To The Troubled Souls:

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It wrenches my heart to hear it said
That the mentally ill are sick in the head
When it goes unknown what it is they feel
And whether or not their pain is real

Who can say, with certainty, that
Anything’s real? We’re just a ‘brain in a vat’
Experiencing the world subjectively
Allowing things to pass unexpectedly

There is a notion onto which I cling
That allows for anything you wish to bring
Into existence to finally be seen
By you and whoever else believes.

The world is cold and harsh out there
Bravery is the only mask you can wear
Your scars convey more than they conceal
But their stories are still only yours to reveal

Don’t let them know you without your consent
They will never know truthfully what you meant
When you dragged that blade across your skin
But, please, don’t believe when they say ‘its a sin.’

These actions, you see, are not from your heart
They were not part of you from the start
The pain you inflict is but an expression;
An outward display of your auto-aggression

Know that when you feel displeased
There are other ways to get release
From the clenching hold of condemning words
Trust me, I know how much it hurts.

Then again, don’t trust a single soul
You’ll see that you can’t as you grow old
Everyone hides their true intentions
That’s why I strive for prevention

I See Your Struggle, I Feel Your Pain

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One of the worst things is recognizing a suffering in someone who you care about and knowing there is nothing you can do to sooth the pain. You may be able to open a door and shine some light on the situation, but nothing will ever make it better.

Its even worse to have learned this first hand, through experience. I suffer in a similar way, but it was far worse when I was younger. I see my pain in his eyes and I wonder if he will survive. I wonder if he has someone so important and so close to him that he would promise his life for their sake.

My person, my cousin, my best friend, was the one who was so important to me that I made my promise. I held on to that promise until she died. Through the grieving process, you sometimes stumble into resentment towards your loved one for leaving you, and this caused me to disregard my promise. After she was gone, I no longer felt a need to hold up my end of the bargain.

I regret breaking that promise more than anything, but at the same time it saved me. I needed to have a brush with death to remind me of the value of life. To be perfectly honest, the only value I was reminded of was that of family and friends.

To this day, I crave the relief of un-existing. I lust after the satisfaction of self-punishment and the release of auto-brutality. These are things all of us (with depression and the like) face on a daily basis. The presence of the thoughts does not condemn us, but rather our actions regarding those thoughts.

I may feel an urge to rip my skin open, but I don’t do it. The feeling passes and I recognize the fact that those kinds of feelings, just like their positive counterparts, are fleeting. Nothing lasts forever, it only lingers as long as you let it. It took me a long time to figure any of this out. I have felt so alone for most of that time and I don’t want to watch another person, who I care about, go through that kind of life.

I want him to know that the feeling that stings deep in his chest is, too, present in mine. I want him to understand that NO, I do NOT know what you’ve been through, but I promise I’ve been through something that allows me to relate. If I  haven’t, I promise I can be a judgement-free, listening ear. Don’t you ever, not even for a second, feel alone in this world when you know you have a friend, a cousin, a person who cares more than you are able to fathom.

Don’t you dare break my heart the way I’m sure you’ve wanted to before; the way I’ve wanted to break others’ hearts before. Promise me you will take the life you have and cling to it as if it were just as fleeting as the emotions that ebb and flow like a constant stream of rushing water.

They come on strong and hard; a force I’ve never seen before. There is passion present in almost every word uttered from your mouth and THAT is a true sign of life. That is a sign of resilience and strength; to find yourself filled with energy and emotion charged in any direction is better than finding yourself empty.

Empty is something I have felt for a large portion of my lifetime. Empty is something I do not wish upon anyone. Empty is the absence of life, of substance, of people, of love. Empty is a waste of precious time.

As Jamie put it, “There are some people on this planet, who know they only have so long… and there are others who think they have forever… I would give anything to take my death sentence and trade it for the possibility of forever. That’s what you have, Jillian, you have the possibilities of a lifetime.”

And that’s when it clicked for me, though I needed reminding later on, that life is precious and it is insanely selfish of me to throw it away. I need to cherish it for the sake of the people I love who don’t have a choice about their fate. Its not right to take control of your life like that; after all, you aren’t the only one who is hurt by your bad feelings. The people who care about you hurt by seeing you in pain, and if you were to end your life you would only leave behind more suffering. You won’t be there to feel any sense of relief you anticipate.

My point here is that, there is nothing wrong with suffering and feeling pain inside. The only wrongness that emerges comes from the action taken to express that pain and suffering. The wrongness of those actions is not “wrong” in the sense that I don’t think its right. It is “wrong” in the sense that you are doing yourself a disservice. You are diminishing your own worth and failing to recognize that you deserve to feel pain and to express those feelings. You deserve to know that your feelings are justified and that you are not alone in feeling that way. You need to understand that the bad stuff is normal. The bad stuff is important. The bad stuff is necessary to offset the good.

 

If you don’t struggle, you will never appreciate the happiness that comes from conquering your personal demons. If you don’t fight then you will never know that victory, and if you need help but don’t ask for it, you will go down in flames.

Do you want to see the most beautiful part?

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I tell my stories because, unlike my sulking face and my slim frame, they are truly beautiful. My stories are not made better or worse by passing trends and they are not played up with accessories or pops of color.

I have been told all my life how very beautiful I was. I was assured that I should feel no hatred towards myself, that I shouldn’t harm myself, because of this beauty. As far as the outside world has always been concerned, sadness and beauty are mutually exclusive.

I wish I could tell you how many times it was revealed to me that my sadness simply could not be: I was far too pretty. I wish I could tell you that it made me feel better, but it never has. I have always been one to look upon my reflection, finding comfort in knowing I was stronger than they knew. It didn’t comfort me to know that I was nice to look at, if anything it made my skin crawl. I didn’t want to be beautiful to the world. I wanted to be tragic…

The abrasions on my skin were never enough to turn me ugly. No one even noticed them, really. If they did notice, no one said anything. I was fooling the whole world with my award winning smile.

The part of me that has been so vastly overlooked, the part I find most beautiful, is the part inside that you can not see.

I am most infatuated with the words that flutter from my lips like liquid courage falling from the lip of a bottle. It comes in bits and pieces so small you can’t separate them from the whole. The “whole” is a massive contortion of the English language that bends around the drums so as to avoid being detected by undeserving ears. The true beauty is in the meaning of the linguistic nonsense spewing from the semantic centers of my brain.

You want to see the most beautiful part?

Well, then, close your eyes.
Listen to the stories that have shaped me in the most abstract sense of the word. If you could imagine shaping a mound of clay without ever physically touching your skin to the re-hydrated ball of sand particles and other microscopic minerals, then you can imagine being formed from the indirect touching of people and places and events going on around you. None of it physically grasps you, but it tosses you about.

Feel with your fingers, the fleeing formation of the clay, as you hold it beneath the water. Feel the particles disintegrate as they reintegrate with the di-hydrogen monoxide. Strain the water to find the dissociated particles that are once again forming a solid mass. Feel as the malleable mass mutates as you mold the molecules to fit your form.

Now open, watch with your eyes as your own hands take this product of the earth, and with it, create something useful; something beautiful; something worth keeping.
Interpret the infinite possibilities of these peculiar particles. You have the capability to create; to understand; to transform anything into being. You have the ability to think and to think about thinking. You have these powers inside of you that you must learn to harness.

I find the most beautiful part of myself to be the deep, burning passion that I feel in my heart. The tingling of excitement when I know I am approaching home. The comfort I feel in seeing my mother’s smile. The release of the clenching in my throat to see my sister breathe fresh air; with a smile on her face, no less. The smile on my nephew’s face when he sees me for the first time in months, my father’s embrace: these are the things that make me beautiful.

Someone Else

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As a child, I felt an overwhelming urge to be someone else.

I wanted, more than anything, to be the son my parents always wanted. I hoped to live in a time and place where the things I did mattered. I wished that I could have been a part of history. I imagined taking part in the revolutionary and civil wars. I pretended to be a young, Jewish girl escaping from concentration camps. I would wrap myself in a quilt and pretend I was hiding in the back of a cargo train; just trying to get away. I would barricade my door and play pretend for hours, but I was always summoned back to reality in some cruel way or another.

My sisters shared a disdain for me. I was the youngest; spoiled and bratty, as far as they’re concerned. They rarely let me join in on their games or watch TV with them. I yearned for their acceptance and for my parents’ affection; two things I now know I could never have. I wondered what it was like to be from a family like my friends’ at school. Their parents would hug them all the time, and they got along with their brothers and sisters. I felt like I was the only one who went home to be sad.

My parents never really hurt me. There were times when I was punished and I felt unloved, but my parents’ only fault was in my perception of their actions. I was too young to understand that my parents were people, too. They were struggling to raise four daughters. They put all of their own needs and desires aside so they could make sure we were okay. They did the best they could with what they had and they made it work. From where I was sitting, though, it felt like they had forgotten me.

I would lay awake at night wondering if my parents would ever come check on me. I wondered if anyone ever thought about me and if I really mattered at all. It didn’t feel like it. I felt invisible. I thought that, maybe, if something really big happened, they would remember how much they loved me.

I wanted to be one of the girls from my books. I wanted to be like my friends Joanna, Michelle, or Lauren. I wanted to be anyone but me. I wanted to have a different name, a different life, a different past. I wanted to be someone important, I felt so small and insignificant.

I would continue to manifest this desire to matter to someone else. I would try to be someone’s very best friend. I would try to be the smartest, coolest, most interesting person I could be. I was dishonest to myself because I was so desperate for companionship and praise. I needed someone to remind me of my importance. Simply being important would mean nothing without recognition. I needed recognition and affirmation that I was doing something right; that my presence was making a difference somehow.

Of course, your presence doesn’t make much of a difference when you don’t do anything. I spent my time passively waiting for someone to affirm my existence. Maybe I should’ve made an effort to positively influence someone else.


Over the years, I have wasted so much time wishing to be someone else and hating who I am. I’ve wished that I could be anyone more worthy of life for as long as I can remember. I have done myself a great disservice by neglecting my true needs. I have pushed aside that sad, little girl who just needed a hug, and I tried to replace her with someone who didn’t need anything from anyone.

I devoted myself to my new external persona. I displayed myself as a tough, cruel, heartless person. I was not afraid of anything because I believed the biggest threat to my well-being was my own actions. I was right in more ways than one.

Happiness is a Warm Gun

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Think back. Is there a time, that you can remember, when you truly felt happy?

“No. I don’t know why, I just, I don’t know.”

Well then, can you tell me about a time when you knew why you weren’t happy?

 

Well, when my sister and I were working together, we would always drive in together. Most days, she was getting ready before I was, other days, she wasn’t home and I knew that meant she wouldn’t be working that night.

She was elusive; often out with no explanation. She didn’t need one, she was an adult. I didn’t even need explanations and I was only 18. She was up to something, though. It was obvious to everyone, but my parents chose to ignore it. I was forced to face the facts before the rest of my family.

One afternoon when we were supposed to be getting ready for work, I realized I hadn’t seen her leave the house since I last saw her come in. It was unusual for her to be home and not working on a night that I was working. I got ready as usual, not thinking too much of it, but I finally got impatient and started knocking on her door.

She didn’t answer. I went to turn the knob, but it was locked from the inside. I can’t say exactly why, but panic shot down my spine. I knew exactly how to unlock these doors (I’m the youngest of four, guys, I’m a master picklock.) so I grabbed a pen, unscrewed the back, extracted the ink tube from inside and stuck it in the tiny hole on my side of the knob. I pushed it in and turned the knob until I heard a pop. I flung the door open to an average sight: my sister sleeping in her bed.

I walked over to her, relieved, and shook her shoulder to wake her. She rolled over to face me and I realized that her bloodshot eyes were rolling into the back of her head. I was startled, so I shook her again. She came to and sat up, instantly.

“What’s up?” She asked, groggily.

“Are you coming to work today?” I asked; nonchalant.

“Yeah, just give me a minute.” She walked to the bathroom. She was in there for a few minutes. When she returned, she informed me that she was, in fact, not going to work.

I shrugged, irritated, and left the house. I didn’t tell anyone about the strange encounter because I didn’t fully understand what had happened. My sister looked like she was done for. I couldn’t imagine what was wrong with her.

The following weeks were filled with conflict. My sister often needed something from me. I was pretty oblivious to what her true motivation was, so I gave in to her requests more than I should have. This opened the door for her to walk all over me. She stole over $300 from my sock drawer after I graduated high school. I told my mother, because she obviously denied it when I asked her about it; and when my mother confronted her, my sister obliged to repay the cash she had taken.

She apologetically handed me $60. Three twenty dollar bills: a fifth of what she took. This was the last time I would be susceptible to her thievery. I never left anything valuable behind when I wasn’t home. This, unfortunately, did not keep me safe while I was in the shower.

One evening, I was preparing to shower in anticipation of the school day to follow. I plugged my iPod in to my PC to charge and update while I was in the shower. I was walking from my bedroom to the bathroom when I saw my sister’s friend sitting on the front stairs, waiting for her. This wasn’t really unusual, but he was holding my iPod, USB cord still plugged in.

“Hey, is that my iPod?” I asked, not wanting to sound accusatory.

“Oh, is it? Hah, I guess so, yeah,” he said, handing it back to me.

“Yeah, I just needed it to charge… So if you could leave it there. That’d be great. Thanks.” I said, clearly annoyed, but not fully sure he was ever going to steal it in the first place.

I moved along and proceeded with my shower. When I emerged from the steamy vapor-filled room, I found that my iPod had, once again, been removed from its proper charging location. I had no doubt in my mind about who had taken it and I was furious. I went on a rampage through my house.

“I should be able to feel safe in my own home!” I shouted, outraged.

“I should NOT have to worry that my shit is going to be stolen every time I turn my back! Or any time I turn my back!” I continued.

My family ignored me, this was usual behavior for me, I guess. When something upsets me, I can’t simply ignore it. Something must be done. I can’t go on living in a place where my things are constantly at risk of being stolen. If that were the case, I’d have to find somewhere new to live.

I rationalized the issue with my parents, who wanted to remain blind to the situation at hand. They deterred my sister from having guests over, on the grounds that they could not be trusted. My sister felt like her personal rights were being violated. She was not the most rational person at this period of time in her life, guys. She was actually completely absent from her body, if I recall correctly.

The sister I once knew and loved was no longer present. I was living with a monster, controlled by the dark, tarry substance she so carefully injected into the veins on the back of her left hand.

She believed, in the fantasy world that she lived in, that none of the signs were showing. She was convinced by her own charade, thinking no one would see through her. I had known about the pills, but the needles were new. The needles were harder to hide.

I’m not sure exactly when the rest of my family finally started to accept the fact that one of our beloved sisters and daughters was, in fact, a drug addict. Whenever it was, it was too late.

She had been entirely consumed by the seductive intoxication of one of our most evil monsters, here on earth. The monster took her away and made her feel invincible. When she was feeling good on the inside, she thought it made her look just as good on the outside. She became so cocky when her pupils were dilated.

Most things she said left an unsavory taste in my mouth. Now that my family was involved, I decided I could step away without feeling responsible for her inevitable death.

Yes, indeed, it got to a point where I had to accept that my sister would die during my lifetime. I had to swallow the heavy truth that it would likely happen sometime in the next few years.

On December 27, 2011, I received several missed phone calls from my sister, Michelle. She was calling to tell me something my mother didn’t want to have to say out loud. I didn’t answer because I was at my friend’s birthday party. I didn’t notice the calls over the buzz of chatting over music.

When I finally checked my phone, I had 7 missed calls. I deduced that it was urgent, so I stepped into the hallway of the apartment building. I called my sister back, she answered right away.

“Hello?” I asked, hesitantly.

“Hey, mom wants to talk to you,” my sister said, hurriedly.

“Hello?” I heard my mother ask, absently.

“Mom?” I responded, affirming her identity, though I could tell by her voice.

She cut right to the chase, “Jacky’s in the hospital. She overdosed tonight. You should come right away.”

“But, I don’t have my car. I don’t have a ride.” I was dumbfounded.

“Call Danny. He already knows.” She informed me, much to my surprise.

Danny was my boyfriend at the time. I haven’t spoken much of him because there’s not a whole lot to tell. We were really close for a long time. He spent time with my family on his own. He was there when my parents found my sister face down on the floor of her bedroom.

He was returning something that he had borrowed. I forget what it was, it’s not important. He was leaving my room when he saw my mom, pounding on my sister’s door. She was almost frantic, trying to get the girl’s attention, probably to ask if she wanted to come down for dinner.

Danny was worried, but didn’t want to interfere where he wasn’t welcome. He innocently asked my mom if everything was alright.

“I can’t get in, she won’t answer me,” my mother said, not sure how much information to divulge to this boy who was more familiar with our family than she knew.

“Did Jill ever show you how to unlock the door?” he asked her.

A spark light in my mother’s eye as she remembered the time I showed her my trick to sneak into my sister’s rooms when they so sneakily try to keep me out.

She grabbed a comb from the bathroom that had a long metal tooth at the end, used for parting hair easily.

She stuck the end of the comb into the back of the doorknob and, much as she had suspected, my sister was slumped over the side of her bed, kneeling on the ground, unconscious.

My mother rushed to her side, rolled her over to see her face. She called for my father; Danny backed away. He wasn’t sure if he should leave, or stay to make sure she was okay. He decided the latter was more appropriate, he would just stay out of the way.

From the background he observed as my father performed CPR on his second oldest daughter. My father is an emergency responder by trade (firefighter). Keeping his cool, he acted as if this were any other call. His daughter’s breathing had continued and just in time for the paramedics to arrive.

Danny watched, and later reported to me, that they carried her away on a stretcher; pumping air into her lungs. She stayed at the hospital a day or two, but this encounter with death was not enough to convince her. She would go back and forth between getting clean and relapsing for at least a year before she finally made a decision to change her life.

I couldn’t be around her. I couldn’t look at her. It hurt me to think about how she made me feel. I was terrified. I loved her, but I hated her. She was stealing from me, always borrowing my car without asking, always asking for something. She never said thank you, either. She wasn’t even grateful for all I had done to help her out. I guess, I was really helping her kill herself, but I didn’t know that at the time. It took a while for me to figure out where she was going and what she was doing there.

She was taking my car to the projects, where she would buy drugs from some guy who lived inside. Of course, she didn’t use this story. She was always running to the store or dropping something off for a friend. I was usually happy to help her out with an errand or two, but she would rather just take my car. I got suspicious that she was doing something she didn’t want me to see.

My suspicions were confirmed when a friend of mine informed me that my sister had been at a party with her one night. They got to chatting and my sister confided in her that she was popping pills; suboxone and O. C.’s. She was dabbling in the gateway drugs to heroine.

I didn’t understand the implications at hand, so when I found out she had graduated to the queen monster, itself, I was somewhat shocked. My other sister, Catherine, and I had become close, since experiencing this tragedy together. We watched as our older sister destroyed herself in a way that we could never imagine doing to ourselves. We shared thoughts about what it was like living with this monster.

Few other people on the planet know the struggle of watching someone you care about fall to pieces. They don’t know the frustrations of wanting to help, but being completely useless to the ones you love. You try, relentlessly, to get through to these people who are living inside of a padded cage of delusion, to no avail.

You start to lose hope, after a while, that the one you knew before will ever come back. You eventually start to accept that your beautiful sister is being controlled by something dark and manipulative. You become numb to the fear and pain of slowly watching her decay from the inside out.

I tuned myself out, after far too long. I was just exhausted. I was hurting on a constant basis. I was worrying about my sister and if I would see her breathing again, or if I would have to face her, like I faced Jamie.

With Jamie it was different. We all saw it coming, but there was nothing that could be done to stop it. Cancer is a monster of a different sort; you don’t have to invite it in. Heroine, on the other hand, is a vampire of a monster. You can keep it from entering your life by simply refusing its entry. Cancer prefers to be more sneaky when it comes to visit.

I prepared myself for the inevitable: I started distancing myself as much as possible from my barely human sister. She didn’t even look like my sister anymore. I was convinced she wouldn’t live to see the new year.

As life should go, she would see the year to follow, and even the one after that. She would, eventually, release the grips of the monster that grasped so tightly to her left hand. She was marked in a way that she really couldn’t hide. Long sleeve t-shirts can only do so much, you can only keep your hands hidden for so long before it all comes to the surface.

I remember when I finally decided to call her out. She was in the bathroom, washing her hands apparently, when I really had to pee. I mean, really had to pee. The door was already cracked, so I figured it wouldn’t be the biggest deal if I pushed it open a little more to reiterate the urgency of my situation.

Her reaction was extreme for my original action. She turned without hesitation to face me, screaming, enraged, “How DARE you barge into the bathroom while I’m in here?! Isn’t there such thing as privacy in this house?! Doesn’t ANYONE here have any common DECENCY?!”

She went on, ranting and raving, about her privacy violation.

I informed her that, “normal people don’t need privacy when they wash their hands.”

“That’s NOT the point!” she rebuked.

My father, overhearing this argument, came to my sister’s aide.

“Can’t you give her some privacy?” he asked me, trying to mediate the situation.

“Can I please pee? In a toilet?” I asked, reiterating the urgency.

“Yes. You may.” He said, motioning to my sister, to hurry it up.

When I was finished with my business, I exited the bathroom, expecting the situation to be over.

My father pulled me into his office and began scolding me on the sensitivity of my sister’s current state. I was supposed to be supportive and understanding, so she wouldn’t feel like we were attacking her or accusing her of anything.

I was disgusted by my father’s lack of compassion for my situation. Of course my sister was suffering, she was dealing with some real life problems that no one knows how to handle. But what about what I was dealing with? Was there ever going to be any recognition of the fact that for years prior, I was the only one who took the situation seriously. I was held responsible for her actions and her failure to show up at work. I was expected to keep track of her and essentially, keep her alive.

I had enough of the disappointment and fear. I wanted to move on with my life, I wanted to stop worrying constantly. I was ready to step away from the situation, once and for all.

I got in my car that day and I drove to my friends house. I had stayed there before, and this time they were more welcoming than ever. Her mother set aside a room with a bed just for me. She knew I really needed to get out of my house. She was ready to add me to her leasing agreement. This was going to be a permanent solution.

It wasn’t actually feasible for me to live with my friend’s family. I would eventually have to start paying rent and I had no income. I was going to have to go back home after a few weeks. I reluctantly packed my things back into my car and headed home. On the way there, my car broke down twice. Both times, I was able to start it up again, but it died for good once I pulled up to my house.

My father told me the head gasket was blown. There was no saving the car. I was stuck. I felt trapped. I was doomed to be ever-present in my sisters on-going battle with recovery. I could not escape.

Luckily for me, that coming new year I would move on campus at my university. I would finally find a home away from home. It was like finally being rescued from a desert island after 3 years of surviving off the land. I had no semblance of what it meant to me until it happened. I never thought I would find an escape so perfectly convenient.

It took at least another year for my sister to finally commit to recovery. She began counselling and had a daily routine to obtain a controlled dose of Methadone at a clinic downtown. She would do this for a year and a half until she was finally able to lower the dosage to none. She has recovered from her addiction to Heroine, but she has certainly not overcome the perils of addiction.

She continues to have dreams, tempting her with the nostalgic feelings of a lifestyle she can no longer afford. Her life has become too valuable to dangle off the cliff anymore. She now clings to it in a way most of us cling to life. She has developed, once again, hopes and dreams for the future.

My sister returned to me, but not before completely destroying any hope I had of ever seeing her again. The girl I have loved so fondly all my life is back. She is alive and well and forging onward with her life and making the most of what she has.

Pride doesn’t begin to describe what I feel about her success. To say, “I am proud of my sister for overcoming her heroine addiction,” is perhaps the understatement of the millennium.

I feel elated to know that my sister may someday get married, maybe even have a child. She will, at the very least, be given the opportunity to do so if she wishes. She will live to see another sunset at the beach, to hold another infant in her arms. She will be there to see me renamed “Dr. Jillian MacDougall.”

She was there to see me graduate college, contrary to my former beliefs. She was there for the birth of our nephew. She will be there for any marriage ceremony for me, and the birth of any of my children. She has changed the outcome of her life by changing her actions.

She has done the impossible. She has defeated the darkest monster known to man. My sister, ladies and gentlemen, is the greatest hero of our time. She may not have saved hundreds or thousands from some great tragedy, but she showed us just how possible it really is to prove the whole world wrong.

She escaped her fate. She changed her life. She survived.

Hopefully Doomed…

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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.

It Takes a Special Kind of Person

Standard

My sisters and I have come to a unanimous agreement that it takes a special kind of person to love a member of our family. We are naturally quite different individuals, but there are some likenesses in our personalities that we also see in our parents and aunts and uncles (we have no grandparents). Our father’s side of the family is the one we are closer to. We are compiled of some very intelligent, stubborn, hard headed, condescending, logical thinking, talkative, emotionally disturbed people. There is no arguing with us; we never quit. Sometimes you can’t even have a conversation because we are too caught up in wanting to be right about everything. The men and women who married into this family all share one main trait: they can put up with us.

Crazy comes in all different sizes and shapes, it even comes in different colors in my family. My parents have been married for 30 years. They grew up next door to each other in J.P. (a neighborhood in Boston). My dad has 2 brothers and a sister; all married with children. The older brother married a woman who I am very close with. We have a lot in common; I’d say I’m as close to her as I am to my father’s sister. Her husband isn’t very happy anymore either. The younger brother’s wife is my godmother. We are not close; she’s hardly even close to her husband or children. I don’t think she is happy with the family she ended up in. I know that my other aunt isn’t. I never realized it until I left home, but my mom is not happy either.

My sister was lucky enough to find someone who would love her. They got married and had a child together. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, my sister divorces her husband. She decided she was not happy and she needed to do what was best for her. She has not had another relationship since, and I think its because her standards are set so high. If you want to end up with the right person you have to be picky, right? But then, you end up pushing people away who you might’ve otherwise let in. It just seems so rare to find anyone special enough to handle someone like us.

I wonder if I’m ever going to meet someone that special. Someone who could love me better than I love myself because they love me from the outside. They don’t know what its like inside of me, but the know something I don’t. They know what I am ; they know how I exist in the world outside of myself. To me, that would be amazing.