Matthew Lickona 11:11 a.m., May 23
Grandma glared at my bloody forearm and shouted, "Sam, come in here!" It was close to midnight, a late hour for my 80-year-old grandpa, but he came running down the hall. He gaped when he saw the trail of blood on the carpet. While Grandma called 9-1-1, he held my cuts under the bathroom faucet."I don't want to live anymore," I cried. "I'm a burden to everyone."
"No, you're not," he replied. "We want you to live."
I fought him,spattering blood on the toothpaste, the mirrors and Grandma's white rug. "Put pressure on the wounds," Grandma shouted from the bedroom. "And make her sit down, in case she faints." By the time paramedics got there, her white towels had turned crimson. I had made 34 cuts to my arm in all...
The first time I had the impulse to cut myself, I was 13. I picked up a dull knife in the kitchen and took it to my bedroom. There, I started playing with it on my arm. I don't remember why I did it; I only remember having a feeling of being overwhelmed. I thought it was a strange thing to do--to make small scratches on my skin; yet, it gave me a sense of relief.
Cutting became a song that got stuck in my head. I obsessed on it. I associated everything I saw with letting my own blood--a red dress, a metal tool, even the silver, horizontal lines on my radio. Fragmented images of rushing red water built up before my eyes, becoming more and more frequent until I had to cut to make the images complete. Sometimes, I'd see close-up pictures of razor blades cutting into my skin, as if they were under a magnifying glass.
When I was feeling worthless, I used more pressure than usual. It was like taking drugs; I was always trying to get that fix, to capture the first moment I got high. Drug addicts have kits containing syringes, spoons, lighters and the drug, so it's ready to go. I had first-aid kits with razor blades, cloths, bandages and ointment. Once I started, it became a life long struggle, not to do it again.
By the time I was a student at San Pasqual High, I was using a knife with a serrated edge. At first, watching the red rivulets run down my arm was a bit scary; but then I asked myself, "What is there to be afraid of, really? I'm in so much pain,so what if I die?"
I was caught up in a despair so deep, sometimes suicide seemed like my only way out. I hurt for my mom who laid in bed, crying, after my dad left. I tried to help by cleaning the house; and, getting jobs after school, so she wouldn't have to worry about money. It didn't help. She seemed lost to me. When I bent over the bed to kiss her, she reeked of wine.
I gave up and stayed in my room, with my cutting kit for solace. I could wash the cuts, apply Neosporin to them, and cover them with bandages I bought at CVS. Doing this, made me feel taken care of, like a problem had been solved. I couldn't heal my emotions, but I could heal the wounds.
I was sitting on the bathroom floor, cradling my arm, when an officer from the San Diego Police Department came in. He got down on one knee to talk to me. He recognized me as the girl whose mother attempted suicide, five months ago. His manner was warm, not intimidating at all. I liked the way his badge didn't come between us. "I know what's happening in your life and it's horrible," he said. "But you have to get through this."
When we got outside, I was shocked to see flashing lights from three squad cars, a fire engine and an ambulance. I counted four police officers, five fire fighters and three paramedics. It was hard to believe that so many burly men were swarming around to help one small girl. I thought of Britney Spears and her song, "Circus." "All eyes on me in the center of the ring just like a circus..."
The paramedic inside the ambulance was in his late 50s and spoke to me in a fatherly way. He strapped my legs and stomach down. Another strap went across my chest. On the way to Pomerado Hospitial, rock music blasted throughout the ambulance. "Would you get that?" I asked. He dug into my purse and pulled out my cell phone. "Hello?" he said, then paused. "We have Ashley on a gurney and she's being transported to the hospital for lacerations."
My boyfriend said that he threw up for an hour after making that call. "I reflected back over my life," he said, "and I have nothing to live for if your not here."
We were married two weeks later.