Mental Health Awareness Week 2016

Note: This post talks in pretty specific detail about self-harm, suicide, and rape. Read at your own discretion. And if you know me personally and know of the specifics of these things that I’m purposely leaving semi-anonymous, please don’t talk about them to other people or the people involved. I’ve moved on and I don’t want it all dug up again.

Mental Health Week 2016 is here, and I had planned on doing this whole daily theme with big long posts about mental health and stigmas and all that jazz. But let’s be real– I suck at keeping up with my blog. So, I’ll just make my post now and if an occasion arises between now and May 22 where I suddenly decide to write something else on the topic, I will. Plus, apparently this year’s focus is on relationships. And a huge chunk of this post will be about just that.

So. Here goes.

Until I started taking psychology classes in college, I thought there was something wrong with me. I don’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t feel depressed. But I was afraid to talk about it because I didn’t want to be seen as different– or any more different than I already was.

It’s not like my childhood was particularly bad. I mean, it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows– abusive grandparents, even more abusive relatives (who lived with us), constantly seeing my parents struggle financially even though I didn’t understand it at the time, and finally realizing that my family was actually a pretty unhappy bunch. But it wasn’t bad. We had a roof over our heads and food in our bellies and we always had hot water and electricity and I never once had to experience life on the streets. We went to church (my mother willingly, myself by force and guilt), I was a straight-A student, I had friends.

But I wasn’t happy.

Although I excelled in school, I was bored. I cried all the time because school was boring and I hated going there knowing that I was wasting my time. And my classmates noticed. I was bullied off and on from fourth grade all the way through junior high. Nothing Lifetime Movie Network worthy, but enough for me to feel it.

I was in the sixth grade the first time I took these feelings into my own hands.

It had been some time after my cousin was arrested in our living room (another story, and not mine to tell), and I just felt so helpless. I blamed myself for everything that had happened, because I was the oldest child and I should have known (even though there was literally no way for me to know). I was angry and upset and confused, and I had seen something in the nurse’s office about self-harm and I thought, I wonder if it’s really as addictive as they say.

And it was.

This continued until we moved from McCloud to Weed. About a year. I would sneak the blades from pencil sharpeners, box cutters, etc. It was a drug to me. My dad drank himself blind every night, and I cut the insides of my thighs until I couldn’t feel the emotional pain anymore. Vices.

When we moved from McCloud to Weed, it was hard. I was in a new school where we had to dress out for PE and it was harder to hide what I had done. So I stopped– for a while. But I was homesick for the small town I had felt so trapped in. I was in a different world when we moved two towns away. The people were different, the teachers were different. I had friends, but they’d all known each other for so long that I felt like I didn’t fit in anywhere (I realize now that I did, but back then it was hard to see the big picture).

In eighth grade, I started cutting again. Just once or twice a month at first. All of my friends had boyfriends and I felt ugly and awkward in my back brace (which I ditched that year). My parents and I never saw eye to eye. Someone was always blaming me for something stupid. I had no privacy, ever. We lived with my aunt and her boyfriend (eventually husband), and there were ten people living in this tiny four bedroom house and it was loud and hectic and stressful and I needed an outlet. I was too afraid to try the drugs that my friends did and I wasn’t stupid enough to drink my dad’s booze, so I did the only thing I knew how to do– I hurt myself.

This time, I didn’t stop. It was all I could think about. Until him.

8th grade turned into summer and that summer, I met him. He was tall and cute and he looked at me in the way that I had seen boys look at my friends and I just knew, I’m going to fall in love with this guy. I did. Hard. And he ruined me. He took advantage of me, over and over and over, and I let him. Because he was a boy and he was giving me attention and he made me feel noticed. He made me forget.

He bullied me, publicly humiliated me, hit me in front of his friends. Called me fat. All the time. And I let him. I went from a healthy 110lbs to less than 80lbs in the span of one school year because he told me I was fat over and over. And he still did it, even when my 00 jeans from The Gap couldn’t even stay up with a belt. Then when I screwed up or I did something or he did something and someone found out, suddenly it was my fault and I was a filthy white trash whore and I would cry and cry and threaten to kill myself and he would act like it was this big grand gesture when he took me back.

I would go to school and be humiliated by him, and then I would come home and hurt myself because I hated who I had become and I hated that I had let myself become that person and I hated him and I just didn’t know how to handle anything. I was in way too over my head to talk to my parents (who I thought would have likely found a way to punish me and make it my fault — like I thought they did any time I tried to talk to them about anything). So I kept it up. The vicious cycle of constant pain.

I did all of this, in secret. Behind my parents’ backs, after school while waiting for rides home, over the internet and in hidden emails that they didn’t have access to. And when he moved and dated other girls, I was crushed. I started cutting again. Or should I say kept cutting, but with more than just intent to hurt myself.

I wanted to die.

I lost all self-respect. I started messing around with guys I didn’t even like, leading them on and making them think I planned on sleeping with them so they’d kiss me and make me feel wanted. I even kissed a few girls, just to see if that was my thing. It kinda was, I’m not going to lie.

But it didn’t help. I still felt like garbage, I still hated myself, and I still talked to him, holding onto the tiny shred of hope I had that he’d suddenly changed his mind about me.

And on December 29, 2006, he told me he had.

It was raining that night. And cold. So cold. I waited until I knew my parents were in their room, and snuck out the garage door. I was in very good shape back then, and the seven miles didn’t seem like seven miles at all. But when I got there, I was tired and hazy. And he took advantage of that. In the worst way he could. Later, he told me that he just wanted to prove to me that I was a whore and that he was disgusted by me.

When I finally made it home, I was crushed. Hollow. Empty. My parents thought I’d ran away because I hated them. If I had only had the guts to really tell them, things would have ended up so differently. But I was afraid to talk to them, like I always had been.

So, I dug into the small rip in my Tweety pillow, took out four vicoden and chewed them up. When nothing happened after about an hour, I cut myself. Over, and over, and over. Tiny cuts that didn’t do anything. Then I decided that was it– it was time for me to die.

Most of my scars have faded now, but the two deepest cuts from that night left huge scars that will probably never go away.

I woke up the next morning bloodied and bruised — and humiliated. By him, by the fact that I couldn’t do anything right (including kill myself), by myself.

I cleaned up, threw my clothes away in the outside trash bin, and went back to bed. When I woke up again, sometime around noon, I swear my mom knew. But neither of us ever brought it up. I wish we had.

I stayed in bed for the rest of Christmas break, broken, terrified that I was pregnant, sobbing into my pillow, and when I went back to school (to classes which I eventually dropped), I acted like nothing ever happened.

I never even told my best friends.

That was the last time I ever self-harmed. It’s been almost ten years, and I’m quite proud of it. When people say that self-harm is like a drug, they aren’t lying. It’s hard to stop. Especially cold turkey like I did. Even to this day, it’s still a struggle. It’s not a constant “keep all the sharp things away from Nae” battle. But it crosses my mind from time to time.

The next August, I met Brent. I’d sworn off guys after my childhood best friend (who I was secretly in love with for like, ever) blew me off. But Brent walked into pre-calculus that day and completely changed both of our lives the moment he turned around and said, “Hey, I don’t know you. My name’s Brent.” And I can’t thank him enough for that.

Since high school, I’ve struggled to come to terms with my depression. I took an anti-depressant in high school that made me feel like a psycho zombie. I didn’t feel anything, and when I did, it was delayed and way over heightened. And it terrified me. So I stopped after like a week and just never went back to it.

I thought that moving out of my mom’s house the day I turned 18 would fix it, and it didn’t. I thought that moving 700 miles away would fix it, and it just made things worse. I poured myself into books and reading and distractions, my grades dropped and I eventually just gave up on school altogether, and then we got married and had kids and I realized that this isn’t just about me anymore.

But I still didn’t do anything about it.

I went to my doctor shortly after having Bryce, and told him that I felt suicidal and depressed, and he wrote me a script and I just never picked it up.

In my family, all of my cousins are medicated for one thing or another. My mom always prided herself on being the only one of her siblings without kids on meds. So the thought of taking an anti-depressant terrified me. I thought there was something wrong with me. I thought I was a freak. I knew I needed help, but I didn’t know how to get it.

On top of being extremely depressed, I was also very lonely and homesick. But I have extreme social anxiety, which keeps me from going out and making friends. I have no support system here, something that I’ve learned to accept, but back then it really killed me. So I would bottle things up and every six months or so, I would blow up at Brent and beg to move home and then get over it and just keep doing it over and over and over.

I entered into a new vicious cycle– only this one didn’t leave any physical scars.

When we got pregnant with Kaylee, I was terrified. We had been trying and literally got pregnant the first chance we could have. I had kept planning (mostly in my head) for us to move back home before we had another kid. That obviously did not happen.

My pregnancy was harder the second time around, and when she was born, I kind of just checked out. I was tired and moody and I could feel that I was depressed. Not just post-partum depression. This was the real deal.

On January 1, 2016, I woke up wanting to die. Something about the start of the new year knowing that I was stuck at my crappy job to pay for our crappy apartment in our town so far away from home just ate at me. I hardly left the room that day. So when I went for my wellness check later that week, I swallowed my pride and told my doctor how I felt. And I immediately felt like this huge weight had been lifted.

I’ve been on Zoloft since January 4, and I can honestly say that it is the best thing I could have done for my mental health. I’m here for my kids, I want to get out of bed most days, and I just feel like there’s a purpose for me here.

I read a quote somewhere a few weeks back that stuck with me — “Your past does not define you. It prepares you.”

For a long time, I thought my only option in life was to be this small town girl who was stupid enough to let herself get hurt, with body image issues and suicidal tendencies. I thought there was something wrong with me. I thought that because I went through all this hard crap as a teenager, I was meant to carry that burden and learn to live around it.

But that’s not true. Not any of it.

Yes, I have depression. Yes, I have self-harm scars. Yes, I still have a hard time looking at myself in the mirror without that little voice pointing out all of these (probably made-up) flaws.

I’m not saying that I’m cured because I started Zoloft, or because I realized that I needed help. I still have bad days, where I don’t even leave the couch because I simply don’t have the energy to do more than the bare minimum to keep my kids alive. I still have crippling anxiety (mostly social) to the point where I sometimes don’t talk to other humans face to face for days on end (except for Brent) and I almost always let my parents’ calls go to voicemail. I still have poor self image and obsessive tendencies. I’m still single-minded.

But there is nothing wrong with me. There is nothing wrong with the fact that every day, I take a pill to balance out the chemicals in my brain. There is nothing wrong with the fact that my past sucked and I still sometimes think about it. There is nothing wrong with the fact that I asked for help.

I’m stronger today than I was yesterday. And I will be stronger tomorrow than I am today. I’ll be here for my kids. I’ll have a life and a future. I found someone who loves me, I found a passion in my life.

I want to live.

And that’s what really matters.

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