To the Friends and Family of Someone Living With Depression

I can’t tell you how many suicide notes I’ve written over the years. I mean, there was the first one on the night I actually attempted suicide seven and a half years ago. I found that one a few years ago tucked away in a polka dot notebook I had forgotten I had. After reading it, I took the letter with me as I went for a drive to clear my head; tearing it up and then throwing out the window as I drove, trying to leave my past in the past.

There have been others, too. My “In Case of Fire, Break Glass” safety net. When you live with suicidal thoughts, you’re always on edge, wondering if you’ll make it through this day; wondering if today is the day the demons you’re fighting take over and win.

It’s not that I want to be writing suicide notes. Trust me, there are a million other things I’d rather be writing. But it’s almost a compulsion, an obsession. It’s like if I don’t get the thoughts out of my head, they’ll eat me alive. I write them because I don’t want to have to use them. When the storm hits and the levees break and I’m not sure I can stay afloat, I write them–word by word, line by line, feeling by feeling–taking what I feel and trying to put it into words is the closest I’ll ever get to having a superpower. Then, when the storm passes, when the waters recede, and the sun begins to shine again, I delete them from my phone; I rip out the pages of the notebook; erasing evidence of the pain I was in; trying to leave the feelings of despair and hopelessness behind, trying to transition to happiness and joy.

But life isn’t black and white like that: if depression is black and joy is white, then I live in shades of gray because for every suicide note I’ve ever written, I’ve told at least 10 jokes. Because if writing is my way of staying afloat, telling jokes is my way of quite literally pulling myself out of the water. Also, I’m a Bills fan, and sometimes the only way to make it through a season of watching them pluck defeats from the jaws of victory is by making jokes.

Here’s the thing about life: it’s full of contradictions. Sadness and joy coexist at the same time, in the same soul. On some of my darkest days, I’ve laughed the most–like deep belly laugh, laugh so hard tears come out of my eyes, laugh so hard I throw my head back, hand on the neck, eyes basically closed. And it’s this sudden change from utter despair to joy that reminds me I am alive.

I’ve been having a hard time lately, many of you know this. You’ve read my blog posts, you’ve seen my Facebook statuses; you’ve been there with me in my hard moments.

So, here’s what I need you to know: there are days, many days when it’s hard for me to get out of bed, when the weight of the world seems too much to bear, and when I am standing and singing worship songs one minute and then collapsing and sobbing in my pew the next. These are also the days when I am reminded of happy moments. And these happy moments are enough to keep me putting one foot in front of the other until they’re not. Because they’re just that: moments. Beautiful, but fleeting. If you combine enough of them together, sure, they can shine like the shine, illuminating the future standing in front of me.

But here’s also what I need you to know: I can’t build armor strong enough to protect me from what’s going on inside my head. And neither can you.

And it’s frustrating: for you and for me. It’s frustrating because you ask the question “What can I do?” but what you really mean is “What can I do to fix it?” And therein lies the problem.

You can’t fix this. I can’t fix this. Medication and therapy can’t fix this. All they can do is make what I’m dealing with more manageable. They can make the sunshine a little bit longer, stave off the darkness a little while longer, but they can’t erase it.

Neither can you. But that doesn’t mean you can’t DO anything. Because, yes, you can’t do anything–not in the way you want to.

But, if you ask the right question, you can still DO something.

“What do you need?”

What do I need? I need support and encouragement and love. I need hugs and laughter and to cry it out. I need someone to sit there with me while I work through it on my own. I need someone to listen while I talk it out. I need to know I have people in my court, on my side.

So, no. You can’t fix it, but that doesn’t mean you can’t DO anything.

Somedays I’m so weak and hurting and broken, I feel like death is the only way out. I know it isn’t. There’s a difference between what I feel and what I know. I’m coming to understand that both of them are valid. I have to give each of these parts of me a voice. Let them say what they have to say.

The hardest part of life is admitting our weaknesses because we all want life to be perfect, and we try to portray it as such. I’ve come to realize that pretending life is perfect is doing a disservice to yourself. We have to be honest with ourselves and each other.

The hardest part of the last few months for me has been not ignoring what I’m feeling, telling people what’s going on in my head, being honest with you all about the struggles I’m facing. And yes, it’s been scary because people have gotten annoyed with me for sharing, frustrated because they see that I’m struggling and they feel helpless, and some have even told me that “Facebook is not the place to tell people what’s really going on.”

Maybe it’s not.

But I can’t hide behind a status. I believe in honesty.

I believe in recognizing our own weaknesses and giving the darkest parts of ourselves a name: depression, anxiety, PTSD.

And right now, I’m oh so very weak. But sometimes it’s in our weakest moments that we find the strength to reach out, to ask for help.

And I’m so glad I did.

 

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Rape Joke

“Hey, did you hear the one about the girl who got raped?”

The punchline is that she was 13 years old.

The punchline is that he slammed her locker shut every day because he liked her.

The punchline is that when he asked her out, she said, “No.”

The punchline is that he decided to take matters into his own hands, along with the hands of four of his closest friends, to show her what she would be missing.

After it was over, the punchline tried not to make eye contact with her reflection in the bathroom mirror. She tried to clean herself off and hide the bruises shaped like hands and teeth as best as she could. She exited the bathroom, walked down the hall of the deserted middle school, opened her locker (half expecting it to be slammed shut immediately, and when it wasn’t, breathed a sigh of relief). She exited the building, lonely footsteps echoing behind her, got into her dad’s car, and pretended it didn’t happen—everything was fine.

The rape joke is that he sat behind her in English class. His breath on her neck was the only thing she could focus on, making it very hard to concentrate on whatever work of art they read that last month of class, especially that first one: that poem by Emily Dickinson, “My life is like a loaded gun.” 7 years later, she thought it would be fun to take an Emily Dickinson class. She’d be fine. And she was, until that poem when she found herself transported back to that moment.

The rape joke is that her professor asked her what she thought it was a metaphor for. She didn’t know how to say she thought about all the memories this poem brought back, how it could be a metaphor for all of that. “I think it’s just about a loaded gun,” she said.

The rape joke is the way he didn’t threaten her, at least not really. He just said, “no one will believe you.”

The rape joke is that earlier that year, she was taught in Health class how to not get raped. Fat lot of good that lesson did her: she wasn’t drunk; she wasn’t wearing revealing clothes; she wasn’t outside, at night, alone.

The rape joke is that his locker was right next to hers because life likes cruel irony and alphabetical order is the most convenient way to organize everybody (a terrible thing really), and he still slammed her locker shut every day.

The rape joke is that on the last day of school, when they both opened their lockers at the same time, he didn’t slam hers shut. Instead, he whispered in her ear, “At least I didn’t get you pregnant.” And then he dared to smirk: an insult to injury, really. Maybe if you had, people would believe me when I’m ready to tell, when I’m ready to stop pretending this didn’t happen, she thought to herself. Which is a terrible thing to think, but when you’re 13, you sometimes think terrible things.

The rape joke is that the first time she told somebody who wasn’t a close friend or family, they responded, “Don’t feel bad. It could’ve happened to anybody.” Translation: Lucky her; close call, everyone else who’s last name is similar.

The rape joke is that a few years later, she had to break up with her boyfriend because of this joke. Because every time he put his arm around her, she was transported back to that bathroom. And even though he knew what had happened, he didn’t understand she needed space. But she blamed herself really for believing she could be loved in the first place.

For the longest time, she thought she was going crazy. And she was.

No offense.

No offense (that it happened to her).

No offense (that she buried the pain so deep, it took cutting her skin open to feel anything).

No offense (that the words said would echo in her mind for years to come: Bitch. Slut. You’ll never be loved. You don’t have to cut hard enough to leave a scar in order to draw blood).

No offense (that she went crazy, that it took her years to find her voice again but eventually she found it when she started writing about monsters and darkness, caves and loneliness).

No offense (it took a long time for her to forgive).

No offense (it’s just a joke).

The punchline is that she’s not the only one this has happened to. Among her acquaintance group, she knows of at least six others. That number grows every year, standing in solidarity, alone together.

The punchline is that she knows guys this has happened to. Nobody believes them, either.

The punchline is that we have to feel pain to become stronger, but does it have to hurt this bad?

The punchline is that our past doesn’t define us, but it does help make us who we are today.

But no offense.

The rape joke is funny because the punchline is me.

The punchline is at least I was pretty enough for it happen to me, but then how come sometimes it makes me feel so ugly?

The punchline is that this joke doesn’t define who I am.

“Come on. Lighten up. It was just a joke.”

If it’s just a joke, shouldn’t I be laughing?

It took me years to really truly laugh again.

I’m finally laughing again.

But not at this because nothing about this is funny, especially when it happens to you.

 So, yeah. I’ve heard the one about the Girl who got raped.

Have you? 

Hello From the Other Side

Here’s the thing about time: it marches on.

Every day, the earth moves through the cosmic background, ending the day 32 million miles farther than it began. It moves around the sun at a speed of 100,000 km/h, and somehow, you’re still clinging to this planet that is mover faster than you can even comprehend.

Gravity is holding you firm to this earth.

Please remember that when the weight of your past is compressing your chest, and it feels like you can’t breathe: gravity is keeping you’re here.

Trust me when I say that gravity is one of the universal constants. Please don’t test it by jumping.

One day you’ll look in the mirror and see stretch marks zig-zagging across your body, like the cuts you used to inflict on yourself.

Don’t fight them. Right now, you think stretch marks are the worst thing that could ever happen to you: as if saying, I don’t want to be if I’m fat. A million miles later you’ll see them as a sign of recovery because, once upon a time, you took the greatest pride in yourself after someone said, “Oh my gosh; you’re so skinny.” And in that moment, you will realize just how far you have fallen.

Right now, you’re trying to get rid of the skin in places you’d rather forget being touched. You cut yourself open because you can’t remember what it’s like to feel something, anything. You’d rather feel pain than nothing at all. I need you to know that cutting yourself open, leaving your own scars, is not going to cancel out the emotional scars left by your rapists.

Right now, you’re wondering what happens if you let your guard down. What will happen if you stop fighting against the thoughts that threaten your life? You can’t remember the last time you slept because every time you close your eyes, unwanted memories play on repeat in your mind.

There will come a day soon when you are so tired. You just want to sleep. You will let your guard down. What happens next will not be your fault. You will lose control of yourself. You will take some pills, and time will slow down.

This slowing of time will be what saves your life. It will give your true self time to regain control of the self you try so hard to hide. Three little whispered words are enough to snap out of it, allowing your light thoughts to shine brighter than your dark thoughts. You’ll be ok.

And you will.

Hello from the other side.

I’m writing this from the future, more for me than for you. But time itself is a confusing topic, and scientists still don’t understand how it works—if it’s linear or not.

There is this theory called Eternalism, which, in basic terms, is the idea that the past, present, and future occur simultaneously. So maybe, somewhere, this reaches you before you begin to waste away, to lose yourself.

I don’t know what I believe about time, what theory I subscribe to.

But I do know this: it marches on. It waits for no one.

It can also heal you, strengthen you, but only if you let it.

Please let it.

2016 has arrived, a year which you never thought you’d see. But you’ve made it.

Here’s to another year of life.

 

Open Letter to Wide-eyed freshmen and eager seniors

Sitting at the reception desk this morning, watching all the new students stream into the building for their first day of classes, my heart aches a little bit. I want to be a part of it all: the hustle and the bustle, the reunion of friends after a summer hiatus, the meeting of professors and new classmates.

It is when I look at my bank account and realize I didn’t spend hundreds of dollars on books and supplies that it hit me I’m not a part of it anymore—college life continues without me. I can stay on campus as long as I want, but I still won’t be an active participant: my friends will go to class and will leave me sitting alone. And they did. And they do.

I am now that alumni that refuses to leave, the one who, maybe, doesn’t even know how.

So, I sat in the café for four hours after my shift ended, taking it all in—the sights, the smells, the sounds—like a person on a diet, trying to quell their cravings by immersing their senses. Or, better yet, a reader who lives vicariously through the characters in a favorite book.

Looking at the sea of faces in front of me, I don’t recognize half of them. The ones I do, I say ‘Hello’ to. The ones I know well, I hug. The ones I don’t, I say a prayer for, asking God to bless their time at college like he did for me.

I’m a whole different person now than I was when I started college—thank God for that.

I was a wide-eyed freshman who thought she knew everything, and somehow along the way I turned into an alumnus who realizes she still has a lot to learn. Life would be pretty boring if I knew everything.

One day, you wide-eyed freshmen will turn into eager seniors who are just ready to be done: ready to be done with all the all-nighters, ready to be done with the 2 am fire alarms, ready to be done seeing that one professor you just don’t agree with.

Embrace the time you have in college. Trust me when I say that someday that ‘one day’ will turn into tomorrow. Tomorrow comes sooner than you think.

Wide-eyed freshman, there will be at least a few times when you doubt everything. The first will come when you meet someone whose life challenges everything you thought you knew. You may go to a small, Christian, liberal arts school, but the people here are as diverse as NYC. You will meet someone who causes you to question every belief you learned growing up. Embrace these people. Learn from them. Listen to them with an open mind. It’s only after your beliefs have been truly questioned that you can stand firm.

I believe what I believe not because it’s what my parents believe. I believe what I believe because I have questioned.

Wide-eyed freshman, you will doubt yourself again when your senior year draws to a close, and you wonder if you are going to make it in the ‘real world.’ You will. The skills you have learned along the way have prepared you for this moment: you are eager to learn, you can cooperate well with others, you’ve learned how to manage your time. The things you haven’t learned yet, you will learn along the way.

You will doubt yourself many times between these two and many times after. But, remember this: there are people around you cheering you on, even if sometimes it doesn’t feel like it.

Wide-eyed freshman, it might take a while, but you will find the place where you fit. You will find friends you encourage you, challenge you, laugh with you, cry with you, rejoice with you. Hang on to them. The friends you make in college will be some of the best friends you ever have.

Wide-eyed freshman, there will come a day when you stop feeling homesick. Don’t forget about your family. Write them, call them, text them. Let them know how you’re doing. Don’t be afraid to tell them about the hard things, the parts of yourself you’d rather keep hidden. You will make mistakes. It’s ok. We all do.

Eager seniors, you’ve done it! You’ve made it this far, and now you’re ready to be done. I was too, and now I realize how much I’m going to miss (not syllabus week, or finals week, or the all-nighters trying to write the paper that’s due tomorrow that I procrastinated on). I’m going to miss seeing my friends every day. I’m going to miss having conversations that challenge me to grow as a person and an intellectual. I’m going to miss taking time away from studying to go to Taco Bell (because sometimes taking a break is the best thing you can do).

Eager seniors, don’t forget what you’ve learned along the way. Dream big. You will do great things with the talents you’ve been forgiven. When you become rich and famous, don’t forget about the people who helped you along the way. Don’t forget to keep learning, exploring. There is so much world out there to explore, so many different kinds of people to meet, so many cultures to experience.

The best advice I ever received came from one of my favorite professors. One day he said to my class, “Trust me.

Wait, don’t. Don’t trust me. Question everything.”

I went from a wide-eyed freshman to an eager senior to a college alumnus who is still trying to figure her life out. And that’s ok. Because the more I question, the more I learn; the more I learn, the more risks I take; the more risks I take, the harder I fall; the harder I fall, the stronger I become; and the stronger I become, a better human I will be.

That is what college is all about: becoming a better human.

I stayed on campus for four hours after my shift ended, trying to take everything I could in because I’m still trying to become a better human. And the people I met in college have helped me along the way.

continue reading: Unsolicited Advice to Incoming Freshman and Returning Students

Graduation: I’ll Be Ok

On Wednesday, I ordered my tickets for my College graduation. It’s crazy to think that in a month and a half, I will be a college graduate. But, here I am standing on the threshold of adulthood and adulthood. And people keep asking me, “What do you want to do after graduation?”

I don’t know what to say to them. So I tell them, “I’m not quite sure. I’ve started looking to see what’s out there, started looking to see what kind of jobs I can get with an English Degree. I’ll probably go to Grad school at some point, but that costs money that I don’t have. So I’m looking for a job, any job I can get really. I can’t afford to be picky: there are student loans to pay off, a car to buy, my future to save for. Everything’s being thrown at me all at once, and I can’t avoid it no matter how hard I try—I’ve never been good at Dodgeball.”

Except I don’t actually say that because, well, it’s pretty obvious.

The truth is, I have no idea what I’m doing after graduation. I know what my end goal is: to be a writer. But that probably, realistically won’t pay the bills that need to be paid (at least not right off the bat). I’m looking for a big-kid job that will pay the bills, but it’s a terrifying process.

And Depression isn’t helping.

Every time I sit down to work on my resume or work on an application, depression brings his cousins anxiety and doubt over for a visit.

It’s really hard to work on your future when the three cousins are interrupting you:

No one is going to want to hire you.

You didn’t do as well as you could have in college, and now you messed up your future.

Hah! English majors. What good job will that give you?

And maybe their right. Maybe I did mess up my future. Maybe I didn’t do as well as I could have in college because maybe I was too busy focusing on my mental health to worry about getting all A’s.

But maybe their wrong.

Because I didn’t necessarily do as well as I could have in High school, but I still got into college. And not doing well in College is not any indicator of how well you will do in life.

One thing I’ve learned for sure is that I’m worth more than my GPA. My GPA does not measure how many battles I’ve faced, how many battles I’ve lost, how many battles I’ve won. My GPA does not measure how smart I actually am, just how good I am at studying or BSing my way through essays. My GPA doesn’t measure my talents, my personality, how much I care for others.

My GPA can’t tell you how hard I am trying to be ok.

My GPA can’t tell you how bright my future is.

But my doubts certainly can. The harder I doubt, the stronger my belief is that I will do great things. (it’s counterintuitive, I know. But I’ve been fighting depression long enough to know that this is the case.)

I’ve been doubting a lot lately.

And all this doubting has made the world seem a lot heavier on my shoulders. It came to a head on Thursday night. If I was still self-harming, Thursday would have been one of those nights, without a doubt.

Instead, I wrote.

There were a billion and a half thoughts running through my head, but the only thing I managed to get out was “I’ll be ok.”

I’ll be ok.

I’ll be ok.

I’ll be ok.

I wrote that phrase 150 times, falling asleep half-way through the 151st time: I’ll be.

I’ll be (fill in the blank).

Amazing.

Strong.

Happy.

A world-changer.

But most importantly, I’ll be a writer. That’s what I am meant to be.

And it terrifies me.

I’ve started writing the same book three or four times. And every single time, I get freaked out and stop. But in the past few weeks, more and more people have told me that I need to keep writing. Some of these people have followed my journey from the beginning. Some of these people I don’t even know.

Somebody came up to me on Friday, told me that she read my blog because her friend showed it to her. She then told me, “Thank you for being my voice.”

Thank you for being my voice.

For a long time, I couldn’t find my voice. I lost in the midst of my fear and doubt.

But now I’ve found it, and I have so many stories to tell. Some funny; some sad. Some good; some bad.

And I’m terrified. But that’s ok because I’ve come to realize that fear is a powerful motivator. I’ve come to realize that words have power. Words can change the world.

My words have been my way of making sense of my struggles, and in the process, I’ve become the voice for so many who don’t know how to express what they feel.

And that terrifies me. I want to do myself and others justice. I want to express where I’ve been without losing sight of the future.

And the future terrifies me. My dreams terrify me. But if your goals and aspirations don’t terrify you, they’re not big enough.

I think fear is just your minds way of trying to protect you.

I’ve come to learn that no matter what happens, I’ll be ok.

I’ll be ok.

I’ll be ok.

I’ll be ok.

I am Not a Punchline

Yesterday, I was told a rape joke by an acquaintance who knows my story.

He then got mad when I didn’t find it funny.

“I thought you were over it,” he said.

Firstly, I never said I got over it.

Forgiven, yes.

Trying to move on, yes.

Over it, no.

I don’t know how you get over something like that:

He slammed my locker shut every day. He teased me relentlessly. He asked me out. I said “no.” That’s not the way I wanted to be treated.

To him, a simple ‘no’ was the end of the world. He decided I needed to be punished. He got his friends and they raped me in the school bathroom.

As soon as they finished, they left as quickly as they came. And I was left to pick up the pieces. The shattered pieces of my dignity fit in the palm of my hand. I washed off the traces of their crime. I covered up the developing bruises, and I went on my way.

I told no one.

They told me no one would ever love me, and I was eager to prove them wrong. So when my best friend asked me out too soon after, I eagerly said yes. I needed to prove them wrong, but I tried too soon.

We were too young. I was a mess, and I didn’t know how to help myself. But I kept my secret for over a year.

I didn’t want anyone to know. I didn’t want to be blamed.

I started cutting and starving to erase their memory from my mind. My parents wondered why their showers were always cold.

(I was trying to burn away their touch from my skin)

We’re out of razors already?

(I was trying to carve a new person from my hollowed out soul)

I was a broken-down frame of a burned out house, and I needed to rebuild myself again.

And I needed to do it from the ground up. I needed to figure out who I was as a person; who did I want to be?

We needed to break up; it was a long time coming.

And almost seven years later, I’m standing on the other side of this inferno. Like a phoenix, I’ve risen from the ashes. I’m standing on a mountaintop, surveying the demolished parts of me, which serve as a reminder for who I was.

I’ve forgiven. I’ve rebuilt. I’ve stopped cutting, started eating. And I have pretty much healed.

But I don’t know how I will ever “get over this.”

I’ve stopped being a victim. I’ve started living. I focus on how far I’ve come, how much I’ve learned, where I want to go.

Firstly, I don’t know if I will ever get over this.

Secondly, I am not a punchline.

There’s nothing funny about any of this.

It’s a cliché that shouldn’t have to be repeated, and yet, here we are.

We have to teach this old dog new tricks because I’m tired of wearing this old hat.

I can’t let you laugh this off.

There’s no punchline in being a statistic.

I refuse to be the victim, and I will fight you tooth and nail if you try to pin this on me:

Capital S for “Slut.”

My name is not “Bitch.”

I refuse to be somebody’s unwanted leftovers.

Out of the broken-down frames of a burned-out house, I have built myself again.

Like a phoenix, I rise from the ashes.

I am Everest.

I am stronger now than I was before.

But I refuse to be a punchline.

I am not a punchline.

Late Night Thoughts: I’ll Be Ok

The most common question I get is, “What you were wearing?” As if that makes a difference. I was in 8th grade, and my whole life I had been taught that, as a woman, I have to be careful what I wear because it could be distracting to boys.

I was wearing jeans and an extra-large hoodie if you must know.

The second most common question I am asked is, “what did you do to provoke him?” Nothing. Unless you count him asking me out and me saying, “no,” because he was a jerk who slammed my locker shut every day, who used to pull my hair because he liked the way it curled.

Now before you say, Boys will be boys, or, that’s how he shows you he likes you, let me tell you that I grew up hearing that if a guy is mean to you, he likes you.

“He’s pulling my hair.” He likes you.

“He stole my ball.” He likes you.

I took that to mean that if someone is mean to you, they must like you.

“He beat his wife for years.” He loved her too much.

“Why didn’t she leave?” She loved him too much.

For years, I was mean to my body: I cut myself open. I watched myself bleed. I starved myself. I belittled myself because I believed that in order to love my body, my being, I had to first be mean.

Meanness, I thought, was the way people showed love: Love is born out of hatred; Abuse is a symbol of love.

How messed up is that?

“Why did you do this to yourself?” I was trying to love myself.

“Why didn’t you leave?” Trust me, I tried. But something pulled me back.

You’ll be ok.

People like to believe that most sexual assaults and rapes are committed by strangers. However, that’s not the case. (Trust me, I’ve done the research. I know the statistics. 1 in 5. 1 in 7. I wrote a 12-page paper on the prevalence of rape in society and the way society treats the victims and the perpetrators. Sometimes, society doesn’t get it right).

I knew the guys who did this to me. I went to school with them. I saw them every day before and after until they dropped out. Win for me.

I graduated High School. They didn’t.

I am going to graduate from College soon. I’ve come a long way.

The things they called me, the things they told me, still echo in my ear.

Slut.

Bitch.

You’re asking for this.

You’ll never amount to anything.

Nobody will ever love you.

 

Maybe that’s true. Maybe it’s not.

But I love me. It’s taken me years to get to this point. It’s taken me years to realize how beautiful I am I have the advantage of knowing where I’ve been and can compare it to where I am now. And with all these facts laid out before me, how can I not love me?

There are days when I want to go back in time and say to my 13-year old self, It’s ok. You’ll be ok. It will get better. I want to take her by the hand and show her the people she’ll touch, the people she’ll meet, the lives she’ll change. I want to tell her the story of her 19-year old self going to Guatemala, sharing her testimony with a group of Junior High students, and leading a young Guatemalan teenager to Christ because of her story. I want to tell her about the hard days and the sad days and the in-between days. I want to remind her that one day the sun will come out, and she’ll feel better. I want to tell her that despite the cyclic nature of Depression, she can get through this.

I’ve learned life is beautiful, and I want her to remember this.

I want to tell her that one day she’ll learn about the power of words, how writing can change a life. When she discovers this, she will have found what she wants to do with her life.

I guess those guys must have been wrong about me then.

My 13- year old self would love me.

My current self loves me.

God loves me.

He’s the One who called me back that day.

You’ll be ok.

Some days I have to remind myself of this, especially on the days when the weight of the world is on my shoulders.

God loves me anyway, and I’ll be ok.

1 Year

Confession time: I almost didn’t graduate High School. It’s a fact, and I’m not proud of that. I almost didn’t graduate because I almost failed a class my Senior Year that was needed to graduate. It’s another fact, and I’m not proud of that.

But the “almost failing a class” was a symptom of a bigger problem, Anorexia, which was just a side effect of the underlying condition, Depression, with which I had been suffering for years. I’d like to attribute my depression to my sexual assault, but I think it’s always been a part of me (for more on that, you can click here). As for the Anorexia, that started in 9th grade, became more acute after I stopped cutting, and didn’t stop completely until last year, September 24, 2013, during the beginning of my sophomore year of college.

It started in 9th grade when I began to realize I wasn’t as pretty as other girls. It became more acute after I stopped self-harming because all the hate I felt toward myself had to find other channels of escaping. It came to a complete stop during my Sophomore Year of High School after the grip it had on me for years gradually began to weaken as I began to love myself again.

During my Senior Year of High School is when my eating disorder became just that: a disorder that caused order to become chaos. I’ve never dealt well with chaos. My life felt like it was spinning out of control, so I tried to control what I could. I could control the amount of food going into my mouth, and so I did. I meticulously counted calories. I started eating less and less and less. My schedule was perfect: I woke up too late to grab breakfast, so breakfast was usually a granola bar grabbed from the kitchen. I was taking too many classes to have a scheduled lunch, so I grabbed lunch (either snack bars from my locker or something from the cafeteria). The good I bought (which wasn’t much) was thrown away. The food I grabbed from my locker went back.

My locker became a storage facility for all the calories I didn’t feel worthy enough of eating; I gave it away to my friends who need it more than me.

I almost failed a class because I couldn’t concentrate. My body was demanding food, and I was depriving it. You couple my roaring stomach with the screaming in my head, I was miserable. So I let my grades slip. And I barely managed to graduate.

But I did.

I swore to myself that when I went to College, I’d do better. I’d eat. I’d have a clean slate. I would not worry about others judging when I ate. I would forget the fact that with every bite I put in my mouth, I’d feel less and less secure and more and more judge by those around me.

But it didn’t happen. I walked into my campus dining hall on the first day of classes my Freshman year, and then I immediately walked out. There were so many pretty faces, and I wasn’t one of them.
. . .
When I tell people I was anorexic, they find it hard to believe. Sometimes I find it hard to believe. I find it hard to believe that a year ago I was skipping meals like an atheist skips church. I didn’t need God. My God was my rumbling stomach, and I found comfort in the rumbly in my tummy (as Pooh Bear would say).

I stopped eating because I didn’t think I was beautiful enough. I would get up every day, and I would look in the mirror, hate what I saw, and would compensate by being someone I’m not. And it was physically and mentally exhausting. Between the not eating and the not being, I was having a really hard time.

I was fighting a Battle of Comparisons, and I couldn’t win. I was always not good enough, not pretty enough, not ‘insert adjective here’ enough.

And people don’t understand when I explain to them I wasn’t trying to die. I was trying to live. People don’t understand that my Depression and Anorexia weren’t about a lack of faith, because I had so much faith. Every day I had to get up and have faith in the floor to hold me up, have faith that I wouldn’t die if I put food in my mouth, and have faith in God to get me through the day alive.

I didn’t want to die. I wanted to live. But I didn’t know how to live in a body I hated so much. I felt like my life was spiraling out of control, and there was nothing I could do about it. So, I controlled the one thing I knew how: the amount of food I ate.

And every day it was a battle. Every day is a battle for people who struggle with anorexia. Your stomach is telling you to eat, but your mind is telling you, “Nah, bro. No good.” And how can you argue with that? You know what they say: Mind over matter. Or in this case: Mind over stomach growling. It’s finding the perfect balance between how much you want to eat and how much you’re willing to let yourself eat. It’s about taking one bite at a time until you hate yourself so much you can’t take another bite. And then it’s about repeating this action over and over.

It gets to the point where you have two options: either you die, or you get help.

I got help. I told my friends. They started holding me accountable, eating lunch with me, checking to make sure I ate, making sure I didn’t skip a meal.

And I don’t know when things began to change. I didn’t wake up one day and decide to start eating. And I don’t know why I had the sudden change of mind. I didn’t wake up one morning and decide I was worth enough to eat. I didn’t wake up one morning and decide I was beautiful. I didn’t wake up one morning and decide my life was back in control, because it’s not. I don’t have my life controlled. At all.

Every day is still a battle: a battle to get out of bed, a battle to put food in my mouth, a battle to not hole myself up in the library somewhere. But I try my best to do what I can to live. Life is not about surviving; it’s about thriving. I was barely surviving for so long, I want to thrive.

I was so focused on trying to be beautiful, I missed what was right in front of me. I am beautiful because of who I am. I am beautiful because of who I was. I am beautiful because God made me in his image.
. . .
I’m a Senior in College, and I’m experiencing the same feelings of terror and panic I did when I was a Senior in High School: the crippling fear of the future, the uncertainty about what lies ahead. Only this time, I’m a lot happier. I’m a lot healthier. And I still have my bad days, but I know where to find my strength to persevere.

It’s September 24, 2014. I haven’t skipped a meal in one year.

I’m a recovering Anorexic.

And I am beautiful.

Flash Flood Warning- A Poem

It’s 4:30 am, and my alarm goes off—

A cruel irony, really.

I haven’t yet slept.

I watched the clock turn Midnight, then 1,2,3,4.

And with each minute that passed, my mind raced faster and faster—

A mile a minute;

A thousand thoughts a second—

A race against time with no clear winner.

“If I fall asleep now, I can get 5 hours of sleep…

5…4…3…2…1…

It’s raining.

Lightning.”

It’s been raining all night, and I’ve been awake to hear it.

You’d think after all this time, the tear ducts of Heaven would be all dried up.

(fantasy is often better than reality.)

My God is so big, so strong, and so mighty. . .

. . . there’s nothing my God cannot do.  

Apparently, God is so big that his tear ducts draw from a never-ending well.

Well, well,well…

It’s raining; it’s pouring, the Old Man is snoring…

Wait, nope. That’s just my Dad.

It’s been raining so long and so hard a flash flood warning was issued early this morning while the world was sleeping.

I was awake and read the warning along with the 15 text messages from Twitter.

It’s 4:30 am, and I didn’t need my alarm today.

I watched the numbers on my clock change, counting down the minutes until I need to get out of bed, their faces glowing red as if laughing.

My life isn’t a Cosmic joke.

I only get one [life], and I don’t want to screw it up,

But I’m afraid I already have.

There are no do-overs, no re-runs; I sure could use one.

I don’t know how God is running things up there,

But it seems kind of Laissez-faire.

Divine intervention would be nice right about now—

The future is big, and I’m rather small,

And this whole “I don’t know what I’m doing in life” is getting kind of old.

There was a flash flood warning, and I’m right in the way.

They always tell you:

“In case of a flood, find high ground.

Low places will probably be the hardest hit.”

I’m in a low place right now, and the flood waters are coming.

At least I know how to swim.

Of course, my swimming skills will be about as helpful as the levees of New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina.

It’s a nice thought, but practically, it leaves a lot to be desired.

At least it’s the thought that counts.

On a scale of 1 to 10, I’m a 7. . .

. . . microwaves (which weigh less than 7 elephants).

I’ll take what I can get.

And yet, somehow, despite this weight on my chest, I’m still standing tall.

Right now, I feel as though my world is collapsing around me.

I won’t always feel this way.

Depression is like a Great Flood:

It happens slowly and then all at once.

(They disappear the same way).

It’s 4:30 am; it’s raining, and I haven’t slept.

Sleep makes you feel better when you get it and worse when you don’t.

(it’s kind of like rain that way.)

Last night, when I couldn’t sleep, my thoughts were racing a mile a minute.

“What if…”

“Why…”

“How about…”

When the darkness creeps in, that’s when the enemy line starts firing.

Under cover of darkness, it’s easy to be a brave coward.

Last night I was having deep existential thoughts about life and happiness.

The first thought that entered my mind when I got out of the shower this morning was

“Should I do my hair today, or not?

The rain’s just going to ruin it.” (I did; it might’ve.)

But like, the state of my hair is what I should be concerned with…

NOT…

Superficiality is only skin-deep; and I want to change the world.

It’s raining here.

There are wildfires out west.

So, tell me how life is fair.  

And there’s no peace in the Middle East.

I don’t know how to change the world, but I think love is a good place to start.

Love your enemies, those who disagree with you, those from an opposing political party.

Love your neighbors, those who come into this country to find a better life. We all want a better life in a way.

Love those who are different from you, those whose way of life you may not agree with.

Love them anyway.

Love yourself anyway.

Sometimes you can love too much, and sometimes love is not enough.

But between war and peace, I’ll take my chances with love.

Love makes the world go round in the circle of life,

Everything has a cycle, including water.

Hence, the rain.

I love the rain because it begets life,

And it can make you clean if you just let it.

We could all use a clean slate once in a while.

There was a flash flood warning, and it’s still running, and I’m doing my best to keep smiling.

My Lit Teacher asked the class to list things that die.

I started, “People, animals, plants, hopes, and dreams.”

It’s easy to die.

It’s not always easy to live.

I learned that once.

Because one time I tried to set myself on fire (figuratively, but literally with pills)—

I was a metaphorical Girl on Fire, trying to make myself someone new.

Out of the ashes and with the rain came beauty.

That’s all I wanted, and I’m trying my best not to screw up, to make the most of this second chance at life even when the going gets tough.

There was a flash flood warning.

Warning:

Beware:

Caution:

This flood won’t stop me.

Because it’s all too easy to drown in an ocean of tears, and sometimes we forget we can float in salt water.

Is Happiness Inherited?: The Fault in Our Happy Gene

When was the first moment you realized you were different? Was it in 6th grade when you cried so hard about going to school, you made yourself sick, and your dad let you stay home because giving up was easier than fighting? Was it in Kindergarten when your teacher called your parents asking if you had an ‘attitude problem,’ and your parents had to respond that, no, you did not have an attitude problem, you just didn’t like to talk?

I’ve always thought I was depressed because I was sexually assaulted, but now I think that maybe I’ve always been depressed in a way. Having something to blame it on is easier than admitting we have a fault in our genes. Are we born depressed? Is there a fault in our ‘happiness Gene’ that makes us predisposed to Depression? Or, do we somehow grow to be depressed along the way?

When I was in Elementary school, my parents sent me to a counselor because I didn’t talk to people, not even my relatives. Before my 1st sister was born, while I was the only grandchild on my Mother’s side, I would point to what I wanted; if I wanted milk, I would grab someone’s hand, drag them to the kitchen, and point. I knew how to talk; I just didn’t. My parents taught me sign language so I could communicate from my High Chair: ‘more, food, drink, down, please.’

After Sister 1, and especially after Sister 2, I started talking a little, but I still didn’t know how to ask for what I wanted. I would set up a Board game on my Grandparents’ table and just sit there, waiting for someone to ask if I wanted to play a game. And then I would nod, and all would be right with the world.

So my parents and my doctor sent me to a counselor to help me out of my shell. But the thing is, I liked my shell: it kept me safe; it was my own personal sanctuary of the mind, where I could be some where else, and be someone else, and I didn’t have to deal with being me. I know other kids didn’t like me much, but did I ever like me much? Was I just super shy, or was I unsatisfied with myself? Did I not talk because I didn’t want to, or because I felt as though I wasn’t important enough, as if my thoughts weren’t valuable enough to be vocalized?

Because sometimes I feel that way now. There are so many things I want to tell people, things I’m thinking, opinions I have, but I keep them to myself. And I think, I think… I do this for two reasons: 1. I know I talk too fast and am hard to understand. It’s easier to remain silent than for me to have to repeat myself. I saw a speech therapist for a while; it didn’t really help. 2. I think I’m scared of rejection. Not the “No, I won’t go out with you” Rejection either. I’m terrified of the “Your Thoughts Aren’t Valuable” type of rejection.

Sometimes, I don’t think my thoughts are valuable, which is why I write. There’s no awkward silences, no unnecessary “ummmms…” while I try to figure out the exact right words for what I’m trying to say. When I write my thoughts, I don’t have to share until they’re perfect. When I speak, I’m not assertive; I don’t know how to make people listen. I’ve never been good at standing up for myself (but I’m getting better). When I write, it doesn’t matter because the people who are reading are the ones who want to.

So back to the question, “Are we born depressed and somehow grow into it along the way, or do we wake up one day and realize we can’t get out of bed?” Was born depressed? Did wake up one morning and decide I wasn’t beautiful? Or have I never felt comfortable in my own skin? I’ve always enjoyed playing dress-up. Did become depressed all at once, or have I become depressed slowly over my life? Because if I was born with a fault in my happy gene, that would explain a lot.

Like why I read so much as a child, choosing to read rather than engaging with the world around me. I’d get five books out of the library and have them all read by the next night. Reading is an escape for so many, and I was no exception. I would be the characters in those books. I’d be going on their adventures, and for a little while, I wouldn’t be me.

It would also explain why I didn’t talk, why I didn’t let people get to know me, why sometimes I still don’t–there wasn’t/isn’t anything worth getting to know.

It would explain the way I’ve always dealt with anxiety: picking at scabs until they bleed, turning a bug bite into a scab–self-harm before I knew what self-harm is. I remember one time when I was little, and my anxiety had gotten a little out of hand. My mom walked into my room at midnight because my light was on, and I was crying. I had 7 bleeding scabs that night, and all I could do was mumble, “I need help.” I need help. Three words I never uttered before, because I was too ashamed to admit I needed help. I used to always try so hard to be perfect.

(Those 7 bleeding scabs and the 3 words that followed are why I think I live my life at a 7.) Eventually, I started cutting and then stopped. Eventually, I stopped eating and then started again. But I haven’t quite learned how to stop picking, picking my scabs as the nagging voices of my anxiety are picking away at my self-esteem. It’s like an old, itchy sweater of bad habits that was once too big and is now too small to take off.

One day I’ll figure out how to stop this, too, but it’s like a security blanket for my anxiety; it’s how my Dad knows I’m in over my head and can’t handle Finals Week. I’ve been finding I do it less, which must mean I’m learning how to deal with my feelings.

I wish I could blame my Depression on my past situations, because placing blame is always easier than accepting the fact that we have a character flaw because of a fault in our genes. But I don’t think there’s blame to be placed. I thought about disappearing many times when I was little, years before I attempted suicide. I’ve never felt ‘normal.’ I don’t even think I’d recognize Normal if he ran into me at Starbucks, causing me to spill my coffee all over his jeans and t-shirt. I don’t think I’d recognize Normal if he was the hottest guy on my college campus.

So was I born depressed and felt it slowly and then all at once? Or did it happen all of a sudden? I don’t know. But I do know that normal is overrated. Normal makes life boring. And I’m beginning to accept and love myself: Depression, Flaws, and all.