Wednesday, August 5, 2015

on surviving.

So, some people know my history, others do not.

I have a long history of struggles, of tough times, and of, somehow, scraping myself up off of the ground and continuing forward. It has never been easy, and, in some ways, I am thankful for that. If my life would have been any different, I would be different, my life would look different today, and I would not be who I am today.

My dad died 18 years ago this month. It's weird to think about, that lifetime without my dad being there for me in the ways that I know he would have been if he could have been. His death was sudden and unexpected. I was ten. Being ten, it was hard to learn to accept that someone to important to my life was gone. One day he was there, the next, he wasn't. That was tough. It took me a long time to really realize that my dad wasn't just going to show back up in my life. Embarrassingly long, maybe. I was ten when he died. I hoped that he would come back until I was twelve or thirteen.

That's when I really started to write. I wrote my dad a number of letters.

I also had a pretty rough relationship with my former stepfather. That's not one that I'm ready to get into too publicly, regardless of how few people read this. It was pretty high stress for everybody in my home at that time, all of my siblings, my mom, myself.  It was never easy, often was not peaceful, as things could get loud and conflicts could be frequent. If I am being transparent, I guess I could say that I was, in general, afraid and intimidated by him.

My mom and my ex stepfather haven't been married for the better part of the last decade and I have not had any contact with him for many years.

I internalized many of those feelings, those thoughts. I went to school every day, hung out with my friends, talked to them on the phone after school all of the time. I enjoyed the usual teenage things, movies, going to the mall, having sleepovers... I was not entirely abnormal.

When I was 16, I was sexually abused by a family member. I'm not at a place in my life that I feel comfortable throwing this person publicly under the bus. I know that some people that I know do know him, because my hometown may not be tiny, bu it is small enough that people know each other. Though I do not talk to him anymore, it has been over a decade, and I don't live with hatred in my heart anymore. I am in a completely different place now than I was then. But, I say it, because it is a part of my story.. and it is important to tell.

When I was 18, I was hospitalized for depression, suicidal ideations. I had a plan and an intent to kill myself and I got caught. I told two of my close friends and they contacted the police. I was a senior in high school. Long story short, the police came and picked me up, took me to the nearby ER and I was transferred to a psych unit at a different local hospital. I was terrified, initially. However, I stayed for about a week, and it changed my life. I met many incredible people while I was there. I was definitely the youngest patient, by far. Many of the people that I met were drug users, were depressed like myself, and had stories that were similar and different than my own in many ways. I have written about that experience before, but have never publicly shared it.

Those wonderful older people, the drug addicts, people that I would generally be intimidated by in my real life, took me under their wing. They supported me while I was there, they listened to me, and heard my stories. I was a girl who had major issues with men, my dad had died, my stepdad was mean and I had difficulty trusting men in general. I will never forget how wonderful those men were, how they took me under their wings and really cared about me. It was so positive for me. The entire experience, the hospitalization, changed my perspective. I am so grateful for that time that I had, and for the glimmer of hope that I got from the other patients, from the therapists, from the group therapy discussions that I had...

So, fast forward several months and I went to college. I thought that was going to solve everything. I was out of the house, I did not have to be around my stepfather anymore. I got to live on my own, learn my own things, meet really cool people. The first thing that I did, after getting settled in and meeting my roommate, was signing up for therapy. I signed up for two therapy groups (one grief group and one sexual assault survivor group) and individual counseling my first semester... on top of 18 credit hours and trying to adjust to being a freshman in college, to being in a new town, and meeting lots of new people.

It didn't go well.

BUT, I am also grateful for the experience. I just overdid it a little. I put so much effort into getting through the depression and the events that I had experienced. It was too much for me. I was focusing too much time and effort on working through my problems that I began to become overwhelmed and depressed, even more than before. I started to skip classes, to spend 90% of my time in bed. I always went to therapy, but that was about it. I know that there were days that my friends did not even know if I was alive. Then, I got involved in a really unhealthy relationship that just became the tipping point. When that ended, it ended badly and I crashed. I was out of hope. I failed out of college after my freshman year. It was horrible. I had not even considered that could be a possibility, failure. I'm fairly intelligent. I always did well in school.

So, I was back home. I started working, went to school at the local community college, and tried to grow, to get stronger. After one semester, I reapplied to my university and got accepted. I went back to school, I double majored in English and Psychology. I got into grad school, I moved to Florida. (I stopped grad school due to financial issues, not due to depression issues.) I lost a lot of weight. I ran 20 half marathons, 7 full marathons, countless other races...

I've been successful and I've survived. I'm not sure that I'd say that I've thrived yet. Give me a few years to thrive. I'm 28 years old.

I'm not going to sit here and say that I'm perfect, that I don't struggle anymore. I have depressed days sometimes. I get overwhelmed, and my emotions get out of wack when I'm stressed out. That's who I am & that's how I've been for years... but I've learned things, I've learned about coping, about things that I can do that will help me. People tell me all of the time that I'm strong, but I just have a story... I have events that have occurred in my life and I've survived.

I'm grateful for EVERYTHING in my life, the bad, the good, the hard, the easy, because that is why I am who I am today. I wouldn't change things.