Sometimes all it takes is one person to remind you of your worth.
| Courtney had always been a sad girl. Even as a child, she had baffled her parents and teachers with her strange moodiness. She'd start off the morning seemingly happy, but at some point in the day she would be overcome by a profound and unexplainable sadness. Neither Courtney nor anyone else could understand it until at the age of ten, after countless tests and psychological evaluations, Courtney was diagnosed with a mood disorder. During this time, she was teased mercilessly by her classmates, who spread rumors that she was "crazy" and a "freak" for her weekly visits to a child psychologist and the medication she was required to take just before lunch. Her only real friend was a lanky, brown-haired girl named Anne, whom Courtney went to school with. Upset by how the other students treated Courtney, Anne waited for her to return from the nurse's office one day and invited her to sit with her at the lunch table.
"Courtney!" Anne exclaimed, waving. Caught off guard, Courtney shyly waved back.
"Come sit with me!" Anne continued, beckoning to her. Slowly, Courtney made her way over to where Anne was and sat down across from her.
"Hi, I'm Courtney," she nearly mumbled, still not trusting.
"I know. You sit at the end of my row. I'm Anne," she responded, matter-of-factly. "So, what's up?"
"Not much," Courtney answered sheepishly. After a pause, Anne asked, "Do you ever get embarrassed walking to the nurse's office every day?"
Courtney relaxed a bit. "Not really. There isn't usually anyone in the hallway, so no one stares at me. I hate it when people stare at me."
"Me too. Why can't people just mind their own business?" Anne agreed, rolling her eyes and sighing dramatically. Courtney gave a rare but sweet smile that lifted her countenance from its normal numb expression. It was the beginning of a beautiful, yet bittersweet friendship.
It was during ninth grade that Courtney had her first breakdown. On a cool Sunday evening in early October, when the weather was just beginning to hint at autumn, Anne's mother got a call from Courtney's asking if Anne would mind picking up Courtney's assignments from school.
"Of course," Anne's mother replied. "Is Courtney sick?"
The voice on the other end paused for a moment, swallowed painfully and took a breath, then continued. "Um, well...in a way, yes." Taking another deep breath, she forced her lips to utter the words she had dreaded ever since Courtney was first diagnosed. "We think Courtney was contemplating suicide."
Something like a cold hand gripped Mrs. Miller's heart and she had to stifle a loud gasp.
"Oh, my God!" she nearly whispered, "What happened?"
Mrs. Mitchell put the phone down on the counter and pinched between her eyes to try to stop the tears that were already cascading down her face. She waited a moment to regain her composure before picking up the phone again and continuing.
"I was walking by her room two nights ago and heard a strange noise. When I knocked at the door there was no answer; I called her name several times, but she wouldn't come to the door. Finally, I just went in and found her curled up beside the bed, alternately sobbing and silently screaming. She had a shaving razor in her hand. I sat down on the floor with her and started coaxing her to tell me what was wrong. She wouldn't tell me, she just kept sobbing hysterically and darting her eyes between me and the razor. When I finally got her to let go of it, I called Ron and told him to phone the hospital. She was still screaming as he carried her to the car. She's still there, but she's calmed down considerably. Says she wants to see Annie. I don't know how you feel about that, but I think it would be good for her to see a familar face besides me and my husband's. It might be comforting to her."
"Oh, yes, Annie will want to see her, I'm sure," she answered, gazing in the direction of Anne's bedroom.
When she arrived at the hospital, Anne tried to remember the last time she had been in a place like this. She couldn't. The entire atmospere was foreign to her. All she wanted to do was see her best friend.
A mixture of bewilderment, sorrow and fear had filled Anne's chest when she heard the terrible news that her friend since fifth grade had tried to kill herself and was now in the psychiatric ward of the local hospital. "How could this happen?" she had thought frantically. "She's always been pretty melancholy, but suicide?" It was almost too much for her to think about. On the way over to the hospital, Anne's mother had been preparing her for the visit with Courtney. "Remember, Annie, sweetie--Courtney might still be pretty unstable. Be very gentle and kind to her. Don't do or say anything that might upset her, okay?"
A nurse directed Anne to Courtney's room. Inside, Courtney sat on the bed, her expression surprisingly placid, reading one of the school assignments her mother had gotten from Anne the day before. She looked up and grinned pleasantly.
"Hey, Annie," she said in her quiet manner. "Thanks for coming to visit me." After a pause, she added, "I wish the circumstances were different, though," the smile fading slightly from her face.
"Why did you do it?" Anne burst out before she could stop herself. "Oh no!" she thought panicking, "This is exactly what I'm not supposed to be saying!"
Instantly, the smile vanished from Courtney's face.
"I'm sorry. I shouldn't have asked you that. I'm sorry." Tears glistened in Anne's eyes and she began to sob. Wearing a look of profound sorrow, Courtney gathered her friend into her arms and held her firmly against her for several seconds.
"I did it because I thought it was too painful to live," she finally answered in a low voice.
Anne pulled herself away from Courtney's embrace with a look of confusion and distress.
"What? What was too painful?"
"My life. The way people look at me, the way they treat me. Kids at school treat me like I'm a complete alien because I'm not always laughing and joking and talking to everyone, and adults who know of my disorder treat me like a piece of glass that will shatter at any minute. I just want to be treated like a normal person. I'm tired of being a misfit! I feel like I don't have a place in the world. Like I'm a square peg and the rest of humanity is a round hole. I'm better off not being here," she added, defeated.
"How can you say that? How can you think that you don't have any purpose at all?" Anne replied, incredibly hurt.
"Anne, you really don't understand..."
"You're right, I don't understand! I don't understand how you can think that your life is so worthless that you can just throw it away whenever you please! I don't know about all those other people at school, but you mean something to me. They might not see any of your qualities, but I do. I see your worth even if no one else does. You think no one would be hurt if you died? You know what, I would be hurt--I would be very hurt. I was hurt just hearing that you tried to kill yourself, much less if you had actually succeeded!" Anne looked at Courtney with pleading, tear-filled eyes. "I love you, Court. You're my best friend. How can I convince you that your life does matter?"
Courtney only stared at the bedspread.