Earlier this year, 15-year old Haley Henderson shared a personal, triumphant story on overcoming suicidal thoughts.
This post was originally published on May 18, 2017. Here is an excerpt:
“I just don’t want to be alive.” I begged into the empty room. I didn’t want to go through the act of killing myself, but I also didn’t want to be alive — so I begged. I begged that something might take me.
Even today, I cannot explain why I felt this way. I don’t know why Homecoming night was the breaking point, and I don’t understand how things got so bad. I don’t have answers, but the questions posed to tell a story in themselves.
The whole world was twisting. My back arched into the air, and the cold, concrete floors were the only thing supporting me. I wanted to dissolve into them. I wanted the paint-marked floors to swallow me whole. I didn’t want to face my life. I writhed in mental agony as my limbs flailed about in the air.
This was not a suicide attempt. This was the precursor. This was the consideration.
I probably looked like a fish. A fish contently swimming downstream until the fisherman of mental illness pulled me out of my peaceful surroundings.
I remember the screams. Cries of despair ripped through me until my throat was too raw to speak. I screamed until the pain of screaming was more intense than the pain of living in my head.
I should have stopped here. I should have enacted the safety plan from the last time. It sat as a box in my closet collecting dust, filled with sheets of paper — lists mostly: a list of positive things about myself, a list of the reasons I hadn’t ended my life yet, a list of reasons why I shouldn’t, and a list of numbers for helplines.
But I didn’t stop, because some part of me didn’t want to get better.
Instead, I picked apart the pieces of that night.
Sophia came home with me as we got dressed together for Homecoming. I only knew her for about a month, but our friendship was fast and intense. She knew every secret I had.
The blonde ends of her hair flew around when she spoke. It was Homecoming night, and we were antsy with anticipation of what might go wrong. She slipped into her little black dress. She was beautiful.
We spent the next few hours agonizing over every detail of our appearance. The same agonizing feeling would follow me through the night.
I walked into my dress. I spun around and took note of the scarlet roses that were bright swirls on the black fabric. The idea of everyone’s eyes scrambling over my appearance made me hyper-aware of the way I looked. I remember feeling almost beautiful.
I should’ve stopped here. I should’ve recognized that my self confidence was low, and I should’ve known where this would lead. I could have looked in the mirror and practiced positive self-talk. I could’ve forced a smile to trigger positive chemicals in my brain.
But I didn’t because some part of me didn’t want to get better. Some part of me wanted to stay sick.
We talked about our worries.
“What if no one is there?”
“What if it’s awkward?”
“What if I make a fool of myself?”
“What if she looks even more beautiful than usual?”
This was not the first time Stella* crossed my mind that night. I could see the coils of her black hair fall in front of her eyes. I could hear the low crinkling sound of her voice and the melody of her laughter. I could feel her stare pressing into my eyes.
I worried that the reminder of how exquisite she was would drive me to do something stupid — like tell her how I felt. I might just confess that even though I had every reason not to, I still wanted her.
Sophia attempted to curl her hair in the bathroom behind me as I sat thinking about everything that might go wrong. The thoughts my anxiety gave birth to festered and grew in my head until my hands were shaking. I wouldn’t have gone out at all if it weren’t for her.
We waited for our ride to arrive. I looked into the windows of the lobby as if they were mirrors. They lined the front wall from top to bottom and beginning to end. The night inverted them — no longer were they a way to see out, now they reflected my image. I felt so close — so close to beautiful, so close to pretty. I’m always just far enough away to not reach the finish line.
The driver arrived, and we crawled into the black interior. It wasn’t long before — without real cause — a feeling of empty sadness came creeping back over me. This was the feeling of lost despair that followed me around like dead weight, that chained me to my own sadness.
“I just don’t want to be alive,” I whispered as a consolation to myself. I needed to say it out loud. I needed to validate that this feeling was real, but I didn’t want her to hear me. I didn’t want her to worry.
I still desperately search for a reason why — sitting with one of my best friends, headed to my first homecoming — I wanted to die. But maybe it’s not that simple. Maybe I don’t get to point at just one trigger. Maybe it’s bigger than that.
She didn’t hear me.
Click here to read the rest of this story in its entirety. If you or someone you know are having suicidal thoughts, please find help with the links below.
Teen Line is a nonprofit that offers support by teens, for teens (ages 13 to 19) by phone or text.
- CALL 310-855-4673
- TEXT TEEN to 839863
They also have a “Teen Yellow Pages,” searchable resource guide.
This semester, the VOX Investigates team covered many angles and stories of mental health. Please click here for more resources for you or a friend.