The other day I took a bike ride to one of my favorite places on campus, the trail tower. Our campus is lucky enough to be placed right next to a bunch of nature trails, and at the end of one is a three-story tower that college kids use to carve their names, eat takeout, have sex, or enjoy nature.
I was sitting up there listening to my music, and it was really green and windy and a little chilly out. I kept thinking of what my sister told me that day–that I was strong, that I had matured a lot, and that I was going to be okay.
We’d been talking a lot about the breakup and how unfair my girlfriend was being at that moment. My ex has basically cut off all communication with me and sworn off all responsibility for my emotions. It was right in the middle of summer camp I received her emotionless Facebook message; the kids were in bed, and I was in my room alone. Upon reading the short, dismissive message, I broke down and sobbed so loud my supervisor knocked on my door to see what was wrong.
That wasn’t the first time she’d confronted me about my mental health. On the third day of camp, she took me aside to ask about the scars on my arms, which I was convinced no one could see. She wanted to make sure I was okay, but having her scrutinize me like that, and ask me to roll up my sleeves so she could look closer, sent me into a small panic.
Later, one of the campers asked me what those “weird marks” on my arms were. Panicking once again, I told her they were cat scratches.
She looked me in the eye and said “I’m not sure if I believe you.”
She told me she knew what self-harm looked like because she had friends who cut themselves. I couldn’t speak, but stared back at her, fighting down the gasps that were wrenching in my chest. The last thing I needed was a panic attack in front of my campers.
I was lucky; she got distracted when her friend called her to look at something cool, and I was off the hook. She never asked about it again, but there were times I could tell she was looking at me more closely than the other kids.
My sister knows about the breakup, but my supervisor is the only one except my ex that knew for sure about my scars. There were so many times I wanted to tell my sister the story behind my long sleeves and knee socks, but the time never felt right enough or safe enough for me to do so.
My sister does a lot to help me cope with the breakup. She’s helped me process through every step and every interaction, which is amazing because she hates my ex’s guts. She’d never liked her from the beginning, but after what she’d done to me in the past two weeks, I could tell my sister was ready to kill for me.
My sister even called my ex a cunt when I told her what she’d been doing. It hurt to have someone I loved so much be called a nasty name like that, but to be honest, I actually laughed, thinking about it up in that tower. It was freeing. Yeah, she was being a cunt. I was okay. My ex, for whatever reason, was turning herself into a bitch to remove all feelings and attachments we’d had together. But I’m going to be okay. I have a lot to look forward to. I have two weeks of summer camp left; I have a lot of friends who I’m going to start seeing soon. I’ve made plans to go camping with my future roommmate, and another friend and I are going downtown together next weekend. I have my wonderful sister, and a bunch of great new friends through summer camp. I have so much to look forward to once classes start–my mentorship, internship, my tutoring position, my full course load, and my awesome on-campus job.
Because I have done a lot of shit and accomplished a lot. And I got here. One of the last things my ex said to me was to remind me that I’d got to college all by myself. And I fucking did! And I’m here, and I have done so many things, and nobody did any of them for me. I have a lot on my back but a lot ahead of me to and a lot to be proud of. If my family refuses to be here with me during my most successful time, too bad for them. It’s shitty of them to abandon me, to pretend like my uncle’s death won’t affect me, to tell me not to visit–because they have the benefit of distance; it’s easy for them to forget about me and pretend I’m not hurting. Same thing with the ex. I don’t need her, and I never did. It sucked that I’d felt like I had, and that she hadn’t helped make that feeling go away. But standing up on that tower by myself, with the green trees spreading out around me–below me, actually!–I felt so free, and so alive, and this time when I cried, I was laughing too.
Because I was happy.