My Life with Depression and Anxiety
Growing up, I dealt with a lot of bullying. I didn’t get along with most of the girls my age, they thought I was weird. Probably because I dressed like a boy. Fifth/sixth grade was, what I refer to as, my transition out of boyhood. When puberty hit I quickly went from being ignored by most, to being harassed. Every girl growing up deals with the unwanted comments and looks, but, for me, it really stuck. I quickly fell into the mindset that my self-worth was based on how I looked, and how other people saw me. I fell into a really deep depression. You could argue that it was because I hated the way that I looked, or because of the bullying or that it was because I couldn’t ever seem to make a friendship stick longer than a few months, but the fact of the matter is, I was just depressed and I was afraid. Because depression doesn’t need a reason, it’s not that black and white. It's not just sadness, or anger, or self-loathing, or really any combination. It’s absence. It’s the absence of happiness, of carefreeness, of confidence. Depression is grey. Everything in the world, everything you see, hear, touch, experience is grey. Things that used to make you happy are dull. The things you used to find funny are dull. And when everything in your life is grey, that’s when you start getting upset and angry and anxious and scared because what kind of person can’t see beauty in anything no matter how hard they look? And you get frustrated and you hate yourself for feeing like this, feeling nothing, feeling different from everyone else around you and you turn to self-harm because at least it’s real. Self-harm makes all of the pain and the anger and the frustration into something that you can understand – something physical. It’s easier to wrap your head around a scarred up wrist than it is to understand a hail-storm of emotions coming down on you every second of every day for who know what reason, because there isn’t a reason.
If there’s one thing I’ve noticed in other mentally ill people, it’s their laugh. Your laugh changes, your entire demeanor changes, but for most, it’s all totally unconscious. I didn’t know that I was depressed until my family noticed that I was different and took me in to talk to a doctor.I started to truly believe that my life held no meaning. Of course, as I was growing up, I always had my family behind me in everything that I did, but what a lot of people don’t understand is that, in the throes of depression, you don’t see those people as reasons to keep fighting, you see them as just a few more people to let down, to disappoint, to prove to that you’re nothing. I truly believed that I was a burden to everyone around me. That they’d be better off if I wasn’t there. And it took almost dying for me to realize that depression doesn’t ever just affect one person. It creates a ripple.
I was amazed to find that I wasn’t just some freak that didn’t know how function around other people and never seemed to enjoy things like other kids did, I was just sick. And I wasn’t alone in that sickness, it’s something that a lot of people deal with. And it doesn’t need a reason to latch onto you, so I stopped looking for one. And I think that was probably the first step I took towards controlling this. When I was sixteen, after years of self-harm, I got a tattoo of a bow on my finger so that I’d never forget a promise I made to myself. And that promise was to never self-harm again. Self-harm comes in so many different forms. I started smoking. When I was anxious, I’d scratch at my arms until they bled. In junior high, I binged. I’d drink, I would eat everything I could get my hands on and then throw it all up. I was hurting myself in countless ways.
"I was hurting myself in countless ways."
Picture this ok, picture that all of the pain that you have ever felt is a sheet of glass in front of you. Now put a bullet through your sheet of glass. Where did it go? Did it disappear? No, if you put a bullet through a sheet of glass and you’ve got glass everywhere. And that’s what happens to your pain when you try to kill it. Every single person that you have ever connected to takes on a little bit of that pain that you left behind. And this is what I try to get through to the kids that I speak to so that they don’t have to get so close to suicide before they decide to make a change and try to get better, not only for themselves, but for every other person that they have ever known. I had to get better because I never wanted anybody else to feel the way that I did, and that’s why I’m here speaking to all of you now, that’s why I speak to students and I still fight every day to stay positive.
"You are not your depression and your depression does not define or control you. "
Life is a game of chess and you’re the player. Not a piece on the board so play to win. We’re all playing to be happy at the end of the day so keep your vital pieces close and sacrifice the ones that drag you down. Someone once told me that things don’t happen for a reason, but they do happen with the potential, so you can sit around and be bitter and angry over things that you can’t change, or you can use those stories and those experiences to help other people. Well, I was bitter and angry for a long time, but there comes a point where you have to make the decision to pick yourself back up and fight with everything you are just to feel ok for a fraction of a second just to do it over and over again until you start to accept that all of the shit that you’ve been through is not who you are. You are not your depression and your depression does not define or control you. And then you can start to be genuinely happy again, even if it’s just a little at a time, you’ll get there, and I know you can, because I did it.
Me, I feel everything too strongly. It’s a blessing, but I used to think it was a curse. When I’m happy, I’m the happiest girl you’ll ever meet. When I fall in love, I fall harder than most. Depression got me because I feel strongly, and I used to think it was a fault, but it’s the best thing about me. Sometimes, in order to appreciate the beauty in the world, you need to first see how ugly it can be. I have experienced addiction and abuse and abandonment; I’ve seen the absolute rot in the world, but I’ve also seen how amazing it can be. It took countless years wondering what the hell I did to deserve this illness, for me to realize that I am experiencing these things not because I did anything wrong, not because I’ve been through more than this person beside me, but because I am an extremely emotional person, and that is an incredibly beautiful thing.