Stephanie Tanner saw the way Ramona, the beautiful little girl who might as well have been her own daughter, was hurting herself. She saw the long-sleeves in hot weather and the excuses at meal times. She heard the derogatory comments she was making about herself. She knew what the girl was doing. And the reason she knew was because she had been in the same boat herself.
One day, when she saw the way Ramona was playing with her food and not actually eating, she looked at her and asked, “Ramona, can I talk to you privately?”
“Sure, I guess,” Ramona responded.
They got up from the table and walked outside to sit on the porch swing.
After they sat down, Stephanie looked at Ramona and asked, “What’s going on with you?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Ramona responded.
Stephanie ignored that statement and asked, “Are you hurting yourself, Ramona?”
Ramona let out a heavy sigh and said, “Why the hell would I ever do that?” and got up to leave the swing.
At this, Stephanie grabbed the brunette’s arm, dragged her back down to the porch swing and said, “Don’t lie to me, Ramona. Are you hurting yourself?”
At this, Ramona nodded slightly.
“Let me see your arm, sweetie.”
Ramona reluctantly rolled up each of her sleeve, showing at least 30 scars on each arm, some fresher than others. After she knew the older woman had seen the scars, she quickly rolled both of her sleeves back down.
“Ramona...” Stephanie said, looking at her with pain in her eyes.
“I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I really don’t. I just feel really alone. I know I have you and mom and DJ and even Jackson and Max and Tommy. And Lola’s a good friend. But ever since Pablo dumped me, I just feel very alone. And I don’t know how to handle these feelings I’m feeling. Really, it was before he dumped me. I don’t think he treated me right.”
Stephanie grabbed Ramona’s hand and rubbed her thumb. “Ramona, it’s going to be okay, but we have to tell your mom.”
“No! We can’t!” Ramona exclaimed.
“We don’t have to do it right now. But we do need to tell her soon.”
Ramona let out a sigh of relief.
“What did you mean that you didn’t think Pablo treated you right?” Stephanie then inquired.
“He never hit me or anything, if that’s what you’re thinking, but he would get angry. And he would make me feel like dirt if I didn’t have sex with him. I would tell him no and then he would beg and beg me until I eventually just let him do what he wanted so I didn’t have to hear him whining anymore.”
Stephanie felt anger rush through her veins, “How many times did that happen?”
“I don’t know, at least two or three times a week when we were dating.” Ramona said with her eyes cast downward and nails digging into her palm, “I thought that was just normal boyfriend and girlfriend stuff.”
At this Stephanie looked at Ramona and said, “No, that’s not normal boyfriend and girlfriend stuff. That is abuse. He should have never hurt you or made you feel like you couldn’t say no.”
Ramona looked at Stephanie with tears forming in her eyes and said, “It never felt right, you know? Me and Pablo. But when he broke up with me, it pretty much destroyed me."
“You didn’t deserve to be treated the way he treated you. You deserve the world and so much more. You are Ramona Gibbler and you are a strong and capable young woman.” Stephanie said, looking into the girl’s eyes, “Now, you need to tell me why you haven’t been eating.”
“Ramona, please don’t lie. I’m not here to judge you. I’m here to help you.”
“I don’t know...I just feel so out of control. Senior year is next year and everyone’s talking about what colleges they’re applying to and their futures and I have no clue what my future entails. I mean, I have dance and I love it. But what if I’m not good enough to make it?”
“What makes you think you aren’t good enough?”
“I don’t know. When Pablo and I were still dating, he told me that he only dated skinny girls and that the reason he dumped all of his ex girlfriends was because they weren’t skinny anymore. So when he broke up with me, I automatically assumed that was the reason. Like logically, I know that I’m not fat, but there’s voice in my head telling me what to eat and when to eat it and if I eat too much or eat something bad, it tells me I’m a horrible person who doesn’t deserve any love. And then that makes me feel like hurting myself.”
Ramona was crying now and Stephanie felt tears well up in her eyes as well. “I think I need to show you something,” Stephanie said, pulling the leg of her shorts up, revealing several scars. “You’re not alone in this.”
“Does my mom or DJ know?
“No. But Gia does. She’s the only person I ever told.”
“Are you ever going to tell them?”
“I think it would be mighty hypocritical for me to make you tell your mom what’s going on and me not to mention my past with it.”
Ramona nodded, and said, “I love you, Steph.”
“I love you too, Ramona.” Stephanie responded, enveloping the young girl in a hug.
“I think I want to tell mom tonight,” Ramona said, letting go of the embrace but reaching for Stephanie’s hand.
“Okay.” the blonde responded, squeezing Ramona’s hand.
After their conversation, they headed back into the house.
Seeing the tear stains on both Stephanie and Ramona’s faces as they walked back into the kitchen, DJ looked at them and asked, “Are you guys okay? You were out there for like an hour.”
“We’re good,” responded Stephanie, smiling.
“Actually, can Steph and I talk to you and mom about something?” Ramona posed the question, feeling a surge of bravery.
“Of course. Max, Jackson, y’all take Tommy and go upstairs and watch Netflix or something.”
Jackson picked Tommy up and headed up the stairs with Max behind him.
“What’s going on munchkin?” Kimmy asked.
“Please don’t freak out when I tell you guys this,” Ramona said, grabbing Stephanie’s hand and walking towards the table. She sat down across from where her mother was sitting and diagonally across from DJ.
“Well, now that makes me want to freak out,” responded DJ.
Stephanie looked into her older sister’s eyes, and said, “Deej, this is serious. I need you both to be calm.”
“I’m always calm!” Kimmy exclaimed, but upon seeing the serious expression on her best friend’s sister’s face, she nodded.
Ramona stayed silent for a few minutes, and then finally let out a breath, saying, “I don’t know how to say this.”
“It’s okay,” Stephanie responded, squeezing Ramona’s hand. “Just say it.”
“Mom, Deej. Sometimes, I, um, I cut myself.”
Kimmy’s eyes widened in shock and she felt her stomach drop. “What do you mean you cut yourself sometimes?”
Ramona rolled both of her sleeves, showing the scars to her mother and her mother’s best friend, that she had previously shown Stephanie.
“Ramona, why?” DJ looked at the girl she had grown quite fond of and questioned.
“It’s kind of, um, it’s kind of hard to explain. But there’s a lot of stuff you guys don’t know and I don’t know how to tell you. But um. I promise I’m gonna try to stop.”
“Damn right you will!” Kimmy exclaimed.
“Kimmy, I think it would be best to not try and get so angry.” Stephanie said, looking at her friend with now is not the time to be getting angry eyes.
Kimmy sighed and said, “I just, I care about you, Ramona. I don’t understand why you would do this to yourself!”
“Mom,” Ramona responded, with a desolate look in her eyes, “I want to stop. I’ve wanted to stop for a while. It’s just...it’s harder than it seems.”
DJ felt a twinge in her gut and looked into the younger girl’s eyes. She grabbed her hand and said, “We’re going to be here for you every step of the way.”
“I think it would be good for Ramona to see a therapist,” Stephanie said, rubbing Ramona’s back.
Ramona looked at the tall blonde with fear in her eyes, but then before she knew it, she heard herself saying, “Mom, Deej, I think that would be a good idea too.”
Kimmy’s eyes softened and she said, “Whatever you need, baby. Whatever you need.”
At this, Ramona got up from the chair she was sitting in and walked around the table to hug her mom.
“I love you mom,” Ramona said, tearing up.
“I love you too, munchkin.” Kimmy responded.
“Aww, can I get in on that hug?” DJ asked.
Ramona nodded and Stephanie said, “I’m coming over too.”
DJ enveloped Ramona from the back and Stephanie wrapped Kimmy in her arms as best as she could. They stayed in that awkward position for a while until Ramona said, “I have to pee.”
At this, they all separated, laughing and Kimmy said, “Go to the restroom, munchkin.”
When Ramona left the room, DJ looked at Stephanie and said, “Hey. How did you know something was wrong with Ramona?”
Stephanie sighed and thought, Well this is going to be fun to explain.
“Yea, I’m curious too,” said Kimmy, “Because Ramona seemed fine."
“Well, looks can be deceiving,” Stephanie replied, “Look, the reason I knew, or well, suspected something was wrong was because I have been through similar things.”
DJ looked at her beautiful little sister with concern in her eyes. “What do you mean you’ve been through similar things?”
“Well, let’s just say Ramona and I have a lot in common. A lot of the reason she’s feeling this way is because of how Pablo treated her. And I’ve had similar experiences with past relationships. And not only that, I’ve struggled with self harm for a really long time as well.”
DJ and Stephanie both opened their mouths in shock. Stephanie then rolled up the legs of her shorts and showed numerous scars on her thighs. Some of the scars were jagged, some were straight and some had odd shapes. But they were all self-inflicted.
“Steph, when did this start?” DJ asked, a lump forming in her throat.
“When I was about 10 or so, I guess, was the first time,” Stephanie responded, pacing back and forth, “When I found out about my friend, Charles being abused and Uncle Jesse called child services to help him. I felt so guilty when he got sent away. And I knew that had been what was best for him, but I just felt all of these emotions that I couldn’t control. The night I found out, I found one of Joey’s pocket knives and dug it into my thigh.”
Stephanie sighed, “And ever since then, whenever I feel out of control or in pain or if something bad happens, I don’t let myself feel it. I just...I hurt myself. Well, I haven’t done it in about six months. The only person who knows is Gia. And I didn’t tell her until I was about 17. She found out because I got upset after being rejected from Juliard. I’m trying my best. But every day is hard.”
“Steph, I think you should see a therapist like Ramona’s going to.” DJ said, looking into her baby sister’s eyes.
“I agree with DJ,” Kimmy said.
“I don’t know...”
“Steph, you always want to help other people and do what’s best for them. Sometimes, it’s okay to ask for help.”
“Sounds familiar,” repsonded Stephanie, “I think I told you the same thing before.”
DJ smiled and said, “You always were wise.”
“I need to go to the bathroom and Ramona’s room and take everything sharp out of there.”
“That won’t help,” Stephanie responded, looking at her friend who was giving her a weird look, “I mean, take razors and things like that and throw them away, of course. But there’s no way you’ll be able to take everything that she could use to hurt herself.”
Kimmy sighed, “I guess that’s true.”
“Speaking of, I think we should go check on her.” Stephanie said.
And with that, they all went upstairs. When they went upstairs, they saw Jackson, next to the bathroom door, squeezing his legs.
“Is Ramona still in the bathroom?” DJ asked.
Jackson nodded. “I really have to pee!”
DJ looked at her son with sympathy and said, “I normally wouldn’t say this, but go outside and go.”
Jackson nodded and ran downstairs to go outside.
Stephanie was gently knocking at the door and said, “Ramona, are you in there sweetie?”
There was no response
Kimmy ferociously knocked on the door and said, “Ramona, let me in right now or I’m going to break down the door.”
“Easy, tiger,” Stephanie said, grabbing Kimmy’s hand, “I have a bobby pin in my hair for exactly this type of situation."
Stephanie unlocked the door with her bobby pin and when the door opened, Ramona was sitting in front of the bathtub, a razor blade in one hand, and her wrist profusely bleeding.
Kimmy and DJ stood there in shock,but Stephanie rushed to the girl’s side and grabbed a towel. She put pressure on the wound.
“One of you call 911 now!” the tall blonde exclaimed.
This let both of them out of their stupor and DJ called 911.
Things happened so fast. Stephanie and Kimmy went with Ramona to the hospital, Kimmy riding in the ambulance and Stephanie driving behind them. DJ stayed at home with the boys, who she told that Ramona had cut herself on accident. Max believed her, but Jackson looked at her with disbelief in his eyes. She couldn’t tell them what was really going on, of course. That would be up to Ramona.
DJ had called all the adults she grow up with to see if one of them would watch the boys, so that she could go be with Ramona at the hospital.
To her surprise, her dad, Uncle Jesse, Aunt Becky, and Joey had all showed up. She explained the situation without going into too much detail and told the older adults to just keep the boys distracted. Then, she headed to the hospital.
She got there as fast as she could, and found the waiting room her sister and best friend were in. Kimmy and Stephanie were sitting down next to each other, holding hands and DJ went to hug them both.
It seemed to take forever for the doctor to come out and give them news. It was nerve-wracking. They all loved that little girl so much and prayed that she would be okay.
After about an hour, the doctor came out and said, “We were able to stop the bleeding. She’s going to be fine.”
All three of them breathed a sigh of relief until they heard the doctor say, “We are going to put her on 72 hour suicide watch. Her blood sugar and iron levels are also extremely low, due to starvation. A psychiatrist will come to talk with her and determine if she needs to go to an inpatient facility.”
Kimmy felt her stomach drop and she felt like her lungs collapsed. She had knew clue her daughter hadn’t been eating and she had just found out she was hurting herself She felt herself fall to the floor and her breathing became shallow.
Stephanie immediately sat down next to her, grabbed her arm and said, “Kimmy, it’s okay. Ramona is going to be okay. I don’t think she’s suicidal if I’m being honest. I think she might have cut too deeply. I think she became overwhelmed with everything. Just breathe, okay, Kimmy””
Kimmy slightly nodded and felt herself breathe. She soon stood back up and said, “I’m sorry about that, doctor, I don’t know what happened. But, um, can we see her?”
“She’s asleep right now, but I’ll have someone come to get you when she wakes up.”
The three women nodded, and went to go sit down where they had previously been sitting.
“I just want my girl to be okay,” Kimmy said.
DJ looked at her best friend and said, “I know you do. I do too.”
Stephanie grabbed Kimmy’s knee with one hand. “She will be, Kimmy. She will be.”
And she knew that Ramona would be okay because she was always surrounded by people who loved her. And she hoped, that one day she herself would be okay too.