My history with depression and counseling.

::Trigger Warnings:: Self harm, depression

When I was in high school I kept a journal. I spent hours on Xanga finding those little square icons and collaging them onto the cover and the pages between. I found poems, quotes, and lyrics that spoke to teenage soul. I wrote about school, friends, boys, and my overwhelming sadness that didn’t have a name. I searched for relief and some of my friends told me they found release in cutting their skin. I went home and wrenched about the cheapest razor in the house until I was holding just the blade between my fingers. I tentatively, carefully hid it within the medicine cabinet of my own private bathroom. It stayed there for weeks as I spoke to my friends about why they did it, how it felt, if it helped. I took all their information and when I could - their razor blades and pocket knives. I threw their weapons in the trash. I would come home and run my fingers along my little contraband blade. I would write furiously about how I hated myself and no one understood me. I would indulge my deepest darkest thoughts, plucking them out of my head and onto the paper. I wanted to be free of this weight, this heaviness.

One night I cut myself. I just wanted to see if it would help. I remember it hurt. I didn’t feel release or calm, it just hurt. I started wearing a sweatband bracelet from Hot Topic more often. I cut myself more nights, but they were always shallow and scared. I just wanted something to be different. Some people talk about the feeling of release, seeing their blood spill, but for me it was something tangible. I couldn’t explain the darkness inside, but if people saw my scars they would know. A sign that other people could see to know that I was hurt. If people knew I was broken, maybe sitting quietly in the corner would be enough.

I loaned a friend my journal so she could copy a poem. There was no email access, no texting, no Facebook walls. There was paper and pen. She wasn’t on the bus the next day. In first hour, an aide gave me a note to go to the counselor’s office. I went, confused. When I walked into her office, she was thumbing through my tattered journal. She was casually holding my soul in her hands like it was a Big Mac; I felt cheap and greasy.

She told me my dad was on the way to get me. A security guard had gathered my things from class and brought them to me. I remember seeing my friends through the counselor’s window walking across the parking lot to go the homecoming assembly. My friend’s mom had found the journal and thought it was “disturbing”. Everyone was in the auditorium but me. It needed to be determined that I wasn’t a threat to myself or others before I could come back to school. The counselor pointed out a few quotes - “oh, this is nice.”

The rest is mostly lost. My dad came and got me. I remember my mom looking under my wrist bands, but not her reaction. I remember writing a letter saying I would never do it again even dating it. I remember feeling frustrated that I had to leave school, hoping I wouldn't get grounded from the computer. Later, all three of us, we went to the psychiatrist's office. We sat down and she immediately offered pills. I will forever be grateful to my parents for turning her down and leaving with me.* Next stop was the counselor. We all sat together and discussed my situation. My parents talked to him alone. Then it was my turn. I was left alone with this stranger, Mark. He was holding my journal. I immediately felt anxious.

“So, your parents gave me your journal. I want you to know that I haven’t read anything in it. If you want to share it with me, you can, but I want that choice to be up to you.”

He handed me my journal and neither one of us knew it, but in that moment I was forever changed. He instilled a sense of trust in him, in therapists, that I am forever grateful for. In my 15 year old body, to be shown so much respect and autonomy as a person was remarkable to me.

Going to counseling at a young age, changed the entire course of my life. Through my work with Mark I not only learned how to cope with my depression, but also that it was not a weakness to need help. Armed with that knowledge, I have moved forward in life in ways that I could not imagine. Of course, that does not mean that I never have bad days. In the last 10+ years I’ve had some very bad days, even bad months. What Mark taught me was that it’s not forever. When I’m in the moment of the darkness, I can recognize and articulate the fact that this is a fluid feeling.

I have depression. And yes, I say that possessively because it is indeed a heavy sack I carry with me daily. Some days I wake up and I feel like I don’t know who I am. I feel like a stranger in my own body. Things that once gave my life purpose no longer have any meaning to me. My life is crashing down around me. But not as violent as those words make you think. It's more like snow falling. Gently, slowly, silently, but flake by flake all I've ever known blowing around me and falling away. I literally can't get a hold of any of it, just melts in my hands.

I can identify the feeling now, but I still fall short. In the heat of it? When I’m in the middle of feeling like an alien in my own skin and bones? I retreat to my bed. I don’t answer phone calls or texts. I lie about how I’m feeling. It’s never an easy thing to explain being upset without a quantifiable purpose. It’s an emptiness without a face.

Even with the best most supportive framily, you can still feel completely alone and misunderstood. Sometimes it feels easier to just not get into it. It gets old crying and talking about the same feelings you can't stop feeling even when you know logically they're false or irrational. They're there - heavy and bouncing around in your brain - but you know they're not real. It's my brain tricking me, I know that. It doesn't always make it easier.

It doesn’t always make it easier, but how much harder would it be if I hadn’t met Mark? How much harder would be if I couldn’t recognize what I feel? How much harder would it be if my parents hadn’t followed through on the school’s request? I’m glad I don’t have to know.

Until Next Day,
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*not because medicine is a negative thing, but because through the power of therapy I learned that my problems are manageable without pills. Some people cannot/do not wish to manage without medicine, that is a valid way to handle mental health as well. It’s all very personal.