“Most people don’t understand anxiety, depression, and PTSD. They don’t understand why you can’t just “get over it” or “just calm down.” It’s basically a lifestyle, but not one that you choose. It’s something you’re born into. Destiny.
There’s nothing extraordinary about my family, really, we were a typical white family living in the middle of nowhere in the US. I didn’t find out until my grandmother died when I was ten that my mother had mental issues. It’s like she was holding back her entire life and then suddenly my grandmother died and the flood gates let loose. She was angry, bitter, and blamed me for everything. She was paranoid, depressed, anxious, and sought an outlet in her high school sweetheart, thinking that he could “save her” from the internal torment. My father didn’t realize, or didn’t care, until it was too late and she kicked us both out. I still don’t talk to my brother.
I was twelve, I had my own mental shit going on, and suddenly I was taking care of a full grown, depressed, and angry man who was heartbroken because his wife destroyed him financially and emotionally. He’d tell me that if I hadn’t come to live with him, he would have killed himself by now.
I knew then that I wasn’t happy, but I put all my garbage on the back burner to take care of his needs. He finally met someone, my stepmother, and as she tried to pick up our broken pieces she didn’t know it was too late for me.
I saw my own blood more times in those two years than I’d like to count. My grades slipped, I became a loner, I dated the wrong guy, I didn’t sleep, got into an anorexic mindset, and I saw the lines across my forearm as evidence that I was as flawed outside as I was inside.
Another student figured me out, and saw my self-inflicted abuse. She reacted by telling the school, who told my dad and step-mom, and they threw me into therapy with a flourish of “we didn’t see this coming, here, take some drugs”. I was on suicide watch. Therapy was irrelevant and pointless, and the drugs just hyped up my anxiety more. The PTSD from my mother being psychotic in the last months that I was living with her kept me up at night with horrific nightmares of faceless things coming for me. I was somewhere between 15-17 years old.
I wish my parents had understood that they just needed to love me. I shouldn’t have had to start becoming an adult at 10 years old and taken care of two mentally unstable adults. I was my mothers mental punching bag and my fathers therapist. It wasn’t okay.
I wish my friends had thought to do something more than ask if I was okay. I needed help, I needed someone to at least try to understand what I was going through instead of pretending it was typical teen angst. I needed someone to talk to, instead of holding it all in for years.
Now, I’m in a stable relationship. I’m happy more times than I’m sad. I write to relieve the pressure of feeling like I’m still not good enough or deserving of love, and to tell parts of my story to other people that might need to hear it. I want to inspire people, and reach out to them so maybe they’ll see that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, and not just more darkness.
This poem describes what it looks like in my head now:
You were scared, I knew
because you shook.
You paled in comparison.
You wrote clichés.
You dismissed happiness in a promise
that it was unattainable and futile.
But look. You grew.
You went against the waves of oppression
that sucked every ounce of creativity out of you.
Your failures actually made you try again.
You granted love a sixth chance.
Your happiness was illuminated
as your hate faded between the lines
of your next written masterpiece.
Then, you wrote this poem
amidst a time where
slowly seeped into
“Yes I can”.
What I wish it would look like:
Because I hope that someday I’ll stop having to remind myself how far I’ve come,
and how I’m really going to be okay.
My name is Emily, and I deserve better than this.”
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