Achieving the Extraordinary

July 2004

What do you do… 

When you’re an innocent three-year-old, unaware of the word extraordinary and what it might mean in the life you will lead? You live every day as an adventure that you can’t wait to begin. 

When you wake up on a summer morning and no one is home? Go play with your puppy because she is howling.

When you are told that your father has been whisked away in the darkness of night? Run to the neighbor’s house to ask where your mommy is. She’s not there. Mommy is at the hospital with Daddy. All they tell you is that Daddy is very sick, but he is going to be okay—he is making extraordinary progress. Then your brother tells you that the metal plate in Daddy’s head makes him a cyborg.

When your daddy becomes a cyborg? Ask if they are going to make a movie about him. 

When your neighbor touches you in weird places? Assume it’s okay and go play in her treehouse? No! Ask where Mommy is. Don’t ask to leave. Don’t tell anyone because SHE might get in trouble and blame you. Deny every question the men in black suits ask you. 

When your therapist tells you that your strength is extraordinary? Ask her what extraordinary means and play with her toys.

2012-2015

I wanted to be memorable on this earth. With that desire came the notion of being extraordinary.  I became obsessed with that idea. Life could not have been so cruel unless I were meant to be special. Then life tested me again. Bullies spat words across a keyboard onto an anonymous website that they knew I would see. I was cyberbullied to the point where I fell into a deep, deep depression at twelve years old.  

I was no longer obsessed with the idea of being extraordinary, but rather with the belief that I no longer deserved that. I began to inflict harm upon myself—not the romanticized self-harm found on television shows or in books, but the hideous self-harm that was rooted in deep hatred. The idea that life was testing me because I was “chosen” or “special” faded from my mind.

I was not those things. 

I was not extraordinary.

October 2016

Life started looking up. I began to exceed everyone’s expectations. I made new friends. Depression was dormant, a battle that had been won with extensive therapy and the help of antidepressants. I was starting to feel extraordinary.

Just as I began to see the light at the end of the tunnel, it flickered out. I was in utter darkness. Heartbreak overpowered all my happiness and progress. It caused the idea of achieving greatness to flee my mind faster than all my friends left my side. 

I cried because I didn’t want to live.

I cried because I heard the ambulance coming to save my drugged body.

I cried because I was okay.

2017- The Rest of My Life

Attempting suicide did not make me extraordinary. Quite frankly, it made life worse. People abandoned me because I was “weighing them down.” I lost volleyball, friends, teammates, and I almost lost myself again. However, in the depths of the depression that came after my attempt, I realized that if life can get worse, it can also get better. I worked tirelessly with my therapist, teachers, school counselors, and coaches to grind my way back to stability. 

Now, almost five years after that event, I write to advocate for mental illness awareness while spreading empathy and compassion. I am a Dean’s List student at NYU. I help others whenever they are in need. I am sharing my story openly in the hope that someone in pain will hear it and not feel alone like I once did.

I am living. And that is enough to be extraordinary.

Written By Cristina Gutierrez

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Achieving the Extraordinary