The Good Friend

I’m known (or I’d like to think I’m known) as the helpful friend. The friend you can always talk to when you need someone to help you. The friend who won’t shame you. I’ll tell you to do whatever you want with your body and that I’m not judging you. I’ll tell you that I don’t think you’re crazy. I’ll tell you that I know you’re beautiful.

I’ve always thought that Melissa, one of my best friends, is one of the most gorgeous girls I know, although she thinks otherwise. She’s one of the smartest kids in the grade, although she would disagree. She is one of the nicest, kindest, most beautiful people I’ve ever had the privelege to know, but no matter how many times I tell her that, she doesn’t believe me.

Yesterday, I saw the scars on Melissa’s arm.

I knew that she had considered cutting herself before. I knew that her family life isn’t easy and I knew that she’s incredibly insecure. But I didn’t know she had actually gone through with it.

There were many new ones mixed with many, many old ones on her beautiful thin arms. I tried not to react—we were in the middle of a conversation with Anne and Lana. Maybe it was just in my head, but she seemed very conscious of the scars. Very conscious of who could see her arms.

I didn’t know what I was supposed to do. I never saw Belle’s scars. There were only a couple people I knew besides who had ever gone through with it and their scars were faded. I’ll admit I probably overreacted internally. I didn’t know how to deal with it. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do, if anything.

So last night, I asked Melissa how she was doing. She said “I’m okay, why?”

I told her, trying to emphasize that I didn’t want to judge or corner or alienate her, that I saw the scars. And I guess that was her cue to spill everything out.

She explained to me that she likes to hurt her herself, that she likes to watch herself bleed. That she knows it’s wrong and that she’s a freak, but she doesn’t want to stop and doesn’t plan on it. She told me that she likes seeing the scars.

I tried my best to tell her that it’s not wrong, that she isn’t a freak. And I knew she didn’t believe me but I hoped that somewhere, anywhere inside her, she believed what I was saying.

She explained to me that her family thinks self-harm is a sin against god. She wants to hide the scars but she doesn’t want to get rid of them. For now, she can wear long sleeves, but once spring hits she doesn’t know what she’s gonna do. I don’t know what she’s gonna do. I don’t know how to help her.

I’ve been encouraging her to seek help for a while, but I know she doesn’t want help. I don’t want to try and convince her to stop cutting because I know from experience that it will only make her more anxious. She needs serious, professional help but she’s not ready to seek it out. The most I can do is be there for her.

So I tried my best to make sure she understands that to me, she is still the same, beautiful Melissa that she was the day before. I told her that whenever she wants to cut, day or night, she can call me and I’ll drop whatever I’m doing. I won’t even try to convince her not to do it—trying to stop her might only make her more ashamed of herself and that’s not what I want to do. All I want is to be there for her. So I said I would talk to her while she did it, and I would talk to her calmly and I would say whatever she wanted me to.

I told her that I love her. And Melissa, if you end up reading this, then I’m telling you again. Girl, I love you so, so, so much. You’re one of the best, most beautiful people I know. Please, please, please understand that nothing you do could ever ruin that. I will always be here for you.

As for myself? I told myself that I better not fuck this up. I told myself that I can’t even think of resenting this job I’ve given myself. I told myself that I need to accept that this is my role in life—the good friend, the one who gives advice, the one who won’t judge you. The one you can talk to.

I told myself that yeah, I just need to deal with the fact that everyone has issues and that if I don’t help them as much as I can, then I’m not doing my part in the world. I told myself that I need to suck it up and be supportive and let what I want take a backseat for a little while, because there’s nothing more important to me than the safety of my friends.

I told myself….

I told myself that I’m doing the right thing.

I hope I’m doing the right thing.


One comment

  1. I feel your position in a way no one has probably ever told you.

    I was the strongest of my friends after my attack. I was open and unashamed and it helped them come out and confess their own assaults.

    Then I started seeing the marks they had left on themselves. And, mostly, I did what you’ve done. For one girl, it helped her stop. You’re not a licensed professional. Interference could lead to a more serious problem, where understanding could lead to recovery.

    [However, I’m sure you know that if your friend’s life was in danger, you’d take different steps to help]

    For one of the other girls, I found out that it was a manifestation of her masochistic side. She liked the pain. Still does, but now in other ways. For some people, cutting is just a part of the ritual of pain that leads to their sexual gratification.

    But you give them a wonderful, safe environment to let out their feelings without being judged. It’s one of the misconceptions I’ve heard about counselors. So often people don’t want to go to them because they don’t believe they won’t be judged. You provide the same space, although you may lack a little in training.

    Have you ever considered that for a job?

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