Kim Schwartzis a suicide attempt survivor.
"I survived a suicide attempt."
Kim Schwartz was 21 years old when I interviewed her in Philadelphia, PA, on August 18, 2016.
CONTENT WARNING: discussion of suicide methods
I was born in Florida. I moved here when I was three. My parents were together until about when I turned twelve. It was a pretty normal childhood on the outside, but I was always the sensitive type. I have a twin sister who has always been the more outgoing one. I was always the more introverted, shy person. Then I saw how she behaved. I thought, “I should be like that. I should be outgoing like her.” There was a lot of faking being extroverted which, I think, took a toll on my true identity in a way. I’ve done a lot of soul searching when it comes to twin stuff.
I also picked up on my parents’ unhappiness from a young age. I honestly can’t remember a time where I ever thought they were in love, even before I knew what love was. Now, I know they fell out of love before we were born. I think that also shaped how I think about love and how I reacted to love and attention. I never saw it. They gave us love, of course. My dad moreso than my mom. My mom has a weird way of showing things. That definitely shaped my perception of love, affection, and what a true relationship should be like.
When I was eleven or twelve—it was New Year’s Eve, and we were driving back to my grandparents’ house. My sister had just gotten one of those American Girl teen books that describes things for preteens. She was on the divorce chapter. She said, “I don’t know what I would do if my parents divorced.” They decided that’d be the perfect time to bring it up. She was crying. I was in my head. I thought, “Thank god, finally they’re divorcing. Finally, I don’t have to deal with this weird tension and quiet in the house.”
I was relieved. My sister was a mess. I was hugging her. I said, “Yeah, I knew that was going to happen. I was waiting for the time when they thought it was right to tell us.” New Year’s Eve probably isn’t the best time, in the scheme of things.
My dad and mom lived together for a while after that, for a year or two. My dad just moved out of the room. One of them moved out of the room and slept in the guest room. It was a weird dynamic. I don’t remember it too much. I just remember it being really weird. Then, probably around freshman year of high school, when I was fourteen, my mom finally got her own place. That was weird, going back and forth. I lost a lot of stuff packing things, going for a week, and then packing things again. I had a lot of stuff, so it was okay.
Middle school’s when everything started for me. My sister and I were pretty popular. We had a lot of friends. All the guys liked us. All the sixth grade guys liked us when we were in eighth grade. We were the hot twins. It was very weird. There were also lots of salty seventh grade girls making up rumors about us because of that. Middle school is very weird. It was my high point in popularity status, but also where all the bullying happened, in a way.
I dated a lot of guys in middle school. I had this boyfriend who was in seventh grade, so he was a bit younger than I was. We dated for six months. He was super verbally and emotionally abusive, because he got that from his parents. Going to his parents’ house, they were also like that with him. They just passed it on to him. He was also just a piece of shit, in general. He still is, I’m pretty sure. We dated for six months. I cheated on him at one point by kissing some guy at a party. This is all air quotes.
Des: I love those air quotes.
Kim: Because it’s not really a party.
Des: You’re thirteen.
Kim: Yeah, he was twelve. I was thirteen. Actually, the night I cheated on him was the first night I got drunk, too. Drunk for a thirteen year old, so not actually drunk. It was half a forty. The guy who I cheated on him with was one of my best friends at the time’s older brother, who was my age, because she was younger than I was.
He died five years ago. He was the first person I really knew who died. He was my first time getting drunk, first time I ever smoked weed, and everything. Then, two years after the last time I saw him, he died. It was weird. It was in a way that I expected would happen. It was a drunk driving kind of thing. He got in a car, didn’t have a license, was super drunk, and died.
It was rough. I felt guilty feeling so bad about it because my best friend at the time was on-and-off dating him. I felt like, “I haven’t seen this kid in a year or two. Why am I so upset?” I feel that way a lot with death, for some reason. I always feel guilty about how I’m reacting to it, in a way.
Des: I think that’s normal.
Kim: Yeah, I think so, too. My step-sister’s old best friend, who used to go on vacation with us a lot, passed away two days ago. It’s on my mind because it’s also the two year anniversary of another one of my good friends dying. They both died from heroin. I’ve lost a lot of people to heroin in different ways—not all deaths.
Going back to middle school, I dated this guy—a jock guy. I was going through my emo phase. Pretty much: depressed, anxiety, cutting myself, and all that stuff. I got diagnosed with trichotillomania—the nerve, hair-pulling thing—when I was twelve. I had already started therapy. He used that against me.
A lot of times, he would call me an “emo bitch.” He was like, “Why don’t you stop being an emo bitch?” One day, he forced me to buy crappy clothes. He forced me to buy a pair of jeans that were two sizes too small for me and way too crappy. Things I would never wear. He said, “You pretty much have to buy that. Stop being an emo bitch. Buy these. They’ll look nice on you. You’ll fit into them eventually,” and all this stuff.
I’m like, “Okay.” That was towards the end of it, we’ll say.
One day he wanted me to come see him. My mom wouldn’t let me. At this point, my mom and dad had already separated. My mom was still living there. Whenever she was there, my dad wouldn’t be there. My mom was the only one there when this happened—my mom and sister. Our cleaning ladies were upstairs. It was a weird time for it to happen. I had a full-blown anxiety attack because she wouldn’t let me see him. He was making me feel awful for not going to see him, even though it was obvious that it wasn’t because I didn’t want to see him. He guilted me a lot. He used me cheating on him. He used my cutting and numbness against me a lot. He would make me feel like it was my fault that we weren’t seeing each other a lot.
He forced me to do a lot of more intimate stuff, too. We never had sex, but we did other stuff. I was already ahead of a lot of people, in terms of sexuality. I didn’t always want to do it with him, but he always did. He made me feel guilty for all this stuff, and like I owed him a lot.
This day, I broke under the pressure of him wanting me to be there, him blaming me for not being able to come, and making me feel guilty. We had these shitty kid darts. I took it to my mom. I said, “I’m going to kill myself if you don’t let me see him.” I lost it. I started hitting her, punching her, and hitting my sister. They had to hold me back and pretty much restrain me. They had to call the cops.
I was taken to the hospital. They admitted me into a behavioral health unit at our local hospital. That was the first time I was put on medication, probably. I was in and out of the hospital a couple times for the rest of my eighth grade year. I was also in and out of this outpatient program they had.
The second time I went to the outpatient program, there was this older guy there who would hit on me and was perverted towards me. I was interested in him, in a curious way, like, “This older guy’s interested in me. He’s really cute, but I have a boyfriend. I also don’t want to do anything with this guy anyway, because I don’t know him and we’re both trouble. We’re not supposed to be doing this kind of thing in an outpatient program for therapy.”
One day, we were in the room together. He kept asking me these slightly sexual things. I would kind of answer and then try to dismiss him. He got hard. He was like, “You have to do something about this.”
I’m like, “No, I don’t.” He kept touching me under the table.
Finally, he said, “You’re going to come to the back and suck my dick.”
I was like, “Hahaha. I’m not going to do that.” But way deep down, I thought, “What if I did do that? Would he then leave me alone? Would I like it?” I was questioning it a lot. He just kept getting on my nerves. I said, “Fine. I’ll meet you in the bathroom,” but I wasn’t really planning on doing anything. It was more like, “I’m going to go to the bathroom. He’s going to meet me there. I’m going to tell him to knock it off and, hopefully, that’ll be it.”
I go in there. He right away starts at it with me. I’m like, “Fuck. I didn’t want this to happen,” but there’s all these people outside, so I can’t really… I didn’t feel comfortable shouting out, “Hey, help me. I’m in here and don’t want to be doing this, but he’s convinced me to do it.” At the end, I said, “Don’t fucking tell anyone about this.”
Basically, he was like, “I won’t.”
I said, “Alright.”
A couple of days later, there was this new chick who showed up. She’s like, “Yo, Kim. You suck dick.”
I’m like, “The fuck you said?” I knew right away that’s what it was about.
The day she said that to me, he wasn’t there. Right away, I said, “What the fuck did you just say?” and threw a chair against the wall. I almost went out and then I stopped myself.
This other guy—who was actually my friend when he was young—didn’t know any better, and thought it was a joke. He was like, “Yo, Kim. You suck dick.”
I’m like, “Dude, I will fucking eat you up. Don’t say that.” I’m freaking out.
The people, nurses, and everything, they come out. They are like, “What’s going on? Come over here and tell us what’s going on.” I told them everything.
We had this big meeting, talking about consent and all this stuff, basically telling him not to make fun of me about it. It was a big deal. It wasn’t a laughing matter. This chick was still saying, “If she didn’t want to be called a slut, she shouldn’t have gotten on her knees,” and all this stuff. I was crying. I was a mess. He ended up getting kicked out for it, obviously. Then he came back one day when I was in the room. He started knocking on the window and making faces. I almost had a heart attack. I’m like, “I don’t want to see this guy’s face ever again.”
Then, I was actually so desperate to break up with [my boyfriend] that I used that. I said, “I cheated on you with this guy.”
He was like, “Then you want him.”
I was like, “No. Still, I cheated on you,” trying to get him to break up with me. He wouldn’t. Finally, I had to suck it up and break up with him. He was such an asshole about it. That was my first real relationship. It was super not healthy.
Somewhere after eighth grade, I was doing a little better emotionally. Then I started dating this guy who was my age and went to a different school. He was a fucked up kid. He told some of my friends that he killed people. He had a lot of things wrong with him. Even if he was just lying about it…
Every day we hung out, he told me, “We’re going to have sex. We’re going to have sex. Let’s have sex. Let’s have sex.”
I was like, “I don’t want to have sex. I’m not ready.” Three weeks later, I’m like, “What’s the big deal? It’s just sex.” We had sex. It was so boring. I didn’t feel anything from it. I’m like, “I don’t want this. This is boring.” I didn’t feel disgusted. I was just bored. There was nothing there.
A week later, we hung out. We got in this huge fight in public. He basically broke up with me for no reason. Then I found out that he made it a thing to date virgins, take their virginity away, and then leave them. Obviously, I was pretty upset about that.
High school started. I’m like, “Alright. Everything’s going to be fine. Everything’s going to be good. Fuck all these people from before. I’m going to be a better person.”
A lot of times throughout high school, I would get upset for no real reason. It was obviously something, but I wasn’t aware enough to realize when I would get depressed. I would then get hospitalized for a week or two. I definitely used hospitalization to run away from my problems, as an escape.
At one point, I got hospitalized and got out. I started talking to this guy who was two years older than me. The day after Christmas Eve, he invited me out with his whole family to a dinner thing. We’d been talking for two months. We organically had sex. This is what a first time is supposed to be. He really made me feel like I was cared about. I was super nervous about everything. He was really nice about it.
We dated for six months. He wasn’t perfect. He smoked weed all the time. I smoked weed too, so I didn’t really care too much, but he was obsessed with it. It was his life. He would ditch me for weed all the time. I didn’t realize that I was better than that. I loved him. That was the first guy I said “I love you” to, and he said it back. It was a really, really loving relationship, as much as it could be with everything—how young we were, and how obsessed he was with weed. He was kind of immature.
He broke up with me, out of the blue, the day before that year of high school ended. I was so lost. I had no idea why he did it. A year later, we were still friends. We still hung out and stuff. A year later, he and his next girlfriend broke up. I asked him for a ride somewhere. We met up and had sex. It was like, “Okay, are we getting back together?”
This continued for four years, until the end of high school. It was three or three-and-a-half years of him leading me on, using me for sex, but he cared about me at the same time. He would ditch his friends to hang out with me. He liked hanging out with me. I could tell.
Before that, the summer after we broke up, I lost it and had sex with whoever. I became fully promiscuous. I became, by definition, I guess, a slut. I’ve learned to own that word. I’ve heard people call me a slut and whore. It’s like, “Wow, that sucks.” I was like, “Whatever, I was promiscuous, but…” I don’t know. I’ve got to own the word instead of letting it hurt me.
I had sex with whoever. That was throughout all of high school. I was very promiscuous. I was in-between classes having sex. I would search for the same thing with the other guys because I knew he was never actually going to try to date me again. I was like, “Why not just have sex with everybody, then? Nobody’s going to date me if this guy’s not going to date me.” I had a lot of stupid, stupid sex.
Des: Stupid sex?
Kim: Yeah, very stupid sex. A lot of it, too. With a lot of stupid boys.
Des: You need to put that on Urban Dictionary: “stupid sex.”
Kim: Yeah, one word. I had a lot of mental health issues by the time I came out of that—a lot of depression, a lot of self-esteem issues.
My sister was the good one. She wasn’t doing that. She didn’t have sex until her first real relationship, with this guy she dated for a year and a half. I was also smoking weed and drinking way before her, way before most of my friends. I always hung out with older people. I stopped smoking weed when I was fifteen or sixteen because I got arrested. Weed did not affect me well. It would make me hallucinate. I got really paranoid. It had a lot of really, really bad side effects. After I got arrested, I smoked weed for another six months.
I actually almost died that day, too. I don’t know why. It somehow reacted with my medication in a way that wasn’t good. I was having a full-on panic attack. I was seeing things. I thought I was in Paris. I thought I was getting arrested for being a prostitute. I don’t even know what I was thinking. I was shaking and really, really dehydrated. I was seeing red everywhere. I thought I was bleeding everywhere. It was just a really scary experience.
I ended up having to go to the ER. They had all these things hooked up to me—IVs and all this stuff. I hardly remember it, but my dad was there all night. He said that it was really bad and that I could have died because my heart rate was almost at two hundred beats per minute. They had to watch me the whole night.
Eventually, I quit smoking weed because it kept getting worse and worse from there. I would always hallucinate. Whenever I smoked weed, I would always get super paranoid. I was like, “No, it’s not worth it.” I wasn’t really drinking at this point, so it was mostly just weed.
Going back to my boyfriend… my senior year, we were still kind of seeing each other. He wasn’t in high school anymore because he was two years older than me. We were seeing each other for a little while.
Let me go back.
This was when I was in eleventh grade and he had graduated already. He was hanging out with this girl who was supposed to be my friend. It turned out that they were flirting. She really liked him. She fucked me over with it. She was an awful person. We first started out hating each other because she was starting to date this guy who I liked. I was hanging out with him. She found out that we were flirting, and she told him never to talk to me again. He blocked me. They were awful to me while they were dating. It was mostly her fault.
We eventually became friends because she became friends with some of my friends. They used to hang out with my boyfriend all the time. She ended up telling me that it was actually her who was flirting with him all the time. They would be like, “Yeah, ‘this girl’ is flirting with him. ‘This girl’ and him are getting together,” and all this stuff. It turned out it was her.
I was really upset. We got in a huge fight, ended up making up, and she was like, “You know what? I’m so sorry. I was pregnant when I was dating that guy and that’s why I was going crazy. I had a miscarriage. It was a really hard time for me.”
I was like, “Okay, I forgive you.”
She was like, “Your ex actually told me why he broke up with you.”
I’m like, “Shit, two years later, I’m finally going to find out why he broke up with me.”
She told me it was because his friend told him that I cheated on him, which I kind of did. It was two days before we started officially dating. I’d made out with a girl because I was exploring my sexuality. That was the only time I ever explored my sexuality. It was a weird situation where I was like, “I’m seeing this guy. I really like this guy, but this girl really likes me. I’ve never explored it before. It doesn’t really count as cheating because I’m not really dating him.” I still felt bad about it.
I never really told anyone about it, either. Then, I guess I must have told one of my friends and it got out there. This guy found out. All he knew was that I cheated on him, didn’t know any of the details that it was before our actual relationship. He wouldn’t bring it up to me because he decided it’d be better to break up with me and not ask me about it.
But I was already so upset that I immediately started blaming myself for it. I’m calling him and leaving him a message. I’m like, “I know why you broke up with me. I know it’s my fault now. I’m going to fucking kill myself.”
He started trying to call me back. I wouldn’t answer because I was cutting myself. I ripped the shit out of my wrists that day. I was freaking out.
I was at my mom’s apartment. He showed up at my door at two in the morning, pounding on the door. He was like, “You better let me in or I’m calling the cops,” and all the stuff.
I’m like, “Shit, you’re going to wake my mom up.”
I went downstairs, answered the door, and he literally held me and cleaned up my wrists. He was like, “I’m so sorry. I don’t want you to feel like this.” That messed my mind up even more. It’s like, “Okay, he does care about me.” He was like, “I hate seeing you like this. We have to stop seeing each other because I can’t be with you, but I don’t want to keep doing this and hurting you more.” We took a long drive and spent the rest of the night just talking and him comforting me. We tried to break it off from there.
Of course, a couple months later, we started seeing each other again. Then, senior year comes around. I started dating this other guy. My ex and I stopped talking so much because he started dating this girl. He dated this girl for a while. I thought it was the end of it. I was seeing this other guy who I really liked, but we ended up breaking up.
I started drinking a lot that year. I don’t know what started it. I was never really a drinker before. I just started drinking all the time. I would skip school because I was at my mom’s house near the high school.
She was a really, really lax parent. She was not very good at paying attention to what was going on. She was really good at screaming about it, telling me that I shouldn’t be doing this or that, and punishing me when she found out about it. She was really bad at knowing it was happening. I wouldn’t tell her anything because she would just scream. She wasn’t understanding at all. My dad, on the other hand, was a very understanding parent. He might have been a little too relaxed and let me get away with too much stuff, but at least he listened and understood. I never told her anything. She never knew that I was skipping school all the time and drinking all night, pretending I was going to school and sleeping the rest of the day, then going out that night again. That led to me being more and more depressed.
I hooked up with this guy who I knew had a girlfriend. I didn’t think about it that night because I was so drunk. Me and him had a thing a year before, so I still had those feelings for him. They were locked away. It turns out this girl he was dating was my ex’s ex, the girlfriend he dated after we broke up. It was a mixture of people who knew each other. It’s weird. It’s not even a small town. Everyone knew each other and got into it with each other. They were dating. This girl didn’t even like me. She already didn’t like me because I was the girl who my ex dated before her, then he broke up with her and started kind of seeing me again. There was a party. He showed up. We ended up sleeping together. The next day at school, I told one of my friends who I thought would keep it quiet. It turns out she was friends with this girl.
Everyone found out about it. Everyone in that group would give me the dirtiest looks and call me a slut all the time in the middle of the hallway. [They were] such assholes to me. I was friends with a lot of them, so they just stopped being friends with me. Everyone dropped me and called me a whore, called me a slut. They didn’t care that he was the one who initiated it. They didn’t care that he was the one who had a girlfriend and he was the one who was cheating. Everyone is still, to this day, friends with him.
I got beat up and jumped for this, two years later, by this girl’s best friend at a concert. I’m moshing at a concert. This girl comes up behind me and slugs me in the face. I’m on the ground. She’s beating me up. It was because of this thing that happened two years before. I got punted down, beaten up for this shit.
At that point, I was over it. I was like, “This was so long ago. I don’t care about these people.” If you’re going to be that immature, who cares? Then, this happens. I’m like, “Wow. It’s so long after high school and people are still holding on to this stuff.”
Anyway, that started a whole downward spiral. One night, I couldn’t go home because I was really drunk. I didn’t want to go home and deal with my mom. I’d gotten in a fight with her earlier. She was threatening to call the cops on me. So I’m like, “I’m just going to leave and not come home tonight.” I had nowhere to go. The person I was supposed to stay over with stopped talking to me. I was like, “I don’t know what to do now.”
I ended up calling all these people. I called my ex because I knew he lived nearby. He answered. He’s like, “What’s going on?”
I’m like, “I just don’t have anywhere to stay.”
He’s like, “I’m picking you up.”
I’m like, “Okay, whatever.” We go to his house.
He’s like, “Do you want to sleep in the basement? Do you want to sleep in my bed?”
I’m like, “I’ll just sleep in your bed. I don’t want to sleep in the basement.”
He was like, “Alright.”
I figured nothing would happen because I knew he was still dating this girl. Right away, he started looking. It evolved back into how we were before. We had sex. I was like, “Shit, maybe he’s not dating this girl anymore.” I hadn’t checked up on his Facebook. I didn’t know everything about his life. I’m like, “Alright, I’m just going to hope that he’s not a piece of shit and not cheating on his girlfriend of a year and a half with me.”
The next day, I checked his Facebook. They’re still dating. I text him. He ends up blocking me on Facebook. I lost it. I messaged her. I told her what happened. She’s like, “Okay, I’m going to talk to him about it. I feel sick. I can’t believe this. He always talked about you. I always thought he wasn’t over you.” I’m like, “Well, that fucks my head up even more, doesn’t it?”
They end up blocking me. The next day, they’re both blocked from my life. They totally wouldn’t ever talk to me about it. I’m like, “Alright, whatever. It’s just another case of someone using me and then going back to their own lives.”
That’s right around the time I attempted suicide. I got really, really bad. I would drink even more, skip even more school. I’d be going to school maybe once every two weeks. I got hospitalized because I was not doing well and was threatening to kill myself. I got out. I felt way better.
Two days later, I got home from the outpatient program. I was sitting in my room. This overwhelming numbness overtook me. It was a voice that wasn’t even a voice. It said, “Go to the bathroom, grab the razor, and kill yourself.” For fifteen minutes, I’m wrestling with the shower razor. I get it out. I didn’t even notice my hands were bleeding. I go into my room and [use it]. Right when I start bleeding everywhere, a light switch switched back in my brain. I’m like, “I don’t want to die. What am I doing? I’m losing blood everywhere.”
I start screaming for my dad. My dad comes and finds me. He calls the ambulance and I go in the ambulance. I spent two weeks in this awful, awful hospital, the worst adolescent behavioral unit you will ever go to. Honestly, it was so bad. The first night I was there, an autistic eighteen year old beat me up. She was my roommate, too. It was crazy. They diagnosed me with so many things and switched up my medications so much. They told me I was BPD. I don’t even really know what that means.
Kim: Yeah, borderline. I know it’s personality something. They diagnosed me with that and bipolar type I. At that point, I was only diagnosed with depression and anxiety. I’m like, “Bipolar? BPD? What?” That freaked me out. They changed up all my medication. Now I know they’re diagnosis happy. They’ll diagnose anyone with anything. They’re not well-trained and don’t give a shit, either.
I came out, honestly, worse than I was when I got in. So many times I’ve wanted to kill myself since then, but the only thing that’s kept me from it is the look on my dad’s face when he found me there. I won’t ever let him look like that again, basically. My dad is honestly my favorite person in the world. I love him more than anyone. He’s had a lot of issues in his life. I’m not going to do that to him again. No matter how much I want to die, I’m not going to do that to him again. That really carries me through it. Then, I get through it. I’m like, “I don’t even want to die, anyway.” That’s really been my saving grace.
So much more happened. I dealt with a lot of sexual abuse—not abuse. More so me abusing myself with the sexual-ness.
After my suicide attempt, I got raped. A whole bunch of shit has happened. Actually, when I look back at it, my whole definition of rape has kind of changed. I used to say, “I don’t want to call this person a rapist because I kind of did let it happen, even though I didn’t want it to happen.” But I’ve realized, in a way, that in order for it to be rape, there doesn’t have to be a rapist, per se. It’s just a lack of consent.
This guy could have thought that I wanted to have sex with him because, honestly, the education in schools and everywhere is so lacking when it comes to true consent. If he was paying attention a little more, he probably would have realized I didn’t actually want to do it. Technically, if you don’t say yes, it’s not consent. I might not have been saying no or yes. I might not have been saying either, but I wasn’t responsive. I really wasn’t in it. I really do think that I’ve been raped more than once, but it doesn’t make me feel as bad now that I can admit that it was rape and not hate the person who did it.
Des: It’s a weird place to be. I’ve been there too. They teach you, “You have to say no.”
Kim: Right, but really you have to say yes in order for this guy to do what he’s doing.
Des: They don’t talk about that.
Kim: Exactly. For two years, I completely pushed what happened with this older guy back in my head because I’m like, “I don’t want to talk about it. I don’t want to blame this guy for all he did because I shouldn’t have gotten drunk and let myself be alone with this thirty year old guy.”
Two or three years later, it finally all came back to me. That’s actually when I was diagnosed with PTSD. I started having to take Valium because I was having the worst panic attacks. I would basically punch myself and scratch myself until I bled. I’d throw myself into walls. I was at college at this point. My roommate was like, “You need to tell someone what happened.”
I did and nothing happened. It’s been two years. He’s denying it. That’s all we could do, ask him about it. There were no real witnesses, so nothing happened.
That’s actually the same month I got raped and the same month my dad got cancer. It was an overload of shit. I dropped out of college. It’s been like, “What do I do with my life now?” I’m not ready to go back to college.
Des: When was that? When did you drop out?
Kim: I dropped out two or three months after I started in 2013, when I was eighteen. All I’m dealing with now isn’t so much the depression, just the anxiety and PTSD. My anxiety has gotten a little worse recently, I think. I’ve been medication-free for about a year and a half. The medication cut down on the anxiety. It didn’t help with the depression, I don’t think, or even the mood swings. It made my mood swings worse, honestly.
But the anxiety was really held back. That’s the only thing they treated me for. The rest of the medication made me even worse than I was. Because, besides the anxiety, I feel one hundred percent better now. It’s weird.
Des: Medication is always more an art form than a science.
Kim: I’m terrified to be on medication ever again. There have been so many times when I was overmedicated, or where they took me off this super strong medication and put me on something else I had never been on in the span of two days. I hallucinated the worst. It was the worst hallucination I’ve ever had. I thought I was in hell. I was seeing demons. I wasn’t on any illegal drugs. It was all legal drugs.
I can’t. I feel like some sort of anti-anxiety drug might be beneficial. I’m just scared to be back on medication.
Des: They love to do antidepressants, like SSRIs, for anxiety, or with a benzo, which are really addictive. I’m on a benzo now. I take half my daily dose because I come from a family of addicts… I don’t want to follow the pattern. It doesn’t take [the anxiety] away. It just brings the hum down.
Kim: I feel like, when I get in my panic mode, I know I should be on what I was on before. I was on Ativan as needed. It wasn’t something I had to take every day. It was when I needed it. I know I should probably do that again. Even that little tiny thing that I know will help, I’m so scared of it.
Des: Why are you scared of the thing you know works?
Kim: I’m just scared that I might spread thin, like, “Okay, I’m on this medication now. I need this medication for this,” and not really need it.
I trust my therapist now. My old therapist would have been like, “You should be on this. You should be on that.” More so, my psychiatrist. I was seeing a really shitty psychiatrist, who was very medication happy. My current therapist is not. She’s against medication, honestly, unless I really need it. She’s against the kind of medication they were doing with me.
It was more so, I think, my parents. I don’t want them to think that I get on one medication. Whenever I have a rough day, I shouldn’t put on one medication. That’s the extent of their understanding of the whole thing, the medication. That’s more so my mom. My dad’s a lot more understanding with it.
My mom definitely played a huge part in my depression, anxiety, and self-esteem, as well. We had a really, really hard relationship. I remember this one day, I was cutting myself after we got in a fight. She goes into the room and sees me. She’s like, “Don’t get it on the carpet,” and leaves me there.
Then I go out to the kitchen. I was cleaning myself up. She’s complaining about what I’d just done to a friend. Your sixteen year old daughter is bleeding. You’re complaining about it to your friend and saying, “Yeah, my sixteen year old daughter cut herself. I think it’s just for attention,” blah, blah, blah, while I’m literally in front of her cleaning myself up.
Des: If it’s a cry for help, then maybe you should help.
Kim: I definitely used it, not as a cry for help, but more of a manipulative thing with her. I feel like, if things were different with us, I wouldn’t have had to do that. It’s hard to explain. I was very manipulative with my mom. My relationship with my mom is still something I struggle over a lot. It’s so much better now.
I think of how it used to be. I think of how shit must have affected me. I know it must have affected me in a horrible way. Still, whenever her voice raises at me, I go right back to being a sixteen year old kid, screaming in her house over the stupidest shit, over how she won’t let me go out or something like that. My blood pressure immediately rises and I’m immediately in that fight-or-flight mode as soon as her voice raises towards me, even if it’s for the smallest thing.
I can’t handle yelling in general anymore, honestly. Sometimes I can handle it. Most of the time I’ll devolve into a fucking child. It’s like, “They’re screaming at me,” even if they’re not, “I did something wrong. It must be my fault,” or it’ll be how it is with my mom, where I get all combative. It’s weird.
Des: Talk to me more about the cutting. You’re saying there was a manipulative element, but why did you do it otherwise?
Kim: It played a lot of different roles. The one role was the manipulative thing. There’d be times when I’d cut myself, not because I wanted to hurt, not because I wanted to bleed or anything. It was because it was the only way I could think of to get my mother or father’s attention.
More often than not, I feel like it was more of an anxiety measure. I just didn’t realize it because I didn’t realize I had anxiety until maybe a year or two ago. I didn’t realize anxiety was such a prevalent thing. The focus was always on depression. It was never on my anxiety, because my anxiety was always the underlying factor that people didn’t focus on. I really do think a lot of it was to relieve anxiety. Even now, when I get really anxious, I’ll scratch myself. I’ll even punch myself sometimes. It’s the pain that brings me out of it. I think that was a major thing that I didn’t realize.
Then, of course, there were times when I did it because I was punishing myself. I feel like those are the three main roles.
Des: It was never suicidal?
Kim: Sometimes, it was. When I did actually attempt suicide, of course that was suicidal, but there were only a couple of times where I would do it and think, “I hope this results in me dying.” A lot of times, it’ll go from my head, like, “I want to kill myself. I should be dead. I should die,” but it was never really to kill myself. It was sometimes, but more often than not, it was more to punish myself or release that anxiety and anger, whatever it was.
Des: I don’t know if you know why I’m probing you about this. I was a cutter for a long time. People don’t get it. They’re like, “It’s manipulative, attention seeking.” That’s not usually why people do that. It’s a coping mechanism. It’s scary and fucked up. Guess what? It works.
Kim: It does. It really does. When I started cutting, my first therapist would say it’s a coping mechanism, for whatever reason. I’d be like, “No, it’s because I want to die,” or, “No, it’s because I deserve it.” I never really thought it was to calm me down or relieve whatever emotion that was. Now, I recognize that it really was.
Des: It snaps you right out of it.
Kim: It does.
Des: It can be really helpful.
Kim: For me, it’ll either snap me out of it, or put me in this zone where I’m not going to question anything. It’s like, “I’m doing it. I’m doing it.” It’s repetitive motion. Sometimes, it would take me a while to get out of that.
Des: Did you stop?
Kim: Mostly. There was one time, maybe a year ago. It was the first time I had cut since the suicide attempt. I was having a panic attack, but I started lightly cutting my ankle. It wasn’t to draw blood. It was for a little bit of pain, for the most part. That’s the first time I ever cut myself since my suicide attempt. I haven’t since then.
Des: Did you intentionally stop?
Kim: Yeah, I intentionally told myself that I’m never going to cut myself in order to kill myself again. That was where the intention was. I’m never going to do that because I never want my dad to see that again or hear that I did that. It’s just going to take me right back to that room. I don’t want him to ever have to relive that.
He really was a lot of the reason behind me stopping it. I know there are other people who love me. I know there are other people who I’ve hurt because of it. But I’ve always, even since I was a little kid, been really protective of my father.
Des: What happened with the trichotillomania?
Kim: It subsided a lot. I started out with my eyelashes. It’s never been my hair, it was always my eyelashes. I didn’t have eyelashes for about two years because I did it so often. Now, it’s become a pastime. If I have my tweezers, I’ll pluck out my eyebrow hair. If I haven’t shaved in a while and notice that I have hair on my legs, I’ll pluck those out. It’s just a habit now. It’s more so, “I’m bored. I haven’t shaved in a while. Instead of going in and shaving, I’m going to pluck out my hair.”
I don’t think it’s unhealthy to do it that way, probably because I’m not doing it in a way that… I don’t really know. The trichotillomania started the whole thing, but I haven’t really thought about it at all. It seems like such a small problem, in comparison to everything else that I’ve dealt with, but it was the first sign that something was wrong with me. Not wrong—that’s a bad way to think about it, I think. But, something was off about me.
Kim: Different, yeah. It’s a better word than “off.” It is really a nervous disorder. It’s like an anxiety disorder. I didn’t really get it at that point. Honestly, when I would tell people why I do it, I would say, “It’s because I’m bored.” I never connected it to feeling anxious about things. I always thought I was bored, so I didn’t think it was a big deal. Then I started seeing my therapist. She told my mom, “I think your daughter’s depressed.” That started everything else.
I moved on from the trichotillomania, went to the depression and everything else. I don’t think I really focused too much on it.
Des: You mentioned that you still have suicidal thoughts. Talk about how that works.
Kim: Yeah, they’re definitely not as strong as they used to be. When they happen, it’s more so while I’m in the middle of a panic attack. It’s nothing. I’ve never had a suicide plan. I’ve never thought, “I’m going to do it this way. I’m going to do it on this day.” That’s always the first thing they ask, “Have you planned on killing yourself? Do you have a plan?”
Des: Timeframe? Plan? Never?
Kim: No, I’ve never had a plan. That’s what scares me the most. If I had plan, there could be time for people to catch on and stop me. That’s why my suicide attempt scares me so much. I was fine. The whole day I was fine. It was like a switch completely turned, something switched off in my brain, and turned me into this primal, “I need to kill myself.” It wasn’t like, “I want.” It was like, “I need.” The whole day, I did not think, “I deserve to die. I want to die,” or anything. It was just, “I need to die, and this is what I’m going to do. I’m going to go to the bathroom, take it out of the shower, and I’m going to do it.” I did it. Then, I switched out of it.
I still, to this day, can’t think of a trigger, really. Now, that I’m thinking back, it was probably a culmination of everything I’d been dealing with for the couple of months, or even the whole four or five years before that. It just seemed so sudden. It seemed like, if I was going to do this, why I didn’t I do it when I was depressed? Why didn’t I do it after this guy had sex with me and I didn’t want him to have sex with me? Or when my ex did this to me? Why didn’t I do it when something actually happened? I don’t know. I’m still a little puzzled by why it happened that day.
Des: You said it was two days after you got out?
Kim: Yeah, I’ve been hospitalized at least twenty times. It was kind of a daily thing for me. My second was the hospital and the outpatient. It was so normal for me. It was like, “Okay, I’m feeling depressed. I’m feeling anxious. I’m going to go to the hospital for a little bit, get away from it, come back, and I’ll be fine. If I’m not fine, I’ll just go back.” It was a luxury for me. I don’t know.
Des: I don’t know if it would help to know this, but usually the thirty days after hospitalization is the most dangerous time.
Kim: It makes sense. It does. It definitely makes sense.
Des: You lose that safety blanket. You didn’t feel safe at the time. I don’t really know why.
Kim: I felt kind of normal. I felt like, “I’m getting better.” It felt like a normal hospital trip because, for me, it was normal. It was like, “Alright, I went to the hospital. I wasn’t feeling too well. I was drinking a lot. That must have been it. I wasn’t feeling well because I was drinking so much. I went to the hospital, so now I should be fine.” I didn’t even want to kill myself. That wasn’t even the reason I went to the hospital. It was because I wasn’t doing well emotionally, overall. It seemed like a normal trip to me. It didn’t seem like this was going to be the time that I finally do it. It’s weird. It’s very weird.
Des: What do you do now when you have those thoughts? How do you deal with it?
Kim: If it’s at night, it’s very hard for me to deal with it. That was one of the first things I was ever told by a therapist. They said, “Everything is worse at night. When you’re going through something and it’s at night, try to remember that, and then get yourself through.” That’s how I deal with it.
Nine times out of ten, when I’m upset or depressed, it’s at night. Only two times out of ten are when I’ll devolve into that depressed or anxiety state. More often, I’ll be like, “Alright, I’ll sit with it, then I’ll get through it.” That’s normally what I’ll do. I’ll realize it’s at night—everything seems worse at night—in the morning it’ll be fine, so I sit with it and think of something else, or sit with it and let it pass, which is what I can normally do.
There are times when I can’t stop myself. It doesn’t happen as often anymore, but it still happens every once in a while. I’ll be in bed shaking and trying my hardest not to punch myself. It’s gotten better, but I’m not there yet, where I can get through every single night like that.
Des: Do you think there will ever be a time when you don’t have those thoughts at all?
Kim: I don’t think there will ever be a time when I’ll be one hundred percent done with those thoughts. I do think there will be a time when I have those thoughts and, at least ninety-nine percent of the time, be able to get through them without hurting myself. I think that will happen, but I don’t think that that’s going to go away. It doesn’t go away. That’s impossible.
Des: Then, the question that I ask everybody: is suicide still an option for you?
Kim: It’s an option, but it’s not a likely option. It’s not a likely outcome, I don’t think. It’s still a possibility. I think it always will be a possibility, for that possibility to go smaller and smaller as I continue on this journey and life, discover myself more, and become more satisfied with what I’m doing and who I am. I think I’ve made a lot of strides with that.
Des: Have you ever known anybody who’s died by suicide?
Kim: No, I’ve known a lot of people who have died… Heroin, drug overdoses, and things that had to do with bad decisions in their life. Honestly, I feel like heroin’s a form of suicide. Most of the people who get into it don’t care if they live or die, or they have been suicidal at some point.
My last boyfriend was a heroin addict. That’s obviously why it didn’t work out, because I couldn’t be around that. But he didn’t care if he lived or died. Six months before I met him, his best friend died from heroin. A year before that, his father died from heroin. His mom is a crack addict. Everyone around him was dying or killing themselves slowly, so he didn’t care. I really do feel like heroin is a really big thing. It is a convoluted way to kill yourself.
Des: What kept you from that? What kept you from doing drugs?
Kim: Drugs? Honestly, when I got into weed, I was young. Most people I knew were also pretty young, so they were smoking weed, maybe doing pills and drinking, but no one was into that hard stuff. By the time I quit smoking weed, no one I knew did that. When I was clean—drinking every once in a while, but that was about it—that’s when people starting getting into it. I was already beyond that phase. I was like, “I don’t want to be doing that.”
Another reason is that I was all fucked up off legal drugs, so why would I want to be doing illegal drugs and getting more fucked up and away from who I was? That was the main thing I hated about being what I hated. I wasn’t who I was. I didn’t feel like myself. I knew if I did drugs, I’d feel even less like myself. That scared me a lot. I think that’s the main reason I stayed away from hard drugs.
Des: Pretty good protection from that shit.
Kim: Yeah. When I started actually meeting people and seeing people who do that kind of stuff, I was like, “I don’t want to be like that.” If I die, I want to die healthy. I don’t want to die in a slum doing heroin and hating my life. I honestly don’t want to be a statistic, either. I don’t want to be like all these other people I know who’ve died from heroin.
In my area, there’s twenty-five, some high number of young people under thirty who have died in a week. That was the worst it had been in a while. It was a period of one to two weeks, twenty-something people dying. Two of them were friends of mine. I’ve had five, six people die or go to jail because of heroin. I’d rather kill myself than get involved in drugs and have that be my way to die.
Des: Way to go. That’s hard. I think it’s hard to be around it.
Kim: I really do think that seeing my ex doing all that right in front of me was another huge factor. I see what that did to him. I see the kind of person he was when he was doing it. I don’t want to be that kind of person. Most people get into it and they’ve never really seen it before. They don’t really know what it is. Before I even knew anything about it, I’d already been exposed to it. What’s the word? It never had that appeal. Right when I heard about it, it was dark, heavy stuff.
Des: Do you see any benefits to your experiences dealing with all the shit you’ve dealt with, especially the suicide attempt?
Kim: Yes, one hundred percent. I don’t know how to describe it. I wouldn’t be who I am today, even though who I am today isn’t perfect and sometimes I do hate myself.
I think the benefit is how I can really understand people. I’m a much more compassionate and understanding person than I would have been if I didn’t go through all this stuff. I feel like I’ve helped a lot of people, in small ways, but still I’ve helped a lot of people because of my experiences and knowledge.
There are so many people who go through this shit later on in life. My sister, for instance, she started drinking years after the first time I had a drink. She started smoking weed years after I first smoked weed. She started having sex years after I first had sex. I went through all this shit, then she went through shit that I went through years prior to her. I was able to help her with it. There are a lot of people I’ve been able to help through my experiences.
I saved this girl from getting raped at my college. It was before I was raped, but I had dealt with a lot of rape-y situations.
I recognized what was going on when I saw it. If it wasn’t for the fact that it made me so angry seeing that, and I’d already been in situations like that, I would have just kept walking. I wouldn’t notice anything at all. I would have thought, “That’s too bad,” and just kept walking. What I did was pretty stupid. It could have turned out pretty bad. We both could have been attacked and raped because we were on the campus late at night.
It was me and this girl. Three of these guys who were older were pretty much following her, stalking her, and bugging her to come back with them. I walked up and I’m like, “I’m a black belt in karate. I’ll kick your ass if you don’t leave her alone.” They tried to get me back. I was like, “Fuck you. Get the fuck out of here. I will call the police.” If I hadn’t been so angry about it and seen things like that happen—if I hadn’t been in similar situations—I don’t think I would have had the courage to do it.
Honestly, when I hate myself, I think back to that moment. I’m like, “I kind of saved that girl from being raped, so I can’t be that bad of a person if I’m able to do that.”
Des: That’s pretty brave.
Kim: That’s really what it taught me. Top accomplishments, top things that I really do like about myself.
Des: If you could talk to somebody reading your story, what would you say to them?
Kim: I’ve got to think about this because I feel like so many different kinds of people could be reading my story. I feel like I’m all about the details, and flexible to whomever this person is, what they’ve gone through and everything. It’s hard for me to come up with a very basic, broad answer to that.
Des: You can pick a population. You can pick a couple because you’re going to have loss survivors, clinicians, and other people who’ve been through what we’ve been though.
Kim: A huge thing I think about a lot is rape survivors and sexual assault survivors. I think what I went into previously, about how there can be a rape without a rapist… I’d want to inform them from my experiences what rape really is, what it really consists of, and that you don’t have to think you’re burdening someone because you’re outing them as a rapist. That was a thing I really struggled with. I was like, “I don’t want to call the police on this guy because… yeah, he technically did rape me, but I didn’t really say no.”
I would tell someone who’s dealt with rape or sexual assault—someone who isn’t ready to come out, or out this person, or call the police on them, or whatever—do it on your own time, but think of it this way: rape happens all across the world. People get raped. People get sexually assaulted. People do things they don’t want to do because they feel like they owe it to this guy. But you’re the person you have to look out for. You don’t have to look out for what happens to this person. If they end up getting arrested, if they end up going on probation, or their life gets ruined, it’s their fault. They did it first. You can’t really think, “They did it because they weren’t properly educated. They did it because they don’t know what rape really is. They did it because they were molested when they were a kid.” You have to look out for yourself. If it makes you feel better, then do it. You can’t control what happens to them.
Kim’s story is sponsored by a grant from the hope & grace fund, a project of New Venture Fund in partnership with global women’s skincare brand, philosophy, inc. Thanks to Rose Armstrong for providing the transcription to Rebecca’s interview, and to Sara Wilcox for editing.