At 16 years old, I felt nothing but emptiness. Love, anger, excitement, happiness—I only experienced these emotions through the story lines of the novels that I continuously read. My life was a constant world of grey.
I sat through classes with eyes glazed over. I listened to the current drama of my “friends” and stared right through them. None of it affected me. I was numb.
Walking through the party, I’ve downed a Bud Light Lime (my first beer ever) and am watching the boys in Ralph Lauren Polo shirts that their moms bought for church sing along to the rap music in the background. The girls take pictures identical to the millions already on their Facebook page from every other party exactly like this one. I retreat inside another Bud Light Lime, hoping the buzz in my head will overpower my feelings of insecurity.
I tap the nearest male and say, “Open this for me?” with the sly smile of a damsel (knowingly) in distress. His face is unfamiliar to me. I can’t recall a single word of gossip I’ve heard attached to his name. In my 300-person bubble of a school, this is rare.
“As long as I get a sip,” he says.
With a small smile of exhilaration, I nod.
For the rest of the night, Kurt takes the first sip of each of my beers and often the last. But I have enough of the sips in between to end up talking to him for hours, sitting on his lap, discussing my drink of choice and our common hatred of the people at the party.
Hours pass, and we move from the chair, to the counter, to the floor. He shares, drunkenly, his recent break-up from a relationship of three years. I listen, having no understanding of what that feels like. I share with him my displacement from everyone surrounding me. But I seem to be looking back at the numbness. With Kurt, I feel a connection for the first time.
On December 5, 2009, I began to feel.
That night, I found out what it was like to feel—to feel something visceral. I let myself be overcome by the happiness. I didn’t look for the oncoming trouble. The words of warning from others never made it past my ears. I wanted to keep this happiness at any cost.
One week. I had one week of unrivaled joy. The demons were just waiting for me. Everyone laughed at my blind belief in happiness. My naive, innocent barely-kissed-a-boy mind thought this was it, this was my fairytale. I won’t have to feel alone anymore.
But just as quick as I was to fall for him, he let me go–as most seventeen year old boys do.
On December 12th, 2009, I found out what it was like to feel pain. I found out what it was like to cry: not for some vague idea that my life was empty as before but for the flashes of my happiness—the lips on neck, small kisses of warmth, the dimples carving into aching cheeks. Those moments were haunting me. I cried out for their loss.
After December 12th 2009, I regretted ever desiring to feel.
I spent every waking moment desperately trying to get back to the numb naiveté I once had had. I wanted to go back to the blank girl I was—unknowing of pain, only knowing of desire. I blasted my ears with loud, angry music from my slim, silver IPod at any moment in which I would have free space to think. I left my eyes glued to my laptop until 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. when I would be so exhausted I’d (hopefully) pass out from fatigue and avoid facing my thoughts in the silence before sleep. However, those haunting thoughts would climb their way out of the hidden corners of my mind and grab my attention by sneaking images of Kurt rejecting me. I became known for the bags under my eyes
I no longer desired for excitement or emotion as I did before. I actually craved the numb painlessness I used to have. I looked back in jealousy and anger that I did not know the paradise I had before these tumultuous emotions plagued me.
And as all wounds do, after time, the edging pain of his rejection left me. I know longer felt loss, but I felt a crater in my chest, a hole, which the wind could whip through, a hatred for my life and its deficiencies.
The moment I met Kurt was a milestone in my development as a person. However, meeting Kurt is not what made me who I am or caused me to feel as deeply as I feel–I know that I would have struggled and suffered just the same had I not met Kurt. But I am so incredibly happy that I did.
My life continued after Kurt, I went on to my senior year of high school in which I had my first real boyfriend and my first real therapist.
This is when the signs of my depression and anxiety really started to come forward. I pushed down my emotions, as I still sometimes do today, which causes them to come out in other ways–such as staring at the computer until 3 am just to avoid meeting my subconscious in my sleep or unknowing panic attacks directed at your parents unjustly.
As I grew up, it was a fact to me that I felt too much. I was weak. My emotions weren’t real and I just needed to suck it up. So I felt I had to force them down in anyway possible.
All I can feel is the aching restriction in my chest. My stomach is sinking. I keep gasping for air, and I cannot stop. I want to stop. I yearn for the safe haven of my green and yellow bathroom. I crave the release I know is coming.
“Stop crying!” He yells at me.
I cannot stop, and it scares me that I can’t, and that makes the crying worse. Everything is outside of my control, and I cannot get it back. What do I do to feel like everything is okay again? How do I stop crying? I know what I have to do. I’ll find my release in my green and yellow bathroom.
My body convulses with rejection of the pain and frustration. I beeline for the bathroom. My mind flashes back to nearly identical moments of hysteria when I would scream out my aching pain into my pillow; I’d squeeze my lamb-shaped pillow for hours, pushing my face into her artificial shoulder until I cried myself into exhaustion.
I know how to stop this though. I crave the fix.
I stare at my face in the toothpaste-speckled mirror. Swollen under the eyes. Cheeks red and splotchy. Mouth contorted to a shape of torture. Seeing my own pain in my face, I sob. I desperately rip off my clothes, pushing forward until I can get to the one action I know can stop the pain.
I twist the knob on our soap-scum-covered faucet and take in the image of the shower I thoughtlessly used every day. The pink shampoo seems pointless; I am not in the shower to wash my hair. I continue to twist until scorching streams of water beat my skin red.
My breath drags in and out with increasing speed. I am losing control of my breath, and it catches in my throat, letting out a painful sob. I run my fingers through my hair, letting it get wet underneath the flow of water. Pausing. Procrastinating. Pondering.
Do I do it?
Staring down at my pale wrists through watery eyes, I see my right fingers trace cautiously over my left wrist. I find the pink, raised lines, which the flaky scabs have recently fallen off of.
Do I really want to deal with it again? How am I going to hide it? The scabs just finally went away.
But my breath is getting too fast. I can’t stop shallowly breathing in and out. It’s scaring me. I need to take control.
I grab my long teal-and-white razor with five thin blades at the very end and rip it across my wrist. Cringe. It’s a fiery kind of pain.
Slash it across one more time, pausing when it hits the middle of my wrist, so I can dig the blades in deeper, ensuring destruction. Smooth, fresh red assaults my eyes. It’s a fiery kind of pain.
My breath settles. The tears stop. My face becomes expressionless. My eyes focus on the dripping blood that leaks from my wrist onto the floor of the yellow tub.
The sickening feeling in my stomach, the restriction in my chest, the tightness of my throat, the awful thoughts that swirled through my head of my worthlessness—it is all manifested in my stinging wrist. It’s a fiery kind of pain.
My mind is empty as I stop the water and climb out of the shower, wrapping my wrist in a towel. Curling in on my arm, I resign to my self-destruction. This is who I am. This is what I have to do to stop the pain.
It’s a dull, dead kind of pain.
My freshman year of college is when the depression took over. I used to think that this was when my depression began, but as I have grown and began to understand my mental health, I realize that it has been a part of me my whole life–this is who I am. It is not all that I am, but it is a part of me.
It took months of hopelessness, darkness, crying at every available moment, and pushing from my then-boyfriend, for me to get help. It was the hardest thing I had ever had to do. I can hardly describe the mountain it was to climb, to gather up courage when I had nothing inside of me.
I began seeing a therapist and psychologist. I started anti-depressant drugs slowly and saw a therapist often for a few weeks. I started to feel better. Things were looking up, I had friends, I was beginning to enjoy at least parts of my day, I had depression and went to the doctor and fixed it.
Not so much.
It wasn’t until a year later when I realized I would struggle with depression again. It came back after breaking up with my then-boyfriend, when I decided I wanted him back. It was different, it had changed just like me. But it was back. It was the first time I was really alone with myself, without distraction. And inside myself, I found sickening, emptiness that hurt so deeply my cries were endless.
I didn’t want it to be back. I didn’t want to be depressed. I just didn’t want it god dammit. So I went along, just trying to get through the days without crying. And that’s pretty much how I got through, taking my medicine, pushing down my feelings, trying to look normal on the outside so that no one would find out–I’m really just an empty shell aching for help.
In December 2013, I began to feel loved.
Kurt and I had never stayed out of communication for too long since we had met in 2009. A few months would go by, but one of us would have a bad night where the pain of being alone was too much to bare and we’d reach out to the one person who seemed to always understand. In December 2013, Kurt reached out, he was having a bad night, and I talked with him until 5 in the morning. But this time was different because the next night, we talked again. We’d talk for 5 or 6 hours a night, sharing our souls in a way we could never with anyone else.
You’ll have to ask him why this time was different though. Each time I saw Kurt, spoke to him, or even though of him, it was always the same for me. I loved him, even when I was too young to know what that was and he was too young to accept it. If he was there, there I’d be too. And in December 2013, he was there. But he never left again.
Being with Kurt is not pain-free. It is not rainbows and sunshine that just wipes away depression or anxiety or the pain of the world. (Although he does do a pretty damn good job of making it seem better). Being with Kurt, I am myself. I don’t even have to think about it, I just accept who I am. I accept and love who he is–all the dark places and all his light as well. I’m not sure which came first, but I accept all of my dark too.
I didn’t stop struggling with depression or anxiety when I began dating Kurt. I still struggle with it, but I accepted it as a part of who I am. Honestly, and this is not cheesy line or a lie, I love it about myself. The parts that I love about myself–my empathy, compassion, sensitivity, open-mindedness, unending willingness to love–those are a part of my depression and anxiety. And in accepting this, I was able to better manage my depression and anxiety by paying attention to the way I feel.
It took me 6 years to learn this, but what I need to do all this time was just listen to myself.
By listening to the feelings I have, what’s going on inside myself, I can better understand myself and what I need to do to manage my depression and anxiety. I changed my medication and regularly see a therapist (which is where I got this novel idea), but truly giving your emotions the respect they deserve by listening to them means you recognize yourself as real and important enough to listen to.
When I was 16, I had met my fairytale man and falling in love. But my life would be boring if it were that easy. My relationship with Kurt for the past 6 years has challenged me more than my 16-year-old self could ever imagine. But it also has created the strongest force I’ve ever known.
When I was 16, I met my depression and felt I would never escape this pain. But, I did. And it comes back. Every day I fight. I am not saying I recovered, or this is easy, or I know the tricks.
I fight every single day against the seeping darkness of depression and the panic of anxiety. And I am a hell of a lot stronger for it.