Beauty in the Broken

Finding the strength to move on when things seem at a loss

Words by Jessica Darling | Photo by Talia Hodge

Growing up in a small town with a graduating class of 28 people is hard. People get bored and create drama to entertain themselves because there is nothing else to do. It’s typical to walk down the hallway and hear rumors spread about you as you pass.

“She’s such a hoe,” I overhear a senior say in one of my classes. “I heard she slept with him.”

“She’s a bitch. It’s probably because she can’t lose weight and has a mole on her face,” says a boy I had known since preschool.

“Why is she so weird and annoying?” says a girl I never got along with.

From time to time throughout my high school experience, I have become a target of people’s boredom, but none of it has ever bothered me until this year, my senior year. The girl I consider my best friend has begun to join the “playful” banter about me in the halls. It’s becoming hard to handle the drama that has ensued and it is dividing the people I call friends within my school.

I am being bullied by a girl I have considered a close friend since my freshman year. I don’t understand her reasons for doing what she does other than a game of he said/she said. Her reign of terror starts small and psychological.

We are both editors for the school yearbook, which means we have access to everything required to create the yearbook. That includes other people’s layouts and designs they are working on. When looking through the layouts I designed, I began to notice things like my class picture missing from the page. I don’t think anything of it when I first notice it. I just replace the picture thinking someone accidentally deleted it. I begin to realize it wasn’t an accident. As I continue to go through the yearbook, I notice all the pictures of me are gone or I was cropped out of them. It had become more and more clear to me that my pictures are being erased intentionally.

She upped her game a little more every day. I never say anything to her about the pictures. I just convert the layout back to its original form. After seeing she isn’t going to get a reaction from me, she decides to try playing mind games from a different angle. She goes through and deletes the layouts I create before we critique them in class. Still not willing to give her a reaction, I apologize to the teacher for not having my assignment done on time and recreate the original layout that was previously there.

These things are a minor inconvenience to me. I can easily replace pictures, deal with the psychological games and recreate the layouts she has deleted. What I can’t deal with is every time I get on Twitter, I see subtweets directed toward me. Even though the people never directly tag me in the tweets, I can still see them, and they know I can.

Fat bitch will get what’s coming to her


It has 10 favorites and two retweets. It tears me apart to see people openly say these things about me. It is different than hearing rumors whispered in the hall because I don’t have to put a face to who is saying the things about me. Online, I know who is making comments, who is spreading rumors and who agrees with or believes them.

I wish she would do us all a favor and just kill herself already #Bye

Fifteen favorites and five retweets.

I make my account private and block her and anyone who favorited or retweeted her subtweets about me. After I make the account private, I begin to receive text messages from numbers I don’t know with things like, “U stupid bitch ur gonna learn not 2 fuk with us,” and “If I see u at school im going to hurt you.”

I am starting to become overwhelmed and afraid to go to school. I am starting to hate myself. When I look in the mirror, I see someone I don’t recognize. She is useless, worthless and there is no point of her existence. The girl staring back at me is sickly skinny. Her eyes are hollowed out. She is taking up space where she isn’t wanted. The next day at school there is a note taped to my locker.

“Kill yourself.”

All I know is I quit; I am done fighting a war I will never win.

The yearbook teacher notices the things that are occurring in the class. However, she is more concerned with what drama is happening within the school and gossiping with the students instead of being a disciplinary figure. I guess that’s another disadvantage to growing up in a small town.

I should go to someone higher up about the issues, but it doesn’t matter how hard you try to keep things private. They always have a way of being exposed for everyone to see. If I were to tell anyone what was going on the entire town would know, and everyone would take sides and add fuel to the fire. So I keep quiet and hope everything will go away on its own.

Defeated, I turn to the internet to see how others like me deal with the feelings I am having and the things I am going through. I find a community of people who recommend self-harm on Instagram and Twitter. I decide to create an anonymous account on each and follow other accounts like mine. Accounts of people who are also looking to end the suffering they live day to day.

Some accounts recommend starving yourself because then you can feel the dull ache of your stomach. I only eat half of every serving I make for myself, regardless of how hungry I am. I have nothing else to lose, so I try some of the more extreme options people suggest. Some recommend different places you can hurt yourself where others wouldn’t see the marks or it wouldn’t be noticeable. I choose my rib cage and inner thighs because I play volleyball and the uniforms reveal a lot of skin. It starts out small with pinching myself until I build up the courage to do more—to feel more. Then I go from burning myself to finally cutting myself.

The websites are right. Physical pain, self-harm—it does alleviate the pain within me. It is the only time I am capable of feeling some form of control over myself and how I am feeling. I self-harm because it is the only form of feeling I can allow myself to have. Otherwise, when I find myself alone at night, the numbness I feel will slip away, and I find myself drowning in self-hate, hopelessness and an overwhelming sadness.

There I am, a 17-year-old senior in high school: broken, scarred, shattered and numb. Mascara rolls down my cheeks with each fresh tear I shed. Sobs escape me as I try to quietly cry in my bedroom. I try to hide the pain that grips me as blood runs down the right side of my abdomen. The small blade I smashed out of a pencil sharpener in desperation with one of my dad’s hammers lays beside me on the floor.

Eventually, cutting myself is not enough. I want to end my suffering for good. Things at school are getting worse. People who don’t even know me are coming up to me.

“Just kill yourself already and put the rest of us out of our misery,” says a freshman I have never met.

I give in. That day I go home determined that it was my last day feeling this way. After my parents and sisters fall asleep, I silently creep up the stairs from my bedroom to the kitchen. The second shelf on the right is where we keep all the medication in my household. The medications range from my sister’s attention deficit hyperactivity disorder medication, my mother’s migraine relief pills, my father’s pain relief pills from the shoulder surgery he had and your everyday medications like Tylenol and Ibuprofen.

I fill a plastic cup with water, kiss my sisters goodbye one last time on their foreheads as they sleep and write a goodbye letter to my parents. I lock my bedroom door, throw a handful of pills in my mouth, gulp down the water and lay on my bed, thoughts of not waking up in the morning running through my mind.

To my disdain, I wake up the next morning and pretend nothing happened the night before. I throw the note away and get ready for school, just like any other day. I sit through another day of taunts about killing myself. When walking home from school that day, I am silently crying to myself when my mother pulls up next to me. She got off work early and decided to pick my sisters and me up from school. She continues to ask what is wrong, instead of answering, I show her my wrist.

It is covered in scratches from a paper clip. I had gotten desperate after the long day I had at school and cut myself before going home. Unable to contain my emotions, I lose control and tell my mother everything. The next night, my parents take me for a car ride to the hospital. I am uncooperative with the nurses and furious with my parents for setting me up in what feels like a trap.

I am hospitalized in a place called the Lindner Center, which specializes in the care of adolescents. The center has us on a strict schedule to keep our minds busy. We meet with a psychologist once a day and aren’t allowed to wear shoes or clothes that have strings in them. We aren’t even allowed to close the doors to our rooms because the staff fears the things we can do to ourselves behind them.

After being in the center for some time, the doctors determine I can be discharged as long as I meet with a psychologist and psychiatrist once a week. They diagnose me with bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. I don’t believe them at first. When I think of bipolar disorder, I think of the Sour Patch Kids commercial. One minute the Sour Patch Kid is cutting someone’s hair off in their sleep and the next it’s being sweet and giving the hair back like nothing ever happened.

According to the doctors, bipolar disorder is hard to diagnose. So rare, in fact, that most people who have it are not diagnosed because you have to be observed over a period of time.

I don’t think I have drastic mood swings, but it turns out that’s not what bipolar disorder is. It is manic and depressive episodes. With the help of medication and weekly visits with doctors to discuss my feelings, my mood becomes better. The depression is easier to handle than it has ever been.

Returning to school is hard. There are a lot of questions about where I had been during the time of my hospitalization. The bullying continues, and after my first day back, my dad has to pick me up and bring me home. I was overwhelmed by the school environment after being in the controlled atmosphere of the center for two weeks. Over time, I become able to handle the situations better because of my support system at home.

Present Day

Four years have passed since my hospitalization, the last time I self-harmed and my suicide attempt. I am now a senior at Kent State finishing with my last semester of college. Some days I still struggle to get out of bed, and sometimes I even find myself slipping back into the depression. If I had not been hospitalized, I would not be writing this, and I would not be the person I am today. Truthfully, I would have continued to hate and torture myself. I would have ended up attempting to take my life again, and succeeding. I was broken four years ago, but when I look back now, I see all the things I accomplished and overcame in those four years.

The scars on my side have begun to fade, but I will never forget the lesson I have learned. Tattooed over my scars are the words, “Everything has beauty, but not everyone can see it.” This is a permanent reminder of what I have endured. They say there’s beauty even in the broken, it’s just harder to find. The beauty is in the battle and the triumph once you win the war. It is not something you can see during the war because of the chaos. Looking back now, I have found the beauty in the broken mess I was.

 Akron Area Depression and
Bipolar Support Alliance


 Coleman Professional Services


 Mental Health and Recovery Board


 National Suicide Prevention Line


 Ohio Crisis Text Line

 Text 4hope to 741741

 Psychological Services