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Ashton Fletcher Irwin: Hero to Many
I lay crumpled on the cold shower floor, the burning water on my pale, icy skin. I can’t feel anything. My mind is blank… numb. The sound of the water hitting the overturned bottle of Kiwi and Lime scented shampoo that I’ve yet to even glance at is drowned out by the loud drumming coming from my own chest. If I were able to feel, I’d notice the aching in my bones and the trembling of my weak, tired body. I need help. No one notices. Or they just don’t care.
I pull myself up off the ground, almost tripping over my own two feet. I’m so tired. I open the plastic curtain, stepping down onto the wooden floor of the bathroom. The steam fills my lungs, making it hard to breathe properly. I look at my fogged reflection in the mirror, a blurry, garbled face staring back at me. I choke back a sob, making my way to my bedroom with self hatred flooding my disordered brain The house is dead silent other than the sound of the shower that I forgot to turn off. No one was home. They had all gone out to do their own things. I didn’t have anywhere to go so I got permission to stay home alone. They didn’t think anything was wrong since I’m very introverted anyways. They didn’t know that I was slowly letting myself fall deeper and deeper into depression with every minute. This episode is bad. I pull out the first thing I grab from my dresser, a simple baby blue nightgown. I dress myself and crawl onto my bed, curling myself back into a ball once more.
I clench my fists, my knuckles turning white as my fingernails dig into the palms of my hands, creating a burning sensation and drawing out a warm, crimson liquid. Inside, I’m screaming, begging for help. For someone to get me out of my own, distorted thoughts. On the outside, I’m completely silent as more tears leave my stinging eyes. The water from my hair dampens the cotton sheet beneath me. Sniffles leave my running nose. I’m tired... so, so tired. The bags under my eyes grow darker and darker with every night I haven’t been able to sleep. Instead, lying awake feeling completely empty, helpless, and alone. I finally snap, a sob escaping my mouth as I give up and let the tears fall freely, tasting the saltiness as a few drip down my pink lips. I let out everything. I shake furiously, looking at my now bloody hands. ‘What’s wrong with me?’ I think to myself.
I cry for about a half an hour until I lose my voice from screaming. My voice. The only thing about me I find beautiful. The only thing I take pride in. The only thing no one could take away from me but myself. I didn’t think it was possible for me to be more exhausted than I already was. I was wrong… very wrong. I let my eyelids close, wiping my face with the backs of my hands. Blood trickles down my wrist like Spring raindrops on a window pane. I didn’t realize I had done that much damage to my hands. What didn’t help were the previous cuts and scrapes already present and not completely healed. I had gotten them from tripping on the sidewalk when walking home from the park where I often went to read. Anxiety leads to panic attacks, panic attacks lead to more depression and self hatred. It’s the same routine all over again.
I fist my wool blanket. The soft, warm texture soaking up little dewdrops of blood and soothing my hands. Dewdrops left after the storm. I wish there was a reason for all of this. But all I can think of is how screwed up I am. I trace the little pink scars on my wrist with the pad of my index finger, feeling the rough lines.
“If you ever hurt yourself, you will break us,” I remember my father saying. “You will be a disgrace to this family.”
“Okay.” I had responded, pulling my sleeve further down my arm until it just barely went below my fingertips. Those words rang in my head over and over again. If only he had known. ‘You will be a disgrace..’. My father hates me, my mother doesn’t understand, my sisters don’t care. I’m alone. Well… not completely alone.
My phone buzzes on the nightstand by my bed. I use some of the little strength I have to sit up and grab the thing with trembling fingers. I prop myself up against the wall next to my bed and read the notification. ‘5 Seconds of Summer is Live’. I unlock my phone, getting the passcode wrong a few times due to my shaky hands. I click on the notification to immediately be greeted by the smiling, bright eyed face of Ashton Irwin. The blonde Australian boy band member was reading off comments fans were leaving as well as answering and asking questions here and there. He stops for a minute and laughs at something his bandmate, Calum, is doing behind the camera. God only knows what. The kid was always up to something crazy and spontaneous. Ashton’s laugh is absolutely contagious and he could bring a smile to anyone’s face. I didn’t understand how someone so happy could have such a broken past. I look at the many bracelets on his wrists he uses to cover his scars. Scars that mirror mine. Scars that tell a story like words on a once blank page in a book. Ashton suffered from depression and attempted suicide at 16. He started self harming when his father left soon after the birth of his youngest sibling, Harry. His mother turned to alcohol in hopes of drinking her sorrows away. He’s always been a father figure to his two younger siblings and many people look up to him for his kind, strong, and brave personality, myself included. He’s an all around great person with not the greatest past but the brightest future.
I decide to go back and watch all the Keeks the band has done, many of them from around 2015 and 2016. In each one, they’re all smiling laughing, and joking around with each other, Ashton included. How could someone that was way more broken than me be so happy now? He got better. He fought to get better for his siblings, for his bandmates and best friends, and for his fan. I’m very proud to be one of his fans. He sets an example and shows us that things do get better and that hurting yourself is never the answer. There’s something better waiting for all of us. He’s the one that tells the fans he loves us. He’s the one that takes the time out of his day to draw butterflies on the wrists of strangers who have cut not only because he’s been in that situation but because he truly cares for each and every one of us. He suffered and got through it. He’s still here, inspiring people like me to keep fighting.
Ashton Irwin reminds me every day to live my best life. He reminds me that I’m not alone and that if he can win his battles and get where he is now, then so can I. The fans aren’t just fans to him and the rest of the band. We’re a family. And he makes sure of that by bringing us all together and loving everyone, even if he’s never met them. He tells us to “Never ever give up the fight.” and that “You aren’t on your own.” He reminds us that we need to “Just keep being you.” He’s helped so many people like me and like himself see the good in the world.
As of now, I’m doing so much better. I’m open about my battle with depression and, although it gets hard at times, I never stop fighting. I’m not alone. All that’s left of my cutting are scars that tell the story of how much I got through. Scars like Ashton’s. Our scars tell our stories. The stories of how far we’ve come.
Although my father and mother (especially my father) will never be close with me, like you’d hope for in my happy ending, I know that there are other people I can turn to. Most importantly, Ashton Irwin reminds me of something I will never forget, even when I’m dead and rotting away in a casket. In the words of Michael Gordon Clifford, “It’s okay to not be okay”.