Most of my life, I was a good student. I was a perfect daughter, perfect friend, I felt my life was perfect, and I didn't need to answer to or justify myself to anyone. I had friends, and I took everything at face value. I was even on the verge of "popular" - I was captain of the pom squad, I was president of student counsel. I was on the National Junior Honor's Society. I got straight A's. Everything was going the right direction. Then, when I was 14 (8th grade for me), I started having problems in school; I had a boyfriend who pressured me into things I wasn't completely comfortable with; drinking, smoking, drugs, promiscuity. I started feeling intense anger, intense jealousy, and overwhelming sadness that I just couldn't shake. My "friends" began to pull away. I started to get teased. I'd put on a little weight after I'd quit the pom squad (due to poor coaching and false accusations); suddenly I wasn't part of the "in" crowd anymore. I felt alone, I felt lost. I sought refuge in my boyfriend, whom my parents did not like. I don't remember the exact moment things came to a head, but my parents felt I needed counseling. But it wasn't so much counseling as it was being told what I'd done wrong. My parents were always in the room, I was never alone, never free to fully express myself. I grew up in a small town, where everyone knew my family. Everyone knew my parents, and image was everything. I didn't conform to that image, and I was not allowed to engage in anything that would tarnish that image any further than I'd already had. We kept a lot of secrets; one of which was my "counseling". When I told a friend about it on the phone, I got grounded. My parents didn't trust me, and looking back they were right not to. I lied, I snuck out, I did things that I didn't really want to do in the hope I'd find a crowd. I reached a point where I hated my mother; we fought constantly. My siblings were on her side; they'd tell on me every chance they could. I felt alone, lost, unloved, unwanted. Fast forward to high school. While I was no longer with that boyfriend (specifically instructed to not have contact with him, per my parents), those feelings of self doubt, alienation, sadness, darkness, didn't go away. They increased. I struggled to make friends. I struggled harder to keep them; often doing things I didn't want to do just to keep friends that would have turned on me in a heartbeat. My boyfriend in high school wasn't much better than the previous. He was abusive, he was codependent. He didn't feel he could survive without me, he wanted me to move in with him (I was 16), he wanted to get married, he wanted me to spend every waking moment with him. But he was hurtful, he was physically abusive. At one point he slammed me into a wall, hand around my throat, because I didn't want to do something he wanted, I don't remember what it was. He held a knife to my throat because I didn't want to have sex. The feelings of doubt and sadness continued - I hated everything about myself. On top of that my parents were in the middle of a very ugly divorce, and we (my siblings and myself) were used as pawns. Everything was so out of control in my life, and I had no outlet, because I couldn't talk to anyone; partially because my parents forbade it, but also because no one really understood, or wanted to understand what was going on inside my mind. When I was 17, I tried to overdose. I had some medication that I knew I couldn't tolerate, and I took the whole bottle. I woke up hours later sicker than I'd ever felt; vomiting until I blacked out, just felt like the bus had run me over and then backed up a few times. And I felt worse; I couldn't even commit suicide the right way. I just sunk farther and farther into sadness, loneliness, isolation. By the time I was a senior in high school, I had no idea where my life was headed. Nothing gave me joy, nothing gave me hope. I got involved into theatre, which helped in the sense that there was a group of people who were somewhat outcasts like me. I started to feel a little more confident, until I confided in a longtime friend about being depressed, attempting suicide. The response I got was the opposite I thought - he backed away, telling me it was all too much for him to deal with. That blow led me down the road of self mutilation - I began cutting myself. And it felt amazing - for the time I was actively cutting, feeling my skin separating, seeing blood rise to the surface. But afterward came massive amounts of shame. I had to hide it, I had to keep anyone from knowing my dark secret. A point came where I could not take it anymore; I couldn't take holding it in. I confided in a teacher, and he was very supportive and sympathetic. He respected my wish to not call my parents. He directed me to peer counseling. He checked on me, made sure I was going to be ok. It was refreshing to know that someone out there knew, and someone out there didn't think I was bad. He encouraged me to use writing as an outlet, which I did. It was the first glimmer of hope I had. However, it didn't last, because graduation meant going to college, and into real life. When you are someone who suffers from low self esteem, depression, sadness, all of those things, my advice is to NOT pursue a degree in theatre. Some may find it therapeutic, and if you have someone in a position of power who can help you, it could be. My experience was that it was not; it was the opposite. Once again I was outcast. I was teased. I was excluded. The department director refused to give me a chance to prove anything. I felt more lost, more alone. I began drinking - very heavily for a while. This continued all through college both the first and second time. The temper, the violence, the self harm, all if it got worse. I was cutting daily. I was lashing out. I couldn't eat, I couldn't sleep. I started drinking daily, started doing drugs, started sleeping with anyone who said yes. I made yet another attempt at my life in my mid 20's after my mother kicked me out; I tried the whole "chase the bottle of aspirin with the bottle of vodka" approach; obviously that did not work. Furthermore, I couldn't find a decent job, so I had to work several jobs to support myself, my boyfriend at the time, and his friend. I was the only person making money, and it all went toward drinking, drugs, partying. And then behind closed doors was the same story; frequent abuse, both physical and verbal. He cheated on me constantly; he gave me an STD from it. I just felt unheard, unloved, unnecessary, and completely forgettable. I'd tried medication at 19, and it helped for a while. But I didn't have insurance, so I reached a point I couldn't afford it, so I stopped. I tried counseling, again very expensive, and couldn't afford it. However during that time one psychiatrist made a suggestion to me - he gave me a list of "symptoms", and asked me if I felt any of those. When I reviewed the list, I felt that yes, I fit majority of them. It turned out, that list was the diagnostic criteria for Borderline Personality Disorder. This was back in 1999, so I'd never heard of it before. And I did spend a lot of years in complete denial of the idea that something was wrong with me in that way - I still had the mentality it was just ME. Fast forward to about 10 years ago, I moved across the country because I managed to get a job that actually paid well. I was engaged at the time (this was my late 20's), so we packed up and moved away. I started to feel better; maybe it was the new environment, a chance to start over. But the feelings, the thoughts, the darkness, it wasn't gone. It was there. It followed me. I started learning things about my future husband that were completely outrageous, and my complete desperation for someone to love me blinded me to the fact that everything he told me was a complete lie. I went through with the wedding, and we had a daughter shortly thereafter. His lies continued, and they got worse. I felt trapped, and that my only option was suicide. Then I met my current husband. He was the first friend I made when I moved, and he's been my biggest cheerleader ever since. He stood by me during my divorce when no one else did. I returned the favor when he went through his. He was always there, he helped me with my daughter, I helped him with his son. We created our own family unit; and we realized that we had something special, something more. I felt a love for him that I'd never felt before; the same love I felt for my daughter. But my mental state wasn't completely in check - the outbursts, the temper, the anger, sadness, depression, distrust - all of those plagued our relationship to where I thought he was going to leave me. But then he said something to me that no one else had ever said - he told me that I may be a bit crazy, but he loved me, and that didn't give him a right to give up on me. I'd never had anyone tell me that they won't give up on me. It was life changing. It was vindication. I was not alone. Furthermore, we learned that my daughter has high functioning autism, and she has difficulties expressing her emotions, her anger explodes in a way that was very familiar - I did the very same thing to those I loved. I purposely pushed so that when they would inevitably leave, it wouldn't hurt as bad (untrue; it still hurts. Bad.). But what I realized was in order to help her cope, I had to help myself. I had to be sound in mind in order to successfully guide her through this. She needed me to be healthy, so that I could help her. Today, I've accepted that I do suffer from Borderline Personality Disorder. I am currently seeking treatment with a good psychiatrist. I am making very deliberate and conscious choices in how I handle my emotion, finding constructive ways to manage. My husband has been very supportive; he's stuck by me and holds me accountable, which I've learned how to be accountable for my own actions. In turn, it's helped me to be a better wife and mother to my children. By no means am I "cured", but I've found a medication combo that works, and I just take things one day at a time. I will turn 37 this year. And I can look back now and be thankful that 20 years ago I failed, because I now have two beautiful children and a loving husband to give my life purpose. I wish I had support back then. Granted, having gone through a divorce myself, and having children of my own, I can now say that my parents weren't at "fault" - they did the best they could with what they had. Mental illness was just not discussed or talked about back then, and sadly today the stigma still stands, but more people like me are starting to stand up and tell their stories. And yes, telling my story is scary - but I am thinking of the future, of my children, and how they need support; support I never got. However even though I didn't have the support I would have liked, it's taught me that as a parent, I do not ever want to close that door to my children. My daughter is going to have struggles. She is going to have doubts. She is going to feel different. I want her experience to be vastly different from mine, and I feel the difference starts at home. I plan to be that parent that my kids feel comfortable coming to with something like this - and in doing so, I can tell them that I've been there, I've been where they are, and it does get better. I never thought my life would turn out the way it has, and while I wish things would have changed I don't regret anything - it made me who I am today, and without it, I may not have my kids. If you are someone going through a darkness like this, I want you to know that you are not alone. You are not flawed. You are not broken (although you will feel like it). You have a condition that can be treated medically, just like any other health condition. Don't rule medication out - there is a true imbalance in your brain and medication can help fill the gap where biology failed. It might take a few tries, because you really don't know how it will work until you've tried it, and you have to give it time. They do not work overnight, they have to build up in your system. But if it helps you at least get out of bed, it's a start. Reach out to others - maybe it's not your parents, but maybe a friend, or teacher, or counselor. Reach out on Facebook - you would be AMAZED at the amount of support groups out there for people just like you; people who are suffering now, people who have survived, people who need answers, people who can give answers. Those terrible words that your brain will tell you, they will always try to come back, try to take over, tell you that you are nothing, you are worthless. And it will be hard at times to ignore it. But try. And keep trying. The more you practice replacing those thoughts, the easier it will get. But it takes time, patience, and practice. Every day will be a struggle; some days easier than others, but you can and will overcome it. When those words come from others because you are part of a different group or live a different lifestyle, don't listen. It's hard, and it will be. But hold your head up high and just. don't. listen. Focus on you - you are special. You are irreplaceable. People fear what they don't understand. Don't let it change your life. Let them live with ugliness in their hearts, because anyone who can make another human being feel so bad that suicide seems like the only way out has nothing but ugliness inside them. You however do not - you have a beauty that not everyone deserves to see. Don't let others tarnish your beauty. You don't know what the future holds. No one does. But don't cut your future short; don't deny your future spouse, your future children their husband/wife/mother/father. There are those who love you and value you - stick to those and don't worry about the rest. Everything I went through in my life I feel is worth it because of what I have now. Don't stay silent. And don't give up. We have the power to change the way mental illness is viewed. We just have to unlock it and use it, and that alone gives you purpose. But you will find that you have so much more value and purpose than just a soldier of justice; however having that one thing to strive for, no matter how small it may seem, can be enough to help pull you out. Speaking out and getting help takes courage - but you are already courageous, because you battle a demon that no one else can see every day. Trust me - I know. Bottom line: YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Anyone who tries to make you feel like you are do not have a place in your world. You are special, because you are alive. Don't give up. Don't give in. There is help, and there is hope. I didn't think so when I was young. I was wrong, and I am sure glad that I was.
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