For those of you who haven’t quite figured out my entire life story from just a few words here and there, I have been deeply depressed since childhood, though I wasn’t quite aware that anything was wrong. My family is not the type to recognize mental illness. My parents wouldn’t have known what to do if they had a defective child. They were not equipped to deal with any sort of special attention or needs from one of their four children.
By the time I was old enough to realize that I was hurting and that there were ways to try to alleviate the pain, others had already expressed their concerns for me. My high school guidance counselor knew something was going on with me. She pried as much as she could but I wouldn’t tell her anything. I didn’t really know what to tell her. I did not know why I was so sad. My life had, of course, been difficult, but who has an easy life? I imagined no one did; I couldn’t fathom a world with perfectly happy people in perfectly happy families with perfectly happy lives.
My guidance counselor set me up with a social worker in the school who could supposedly help me. I spent a couple weeks visiting weekly with the social worker, not sure what she wanted to hear. She asked about my home life and my family. She asked about my friends and how school was going. I had nothing to hide, so I told her the truth: home is fine. I hide in my room until morning then I come to school. Family is whatever. At the time it was just me and my parents, my sisters had all moved out. I had no friends and school was fine. I was doing well enough. I didn’t see what the issue was.
I struggled onward through life, never feeling like anything was going my way. I was alone and scared. I was depressed and self-destructive. I pretended nothing was wrong. I kept on doing gymnastics and cheerleading as I always had; while struggling with burning thoughts of suicide masked with glitter, a big smile, and an even bigger bow in my hair.
I find it funny that I was so depressed, and at the same time, I was an all-star cheerleader, traveling the country to compete with that smile painted on my face. No one knew that I would go home and cut my skin open in the least obvious of places. No one suspected a thing.
I was proud, in a sick way, of how well I fooled everyone. At the same time, I was desperate for someone to notice how much I was hurting inside. One evening, I was babysitting my little cousins, Darcy and Aiden. They were about 5 and 6 at the time and the were really well behaved, so they kept themselves busy.
My aunt and uncle came home early but I decided to stay the night as originally planned anyway. We got to talking and, at one point, my aunt turned to me and said, “you know, Jillian, I see a lot of myself in you. I understand the way you suffer and I just want you to know, you’re not alone. I know its hard and I know its scary, but you’re not the only one. Don’t forget that.”
I wasn’t totally sure what she meant at the time, but I never forgot what she said. It stuck with me until it finally sank in. It was part of why I chose to study Psychology in the first place. I really wanted to understand my family and more importantly, myself. I wanted to know that the things I felt and thought were not signs of complete insanity. I was scared for so long because these warning signs, that were obvious to everyone around me, were blatantly ignored. I needed my parents to seek help for me but they couldn’t even accept that there was a problem to be dealt with.
It wasn’t until I woke up in the emergency room, with my mother caressing the 8″ laceration on my left arm, that they were forced to see what was always there. Their daughter has something dark lurking in the depths of her subconscious. She has learned to subdue the dark things and keep them hidden behind the polished surface that often displayed a refined smile.
I had apparently, in a blacked out state, tried to pry that darkness out of my very own skin. Though I do not remember the events of the evening, I do have testimony from someone who I once trusted dearly, that the happenings of that evening were heavily provoked and out of my control. Its a long story for another time, but I’ll get to it, I promise.
I think it is of the utmost importance that we recognize suffering in others. People need to know that its okay to hurt and that its normal to feel broken. The truth is, even when we feel incomplete, we are still intact. The only way we can crumble is if we accept defeat. If you think yourself invincible, you just might find out that you are, in a manner of speaking.
I realized, once or twice, that I have control over my existence in this world. I have the capabilities of taking myself out, if I so choose. For the record, I do not choose that. I want to say that the people who noticed, who saw the pain behind the false exterior; thank you. You are the reason I found the help I needed, which ultimately led me to find my passion; the human brain.
I have somehow found ambition and hope for the future; I have dreams and goals. I have projected farther into the future than I ever thought possible and these vast possibilities are simply whisking me away! Life seems romantically enticing; I want more and more! My mindset continues to keep me trapped on a day to day basis, but I hold onto hope that with time and practice I will eventually find balance and acceptance; leading to happiness.