My Name is Brad

I didn’t come from a poor family. I didn’t come from a rich family. I came from the perfect family, in my eyes. While some may say I was a little spoiled, I personally thought life was just right growing up. I am 25 years old and still living with my two happily married parents and three Chihuahuas. The reason? Panic disorder and depression have taken my life away.

I was diagnosed with mild panic disorder when I was 20 years old. 5 years of my life I have been battling this “disease.” It all began when one night I was driving my parents’ Jeep Grand Cherokee home from the cottage. In a drunken stupor, I decided to take it upon myself to attempt to drive the Jeep home. Making almost all the way home 2 hours away, I crashed into a ditch, took out a road sign, and hit a tree. The Jeep at this point was upside down and totalled. I would like to think that an angel was watching over me that day, because I climbed out of that car without even a scratch on me. Luckily, I miraculously avoided all repercussions of drunk driving as well. Long story short, this is the big thing that began triggering my chronic anxiety and panic disorder. The next day, I woke up, and realized I was not happy with my life.

The thing that made me notice this was a combination of bad choices and that in the same week, my boyfriend at the time had broken up with me. I also lost my job in the same week. I was at an all time low. That is when it was time to head back to the head doctor and get on some anti depressants. Counselling and psychiatry with a combination of medication have begun my transformation into what I hope will be a better person. I would say the combination of all three of those things is the point in my life where I realize that I’m not happy.

When I explain to people why I don’t drive, they just don’t get it. I am scared to even ride in a vehicle. My hands get clammy, sweaty, and I usually carry a water bottle and my sweater with me just for security. My hoodie makes me feel secure. When I get too nerved up, I simply recline the vehicle chair and cover my face with my security blanket, while breathing in the fresh air from outside. My friends don’t understand it. My best friend Hali is constantly asking me what is wrong whenever I ride with her. The only time I feel completely comfortable in a vehicle, sadly, is when I have alcohol in my system (which since the crash, isn’t very often that I drink). I am not happy because I cannot be independent without feeling like I’m about to die.

I just wish every person could understand and experience the feeling of anxiety. Why? Because when I talk to people about it, they look at me like I should be locked up. Because I get the looks toward me like I’m crazy. I think if you actually experienced that nerve-wracking feeling that I get – palms sweaty, can’t breathe, knees weak, light headed, feeling of nausea – then maybe I would feel more comfortable. However, I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. It has been a 5 year struggle since the crash, but I am starting to feel more comfortable in my own skin. If it weren’t for that ONE mistake, I probably would still be on the road. So of course, I sit here and kick myself in the ass every single day over it.

Now let’s take a second to think about where I’m gonna go from here and what I personally want in life. I want to be happy. I want a family. I want two children, a couple dogs, and a nice house. However, it’s a struggle to see this as a reality due to the fact of anxiety and panic. I’m currently a college dropout with a 3 day a week job. It’s hard to look at the future in a positive light, but I just keep trudging through the deep, deep snow.

Here’s what it looks like in my head now:
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Here’s what I wish it would look like:
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My name is Brad, and I deserve better than this.
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My Name is Emily

Emily’s Story

“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.
Learned.
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
“Never again”
slowly seeped into
“Yes I can”.

 

What I wish it would look like:

 
 
 
 
 
 

Silence.
 
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.”

 

If you would like your story featured on this blog as part of Project: Better Than This, please click here, read the guidelines, and email your story.