I haven’t always be happy.
In fact, there was a time where I had began to wonder if there would ever be anything in my life that would make me feel like this ridiculous life on Earth was worth all of the headaches and heartaches that I endured time and time again growing up.
I wasn’t abused physically or sexually, as I know many people who suffer from depression are. I didn’t come from a broken home with parents who were alcoholics or who beat each other up. In fact, most people just always assumed that I had this picture perfect little life. My dad worked hard to provide, my mom was active in my school growing up…just a regular middle-class American family.
Most everyone would never have guessed that all throughout High School and my first two years of college that I was battling depression and suicidal thoughts. Because we (societal “we”) wrap depression up in a little box with black wrapping paper, tattoos, and piercings. We envision people who are depressed as those society would deem as gothic or rebellious when in actuality it comes in all kinds of shapes and forms. It comes in the form of a 5’5″ sorority girl and private school graduate with “everything in the world going for her.” In the form of a girl battling great inner turmoil than anyone can see because she doesn’t look how you would think a person with depression is supposed to look.
I don’t remember exactly when my depression started because it’s been in my life for so long My mom battled depression throughout my childhood and I remember having an overall hate for life by the time I was in 7th grade. I didn’t wake up one morning and just realize, “Whoa…I’m depressed…and way more unhappy than normal people should be.”
But, I do remember the moment that I recognized it.
It was the first time I contemplated suicide.
I always grew up feeling lacking in some way, shape or form. In High School it was lacking in all of the ways that you’d expect from a teenage girl trying to find her place at a private school she was only attending because she was on scholarship. I felt lacking in what I wore, what I drove, my position on whichever athletic team I was attempting to be a part of…always falling second or third behind someone else. Never quite understanding why I wasn’t as good as the others.
I didn’t fit in with the popular crowd. I never got invited to go out with the “cool” kids and didn’t have my first boyfriend until I was 17. I was almost always the understudy in drama club productions and, even though I graduated sixth in my class, I didn’t make Valedictorian or Salutatorian, despite my best efforts. I was always in the role of the “best friend” or the “other friend” when it came to dating. Think Something Borrowed and I’m Rachel, or Friends and I’m Monica when she was fat. Guys would talk to me when they wanted a date with my best friend.
I was very lonely in High School. My mom and I did not get along the best in the world, especially right before my Senior Year when both of my grandmother’s passed away within a 10 day window. My mom slipped into a major depression herself and I just found it in myself to keep going and do my best to get the hell out. I knew that I wanted out of my small town and was determined to make that happen.
I was lonely. I was sad. I pushed myself harder than I think I ever have to prove myself. I ached to belong and ached to be wanted or feel needed by someone. Things at home were a disaster and I spent a vast majority of my time in my room crying or at my then-boyfriends house and with his family.
When graduation came and college loomed, I knew in my heart that this was my time. I was getting out, would join a sorority and finally be one of the popular girls…one of the sorority girls…the pretty girls…the stick-whatever-stereotype-you-want-on-it girls. And for a little tiny smidgen of time, I was. But, there was always someone else. There was always someone better than me. There was always someone more popular than me, prettier than me, better with the boys than me.
That’s when I started drinking.
I figured if that’s what it took to finally get “there” and be one of the popular girls, then that’s what I would do. Drink a beer? Sure why not? Sleep with a cute frat guy that all the girls thought was “hot?” Sure! Why not? Skip class because you just want to sleep late or can’t get out of bed because you’re hung over? Heck yeah! I like to sleep.
I spent a good, solid year searching for who I was in the bottom of a bottle. My parents knew what was up and knew I was drinking and going to the bars underage, but they assumed they had raised me better than that and trusted that I was being responsible.
But I wasn’t finding any kind of satisfaction at all.
When I decided I wanted to open up about this, I pulled out my journals from college and started reading. I found this entry from October 2005:
J came down the other day to go to Semi-Formal with me. Funny how that worked out. I’m pretty sure that he only came to get laid. Isn’t that what all of the boys think? I had one of the cutest dates there, though. But, when it was all said and done and the night was winding down, I was more jealous of the girls that were happy than anything else. I could see it on their faces. Sheer stupid bliss. What makes them so good? So much better than me? Why do I feel like this? Why do I hate myself and my life so much? I wonder if anyone would even notice if I disappeared…maybe my roommates if I didn’t come out of my room for several days. I cut myself shaving this morning in the shower and as much as it hurt, I almost felt relief. Like that little slice opened up enough to allow some of this misery to drip out. Maybe that’s why people slit their wrists. I’m too scared of blades though. I’d have to overdose…they say Tylenol kills you faster than anything.
As I sat and re-read those words, I still remember the feeling I had when I wrote them. I still have the scar on my knee where I sliced my leg open. I never could bring myself to start cutting, though there were times I thought about it. All I wanted was something-anything-to make me feel better. I’ve shared it before, but how I managed to never end up with alcohol poisoning, I don’t know aside from the fact that God had a bigger reason.
When my high school boyfriend and I broke up and he started spreading rumors all over campus that I was a slut and that I had an STD (which I didn’t, by the way), I bought three bottles of Tylenol PM and locked myself in my room. I opened two bottles and dumped them out on my comforter and started penning a suicide note. I was done. I was over it. I was sick and tired of hating myself when I looked in the mirror. I was sick of starving myself to try to be skinnier, tired of working all the time to buy clothes to impress people around me, tired of feeling like there was nothing in the world worth sticking around for if it meant that I had to endure the life that I was enduring.
Looking back now I see that things really weren’t as bad as I was convinced they were.
But isn’t that how it is with depression?
There are things, no matter how big or small they seem to everyone else, that just seem astronomically HUGE at the time. Like a bottomless pit that you can’t get out of. It doesn’t have to make sense to everyone else, but at that very moment in time, it feels like it is crushing you.
When I think back on that period of my life, I realize that my depression spawned from so many different things. My therapist and I have spent several sessions discussing this period of my life in great detail and I’ve come to see that most of it was a result of unacknowledged grief and anger. There was a lot of resentment in my life over a lot of different situations that I just never came to terms with. I never learned to love myself and placed too much emphasis on the opinions of others to find my value. When that didn’t come, it left me feeling worthless.
When I lost two people in my life that I cared about tremendously, I didn’t grieve. I picked up the slack that was present at my house and just kept moving. When our house burned down my freshman year, I didn’t grieve the loss of what I didn’t have anymore…I just buried my anger and kept on going. Everyone always told me, “the world doesn’t stop spinning because you’re having a bad day.” That stuck in my head in the sense that no one really cared whether my life sucked or not. Things were just to a point where suicide felt like the only option.
All I wanted…or needed…was just someone to come along and tell me all of the things that I wanted to hear: I was beautiful. I was needed. I was desired. I was wanted. I was chosen.
I was ENOUGH.
And one day, someone did. His name was Jesus.
I was saved as a child when I was 12 years old in the best ability of my understanding at the time. It wasn’t until I watched a boy I graduated high school with covered in blood after a drunk driving accident (that I was minutes from being involved in) pull through what should have been his death that I woke up. I hit my knees harder that night after I left the hospital than I ever had. I started to get my life back together. I stopped drinking and partying all the time and started joining in with some of the Campus Christian meetings.
But, that didn’t mean that my battle with depression was over.
When Josh and I got married in 2008, I went through a period of severe postpartum depression after Noah was born. My self-esteem hit rock bottom and I started once again questioning my worth and my capabilities as a mother. I cried and cried and cried about anything and everything. I wanted to run away from home and never return. If it hadn’t been for the sweet little baby that called me “mama” I have no doubt that those months following Noah’s birth would have ended me. Aside from being his mommy, I felt no sense of purpose whatsoever in life. No reason to be around…no one who needed me or cared if I was there or not. I was convinced that my husband would find another wife if I put an end to my own life and that Noah was young enough to not remember me and grow up with another woman as his mother.
It was the sheer fear of being totally forgotten that kept me from doing something stupid. It was that thought that my son wouldn’t know who his mother was the kept me grounded and kept me from ending it all.
I wanted more than that for my family. I wanted to find a reason to wake up every day, even if it was just a small reason. That’s when I found blogging and when I started journaling again. I started scrapbooking and playing around with graphic design (though very, very poorly and in Microsoft Publisher). I started reading books again and escaping into worlds and places that I had never been. Slowly, but surely, I started praying again and studying scripture again. For the longest time I had turned my back on God and blamed him for the things that I felt. It wasn’t until I opened up those wounded parts of me that he started to heal me and remind me that I had a much greater purpose than I thought that I did.
Like many cases of depression, mine has always gone “undiagnosed” until Josh and I started counseling in January. My therapist has diagnosed me with bouts of recurring depression and put me on medication for Generalized Anxiety Disorder. I pop a little white pill every morning to keep me relatively grounded and less overwhelmed by the life I live. I have a prescription for medicine that aids with keeping my Panic Attacks under control. I keep a gratitude journal to constantly remind myself that there is always, always, always something to be thankful for no matter how stressful or busy or overwhelming my day is.
I still have a long way to go to get my anxiety under control and some days are much better than others. I recognize my triggers and so does my husband. I take more time out for myself and unwind now more than I ever have. I’ve made time in my schedule for things that matter to me. Like writing more frequently on this blog and creating Art Prints to raise awareness for Anxiety and Depression through #TheSemicolonProject!
Which is what this post and this heart dump about my struggle has been about…raising awareness for the hundreds of thousands of people out there suffering in silence. The ones walking around with that suicide note in their pocket just waiting on the breaking point and the moment in which they will call it quits for good.
Let me tell you a secret friend…
You’re on this journey for a reason. It may not make sense, it may be hard and you may be ready to throw in the towel. I’ve been there and I was, too. But someone…somewhere…needs to hear YOUR story. So stick around long enough to tell it.
As part of my hopes in raising awareness for depression and anxiety…a portion of every sale that is made through my Print Shop will be donated to a worthy cause. I’m donating 10% of each purchase total Project Semicolon to continue to raise awareness for those suffering in silence with depression and anxiety. I’d love to have your support! You can share our shop information via any social media outlet (word of mouth marketing is so crazy powerful), purchase prints or even contact me if you’re interested in sharing your story here with a special featured guest post. Also, for a limited time ONLY you can snag 10% off of your entire purchase price in the shop using the code GRANDOPENING at checkout!