by Paul Buskey
We don’t know as we go through life, how often we may or may not impact someone else. But our daily interactions, no matter how brief, can actually change a life and make a difference. I want to tell you a story about what happened and how it impacted my life.
I live in Richmond and was visiting New York with my family when I saw a young lady with noticeable scars. I stopped because I recognized what those scars were from and I walked up to her and directly referenced them but not in the way others had. I did not make fun, make comments, point or otherwise make her feel shame for those scars. I shook her hand and looked this young woman in the eyes and said, “You’re a warrior.” Then I smiled, gave a final squeeze of her hand, and walked away.
I read several mental health sites regularly, The Mighty being one of them. I was reading this story, To the Man Who Approached Me About My Self-Harm Scars, and I realized I was the man she referenced in the story. My response is in the editor’s notes She was in New York on a visit from Scotland.
My encounter with Kayleigh was brief, maybe 10-15 seconds, but it’s something I’ll never forget. I am so glad I stepped outside my comfort zone and had the courage to speak up in that moment. Not that it was planned. It was a spur of the moment inspiration.
I feel Kayleigh, the author of that story, was put into my life by God as a nudge to share my own story of struggle.
Seventeen years ago, I was diagnosed with Bipolar II, depression and anxiety at the age of thirty. That diagnosis itself is daunting, the self-harm complicating the diagnosis and recovery.
Seeing Kayleigh have the courage and strength to tell her story should tell just the opposite of the scars they see on her skin–hope for people that suffer from all illnesses and the determination to keep fighting.
She is an inspiration to all of us. An inspiration to me.
I’ve been in that dark place where I was depressed enough to hurt myself. The first time I self-harmed was when I was 12 or 13 years old. It’s been almost fifteen years since I’ve done that. I fought those same demons Kayleigh. At that time I didn’t have it in me to fight the urges.
Mine aren’t has visible as Kayleigh’s but we have this is common. That’s why my heart hurt for her when I saw her on the bleachers. That dark place is deep, and for me it’s an urge that never quite goes away—a problem to which I have no answer.
After all these years growing up knowing I was different and finally being diagnosed, I am probably doing as well as ever. That being said, the daily struggle and fight that is needed to fight these illnesses is exhausting.
By coming forward with this and other stories, it’s my hope to give a voice to others who feel they can’t speak up yet for whatever reason.
I will try to speak up and share like Kayleigh did with her volumes of courage.