Don't be ashamed of your story; it will inspire others
I have felt called to share my story with as many people as possible, but I have never actually done so on my own website. They say that stories can heal, and if my story can make an impact on ONE person's life, then this story needs to be shared.
The reason why I titled this blog "My Life Story" is not just because I am sharing my life lessons as I learn them. I actually titled my blog this way because I was planning on sharing my personal experience with mental illness and abusive relationships.
On the surface, I do not look like someone with a dark past. In fact, I have had people say that they don't understand how I am so bubbly all the time and that they cannot imagine me ever being sad. Sometimes it is the people we least expect who have the stories that need to be shared.
Now I am not saying that my dark past is exceptionally dark. I have had an AMAZING life with a supportive, loving family and more reasons for gratitude than anyone actually needs. However, mental illness runs in my family, so regardless of how "perfect" my life may seem, I still fell into some dark times.
You have probably fallen into dark times of your own, and honestly, you probably know hardships worse than mine. Still, I want you to take one thing from this story: hope. I want you to KNOW like you KNOW that you will come through your mental illness just like I did. I want you to feel empowered by my story, and I want you to know that there is a light inside you that NOTHING can take away.
So let's start, shall we? Quick disclaimer: there is mention of suicidal thoughts in this post
My story begins when I was 17-years-old. I was a senior at a high school in the suburb that I grew up in. Up until this point, I always felt relatively happy. By nature, I am a happy person, and growing up, I had a wonderful family life. No family is perfect, but my family raised me with love and support. By the end of high school, I was a straight-A student, received early acceptance to my university of choice, and had still never been to an actual party before. I followed all the rules, and I was happy living life this way. I had my group of pretty friends, and I had the "perfect" relationship with my high school boyfriend. There was no way for anyone to know that anything was wrong.
At first, it felt like something small had changed inside of me. I knew that I did not quite feel like myself, but I tried to push through anyway. I tried to keep up the happy, bubbly persona that I had carried with me through high school. As months passed, I could feel that it was taking more and more effort to maintain this happy persona, but I did not understand why. Everything was still just fine in my life.
Well, part of the problem was that my group of friends was beginning to turn on me for the second time. After years of grade school bullying, my biggest fear was to experience more bullying in high school. However, despite my strongest efforts to keep everyone happy, I was being treated like an enemy by my group of friends. It was to the point where I felt like I had to watch every word I said and every slight movement of my body for fear of being scrutinized or framed. Finally, in December of that year, I decided that I would rather have NO friends at all than remain in a group where I did not belong. This decision was liberating at first, but it came with a cost. I began to develop severe social anxiety upon returning to school after Christmas that year. I thought that everyone was judging me, including my own family. I hid from the cafeteria, and avoided all possible social situations. My plan was to wait out the end of high school. After all, there were only a few months left, how bad could it be?
As those final months progressed, I became more and more aware that something was wrong with me. Not only did I suffer from a crippling sense of social anxiety, but I also felt a darkness inside of me that I did not understand. I did not like this darkness; it scared me. I felt hopeless and trapped in my life circumstance. I lost all touch with love and joy. I began to feel numb to the world around me; I had lost all emotions. I felt no ups and no downs. I felt like I was sealed in bubble wrap, moving from one class to another. When I thought about my family, I knew that I loved them, but I could not feel it, and that scared me. When I thought about my boyfriend at the time, I knew that I loved him, but could not feel that either. Activities and events that would normally excite me meant nothing to me anymore. I kept telling myself that I was going through a weird phase and that it would resolve itself. Still, month after month rolled by, and I still felt numb.
When graduation finally came along, I was glad to see the end of high school. I told myself that things would begin to change now. My fear of social situations would go away, and I would start to feel more like myself again. I truly believed that high school was the problem; I believed that outside circumstances were causing me to feel unhappy. At this time, I had never taken a psychology class, and I knew almost nothing about mental illness. The mental health awareness movement had not started to boom yet, so no one was talking about mental illness. So when the first month of summer passed, and I was actually feeling worse than before, I thought that I was losing my mind! I was in a panic. My social anxiety was at its peak; I now feared leaving my bedroom because I thought my parents would judge me as a pathetic loser. Sadly, I had no idea what social anxiety even was, so I thought that I was going crazy. Come August, my mind was in a fury. At this point, my days were just repetitive battles with my own mind. I was exhausted all the time because I was constantly fighting with my own brain. I had no control over my thoughts, no matter how hard I tried to regain control. My relationship with my boyfriend at the time was falling apart because I was no longer myself, and I could no longer feel love. I could no longer feel anything. I was so numb at this point that I began to feel like I was no longer alive at all. So then came the darkest of the dark thoughts. I began to question why I was even alive anyway. What kind of existence was this? Where was my life even going anyway? I knew that I was starting university in the fall, but I was going to be an English major, and had no real career plans yet. When I thought about my future, my energy fell flat; I no longer felt energized about my future because I no longer felt like I had one. Day after day for the rest of that summer, I kept battling with my thoughts. I kept dodging social situations of all kinds, and I continued to be ashamed of myself. I could not remember what an emotion other than fear felt like. I had no passions, no friends, no future, no emotions, and I could not talk to my family because I thought they hated me (they literally gave me no reason to believe this).
Finally, I hit a breaking point toward the end of the summer! I was in my backyard on a beautiful sunny day, but I felt like everything around me was black and white. Summer was always my favourite season, but I continued to feel an empty pit in my soul where happiness should have been. Inside, I was screaming with rage and frustration, but on the outside, my face looked calm and collected. Despite my hardest efforts, I had not been able to cry in months even though I was feeling so awful. I focused real hard, squeezed my eyes shut, and allowed a small, warm tear to fall down my cheek. The feeling of the tear on my cheek gave me a jolt! Was this a feeling? Was this an emotion? I decided that enough was enough! It was time to stop acting like I had everything together when I clearly did not. It was time to stop avoiding my family. I ran back into my house and researched the possible causes behind what I was feeling. I expected this process to be an arduous one, but to my surprise, I found a diagnosis match almost instantly! Of course, this diagnosis was depression; I had every single symptom of depression and had been experiencing these symptoms in full force for 6 months! I still cannot believe that I allowed this pain to rule my life for 6 MONTHS before I did something about it! That day, I felt a weight come off my shoulders. For the first time in my life, I did not feel crazy or misunderstood. I learned that many others have felt the same numbness and hopelessness before me. I continued my research and also learned about social anxiety disorder. I knew that I had a mild anxiety disorder since I was 9 years old, so this diagnosis seemed like a match. I felt relieved but overwhelmed by this sudden influx of information. The only thing I could think to do was something I should have done long before now: I talked to my mother!
Of course, my social anxiety was still present, so I was expecting my mom to ridicule me for thinking that I have depression. After all, I had such a fortunate, happy life. What right did I have to be depressed? Part of me felt guilty to even admit to these feelings. I told my mom that I wanted to talk to her. I can still remember the shirt that I was wearing that day, so that tells you just how important this moment was for me. I fumbled with my words and gently started to tell my mom how I had been suffering in silence for 6 months. I thought she would have said something like "wow that explains why you have been so weird lately," but actually, she was surprised. She had no idea that anything was wrong with me at all, which further shows just how invisible depression can be. When I told her about the information that I just found on the Internet, I anticipated immediate rejection, but instead I received encouragement. This was when I found out about my family's genetic history with depression. I had no idea that the disorder ran strongly in my family, but knowing this now, I felt less "crazy" and more like someone experiencing an illness like any other. The most exciting part of this conversation was discovering that I could do something to fix this problem! My mom told me to make an appointment with my doctor and that he would likely prescribe me medication. Although I knew that this medication would become a routine for a long time, I felt so relieved that there were answers for me! There was medication for me, and there were people in my life whom I could talk to when I needed to. Although my symptoms continued for the weeks leading up to my doctor's appointment, just having a name on this dark demon gave me a sense of freedom. For the first time in a long time, I felt hope, and I felt like my life had a bright future. The battles with my mind continued, but they occurred less often.
Finally, I got to see my doctor, and I talked to him about my symptoms and family history. He was open-minded and spoke about my depression in a matter-of-fact way that made it seem more like a curable illness and less like an invincible demon. I received a formal diagnosis that day as well as my prescription for my first anti-depressants. I was nervous about taking the medication, especially since I knew that it could increase my suicidal thoughts. I kept anticipating nasty side effects, but my body adjusted to my first dosage of medication well. Once I adjusted, I was able to move up to a higher dosage. The most exciting part of this experience was how quickly I felt a change! I think a part of this change was likely a placebo effect, but regardless, I felt emotions for the first time in months! Let me tell you, we take things like emotions and happiness for granted. Just normal day-to-day feelings felt like euphoria to me because I had been feeling nothing for so long. I was beginning to experience excitement again, and I was beginning to connect with people again. I started making new friends through my boyfriend. Things were looking bright and promising for my first year of university!
However, my relationship had sustained a lot of damage over the past 6 months, and it looked like it was too late to repair this damage. After almost 2 years, it became clear that this relationship would have to end. Although this decision was difficult for me, it allowed me to start university with a clean slate. In fact, this break up occurred the night before my first day of university! It was almost like I was only ever meant to begin university with no attachments to my past.
Yes, I was sad from the break-up, but I was depression-free, and I had new opportunities falling at my feet. I was thrilled to start this new phase of my life! I was bursting with energy, and I felt elated by the simplest of emotions. I felt free and happy, but there was only one problem. I had no perception of danger. I felt invincible. After so many months of feeling like a walking dead person, I was ready to LIVE no matter what that would cost. I had no foresight, no cares, and no caution. I truly was not prepared for what was about to happen to me next.
Did you like this post?
Stay tuned for chapter 2! If you want to be the first to know when my next post is published, you can subscribe to my mailing list. My subscribers also receive a monthly newsletter where I write on a new positive living topic each month. These newsletters will contain posts that will not be published on my blog! Only subscribers get to access this content, so don't hesitate to sign up!
I can't wait to share the rest of my story with you!