Trigger warning: self harm, suicide, substance abuse, panic attacks, bullying
This is really hard for me to write because people only know part of my story, and I was terrified to share it. But I was given the opportunity to share my story thanks to Ali! I also wanted to share my story in hopes of maybe helping at least one person out there struggling.
For the sake of saving time, I will not go into full detail about my life and the things that happened, but this is my story.
I grew up like any other kid in the 90s for the most part, but I was shy. I always felt like nobody wanted to be my friend. I would try my hardest to fit in and it just wouldn’t work. I never hung out with kids my own age, but I would try my very best to get along with them. I’ve been told that I have an “old soul.”
I would draw and paint, and I loved music. I was bullied a lot in school; I wore super thick glasses because I have very bad vision due to having meningitis when I was four months old. I was called “four eyes.” I started to gain weight and I was constantly bullied for it. I cannot express how many times I came home crying because of people making fun of me. They would call me “stupid” because I had a learning disability and I would have to be pulled out of class during a test or just to get help in my classes.
I would try my very best to “fit in” and to make friends, but it just wouldn’t happen. In 2001, my family and I moved out of my Grandpa’s trailer and moved to our current residence. Again, I tried my very best to make friends in my new school, but I was the new kid in school and I was shy. I would have a few acquaintances, but they all had friends of their own and it wasn’t until 2004 that I had a real best friend. I was 14 years old.
In grade school, sixth grade was the absolute worst for me. Kids would make fun of me because I had glasses, short hair with bad highlights, and I was overweight. That’s probably the first time that I discovered self harming. I felt like I was ugly and that I deserved to feel the pain. Sixth grade was the worst for me, but I worked hard at passing all of my classes, because all I wanted to do was get out of that place.
I started junior high, and things were still bad. I remember on the first day of school I was made fun of and then going home and self harming. In the next few weeks, I met my best friend Ali (who created this blog) through a mutual friend, and we instantly clicked because we were both in band and we loved music.
My best friend and music were the only things that made junior high tolerable. Then Ali had to leave for high school, as she was a grade year higher than me. Eighth grade was the worst because I didn’t really have any friends, just acquaintances. They would say hi to me and walk off to their own friends. I didn’t fit in with any group.
I hated middle school so much that I would purposely miss the bus, pretend I was sick, or hide behind the shed. My mom would have to work from 6pm to 6am and she would be too tired to bring me to school. My dad would already be at work. To be honest, I don’t know how my parents and I didn’t get in trouble for truancy or how I passed school.
I managed to get through eighth grade with my grades; I was determined to get out. Soon after, I was in high school and reunited with Ali again. She made school bearable and so did band class. We were both in marching band and concert band. Once she graduated, senior year was hell for me. I was alone and I didn’t have any real friends; they were all come and go. I struggled hard in school with trying to pass everything and preparing myself for college, but not knowing what I wanted to go to college for.
I, once again, focused on graduating high school. I graduated, and I worked hard for my diploma that I’m still proud of to this day. Then I started college, and it was easier, because I learned that I didn’t have to fit in and it wasn’t anything like public school. I could truly be myself and there were others who didn’t care about how I looked or the way I acted.
I started off as an English major, but after a semester and a half, I found out that I hated writing papers and it just wasn’t for me. I wanted to be an English major so that I could write for the papers, magazines, and even writing my own novels. I changed to a graphic design major. In 2011, I joined the Spirit of Northwestern marching band. Art and music were the only things that I was decent at. I’m not really good at anything else. I loved being an art major.
In 2012 is probably when my mental illness “unofficially” started. Things were getting rough for me and depression was creeping in on me, and the old demons from middle school came back telling me that I wasn’t good enough and that I was a failure. I went to the doctor and I was put on different depression meds, but not a single one worked for me.
I took a job handing out samples in a wholesale store in 2012. It was my decision to work for this company. At first, it was okay; my bosses were nice for the most part. As the months rolled by, things only got worse at the job. I was made fun of behind my back and in front. I was bullied by adults twenty years older than me. That’s when the self harm and the self hatred got worse. I would come home from work and I would cry my eyes out and self harm.
Then, I discovered sleeping pills, and they were the catalyst for my addictions. I would take them; anything to make me go to sleep and forget about what happened that day, but I became addicted to them. I became addicted to sleeping and not being awake just to be away from the pain for a little while. I then started mixing them with alcohol and became addicted to that.
In 2014, I tried to end my life. I wasn’t thinking about anybody or anything; the only thing I was thinking about was ending my life, to end the pain, and to just end it all and not exist in this world anymore. I took a handful of sleeping pills and laid in my bed waiting for my eyes to close forever. My mom came in to see me, but she didn’t know what happened, and I never told her. I was in and out of consciousness and somehow, I made it out alive.
To this day, I don’t know how I lived after that incident, and as I think about it today, there’s some unknown reason for me to be alive. The drinking got worse; I would drink until I passed out. Just about every day I would show up to school or work hungover. Nobody said anything, so I continued on my destructive path. I eventually quit my job and I tried to find work, but nobody was calling me for interviews and my depression was getting worse. I eventually got a job as a cashier at a grocery store and I hated it, but I pushed through and now I’ve been at the job for about six years. I found a therapist, and it was what I needed. I needed to speak with a professional about my mental illness and the demons that reside in my mind. Everything seemed okay at first, but things were only getting worse.
I was becoming a monster and I was harming those around me. I indirectly verbally harassed people that I loved, making horrible, nasty posts about them and called them names. I was turning into the one thing that had messed with me since I was a kid. I became a bully.
On April 28, 2015, I had to go to the hospital. I took some sleeping pills and drank. I felt like I was dying; my heart was pounding, I was shaking, and my body went cold. I honestly thought I was dying, but I later found out I was hyperventilating. I’ve had panic attacks before, but this was by far the worst one I’d ever had. It got to the point where I had to go to the emergency room.
It all came crashing down in that hospital room. I admitted to everything. I admitted to the day I tried to kill myself with the pills, the suicidal thoughts, the self harm, and the demons that reside in my mind from the past. It was all exposed like a nerve. I was placed under a close watch so that I wouldn’t do anything to myself or others or that I wouldn’t walk out. I didn’t know that admitting all of it would cause me to be put in a mental hospital.
I won’t go into full detail about the hospital stay, but it’s what I needed. I was diagnosed with bipolar depression, borderline personality disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder. Maybe this is why none of the antidepressants I was on weren’t working for me. I was released from the hospital, and as soon as I got out, I literally kissed the ground.
As soon as I got home, I had to adjust to life at home, work, and school. It was hard and my addictions and old ways of thinking were creeping back into my mind, but with therapy, I would banish those thoughts. In mid-2016, my therapist gave up on me. He told me to never come back. I was out of therapy for a while, but I started seeing a new therapist and I loved her. Eventually, my insurance costs were getting to the point where I couldn’t afford it anymore. A few months later I got new insurance, a new psychiatrist, and a new therapist. I absolutely loved them, but in 2018, I was admitted into another mental facility because things were getting to be too much for me. I had school, work, and my family life to deal with. All of it was taking a toll on my mental health. Luckily I was smart enough to sit in my advisor’s office and confess to him what was really going on.
I’m still very thankful to this day that he helped me out. He took me to my school’s on-campus therapist. I told them everything that was going on. They eventually deemed me unsafe to be by myself and I would later be admitted to another hospital. To this day, my advisor still checks in on me and asks me if I’m okay mentally.
In 2019, I discovered opioids such as hydrocodone and oxycodone. I would take them from family members who were seeing pain management doctors. I would mix these with alcohol. In June, I went on a cruise. My great aunt had oxycodone and I took at least 20 pills from her to feed my addiction. When we came back to the states, my Grandma and I had a huge fight. I called my therapist at the time and told her that I was starting to have suicidal thoughts. She said that she was on her way, but while she was driving, I did the unthinkable and I self harmed. It was the only thing I knew how to cope with everything going on.
As soon as my therapist arrived, she wanted me to go to the emergency room. From there, I was admitted into another hospital for my mental health and for rehab for opioids. I stayed a week to detox and to work on my emotional wellbeing. I was then released from there, and that’s when I would start going to NA meetings and meeting up with my sponsor.
As you are all reading this, on February 13, 2020, I will be seven months clean from alcohol and drugs and in July, hopefully, I will be one year sober from opioids and alcohol. Every day is still a struggle, and my mind wants me to go back to my old ways, but I know in my heart that I can’t do that. I can’t go back to my old ways and I have to keep pushing forward.
As I conclude this, I really hope that in some way, my story has inspired you in some way to seek help and to get the help that you or a loved one deserves. I want to thank Ali for giving me the opportunity to share my story.
If you are struggling, please seek help.
Thank you for reading my story!
Heavy burdens keep close company…
(lyrics by Kelsey Sprague)
To those of you who know me, some of these things might come as a surprise. But maybe it will all make sense…
To those who don’t know me, hi! I swear I’m okay. I’m working on things. That’s what’s so great about what Ali is doing here. We need to work together in order to break all of the stigmas of mental health.
Back in September (2019), I felt like I had finally hit my bottom (little did I know that that wasn’t my bottom at all). I decided to seek out therapy for the first time. See, about 3 years ago, I went to my primary care doctor for anxiety. Sure she helped, but she just put me on Zoloft and that was it. I went to see her monthly to make sure everything was fine. And for the most part it was. My anxiety levels were lower, I wasn’t letting the little things get to me, it was all looking good. I ended up moving across the country, and ended up going cold turkey (DON’T DO THIS) from Zoloft. I then let my anxiety get in the way from me going to a doctor again. It wasn’t until September that I learned that my anxiety and depression were just symptoms of something bigger.
When I found Timi (my awesome therapist), I told her straight out that I was afraid that if I said the wrong thing to her that she would hospitalize me. She reassured me that she had no intentions of doing so unless I became a threat to myself or others. We then started talking. If you’ve never gone to therapy and you wonder what it’s like, let me paint a picture for you.
Timi’s office is warm and cozy. I sit down on this cozy couch and we start talking. It’s like talking to a friend, but a friend who doesn’t know any of the people I’m talking about. A friend who notes tiny things I say and tells me what’s going on in my brain. I feel safe and I know that whatever I tell her she won’t run and tell someone else. She is a great sounding board.
Timi brought to my attention some things that I do, and diagnosed me with OCPD (Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder). What does that even mean? I asked her exactly that question. Was this something I would have to explain to people? Was this something I needed to take pills for? Would I ever be normal? She sent me to some articles, and it all clicked.
OCPD is one of the most manageable personality disorders (THANKFULLY). My symptoms that I suffer from are as follows:
- Perfectionism – to the point of being a problem
- An overwhelming need to be on time, causing me to get upset when others aren’t
- An extreme attention to detail
- Not being able to delegate, because I know that people won’t do the task right
- A rigid adherence to rules and regulations
- An overwhelming need for order
Because of these things, I have also developed some “ticks” for when I’m anxious, including picking at my skin to the point of sores on my arms and scalp, twisting and counting my fingers, and pinching myself to the point of sores.
As I sat there and listened to her list the symptoms, I just started crying. It was like I finally had a name for what was going on. And it wasn’t just me being uptight. What became even harder was when we started diving deeper into how I developed this personality disorder and how it affected by relationships with people close to me.
OCPD develops in late childhood, early adolescence stemming from a few different things. One of the major theories suggest that people with OCPD may be have been raised by parents who were unavailable and either overly controlling. Also as children, they were harshly punished for not being perfect. OCPD traits develop as a sort of coping mechanism to avoid punishment. This got me. This was all something that could have been avoided.
What prompted me to seek professional help was separating from my husband. We were together for 11 years, married 5, when we decided that we had just grown apart. We weren’t the same people we were when we were 17, shocking I know. But all of sudden my world was broken. My world was turned upside down. I went from owning a home to renting a room in a house with 6 other people. I didn’t know how to be me without him. I’m working on finding me. And learning that I had this underlying personality disorder that could have caused some rifts in my relationship tore me apart. I’ve thus learned that I can’t live in the what if’s: What if I knew about my OCPD? What if I would have learned how to better communicate earlier? What if this had never happened? What if I never developed OCPD? What if, what if, what if… I was driving myself crazy.
I’ve now been seeing Timi every week for 3 months. I have learned how to properly communicate is what is bothering me instead of getting angry or anxious. I still have my depressive episodes, but I’m learning ways to help with that. I have learned to throw a muzzle on that anger voice in my head that tells me how “not good enough” I am. I’ve done some major work on myself. Therapy is the best decision I’ve ever made, and I also got extremely lucky that my first therapist was a good fit. That’s usually not the case, and that’s okay. I still get anxious and I still internalize a lot of my anger, but I’m human and I make mistakes.
If you ever thought about going to therapy, but you were worried about what people would say, let me tell you what Timi told me. She said this on our very first session and it stuck with me. She said, “It takes a strong person to realize that they need help, and an even stronger person to want to do the work to make yourself better.” I had never, ever felt strong before. But each milestone I mark with Timi, I feel stronger and more empowered. I feel like I’m finally realizing who Dani really is. And that’s an awesome feeling.
Read Dani’s writing here: http://www.evrydaychanges.blogspot.com
I previously wrote a blog as a guest for one of my friends about mental health. For those that have read my last writings, I would like to explain a little about a part of one of three diagnoses. I’m going to try a little something new and personal. I am going to tell you about a few things that triggered my depression. Let’s jump right in.
I was twelve years old when I was unofficially diagnosed with depression. The reason it’s unofficial is because it was done by my junior high school counselor. See, I was made to attend grief counseling once to twice a week due to the death of a family member. The pain I faced due to this passing isn’t something any child should have to go through.
My loss was not one of a grandparent, aunt, or uncle. My loss was that of my mother. Now don’t get me wrong… I’m not belittling the death of anyone, especially any of the ones I listed. Please just keep reading.
I lost my mother in the early months of 2004. It was an accident but not one of the usual manner. I won’t get into details, but just know that I thank God every day my siblings and I weren’t there to witness what happened. I found out when I came home from school.
I don’t remember much about that day. I actually don’t remember much about any of the days from her death until her funeral. The grief that I faced that day was like none I had ever dealt with before and still haven’t to this day.
Several months after her death is when I received my unofficial diagnosis, and I was treated with what I think of as a joke. The school board’s idea idea of grief counseling was laughable, to say the least, but I did as requested anyway.
For those of you trying to do the math, she has now been gone for 15 years. As I have gotten older, I have realized how much my mother truly meant to me. She was my rock, my support, my hero. She loved my siblings and I with every breath she had and then some. She was so much more talented than I think I could ever be. She always worked so hard to support us no matter what.
I haven’t had her in my life to witness the most important moments of my life, and that can hit me extremely hard some days. When I think about all of the things she’s missed, all of my heart breaks; my husband, my wedding, but mostly her grandchildren. It tears me up inside.
Every day is a new day; a day for me to live for her, to do all of the things she wanted me to do. I told myself I would do everything in my power to do the things I would have done to make her proud, and I think I do that every day.
Unfortunately in my case, my mother isn’t the only contributing factor to my depression. It wasn’t until late last year that I discovered this. Late last year, I received my first real therapy session, which is where I received my diagnosis of extreme recurring depression. Going into therapy, I thought most to all of my depression was because of the passing of my mother. But I learned something completely unexpected.
My past medical conditions (two types of cancer) and my father were a huge factors in my depression as well. Before my mother passed, before my mother and father divorced, I was afraid of my father. He was physically and mentally abusing. He has, and I believe will always, deny this until the day he dies. Where my memories of certain things are foggy, these memories certainly are not. I discovered I didn’t just fear my father, but I resented him, hated him, and was down right angry at him for mistreating his family, for not being the father he needed to be, not being being there for me, and now most of all, not being a grandfather to his grandchildren, the very grandchildren my mother would have loved with every fiber of her being like she loved her children. For not being the father I know in my heart he could have been and chose not to be. Not being the man my mother believed in and loved at one time in her life so deeply, it hurt.
I’ve come so very far since I’ve started therapy, but I know there are other people in this world that are where I have been and let me tell you first hand, it can and will get better.
The first step is to stop putting yourself down and believe, even if you don’t see it, that someone is there for you. The second step is to always remember and love the person even if they are gone. The third step is to take every day one step at a time and live like that person is still with you cheering you on. The person you lost wouldn’t want to see you down, depressed, and sad. If you have a person trying to hold you down, forgive them then let them go. Lastly, live. Live every day because you never know what you might find in yourself one day. The person you may want to be is just beneath the surface waiting to be set free, and you’re the only person that can make that happen. You’re the only person that can make that choice for you.
If you find it difficult to find that person, remember there is someone that already loves you for you, and will be there to encourage you along the way.