In 6th grade, I wasn’t worried about what “normal” middle-schoolers were worried about. Learning the newest gossip, the mean sub, whether my crush liked me back, what to do to get my mom to let me finally put on make-up. No. Starting my first year in middle school, I worried whether or not I was going to survive a back surgery. As you can see, I did. That surgery changed my life, it not only saved me, but it also killed me in a way. I was never the same. Many activities I loved to participate in, I couldn’t anymore. But I tried to stay strong. Time passed, and as I withdrew more into myself, my loved ones failed to notice the silent scream for help in my eyes. More time passed, and I found myself slowly trying to stitch the broken pieces of myself back together. I was “fine”. I wasn’t “great” anymore, to everyone, I was “just fine, thank you”.
Two years later, I was hopeful to regain the stride I’d once had. I was ready to take on the world and say, “Bring it on! I’m strong because I have faith, I can do it!” That was the year we rushed my dad to the nearest hospital at two in the morning because of severe abdominal pain. You know how we’re all particularly close to one parent? Don’t deny it, it’s perfectly normal. Well, that was me and my dad. We were inseparable. We were partners in crime, best friends, I was the princess to his overprotective dragon from boys. He was my nurse when I fell ill, my shoulder to cry on, my support when I fought with my mom, my cheerleader, he screamed so hard when I would accept my A-honor roll trophies at the end of each year. I swear, the old man was my everything. To say I was scared that morning sitting in the ER was an understatement. I went to school hours later, still no news from the hospital. After a week in the hospital, I got pulled out of my class by my mom. She said to me in the parking lot outside of the hospital, “Genesis, the results came in today. Dad has cancer.” Pancreatic cancer that was detected too late. It had spread to his colon, stomach, liver, prostate, lungs, and heart. My mom wasn’t going to tell him how bad it was, it would’ve scared him too much. And I didn’t have the heart to either. Because the man I loved so much, whom I thought was immortal, the biggest, strongest man there ever was- because isn’t a girl’s daddy her biggest hero? I know mine was. That amazing, dad-joke loving, kind, God-fearing man had a month to live.
I didn’t cope well. To my dad, I was his ray of sunshine. If anyone made him listen, it was me. I did something I had never done before- I lied to my dad. I told him he had to go back to Mexico City to receive chemo because his insurance wouldn’t cover it here. In reality, I sent him there to make up with his other kids from his past marriage. They held a grudge against him for never being there for them. For divorcing their mother because he worked too much, and for moving to the US and marrying my mom. Most importantly, they were mad at him because he loved me, a child that wasn’t his own flesh and blood. I did what I thought was right- I sent him back on that excuse so he could make amends with his children before he passed. I did what I thought was right, even though all I wanted to do was grab him and keep him until the end- to spend every last possible second with him and tell him every single day how much I loved him. But I didn’t, I let him go. He called me the day after he landed, they threw a big party in his honor, and that everyone thanked me for convincing him to go back. They knew why I’d sent him back, they told me that he was still practicing our waltz for my 15. Two days after that, my wonderful dad went back home to Heaven. He didn’t even make it to the first round of chemo.
You know that horrible feeling you get when you’re in a roller coaster? That God-awful, stomach-dropping feeling? Multiply that times a hundred. You won’t even come to a fourth of what I felt. I’d have rather take the back surgery a thousand times again. Take it, and been grateful. The pain was never-ending. It took me a week to eat again. And even longer to talk. Depression had always lingered around me, but since that day, it consumed my very being. I couldn’t go anywhere without being hit with memories of him, and that would trigger sobs choking me and rendering me a weak, grief-stricken mess. It’s taken me time to admit this, but I got pretty bad. I cut myself every day to try to lower that pain, and when it didn’t work, I’d cut again. And again. And again. It got to the point where I lay there, on the bathroom floor, wearing my dad’s old shirt, arms bleeding, and an entire bottle’s worth of strong narcotic pain medicine strictly used for my severe back pain post-surgery.
As you can see, I didn’t take them, or I wouldn’t be here today. I never told anyone, and no one knew this until I finally had the courage to speak up about my depression. I lived with this for too long, and no one knew. I’m here to tell you that people, even your best friends, aren’t mind-readers. Even MOMS aren’t mind-readers. My mom never caught onto my suffering. I hid the scars, hid the dark circles under my eyes from not sleeping because I would dream of my dad, weak on his knees, throwing up his own blood when he thought no one knew. The happy Genesis my dad knew and loved was gone. She’d died the day he did, and no one had any idea. Everyone thought I’d moved on. They didn’t see that I was falling deeper and deeper into the scary black hole many people around the world suffer in silence from.
Depression is a huge thing, it’s not a mentality, it’s not a “phase”, it’s a thing that makes people sick. It eats you away from the inside. Slowly, but surely, it paints a façade of “I’m fine”, “I’m okay” over the rotting inside of your soul. It’s something that should never be ignored, and should never be left alone to deal with. I’m witness to the fact that it can, and that it WILL get better. Amare Outreach can give you the help and support you need. The kind that I needed, but never got. You know, it wasn’t until now, in my Junior year- about two weeks ago actually- that I had an outcry. My choir director learned about the cutting, the pain, and she took me to where I could get the help I needed. There are people who care. People who know and understand that what you’re going through is real, and it’s a hell of a journey to take on alone. The road to getting better starts with you. Speak out, it can save your life like it did for me. And if you know of anyone who’s going through this alone, tell for them. Save a life, give them the love and support they need. I knew it would have saved me sooner if I had someone there for me. And daddy, I hope that wherever you are, looking after me, I make you proud. I hope that, with time, the little girl you once loved can live again. I miss you a little bit more each and every day, and I will always “love you more.”
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