This past weekend I attended a Mental Health First Aid course and am proud to say I am now certified. We were deeply educated in the topic of Suicide and Self-Injury as that was one of the most cautious illnesses to deal with. During the focus on suicide, several things started to swirl into my mind, mostly focused on when I held a case cutter to my wrist 18 years ago.
It is widely known that thoughts of suicide and suicide attempts are experienced by teens and young adults with many ideas first sparking in even the pre-teen era. Teenagers, with their raging hormones are prone to Depression and Anxiety, the main precursor to suicidal thinking. I was 14 when I was diagnosed with my first episode of Moderate Depression. 14… 14 was the same age that a young teen took her life when I was in high school. This was the same year I held that case cutter. I know everything that was swirling through my head at that age and I didn’t cut myself, what was going through her head?…
All of this got me thinking though, was 14 really my first experience with Depression? Was 18 my first experience with Suicidal Thoughts?
In Junior High (or as some know as Middle School) we had talents we were sorted into. It was a school for the “Gifted & Talented”. You actually needed to submit work proving you should be at this school. I was wait listed and then received acceptance into their Creative Writing program. Writing was my thing as a pre-teen. I love writing stories and especially poetry. Every year, at the end of the year, our Creative Writing talent put out these anthologies:
Yes, I still have them in my possession.
Any of my readers who went to Mark Twain will most likely remember these. Note the date: June 1992. I was 12 and puberty hadn’t graced me with its presence yet. I learned in this Mental Health First Aid course that a warning sign of suicide is writing about, well, suicide and death. It is listed in the handbook. This worried me as I was reading my contribution to “The Third Eye” that year:
I was 12. At 12 I was writing about death. And I can tell you that this poem was modified from the original. The line “Who has passed away” read more like “Who killed herself”. Did I mention I was 12? No one read this as a warning sign of anything back in 1992. They read this poem and thought it was wonderfully written and chose this as my entry for the anthology. Of course, in 1992, who wanted to discuss preteen/teen Depression?! Who spoke of preteen/teen Suicide?! Mental Illness was still very taboo and honestly, how many preteens/teens were even thinking about it?!
I tried to think what would have caused me to write this at 12. The only things I can remember is that I was starting a new school with new people as this was not my zoned Junior High, and the death of my grandfather. As I re-read this poem though, now living through my Mental Illness history, I am skeptical to believe I wrote this because my grandfather died. Although I was saddened by his death, he and I weren’t very close. There was more, probably so much more but I cannot remember 24 years later.
Re-reading this again, I am looking at it with the eye of a mother of a preteen girl and I am worried. I am worried for her. Middle School is so much worse than it used to be (thank you technology & social media!). What she will go through makes my heart ache now. With my Depression diagnosis, I have an intuition on what signs to look for with her and am grateful for that. I just don’t want to be reading a poem like this penned from her 12 year old hand. A poem like this would worry me. That last line echoes in my mind, “It should have been me!”…
“It should have been me!”
I was only 12.