“A Girl Like Her”

I wasn’t popular in high school. I went to school. I went to class. I had a few friends I would sit with at lunch. I would go home.

On Friday nights, I would hangout with my parents- my best friends.

This is what my eating disorder gave me; it gave me a friend. It gave me a classmate. It gave me someone to walk through the halls with. It gave me someone to ride home with, to workout with, to shop with, to waste time on Pinterest with.

The ‘moc doc’ A Girl Like Her is probably the most groundbreaking film I have watched in a really long time, and the best hour and a half I have spent on Netflix in a really ling time.

Jessica Burns is a sophomore at a high school that has just been awarded as one of the ‘Top 10 High Schools in America.’ She has one friend, Brian. After getting horrendously bullied at school for months, Jessica attempts suicide. Inevitably, it was  Brian’s idea to hide a camera in a pin on her clothes that caught this bullying on tape – which brings justice to the situation.

Even though it’s not a true story, it is based off of true stories that have happened in our society over the last decade or so, and it was a line in the first half hour [I think] that hit home for me.

After the school found out about Jessica’s attempt at suicide, they go around interviewing different students and ask them about Jessica.

The general consensus was that she was a kind, gentle soul who got pushed to the side in the ‘dog-eat-dog’ world of high school.

Not only is this sort of how I felt in high school, this is EXACTLY how I felt in high school. I guarantee if I would have died in high school, these are the kinds of reactions my classmates would have given.

I was nice. I smiled when smiled at. I apologized if I bumped into someone.

Otherwise, I kept to myself and bought my time until graduation.

The difference was that my torturous battle wasn’t easy to hide. It was worn like a flashing neon light on my forehead. I was a walking skeleton – people looked, a few asked, but for the most part people stayed away.

I had problems. No one wanted that. No one wanted to DEAL with that…Except T.J. He not only chose to deal with it – he deals with it’s lasting effects each and EVERY day.

For a while, I had one friend. She was the best thing that had happened to me in high school. Both a bit of social outcasts, we joined together to have one another’s company in a high school filled with your typical cliques, hookups, cheaters, drama – whatever.

But then one day, I was talking to her about a guy I thought was cute. [I didn’t know the guy sitting right behind me was his best friend.] A few weeks later, I got a Facebook message from T.J. O’Neil. (I know what you’re thinking-Facebook. But in a class of 650, when you don’t have a class together, you really don’t have an opportunity to see each other.)

A couple of weeks later, we went on our first date. It was a miracle he asked me out for a second one after my line of “I haven’t been on a date in two years.” [Clearly I was a bit rusty.]

But it was prom that changed everything. Having been dating T.J. for a couple of months now, I was so excited to be able to go to my senior prom. Junior prom wasn’t an option, as there were no potential dates, and I ended up just hanging out. It was all fine and good until some typical girl drama came between my friend and I. Still to this day, I am not quite sure what happened. Other than I had a boyfriend who I was going to prom with, and she didn’t have a date – which complicated things. As guilty as I felt, I knew that I had to do what was going to make me happy. In the end she ended up scraping a date together, but that night was the beginning of the end of our friendship.

It was also the beginning of a real relationship for T.J. and I.

While many outsiders may look at the situation and say I chose a boy over my friend, the cardinal ‘no-no,’ I know the truth of the story. Instead of my friend being happy for me, she wanted me to be unhappy with her.

T.J. and I were each other’s best friends from then on…and still are. I finally found someone who understands me and supports me no matter what-and I do the same for him.

When I went to KSU my freshman year, we broke up, and I spiraled right back into my eating disorder. BUT-I had to learn how to live without T.J. I had to learn how to thrive without him. So that year, I put on weight, and made a couple of friends. I made the decision for MYSELF to drop out of Greek life. Then, I transferred. Transferring was hard in its own respects, and honestly Sophomore year was still a little rocky.

I will always have trouble making girlfriends. I just can’t sit and talk about the calories you ate, or the workout you did, or listen to you complain that your parents aren’t paying for something. My experiences have changed me, and I can’t be friends with people whose world is that small. But thankfully, this year-my junior year, things turned around.

T.J. is my boyfriend, and my best friend. I go to him first and foremost for everything. My parents and I have a bond I can’t even begin to describe. My sister and I [while we have our ups and downs] are always there for each other at the end of the day, and aren’t afraid to call each other out on our shit. But girlfriends are important. They are SO important. If it weren’t for Project HEAL, I wouldn’t have gotten as close to my friends as I have. Not only are they some of my best friends, they’re going to be my roommates next year too. Maggie G., Catie, Erica – You guys are hands down one of the best things that have ever happened to me, and I don’t know what I would do without you. Then, they say you don’t make friends in your classes- [First of all, I met Maggie G. and Erica in class], Abigail, Becca, and Maggie M. have been the best things to come out of some of the lamest classes.

Suicide is a permanent solution for a temporary problem.

In high school, I thought about it…a lot. While I never had a plan, I wasn’t far from making one.

If I could go back and talk to 16-year-old me; I would tell her about Project HEAL, and Adulting Hippie, and Maggie, Catie, Erica, Abigail, Maggie, Becca, the other Project HEAL girls, TJ, my internship….

You never know what someone is really facing. You never know what their real struggle is. Step out of your bubble and reach out to those around you – It can make a WORLD of difference.

The National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

Madison (1)


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