Holy fuck, it’s 2017. And it’s been more than two weeks since I wrote my first post. More than two weeks since I’ve been able to find a moment for myself, a bit of quiet, time when nobody needs me to be whole and functional. My asshole brain keeps chattering, keeps telling me how useless I am, what a terrible wife and mother I am, what a shitty writer I am, that nobody wants to hear my worthless thoughts, that I shouldn’t bother.
But here I am, trying my best to push back against the darkness. I cannot stay here, where depression sucks the joy out of every aspect of my life. I have to show my brain that I can fight it with action, just by showing up at the keyboard even when I am not strong enough to speak out against the reproachful voices in my head. The joke’s on you, brain. It doesn’t matter if my thoughts are worthless and nobody wants to hear them, because I’m writing them for me. I really don’t expect anyone will discover this blog and read it, which leaves me free to dig deep. There’s some ugly shit down there, but it’s my only way out.
Speaking of the ugly shit, I read over my last post this morning, and discovered an omission.
A glaring omission.
I wrote of being physically and emotionally abused by a family member as a child, so fucking proud of myself for being open and honest and actually typing those words. Except, I didn’t type the words that resulted in the most damage to my sense of safety and sense of self.
I was sexually abused. Molested. Fondled. Violated. I was held down while my abuser shoved snack cakes in my mouth to keep me quiet.
Like I said, a glaring omission. A bit of info that adds context to my story, that helps me better understand what happened after “And then one day, it all ended.”
What actually happened?
My abuser died, suddenly and unexpectedly, throwing my life into absolute chaos. My hopes of addressing the abuse together? Gone. My sense of safety and happiness? Buh-bye. I had nothing to draw on, no well of inner strength, no coping strategies, and no way of processing the whirlwind of emotions that showed up uninvited. Apparently stuffing your trauma down deep doesn’t kill it – it just hides in a dark corner, gaining strength, until some shitty event allows it to come back to the surface. Who knew?
My anxiety came back, full-force, accompanied by a deep depression. For months, I self-medicated with alcohol and reckless behavior, trying to hide my vulnerability under a tough, party-girl façade. I didn’t know what else to do – nothing in my life had prepared me for feelings like this. Was it okay to be happy that my abuser was dead? Was it okay to be heartbroken? Was it okay to be both? What kind of messed-up person was I, grieving and loving a person who had been making me feel worthless for more than 15 years? And how the hell were humans supposed to deal with this level of pain?
I tried therapy. I went to the student counseling center and asked for help. At my first session, I blurted everything out, hoping that getting the pain outside my body, however briefly, would provide some relief.
The (male) therapist responded by sharing statistics on how many girls and young women are abused by family members (that number is currently 1 in 5). I think he meant for me to feel less alone. Instead, I wondered why they were collecting statistics rather than doing something to stop the abusing assholes. I went to one session and never went back.
I even tried suicide a couple of times – anything to get the pain to stop. My family still doesn’t know about that. Neither attempt resulted in hospitalization, and nobody who knew me thought it was anything worth reporting to people who could help me.
For 18-year-old me, depression was anguish, making life so painful to live that it had to be dulled with alcohol and other substances. I craved a release, and was disappointed every morning when I woke up, because I was sure that dead me wouldn’t be in excruciating emotional pain. I didn’t sleep, didn’t eat, withdrew from my friends, and pushed away anyone who wanted to “be there” for me.
In some ways, my depression as an adult is very similar. The pain has been supplanted by apathy, a deep lack of feeling that touches all my relationships and activities, but I still find myself drinking too much, pushing friends away, and struggling to sleep. I still have the urge to wander the streets all night and harm myself, but I am able to resist, for my child’s sake.
This time around, I am committed to working through the depression, rather than waiting around hopelessly for the fog to lift. Even though there are days that find me barely able to leave my chair, I am fighting this with everything I’ve got, and with every method available. I have been open with the people who know me, have told them what I’m going through, and for the first time in my life, almost all of them have stuck around, offering to help (and the ones who haven’t will be the subject of a blog post of their very own). Every day, I am shown love and compassion, and that’s a potent reminder of something very important:
I am not alone.
I am not worthless.
I am loved.