I’m Still Hurt

As a child, I was hurt a lot. Mostly emotionally, but sometimes physically. I remember being teased at school and church because I couldn’t say the letter R. I was also bullied by kids who would ask if I was a boy or a girl and then ignore what I said and label me whatever they wanted.

Home was better, but still not exactly a safe haven. I knew my parents and siblings loved me, but there was a lot of fighting growing up. There was a lot of conflict between my siblings, and my parents, and my siblings with my parents. I generally stayed out of a lot of the conflict, but that didn’t mean I was spared from it. I still witnessed it and participated in the aftermath of it.

Experiences with a certain person in my extended family probably was what affected me the most. The other things in my life just didn’t do much to combat the abuse I suffered.

It is still hard for me to use the word abuse. It feels like such a strong word- that you have to have suffered for so long and been treated so badly that you were hurt beyond repair. Unfortunately, that does describe my situation, but abuse can also be a one time event. It can be something small. It can be something seemingly insignificant to everyone else. Abuse is simply when you are not treated in a way that is consistent with respect for your wellbeing. In this sense of the word, I was abused by many people in a variety of ways over the years.

For a long time, I could not handle what I had been through. Now I am at a point in my life where I can process what I went through and the effects of it all. What I have learned is that I hate myself.

I have hated myself for a very long time because I didn’t feel like I could do anything right. I felt like a bad person. At this point in my life, I can honestly say and believe that these thoughts are incorrect. I can tell that they are lies my mind feeds me because of what I’ve been through. The problem is that I don’t yet know how to change these thoughts and their effects.

I’m still hurt. As much as I would like to say that I am fully healed because I realize the truth, it’s just not the case. You don’t just overcome years of hating yourself by realizing that the reasons you hate yourself are not true.

I am a good person. I realize this. But I have gotten angry at myself for doing good things over the years. I was upset that I could not stop the desires I had to help others. I was taught by my experiences that if you didn’t help the way someone wanted, you shouldn’t help at all. I was also taught that even if you helped perfectly and did everything asked of you, a mistake later erased every good thing you did previously. So I am constantly afraid of being hurt.

I am constantly afraid that when I do something good, I did it in the wrong way or I did too much or not enough. So it would be so much easier if I didn’t try to do good things. The problem is that it is in my nature to want to help others. I see needs or wants and I want to help, to do something to make things better. This dichotomy has caused such discord in my mind. I hate myself for wanting to do good things because I am a bad person that doesn’t do things right so wanting to do those things makes me even worse.

I realize that it doesn’t make sense. I realize that it is twisted logic. I realize that wanting to do good things is not a sin or a fault, and I should not hate myself for it. But I’m still hurt. I still have years of yelling at myself for trying. I still have deep, well worn pathways in my mind that tell me I’ll never be good enough and I am not worthy of love.

Last night, I had a mental breakdown. I wanted to erase everything that I ever did for anyone else because I was tired of living so long trying to make other people happy. The thing is… I love making people happy. It’s my favorite thing to do. I just have hated myself for it and I wanted to erase that hate. I wanted to erase reminders of that hate. I wanted to erase all the times I tried but didn’t feel like it was good enough.

I don’t really want to stop helping others. I don’t really want to forget the good things I did or try to do. I just want to forget the pain of hating myself for doing those things. I want to love myself. I want to live for myself. I want my reasons for living to be more than just not wanting to hurt people by dying. But most of all, I just want to be healed.

I want to be whole. I want to think, “hey, maybe that person could use some flowers” and not hate myself for the thought. I want to be able to say hi to someone or give someone a gift or do any of the other things I want to do and not be terrified of the consequences. And most of all, when I am healed, I don’t want to hurt myself again. I don’t want to hate myself again. I just want to be free.

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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.

Depression

I have been incredibly honest in my journey of life. Since my suicide attempt 7 years ago until now, I have told people how I feel and tried to find words to explain the darkness. But when I’m really suffering, there are no words to explain it. I just hurt.

Depression for me is very physical. In fact, it’s almost all physical. When I actually get in depth with someone about how I feel, I break down while explaining that my life is beautiful. My life is completely wonderful. I have amazing friends. I have a good job with friendly coworkers and an understanding boss. I love my church and what I am studying in school and my family. My life is incredibly good and I know it. But… I still feel this way.

I have never had depression like this. Every other time I had depression, there was something wrong with my thoughts. I would get in cycles of hating myself, thinking that I was flawed and broken, thinking that I wasn’t good enough. When I wasn’t insulting myself, I was scared and lonely and hurt.

This time is different. My thought patterns are positive. I see the good in me and in my life. I enjoy my life. I love what I do and who I do things with. But there is a pain that won’t go away. There is a darkness that surrounds me. The depression grips me so that I cannot breathe and I fall. I plead for the pain to go away, for the darkness to end, for relief.

Yes, depression is an illness. It is physical, mental, and emotional. It is not something that can go away with positive thinking. And it can be debilitating. It can mean lying in bed without the strength to move. It can mean wondering when the end will come. And yes, it is in my mind but that is the worst place for an illness to be because your mind makes the rest of you work. This illness of the mind permeates every other aspect of your body because the mind is everything and when your mind is not healthy, how can anything else be healthy?

My Story- Suicide and Depression

Five years old. That’s how old I was when I first thought about suicide. I was sitting in the car on the freeway and thought, “if I open this door and just fall out of the car, it will all be over.”

Twenty years later, I still have the same thoughts. “If I just turn the steering wheel, it will all be over.” “If I just use that knife or take that rope or walk off a cliff or loosen my seat belt on a rollercoaster, it will all be over.” I know it’s faulty reasoning. I could miraculously survive one of these methods of suicide, or if there is life after death, it may not be over. It just seems like such a good option sometimes. It seems like the only escape.

I don’t remember when I first felt depressed. Much of my childhood memories are flashes of pictures, glimpses of what may have happened with some vague feelings attached to them. I know that I cried a lot. I remember crying in bed nearly every day from elementary school through middle school. I remember the loneliness was so real that it felt like an extra layer of skin too tight for my body, suffocating me daily.

Therapy seemed useless. How can you cure loneliness? Drugs seemed useless for the same reason. In fact, no one even knew. So there was no way I would have gotten help anyway. I couldn’t tell anyone I wanted to die. Telling someone would make it real. I was afraid of it. I was afraid of the feelings, afraid of the thoughts, afraid that if anyone knew, it would give me a reason to follow through on those thoughts.

I wasn’t always depressed. In fact, I was usually pretty happy, at least with the people who would notice if something was wrong. That was part of the problem. Why would anyone believe I wanted to die when I smiled so much? I had no good reason for wanting to die except for being bullied and not having friends and not being able to communicate how I wanted to and stresses at home and difficulties in school. But I knew I had things good. There were lots of people who were worse off. At least I had a good family and freedoms and God. Life couldn’t be that bad. So I convinced myself to keep living, and I did, and I did a pretty good job of it until college when I started my first suicide attempt.

I practically begged to be heard. I blasted loud music in my room with lyrics about suicide. I wrote Facebook posts and notes stating how much I was hurting and how hopeless I felt. It wasn’t fair to my roommates to expect them to save me, but I didn’t know what else to do. I was drowning and had no where else to turn. I wanted someone to blatantly ask me if I was going to commit suicide because I had a plan and I needed help, but I needed someone to recognize how serious it was because I didn’t know what else to do.

I did end up going to a therapist, which helped minimally, and I attempted suicide again when I returned to school after summer break. It was a slow downward spiral with little hope of changing. Of course, with the periods of happiness and hypomania, it still didn’t really feel serious. I made it through college though and moved back home for a while.

The thing is, the suicidal thoughts never really went away. I took medicine, I went to therapy, I did everything you are supposed to do to feel okay, but I was still broken. I had one year of happiness. One year where I felt so happy that describing the feelings produced happy tears of gratitude and appreciation. There were still dark moments, but they were few and far between.

I became depressed again, plunging into the same cycle of suicidal thoughts and darkness of the mind. I finally found a therapist that helped. I finally had hope.

I have hope. I still think of suicide. I still get depressed. I don’t think people realize the extent of it. How can you take it seriously when you know I’ll never act on it? Or at least will likely never act on it? Even though the threat is minimal though, I sort of wish it was acknowledged more.

I don’t want people to worry, but I do want them to know. I just want positive thoughts, understanding, prayers. I mostly just want to know that I’m not alone, that I don’t have to do it alone. I have accepted depression. I have accepted that the suicidal thoughts will likely never go away. I just don’t want to do it alone. I don’t want to face this alone. You don’t have to understand, but please just let me know I’m not alone.

My Story- Forgiveness

I could have named this my story of abuse or family or any number of things, but I decided to name it my story of forgiveness because it’s not about what happened to me, but how I changed because of it.

I had a pretty good home life. My parents loved me. In general, we were well taken care of and had everything we needed to live. But we fought a lot. My parents fought; my siblings fought. I generally did not fight and was considered the peacemaker of the house, which was sometimes a lot of pressure as a kid.

I also tended to not get in trouble. I remember my parents chasing after my sister with a shoe when she slammed the door to her room. I remember my dad telling my younger brother that it would be taken out of his blood when my brother had thrown a book across the room. I remember the fear of not wanting to be hurt and the pain of seeing my siblings punished.

I don’t want anyone to think my parents were severely abusive, that was just the parenting style they grew up with. In fact, the real abuse came from my father’s mother, my grandmother.

Up until about a year ago, I would avoid my grandmother as much as I could. I associated her presence with discomfort and pain. I don’t remember what age I was, but probably around 10, when the incident occurred that formed my most vivid memory of abuse.

I was at my grandparents’ house, probably helping them to paint or something. They wanted to feed me dinner. It was macaroni noodles covered in mayonnaise. I can’t eat mayonnaise, it makes me sick… But you don’t say no to grandma. So I had the great idea to flush my dinner down the toilet. Well, grandma found out what I was doing and took the noodles out of the toilet, rinsed them off and forced them down my throat. I still get sick just thinking about it.  I would rather be beaten than forced to eat something.

It has been hard to forgive that. It has been hard to associate my grandmother with anything other than hate and pain. Miraculously though, it happened this year. I stood there and hugged this woman who abused me, who I cringed at the sound of her voice, who I feared more than anyone in the world. I held her and softly assured her that things would be okay. I protected her; I loved her.

My story of abuse isn’t that bad. I didn’t get broken bones or physical scars. I did get emotional scars that stayed deep for many years, but I have forgiven. I don’t know how I forgave. It didn’t change how much she hurt me. It didn’t change that I don’t trust anyone alone with her. It didn’t change her. It just changed me.

I changed. I forgave my parents first, especially my dad. I forgave him all of his faults and the physical and emotional crimes I felt he committed against me and my mom and siblings. I forgave him because he is human. I forgave him because he needed it, and I needed it too.

Forgiving my grandmother was completely unexpected. I didn’t know it would happen. I didn’t know it could happen. But it has been freeing, incredibly freeing, to let go of that pain and that fear, and just be free.

My Story- Friends

I think my first birthday party that someone came to was in eighth grade. One person came.

I always wondered what was wrong with me. Why did some people seem to have dozens of friends while I struggled to even get one person to come? Was I flawed, unlovable, unworthy? Would I ever have a friend who wanted to spend time with me?

I cried myself to sleep most nights because I just wanted someone to care. My sister had sleepovers and went to friends’ houses. My brothers had friends they played with. Every outcast, bully, and misfit at my school seemed to have a friend. If they didn’t, they must have hid pretty well because believe me, I looked. I thought, if I could just find someone as lonely as me, I could be their friend.

In high school, I did make more friends. Not any that I could spend time with outside of school, but at least I was talking to people… even if it was just helping them with homework. I did have a couple other birthday parties and a few more people came. I didn’t feel as lonely. I didn’t cry myself to sleep every night. I didn’t think about suicide as much. In fact, high school was pretty amazing for me.

Then I went to college and pretty much had to start all over. I had suitemates, but they were stressed out college students that I had no idea how to connect with. I attempted suicide. I begged to be seen. It was an utter loneliness that I had never experienced before. At least growing up I had my siblings, there I had no one who understood me.

My second year of college, I withdrew for a semester and laid in bed helping every depressed, suicidal, or discouraged person I could talk to online. I finally had friends. It became an addiction. I wasn’t addicted to helping people. I was addicted to the feeling of being needed. I couldn’t lose that feeling. I didn’t care if it was real. I just desperately needed to feel loved and wanted. And I was hurt by many people’s lies.

But I gained a friend, a real person that seemed to want me around. I did everything to keep that- things I shouldn’t have done, things I didn’t want to do. But we’re still friends. We worked things out and our friendship is generally pretty good.

I still wonder what’s wrong with me sometimes though. When I feel alone and like no one really wants to spend time with me, I wonder if I really am flawed. My best friend is my best friend because she needs me as much as I need her.

But I do have other friends. I do have other people who don’t need me quite as much. Life can still feel very lonely. And when something disappointing happens, it’s easy to go back to my 12-year-old self sitting alone with my birthday cake and just hoping my friends got lost.

It’s hard to convince yourself that things have changed when life gives you evidence that it hasn’t. But I try to look at the big picture. I try to remember the good thoughts, the positive affirmations, the evidence that I’m not unlovable. Maybe one day I’ll really believe it.

My Story- Gender Identity Disorder

Up until this point, I have written one blog post specifically addressing my gender identity. My family and my friends do not fully understand the extent of my gender identity issues. I currently classify myself as gender-less or asexual.

I struggled with gender identity disorder since I was a child. My family does not call me Julia. They call me Chewie. (Yes, after Chewbacca from Star Wars.) This is the name they have called me for as long as I can remember. It is the name by which I refer to myself. Julia is like my undercover name and Chewie is like my secret identity. It feels strange to be called Chewie by someone who does not know me like that. However, I feel like Chewie is the real me.

What’s in a name? Well, for someone who struggles with gender identity, everything. It makes life so much easier or so much harder. Being called Chewie at home gave me a way to cope, a place of safety, a way to be myself.

I don’t hate being a girl anymore. I used to. I used to despise it. I used to avoid bathrooms like the plague. I would pee my pants in middle school to avoid using the girls restroom. I would avoid talking to new people for fear of the dreaded question, “are you a girl or a boy?” I would answer girl but be offended if someone said I looked like a girl.

People labeled me what they wanted, and looked at me strangely if I used the girls restroom or the boys restroom. I could not belong no matter how hard I tried to be one or the other. I didn’t have the characteristics to be a girl, and I didn’t have the parts to be a boy.

It hurts to talk about it. You can read any post, website, or article about gender identity or transgender and see people who don’t understand the conflict. They say it comes down to body parts, but what about people who have both? They make it sound so easy, but many are likely the same people who would call me sir in a restaurant, ask me to leave the girls dressing room, and look at me strangely when I buy feminine hygiene supplies.

It is only by choosing to classify myself as asexual that I have come to peace with my gender. It doesn’t matter what people call you if you don’t classify by either gender. It doesn’t matter if you get kicked out of dressing rooms or get strange looks by curious cashiers. I can finally accept that I will never fit the mold, and I no longer feel like I have to.

What does this mean in regards to the rest of my life? Pretty much nothing. I still attend the women’s activities at my church; I wear a skirt to work and pants as soon as I get home; I shop in the ladies section and the mens section interchangeably. The only thing it changes is my dysphoria in regards to my gender.

I no longer cry myself to sleep because I don’t fit in the gender norms. I don’t get offended when people question my presence or belonging. I am content to not fit in, to not conform, and to be who I am without letting labels define me.