By Ken Steele
The voices arrived without warning on an October night in 1962, when I was fourteen years old. Kill yourself....Set yourself afire. I stirred, thinking I was having a nightmare, but I wasn’t asleep; and the voices–low and insistent, taunting and ridiculing–continued to speak to me from the radio. Hang yourself. The world will be better off. You’re no good, no good at all.
Terrified, I turned off the radio, got out of bed, and crept down the hallway in my bare feet. But the voices would not be tuned out. They accompanied me. You should die, muttered one. You should never have been born. They were talking to me…someone or something wanted me to die. Who was doing the talking? What was going on? I turned the handle to the door of my parents’ bedroom, looking for safety, but my mom and dad were sleeping soundly, and I was afraid to wake them. I knew they had to go to work in the morning. And even if I woke them, what would I say? The voices supplied an answer. Go right in to him. Tell your dad that you’re afraid of the dark and then tell him about us. It will only confirm what he already knows–that you’re different, a disappointment. The voices were right: This was not a man to whom I could confide that I was hearing things.
I wandered down the stairs of our house to my grandmother’s bedroom. Emma Mae Wilder-White, my mother’s mother, was my best friend. I could tell her anything and she would still love me. As I turned the knob to her room, the voices in my head grew shriller and louder until I felt I was drowning in sound. Die, die, die. You’re worthless, no good. Do it now, not later. I staggered into the living room and collapsed in the floor. My mother found me lying there in the morning.
“What are you doing up so early?” I remember thinking that my mother had arrived, like a lifeguard, to rescue me. But my relief was short-lived. The voices were still there, lower in volume and chattering in...