“Just Hang On” — a story of hope and healing


Anonymous SFHS Teacher

The following is written by a Santa Fe High teacher who made it through some very tough times in high school. This teacher has shared their story in the hopes that young people who are experiencing pain will trust that healing – and joy – are still possible for them. 

To all students who might be having a hard time, this teacher says, “Just hang on…” 


When I was nine I was molested by my babysitter. I screamed so loud that his mother, who lived next door, came over to see what happened. I remember sitting in my bin of stuffed animals, panicking with both fear and guilt, and hearing him say, “We were playing hide and seek. They got scared.”

I carried that shame and guilt and fear with me for years, never telling my secret because I felt that I had done something to deserve it. That I had asked for it. That it was MY fault. I silently hated my parents and family and friends because they had to know what had happened, didn’t they? Why weren’t they doing something to help me?  

They weren’t helping because I didn’t tell anyone.

This secret stayed with me until high school. It manifested itself in the way I dealt with dating and with my friends. I learned how to make people like me and then manipulate them to hate me. I might ghost them, start fights, or cheat. I did the same thing to my family. I pushed my parents away with belligerence and arrogance. I abused the people around me because getting negative attention was attention, and that’s all I cared about. To be seen.

My parents tried to get me help. I saw doctors. They gave me meds. Many times the meds were incorrect prescriptions because I would lie about or exaggerate my symptoms to make my conditions worse than they were. Because of this, the meds I was taking would have severe side effects. I got paranoid or sleepy. I would get hyper beyond belief. I heard voices. It was terrifying.

Eventually I ran away from home. I lived on the streets for a bit. One night, I found myself outside of a restaurant that was owned by my English Lit. teacher. He asked if I had eaten and if I had somewhere warm to sleep. He fed me and let me sleep on the floor of his restaurant. That act of kindness is something I will never forget, and something I can never repay. To this day, I chastise myself when I fall short of that level of love with my students, but we’re all works in progress, aren’t we?

By the time I was a junior I was in a long-term, highly co-dependent relationship with someone. On some days I was simply emotionally abusive. I have since dealt with this person and the scars I gave them. They made it through, but it took a long time. I will never forgive myself for some of the things I did to them.

I was a liar. I was abusive. I was going to fail out of high school. All of the things that had once brought me joy felt empty and meaningless. I was clinically depressed. I was lonely. I was nothing. Eventually it got too much.  

I broke into my own house and got to the stash of various meds my parents had hidden. I took them all. Orange, blue, red. I then called my significant other (who lived 45 minutes away) and told them what I did. I was going to die, and there was nothing they could do about it. 

They drove to my house immediately. They broke in. I was already asleep. I don’t remember going to the hospital. The first memory I have is having my stomach pumped and vomiting black tar. My parents, whom I had treated so awfully for so long, were next to me. They refused to leave my side: my mom holding my hand and my dad stoically holding back tears as they watched their child potentially die.

The doctor simply said to me, “I need you to hang on. Don’t go to sleep. Just hang on…”

To the day I die, the image of my mother realizing that her child might die in front of her is the most haunting and brutal thing I will ever see.  

“Just hang on…”

I did. After a few days of care, the doctors released me to an in-patient hospital where I stayed for almost two months. One of the most distinct things I remember from those first couple weeks were hourly blood tests to make sure the balance of my blood was safe. I had received so many blood tests that the veins in my arms scabbed over so I couldn’t extend my arm past 45 degrees. I couldn’t give someone a hug even if I tried.

During those months, not a stone was left unturned. I realized that if I were to get better I needed to work at it. Hard. I opened up to my parents about the abuse. I came clean with the doctors I had been seeing about my symptoms. Most importantly, I had to rectify with myself who I had become over the past years and start to make a conscious effort to change who I was and how I looked at the world and at the people around me. I was hurting. I was in pain. I was lonely. Yes, but none of that justified what I had done to the people around me, and I needed to deal with that as well.

Healing isn’t an action that makes pain disappear. It is a process that moves slowly. Sometimes it leaves marks. I hear people say, “I don’t like the way I feel when I am on meds” or “talking to someone makes me hate the person I am.” The thing is that from Day One in our lives, we are constantly changing and adapting and learning about ourselves and our place in the world. Going through painful experiences and coming out the other side is simply one of those journeys. 

You have to want to move through pain. You have to face your trauma and your shame and your fear and use those negatives as fuel for growth. You have to work to be happy. Some days are harder than others, but having a bad day doesn’t invalidate everything that came before. It just reminds you of what you’re fighting against. 

Just hang on…

It took years for me to get to a point where I felt like those days had passed. My relationship with my family eventually became stronger than I could have ever hoped. While I would never profess perfection, as I’ve aged I have tried to become a person who makes my family and friends proud. I have grown up. I am married. I love my job. I love the life that I have built using the experiences that I thought I would never get past.  

So often, teachers will tell you, “I know how you feel.” We don’t. We aren’t you. We aren’t feeling YOUR feelings. But we do know pain and loss. When we are trying to connect with you, it comes from a place where growth and survival are possible. We know what it’s like to exist in a world that persists in throwing sucker punches to our souls.

There is nothing more horrifying than feeling that you are alone, that you don’t belong. It is so overwhelming and oppressive. It is the emptiness. It is the shadow. Sitting in a dark room eventually becomes comfortable. It becomes so comfortable that to see sunlight can be painful. But remember that in the darkness, you can’t see anything. You can’t see your goals or your desires or your dreams. All of these things that make you special become obscured by the inky black that bleeds into every corner and that resists all attempts for sight. 

When it becomes too much, when you simply can’t handle the gloom any longer, open your eyes just a little. Squint as much as you can. Find a sliver of light.

And reach out your hand. We are here for you. We’ll grab hold and say, “We love you more than you know. You are needed. You belong. Just hang on…”


If you need help, reach out:

Suicide Prevention Lifeline
24/7 talk and chat support, online resources
Call 988 (previous phone # 1-800-2738255)

Agora Crisis Center
24/7 talk and chat support, get referrals

The Trevor Project
24/7 talk and chat support for LGBTQ+ youth resources
Trevor Lifeline: 1-866-488-7386
Trevor Text: text START to 678-678

Teen Health Centers
Free counseling services and primary care for Santa Fe youth
Santa Fe High: 505-989-1855
Capital High: 505-467-1081