Childhood Depression and Getting Help

My first year of college, I attempted suicide. It wasn’t the stress of college. It wasn’t a new environment. It wasn’t the people around me that caused these thoughts. I simply had the opportunity to kill myself, and I didn’t know where to go for help.

I have struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts for as long as I can remember. I don’t remember a time in my life when death did not seem appealing. But I was never alone growing up. I shared a room with my sister, and I had two brothers so someone was always around.

I remember sitting in the car on the freeway and thinking that if I just unbuckled my seatbelt and opened the door, it could all be over. The thought scared me. The thought that I wanted to die scared me so much that I knew I couldn’t tell anyone because it would scare them too.

When I was a little older and could look over the side of walkways at the mall, I had recurring images in my mind of jumping off. I never looked over a ledge for very long because it felt like something was drawing me down, that something was calling me to end it all now.

If I ever found myself alone in the kitchen because the rest of my family was in their rooms napping or working on homework, I would be drawn to the knives. I remember fingering the biggest ones a couple times before I got scared and put them quickly away.

I remember being diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. I remember going to the therapists for all the testing, and then doing play therapy after I was diagnosed. It seemed pointless to me. How was playing with an adult and talking about my family going to help me?

I asked my mom if it was supposed to help. I told her that we just played and I didn’t think it would change anything. Of course, my mom didn’t know that I thought about suicide, the therapy was for autism. So my mom listened to me and I didn’t go back.

The point is that I didn’t think anyone could help me and I didn’t think I could tell anyone how I felt. I never heard the phrase “mental health” or “mental illness” growing up. I didn’t even know that there were healthy and unhealthy states of mind. I had no idea that someone could help me process my thoughts so I wouldn’t have to be afraid of myself.

The only terms I was really familiar with were good and bad. So I categorized suicidal thoughts as bad. I was a bad person for thinking those things. I was a bad kid for wanting to hurt myself.

I didn’t know the term, depression. If someone asked me if I felt depressed, I wouldn’t know what to tell them. But adults don’t ask kids if they want to die. Kids aren’t supposed to want to die. Kids aren’t supposed to know what desperation feels like. And I was a smart kid. I was a brave kid. I wasn’t supposed to be afraid of anything so being afraid of myself and my thoughts seemed ridiculous.

So I never got help. In college, I was alone a lot more. I had my own room, which allowed me to feel safe from others, but left me to myself. I drowned in my thoughts.

I desperately wanted to be saved. I tried to tell people how I felt. I just didn’t have the words. I knew the term suicide by now, but I still didn’t really know about mental health. I didn’t know that there was a healthy state of mind. I didn’t know that someone could help me become healthy in my thoughts.

I also didn’t know who to go to. I went to the other girls in the dorm because they were the closest to me. University officials didn’t think that was appropriate and told me I shouldn’t do that. They didn’t really give me other resources though. I went to my residential advisor, who was helpful but couldn’t do everything.

The thing is, we don’t really talk about what to do if you’re feeling suicidal. People say to go to therapy or to call suicide hotlines, but those things are just bandaids for the real problem. No one tells you how to find the help you need. No one tells you how to talk to therapists in ways that will help you get to the real issues. No one tells you that medicine is supposed to make you feel better and want to die less. No one tells you that there is a healthy state you can reach on the other side.

I’m finally at the point where I realize what I need. I have finally reached out for the help I’ve been searching for for years. I’m just hoping it’s soon enough.

Selective Mutism

There were years of school where I went through selective mutism. The teachers would call role and I just couldn’t answer.

I didn’t understand it. It felt like I was afraid of my voice. But I could talk at other times. I could speak to one person, but just not to many. People would look at me and wonder why I didn’t speak when they had heard me speak before. But I was very fortunate to have people who spoke for me, who defended me from substitutes who didn’t understand or were rude to me.

Teachers didn’t understand. They made it seem so easy. “Just tell me what you need,” they said. I wished it was that easy and I chastised myself that it wasn’t. I hated myself for not being able to speak. And I desperately wanted friends, but could see no way to get them. I tried to become invisible instead, which also didn’t work. In a world where everyone demands that you speak up, look them in the eye, conform to their standards, it’s hard when you can’t. And you get in trouble a lot.

If there’s any advice I could give to teachers, it would be to not demand conformity or at least not enforce it with punishment. Some of us are doing our best. We’re not trouble makers. We just don’t know how else to do things.

A Different Outcome

As I learn more and more about autism and therapy- past and present, I’ve looked at how I grew up and how different it might have been had I been in different therapies. I was only in therapy specifically for autism once. It was play therapy and I didn’t see the point of it, so I stopped going. Other than that, my therapy consisted of the school speech therapist and the occasional psychologist.

Now when I say this I’m not saying that this is the ideal path for everyone with autism, but it worked for me. Although I think some additional therapy might have helped with certain things, I am at the age now where I can form my own therapy and work on things that I specifically need help with.

On the other hand, I look at some therapies used in the past and I am very glad that I was not involved in those therapies. I look at stories and videos of children having meltdowns and exhibiting self injurious behavior and I think that could have been me if I had been in a different situation. If people had tried to restrain me from being autistic, if people had tried to pressure me into situations I was uncomfortable with, if people had forced me into the mold they wanted to see, I think I would have had a lot more problems. I could see myself responding to those types of things with anger, aggression, meltdowns, self injury, and even hate and dissociation.

I have a very strong personality and I respond very negatively when people try to change my thought process or emotions. I need to change my own thoughts and emotions. Sometimes with help, and sometimes on my own. If someone tries to force me to change though, it usually makes my behavior worse.

I was very lucky to have grown up in a house where I was allowed to process things at my own speed and find my own way of responding to things. I was lucky to not have been put in a therapy setting where I was forced to comply to demands that I would have negatively reacted to. I was lucky to be challenged to grow within my own realm instead of being forced into a different world that I did not yet understand and pressured to grow there. I was very lucky.

I didn’t start researching autism until I became an adult and learned about autism in my college classes. I had no need to research autism before that. I had no need to understand autism. The only thing I was worried about understanding before that was myself and the world around me. And I am grateful that I didn’t worry about autism back then because it’s a lot to handle. All the information and stories and articles and studies and blogs and comments and videos are a lot to handle. Knowing you have autism is one thing, but knowing autism is something completely different.

Now that I know autism better I am so grateful that my family didn’t treat me as autistic. I am grateful that my diagnosis didn’t change my life. I am grateful that I was able to develop in the way I needed to in order to become the person I am today. And I only hope that others will be as lucky as I was.

My Birthday/ Being an Aunt

I had a much different post planned for today, but something unexpected happened… My newest niece was born yesterday… on my birthday. I guess sometimes you have your plans and then God has better plans.

Anyway, in honor of my birthday, I have revamped my blog and I’ve decided that I’m going to start posting twice a week and see how that goes. So you can expect posts every Wednesday afternoon in addition to my usual Saturday morning posts.

Because my niece was born yesterday, I’ve decided to write about how great it is to be an aunt. For me, it’s the greatest thing in the world. I’m not a mom yet so I can’t compare it to that, but compared to the rest of life, it is pretty amazing.

I don’t know if this has anything to do with autism or not, but I really love children. I love children a lot more than I like adults. Adults don’t make sense to me. They do things that I can’t understand and say things that don’t make sense and are in general far more annoying than children.

Some people wonder how I could not get annoyed with children, but I think it’s because they’re teachable. Adults are often stuck in their ways and have to be right or prove their point. Children aren’t afraid of being wrong. They’re not afraid to be crazy and make mistakes and have fun and just be themselves.

Also, it is so much easier to forgive a child for making a mistake than it is an adult. Even if adults don’t know any better, it’s hard to shake the feeling that they should know better. On the other hand, even if a child makes the same mistake over and over, you can still often convince yourself that they don’t know any better.

I just love the innocence and love and simplicity that children have. I love that they don’t feel the need to be someone else. And I love the way they laugh like it doesn’t matter what anyone says about it. I love their freedom. I hope that we can all seek to cultivate that freedom in children so that they won’t lose it as adults. We all need to be a little more free in our lives.

When I’m with a child, I feel more free. I don’t feel different or abnormal or flawed. I feel accepted and valued and loved. This is why I love being an aunt.

My nieces and nephews give me the feeling of being whole.