“I’m fine,” she lied: Part 1 – the battle of who could care less

I was 17.

Over the summer I realized I wouldn’t be graduating with my class. In April I’d had the flu and the chicken pox and missed three weeks of school. All of my classes were incompletes for that semester and there was no way to make up the work I’d missed. I wouldn’t graduate with my friends.

I settled into a new level of depression during my second junior year. I stayed in this kind of depression purgatory I couldn’t escape. In the previous year I learned how to turn the Old Kerry “on” when I needed to. I could turn on the spark that was underneath the depression for moments at a time. Newspaper and art class got the “on” Kerry.

Selling homecoming tickets? ON Kerry

Art piece in the Congressional art competition in which I got to miss school and attend with my art teacher who drove a Mercedes? ON Kerry

Date? Maybe half “ON” Kerry

Volunteering at ArtBreak or the Red River Revel? ON Kerry. A the Revel that year, I was given a box cutter and contemplated suicide for the first time. Each time I opened a box I thought it would only hurt for a minute – I would do it in the bathtub – it would be neat and clean – I could do this – no one cared anyway.

It’s amazing how much you can not care about anything. I was in my own battle of who could care less. Thank you, Ben Folds. And no one knew how much I was struggling daily, hourly, minute-to-minute just to live.

At this time I had two frenemies who were instrumental in beating down my self-esteem. They were the devil and angel on either shoulder, but of course, they were both devils in my case. One would say “oh, you’re too fat for him – you’ve seen his exgirlfriend!” when I mentioned crushing on a particular guy. I was a size 10. Huge, right? Somewhere in that time I started to gain weight and would be a size 16 by my graduation. The other frenemy expected me to be there to pick up the pieces of her failed relationships and issues with her mother. She was truly a horrible person. A pathological liar who slept around, made terrible decisions, and then wanted my advice (which she never took). She would be drinking Robitussin for the alcohol in classes during school by our senior year.

My friends graduated. They were off to college. I was alone. Will went to Arkansas. We would write and call occasionally call (long distance was for real expensive in the 90s), and see each other when he was in for holidays. One of the Jennifers went to Centenary, the other to LSUS and were still in town. But I was alone.

I was 18.

For my birthday, Will and I went to a pet store and he bought me a black and white kitten I would name Figaro. We went to a restaurant called T.S. Station to celebrate my birthday. A restaurant that isn’t there anymore. Like so many other things.

IMG_1439.JPGAgain, I put everything into my writing and art. I wrote an editorial that was extremely critical of our new sex-ed curriculum, “Sex Respect.” There were graphics of a dog that read “pet your dog, not your date.” It was insulting to teenagers attending a Magnet school. Someone from The Shreveport Times got a copy of it and I was summoned to the principal’s office. I had never been to the principal’s office (except in middle school to have my skirts measured by the skirt police). The principal told me that The Times thought my article was impressive and The Powers That Be were deciding to run a monthly “Teen Times” section in the newspaper. I was as happy as I would allow myself to be.

 

 

 

IMG_1440.JPGI started writing for The Times. It turned out they only wanted puff pieces like album and movie reviews, what fads were in, and school profile pieces. Not the editorial hard-hitting stuff I was sold. I was dating a guy, just a guy.  At the same time, my art teacher submitted me for a parish-wide extra curricular art class that would end with our art in a museum showcase. We learned new techniques and I loved it. It was a rare bright spot in a black year. Literally.

For the entire year I only wore black. I don’t remember it being a deliberate decision, but it was all I wore. Only my prom dress was green. On Halloween I dyed my signature red hair black. My red hair – the only thing I loved that made me unique – I turned black. I was practically unrecognizable to myself, but no one seemed to notice. I was imploding and no one knew.

 

IMG_1441.JPGAt some point in my psychology class we were given raw eggs (to represent babies) to decorate and keep in a basket for a week and bring everywhere with us. How could I take care of an egg baby when I couldn’t take care of myself? I felt as delicate as those eggs. Except my outer shell was becoming more fragile.

Graduation came and went. I was accepted to Centenary, Milsaps, and Ole Miss. I decided on Centenary and their $20,000 scholarship. Jennifer and my friend Christi were there, I would room with Carrie. We would have matching comforters. Things seemed to be looking up, but I was still down and only ON when need be. Then it got worse, much worse. The pathological lying frenemy took something I said as a joke and warped and twisted it into something terribly malicious and told Will and his girlfriend. It drove a huge wedge between our friendship. I wanted to die.

It was my birthday. I was 19. I spent that birthday alone. I was alone.

It was Prufrock:

And the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully!
Smoothed by long fingers,
Asleep … tired … or it malingers,
Stretched on the floor, here beside you and me.
Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,
Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?
But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed,
Though I have seen my head (grown slightly bald) brought in upon a platter,
I am no prophet — and here’s no great matter;
I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,
And in short, I was afraid.

I was afraid. I hadn’t the strength to force the moment to its crisis. I was in crisis. I had seen the moment of my greatness flicker with my last newspaper editorial and museum showcase. I was afraid.

At the very end of July, a letter came from Centenary saying my $20,000 scholarship was now a $2000 scholarship with no explanation given. That meant I couldn’t attend my school of choice and it was too late to get accepted anywhere else. Except Louisiana Tech University. I applied there on the very last day of admissions. I got in. It was an enormous disappointment. I was an enormous disappointment. I felt as thought I disappointed anyone left who remotely cared about me. Even the frenemy wasn’t talking to me.

I thought about the box cutter. No one was home. It would be easy – just two cuts – I would hardly feel it and then I would be gone. Gone. I just couldn’t cut myself. I just couldn’t. I opened the family medicine cabinet, then a cabinet in the kitchen where my mother kept medication, then went through my parents’ dresser looking for any type of medication that would harm me. I lined up medications on my vanity – sleeping pills, pain pills, whatever else I found. I got a glass of something from the kitchen and sat on the seat of my vanity. Just take one. I took one. Take another. I took another. Take another, you’ll fall asleep, you won’t feel anything, you’ll be gone. I didn’t want to feel anything. I wanted to be gone. I took another. Take one more. I took one more. The phone rang. I closed my eyes and breathed in. I exhaled. I answered the phone. It was Will. He told me he forgave me for anything I said, that we were friends regardless, that it was forgotten. Suddenly I wasn’t alone. I didn’t take another pill.

I slept and I woke up.

I was 19.

 

Comments

  1. Thank you for sharing.

  2. slmacdonald says:

    Poignant story. I want to give you hugs!

  3. Wow! Very raw, very real. Ty for sharing your heart. I’m glad you realized you are not alone.

  4. Thank you for sharing this with us.. I know it’s not easy. XO

  5. This is so interesting, Kerry. Not just because I’m getting to know more about you, but because it’s an insight into the mind that not many people realize. I tried to commit suicide in the 8th grade, so I totally relate to the couldn’t care less battle.
    You are brave and strong to put your story out there. It matters.

  6. It made me think of this song: I’m sure you know it. but similar feelings and here is the answer……………..

  7. I think one of the reasons we clicked so much that year was bc we were both going through so much mess, & hiding it so well…..but knew in some place we were kindred spirits. Love you Kerry.

  8. You are so brave to share. I’m sure someone needed to hear your strength not give up. It’s ok to not be fine. It makes me as a mom and friend pray I can be more open and aware of the people around me! Love you!

  9. Thank you Karry. I too suffer from depression. I think God touched you when Will called you while you where taking those pills.

  10. Kerry, Im reminded of Gods grace through your story. Life isn’t a bowl of cherries…I appreciate your vulnerability and passion. I pray that this blog is a path of healing for you….I know sharing my story is always a bit painful and a bit healing. No one was ever helped by our secrets. So thank you for eloquently sharing your story!

Trackbacks

  1. […] that for the past ten years I’ve been doing the best imitation of myself. If you recall in this post, I thought I mastered the “ON Kerry” act in high school when the depression first moved […]

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