Doubtful. Insecure. Anxious. Depressed. Irritable. Impatient. Confused. Misunderstood.
These were all the words that described me as a kid. I struggled every day with doubts and insecurities, anxiety and sadness. When I wasn’t depressed, I was angry. Angry at my family for not understanding me, angry at the world for being so unfair, or angry at myself for not being able to fix whatever was wrong with me.
I first realized I was different when I was 7 years old. My father had just been laid off from the job that had transferred our family from Puerto Rico to Miami, Florida. I would hear my parents arguing about money and how they couldn’t afford certain things that were not a problem before. I found myself always worried about how we would make ends meet while my dad was unemployed. Shortly afterward, I got sick to my stomach, literally. I had developed an ulcer and after many tests that were inconclusive, it was determined that the ulcer was result of my anxiety. The doctor suggested my parents take me to a child psychologist in order to help me acquire some coping skills that would help me through this tough time. Although my time with the psychologist was beneficial, it would not be the only or last time I would need one.
As I grew older, I noticed that life situations would affect me more deeply than it did others. I would cry at things that seemed insignificant to those around me. I was more sensitive and my reactions just seemed more extreme. The way I reacted to things led me to being misunderstood by my family and friends. As a result I would withdraw to my room in order to avoid getting hurt by others.
In my teenage years I started thinking that perhaps my sadness would be eliminated if I could just find someone to truly love and accept me for who I was, flaws and all. So, I started to look for love and acceptance in all the wrong places: relationships, partying, and alcohol. When I couldn’t figure out why guys wouldn’t stick around after they got what they wanted from me, I started internalizing that I was just not good enough and was damaged goods. My depression and anger were enhanced and I felt totally alone. The loneliness made me more desperate for acceptance. My behaviors became worse to the point that I would lock myself in my room out of fear that I would again engage in activities that went against my values. You see, I was a believer in Christ and I knew that what I was doing went against my core beliefs. I was ridden with shame that caused me to begin to hate my existence because I couldn’t seem to get my act together. I didn’t realize that I needed help.
A few weeks before my 18th birthday I found out I was pregnant. I was devastated. I cried myself to sleep for weeks. The hopes and dreams for my life flashed before my eyes. I would soon be a mother and my life would no longer be my own. I then had the fleeting thought that perhaps having a child would whip me into shape, cause me to straighten up and stop me from jumping from relationship to relationship. “Wouldn’t the child love me unconditionally and accept me”, I thought.
Unfortunately, even after getting married and having my son, I still felt empty, depressed, and alone. I could be in a crowded room and still feel lonely. My marriage didn’t last very long and I found myself feeling like a failure. I was 20 years old, hadn’t finished college, and was now single mother. My self-loathing was at an all-time high and I quickly reverted to my search for love and acceptance. This time, I felt worse because not only did I feel I was betraying God again by my actions, I was also failing my son.
My depression only deepened and although I did try to get help through counseling and medication, something still was off. I began retreating from my family and friends and moved away from my hometown of Miami to go to a place no one knew me. I moved to Illinois in hopes I could recreate myself. I thought perhaps my depression was a result of the environment I was in. Even though it did contribute to my problems, the true issue was within me and no amount of moving would take me away from myself.
My emotional rollercoaster was wreaking havoc in my life. I got married a second time hoping the relationship would make me whole, fix me, and finally make me happy. I had 2 more kids thinking that they would contribute to my happiness and I would no longer be sad. I quickly found out that no type of relationship would cure my loneliness nor subdue my sadness. The depression I was experiencing was just getting worse. There were days I couldn’t get out of bed and all I wanted to do was crawl into a hole and disappear. Caring for my kids and having a healthy marriage was very difficult for me. When my second marriage ended and I found myself as a single mother again I hit rock bottom and decided to commit suicide.
The morning started with me waking up in a “mood”. Then, I had an argument with my son, my girls kept fighting with one another on the way to school, and bill collectors kept calling. Something inside me snapped. I had had enough of this life and I wanted out. I began yelling at God “I’m not Jesus and I cannot handle all this you are throwing at me”. I wrote a letter saying that I loved my children very much and I was sorry for the pain that my parting would cause them. Next, I walked over to the kitchen cabinet and took all the medication I could find. I swallowed all of my depression pills, all the Tylenol and Ibuprofen, and all the pain medication I had left over from my knee surgery that year. Finally, I climbed the stairs to my bedroom and laid down to die.
A certain peace washed over me and I passed out. Several hours went by and the next thing I heard was a faint ringing sound. The sound was a text coming through on my cell phone. Startled, I got up and hobbled down the stairs still groggy from all the drugs I had taken. The text was from a friend that was checking to see how I was doing. When I replied and told her what I had just done, she called the paramedics. They came to my house and drove me to the psychiatric hospital.
At the hospital I met many others in my same predicament. It was a level playing field and no one thought themselves better than anyone else. I felt at home there despite my frustration that my plan hadn’t worked. I had once again failed at life. However, at the hospital I was told I had been misdiagnosed and I didn’t have major depression. Instead, I had Bipolar II disorder. That would explain a lot. I was then educated about what that meant and how to properly care for myself. After 4 days of being at the hospital and receiving a lot of support from the other patients and staff, I was told I could go back home. A fear washed over me which made me scared to leave and face the real world. The world of unknowns and ups and downs.
Once I was back home, my recovery was slow coming. But, I eventually came to many important realizations. I realized that even though I didn’t die physically that day, a part of me did indeed die. The part that felt that I had to be accepted and loved by others to be valuable. I found a new appreciation for myself and finally discovered that I was already loved and accepted by the Almighty God. These revelations allowed me to begin my journey towards self-acceptance and mental health.
I would like to say that the years since the attempt on my life have been smooth sailing but they haven’t. I have had to learn to properly deal with my mental illness through counseling, the right medication, healthy daily rituals, and a lot of prayer. Fortunately, I can now say that I love myself, flaws and all.
If you are struggling with depression, anxiety, or any other mental health concerns, please do not struggle alone. Reach out and seek proper help through professionals and loved ones that are prepared to assist and support you through it so you too can come to a place of wellbeing.