My Parting Advice to You

Hanna Hall (three-quarter view, ca. 2005), Kenyon College

The Thrill is happy to feature narratives written by the Kenyon community. To submit a piece of writing, please look at our guidelines here. This submission is by an anonymous contributor. 

WARNING: This piece includes descriptions of self-harm, depression, bullying and suicide which may be triggering to some individuals.

The first time was an accident. I was at a chemistry review session the second week of sophomore year, and I didn’t even know I had been cut until I looked down and saw the blood on my arm. I waited for the pain, but the thing about this cut was that it didn’t hurt… it actually felt good. I had recently been diagnosed with depression, and I felt as though I were walking around with a ten pound weight on my chest, unable to speak, on the verge of crying at every moment. At that review session, looking at the blood, I realized that the weight had shifted just a little, and I took an easier breath than I had for the past month.

It started then as just scratches really, but each time, I needed more to get the same relief, like a drug. It terrified me, but it was the only thing I had found that allowed me to continue pushing my feelings and depression away, instead of dealing with them. I knew I was in a bad place, but I wasn’t willing to address the reasons behind it; I was convinced that with this coping tactic I could put my feelings off forever. It kept me from killing myself. It kept me able to function. But no amount of counseling and medication was going to fix me if I couldn’t be open with myself.

I attended a small, conservative Lutheran school in Missouri where I came out as gay at 14 and, needless to say, it wasn’t great. At Kenyon I told myself I was “over” the negative experiences I had had there, but what I hadn’t allowed myself to admit is that, every time I had a bad day, I heard my favorite teacher telling me that he was disappointed in me for being gay. I heard the school counselor telling me I’d be disciplined if I sat “too close” to girls at football games, the dean threatening to call my parents, students lecture me about my future in hell, and one faculty, whom I was very close to, telling me that I just needed to pray harder. I heard the girl who texted 67 students saying, “madi is what makes lesbians seem faggish. in all honesty I think she should just go kill herself.”

I knew that they were wrong, but their words had rooted deep inside of me, and the depression had brought them to the surface. When I cut, I wasn’t trying to hurt myself; I was trying to hurt them. I could get rid of the unresolved anger and shame without having to admit that their words actually affected me. It worked enough to keep me alive. But to really heal, I had to accept those feelings and work through them.

Clearly I’m not a fan of feelings, particularly talking about my own, but I wanted to write this because I wanted you to learn from me. I’m not completely recovered, but I’m a hell of a lot better than I was 2 years ago, and I have the unconditional support of many Kenyonites to thank for that. Even though it’s cliched, it’s taken me a long time to realize that having feelings isn’t always negative, and that it’s not possible to numb the bad feelings without also numbing the good. I spent much too long berating myself every time I felt bad, when in fact it’s healthy to experience a range of emotions. My parting advice to you is to never talk down to yourself because of how you feel – your emotions aren’t “wrong” and are probably trying to tell you something. Instead of pushing them away, even though it’s easier, learn to accept and deal with them. Dealing with emotions is truly something that you have to learn, and there are many people on campus willing to help you with it. If you ever find yourself in a similar position, you can contact me, the PCs, or the counseling center. Maybe we can help you start to learn.

Know your resources!

Campus Safety: (740) 427-5000

SMA Hotline: (740) 358-1544

PC Hotline: (740) 398-3806

Counseling Center: (740) 427-5643

Kenyon’s Sexual Misconduct Policy and Procedures:

Good Samaritan Policy:


3 responses

  1. Thank you so much for sharing. Every time a powerful narrative like this is shared within our community and within others, it has such a strong ripple effect for all those who feel helpless at times.

  2. “[…] your emotions aren’t “wrong” and are probably trying to tell you something.”

    this took me a million billion years to learn on my own. best wishes to you, Madi, and I hope what you wrote here helps someone learn something about themselves.

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