By: Deborah Dalcin
Almost as far back as I can remember, I suspected something was wrong with me. As a child I was quietly critical of my body and general mannerisms. I would study other girls in my class and wonder why I wasn’t pretty too. I wasn’t hideous, or ugly, I looked like a little girl with a shy smile, but something kept whispering doubts in my head every day and normally I could ignore it. When I was an adolescent the doubts crystallized into one fact that I knew with all certainty. I was a monster. I didn’t deserve to live, let alone interact with other people. I was a reject, doomed to watch my friends and family live their lives behind a glass wall.
At first I could reason away these thoughts, I didn’t yet have suicidal feelings, just the feeling that I wanted to run away from everything and everyone I knew. But slowly I stopped being open with my thoughts and feelings, as much as an eleven-year-old could be. I tried to push my friends away, in order to save them from myself. Fortunately, they didn’t leave me and have not to this day. As school went on, I continued to build a prison of dark thoughts, painful punishments and above all, fear. I became terrified of the voice that abused, berated and hurt me. Some days there was an almost-constant stream of whispers and screams telling me how worthless I was, to kill myself, that nobody loved me and all I did was hurt the people around me. Even when I wasn’t hearing those words, the fear that they would come back incapacitated me. Entering high school and the divorce of my parents a couple of years later made everything much worse. There were days when I stayed home because the thought of going to school that day made me burst into tears. Those days and many afternoons were spent sitting at a window in my bedroom in the attic for hours, wondering if the fall out of the window would kill me or just paralyze me.
I began to experiment with self-punishment. At first I tried cutting, looking for the numbness that I had read about in books. No matter how hard I tried, the pain was always too much for me to inflict more than a few scratches on an arm or leg and each time I would tell myself that I deserved much worse. For a long time I wrote out long lists of the flaws I perceived in myself and then tried to tally up all the times I had indulged or succumbed to any of them throughout the day. I drew pictures of people being flogged, blood running down their bodies, being wrapped up in words until they suffocated, or just sitting in complete isolation and abandonment. Sometimes I would tell my friends, but each time I did I felt as if I had betrayed them and tried to draw too much attention to myself. If not for my promise that I would take care of my mother in the wake of her divorcing my father, I don’t doubt that I would have attempted suicide at least once. As much as I hated myself and was convinced that everyone else did as well, I felt overwhelmingly guilty for the suicidal thoughts that continued to plague me.
Over the next five or so years I destroyed at least one relationship and probably put a few of my friends through a worse time than they deserved. I drank too much, snapped and railed against anyone that would listen and, quite often, cried myself to sleep. Still, I held down a job and went to college, choosing to hide away in work than think too much about what I was feeling. I had a system, it was a system that made me want to run far away, to hide from my friends, but it was so familiar that I was too scared to break away from it. It took a long time to begin breaking it down and today I can feel old habits rising back up, the tendency to bow my head as I walk, to brood on the choices I’ve made in my life and to Google how many antidepressants it would take to kill myself. Bad as those things sound, they were constants in a chaotic world that I didn’t understand and they gave me rules to follow safely.
Today, I can’t say I’m a changed person, though I have changed and I’ve discovered a lot about myself. I’ve also discovered that I have a lot of friends, somehow or another, all these people connected with me and give me a hug when they see me at a gathering. Sometimes it feels overwhelming and I doubt that they really care about me at all, but the moments when I realize how lucky I am to have them make me happy in a way I haven’t felt in years. I don’t think depression is something anyone kicks for good, it leaves scars and wounds in you, little cracks that it can slip through and reassert its hold over you. I do think that depression is something that more people should be open about, more importantly they should not feel afraid or ashamed to be open about it. It’s a grey monster that drains the happiness you feel from your favorite past times, it sucks away the motivation to improve yourself, it walls you away from people that love you and eventually it’s taken so much away that it finally claims you, entirely. Being able to tell someone else what you’re struggling with is one step towards fighting it and I hope that, if any of this resonated with you, you keep fighting until you win yourself back.