My Story – Love

Trigger warning: This post contains methods of self harm, thoughts of suicide, and references to abuse.

I grew up believing that I was never good enough, that no matter how hard I tried or how much I did, I could never be loved. It took a long time to get over that. It took a long time for me to believe that anyone could ever love me simply for being a person, or simply for being myself. I didn’t think I was worthy of love, and I didn’t know why. Only recently have I started to come to terms with the abuse I faced and started believing that love isn’t earned, it’s a gift.

My parents loved me. I didn’t doubt that, but I was unclear on why they loved me. I always thought it was because of what I did. If I was good enough, if I was perfect enough, if I didn’t make mistakes, I felt like I could earn their love. That was all I ever hoped for. I didn’t know unconditional love could exist and even if it did, I didn’t think it would ever be possible for me to have.

This is why I tortured myself. This is why I beat myself, and choked myself, and starved myself. This is why I whipped myself and carved derogatory words into my chest. This is why I wrapped cords around my stomach and chest until they left marks and bruises. This is why I banged my head against walls and tried to puncture my skin. This is why I abused myself sexually, and allowed myself to be abused. If I was not perfect, I didn’t deserve love. If I made a mistake or if someone was upset with me, I deserved to be punished.

I saw myself as a bad person, as unworthy to be alive, as a prisoner owing a debt to society for my very existence. But as much as I felt like I deserved to be punished, I wanted to be loved. So I curled up on the floor or bed and told myself I had suffered enough, and maybe now I could be loved. I thought that now that I was punished, that now that I got what I deserved, I might be worthy to be held, to be loved, to be healed.

It didn’t come though. I just kept thinking, “Maybe if I hurt myself enough, I’ll be worthy to love.” The problem was that though I tried to increase the frequency or intensity or length of time I was tortured, it could never be enough. I was unworthy. I was a bad person and that’s all there was to it.

That’s why I attempted suicide. I did not admit that to myself before now. I told myself it was because I was lonely or felt like a burden. Those were feelings I had, but the reason for those feelings was much deeper. I felt like I was alone because I was unlovable. I felt like a burden because I couldn’t do anything right. No matter how much good I did, I was still, and always would be, a bad person. Killing myself was the only punishment that seemed to be enough for someone as horrible as I felt I must be. No other torture seemed to be enough to atone for my faults.

It took a long time and a whole lot of love to start changing those thoughts. I still struggle to do good things out of fear that I will do it wrong and remember that I am a bad person. It has taken a lot of people telling me that I am kind or generous or thoughtful for me to believe that I have a good heart. It has taken love that I didn’t deserve and kindness I did not earn to help me feel that maybe I do have worth.

It’s still a process. I still struggle. But I am learning to give love more freely and accept it more easily. I have hope that one day I can completely forgive myself, that one day I won’t expect people to hurt me, that one day I’ll feel like I don’t have to earn love. Until then, I am grateful for the people that continue to love me despite my thoughts that I don’t deserve it.

Reasoning Behind Self Injury

Last night found me curled up and rocking in a corner, trying to decipher between reality and my mind. I needed a grip on life, something to ground me to reality, to show me that I was not lost to my thoughts. The problem was finding that something.

Up until this point in my life, I would turn to self injury to ground myself. Pain draws you back to reality, not necessarily the pain itself, but the singularity of that pain. Knowing that something specific caused that pain allows you to have a connection to the real world. It’s like pinching yourself to see if you’re dreaming. The cause of the pain allows you to realize what is real and what is not.

However, I have made a promise to never self injure. I have sworn to not hurt myself as long as there is one person who still cares about me. I still miss it though. I miss that grounding in reality, the singular feeling that there is life outside of my head.

People look at self injury like it’s attention seeking behavior, like it’s a cry for help. Maybe it is sometimes, but I think more often, it’s just a way to check reality. It’s a way to realize that our mind doesn’t control everything, that the darkness is limited to inside us. It may seem strange that hurting ourselves on the outside would help us realize that the darkness doesn’t control us, but it takes us out of our minds and allows us to see outside of ourselves.

For me, self injury was never about attention. You will never see scars or marks or any indication that I self harmed. Yet, I went for days at a time causing myself pain. I still wonder if what I did caused permanent damage because I still get pain where I hurt myself.

What I want you to understand is not the mindset behind self injury, but rather the why’s that could possibly be addressed in other ways. Not having the option of self injury last night, I instead looked for someone to talk to, to give me something real outside of myself. I allowed myself to cry completely because tears were outside of myself. I felt the textures of things around me to get me out of my mind. And I focused on something I had to do externally.

It’s hard dealing with this stuff. It’s hard being locked in a reality of the mind that feels more real than real life. It’s hard to find ways out of your head without turning to pain and what you know. But, we can do it. We can overcome. We don’t have to give in to the pain. There is hope for us without being hurt. We just have to find our way.

Forgive Yourself

Do you ever insult yourself for doing something good? Criticize yourself for helping someone out? Degrade yourself for trying to be happy or make someone else happy?

This is my daily reality. A constant barrage of self hate and degradation with the occasional word of encouragement that maybe this once I really did do something good.

I’m desperately trying to learn how to be kind to myself. It is difficult to change the way you see and talk to yourself after so many years of pain and hate, inflicting what I thought was justice on myself because I was unworthy of mercy.

Every time I think of it, I just want to hug myself and say, “It’s okay. You’re a good person. It’s not your fault they didn’t understand. It’s not your fault they yelled at you for trying to help. It’s not your fault. You did your best.

“Chewie… Please forgive yourself… They didn’t know how much it would hurt you or how guilty it would make you feel. They didn’t know that you would torture yourself for your mistakes. They didn’t know that by telling you not to do something, you understood that you were a bad person.

“Please forgive yourself. You do a lot of good. Forgive yourself for the times when you were trying to do good and were yelled at or told you were wrong or made to feel like you were a bad person. Forgive yourself for being good and then maybe you can forgive yourself for the times you are not so good.”

I wasn’t planning on posting especially about this kind of thing so close to the holidays, but tonight I just needed to feel like I’m not so alone. I don’t know if anyone else understands, but maybe this will at least give you a glimpse of why it is so hard for me to see the good in myself.

Grateful for Depression

While depression is super hard, it is one of the things I am most grateful for in life.

About 6 years ago, I took a semester off of school and laid in bed with an unknown illness. I spent a lot of time online and joined every support group I could find. It started with autism groups and then I joined some depression support groups. My best friend came out of one of those groups. A lot of other friends and good experiences and positive outcomes have come through those support groups.

What I am grateful for most about depression though, is the opportunity to understand. I am not a very understanding person. I don’t see things the same way other people see them, and I don’t understand what people see or how they think. But I do understand how they feel because I feel so deeply with depression. I am so grateful for that understanding, for the empathy it helps me feel, and the patience and perseverance it teaches me.

I am grateful to be a better person and a better friend because of depression. I am grateful to be more kind and understanding and compassionate because of depression. I am grateful to be a seeker of happiness, goodness, and hope because of depression. And I am grateful that I can connect with people on a totally different level through my depression. I am grateful that depression makes me and my life better.

My Story- Introduction

Have you ever been so different that you just wished you were the same?

That has been the story of my life. When it comes to being different, I have experienced quite a lot of differences in my life. Racial differences, political affiliation, religion, gender stereotypes, disability, speech deficits, intelligence, poverty or lack of government benefits have all been part of the thoroughfare of differences that marked my young life.

No matter where I have been or what I have done, I was always different. I was the exception to every rule, the outlier, the odd one out. And I knew it. I have always known it and will likely always feel it. Not that I can’t blend in, I just know things others don’t know, I have experiences others don’t have, and no matter what group I am in that will always be the case. I know that’s a truth for everyone, but sometimes your differences don’t matter as much as other times. In some groups your differences don’t matter as much as in other groups; I have yet to find the group where my differences don’t seem to matter.

At some point, you learn to accept your differences and live with them. I am close to that point, but I’m still working on it. Growing up, I just had so many differences that I would give them all up to just be the same. I would have given up my intelligence, talents, athletic ability, anything good about myself just to fit in. I wouldn’t do that anymore, but when you are bullied, lonely, teased, and simply ignored as a kid, you’d do anything to be normal.

However, it is only through my differences that I have learned to be myself. When you are so different that you can’t even blend in by conformity, you learn to be who you are and not buckle under pressure because acting like everyone else will never allow you to fit in anyway. Through my differences, I have also learned compassion, sympathy, understanding, courage, perseverance, and ultimately love (which I am still working on learning every day.)

So, welcome to my life. I hope as you read about the different stories that have made me, me, that you will find hope, inspiration, and connection. I have never before shared the many stories that have made me who I am. As I write, I will be discovering along with you the person that created autismthoughts, underthesurfacepoetry, and servingaservicemission.

Why I Will Never Own a Gun

I have had this post sitting in my drafts for a while and with this most recent shooting, I feel like maybe it’s something I should talk about now.

I will never own a gun. And I believe it’s a decision a lot more people should make.

The blatantly honest truth is that I don’t trust myself with a gun. I know that I would not be alive today if I owned or had access to a gun. It’s just too easy- it’s too easy to kill yourself with a gun.

People say, “don’t make a forever decision based on how you feel right now.” It’s a lot harder to remember that when you’re actually in the situation though.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat on the floor with a knife or a rope or cord in my hands. What I can say is that more often than I intended, that cord ended up being wrapped around my neck. I can tell you that in moments of despair, you forget how much you want to live. I can say that I am so grateful I never had a gun in my hands. There are times when I found myself sprawled on the floor with some sort of suicide enabler, and I wondered what the heck I was doing. I can tell you that the result wouldn’t have been nearly as positive if I had a gun.

Now, suicidal thoughts are a lot different than wanting to harm others, but the point I’m trying to make is if you have negative temptations, don’t allow the possibility of negative effects.

I’m not saying this to promote gun regulation or say that you shouldn’t own a gun if you have some sort of mental illness. What I am saying is know yourself. And be willing to do something if needed to keep yourself (and potentially others) safe.

As long as there are guns in the world, there will be people who use them for bad things. I’m not talking about those things. I’m not talking about people who commit crimes. I’m talking about the good people in the world that break, snap, lose control, and then do things they would never otherwise do. I do not trust myself with a gun, not because I would ever hurt anyone else, but because I know I would hurt me.

As much as I talk about and think about suicide, I want to live. I love life. I love being alive. But I can’t trust myself to have self control and make good choices when I am in the grasp of depression. So please, if you are the same way, do what you need to do to keep yourself and others safe. It’s not worth the tragedy that could result if you don’t.

Old Wounds

**Trigger warning: contains thoughts on self injury and a form of self injury.**

The other day, my therapist and I discussed suicidal thoughts and self injury. I told him about my feelings towards what I did to torture myself. I didn’t tell him everything. It feels embarrassing. I feel shame about what I have done to myself.

It seems so wrong to torture yourself when other people are being tortured by someone else. But it also feels like justice. If you hurt someone, you deserve to be hurt. “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” was the law in the Old Testament.

It seems almost stupid now. It seems ridiculous that I walked around for sometimes days at a time with cords wrapped around my body. My ribs and sides still ache sometimes from the strain I put them through. And yet, as ridiculous as it seems, I still miss it. I miss thinking only about the pain, like it would somehow make things right – like I could move on from my guilt because I had paid the price.

I don’t torture myself anymore because I try to make things right instead. If I hurt someone, I try to apologize and make it up to them. Sometimes though, I still miss the singularity of the pain. I don’t miss the guilt and shame that went with it, but I miss feeling like it was the end. I miss the feeling of giving up and consigning myself to endless torment.

I miss it because it is hard to keep trying. It is hard to make things right. It is hard to know that some things can’t be undone. I didn’t have to worry about that so much when I tortured myself because I was being paid for my mistakes and hurtful deeds. If I did something wrong, I simply hurt myself to the extent of that wrong. Being in a state of depression meant that I felt like I did a lot of things wrong. Thinking about what I did to myself still makes me cringe.

I am glad I no longer do that. I am glad that I don’t have to walk around in  self-inflicted pain because of the mistakes I think I have made. Still, I am only starting to understand mercy and justice. And I am slowly starting to believe in mercy and let justice find another way to be appeased.

The Offering

Sometimes you don’t have to actually do anything to make a difference. Sometimes you just have to offer.

Today is National Suicide Prevention Day. Preventing suicide though isn’t really a one day thing. It’s not something you just do and then be done with. It is a daily effort. I have helped prevent a lot of suicides or suicide attempts over the years, but it’s my own suicide attempts that are what I celebrate today. Not the attempts I made, but the ones I didn’t do.

Today I celebrate you. All of you and everyone that has kept me from giving in or giving up. I celebrate life that wasn’t lost, moments that weren’t spent in hospital rooms, broken nights that were still laced with a glimmer of hope.

Suicide Prevention Day to me isn’t so much about the life not lost, but about the life gained. Yes, I didn’t die. But that’s not the beautiful part. The beautiful part is that I lived and am living and will continue to live.

What does all of this have to do with offering? Well… It’s not over. The night isn’t over yet. The darkness has not dispersed yet. My demons still come at times. But what you can do is offer. You can offer to be there. You can offer to help, me or someone else.

Today someone offered me something I never thought would be available. I don’t need it right now, but the simple offer made me stop  and think for just a moment.

The offer you make may be as small as a smile. A smile that implies offering friendship. It may not become any more than just an offer, but it could make someone stop and think and that could save a life.

Loving My Brokenness

Prayers are answered in strange ways sometimes. Sometimes it is through our weaknesses and brokenness that our most sincere and important prayers are answered.

I am constantly amazed by how well things all work out. I have struggled with depression for as long as I can remember, and I’ve always had autism. But I never suspected that depression would help me with autism.

I started going to therapy a couple months ago because I was thinking about suicide often enough that I thought I might attempt it again. I had gotten to the point where I just had to do something because I just couldn’t keep living the way I was. I needed something to change. So even though I didn’t feel therapy had ever helped me in the past, it was the only thing I could think of. 

I am so grateful that I got to that point of depression and suicidal ideation because it made me turn to therapy, and this therapy is one of the most amazing things that has ever happened to me. It has helped me so much with my struggles with autism. It has helped me with the deeper thoughts that lead to wanting self injury or death. It has helped me with self image and being a better friend and better person in general.

It’s not fun to be broken, but there is definite beauty in the brokenness. I am learning to love my brokenness because it leads me to help I wouldn’t have sought, friends I wouldn’t have made, and understanding I wouldn’t have had. I love being broken because I feel the difference it has made in my life. I am a better person because of the broken pieces of my life that have become something beautiful.

Depression and Doing Good

Yesterday I almost yelled at my therapist. We were talking about depression, and he was saying that depression is focused inward; so doing good things for others can help get you out of depression. Those weren’t his words exactly, but that’s what I was getting out of the conversation.

I couldn’t help but feel indignant. I wanted to say, you have no idea what you’re talking about or who you’re talking to. Instead I said, it doesn’t matter though. It doesn’t matter how much you help people or what you do, you’re still depressed… I’m still depressed.

It helps. I’m not going to lie and say that helping others doesn’t help with depression, but it doesn’t make it go away either. I feel better when I help others, but I often still go back home and cry myself to sleep. I’ll do something good or contribute my insights, but then go home to thoughts of suicide. I’m doing good things, very good things and helping people, lots of people. But the thoughts have not disappeared, the feelings have not left, and I am still struggling nearly every day.

So… Maybe it’s time to consider medications again. I’m just tired. I’m tired of trying so hard with such small results. Therapy has been great for my struggles with autism, but so far not much has happened with my depression.

I still feel depressed. I still think of suicide and self injury often. And I’m doing everything “right” by everyone’s standards, but the thoughts aren’t changing. They’re not going away. Exercise helps; eating healthy and sleeping helps. But it’s not enough.

I don’t like the thought of medicine being used to control my mood, but more and more I feel like it may be the only option. I just want to not feel like depression is my default. I want to feel as happy as I know I am. And I just know I can’t do it alone.