When I first realised I was depressed, I was writing in the chalky plaster-y stuff that comes out of walls on the toilet room wall (our toilet is in a separate room to the bathroom – weird). I was eleven years old and the only place I could express the things I was feeling was in the little cell that our toilet was kept in. There was a hole in the wall from where we, as kids, used to slam the door against it and the chalky plaster-y stuff was exposed. I would take a piece of the plaster and write on the wall “my life is meaningless, my heart is dead and I want to sleep forever” over and over again. I don’t really know why, even nine years on. I guess, I just wanted to get my feelings out.
There was something therapeutic about writing it on a wall in chalk and wiping it all away. Here is where I say something pretentious like ‘oh yes, it’s all about the fleetingness of emotion and the transiency of our worlds’ but honestly, I just liked the feeling of wiping away the words and watching the white of the chalk disappear into the pastel blue of the walls. I’m not sure if that’s less pretentious.
Feelings are a strange thing, and when you’re eleven and hormonal, they’re even stranger. I always felt disconnected from feelings, like they ruled me but I didn’t rule them. Maybe that is the case. I’m less sure now of who holds the reigns – us or feelings – than I was back then.
It hit me like a lightning bolt, around the loop of the ‘g’ in my seventh time of writing the word ‘meaningless’ on the wall. This isn’t right. I immediately was ashamed of how I felt and believed it must be kept a secret at all costs.
“They’ll call me an emo”
“They’ll think I’m weird”
“Nobody will understand”
At this time, I had just started secondary school and felt alienated from the whole system. I was suddenly not the mostly-liked nerd that I was in primary school – now all the other girls cared about was boys and makeup, not how fast I could complete the Year 6 times-tables quiz (1 minute and 7 seconds, in case you’re wondering). Rumours soon sped through the corridors quicker than news that a teacher was off sick.
I was standing in the humanities corridor, outside of our history room. I remember it so clearly – noticing the other girls huddled in groups chatting and laughing. It was my last lesson of the day and I was itching to get home. Home was a safe space for me – it was free from the cackles of the girls and the rumours they whispered.
I jumped out my skin as I felt someone massage my hair. I turned around (and up) to see a girl in my class who was much taller than everyone else and thought her extra inches made her extra superior.
“Erm?” was all I could manage to verbalise.
“See! It’s not a wig!” the girl shouted back to her friends who stood in a semi-circle a small distance from me.
That was the night I first harmed myself.