I thought it was important for me to share my own full-length story with all of you.
I know that most of my mental health struggles stemmed from my parent’s divorce. The divorce happened when I was 9 years old. My dad left our home and moved to Washington state. I adored my dad! Many of my childhood memories are centered around him. When he left, I was devastated, to say the least.
Our family that was left at home also began to fall apart. My brothers were finding outlets and I felt alone. My little sister was, too young for me to build a dependent relationship with her. She was only 5. None of us turned to each other for help, we were all against each other. Always angry at someone for something. Thus, there was constant yelling in the house. I don’t remember much of anything else, but yelling.
Going back to school that year after the divorce was the hardest and scariest thing I had ever gone through in my very young life. I remember asking my mom what I should do if I started to cry in class because I missed my dad. I don’t even remember what she told me. But, that’s the year the bullying started.
I was the only kid in my grade during elementary school whose parents were divorced. I was emotionally bullied from that year on through Jr. high. Kids called me names, I was publicly humiliated by some of the “popular” kids, and treated as an outsider. They teased about my glasses, my hair, my clothes, my teeth, and my name. I thought everyone hated me. So, I began to hate everything about myself, including my name. I would even tell new people that I had a different name than my own because I didn’t want them teasing me about my name.
In high school, I had friends, but I felt like I was faking it the whole time. I felt like this really awkward, kid who lacked all self-confidence necessary to thrive in the world. The only thing that really kept me going in life was seminary. It was the one place I felt at peace. I would come home from school exhausted from trying to be this “person” that I didn’t even know I was trying to be. I’m sure most teenagers feel that way, I know I’m not alone in that.
A lot of problems arose because of my lack of communication skills. Since our family was unfamiliar with effective communication, I was (and was for a very long time) very quick to assume that someone is saying, thinking, or doing something to hurt me. Because of that, I’ve lost so many friends because I didn’t know how to resolve conflicts or even know if I did or said something wrong. My social awkwardness led to my social anxiety and now I have a constant fear and anxiety towards making and keeping friends.
I would always try too hard to be nice, funny, or friendly to the “popular” people. They would usually look at me weird and then turn their back and laugh at what I had just said. Then, later, I would mull over what I had said and beat myself up over how stupid I must have sounded. Then, I would promise myself that I wouldn’t go back to any social situation again because I felt stupid.
When Changes Started, I Was Still Struggling
My path to recovery started when I met my best friend. He “cured me” of my daddy issues. It has taken a few years for that to happen, but it’s true. I no longer feel like I need him to tell me he loves me constantly or that I’m afraid he’s going to leave me like my dad left my mom. But, I was still struggling with social anxiety and being okay with who I was. We would get invited to parties or outings with other couples and I would refuse to go with them. My fear of rejection was still very strong.
This went on for years and eventually developed into generalized anxiety disorder. My first symptom was that I had trouble getting a full breath of air. I felt like I was drowning. Then, I started getting heart palpitations, then nausea. I finally went to a doctor, who diagnosed me with anxiety, but I refused to believe it. I told him that I didn’t have anxiety. Well, he prescribed me a medication and told me to try it out to see how it worked. Unfortunately, the side effects were unbearable. I felt like I was going to die. So, I decided that anxiety was just a part of life and I needed to cowboy up and figure out how to cope with it. (That was MY decision! I’m NOT saying that everyone should do that. Ever, ever, ever.)
I had a few minor breakdowns throughout the next few years, wanting to give up on my family, my job, my friends, my husband, and my life. I was in and out of therapists, trying to decide if it was worth the money we had to spend on therapy sessions. It got to the point that we decided it wasn’t doing any good for me to go. At least that’s what I thought at the time.
Finally, after a few years without therapy, my biggest breakdown happened. This time, I was serious about suicide. I wanted to give up on everything. I felt worthless and I felt that the universe would be better off without me. All the years of rejection came flooding back to me. Since I was 9 years old, I was rejected. My dad, that I adored, didn’t even want to be around me. I thought Rick married me out of pity, my kids needed a better mom, and I was a burden to my employer. I had no friends, people thought I was a nuisance, and I was terrible at everything.
So, I spent an entire day researching how to rid everybody of my presence forever. No one would have to deal with me anymore. They could move on with their lives without me and be happier.
When Rick came home from work that day, he noticed that I had been upset most of the day. I knew it was important to tell him what had been going on and how I was feeling. When I told him, I could see the devastation, hurt, and worry in his eyes. I’ve never seen that look on his face. I felt worse at that moment. I knew I had hurt him and I hated myself all over again. But, he didn’t tell me, “I can’t believe you feel this way, ” like I thought he was going to. Instead, he told me, “Something has to change. It doesn’t matter if you quit or what, but something’s got to change.”
We decided together that I needed to quit my job and focus on myself and my family. Through lots of studies, prayer, motivational talks, self-help books, fasting, and LDS conference talks, I have been able to stop worrying about what others think of me, completely. Yes, I no longer care what anyone thinks of my kids, me, my family, nothing. I don’t care! The only thing that matters, is what we’re doing as parents to get our children on the path back to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.
We’re Not Giving Up!
If I have to see that look on Rick’s face again, I’m not sure how I could live with myself. I can’t scare him or worry him like that again. I realized at that moment that he loves me more than I can even begin to imagine. Giving up is not an option anymore! Yes, it’s hard! Anxiety, depression, worry, OCD, ADHD, fear, fatigue…it’s hard! Do I wish that experience never happened? Yes, I do! Am I a better person because of it? YES! I am who I am because of what I’ve been through. I am a stronger, more confident, happy, and better person because of it. I’m not giving up! I’m pressing forward with more determination and willingness to help others through their hard times more than ever before.
I don’t want anyone else to think they need to give up either. I know that my experiences are not as detrimental as other’s experiences. But, it is mine. Everyone has a different experience and a different view. Some might be viewed as a harder road than others. Who are we to judge that? Every path is unique and different from the one taken by someone else. I am always amazed at the paths some people have to take. But, even more, impressed by the fact that they get through it and they survive! The outcome is a stronger person who is invigorated by life.
Girl’s First Ski Jump
Listen to this girl. I can’t ever get through it without crying. Maybe I’m just a big sap, but listen to her! She is SO scared! Does she stop? Does she give up? ( turn it up so you can hear, it’s really a quiet video until she starts going down the jump)
Girl: I’ll be fine come on I’ll do it. Here goes something, I guess.
Coach: you can do this!
Girl: I’m gonna…I’m gonna jump. Whoa, my skis slipping off.
Coach: Just remember to never snow plow
Girl: Okay, no snowplows.
Coach: Just keep it straight and you’ll be fine, okay?
Girl: Do you go faster on the end run?
Coach: A little bit a little bit, yeah.
Girl: A little bit? Is it any steeper do you think?
Coach: Not much
Girl: Not much? Same steepness. It’s just longer. It’s just longer…just longer. Just a bigger 20 that’s all!
Coach: Yep, have fun!
Friends, you can do this. We can all do this! I know it’s scary and hard. But, you can do this! Don’t give up!
I want to hear your story! Please share it with me in the comments below or send me a message at chandra @ oldhighwaycottage.com.