The Other People

A girl came into my store the other day with her mother. They needed their phone fixing, or something. Can’t remember exactly.

What I do remember was her arm. Short sleeves, there was only one deep scar, but I saw the others. All across the arm, left to right. I saw, and I knew. She was polite, calm, not outwardly unhappy, but I knew.

I wanted to say something, I wanted to reach out, but I hesitated. Was it my place? Was I overreacting? What would the mother think? In the end I held my tongue and helped them. I don’t remember her name. I wonder if she remembers mine. I wonder if she saw my own scars.

Later, a different customer definitely saw my scars. I know, because he asked about them. He wondered if the partially covered marks on my upper arm were a brand. I told him no.

It’s weird—such a delicate topic to broach, and when you do, people feel awkward, uncertain what to do or say. I feel this myself; as much as I wanted to reach out to the girl, would she have felt as awkward as I did when someone reached out to me? Here I am, author of a book about depression and self-harm, supposedly trying to bring light to this troubling subject, and I can’t even speak to other people about it.

We have a handyman, a really wonderful guy. He has a fourteen-year-old daughter. She tried to kill herself in school not long ago—slashed her wrists, I think. Didn’t succeed, of course. As I understand, she’s trying to recuperate, trying to avoid falling into despair again. But I can’t speak to her father, because again I’m wary to broach the subject. I don’t want him to take it the wrong way. I want to tell him I know what she’s going through, but I don’t know if it will matter.

Oh, I want to reach out to these people. I want to help them. I want them to know they’re not alone. And yet when the opportunity arises, I leave them to their own devices, to wallow in misery, to continue to hurt themselves and others.

So I come back here, and I write. And sometimes it resonates with people out in the world; sometimes it connects with strangers. Sometimes they tell me my words make a difference. And that means so, so much to me, it really does.

So why can’t I help the other people, the people who are closest to me? Why can’t I speak to the people I know personally, who need it the most? Why is it so hard to simply say, “Hey—I heard you’re going through a rough time. Do you want to talk?”

Don’t be like me. Don’t let your loved ones down. Talk to them. Listen to them.

Please don’t let them be alone.

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