love me or help me. I had thought no one cared- but I had not allowed them to care. I had pushed them away the moment they approached. In my times of darkness, I had hurt many more besides myself...
No more. I was different now. My life was different, and I would never allow myself to become so hopeless and self-pitying again.
I looked down at the envelope again, exhaling slowly. I was beginning to slide my fingers underneath the flap when Isabelle, my roommate, walked in. Isabelle is one of those people who isn't beautiful like most people would think of beautiful, but I think she's very pretty in an Isabelle kind of way. Natually she thinks she's hideous, like 99% of girls. She has a deep orange colored hair, but strangely, few freckles, and she always wears a lot of eye makeup. She doesn't usually wear any jewelry but the stud in her nose, but today she had a stack of Indian looking bracelets on her arm.
"Hey, Fiona," she called carelessly, not really paying attention to me. I had looked up sharply, startled, when she entered, but now I sighed in relief- I didn't mind her being here. In fact, I welcomed it. It would be nice to have someone with me as I burned the bridges to my past, someone who had been there for me during some of my lowest moments.
"Hey, Iz," I said as she went to stand before her little dresser, scowling into the mirror, fumbling with her bags.
"Hello, Anne of Green Gables," she mumbled. "I might as well wear a prairie dress and put my hair in braids. Do you think I should dye my hair a different color, Fi? Blonde, maybe black-"
"Don't you DARE, Isabelle," I ordered. "How many times do I have to tell you your hair is unique and gorgeous, and all the other encouraging shit you always hammer into my own brain?"
"The difference is I'm not just saying it because you're my friend," Isabelle muttered. "See, Fi, with me-" she turned to face me, but cut herself off abruptly when she finally noticed the envelope in my hands, the look in my eyes. Her pale face stiffened, getting that scared, anxious look that once had made me so pissed and defensive. Now, seeing her, I only realized how much she cared about me.
"Fiona- what do you have that out for?" she asked, moving to sit beside me on my bed. She turned her head to look at me carefully, touching my arm. "Are you okay? Are you feeling-"
She broke off, searching my eyes.
Isabelle had reason to be nervous, I knew. She knew what was in the envelope, knew the power its contents had once held over me. She had seen me more in the last year than my own family, knew what I had been through firsthand...
You see, I have had major bouts of depression since I was eleven years old. I remember being in fifth grade, watching the other kids on the playground, and sitting by myself, shutting everyone out and only thinking to myself how bad I felt, how friendless and awful I was. I remember coming home to a room with posters of kittens and the Spice Girls, old dolls and Goosebumps books, and scraping at my ankles, my hips, with tacks, nails, and scissors. I did not know why I was doing it- I knew only I was bad, and everyone hated me, would never understand me.
Of course, I was wrong. My parents,my younger brother, even teachers loved me and were concerned about me, even without knowing what I did to hurt myself. But I was so wrapped up in my pain that I couldn't see it, wouldn't have wanted to see it.
My weapons against myself grew in sharpness, and by the time I was 12 I wouldn't wear shorts or short sleeves. I was also twelve when I made my first suicide attempt. I tried to hang myself, but fortunately my little brother walked in on me. He was only nine years old...
I know I must have scarred him, ruined his innocence, over the years of my despair. I tried to kill myself three more times after that... pills at fourteen, slashing my wrists at sixteen, and last year, pills again, in the bed of my college dorm. It was Isabelle, not my roommate, who had found me last year, who saved me...
I have so many scars now I've lost track of how many there are total. I never wear short sleeves even though they are old and faded now. I've been to the hospital seven times in as many years, gotten stitches four times for wounds I inflicted on myself... I've been to four therapists, none who really made an impact. I went to a mental health clinic for three months when I was sixteen...''
Sometimes, I'd get to the point where I'd feel a little better, like I would be okay. Everyone would relax a little, think that something had finally worked, finally fixed me. And eventually it would all come creeping back- my depression, my negativity and self-loathing- and it would all start over.
I tortured them, hurt them... but even more relentlessly I tortured and hurt myself. I would not change, try to help myself, and so remained trapped in my own destructiveness- convinced I could not change and so should not try to.
It was my last suicide attempt when I was 18, that provided the final catalyst for change. As I said before, it was Isabelle who found me, she who called the ambulance to save me. She even rode in the ambulance with me to the hospital, talking to me holding my hand...
What amazed me about this was that Isabelle barely knew me. She had one class with me, but we never hung out, rarely even spoke to each other. She was my roommate's friend, not mine. She had always been friendly to me, but like with everyone else, I had rebuffed her- only muttering a few syllables back when she spoke to me, refusing to meet her eyes. Isabelle had barely known me at all- and yet there she was, riding with me in the ambulance, sending me a get-well card, even visiting me one time.
And it didn't stop there. I was kicked out of college- well actually I was put on a temporary mental health leave for six months. i missed the majority of my freshman year- so much that I ended up starting this year as a freshman again. But through those six months, and the month left where I returned to set things in order at school, Iz stayed in touch with me. She called me, left me emails, and let me know she was thinking about me, she cared what was going on in my life. I think something about her finding me dying scarred her too- in a way that goaded her into action. Somehow I had touched her- me, a pathetic, selfish girl she barely knew...
She'd tell me what was going on in her own life, ask me about myself. At first I barely talked to her, barely did more than half listen. I couldn't understand why she would want to talk to me. Was she nosy, wanting all the details of my tortured existence so she could tell everyone? Was she mocking me?
But gradually, as Isabelle persisted in associating with me, I realized that she really was concerned about and interested in me. She really did want to see me and talk to me- and not for bullshit evil-person reasons I had dreamed up.
I think it was about when I began to realize the kind of person Isabelle was that I began to see who I was as well, to view me and my actions in the same eyes as others. Somehow, from knowing Isabelle, with her gentle interest and encouraging, her occasional ass-kicking comments when I needed them, I was beginning to separate my feelings from my self-worth.
I couldn't understand it at first. Why would anyone like me, want to talk to me? But slowly, as I continued to speak with Isabelle, even accepting her invitations to do things and go places with her, I came to accept... maybe I was okay.
It was then, with Isabelle's help, and the support of my family, that I finally saw how blind and stupid I had been. Nearly all my problems had come about because I let them, did nothing to better them or tackle them head on. I DID have some control over my own emotions, my own happiness. If I wanted to get better, if I wanted to be happy, I couldn't just sit back and hope it would happen. I would have to try, I would have to work at being happy. No one could force me to be better- no one but me.
It was after that epiphany that I began to change myself. It wasn't an instant thing by any means. Seven years of learned despair are not easy to break from. I had setbacks, but I was trying- this time, I was really wanting to be okay, and that made all the difference.
All that time, when others drifted, uncomfortable around me, Isabelle stuck with me. She was flat out amazing. She gave me the pushing I needed, congraulating my pathetic "achievements" and helping me keep a realistic view when I failed. All this practicality from a girl who cannot look at herself in the mirror without making a face. I guess we all have our troubles with self-image.
When I returned college, this year, Isabelle had been placed as my roommate. I was shocked, even after all she had done for me, that she had actually requested it. So far, she steadily maintains that she is still not sick of me and my melodramatic bs. I guess since she is still here and nearly brutally honest most of the time, I have to believe her.
It's been three months since I did anything to injure myself, and that in itself is a major accomplishment. Neither have I had any suicidal thoughts- at least, serious ones. I have methods now of distracting myself, forcing my mind from morbidness, that nearly always work. And all this time, Isabelle has continued to be flat out amazing. Of course we fight and snipe at each other sometimes, but we live together, so what can you expect?
Now Iz was staring at me, her hand on my arm, eyes dark and wary. For inside the envelope I was holding, as she knew full well, were my four former suicide notes.
After each of my four suicides attempts, everyone had been so busy saving me, getting me to hospitals, that no one had hardly even noticed the notes, let alone destroyed them. It had been me, coming back later, who had found the notes no one had even noticed, ever read, and taken them back. No one but Isabelle knew I still had them- not even my family. I had kept them, held onto them for all those years, in some perverseness I could never explain- and by holding onto them, I had symbolically been telling myself it was okay to hold onto my past self.
No more- no more would I tell myself such a thing.
Looking into Isabelle's concerned eyes, I smiled. "No, Iz, it's okay," I told her, taking her hand and squeezing it. "I'm all right now- really. All I'm doing now is making sure I stay this way."
"I don't understand, Fiona," she said slowly, squeezing back. "If you're okay- why do you have these out? Why do you look so serious?"
I could see how tense she was as her eyes quickly slid down my body- wondering, I knew, if I had cut myself again. I was wearing long sleeves- again, I could barely blame her for her suspicion.
Unclasping my hand from hers, I rolled my sleeves up as far as they would go, then showed her my scarred arms. None of them were fresh- all at least several months old, faded.
"See? I didn't cut, Isabelle, and I won't. I'll strip if you want to look for sure," I said quietly. Isabelle looked at me appraisingly, biting her lip, then nodded slowly.
"I'm sorry, Fi. I know you're doing better. It's just- I love you, and I worry. Like a mom kind of thing. Or sister." She made a face. "I know, I sound stupid. But I do want to know what you're doing looking at those if you're okay."
"I'm getting rid of them, Iz," I said, looking her in the eyes again. "I'm going to shred them up and throw them away. By keeping them- it's like I'm saying they have meaning in my life, that I'm still that person. Or I might be one day again. But I'm not, and I won't- I won't let myself." I took Iz's hand again, squeezed. "And I thought- I should do something. To prove it. I mean, why the hell HAVE I kept these all those years if not to keep myself in that mindset? It's time to grow up- to move on."
Isabelle looked at me for several moments, not speaking. Her face had this frozen look, like she couldn't believe her ears.
"Are you sure, Fiona? Are you sure you really want to do this?"
I nodded, letting out a long sigh.
"Yes... yes... I want this. I have to do this."
Isabelle stared at me for a little bit longer, and I couldn't tell what she was thinking. Then a tremulous smile broke out over her face, and she exhaled, the sound long and shuddery.
"Oh Fiona- oh god..."
She was blinking a bit- trying not to cry, I realized, kind of shocked. Even now it could still surprise me, evidence of someone caring for me.
She hugged me suddenly, catching me by surprise as her arms slipped around my shoulders, one hand pressed against my neck. Letting the envelope fall to my lap, I leaned into her, hugging her back, feeling her face against my shoulder,her body shaking. I felt a lump in my throat, blinked furiously.
Releasing me, Isabelle wiped at her eyes, blinking quickly. I echoed her movements, taking a controlling breath.
"I'm so proud of you, Fiona," she said, voice husky. "You have no idea how much."
"Thank you," I said, my voice squeaking, and she hugged me again, both of us fighting to remain tearless.
"This is silly," I said raspily. "We're celebrating our strength and we're both freaking crying!"
Isabelle laughed, giving me another squeeze before pulling away.
"God, I love you, Fi. Really," she added more seriously. I blinked again, swallowing. Damn, trust her to hurt me with words like that...
"I know, Iz," I managed to say. "I love you too. But please shut up now or you'll make me cry too hard to do this."
Isabelle laughed again, putting her arm around my shoulder in a brief, affectionate hug. Keeping it there loosely, she said, "All right, I'm sorry. I'll be quiet now. Whenever you're ready."
I took another breath, closing my eyes... when I opened them again, I stared once more at the envelope in my lap. I remembered each of the times, each incident where I had tried to take my life. I remembered... and today, I marvelled at my luck. I had been given not only a second, but a third, a fourth, and a fifth chance... finally now I would live up to them.
With Isabelle's arm still around my shoulders, giving me support, I pulled open the envelope, taking out the notes taking years back. With a sudden motion, I began to rip them up, tearing them smaller and smaller... and with each piece I tore, I ripped the part of myself, small as it was, that was still clinging to them, and I bid her away. Hopefully, this time, for good.