I was the girl people didn’t want to be around. I was too “weird” for the goth crew, but too “goth” for everyone else. I had the dyed black hair and dark clothing, but I stuck to mostly satin, lace, and velvet skirts and long dresses. I was “Romanti-Goth” where the rest of the goth crew was “Manson-Goth,” and the rest of the school wasn’t goth at all.
The Columbine Massacre had just happened and was fresh on everyone’s mind. In my school, your average goth was popular enough to get through, and they had each other. I, on the other hand, was alone.
I vividly remember the day someone spit at my feet while I was walking through the halls. Yeah, it was like that.
It didn’t help that I didn’t have the high school mentality. I wouldn’t say I was above it, I just wasn’t into it. I was a mentally-ill loner who enjoyed role-play games and people older than me. I wasn’t into dating around, parties, or the latest group of girly giggles.
Even my boyfriend was eight years older. My husband, who was my next boyfriend, is six years older. Your average teenager repulsed me, so high school was hell. It wasn’t something I enjoyed; it was something I struggled to survive.
My mental health issues became obvious in high school. Most of that time is a blur, but I do remember going and seeing my guidance counselor, looking for a push in the right direction.
Luckily, a licensed therapist was in the school every Thursday for cases like mine. I only saw her seven times at school before I had to start therapy at her at her office, but that was enough to know she was the one. She was the one I could spill my guts to, the one who would be there for me. She gave me her cell phone number in case of emergencies. She saw in me what no one else at the time saw – I was special and in need of help.
At the time, diagnoses like “bipolar” were thrown around, but they never fit. The only thing she knew for sure was that I was getting lost inside my head, and our sessions were my only chance to get help.
There was one other key figure in my high school survival. We’ll call her Mrs. M.
She was my 9th grade English teacher (and then later, 10th grade Journalism 1 and 12th grade Brit Lit). Right away, we clicked. She was the type of teacher to give me a passing grade when I accidentally answered the quiz question with the key event in Chapter 4 and not Chapter 3, when the whole point of the quiz was to determine whether I’d read up to Chapter 3 or not. I had, in fact, finished the book. Yeah, I was one of those English students. And she was one of those teachers. She spent the four years of my high school life doing her damnedest to make sure I made it through and survived. She was always there for me, no matter the problem.
When I was in 9th grade, I made my first website – it was filled with my dark, depressive poetry and even darker thoughts. My mom somehow came across it and had a cow. She immediately sent the link to Mrs. M for her thoughts on it. In true Mrs. M fashion, she informed me and my mom that it was very well-written. How much I needed help was obvious without the site. Why did it surprise my mom? I’ll always wonder.
Shortly after starting my blog, I went back to the school to visit Mrs. M. I wanted to fill her in on my life and my family. I was also excited to say the words that burst out of me. “I’m writing!” I knew she, of all people, would be proud of me.
I knew she, of all people, would look past the darker times and see the beauty of my written word.
Looking back on my/our times inpatient, I see an array of different experiences. Whilst at first I felt locked up, caged and incapacitated, later on I felt safer and more in agency of myself. My first inpatient experience was in 2010. This is what I wrote about it:
“I was in psychiatric hospital from April to June 2010. The rooms were cold, with white walls and loud air conditioning. I always fell asleep watching the wall, the shadows portrayed on it by the blinds.
The worst of all was when the visits went from once a week to none. When my phone was taken away from me. When I wasn’t allowed to see my parents.
Being caged in a room with no lock, no security, no privacy, without any contact into the world — and no hugs, that was what hospital was like.
I can’t believe I went there by choice.”
The hospital rooms I’ve been in still aren’t all that comfortable. The one I’m in right now is a mix-match of blues and purples (with a blue ceiling, of all things!) and the clock on the front wall is loud and crooked.
Here, we fall asleep with not just our teddy bear but also with our unicorn, bundled up in surprisingly comfortable hospital sheets. Here there is much less need for the sort of musical escapism I did as a teenage patient. Here I am a subject, an agent in my own treatment, and my folks no longer dictate my medical ways. On the contrary, I/we decide how and when and why I am treated.
I was visited by a friend last night, and would most likely be visited by my family and other friends if I were/am to stay longer. My friend gave me the biggest of hugs and played with my hair and kissed my forehead while we lay on my hospital bed talking at ease.
This time round, I have my phone, my laptop, my tablet – all connection to the outer world is intact. We are not trapped or suffocated, though staying within these four walls does get a tad bit boring in the end when I’ve finished all imaginable tasks on my computer.
And I do not regret coming here by choice, or having come here the last few times this past February and the year before. In between we have been treated in an open Daytime Ward, a six-hours-per-day sort of thing, like a part-time job except your job is, well, your own health and well-being.
Unfortunately, it is still a struggle for the staff to understand our condition and our way of being. The phrase ”So I hear you have these personalities?” is still a frequent visitor, and if I don’t remind them they’ll forget I’m not L (unfortunately, L is still up in her Limbo Room).
I’m seeing the doc today. Going to determine whether I leave or stay. Wish me luck!
This will be long …for me at least (A.D.D. will start soon..)
If you have read my stories, you will know that I don’t forget faces, especially those from relationships. And if you have read my stories, you know I talk about one specific girl in my stories – “Marie.” She put me in a downward spiral of self hate, self harm, and no self worth.
School recently started. I saw her, but I didn’t recognize her. Me, the one who never forgets a face, never gets over a girl, and I forgot! I got over her. I wanted to start crying, breaking down. For some reason, my life had frozen. I didn’t try to look for her like I used to. I had forgotten her, forgot it all. I didn’t just forget “Marie,” but the rape, the hate, all of it.
I forgot everything except the hate. People hate me because I have screwed up. I am angry. I have unimaginable rage. Right now, even the computer I’m typing on is angering me so much, but I resist. I resist the urge to lash out.
So, I met a girl. She is the sweetest girl, and she just stops me. I know I will regret saying this, but I really do love her. She is my world. When “Brina” just caresses me and holds me tight, she stops the rage and anger …and the self harm.
The earlier generations don’t seem to understand. To them, depression is a mood, not a mental illness. We didn’t choose the pain, self harm, or anger, we were born with it. We grew up faking the smile, hiding it until some sees a cut, the scar tissue, the hole in the wall, the pure hatred of society.
We struggle to simply wake up in the morning and function as a human beings, yet we still wake up. We get up, even though there is no motivation, our faces tear-stained, our hearts beating for that one girl or boy we like. We want that one special person to know the pain, the quirks, the oddities, and unknown anger. We want that one person to look into our eyes and know our hearts beat for love.
I want that one girl to see me and know that my eyes see only her. I want her to see why I wake to an ever-beating heart deep in my chest.
I found that girl. And she saw me…
My anger is clashing with my feelings of love and affection! Please help me. Reach out to me. I want to start changing my life!
The veil of loneliness can taint us all, leaving us gasping for breath and wondering how to survive.
This is her story:
I’ve never admitted aloud how lonely I actually am. Of course, that has a lot to do with the fact that there’s no one to admit it to.
A few months ago, my therapist told me that I was in denial about being almost completely socially isolated without any friends. At the time, I thought he was full of shit. I didn’t feel lonely because I wasn’t lonely in the first place. I preferred to be by myself – it was comfortable.
Of course, he chalked this up to my preexisting depressive and anxiety disorders. Typically, I argued that I wasn’t depressed and that my social anxiety had nothing to do with my isolation. (See: Denial.)
Turns out, he was right.
I think therapists tend to be correct about these sorts of things the majority of the time, anyway.
Since May of this year, the dark cloud of apathy and despair that has permeated my entire life has gradually dissipated. As a result, I find myself wanting to do some of the things that before held no interest or pleasure: reading, watching movies, even exercising when I can muster up the energy. The more the veil lifts, the more acutely aware I become regarding my situation and my life. The loneliness, ironically postponed by my depression, has finally hit. And it is more painful than I could have ever imagined.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not completely socially isolated. I always have my mom to discuss our favorite books and watch TV shows with. When my sister has friends over that I’m comfortable with (usually ones that I’ve known my entire life), I can count on some decent conversation. Oh, and I run a blog. Not like anyone views it, but it makes me feel some sense of connection to the waking world.
Granted, none of these things are typical for a seventeen-year-old girl, although I’m only now realizing that. The more I type, the more I feel it’s as though I’m defending some sort of losing argument.
In many ways, I suppose that I am. It’s like starting off a sentence with, “Yes Officer, I was speeding, but…” I’m just digging myself into a deeper hole.
A huge part of the problem is that I don’t have any confidence when it comes to talking to people my age. I have a hard time connecting with others. Even as a child, I was somewhat of a loner. In elementary school, I got by with a small group of friends that I had known (get this) most of my life – and there’s nothing wrong with that – but when middle school started and everyone got sent off to different districts, I was up the creek.
Never having developed the same social abilities as everyone else, I spent 2/3 grades struggling to swim. I had/have several nervous habits, such as picking at the skin on my lips and fidgeting when I talked to someone; couldn’t hold eye contact with others. People pointed this out to me on multiple occasions, and I’m still consciously aware of them to this day.
Basically, communicating with others has never come easily to me. There’s always been a definite block there. Eventually, I learned to make friends, and have had a couple of good ones over the years, but when my depression hit for the first time when I was fourteen, certain aspects of my life got markedly worse – such as my anxiety, which has been prevalent for as long as I can remember.
Both took a serious turn for the worse my junior year, resulting in the social isolation I’m experiencing today. I alienated every single one of my friends, and when I was hospitalized six months ago, I was pulled out for the remainder of the year. When my senior year starts in September, I’ll be finishing up high school online. It’ll be better for my anxiety and depression, but it’ll lay absolutely nothing on my loneliness.
The boredom might be the worst part. I have nothing to look forward to during the day, so thus I spend a lot of time sleeping as much and as long as I can, just so I don’t have to deal with the tedium of being awake. My schedule is achingly dull: I wake up. I blog. I fill the empty hours with television shows and video games. If I can concentrate, I might read a book. Otherwise, it rarely deviates.
The loneliness itself is potentially the only thing worse than the boredom. I find myself wondering about the few people who were once in my life, and how they’re doing. Sometimes, I hopefully check my phone (I keep it turned off for precisely this reason) for messages, expecting none. After months and months of alienation, everyone has written me off. I don’t blame them for not wanting to deal with me – I don’t even want to deal with me.
Every couple of months or so, I have a conversation with an estranged friend, although they’re usually brief and unfulfilling. Despite how starved I am for company, I have walls that are made of concrete and insurmountably high. I push everyone away; I keep everything to myself. If I’m suffering, I don’t say a word about it. Even when I did have friends, I very rarely came across a person that I could open up to.
I know that I should reach out. Complaining about my situation isn’t going to fix it, and I fully acknowledge my role in perpetuating the problem. But on top of being closed off and introverted, I’m socially anxious, complete with debilitating physical symptoms and the occasional situational-bound panic attack.
I’m too scared to attempt to cultivate any relationships with others. When I interact with anyone outside my family, I spend hours, sometimes days afterwards ruminating over potential error and how I humiliated myself in conversation. Isolation has only made this worse, of course.
About a month ago, I hung out with someone for the first time in over eight months, and he hasn’t contacted me since. I’ve taken this as a slight, and I’m still going through what I might have done wrong over in my head. Which is pretty sad, because to feel slighted requires some sort of expectation. I had none.
I know that things could be worse. Much worse. My life thankfully has not been a tragic one. I’ve had the good grace to know friendship and what it means to be loved. I have supportive parents who have stood by my side, albeit at a distance, throughout my struggle with mental illness. Loneliness by far is not the worst thing that I have experienced. But it’s still hard.
I am seventeen years old.
I am mentally ill.
I am graduating next year by the skin of my teeth.