So occasionally the Web will barf your past back at you when you least expect (or need) it. But it does anyway, because, well, that’s how the world works.
I have been writing a lot about mental illness lately and how it gets better. That may seem like something really easy to say and easy to write off. Thing is, it gets really ugly before it ever gets better. Wanna hear how some of my crazy broke things I still can’t fix? Okay. (Note: Despite the normally hilarious tone of this blog, this post probably won’t be all giggles. Sorry. I’ll try to write about groundhogs attacking my idiot adopted dog another day.)
In 1997, I went away to college. I’d dealt with depression most of my life, but didn’t have a name for it and never knew there was treatment. I sought to suck it up, ’cause that’s what you do. Oddly, enough, this didn’t help at all. When I could feel anything, I felt anxiety and exhaustion.
Being at a school where I paid roughly $28,000/year just for the privilege of going, I figured I should at least see if the counselor laughed me out of her office. She didn’t, but she also said, “Well, there’s no real point in referring you to anyone else — not for *depression.*” The derision dripped from her mouth like the first bite of a food gone off. Of course I agreed. What did I know? Positive thinking was all I needed, right?
We talked through my abuse history and the issues my depression seemed to be causing and after 3 sessions, she said she’d given me a toolbox to help myself and bade me farewell.
So off I went into the world. I barely scraped through university and moved to a new city (Memphis, TN) with a friend who’d never lived with a depressed person before. My world made no sense to her anymore than hers did to me. I didn’t know how to explain my world and she didn’t know how to engage with mine. So my depression worsened and I lost that friendship because it was hard to admit that I had failed and that I needed help. Before she threw me out of the apartment for missing my rent payment (after losing my job), I went into the mental hospital for a week.
If I’d had the courage to do it before, perhaps some of the pain could have been avoided. But I was terrified. It took two people I trust with my life to take me to the hospital and sit with me through the intake process. I would have cried, but I didn’t feel anything.
After leaving, I was afraid to return to my apartment, to the friend I’d hurt with all my screwups. I didn’t want to face the trust I knew I’d lost. I sat in my car for 6 hours until I was fairly certain she was asleep or away. Then I snuck up to my bedroom.
At this point, I didn’t realize I had a separate anxiety disorder that wasn’t being treated. I couldn’t face my friend. After all, I’d nearly gotten us evicted from our apartment for non-payment. Through a number of passive-aggressive post-it notes and strategic avoidance of each other, she made it clear that she wanted me out. I didn’t fight. She had every right to want a more stable existence for herself.
I didn’t know where to go. I lived in my car for 2 days while I tried to figure out what to do. I had no job, no place to live. I took a room in an extended stay hotel, which was terrifying. I was groped by a neighbour more than once. I found a job that paid almost enough to keep the room (which was $225/week) and after a while, one of the same friends who took me to the mental hospital found out what my living situation was. She let me stay at her home, in a spare bedroom. (To this day, this woman is still a mother to me and a friend.)
I’d like to say I got my life back together then. But I didn’t. It was a chain of mishaps for quite some time. Ultimately, I rented a share of a house with a friend from church, broke up with an emotionally abusive boyfriend and then, feeling like an utter failure, moved back to Jonesboro, AR.
My story did get better. I’ve done some things I’m proud of. I’m far more stable, mentally. I have wonderful friends and family and I’m living instead of going through the motions.
But I’ll never forget the pain I caused or the people who, for good reason, cannot forgive me to this day. I have to own that to keep going forward. I’m grateful for those who stood by me and I mourn the loss of friends who couldn’t. But I keep going.
You can, too. And I am so damn proud of you.