The following essay is by an anonymous junior at Palo Alto High School, written shortly after a Gunn High School senior died by suicide on Jan. 24.
Former National Football League wide receiver Terrell Owens once said: "A lot of emotional stress that people go through, some people figure out a way to handle it. They have a strong enough support system to keep going and keep moving forward. And some people, they feel like they don't have that outlet."
The following piece is intended to first and foremost convince you and the members of our community that your individual life is precious and that your well-being is, and will always be, the number-one priority for not just yourself but for the people around you as well. Additionally, I hope to shed light on just how incredible and transformative the support system in Palo Alto can be for those going through dark times.
I hope my story will inspire and motivate you to never feel like the supportive outlet Owens is referring to doesn't exist. Because it does. If it didn't, I would not be alive today.
On the morning of Monday, Jan. 5, I came within just minutes of attempting to kill myself. For the previous couple months, I had managed to convince myself that life was no longer worth experiencing. Life wasn't shaping out well in a lot of ways. And the issues weren't just centered around school, as many may assume.
This is a critical part of the story. A lot of people seem to point fingers at the school district and the high school system whenever a student suicide occurs. As simple as that sounds, in reality, there are an infinite number of possible factors as well.
I felt like I was taking hits left and right, from a number of different bullets that life as a whole was throwing at me. Family life at home had grown complicated beyond my control; the combination of a fluctuating GPA, rigor of academics and the cloud of SATs affected my sleep and attitude; my activity in athletics had fallen off the rails from the start of the year; and my social life progressively deteriorated, as I saw hardships with entire friend groups and individuals emerge out of nowhere.
There were no groups or cliques that I was a meaningful part of. I felt as if I was without a home. Alone.
When I was suicidal, I couldn't help but think about everything that was hurting me at that moment. I didn't see the outlet that is inherent in the community that my friends, family and other support systems have built around me.
Certain people who had stuck by me knew that I was dealing with a number of different problems at the time of the incident. It just so happened that a couple close friends texted me a few messages as everything was unfolding. The time was 10:50 a.m., and I was on my way home from an appointment.
What happened next is the jewel of why I am still here today and why I cannot emphasize enough how valued and amazing our community is. As one friend talked with me in a meaningful, deep conversation and begged me to realize just how unfortunate it would be for my life to be taken, another took brave action that I quite simply cannot thank her enough for. The school was notified immediately about what was going on and contacted the police, who sprung into action the second they got the call.
One of my friends kept talking to me, exemplifying the true power that we are all in this together. The heights she went to in order to show to me just how great a person I was and could become are still embedded in the back of my mind today. Eventually, police officers and school guidance counselors were by my side.
I was in for the most humbling six hours of my life, but at the end of the day, it was all worth it as it turned my life around. I was taken by local police to the Emergency Psychiatric Services (EPS) in San Jose. I don't want to go too much in depth about the experience I went through there, but believe me when I say that EPS is not a place where you want to stay for an extended period of time. The freedom is restricted, a lot of waiting occurs and nobody is what I'd call "happy."
But while I was there, I came to the realization of just how lucky I was to have been saved. There is so much more to life than grades, junior year and the unnecessary stress that I had piled up. Seeing the faces of the kids and adults at EPS put my problems into perspective. And although this didn't eliminate the issues I dealt with, it shed some light on the things that I'm thankful for having and the problems I'm thankful for not having.
One of the stories I heard that day was from a 14-year-old girl who had just been beaten up by her stepfather. According to her, a realistic place for her to sleep that night would have been a shopping cart out on the streets in January.
We all have problems. We all struggle at some point with juggling our responsibilities. But there are times when we have to take the opportunity to relax and appreciate life. Health and attitude take priority over school, as crazy as that may sound.
I was released from EPS later that evening after undergoing doctor examinations and questioning. I immediately got in contact with the friends whom I trusted first and foremost the two who saved my life that morning. No struggle should ever go unnoticed, they told me. If you need help, people are here to help. To this day, I can't thank enough those who guided me through that day. Without them, I would not be here. It is that simple.
The first step after the incident was really looking at the things in life that I'm blessed with. I've found over time that life is really beautiful when you can focus on the memories you cherish and the excitement of the future that is to come. The second step was Adolescent Counseling Services (ACS) and weekly meetings with psychologists, therapists and adults who were more than willing to listen and help.
I can't say enough about how awesome all of these programs have been. The amount of support and love I have received from those who have heard my experience has been beyond amazing and heart-warming. As a student at Palo Alto High School, I hope to extend the message that "We're all in this together" to not just my school and my circle, but to Gunn and beyond as well.
I still have a long way to go. A lot of bumps in the road are yet to be encountered. And I still have responsibilities like everyone else. But I also have the reassurance that I have numerous options and people who have my back. Always. I have my outlet, and that is everyone around me.
Ballet dancer Karen Kain once said, "Surround yourself with people who provide you with support and love, and remember to give back as much as you can in return." That is exactly what we all need to recognize and all need to do for each other.
Paly. Gunn. Everyone. We truly are all in this together.