I have always been known as the comedian, the one who enjoys nothing more than making people laugh. I have been told I'm always so positive and continuously smiling; I'm their role model. My friends say I have such a lively spirit and I radiate joy into those I am surrounded by. But if they only knew half of what was in my head, they would all turn and run. This is what a real life battle of depression and anxiety looks like. It's not an obvious tattoo on the skin, it is so much more dangerous you see, because it is totally invisible. Not even close family or friends see it. But it's always there, eating away at your brain.
Let's start with the very basics, shall we? Depression feels like being so tired that you can't but barely move. You have no energy and don't care about anything anymore. Anxiety feels like ou are suffocating and your body is filled with red hot electricity. You have so much pulsing through your mind and can't focus nor relax. You care too much about everything and over analyze every minute detail. Now imagine having both. You are too tired to get out of bed for school or care enough to study but constantly on edge and panicking over failing or bad grades. Having both is wanting to go out with your friends so you aren't left behind or forgotten, but then staying at home in bed because your body refused to make the effort even shower or put on clean clothes. Having both is insanely hard and unbearable to manage. Believe me, I have been suffering through this dilemma for what seems like ages.
As a young girl, I was exposed to some pretty rough stuff. My parents divorced while I was sNcetill in elementary school, forcing me to grow up quickly and become a shield for my younger brother. I became his protector, his best friend, and took all the arrows directed towards him, leaving me with substantial bullet holes in my ego. My mother worked so hard to put herself through school and keep us children happy and fed. She worked multiple jobs, leaving my lovely grandmother and aunt to essentcially raise us during.9 For this, I am eternally greatful. So thank your mothers, you never realize the kind of sacrifices they made to ensure you had a good life.
My parents both remarried and life continued on, creating chaos in my life. Change was terrifying. It meant things were going to be messed up and I had no control of it. This was the beginning of my anxiety. My father remarried a woman he found charming and delightful, but from the very moment I met her, I saw the fire. She was pleasant in the beginning, spoiling me and my brother with gifts and fun nights out, but soon enough, that facade came crashing down. It all began with a small slip of the lip, just a word here and there that stung like pings of freezing rain. Comments such as "that shirt doesn't look 'right'" or "maybe you should try the next size up" began my life of self doubt and crippling self esteem issues. As years progressed, as did her harassment surrounding my weight and appearance. It became so bad I would breakdown into a sob and erupt into a panic when I had to go to my father's for the weekend, as the divorce decree stated. I would spend my weekends behind a locked door, hoping she would stay away and I could pretend things were just fine. But of course, things were not fine. I was not fine.
As an adult, I know now that what I experienced was verbal abuse. Her constant hateful and hurtful barrage of words never left my head. They were ever plaguing my teenage brain. I began to believe these comments. The words "fat","ugly", and "digusting" were screamed at me so often, they were how I saw myself. I morphed into an introvert, wrapping myself in a shroud of shyness to keep people away. No friends meant no chances of getting hurt. I hid from the world to protect myself, like a caccoon to barricade from hurtful words and actions, but to no avail. I felt so small and worthless; a meaningless molecule in this existance.
My depression and anxiety spiraled into more severe issues as I approached puberty. At the ripe old age of 13, I discovered anorexia and bulimia. After years of being told by my stepmother and bullies I was too heavy to be loved or to even be happy, I took it into my own hands to change that. I ate to keep up appearances, but would swiftly make a break for the bathroom after everyone had left the table. I would starve myself for days, to the brink of exhaustion and crippling pain, praying it was enough to be thin. Or at least happy. Eating disorders enprisoned my adolescence like shackles, biting bitterly at my wrists and ankles. But even as I lost pounds, it was never enough, and my anger and self loathing ate hungrily at me. It was insatable and I tried any means possible to feel something other than emptiness. When I first ran a sharp, silver razor across my thigh, I felt control. I finally could control my pain and felt the numbness fade. It became a daily ritual, a way that the day's pains drained from me. For years, I would etch my fustrations and sorrows into my upper thighs, like living tally marks of the the words that scarred me.
I continued on this deadly path for years, that is, until I discovered music and theater. I had always loved music, and thought I was decent, but when I joined my high schools choir, things abruptly changed. After I became comfortable with the people in that classroom, I allowed myself to be heard, drawing attention to myself for the first time in forever. My teacher also took notice and offered me a solo, something I had little to no experience with. From the second I set foot on stage, everything else didn't matter. I felt safe and confident, and the applause boosted my self esteem to a level I had never known. I was no longer nobody, I was someone, and I was important. I unravelled my cacoon of shyness and introvertedness and reached out, making friends, and becoming the Caiti I am today. I have been on a slow path to recovery from,that point on, with music and drama as my crutches. I still have anxiety and depression, and somedays its still crippling. But with help from music, some life long friends, and my own self belief, I am conquering my mental illness and setting myself free fron those dark times.
Mental illness is surrounded with this stigma that we are somehow making it up, choosing to feel this miserable and feel this much pain for what? Attention? Mental illness is a real, debilitating condition that plagues millions of men and women arounf the globe. As many as three out of four people with a diagnosis of mental illness report that they have experienced some type of stigmization or stereotyping. When we label people by their illness, negative attitudes are created. These prejudices lead to negative actions and discrimination, and even worse, people who desperately need medical or theraputic help will go without just to avoid the stereotype. Just know you are not alone, and there are so many places to reach out too. They will listen, they will be that shoulder to lean on, and moat importantly, they will help you.
Here is a list of telephone numbers and references, ranging from a depression line to suicide and self harm lines. Use them. You are are an important, beautiful human being and your life will always matter. Always.