Marie Lindsey is a teacher. She was 23 when I interviewed her in Takoma Park, MD, on 6/24/13.
My story really started when I was a 12 year old and everything on my body was starting to develop. No one else was really developing, and it made me feel really uncomfortable ‘cause now, all of a sudden, I had things that weren’t there before. I also put on a lot of weight.
My mom told me, “You’re putting on a lot of weight, can’t fit into any of your clothes,” and put me on a diet. But dieting didn’t work.
In the eighth grade, one of my friends was like, “Well, I have this great idea.” You always have these great ideas when you’re in the eighth grade. She was like, “We’ll just drink water and milk, and we’ll just eat a little bit of bread, and that’s all we’ll do.”
That lasted for a month and my mom was like, “What are you doing? You’re losing so much weight. You look great.”
So, getting this positive reinforcement from my mom, I felt like I controlled this, I did this to myself and she [thought I looked] great. Lo and behold, that is not very conducive to being an athlete, which I was, so I actually passed out on the basketball court.
My dad [picked] me up and he was like, “You didn’t eat anything today.”
I was like, “No, I didn’t eat anything today.”
He was like, “Well, we can’t do this anymore,” so I started eating again and got healthy again and everything was fine, but I still felt this overwhelming need to—I don’t know, something didn’t feel right.
I felt like I needed to control something, and that was when I started to self-[injure]. It didn’t really help that I had started reading books like Go Ask Alice, and there was a book called Cut, and I started to read this book called Cut. It’s about a girl who's in a psych ward and she’s there because she was cutting herself. Even though, at the end of the story, she realizes that’s not what she needed, I thought that I needed it. Maybe it’d work out for me, so that was how I started to do that.
I always felt like it was stupid and everybody in middle school was like, “Yo, stop cutting yourself.”
I have an eighth grade yearbook that’s like, “Stay away from sharp objects,” and it made me laugh when I first read it.
I told my friend, “Oh, that’s so funny,” and didn’t ever think about it again. What I was actually doing was causing an addiction, and I quickly became very, very addicted to it, to the point where I would dream about it and I would actually start to scratch myself in my sleep. That was a really weird time because I would wake up and I would have all these crazy scratch marks on my arms and things like that, and I didn’t know where they had come from until I realized that I was actually trying to do this in my sleep.
My freshman year of high school, I came in and I was like, ‘I’m such a badass.’ I was in private school and I did not fit the private school criteria. Whatever that criteria is, I didn’t fit it. So I did everything the opposite of what a private school person should do. I wore all black. I painted my nails black. I dyed my hair purple. I did everything that I could to be the complete opposite of the situation and the environment that I was in.
I only made one really, really close friend. She had green hair and she’s still my best friend today. We started doing just about everything together. We met boys together. We did anything we could possibly do together. We were inseparable.
We had another friend who—now I call her my bad influence—probably taught me a lot of life lessons that I wouldn’t have learned otherwise. We were [all] going to the mall one afternoon, and the mall, from my school, was maybe a 25-minute walk. It wasn’t that bad. A group of juniors was driving by and they pulled over and asked if they could take us to the mall.
Of course, we’re lazy, we don’t want to walk the whole way, plus we’re wearing, our Catholic school uniforms and we look ridiculous, so we’re like, "Let’s get in the car and go." We all walked around the mall together and each girl got a guy kind of scenario.
The guy who was talking to me felt up on my back and was like, “You’re wearing a sports bra.”
I was like, “Is that a problem?”
He was like, “Who wears sports bra when they’re in high school?”
He made fun of me, so I felt really uncomfortable. I felt like, 'Okay, I’m not wearing something appropriate for you.' The whole time I was thinking in my head, ‘Okay, so now, not only am I wearing the sports bra, but I must not be attractive.’ It was causing all these things that have happened before in the past where I was like, ‘Oh, I’m overweight, so I’m not attractive. My mom says I have to lose weight to be attractive...’
At the end of the afternoon, we all went back to [one of their houses] and, again, each guy got a girl. One of the guys that had not been talking to me earlier—we were left in a room—and he seemed very interested in me. I was not interested in him. You have to remember I was wearing a sports bra, so this is not sexy. He asked if I wanted to go and see something upstairs.
I was like, ‘Whatever. To get out of here, that’s fine.’
I followed him and he opened a door on the side and pulled me into a laundry room. He threw me up on top of the washing machine, turned the lights off and said, “Nothing bad happens when the lights are off.” He proceeded to assault me and feel me up, and he made fun of the sports bra too.
When I walked out of the room, I immediately looked for my friend with the green hair. I found her, and I was not crying, not anything.
I was just like, “We need to leave,” and we ran out of the house.
As all of this was going on, there was another guy at my school who had been asking if I was interested in him for a really long time, and I was not interested in him. Unfortunately, he didn’t get the hint. One day when I was on my way to theatre rehearsal in school, he found me in a hallway. I lost my virginity that day, not willingly.
And this happened inside of my school. I felt afraid to go to school from then on, and I had three classes with the same student. It was complicated, to say the least.
For about a year, this secret just kind of ate into me. I didn’t want to tell anybody. I didn’t want to talk about it, and it also felt like a lie because these two huge events happened within a couple weeks of each other. It felt like maybe I was just seeking attention, and I didn’t have anywhere to turn. I didn’t have anybody to talk to because I felt really ashamed. I wasn’t attractive and I was wearing sports bras, and sports bras are bad.
I went out and I stole a whole bunch of stuff and I got into the habit of stealing. I stole all kinds of lingerie from all kinds of different places and got very klepto-y. I'd be like, ‘Oh, there’s a nice bra,’ and I would steal it, ‘cause my mother would never purchase those things for me.
One day, I was sitting down with my friend with the green hair... I confided in her and I told her what really happened. She was the only person that knew for a really long time, but I felt overwhelmingly paranoid, overwhelmingly depressed. I felt like I just really couldn’t trust anybody.
During my sophomore year of high school, this depression just kept growing. I felt like this one person wasn’t enough, that it was inside of me. It wasn’t anything that I could really get out with her, and I would try to talk it out with her, but talking can only do so much.
My cutting was really bad. At one point, my mother walked in on me cutting myself. She immediately closed the door and we never talked about it. She never tried to stop me or anything like that, and in that moment I felt more alone than I had ever felt ever in my life. One thing to another, and I was listening to My Chemical Romance on my Bose stereo, laying in bed thinking about all of these things that I was holding inside of me that I could never talk about because I was so ashamed. I decided that that was it for me. I decided that I just didn’t…there was nothing else that I could ever do to get over what had happened. I never thought that I could trust people again. I thought that everyone was gonna hurt me in some way. I even felt really neglected by my mom at that point. That was the night that I decided that that was it. I kept telling myself that I wasn’t dying, I was just gonna go to sleep...
I woke up in my own vomit... In that moment, I remember feeling really ashamed again. Who tries to kill themselves and fails? Before I think I ever registered what was really going on—because my body was trying to die—and before I could realize what I was doing, I was cutting myself. So I was bleeding and it was really awful, and my dad was knocking on my door.
I was thinking, 'This can’t be happening. I’m alive. I’m supposed to not be here and I’m a mess. I am literally a mess.'
He’s like, “You have to go to school, your carpool’s here.”
I put myself together and I was holding onto a bag in case I threw up in the car. As soon as I walked in the door, a friend saw me. I had a purple-green face and my eyes were completely sunken in.
She pulled me aside and she was like, “I don’t know what’s wrong with you, but something’s really wrong.” She realized in that moment—everything that had been leading up to it, text messages and letters, ‘cause you pass letters in school—that I had [attempted suicide]. She immediately took me straight to the nurse. Meanwhile, I’m was laying on the bed slowly dying on the inside because of all the emotions that I had.
I was throwing up in a basin and she said to the nurse, “I’m gonna put you in a hypothetical situation...”
They called my father, they called my school counselor, and they called the local hospital because I would have to go in to get my stomach pumped.
They were like, "Where can we take her where she can get treated immediately?"
My dad came, who is a paramedic. He was like, “I’m gonna take her right away.” He came and got me and we went straight to the hospital. I was admitted right away, and I didn’t even know what was happening. I was just so out of it. I slept the whole way to the hospital. I slept the whole way through the next seven days of my life being in a psych ward.
There was a social worker at the psych ward—I can’t remember what her name was—who gave me a journal and it was the only time anyone had ever suggested that I try to write out my feelings. So I started to write in this journal. I was only there for seven days and I filled one of those entire composition notebooks with all kinds of things.
The psychiatrist was looking through some of it and was like, “These are really interesting thoughts. What do you have to say about them?”
I was like, “I don’t know. They’re my thoughts. It’s all right here.”
Thus began seven years of psychiatrists and therapists saying, “Well, what do you want?” and “What do you think?”
I knew what I felt and I knew what I thought, but I didn’t want to think that way anymore. I didn’t want to feel that way anymore. It was a really difficult time with doctors that I felt weren’t really receiving my situation very well. I felt like I was still lying, that doctors looked at my stories and felt like it wasn’t real. I felt like I was fabricating what was really happening. I was put on lithium for a little while, and of course that made me fat, so it was up and down a lot for me right after I got out of the hospital.
People started to tell me flat out, “We don’t believe that you were raped. We don’t believe you. Your suicide attempt wasn’t real. We don’t believe that happened either.”
The only person that believed me was [my friend with the green hair], and she was the only person who was there the whole time, for all of it.
I was dating a guy who was also, consequently, all kinds of messed up, himself. He was a big drug addict and he medicated himself with different kinds of pills and drinking and things like that, and the relationship was incredibly unhealthy for us. We dated for three years.
Toward the end of it, I went and sought therapy. I had taken myself off of lithium because I felt like it wasn’t doing what I needed. I felt like the doctors were just medicating me and not helping me solve the problem. So I went and met a therapist right after my boyfriend and I were right on the verge of breaking up. I felt like, 'Okay, well if I put myself in therapy, maybe he will too.'
Little did I know that, for two years, this person would be the answer to all of my problems.
She didn’t just ask me, “Well, what do you want?” or “What do you think?” She dug a little bit deeper and really helped me deal with a lot of the deep-seated problems that I feel like I had, but couldn’t talk about. I didn’t know how to talk about them...
I started dating my boyfriend. I had been single for about a year and a half. I just wanted to get my head straight. I wanted to see who I really was, and when I met him, I felt like I was ready for an actual relationship. I had accepted myself, so I felt like I could finally accept somebody else in my life. I didn’t have to take care of a drug addict boyfriend anymore and I didn’t have to take care of me. I just could be me. I could live my own life, and he accepted everything about my story. He accepted everything about me and really kept me going with therapy until I felt like I didn’t need it anymore.
A little bit over a year ago, I took part in an NIH study that studies mental health. This has been going since I was ten months old, so it’s followed me this whole time. They asked me all the same questions that they have been asking me ever since I can really remember. Once you’re an adolescent, you get asked certain questions, and they asked me all the same questions again.
They said, “You are probably the happiest person we’ve ever met. Everything that you [answered negatively before, you're now answering positively], and it’s genuine. You’re not trying to just tell us what we want to hear. You’re happy. You’re actually happy.”
And for the first time, I felt like I was better.
A note from Marie, 12/14: Today, my mother is my best friend. She has supported me through every single endeavor, even the ones she knew were mistakes. Our friendship, our relationship, is one of the single most important things in my life. Having her to lean on in the years after this truly made me become the strong, brave, happy woman I am today. I owe so much to my mother. Especially the ability to love someone despite their innumerable flaws.
If you’re feeling suicidal, please talk to somebody. You can reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. If you don't like the phone, check out Lifeline Crisis Chat or Crisis Text Line. If you're not in the U.S., click here for a link to crisis centers around the world.
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