Nicolle Guerra is a 27 year old musician. She has struggled with self-injury and alcoholism. Originally from Miami, she lives in New York City.
What really, really started to derail me was just the school that I was in. It was a Catholic private school down in Miami, Conchita Espinosa Academy—Cuban Catholic private school, which is fine ‘cause I’m Cuban. But, at the time, I had my dad’s last name, which is Anderson, and of course that set me apart from all the [kids with Garcia and Rodriguez for last names].
My decision to change my name didn’t come until a few years ago and I talked with my entire family—my dad, everybody—but I had just gotten to the point where my Cuban heritage is such an identity and became such an identity, especially once I moved to New York, that I just didn’t... every time I’d look at my last name, I’d go, “It’s not me.”
Anyway, back then, it was Nicolle Christina Anderson. You don’t get much whiter than that in Miami. And, you know, I had braces, the whole thing, and just normal growing pains like everybody else. But in a class of 80 kids, that hierarchy comes out and I definitely landed at the bottom for whatever reason.
The most confusing thing for me growing up was that I did come from a loving home. [My boyfriend] has called me a brat many, many, many times because I come from such a good home, because there’s no reason on paper as to why I should have gone through all the trouble that I did because I’ve always had family support. When you go to school and everyone calls you one thing and then you go home and they say, "Well, just brush it off, we love you," or whatever, it’s like, 'Your family’s biased, dude. Their opinion doesn’t... they’re not the ones that matter.' Even though other people would kill for family acceptance. So, in addition to feeling the way I was feeling, I knew that. I knew that I had family love that other people didn’t have, so there was this layer of guilt that has just been growing since that age of 'I know I have a great life, why can’t I appreciate it like other people would? Why am I just sad all the time?'
I get that now, but I had no fucking idea what the hell was going on. I just knew I would go to a place every day that I hated and get called everything, everything, everything, and by the time I hit eighth grade, all the other girls had long pretty hair and they’d get highlights. I chopped off all my hair and, of course, got ridiculed even more for that, but I didn’t care. And that was my source of rebellion. So then finally, my mom wanted to send me to some all girls private school. I said, "Over my dead body. You’re not doing that."
So I got into a public school. I got into their AP program or something, but I think I got kicked out of that program within my first semester. But before then, probably around eighth grade... I had already started cutting. I had already started fantasizing, just a ton, about death. I don’t know if I’ve ever harmed myself with the full intention of killing myself. I can definitely say that all of my [attempts] have been cries for help, for sure, even when they’ve landed me in the hospital. You know, I was definitely always too scared. I did want to be saved. I just didn’t go about asking for it in the right way.
The first [attempt] that really, really, really comes to mind is when I first started cutting, man, at 11—10, 11 years old—and not having the courage to go fully... to really, really, really need severe stitches or anything like that, but really wanting to die. And all throughout freshman year when I was 13, I mean, just a suicide note every single day. My friends and I had a routine of checking each other’s wrists, taking away pills, but there were fresh marks every day. That’s definitely why these [scars] are here.
I remember my friends got really worried at one point and dragged me to a guidance counselor’s office. I made the fatal mistake of mentioning the cutting and showing her some recent scars. Of course, by law, she had to call my mom at that point. So, my mom got there and found out and the whole thing, and we went to a crisis center and all this shit, and when we got there, my mom and I were both like, "Dude, this isn’t us, this isn’t me, this isn’t..."
That that was such a level of mental unhealthiness, especially at the particular crisis center that we ended up at that it freaked us both out. I remember we filled out some of the paperwork and then turned around and went home. I just found a private therapist and kind of went from there, so I don’t know if that was the best thing to do, looking back on it, but whatever. Shortly after that, I remember, my friends and I kind of made this collective decision to throw away all our knives. I used to always carry around a pocketknife and my friend took that away from me and threw it away. Even after that, Jesus, there was a period there when I was trying to let it go that if I found a thumbtack, that was enough, just to scratch. But definitely by the end of my freshman year, it was done. It was done. Yeah. I don’t remember at what point, but yeah.
That’s the [attempt] that comes to mind immediately and I feel very embarrassed sometimes saying that because it is such a teenage angst sort of thing in the sense of—well, [we've] been desensitized to that because then shortly after that is when it almost became fashionable to cut yourself. Do you remember that? It became fashionable to be the struggling teenager... It became fashionable to be bisexual, and it took away from those of us that really were, and [who] were really trying to find ourselves and not just doing a fad. For a while I was really confused about that, and for a while it did make me feel like a piece of shit because then I was kind of like, 'Oh, well, did I just jump a fad or did I…but wait, this is still what I really feel, but then they’re telling me it’s not real, but then they’re…' It was just confusing. A lot of it was really, really confusing.
But yeah, in my heart of hearts, absolutely. When I was like 11 or 12, that was the first time when I was just really, really like, 'I don’t…there’s nothing left to live for. I hate going home, I hate going to school, I hate everything around. More than that, I feel bad.'
Even when I got into high school and loved my school and had friends, I would be sitting there in class and in this well of darkness in my head, but then at the same time—I shit you not—thinking about the starving kids in Africa, or starving kids in anywhere, or people in worse situations than I was and comparing myself. And so, in the same time that I’m feeling all this, there’s another part of my brain beating myself down at the same time, reinforcing how much of a piece of shit I am because look at these people that are overcoming these obstacles and, 'Oh, poor you, you go home and you sleep in a warm bed, but you just hate yourself.' And then, my therapists, I had a few and definitely got put on Prozac at first, and after a while, they would just go, “Dude, you’re gonna be a really good actress one day. You’re just dramatic. You’re just dramatic.”
...It’s fascinating to me that people live their lives without ever feeling that. [My boyfriend] has never felt that low. I’m amazed by that, ‘cause I’ve been surrounded my whole life with people [who] have felt that low. Then again, I surrounded myself with those people. I never tried out for student council or any of that bullshit with people that were gonna go be president or something. It just never occurred to me, ‘cause I didn’t think I was worth it. So, I went through a lot of guilt with realizing how much time I’ve quote-unquote “wasted,” or how much of my life I’ve wasted in this way. At the same time, I know I can’t see it that way, ‘cause I have to put it to use for something. I have to use it. If not, you really do want to die.
Des: Do you still consider suicide an option?
Nicolle: No. I mean, no. Not even as low as I feel some days. Do I fantasize? Sometimes about…no, not even, man. I never have the urge to cut. I never have the urge to do the specific things. What I will sometimes get the urge for is just kind of wanting to be done with this reality, but not considering death as an option because, especially with all the spiritual work that I’ve done, I understand what suicide does to your soul. I believe in that. I believe, and I’ve had experiences already where my friends have killed themselves, and it’s not something that I could do anymore. My consciousness is just too awake for that at this point, but I understand it very, very well still.
I still have my moments where I just get really low, but I finally have tools... I never let it stay there. I never let it stay at just sedating myself anymore... I always know that the end goal, which is kind of where I’m reaching at this point, is obviously that if I’m ever going to really, really live my life the way that I want to, I need to be in reality. I need to be on this planet, and I need to be here without anything else coursing through my system that’s going to dim anything else that’s going on. So, no, no I don’t.
I don’t, ‘cause even in those moments, I just kind of think, 'Okay, you know, this’ll pass.' It definitely helps to remember a lot of the shit that I’ve lived through, because there were a lot of those moments where I didn’t know if I was gonna wake up the next day. And I’m happy I have, and I’m happy that I’m still here.
If you’re feeling suicidal, please talk to somebody. You can reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. If you're not in the U.S., click here for a link to crisis centers around the world.