“We All Have a Story to Tell” by Chloe, Kaitlyn and Savannah

We All have a Story to Tell

The topic we chose was teen suicide on Indian Reservations. We decided to do this because it is a big problem. Suicide looks very different in Native communities then it does in the general population. Native American youth suicides and attempt rates are at a crisis level. Native Americans carry the outlook that things won’t get better for them. Because of this, suicide on the Indian reservation has increased over the last 30 years. We also chose this topic because we have either struggled with it or were affected by it. We all have a story to tell.

 

We all have a story to tell. My name is Chloe Rivers, and my story relates to our topic. I am a survivor of suicide. I struggled with it and was affected by it. My story started the year of 2013 while I was still in junior high.

I was in the wrong crowd, was running away, smoking, doing triple c’s, acting up in class. I started failing my classes and stopped caring.

Me and my mom would fight for days about the way I’d been acting and the way my attitude had changed.

One day I just realized how bad I was doing, starting realizing that I was letting my family down, started falling down a dark hole.

I was self-harming everywhere on my body before my family found out. After that nothing was the same, my whole relationship with my family  changed. I just started feeling so empty and sad after.

Afterwards, they sent me away to my alcoholic dad in Mosmin who hasn’t even been interested in being in my life, all just to keep me away from my bad habits. I didn’t last long there.

I was so mad that it all came to this I didn’t even try fixing anything. I just gave up.

Jr high went by fast. I didn’t even graduate 8th grade. I had to go to summer school to get my certificate.

Then, 2015 came. It came fast too. It was the year where everything got worse.

On July 13 of that year, I lost a really close friend to suicide. She was bullied and thought leaving it all was a better solution.

She hung herself at the young age of 15.

She left me a message that night that I’m sure was a “goodbye.”

It really broke me, broke my heart into pieces. It didn’t help that at the time, I still wasn’t doing well.

I was about to start high school, still doing bad things and still depressed.

I started getting bullied by my boyfriend’s ex and his step-sister. At that point I was just so lost and so deep into depression, I wanted to give up.

I just didn’t want to deal with it anymore so in the first month of school I attempted suicide.  My sister was home with me when I attempted it. However, she had no idea what was going on.

I know I hurt my family, especially my mom.

When I came to in the hospital and realized what I had done, I was scared about what I had almost accomplished.

I promised I was going to get better.

After being in Sioux Falls Avera Hospital for two weeks I came back and switched schools to Tiospaye Topa.

I left everything behind and changed —  new friends, new everything, no one knew me so it gave me the chance to start again.

A couple years went by and I felt good.

In 2017, my junior year, things started getting bad again.

My mom and I started fighting a lot.

She started calling me names. It hurt since it was coming from my mom.

I started feeling the way she made me sound: worthless and hopeless.

I started self-harming again, this time where no one would see. I started giving up again despite it being just a couple months into school. I went on with it for a month before I just couldn’t anymore. I felt lost and alone.

I wanted to get away from her, and every time I let her know that, we would start to fight again. I would let my friends know but then just push them away because I didn’t need anyone feeling sorry for me.

I gave up in school and thought about getting emancipated.

I had no one to talk to about what was going through my head. It was just me and my thoughts, and they took over. I let them.

I then decided again that I didn’t want to be here anymore. I attempted to commit suicide again in the month of October.

My mom didn’t care, didn’t come to see me in the hospital.

When I got back from being in Regional Hospital in Rapid City for a week and a couple days, it felt as if everyone took it as a joke. They were acting like it didn’t happen so I just tried to forget it too. I didn’t talk about it because no one brought it up and I wasn’t going to either.

No one ever asked me how I felt so nothing changed; I was still depressed, still fighting with my mom. Still holding everything on my mind on my shoulders.

Some days I would go home and not say a word to my mom.

I was still trying to move out and I let my mom know again. She didn’t like it at all so we were arguing, yelling, and screaming at each other.

As I told her I hated her, my throat felt as if it was burning.

She then picked up the house phone and called the cops, lying that I was trying to kill myself again.

Pain rocketed through my chest as I began to cry.

Despite being hurt over my mother’s lie, I had to move on.

Months went by and I started working on myself and my relationship with her.

She didn’t have a job at this time so I barely went to school. I just wanted to be with my mom and hangout with her.

My relationship with my mom got better as the days went by. I started opening up to her so we talked a lot.

I told her all my feelings, told her everything from school when I did go and started telling her I love her.

Our bond is so much stronger now.  We’re closer than we’ve ever been since before my middle school years. She’s my best friend. I’m thankful for her.

She literally deserves nothing but the best after everything I put her through.

After my mother and I became close again, I started focusing on better days too and letting it all go. I started thinking positively.

I know days still get tough and I know that it could all just fall apart again if I let it; but I’m just gonna get through it.

I want to go nights without overthinking everything.  I want to be better. I want to love myself and life, so I’m here, living, trying, fighting, and surviving.

 

My name is Savannah, and I am a suicide/domestic violence survivor.

In April 2017, I fell in love with my best friend. I thought he was sweet and kind.

However, for the three months we dated, he began to accuse me of things.

My depression got worse, way worse than before.

He started to hit me, push me, pinch me, and take advantage of me, but I was young and thought I was in love.

He didn’t understand when I said “no” while he wanted to do ‘stuff’.

 

On June 17, 2017, around 8 at night, I went for a walk without telling anyone, because I wanted to be alone after having a huge fight with him.

He later found me and he started pushing me, to the point I was crying telling him to leave me alone.

Afterwards, he got mad and left.

When I got home, he had already started messaging me, “You’re worthless”. He was in my brother’s room in the basement while he was messaging me. After. he then started saying he was going to hurt himself.

I went downstairs to confront him. He pushed me away, and when I tried to walk away, he pushed me down and got on top of me. There, he held me down by my wrists, and yelled in my face, “Why don’t you love me!!??” over and over… but I couldn’t scream. I was scared.

At the same time, I knew I couldn’t take it anymore. I walked upstairs, crying, and went into my room.

My youngest brother asked me if I was okay. I replied “yeah, I love you babes” before grabbing a bottle of Tylenol pills and a packet of Nyquil tablets. At 12:07 AM, I went in the bathroom and started taking the pills. It was a lot of pills.

 

After awhile, my hands were shaking, then pretty soon there was banging on the door and shouting. My mom and brother were screaming my name because I wouldn’t let them in.

Soon my body went numb, and everything got bright. I let my body fall back.

My mom and uncle practically had to carry me to the car.

We lived 42 miles away from the nearest hospital. My mom went 90 mph to get me there, and I was going in and out the whole time.

When we got to the hospital, my mom told me that my best friends, Chloe and Chantel were in the waiting room, but I didn’t want to see anyone.

 

On the 18th, I was sent to a psych ward in Rapid City. I spent 3 days in there. While I was in there, I only talked to my family once because while I was on the phone with my mom, I heard my three brothers laughing in the background, and it broke my heart that I wanted to leave them.

When I got home, I couldn’t sleep in my own bed or go in my room for two weeks, because it reminded me of my boyfriend too much.

Throughout the relationship, I hurt myself, a lot, because I didn’t feel good enough.

I have scars on my hand, wrist, shoulder, ankle, and thighs. I can’t wear certain clothes because I don’t like when people stare at them. A year later, I still struggle with a lot of depression, but life has been good to me.

Four months after attempting, I watched the birth of my only sister and because of that, I’m glad that I wasn’t successful.

I don’t know why I let such a toxic person hurt me so much. I’m happy to be alive today.

 

My name is Kaitlyn.

My dad had recently got out of prison and a few weeks later he got a girlfriend. She had two kids: a boy and a girl. My sister, Kristyn, and I got along with him, but we didn’t like his girlfriend.

My dad ended up moving in with her, so we had to go to school where they lived as my grandma thought it was good for us to stay with him.

That way, we could go see our grandma on the weekends.

My grandma raised my sister and me since we were little so we still wanted her to be a part of our lives. We think of her as our “real” mom.

The new school we were going to was a hour and a half away from where my grandma lived but it was on the same reservation as my old school. I went to school on the rez before but it wasn’t as big as the new one I was going to. It was here where I first learned about teen suicide.

I was in 6th grade when I saw girls and boys with cuts on their wrists.

I didn’t know someone could be so sad with themselves. I always thought they did that to themselves because of bullying, but I never knew there were other reasons for it… until I felt the same way…

My dad was fun to hangout with at first but I noticed he would get mad easily.

He started to do violent things to his girlfriend like push her and say nasty things to her.

The first time he pushed me, I let it go because I thought it was a one time thing.

It wasn’t.

Then he started to call me, and everyone else in the house, names. It felt like when he was there we all would try not to make him mad.

I never liked staying in the house when he was there because I was afraid of the things he would say or do to me.

I tried to block out most of these things. After all, it was my dad who was saying it. Therefore, I started to believe those things.

That’s when I started to get depressed. I would think if my own father thinks I’m these things then what do the people I don’t know think of me?

I would think of killing myself and wonder how everyone’s life would be like if I wasn’t around.

I never tried to cut myself because I was too scared of what my dad would do if he saw them.

I just wanted something else to think about so I stopped eating and would not go hang out with my friends after school anymore.

I started not going to see my grandma on the weekends because I thought she would notice.

I retreated from all the relationships in my life until my best friend Shenelle yanked me out of bed one day, and forced me to go get ice cream.

It helped.

After this, I did go to see my grandma one weekend.

My dad showed up because my sister had got in trouble that week at school.

He was drunk when he came in, starting to yell at Kristyn before pushing her.

My grandma stepped over to help Kristyn and my dad pushed my grandma against the wall and yelled at her.

Then he left.

That’s when my grandma knew it wasn’t safe for Kristyn and I to be in my dad’s care.

She got custody of us.

I could have been just like other kids at school but my grandma was there for me. Some people don’t have that, but I’m thankful I did.  

My grandmother saved my life and I am forever grateful.

 

According to the Institute of Mental Health, suicide is defined as “death causes by self-directed injurious behavior with intent to die as a result of the behavior.” According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the overall United States and the second leading cause of death for people ages 10-34. In the United States, there are twice as many suicides each year as there are homicides. In Native American populations, such as on the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Reservation in South Dakota, the suicide rate is higher than any other demographic area. This is a problem that needs to be addressed. Native American lives matter. In order to address this problem, the rest of the world needs to know our stories.

2 thoughts on ““We All Have a Story to Tell” by Chloe, Kaitlyn and Savannah

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  1. First of all, your piece is extremely powerful and I could connect to it. I spent a month on a Native American reservation last summer and throughout the experience I gained some insight into what you have faced. Finally, I have a friend who is going through a rough patch and I’m not sure how to help them. Your piece has given me a better idea of what they might need and I thank ou for that. Overall, I loved your piece and I hope you keep bringing awareness to this issue.

  2. I am currently reading the book There, There by Tommy Orange. If you haven’t read it, I really recommend it. It’s beautifully written and about the urban Indian experience in Oakland, California. I feel like your stories are an extension of all the stories in that book which I think also carries the theme “we all have stories to tell.” I appreciate your having shared your stories, expanding my understanding of and human connection to the statistics I know about suicide among American Indian youth. I am thankful to you for sharing your stories.

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