photo by Alex Aronoff

photo by Alex Aronoff

“ There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts,

but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”

Proverbs 12: 18

Ginny hugged her books tightly to her chest taking a slight step back with every angry word that Lindsey shot at her.

“You’re a HORRIBLE friend, you take advantage of everyone! You never show up to stuff like you say you will, so no one can count on you. I swear you are SO selfish!”  The angry words were contorting Lindsey’s face as she spat them out.

Ginny cowered under her friend’s verbal beating. “What are you talking about? What did I do?” she whimpered as the accusations come faster and felt like slaps to her face.

“OH MY GOD; you mean YOU DON’T KNOW?” Lindsey leaned in closer; hands on her hips, eyes rolling skyward and hurled her final insult. “I wish I had never met you, I HATE you!”

Lindsey was so close now; Ginny could feel her breathe and the bitterness it propelled, landing the final blow that knocked her off her feet. Everything seemed to move in slow motion. Her heel hit something as she moved away from Lindsey and momentarily Ginny was weightless. Books flew up past her high into the air; she could see puffy white clouds through the tree branches before landing with a thud on the pavement. Pain and fear gripped Ginny’s chest so tightly, she felt like she couldn’t breathe. Somehow, she managed to roll onto her knees and locate all of her belongings. No one stopped to help her pick up the pieces of her life so carelessly scattered about in the dirt or even seemed to care about her as she crawled across the ground.

Ginny scrambled to her feet, and hurried home, hot tears rolling down her cheeks. One block, two blocks, her pace quickened the further she moved from the schoolyard until she was running as fast as she could. By the time she reached her house, she was out of breath and soaked with sweat. Her hands shook so badly, she nearly dropped her keys attempting to unlock the front door. Once inside she made a beeline for the kitchen throwing her schoolbooks in the direction of the dining room table.

When her mother Brenda pulled into the driveway after finishing her shift at the hospital, she noticed that the front door was open. Ginny must have forgotten to close it when she came home from school; I need to remind her about that. This is a safe neighborhood, but you can’t ever be too careful, she thought. As soon as she walked into the foyer, Brenda knew something was wrong. “Ginny?” she called out tentatively, while scanning nearby rooms for her only daughter. The dining room was strewn with dusty books and crinkled notebook paper, through the doorway she could see a kitchen drawer pulled out, its contents in a heap on the counter.

“Oh dear God… ” Brenda’s breathe caught in her throat “… please, no!” she prayed aloud as she barreled through the kitchen knocking over chairs in her haste to get to the stairs. “Ginny? Honey, where are you? Ginny, answer me!” Taking the steps two at a time, Brenda tried to listen for sounds over the beating of her heart echoing in her eardrums. “Sweetie, its ok I’m home now. Say something Ginny.” She rushed down the hall pushing open doors looking for a sign, any sign of Ginny, a rumpled sheet, blood… her limp body.

“Mama?” A faint sob drifted down the corridor. Brenda spun on her heels and headed toward the master bedroom. She bolted in, hitting her hip on the corner of her dresser as she bounded into the master bath. There, wedged between the toilet and the wall Ginny sat, knees pulled up tightly to her chest. Damp hair was matted to the side of her face, mucus dripped from her nose over her lips and down onto her chest. “Oh Ginny, Sweetheart, what happened?” Brenda fell to her knees and scooted close to her daughter. She reached out and wiped away tears that fell in big droplets from swollen eyes to the bathroom floor. One by one, Brenda unfolded Ginny’s arms from her legs and pushed up her sleeves. Thank you God she silently prayed. “Sweetie, where’s the knife?”

Ginny drew in a deep breath, “I didn’t…  do it Mama. I wanted to…  but I didn’t. She’s not… worth it.” She exhaled each statement with deep sobs. Slowly, Ginny reached behind the toilet and pushed a butcher knife across the tile floor and out of the other side.

***

    This isn’t a true story, but it could be and it is loosely based on an actual event. Ginny has Bi-Polar with an Anxiety Disorder. She has a history of cutting and alcohol abuse. She’s not a bad girl, and she’s not crazy. She wasn’t abused or neglected.

Depression, Anxiety, Panic Disorders, Bipolar, PTSD

These are a few of the more than 200 classified forms of mental illnesses. According to statistics, Ginny is one of the 21.4% of youths in the United States aged 13-18 and will become one of the 4.2% of adults that suffer with mental health disorders and the social stigmas attached to them.

Ginny had confided in Lindsey that she had been depressed, something Lindsey understood in a broad sense;  her mother had been depressed after the birth of her little brother Jack. However, what Lindsey didn’t understand is that having Bipolar is a continual battle and just getting through a day is difficult for Ginny!  She tires easily from her medication and all the effort it takes for her to pay attention in class is draining. Imagine how overwhelming it is to have borage of endless thoughts running through your mind, constantly vying for attention. No wonder Ginny doesn’t participate in a lot of extracurricular activities; she wants to, but by the time school is over she’s exhausted!

My guess is that Lindsey didn’t realize that her words caused Ginny physical pain by triggering reactions in the Amygdala (uh-mig-duh-luh), the same region of the brain that is responsible for the ‘fight or flight’ response and our emotions. Ginny is hypersensitive and can often react to negative experiences as if they were actual threats.  The neural circuitry in someone who has Bipolar differs from those without Bipolar and perhaps, if Lindsey knew just how much damage her words did, she would have chosen them a bit more carefully before lashing out.

Statements like: I miss spending time with you; I don’t understand what’s going on, but I care, I’m here for you or I cannot imagine how hard this must be, what can I do to help?, would have gone a long way in helping Ginny, who already feels isolated and different from her peers, to cope.

Mental health issues don’t define Ginny, however, they do alter her perceptions and it may take as many as three positive statements to combat each negative one that she hears. She needs others to be patient and to be frustrated with the disease, not Ginny when she is late again; seems distracted or acts impulsively.

Friends, do you know someone suffering from a mental health issue? Take a step in the right direction, reach out to let them know that they are valuable; use positive and affirming words when speaking to them.  If you see the outward signs of inner pain and turmoil and think that they are in danger of hurting themselves; let them know your concerns, contact their parents, a counselor, or the authorities.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

1-800-273-8255

Available 24 Hours a Day

Or Online live chat

http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/