Jul 5, 2016
This content contains explicit and sensitive information that may not be suitable for all ages.
Hindsight is 20/20, I wish I had a time machine. If I could go back in time and talk with my 15-year-old self, I would tell her she isn’t crazy, that there is a name for what she is feeling. I would tell her she is not unwanted, hated, or ignored. I would tell her not to be ashamed to speak out and ask for help. I would say you don’t have to live like this.
First, I have to say that high school wasn’t ALL a terrible nightmare that I hope never to re-live. There were good times among the bad. I had a group of friends that were quirky, fun, and most of all accepting of who I was, warts and all. I even had a boyfriend or two! I was able to keep a job at McDonald’s and make lasting friendships. There was always a kind soul who would attempt to speak to me, give me a compliment or simply show me that I existed.
Grade 9 was a scary time. In my hometown, this was the first year you attended the big bad high school. Junior high students from two separate middle schools joined together. For somebody like me, this change was terrifying. I tried to tell myself “hey, this is a new beginning. This is the year that I am finally going to come out of my shell and behave like a normal human being.” This was definitely NOT the way it went. I was still plagued with fear and terrible anxiety. I could not bring myself to meet all these new people. I sunk back into my shell like a scared little turtle and continued to live life like I always had: in fear.
Negative, obsessive, and intrusive thoughts plagued my everyday life.
Let me paint you a picture of what it was like to be inside my head at this time in my life. Yes, I had friends, yes I dated, and yes I was able to function well enough to get good grades. The problem was the constant warfare that was going on in my brain. Negative, obsessive, and intrusive thoughts plagued my everyday life. I was always thinking that everybody was looking at me and judging me. I analyzed everything I said, and everything other people said to me. I analyzed tone of voice and body language. I was crippled with panic when asked to speak in front of people. I can remember taking one drama class (I guess I figured I needed a challenge) and failing miserably. I was physically unable to talk to people and make eye contact due to my excessive fear of judgement and embarrassment. I was bullied for being quiet and hanging out with certain people who weren’t “cool.” I was envious of everybody. I wanted life to be easier. I wanted more than anything to be extroverted and popular and just LIVE. I didn’t want to struggle anymore. I didn’t want to go home after school every day and cry for hours on the floor of my bedroom, in the dark so no one could see me. I didn’t want to feel extreme loneliness and sometimes physical pain. I felt hopeless, alone, and invisible. I just didn’t know what to do anymore. This was my first experience with depression.
I look at suicide as a door. Forever present in the back of my mind. For the first time, I opened this door and peered through it, maybe even stepped a foot into it. As a teenager I began to think of ways to kill myself. Hanging seemed too slow and painful. I couldn’t start the car in the garage because it was so cluttered nobody in our family could fit a vehicle in there. I didn’t have access to firearms. I was afraid of heights so jumping off a bridge or overpass was too scary. The thought of cutting myself and bleeding to death was all too terrifying. There was only one option left: overdose. Not knowing what I know today about medication, I figured I would probably throw up a few times and then fall asleep. Never to wake up. The thought of peace and being free of my loneliness and emotional pain was all too enticing. I started to slowly, over time, stock-pile any pills I could find around the house. I hid them in the back of my closet underneath my beanie baby collection where nobody would find them.
This is what depression does to your brain.
After a particularly bad day at school, I came home feeling completely defeated. The exact circumstances are a tad muddled in my brain as this was a long time ago. I probably said something stupid to a boy I had a crush on, tripped on the stairs for all to see, choked on my words in class or heard somebody call me fat again. In any case, I was embarrassed and felt as if I could never go back. I had had enough. I dug through my closet and pulled out my bag of pills. Would anybody miss me? Would anybody even notice or care that I was gone? This is what depression does to your brain. It makes you feel hopeless, helpless, alone and as if death is the only cure. Throw in some teenage hormones and an anxiety problem and you’ve created a recipe for disaster.
I can’t tell you for sure what caused me to snap out of it. Maybe it was an unconscious and instinctual need for survival. I was suddenly afraid. How could I be so stupid? How could I do that to my friends? To my family? I realized that I was still holding onto the few good things I had in my life. I remembered a speaker coming to our school to talk about her son’s suicide and seeing the pain on her face. I remembered the girl at school whose older brother had taken his own life. I decided to close that door.
I just saw it as something to be ashamed of.
As a teenager, I didn’t look at how I was feeling as “anxiety” or “depression.” I just saw it as something to be ashamed of. Teenagers were teenagers, full of irrational emotions, hormones and stupidity. I didn’t look at it as something to seek help for and thus anxiety and depression became my best kept secret. At home I had felt ignored and neglected by my parents. My two younger siblings were always in trouble in one form or another and so my parents spent a considerable amount of time dealing with them, not realizing that I was in trouble in a different way. The truth was, they didn’t even KNOW I was struggling because I didn’t tell them. My mom has told me that she knew I was shy and anxious but had no idea I was depressed and suicidal. I didn’t even have the courage to share any of this with her until a few years ago.
Mental illness is something that I live with every day. Sometimes it is quiet and other times it can be so loud and debilitating that I just don’t know if I can go on. I have come to accept that this is something I am going to have to fight for the rest of my life. It is something that millions of people don’t talk about. I choose to be open about my struggles because I believe in the tremendous healing power that it holds. Without openness and the loving support of my family and friends, I might not be here today to share my story. If you or someone you care about is struggling with a mental illness, no matter how mild or severe, I encourage you to talk about it. Be open. Be honest. I guarantee it will change your life. I want each and every one of you to know that you are not alone.