I was 17 years old. A sensitive, sheltered, vulnerable 17. I was spending more and more time in my bedroom basement. In bed, in the dark. Alone, out of my mind with grief. No one to talk to, no one to walk beside me.
I always hated school, and had to work hard to make it onto the honor roll. Now I could no longer concentrate, I had no interest in learning, no motivation to get out of bed in the morning, exhausted every waking hour.
Dad and the principle had a meeting and it was determined that I might not be able to graduate. The principle suggested counselling, getting a couple of tutors and encouraging me to do what I needed to do to graduate.
Dad came down into my den of darkness and had one of his really unhelpful, unpleasant ‘talks” with me. Not with me, at me. I needed a Mom to enfold me in her arms, to cry with me. To hold me in the darkness. Not the Dad who made sure he worked day and night to spend as little time at home as possible so he wouldn’t have to be around Mom.
I told Dad I wanted to die and he cracked a joke about it. I really could end my story there. What else is there to say? But ending the story there leaves the rage roiling in me, so I will continue.
With total lack of conviction, empathy, or belief that it would work, Dad suggested I start the counselling and see a doctor. So at 17, I went to a doctor by myself. I didn’t know why I needed to go to the doctor because there was nothing wrong with me. I walked out with a diagnoses of depression and a sample of anti-depressants. My world was shattered in a whole different way. It didn’t give such a thing as mental illness. It was spiritual weakness or just plain laziness. How could I talk to anyone about it? The guilt and shame that I experienced…
It was my impression that Mom didn’t even know or care about it. I didn’t tell any of my friends. I don’t know if I took the pills or if they just stayed in my drawer.
The counselor was in my school, so I had to skulk away to see him without being seen. I saw him alone too. No support, no follow up from my parents. Nothing. He was most harmful in his conservative evangelical proselytizing. Pray harder, decide to change, it’s not that bad, you’re not trying hard enough.
I did manage to graduate high school, though I couldn’t have cared less what happened to me.
The next few years, things got progressively worse. I wasn’t safe in my own skin. The trauma, anxiety, depression, grief, despair and anger had no way out. I became very unstable and didn’t want to be left alone, ever. But my family wasn’t willing to admit there was anything wrong with me. There wasn’t any ability to show empathy, or compassion. There were derogatory remarks made about having to babysitting me. They were constantly leaving me to go on family vacations, sometimes without telling me. I was made to feel… I can’t even describe it. But the pain I feel as I write this now threatens to overtake me with its darkness.
I starved myself in an attempt to get Mom’s attention. I started self-harming. I turned 20 in the psych hospital. Alone.
That’s pretty much my story. Trying to make it through alone. Not able to process my grief, not able to change and being blamed for it.
To this day I’m very angry at my parents, my extended family, my community for the way I was treated as a grief stricken teenager. It’s probably more to the point to say I hate them. I work at forgiveness, acceptance and all that shit, but when I recall a story like this, it seems like the rage is still so deep down inside of me, it hasn’t been touched yet. I’ve managed to smooth out the exterior wrinkles. Sand down the rough edges, but the deep healing hasn’t occurred yet. It’s bubbling away, waiting for a crack so it can come spewing out. I do everything in my power to keep it under wraps, but it seeps out no matter what I do. Toxic waste, eating at me like acid.
My wise woman told me this week that she was having friends over at her B&B that were into suicide prevention for teens. That triggered a shit storm of ugly memories for me.
Why do people have to be so closed minded? So judgmental? So harmful to a child? It seems like there are so many questions, and so few questions.
Thanks for reading. If you’re hurting tonight, know that you are not alone.