Rylan Romansis a suicide attempt survivor.
"I survived a suicide attempt."
Rylan Romans was 18 years old and working in retail when I interviewed them in Lexington, KY, on October 15, 2015.
CONTENT WARNING: graphic discussion of self-injury, sensitive language around sexuality
Labor Day of 2013 was a horrible day. Everything was a downhill spiral from school, from bullying, and everything else. I was tired of life. I was sixteen. March of that year, I was at The Ridge—it’s a mental hospital here—for cutting. On Labor Day, everything just got piled up and I tried to kill myself. They couldn’t do any stitches because my arm was so mangled. They just put a big bandage around my arm. I was in the mental hospital until Halloween—just over a month. My insurance wouldn’t pay for any longer.
While I was in there, I basically realized, who was I to take my life when I had to fight for my life when I was born? I was born three months premature. My mom had preeclampsia with me, so she was going to die, but she didn’t. I had to fight for every single breath. While I was in there, I realized, who was I to take that away? I had friends who all loved me and I shouldn’t have done that shit.
School life was going horrible, home was horrible. My grandmother acted like she didn’t give a shit. She never said “I love you” before, like, three weeks ago. It was all basically… bullying. No one really to talk to. My therapist just quit. I didn’t have anyone on my team.
I cut from when I was in sixth grade to Labor Day 2013. That was the last time I ever cut. Basically, I was at this church event with my friends that they’d dragged me into. I was just sitting alone thinking of everything that’s happened in my life, and it was just bullshit. I didn’t want to be here.
Des: Who found you? How did you end up getting from wherever you were to the hospital?
Rylan: My grandmother. My grandmother found me underneath a blanket. My grandmother went down to my cousin’s house and, next thing I know, the paramedics were all over my bedroom. I was in the corner, curled up. I don’t remember the drive to the hospital at all. I just remember sitting in the hospital bed with bandages wrapped around my arm.
Des: For you, what differentiates cutting and cutting with the intention to die?
Rylan: Cutting versus intentional suicide… normally cutting, to me, seems like they’re wanting attention and trying to cry out for help.
Des: For you? That’s what it meant for you?
Rylan: It was more of a cry for help way long before then. I just wanted someone to notice, talk to me, and help me. [I wanted] something that numbed the pain. To internally numb the pain. Externally numb the pain that I felt inside. That, and it rectified being alive for me in a way that made me feel alive and wake up. Not so numb from my antidepressants and everything—which I stopped taking then, too.
Cutting intentionally for suicide… I just felt like shit and was like, “I’m going to do this shit.”
Des: Yeah. They’re definitely separate kinds of behaviors, but they get confused a lot, so I always want to ask other people who’ve done it.
Rylan: I mean, I felt really numb and it made me feel alive when I cut. It made me realize I wasn’t dead yet. It took the emotional pain away. It got to the point where I lost all feeling in my arms, so it didn’t really matter anymore—just anything to take the mental and emotional pain away.
Des: How do you feel about your scars?
Rylan: I hate them. I absolutely hate them. They’re the worst thing on earth. I recently got scar patches.
Des: What’s a scar patch?
Rylan: They’re like little micro abrasion patches that are four inches long and three inches wide and they abrade the scars down to your original skin.
Des: Oh. I didn’t know that existed.
Rylan: They come in that size, or if you have really big scars, like a C-section or something, they come in thirteen inch strips. So I have one of those that I cut in half for this one. It was a centimeter away from my vein. They kind of woke me up with a slap in my face.
Des: They did, or…
Rylan: The scars themselves. Realizing how close and everything.
Des: In a good way or a bad way?
Rylan: Bad way. I hate them with a passion. I want them gone. It’s a wake up reminder every morning that I did this and I have to live with this on myself. I get those weird looks and weird stares, like, “What happened? What did you do?” Everybody reminding me that I’m a fuck up, that I did something like that.
Des: Are you coloring their questions, or is that the way they’re presented to you?
Rylan: They ask what happened and they ask things like that, but…
Des: What do you say?
Rylan: I tell them the truth.
Rylan: They just look at me and say they’re sorry. I’m like, “Don’t be sorry for something I did to myself. If anyone is sorry, it’s me. I did this. I have to live with this.”
Des: It’s a pretty good response though, right?
Rylan: Yeah. I mean, I tell them and I’m just like, “Be there for the people you love. Don’t ignore signs.” I don’t want to see someone else going through what I went through. I try to be there for friends as much as I can. I have a lot of friends who are still cutting and have suicidal thoughts and everything else, and I just don’t want them going through what I went through. They saw my scars and what happened. I don’t want to lose one of my friends. I want to be there for them.
I still have suicidal thoughts and I still have depression. I’m not on my medicine anymore at all because it just made it worse progressively. I was on a cocktail of eleven different medicines when I attempted suicide. I stopped all my medicines cold turkey and I’ve been much better since then. My anxiety medicine is the only thing I still have.
Des: You quit cutting. Do you still have thoughts about it?
Rylan: I still have thoughts about it, almost every day, without fail. But then the other side of my brain is like, “If you do it, I’m going to slap you in the face. You know better.”
Des: Right. And that’s all it takes?
Rylan: That first month I got out of the hospital, it was a dying crave to go back and do it again. I had cravings for months before I formed a pattern of, “No, you need to not do this. It’s bad. Look what you’ve already got, don’t make it worse.” It’s a work in progress. The healing processes alone took all the way until March for my scars to finally close up.
Des: Jesus. Six months.
Rylan: Yeah. I have eleven going down my arm. My arm was so mangled and about four inches wider than it was supposed to be, so they couldn’t put stitches in. My arm would have just been a mangled mess after.
I had one friend in the hospital with me that I met going up. He was in there for other reasons, but the truth that he spoke to me was just awing. I know it sounds crazy to have a friend in there, but…
Des: Lots of people make friends in the hospital, and they keep them.
Rylan: I was in Good Samaritan Hospital for a while, in the teen program there, and [there was a] big blue building across the street. I would look at them and say, “I’m going to go over there and jump off that when I get out of here. What’s the point? What’s the point in talking to me?” When I finally got transferred back to Louisville, it changed. I was away from my family, away from my friends, no one to talk to, with a bunch of people with all different kinds of problems… and I just got woken up.
Des: Tell me more about the friend. What was the truth he spoke to you that resonated?
Rylan: He asked why, like, why did I do it? I told him and he said, “Why should you take your life when others have life for you?”
I was like, “What does that mean?”
He was like, “You’ll figure it out one day.”
What it means to me now is, “Your friends need you here. Your friends have life in you. Your friends need your help along the way.” That’s kind of what that means to me now.
Des: How were you treated in the hospital other than your friend?
Rylan: All the nurses were kind avoiding me almost, because they didn’t really know what to say, and they didn’t know what to do. The ones who did talk to me kept making me wrap up [my arm], even though I didn’t want the bandages on. They had someone sitting in my room twenty-four hours with me for three days when I first got there, and I’m like, “I don’t want this.” It made me feel like I was a baby and I couldn’t do my own thing.
They had a chaplain who would come up every afternoon. He was so motivating… the words he had to say. He wouldn’t preach or whatever. Just the life thoughts and questions he would give were awing, and made you think what purpose you have in life. Like, obviously I’m still here, so I have to have some reason to still be here. Still trying to figure it all out.
Des: You’ll probably be figuring it out until you’re dead. That’s also a work in progress, I think. Is faith a thing for you?
Rylan: I’m a member of my church and have faith. I just don’t really know how much, because sometimes life is right there kicking you in the face.
The person I’m with right now, he doesn’t believe in depression. He’s like, “Why don’t you just change your thoughts?”
I’m like, “That’s not that easy.”
I just wish that people realized that it’s not as easy as just changing your mindset.
Des: What does it require?
Rylan:You’ve got to have the emotional support backing you up. You’ve got to have support. Knowing you have people right there for you. It takes courage. A lot of it. You’ve got to have courage, faith, and hope. Not faith in a higher being, but faith in yourself that you can do it. I still have depression. It’s been two years, and it’s hard to have that positive mindset everyday. It’s hard. But I try. Some days I still don’t want to be here, but I don’t do anything about it. I just try to change my mindset.
Des: But you’re “weak,” right?
Rylan: I ain’t no weakling.
Des: I think that’s such a funny thing to say to somebody who’s lived through something like that. Tell them they’re weak. It’s like “Hmm, that’s the opposite…”
Rylan: Honestly, doing something like that, in my opinion—it was weak in the moment. But looking back on it, if you’re able to have that kind of mindset and go through that until that point, you’re strong. The weak point is not seeking out help. That’s when you become weak.
Des: Seeking out help is hard.
Rylan: Seeking out help is hard. But if you don’t at least try, then you’re weak.
Des: How did you seek out help? After you were forced into help?
Rylan: I mean, I denied help all the way through, though. I was texting my best friend as I was doing it and I’m like, “Please, just come and stop this mess.”
He was like, “I’m an hour and a half away. I wish I could, just please don’t do it. I will be there when I get there, just please don’t do it.”
My friend got there when the ambulance did. We were friends for two years before that happened, and he was the only person I could call other than my grandmother when I was in Good Sam. It made me cry because me and him were together on and off, and he was like a brother to me at that point. He was the only person I had. It just brought tears to my eyes that he was still there for me when I made him go through all that. And he’s still there for me. It’s like, why would you still be there for me when I put you through that mess? I put you through that and you’re still here.
Des: Friendship gets you through thick and thin, I guess.
Rylan: It has to for me and him.
Des: Is suicide still an option for you?
Rylan: No. I mean, I may think about it, and I’m just like, “No.” In my mind, I’m like, “No. Fuck that. Been through that. Don’t want to go through that. I have people who love and care about me. Forget that. That’s not a freaking option. Don’t even go there.” But, yeah… it is, it’s always an option. I just have to think, “No, just shut up, brain!”
Des: What happens when you start going down the suicidal thoughts path?
Rylan: I get depressed, but I seek out help from my friends. I talk to my friends who know what I’ve been through and always have positive things to say to me. They give me equations to do or different word problems. I love math. I’ve been in advanced math since third grade.
Des: Do you feel like you talked about your experience with the hospital enough? Is there anything else you want to include in that—good or bad?
Rylan: A funny memory: we were getting ready for class because they had school on campus. We were all sitting in the day room and we just broke out in the song “Cups.” Someone randomly took a foam cup and started playing, so we all started singing along. The nurse came in like, “What are you all doing?” We all just burst out laughing. We were all on a girls unit, but they didn’t have a girls unit on the suicide floor, so they put us in the drugs rehab unit with all the guys. All the guys were coming back from school and they walk in, pause, and just start busting out a rap. Funniest moment ever.
All the teachers there were pretty nice. If anything, the teachers understood more than the nurses did. [They] talked to us more and helped us get through things better than the nurses. The nurses were just like, “Why did you do that? What was going through your head? Why?”
Des: Oh, that’s helpful.
Rylan: Yeah. One of the teachers I had there was a reading teacher who doubled as the art teacher. It was poetry day and we had the “Who am I” poetry list. It has everything pre-formed already and I just stumbled across what I could write. Now I’m waiting to hear back from Poetry Nation because I’m a semi-finalist from the poem that I wrote in there. It’s just awing. We did Georgia O’Neill, I think. Flowers? Big, funky, blown up, flowers out of proportion.
Rylan: O’Keeffe, yeah. She got me into art, though.
Des: I saw her studio last year. It’s pretty cool.
Rylan: I want my painting back from there, but I can’t. I lost so many clothes there. I had clothes and a necklace in holding and they lost it. I’m like, “You’re losing my belongings?”
They now have a piece of me. If I ever become famous, I want my artwork back! It’s signed, damn it. It’s signed.
Des: Where are your friends? Are they local?
Rylan: They are. Well, some of them are. I have friends everywhere. I recently went to Texas to reconnect with some of my old friends. I spent a week there. That was fun. Some of my friends live in Canada. Most of them are local, though. I don’t get to see most of them a lot because they’re still in school. Two grades behind me.
I have a lot of friends who are still in school who are part of my archery team. And archery… after I got out of the hospital, it saved me from going back to cutting. That’s one thing I didn’t mention. My archery coach, after I got out of the hospital, was so understanding.
She was like, “You know what? You just got out. I know archery season has started, but let’s get you into something. Let’s just get you into an activity so you don’t have to feel alone.”
That’s kind of where I met most of my friends. You know, they were there for me. Archery is more of an individual thing, but on a team. A lot of my friends on my team just stopped cutting when I got out of the hospital, so I had someone to talk to, [someone] who knew what it was like to go through it. Kind of inspiration.
The moment when I shot my first arrow and it hit the bullseye was that moment of relief that I got from cutting. I was so happy and it so relieved the pain. I could take it out on the target instead of myself. That feeling was just amazing to me. I did archery for two years. It made me have to keep my grades up because, if I didn’t, the coach tried to kick me off the team. I mean, I’m smart and I show it in the classroom, but homework I’m like, “Fuck that.” I hate homework. I’m like, “Nope, I’d rather do this at school.”
Des: Do you remember the first time that you cut?
Rylan: Yes, actually. It was the first weekend of sixth grade. I got shoved into a locker. I came home and felt so bad about how the day went. [I felt like] everyone was against me. I decided to get one of my grandma’s box cutters and see what it felt like.
Des: Where did you get the idea from? Do you know? Do you remember?
Rylan: I don’t even know. It was just, “Oh, it’s there. I can do this. I wonder if it’s going to take the pain away.”
Des: I feel like a lot of us don’t remember what made us start it, so I always want to know. I don’t remember the first time I did it, and I don’t know where that motivation came from, why I was like, “Hey, you know, it would be a great idea to take a razor blade and just slash my shit apart.” Where do these ideas come from?
Rylan: I think, honestly, at that point in time, depression had just gotten to me and it was a shit day already. In the back of my mind, I was like, “I wonder what I can do to take the pain away. Will physical harm help?” I mean, yeah, I hurt my body, but will it take the emotional pain away?
Des: Did you feel like it was a natural idea, or had you seen it on TV or heard about it? Did you know anybody?
Rylan: I had one friend who cut. I didn’t really think about it before then. I guess the dawning idea of—if it works for her, I wonder if it will work for me. Bandwagon.
Des: Have you ever known anyone who’s died by suicide?
Rylan: Actually, one of my best friends died from suicide. It tore my whole fucking world apart. It was three months after I got out of the hospital. I talked to her the night before. I was like, “Please, just don’t do this shit. I’ve been there. It will hurt you and tear you apart.”
She was like, “Well, you did it. Why can’t I do it?”
I’m like, “Please, do not do this shit. I need you here.” The next morning I went over to her house and they’d been there and gone. I checked in the hospital and I got there right after she passed away. That’s kind of where I got the motivation for whoever I can help, I want to help. All my friends who still do this, I don’t want them to. I’ve tried to reach out to all my friends like, “Please don’t do this. It’s not worth it. I’m here for you.”
Des: What did that make you feel like when she said that to you?
Rylan: It made me feel like a horrible friend. It made me feel like, “How do I expect to help someone when I just went through this shit, and I did that to myself not thinking about her?” It made me feel horrible.
Des: Is that a fair assessment? Is it selfish of you not to be able to think about the people you love when you were going through that?
Rylan: I look back on it as selfishness, but in the moment of the whole thing going on, it’s not. You’re not really focused on your friends or who cares. You’re focused on what’s going on and how you can get this pain emotionally taken care of.
Des: What does it feel like in those last moments before you think, “Fuck it?”
Rylan: It hurt. I was crying my eyes out thinking, “Why does no one fucking care?” I couldn’t even think about the people who did care. I couldn’t even name names of people who cared. I just thought, “Why does no one fucking care? Why am I going through this? Why do I have to go through this? Why did the people who were mean to me have to be so mean to me and not give a shit how their actions affected me?”
Right beforehand, I kind of blacked out and didn’t realize what I was doing. I broke apart my razor blade. I didn’t even remember untying my shoelaces. When I was going in and out of it from loss of blood, I think, I remember my cousin trying to get something off my neck.
I couldn’t even go into my bedroom for about a year afterward. I rearranged my bedroom five different times before I decided I could go into it. Because of all the bad memories, I couldn’t be in there. I slept on the couch. I had my door shut. I wouldn’t go in my bedroom at all, not even to change clothes. I kept all my clothes in my grandmother’s room.
Des: What happened when you went back to school?
Rylan: I visited school to test how things were going to be when I came home. The week before I got to come home, I went to school for a day just to visit. All my teachers were there for me, surprisingly. I sent them an email telling them I was going to be coming back to school in a couple of weeks and just asking them if there was something they could do to help. They were all pretty understanding. All my teachers hugged me, told me they were there for me, and if I needed to talk to someone, I could go talk to them. One of my old teachers from a few years past became the freshman counselor, so everyday for the first few months, she would pull me into her office and give me inspiring quotes and talk to me. It made me feel good that someone was finally there for me, but it was sad at the same time, because it took so long for someone to realize that I needed someone on my team.
The worst feeling, though, was when I was sitting in class. I had short sleeves on that day because I didn’t have any more long sleeved shirts that were clean. My scars were still healing up and I didn’t have anything over them.
I go home that day from everybody asking me what happened to my arms, to my little cousin who just turned three, and she said she liked those. “What are those, Rylan? I like those. They’re pretty. What are they?” It broke my heart.
I took her aside and said, “Baby, they’re not pretty. I don’t want them.”
She just crawled up into my arms, hugged me, and cried with me for a good ten minutes. It broke my heart to hear my little cousin say something like that. That’s kind of what woke me up the most, I think.
Des: What about the kids at school?
Rylan: They were pretty cool about it. I mean, they called me all different kinds of things. For months, they were just teasing me and saying things like, “Why don’t you just go try to kill yourself again? Why don’t you just go die? Clearly you wanted to, so why didn’t you?” For a while, my friends had to walk with me down the hallway so I wouldn’t get pushed into lockers or pushed down the steps.
Des: Did your friend who died go to the same school? How’d that go?
Rylan: They just couldn’t care less.
Des: Did the school administration acknowledge it?
Rylan: The school administration acknowledged it. [For] me and my friends, that was a great loss. She was the president of the anime team. She was in archery with us. It was a great loss for the archery team and the anime club, but the rest of the student body couldn’t care less. [They] just laughed and made jokes about it.
For months, they picked on the archery team and the anime club like, “Why don’t you all go be like your teammate in the anime club and just die? You’re all just emo fags who want to do it anyway, so why don’t you?”
And I’m like, “Don’t talk about my friend like that.”
A couple of months after my friend [died by] suicide, one of the football team members who was always there for me in middle school and stood up for me got shot on his front porch by a gang member. The whole school was feeling that. I mean, he stood up for anyone who got picked on. His football teammates knew better. He was the one person who, if he saw someone getting bullied in the hallway, you better not be around when he saw it. If it was physical, he would have pulled the person who was bullying the other person off them, and just carried them to the principal’s office. He had a big heart.
Des: What do you think of the media coverage of bullying?
Rylan: Honestly, I don’t know. A lot of it is just bad representation of it and not knowing the full story. A lot of the other parts of it are just, “Well, today someone did this and now they’re dead.” Well, what happened? What went on to make that happen? I mean, a lot of times the media doesn’t really know how to portray bullying because they’re not there. It’s not happening to them. My school had a bad reputation for bullying in the media, but they weren’t there every day to see what it was like. They’re not students. They don’t know what’s going on in their minds. How are you going to portray something in the right way when it’s not happening to you? Half the time, the only time the media covers bullying or has an awareness towards it is when someone finally dies. It’s like, why aren’t you all acting sooner?
Des: What should they do?
Rylan: More awareness. I don’t really know, honestly. They just came out with a text option for suicide hotlines, which I think is great because a lot of people are scared to call the helpline. I actually tried to call the helpline and I was like, “I don’t know what to say. I don’t want to talk someone. I want to text someone.” I think it’s a great new option, honestly. A lot of people are worried about what they’re going to say to someone. Or how someone is going to respond. Or [they] get scared and hang up because they don’t know what to say.
Des: The past ten, fifteen years, there’s been a huge change in the way we communicate. Such a huge change. When I was sixteen, I got my own phone line. I was like, “Yes!” and now I hate being on the phone. I want nothing to do with it. So, the hotlines are kind of, not obsolete, but I guess more useful for older people. And I think there’s something there with bullying, too. We were all bullied.
Rylan: I wish there were more options. I really wanted to physically connect with someone in person and just have someone physically there for me. I didn’t want someone over the phone being sympathetic, or someone who didn’t go through what I’m going through to just be sympathetic. I wanted other people who’ve been there or are going through the same thing, to feel like I have people on my team who can help me. I like physical connection with other people, so I wish there were more places to be able to go to get help, physically.
Des: Yeah, it’s a shame. Especially for people who’ve attempted suicide, there’s not much there.
Rylan: Mostly, it all gets shamed and no one can really talk about it without feeling ashamed of themselves.
Before the whole legalizing of gay marriage, I was in the closet. It’s hard when your dad has already disowned you for being pansexual. It’s hard to come out the rest of the people who love and know you. Finally finding yourself, it’s a struggle.
Des: Especially when you’re young and in the south, right?
Rylan: Yeah. I mean, I’m in the bible belt here! Coming out as pansexual was one thing. I started asking my grandmother if I could go out and get guy’s clothes because I’m genderfluid, and she’s like, “You’re what?” How do I explain this to her, you know? She got to the point where she was okay with me wearing a tux to prom if I really wanted to.
Des: Talk more about that. Especially trying to come out as gay, let alone pansexual, in the south. I can’t even imagine.
Rylan: My gay best friend just moved away, actually. He helped me find myself, really. I didn’t know how to describe myself in words. I like everyone. I love everyone. I don’t care what gender. I just want to know who I am. It was quite a struggle within myself. Am I trans? Am I genderfluid? Am I this? Am I that? I didn’t know how to describe it. I’m like a guy sometimes and a girl other times, but then not like any gender at other times. It was a struggle, like, who am I? What am I? How do I explain this to people?
Des: How did you figure it out?
Rylan: Honestly, I was just looking up stuff. I was like, “What about this term? Does this term describe it?” But I feel like we’re all just trying to have words to describe who we are. It makes us feel better to have a label on it because we’re so used to labeling. We’re a generation of labels.
Des: It’s how we make sense of things. Do you think that anything about your gender and sexuality had anything to do with your depression or your suicide attempt or those feelings?
Rylan: Honestly, yes. My grandmother, right in front of me for the longest time, before I was out, before she knew anything, she would gay bash in front of me and say the meanest things. My grandmother was the biggest bully, in my own house, without knowing it. She would gay bash right in front of me and say the weirdest, oddest things at random times about other people.
I’d say, “What if I was like that?”
She’d say, “Well, you’d be kicked out of the house and I’d disown you,” and just go on. I was scared. I was terrified.
I came out to my friends before I came out to my dad. My dad was really upset about that, and that’s why he disowned me. I came out to my friends first because I knew my dad was against that. I didn’t want harsh negative stuff against me. I wanted support first in my corner, rather than him just being a dick to me. I’m like, “Why should I have to come out to you in the first place when you walked out on me when I was three?” I threw it in his face. He yelled at me for three hours on the phone and would not stop calling me until I answered the phone again, just to hang up on him.
I ended up going down there after that for the rest of my freshman year of high school because bullying up here got so bad. It was ridiculous. So I went to high school down there for freshman year. I made a lot of friends down there actually. It was nice to finally have some place to not ask questions about my scars and just accept me for it. It was finally nice. A lot of my friends were sympathetic down there and got what I was going through. It felt good.
But at the same time, there was the counterbalance of my dad beating on me from getting drunk every day. I had to protect my two youngest brothers who lived with us at the time. I couldn’t put up with it anymore. They were about to move all the way to Missouri at the end of that year, so I’m like, “I’m going back to Lexington. I’m not putting up with this.” My grandmother was going to move up here because we were all moving up here, and I was like, “No, I’m done with it. I ain’t putting up with you getting drunk and beating on me every day.” My grandmother is so oblivious and thinks my dad is such a sweetheart, so she doesn’t believe that he got drunk, let alone slapped me around.
Des: Do you feel like your sense of identity has changed since your attempt?
Rylan: As far as who I am?
Rylan: I could really care less about who knows now. I’m not so far in the closet that I can’t see my feet. It’s to the point where I’m like, “You can fuck off if you don’t like me.” Because I could care less. In a way, I’ve actually come out and I don’t care who thinks what about me anymore. It’s a struggle on the days where I don’t know who I am still. There’s those days where it’s like, “You’re going to be agender as fuck and not really love your boyfriend today. Okay. Let’s see how this goes.” That causes a lot of arguments and fights and bullshit, when my brain decides to be a jackass.
Des: Do you feel like you’ve made sense of your attempt, of things surrounding it? Do you feel like you’ve got a handle on what happened?
Rylan: I feel like it was the cocktail of medicines, plus what was going on at school. Now that I know I don’t react well to those medicines, I’ve stopped taking antidepressants and any of that.
Des: Against medical advice?
Rylan: Against medical advice, I stopped taking everything.
Des: Well, you still have anxiety meds, so you still go to the doctor, right?
Rylan: My primary care physician prescribes them since I refused to get another therapist. My therapist quit. After that, I had a home therapist who came to my house who I didn’t really want to talk to. I’d told my whole life story to that one therapist since I was in third grade, so I was like, “I don’t want to switch therapists. You can just fuck off.”
Des: Finding a therapist is like dating. I just moved and I have to do it all over again. Do not want to.
Rylan: Right now, I have a book that I write everything in. If I have a shit day, I just go write and pretend my book’s my therapist.
Des: Do you have access to therapy if you want it?
Rylan: I do, I’d just rather… In a way, I have enough friends who are there for me like a therapist.
Des: What I’m getting at is a lot of people don’t have access to therapy even if they want it, so…
Rylan: I have the access to it, I just don’t want it.
Des: Yeah. I mean you’re journaling, you go to your friends. There are different ways that people deal with it that don’t include professional help.
Rylan: I do a lot of painting, drawing, and crafting. Painting is one thing that I love doing that’s relaxing. Especially splatter paint.
Des: Is that more or less helpful than therapy? Or equally?
Rylan: When I had my good therapist, it was equally helpful to do all the stuff I do now as talking to her. The only difference was we made jewelry while we were talking. [We were] drawing and coloring while we talked. She gave me different skills to do at the therapy without me realizing she was giving me those skills.
Des: She was DBTing your ass.
Rylan: She was. She actually had me in DBT for a while. I decided I didn’t like it because I felt like I didn’t have a real voice. In DBT, it was like, “You sit, we’re going to talk.”
I’m like, “I don’t like that shit.” Then I had to wear long sleeves and button it all the way up because of my scars. I don’t want to trigger anyone, but I don’t like this shit.
Des: Do you think we left anything out?
Rylan: When little kids ask, I don’t tell them the truth because I don’t want them knowing that world.
Des: What do you say to them?
Rylan: I say it was a car crash.
Des: Why don’t you tell them?
Rylan: I don’t want them to think about those options. I want them to seek advice and talk to people. I don’t want them to think, “Oh, an adult did that. Someone I know did that. I could do that, that’s okay.” It’s not okay.
Des: But if you tell them you were in a car crash, how do you also tell them to seek advice? Or do you?
Rylan: I tell them to go to someone if they have a problem. I tell them, “If you need help, go talk to someone. If you’re really sad, go talk to someone. If you’re having problems at school, go talk to someone.”
Rylan’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 also to Hayley Tomkinson for providing the transcription to Rylan’s interview, and to Sara Wilcox for editing.