Note: I started this post back in May, but never finished it because on some level, I am still ashamed of how I feel. I cringe at the thought of someone I know in the real world stumbling across this very private chapter of my life. However, a recent event has made me decide to share this part of myself publicly in the hope that it might help even ONE person out there feel less alone.
I have never really talked to anyone about what it is like to live with depression and anxiety. I tried the medicine. I self medicated to the point of almost killing myself with addictions. I sat politely and tried to work through it with therapists. I have smiled and tried to pretend that everything is just fine. The truth is, it will never go away. At the very least, I believe I am finally willing to accept that. So how do you live with a hole inside of you that can never be filled?
I was always a moody child, so it isn’t so hard to believe that my parents thought I was just acting out when I hit puberty and retreated into a shell of dark makeup, industrial rock, and self mutilation. Unfortunately, I held one of those deep, dark, twisty secrets that changes a person forever. A nightmare monster came from the shadow world and stole the last moments of my childhood and tormented me for years to follow. I have scars inside and out that will last a lifetime and define the person I am now, for better and for worse. Many of us can tell you this same sad tale, but that is not the part I want to talk about today.
Hopelessness. That is what it felt like when it first descended upon me. That is still what it feels like now. When you strip a person of their humanity and free will at such a young age, you strip them of hope. How can a child dare to dream when they know that the night brings nothing but nightmares? I didn’t know how to deal with it on any level. I was not a person. I didn’t feel like a person should feel. This hole. This empty. This feeling that nothing in the world mattered. How can nothing be so heavy? I would cut myself just to feel something. To be in control of something. My body was not mine, but the patterns I carved into it would remind me that I was still there. I started drinking heavily by the time I was thirteen. It’s an odd thing to want to feel something and feel nothing all at the same time. I lived only for the day that I would be free. I had to survive. I had to make it back to find myself. I had to be happy one day. I didn’t know then that I would never be truly free.
The day of my assumed freedom came and I started college far away from home. I was so numb. I lived in a fog of trying to forget and trying to become a person again. I tried to have a normal life and a normal relationship. I got off of the medicine my mother had put me on to “calm my anxiety”. Without the medicine, the fog cleared a bit. I moved in and played house with my high school sweetheart. But the nightmare didn’t go away. I failed. I let the empty take me. I tried to fill it up with all of the wrong things. I lived to feel good. And by good, I mean I passed out somewhere in a strangers house, or bed, or yard, or car…waking up with more shame and more nothing.
Somehow I managed to graduate college. I worked to support myself, but I worked more to support my habits. For years it went on like this. Waking up hungover, making excuses for being late and disheveled. Running any meaningful relationships into the ground for fear of intimacy and lack of trust in other humans. For fear that someone would see me. See that I was empty. And one day someone did see me.
It took one person. One friend to step up and say “Stop, you are killing yourself.” Countless others had tried, and I don’t know how he got through. I don’t know why. I don’t even know if it was him, or just the right time in my life to make a change because I couldn’t get much lower. He saw all of the things inside of me and was not afraid of them, because he also saw the light that was still there, too. On the outside, I was the fun party girl everyone wanted to go out with, but he didn’t buy into it. He confronted me and made me really evaluate the state my life was in. He pushed me out of the dark, and I pulled myself out.
By no means did he save me. I did that all by myself. I had to make the choice. I had to put in the work. I had to realize that no one can save you but you. In the last few years, I have turned my life around. I have stopped drinking and changed my lifestyle. I changed the way I saw myself. For the first time in my life, I feel like I have value, and that is huge for me. Am I magically cured? No. Hell no. I still have days when I can’t get out of bed because it hits me so hard. But I am doing my best to abstain from the things that make my mental health worse, and the more progress I see in my personal life, the more I want to keep pushing forward. I have hope again, and I will hold on to that as long as I can. The empty space is still there, but it is getting easier to live with.
So whoever you are, whatever stage you are in…Don’t give up. You are not alone.
An excerpt of this work is being featured in the upcoming audio book “Nevertheless We Persisted: Me Too” from Blunderwoman Productions.
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