photo by Bethany Barker
A long road back
WARNING: The following story deals with sensitive topics.
Sit Down, close your eyes, count some numbers and breathe. When I get too overwhelmed, sometimes that’s all I can manage. When it comes to mental health, not many people really understand what is going on, so I’ll tell you about my experience to shed some light on a real story.
First, depression isn’t just sadness, although that is part of it. When my aunt passed away from cancer in 2014, I wasn’t exactly sure what I was feeling. It wasn’t my first family death, but I was closer with her than anyone I knew. I felt an extreme pressure, but I didn’t know what to do. This resulted in my isolation from everyone and everything. I went to a middle school far away from home with only two friends, who quickly blended in with a new crowd, and my family didn’t talk much about how we were feeling.
I felt alone, with the ever-increasing storm brewing in my body. I started failing classes and getting “sternly” talked to by admins, parents, and my own head. I got overwhelmed and hated every aspect of myself to the point where I started an addiction of self-harm, a battle that continues today. My first suicide attempts happened when I was 11. I don’t remember much of the next two years besides what I did to myself.
I started self-harm as a way to relieve the pain and punish myself for what I felt l deserved. Then I started branching out to other unhealthy coping strategies that just aided the downward spiral.
I have always had a problem with self-image, especially after comments by people I’m unfamiliar with and people I care for. I hated every aspect of myself, from the way my hips curved out, to my hair color, and even the way my cheeks looked. I wanted to change, and my guilty, insecure conscience helped me do so. I became bulimic and after two months I started to suffer from anorexia nervosa. I craved the feeling of hunger to the point where I didn’t even have it anymore. In a span of three months I dropped 30 pounds.
About the time I was nearing my one of lowest weights, my self-harm at its peak, and my suicide attempts worsening, my mother found one of my suicide notes from two years prior, and thus I started therapy. My first therapist only lasted a few months until I went to the one I am still with now. When I went to my now therapist, I felt more comfortable; but there is a saying in therapy: It gets worse before it gets better. And it does so because problems are finally being talked through and processed. I was even called to the resource officer because someone saw my scars and the school system got involved and I then had a 504 plan to help aid me with school situations in which I feel overwhelmed or I need extra help.
A couple months later I was admitted to a mental institution because I told my therapist I would commit suicide if she sent me home in that state of mind. So, I spent a week in a place where I felt truly alone. I can distinctly remember the one day we were allowed outside, with the overwhelming loving warmth, and these huge naval sweet oranges: the only thing I ate for days. When I got out I saw how my actions affected my family. No matter how I felt about them, I knew they were worried. I can never forget their reactions to me having to describe how I tried to kill myself to the doctor. From then on I was prescribed tons of different pills to help me and learned coping skills on how to manage my reactions to situations.
The next year I went to high school, and I had friends, but not for long. Rumors were spread about me and even about my stay at the mental hospital by a trusted friend. My best friends didn’t even talk to me anymore from things spread my former trusted friend. I was called a lot of names from people I didn’t even know, and the self-harm kicked back in. I started to have frequent anxiety attacks and breakdowns; this went on for months until I went to a church trip. It helped me a lot.
I got a bit better. I was applying my Deictically Behavioral Thinking, DBT skills, that I learned from therapy and I obtained reliable support friends. But my clean streak didn’t last that long. I was rejected by someone, then cheated on, then lied to, and then a bad situation happened. In a span of I had three different people make me feel powerless. My self-worth crumbled completely. My grades were falling again, and my eating disorders and self-harm kept kicking in. I broke down sophomore year and I wanted to give up so badly. The only thing that held me down was my brother who helped clean up my wounds after the breakdown. I’ve learned to look at situations from all sides and that all people have their own lives going on as well. When I react, I affect those around me, and I have support people I can rely on for when I get upset. I have learned that I do have worth, and that I have several people who love me, despite those who don’t.
I do still stumble. I went 19 months clean from cutting, and it was recently broken. My eating disorders have kicked again as well. I am working to get back to a healthier state of mind with coping methods that eliminate my unhealthy ones and I am going to go back to the several doctors I used to see to aid me. I am still learning how to cope with new challenges and it’s not easy, but I am trying. I get overwhelmed a lot and I’ve been overthinking a lot recently. I’ve been lied to, hurt, and put to the side by those I love dearly recently but I am learning to be okay with myself, and it’s insanely difficult. Sometimes I forget my worth and when I do I take a deep breath and soothe myself with some hot chocolate then go to my support people to remind me when I forget.
Nothing is an easy fix and it takes hard work. It is okay to be upset, cry, and ask for help. I learned that when I asked for help that it doesn’t show that I was too weak, it made me realize how strong I was to be able to admit that I am not okay. So now when I get too overwhelmed I can call those who can help and to simply, breathe.