I watched helplessly as one of my best friends sank slowly but surely into the quicksand of self-destruction. Sadly, one sixteen-year-old is more often than not ill-equipped to help another, especially when the latter believes with all her heart and soul that she is beyond help.
Looking back, both of us can now laugh at how she had believed that her life was over, just because she broke up with her first boyfriend, but back then, that was exactly what it had seemed like. They say sixteen-year-olds cannot really fall in love, but we often forget that there is nobody who believe themselves to be in love as strongly as the quintessential sixteen-year-old. She thought of him as the love of her life, somebody who was a part of all her dreams about her future. And suddenly, the relationship had ended, and with it had ended those long nights of whispering into the phone, those quick meetings at Archies, and dipping two straws into a Masala Coke matka. And she couldn’t think of anything to do with her life.
Denial and curbed impulses of getting back together were followed by sudden bursts of tears and intermittent brooding phases. And when those subsided, instead of throwing away his letters and tentatively looking out for a new relationship like all good teenagers, she took the path of self-destruction. It started with an alarming amount of junk food, till it was impossible to find her without a Coke bottle or a pastry. In months, the petite, pretty girl who had always turned heads had bloated up, as in inflated. To top it, she stopped caring about her appearance, became sloppy and untidy, often forgetting even to comb her hair. She spent all her time reading trashy love stories and watching movies, as if in a vague attempt to compensate for her failed relationship. Her grades dwindled dangerously downwards, her teachers complained about her zero interest in extra-curricular activities, and her friends were tired of being snapped at by her and also by her sudden prolonged silences. As more than a year passed and she showed no signs of snapping back into normal, we, her friends, decided to intervene.
We sat her down at a friend’s place and explained to her as best as sixteen-year-olds can how she was wasting her life. We assured her that we understood how hurt she is, and also added that she was becoming unattractive and fat, and her clothes stunk, and she was at danger of losing all her friends if she didn’t stop being rude to us. We were firm, often bordering on harsh. And even before we could finish, she stormed out, crying hysterically. We stared at each other, stricken with guilt and horror.
But the next day onwards, we saw a drastic change in her. She was polite and nice to us, and smiled often. She even made plans for movies and meals like old times. And when we did go out for meals, we noticed that she was back on track with eating healthy. She suggested group studies to catch up with her studies, and we happily obliged. And within a couple of months, we had our old friend back, as good as new. We thanked our lucky stars that we had decided to tell her the truth that day. Her self-destruction had only been an appeal for help and to get noticed, and we had responded to it.
And today, after all these years, she still thanks us for getting her life back on track.