Kelsey B. And Me.
On the night of January 16th, 2003, I lay in my room, on my couch, wrestling with hurt, anger, and sadness. I was 17 and the pain of a broken heart was all too real. I held in my hand my favorite pocketknife. I was crying, sobbing, and had the blade of my knife extended. I rubbed the tip of it on my chest, directly over my heart, desperately wanting to plunge it deep down inside, in hopes to carve out the broken heart and piece it back together. I began to pierce the skin and I wanted desperately to not be alive in that moment. I wanted it to be over. The pain was extreme, and the hurt I was experiencing in that moment was far worse than that of my contemplated, and desired, suicide.
But, as I sobbed, I would also think of the pain that my death would cause to Mom and Grandma, and so many others. The thought of them next to my casket was painful, and fortunately, the thought of their pain, caused by my pain, was enough to decelerate my suicide attempt. At some point in the wee hours of the morning on January 17th, I fell asleep. I slept for a few hours, covered in dried tears, cuddling with the knife that wanted to take my life.
The next morning, I descended the stairs, found Mom in the computer room, and told her of my struggles the night before. She was wrecked and encouraged me to remain home for the day. I insisted on going to school, partly as a distraction from the pain, and partly as a selfish act towards my ex-girlfriend. I wanted badly to see her that morning and tell her of my night-long suicidal escapade. And so, I went to school...
But she was not in attendance in our first period art class. This brought back the pain and hurt from the night before and I desperately wanted her to feel it. But alas, she wasn't there. And she wasn't to be found in the hallways that we would normally pass one another for the next few periods. My heart continued sinking. My hurt continued multiplying.
There was another gloomy sensation in the school that morning, but one that I paid little attention to due to my own situation. Just before lunch, I was in choir class, and the murmurs in the room were nothing compared to the screams inside my head. I sat in a chair, on the second tier, looked over and saw my ex, walking through the door. She came right up, sat on the chair next to me, and asked if I had heard the news. I told her that I hadn't. She explained to me that a teenage girl from a neighboring school had committed suicide the night before. She sat in her garage, with the door closed and the car on, pumping exhaust fumes into the garage, and slowly went to sleep forever.
Even as I type this right now, I've no real idea what my response was, internally or externally. I know that I did not share with my ex of my suicidal night though. I think I just buried my hurt and anger and sadness further down so as not to take away from our now deceased friend.
Her name was Kelsey, by the way. Kelsey Bolinger. I didn't know her well, but what I knew of her, I liked. She was a few months older than me, but a grade above, and went to Harding High School in Marion city. I remember talking to her at Finish Line in the mall where she worked. I remember she had amazing calves. I remember she had a beautiful smile with dimples that she never hid from anyone. Kelsey was a very talented runner on Harding's cross-country team, hence the calves and the job at Finish Line. She was also the Homecoming Queen that year. And, like me, she carried some very heavy burdens around with her and felt like she couldn't share with anyone. And so... She took her life. She took her life on the same night, within hours, if not minutes, of the same time I was running the knife blade across my skin, over my heart, wishing I had the courage to plunge it in and take my life too.
With the exception of a few individuals near and dear to me, I've not shared this story. I've kept it to myself. I've not shared it because I didn't want to overshadow Kelsey's story. It felt selfish to make that night about me, the one that couldn't "pull the trigger," and so, I allowed it to be about Kelsey. And I still stand by that decision in the moment, in my past. Those weeks after her death needed to be about her, but it didn't make the hurt flee from my own suicidal experience. In fact, it intensified.
Now, 20 years later, I feel differently. I feel it is important to share this story as I continue down the path in my own mental health journey. Another person's story doesn't take away importance from your own. And so, I share with you this story.
If you are hurting, it is important to get help. Tell someone, anyone... a friend, family member, therapist or counselor, a teacher, a stranger, someone. If you know that someone is struggling, offer your service to them because they may not be strong enough to ask for help themselves. We all need help sometimes. Every single one of us. And there is no shame in seeking help.
And maybe, just maybe... Kelsey's spirit lifted out of her body before I had the opportunity to end my own life. Maybe she was there, guiding me to my mom and grandma. Maybe she knew of the extreme hurt two deaths in our community would create, so she offered her smiling spirit in service to me, as one final act of kindness.
Maybe Kelsey saved me that night.
And maybe part of the reason I run as much as I do these days is to keep crushing the miles with Kelsey, the miles that she wasn't able to complete in physical form. Maybe she's a bigger part of my story than I've ever realized. Maybe she's running with me. Maybe I'm stronger with her spirit alongside. Maybe we're in this together.
Because the truth is--we're all in this together.
If you're hurting, and feel alone, the technology in your pocket has a very simple resource that you can use 24/7. All you have to do is dial 9-8-8.
You're worth it.
Suicide IS Preventable.
And don't ever forget it.