What I Haven’t Thanked My Niece For Yet : Originally posted on Real Talk Magazine
It was the beginning of winter 2010 and my first actual boyfriend had just broken up with me. My relationship was bad and my friends and family told me to leave, but I didn’t. Then the unthinkable happened; he left me. Not having any prior experience, I wasn’t sure how to direct my feelings. I laid in bed every day, skipped all my classes, drank and smoked almost everyday, and started not showing up to meetings and events. My roommates and friends stopped at my school’s apartments and gave me food and coffee. They all secretly spoke to my mother about my issues, and my parents had plans to pull me out at the end of the semester.
After seeing my ex beau out enjoying himself, only weeks after the break up, I felt more miserable than ever. We had been going out about ten months, and I had changed almost everything about myself. I had become, in my opinion, the perfect girlfriend. I did not have my own personality anymore. I started liking different music, smoking almost a pack of cigarettes per day, and never had an opinion that was different than his. No one understood the pain I felt, and each friend encouraged me to leave him in the dust. Looking back now, I’m glad he did what he did. I will never thank him for putting me through the crap he put me through during our relationship, but I am thankful he let me go.
One Friday afternoon my roommates had left for their weekend festivities, and I was left alone in my apartment. I wasn’t sure what my plans were for that weekend, but I knew they weren’t very special. I walked into the bathroom, took my razor, and cut my wrist. The pain was amazing, like something I’ve never felt before. It was a release of anger and pain that I was feeling in my head and my heart. I looked down at the fresh wound and couldn’t believe myself. Who was I? I’m a happy girl. Happy girls don’t do this. I am a good girl. Good girls talk about their feelings. I started to fade into a dizzy state. I was high off the pain. I cut again. This time I bled more. I sat on the floor of my bathroom, and cried. I thought, What is my life coming to? Why did I do that? Just then, I heard a knock at my door and my best friend, Tony, barged into my apartment as if he knew something was wrong. He yelled out my name and immediately opened the bathroom door. He screamed in sheer terror, picked me up, and raced me to the couch. He called my therapist, my therapist called my parents, and my parents called the school. That day was the end of my career at my university. I was deemed “unstable” to be in the dorms at school. I was a threat to my roommates and myself.
I was ordered by the dean of academic affairs to leave campus and go home for an evaluation immediately. One was scheduled for the day after I came home. I met with my regular therapist, and we went over the entire story leading up to cutting about 100 times. We talked about my sadness, what I felt, and if I had plans on going back to school. My second evaluation came after my therapist recommended I see a psychiatrist.
I was deemed unfit to go back to my university. I went back to gather my items on my own, and drove back the next morning. I felt helpless and hopeless. Like nothing in this world was worth living for. I lost my friends, I lost my sorority sisters, and most importantly, I gave up on my degree. I left 18 credits to be unfulfilled, and my great memories to just be memorialized in pictures.
I still wanted to take my own life, nothing in my head made me think otherwise. My mother and I would cry. She would watch me while I took showers and while I slept. For the next 2-3 months I was never alone, although I had never felt more alone in my life.
As I started to realize that my new life didn’t include friends and partying, I began to spend more time with my sister. She had given birth in early May of that year. I drove 45 minutes upstate every week on Fridays, and spent time with my newborn niece.
Going up to visit Cecelia began the new routine for me, a new way to take myself out of my own body. To concentrate on someone else. Each week, I looked forward to going up and having pizza Friday with my sister, brother-in-law, and niece I would escape from my reality.
I had never seen someone look at me with such love before, with such dependence. I would hold her in my arms and my body felt relaxed. I felt as if I had a reason to be alive. My niece needed me. She depended on me when her mother and father were at work, and she depended on me to be an adult.
One morning, Cecelia had fallen asleep in my arms, and her hands wrapped around my fingers. I stared at her fingernails. I saw how little her hands, her face, and her toes were. At that moment, I decided I would live for Cecelia. Although I did not want to live for myself, I would say alive, for her. She was different than the other people in my life. I felt that I had a responsibility to her. I had a role to play, and role that was new and exciting. She inspired me to stay alive. I had finally realized that I was not the center of the world, and I had to grow up.
As miserable as I still was, I would pick up the razor and put it back down. Visions, of events not yet happened, went through my head. One still stands in my mind: Cecelia was flipping through the pages of a photo album at my parent’s house. She had just turned 12, and she was looking for a picture of her with her parents. She was going to be giving them a picture frame as a present. There was a young woman holding her at the hospital. She looked so happy! Who was she? Cecelia went to my sister and point to the girl. It was me, but she wouldn’t know me.
I thought of the things I would never be able to do with her, the events I would miss, the fun days that I would never be able to see because I was selfish. I thought about her first trip to a Broadway play or her first drink from Starbucks. I thought about the first time she would need some advice about something she didn’t want to ask her mom about. I couldn’t give her a hug and tell her it would be okay.
I would be the taboo subject in my family. People would cry when they thought about me. My niece would never know how to dance to “Call Me, Maybe,” how to pose in pictures with your skinny arms, and do duck faces. My niece taught me how to live again, she taught me how to smile, and she taught me how to love myself, even if I had to learn through someone else.
Slowly, my scars healed, and my heart healed, too. Cecelia was the light out of all of the darkness in my life. As she grew, I grew up. She gave me the motivation to live another day. To see her walk, talk, and dance. I wanted to see her grow up, and I am.
This little girl saved my life and changed my thinking. I think when she’s older, I’ll tell her the story of her Aunt Katie almost not being around. But, maybe she doesn’t need to know the details. One day, she will know why and how important she is. Someday she will know what she did for me.