Trigger Warning: Mental health issues, Drug and Alcohol usage
It was a gloomy September morning with the most perfect overcast sky and slightly chilly breeze. My favorite type of weather. There's something about the rain that has this relieving sense of calm over me. It allows all the needless overthinking to dissipate and give me a brief moment of clarity.
I had just turned 15 the July before and had quite possibly the best summer of my life. It was the first time I got to feel like a kid. It was the first time in my life I had actual friends. I had my first sleepovers. I went on crazy adventures and had your quintessential coming of age summer filled with drug experimentation and alcohol use.
I felt alive.
I was riding this high of, just being. No substance could compare to the relief and joy I felt that summer.
On May 8, 2015, I was released from my fourth and final mental hospital. I had spent over half a year in them during the age of 14 due to self-harm and a suicide attempt. After two years of being put on God knows how many high dosage medications, it felt like my doctors and I had finally cracked the code.
I knew it had less to do with the medication, more so me realizing I needed to make a change. I had to quit the pity party and stop dreaming of someone or something to come and take away the pain. And it worked. I was stable, rational, even happy. After a whole lifetime of being depressed, desperately anxious, self-loathing, and feeling like I'd never belong anywhere or be worth anything - I was free.
I was free from the bonds of my mental illness. I had finally torn down the psychological wall I built and fortified for years. I was allowing myself to grow and experience life as it should be. I finally felt like something mattered. I mattered, and I wasn't just waiting for the end.
I look back at that summer with a loving nostalgia. Though I didn't always make the most responsible choices, I was able to get a glimpse of who I was and who I could grow to be.
But like all great things, they do have to come an end.
So now, I'll take you back to that gloomy September morning.
In that moment of clarity, I realized I was falling again. My seasonal depression hit hard and I didn't know who I was anymore. I lost touch with the confident, happy-go-lucky girl that was constantly cracking cheesy jokes hoping to put a smile on someone's face. The girl that'd do anything in her capability to help someone and make sure it was going to be okay.
I felt helpless and lost. After all my growth and finally making my family proud of me, how could I tell anyone? All this progress, only to have it crashing down within a few months.
I had failed.
I felt so ashamed of myself. I knew it wasn't going to be easy, but I didn't expect this so soon.
That "high of being" I experienced over the summer quickly turned into withdrawal. I yearned to be the person I was before so desperately. I was so scared of disappointment, I lied. I kept up the acts. I put on a brave face. I did what I did for years like it was second nature and no one suspected a thing.
I hated that I didn't have the courage to seek help again. I slowly drowned in my emotions until I became the numb husk I was before. I went back to pinning my curtains to the wall and draping towels over the rod, as to not let any crack of light in.
I spent my days in total darkness. I laid in bed all day, trying to sleep it off and get away from myself. My anxiety came back stronger than ever. I could no longer handle being in public. The panic attacks ensued quickly. I felt sick to my stomach and like I was going to vomit any time someone looked at me because I felt absolutely disgusting. My nightmares returned, fuelled by PTSD. I could no longer sleep. I stayed up 3-5 days a week, only sleeping about 12 hours total. I lost my appetite and my eating disorder controlled my life again. With the return of the eating disorder, also came body dysmorphia. My judgement was so clouded, I couldn't see I was slowly killing myself.
My "withdrawal of being" affected me greater and so harshly than anything I had ever experienced before. 3 years of alcohol abuse, 4 years of self-harm addiction, 2 years of high dosage psychiatric medications... none could compare to what seemed like the inescapable valley I had found myself in.
After all my work, I didn't want to end things. Even if life seemed meaningless and I lost all sense of worth of myself. I tried filling the void with different things. Though usually, drugs. It was easier to acquire than alcohol at that age, as there was none in my house due to my parents' own strife with alcoholism. Weed worked better than any combination of medication I had been prescribed before, but I couldn't afford it. However, pills were free for me. I started drowning in a mesh of Percocets, Vicodin, Adderall, Valium - you name it. None, obviously prescribed.
Thankfully, I came to my senses quickly and stopped my drinking and pill use. I saw the effect it had on my friends and acquaintances. I couldn't let that happen to me, because I knew I'd never come back.
So, it was time to detox. Not just from the drugs, but from the clouded version of myself lost in the darkness of my depression. I had to realize it was not too late. I could find that sweet, confident, bright eyed, happy-go-lucky girl again. I just had to work for it.
And that brings us to today. Almost 2 years later, I found her again. Two years of hard work from hitting rock bottom yet again, but I came back on top. I stopped living for everyone else and hoping things would change. I worked for it and made them change.
I opened those curtains up and let the light back in. I started to let myself enjoy things again, without feeling like I was cheating my depression. I started to focus on myself. I learned to process through my irrational thoughts and mood swings again. I became active and started eating fresh and healthy foods. I became social again and started spending more time with friends. I even started meditating and doing yoga too.
I was relearning to love the things that once brought me joy. As well as trying the ones I always wanted to do. I used to feel guilty for abandoning my interests or aspects of my lifestyle. Like I could never return to them. I had to learn that it's easy to lose sight of yourself and environment. Too easy, really. And it's okay to do so. We’re never ever as far gone as we tend to think. Sometimes we need to lose touch to regain the focus on what truly matters.
I learned that this was just part of the process of living with mental illness. It's a lifelong uphill battle that will have plenty of detours, pits, valleys, obstacles, and setbacks. And at least in my experience, it does not get easier. It's all about finding your strength and holding onto it as best as you can, and knowing your worth and who you truly are. Being your most authentic self will always allow the clarity to find the light and happiness inside all of us
Today, I feel a lifetime away from the girl shrouded in her own darkness. Though, I know she still lingers. Even as I write this, this week has been unusually harsh and this day even worse. It's just another reminder how vulnerable mankind is to its own emotions. But it also shows the worth in the journey itself.
“Nothing in this world, that's worth having comes easy.”
Everything I've said here is a small fraction of the adversity I've faced in life. Within the month, I'll be 17 and though life hasn't been the most pleasurable experience in my short time; I can see now that through all the hardships, I am prepared for a life full of success, happiness, and love.
I'm a weird, quirky, insanely supportive, kind, humorous, intelligent, beautiful, and overall crazy girl that either rambles for centuries or doesn't speak at all, but I wouldn't have it any other way. I've been through hell and back time after time, just to realize all the things that I love about myself and make me special. And I can still love all those things about me, knowing I have a mental illness that will continue to affect me my entire lifetime. It took me awhile to figure it out, but it has only made me stronger.
I hope sharing my story with you all, makes it clear that it is never too late. It is never too late to make a change, better yourself, find who you are, or to get help. Even if you feel like you've given up, you are never too far gone. We all get lost along these crazy journeys that are our lives, but with work, time, and support you can always find your way back.
- Sam Wilson
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