Friday, November 13, 2009

Painful, ugly stories are often hard to tell. Yet they are most often the ones that need to be told. Our stories of pain, depression, apathy and self abuse allow others to understand that they are not alone. When we dig deeply into our own sordid pasts, tell the stories we wish were not true, that is when we are most helpful to others. As with many difficult things in life, the first step is the hardest.

I grew up in a middle class home. A Christian home. I was not abused or tormented in any way. I was also never told that I mattered. I was never encouraged. For an introspective, sensitive child such as myself, this was the worst possible scenario. I felt guilty that I felt bad about myself. After all, there were many people in the world who had things much worse off than I. Who was I to wallow in self pity?

These conflicting emotions led me down an extremely destructive path for a number of years. I didn't really care enough about myself to care that I was self-destructing. I never actively tried to kill myself, but I certainly did not care if I lived or died. I wished many times that I had never been born. I had no purpose or future beyond taking up space on the planet. I pushed people away and then lamented that I had no one in my life who cared about me. I drank myself into oblivion in an attempt to numb my feelings of worthlessness. I slept with random strangers in an attempt to find acceptance. I starved myself in an attempt to be more attractive. None of it worked. I felt isolated, alone and scared and I had no idea how to feel any other way.

One morning, after a particularly intoxicating night out, I had a moment of clarity that pierced the darkness just enough for me to understand that I mattered and what I was doing to myself was not okay. That was the beginning of the end of the self loathing chapter in my life. Oh, the pain surely did not stop that day. Nor the next one after that, for that matter. I had a long row to hoe in order to undo all of the damage I had done to my psyche and to my body over the years. Some of the damage I had done could never be undone. I was left with battle scars - self inflicted wounds of the war I had waged with myself for such a long time. They are reminders to me to this day that I never want to be in that place again. I thank my God that I never have to be. Luckily I did survive. By all accounts I should not have, but I did and grateful I am for that.

I wish, that back when I needed help discovering my value in the world, there had been a group like To Write Love on Her Arms. It would have been a tremendous help for me to know that I was not alone in my misery - not in a 'misery loves company' type of way, but in a 'there is strength in numbers' sort of way. My dark night of the soul happened more than 20 years ago, however, so there was no Internet, no way to connect in a positive way with other people who were struggling like me. I did the work on my own to get better, but I feel it took me much longer because I felt such guilt and shame. I couldn't even share my most private thoughts with my family for fear of condemnation. I fear that even now. Guess I still have some work to do.

Yes, it would have been better to have had a shared journey with others. It is too late for that for me, but it is not too late for you to understand that you are not alone. There are people in the world who have been through or are going through just what you are. No matter how dark, depressing, anxious or destructive your life has become there is always someone else who can relate. Not only that, there is also always hope. No one is beyond redemption. No life is beyond hope. There are people who don't even know you who are willing to love you through the dark times and bring you into the light of a brighter future.

I am one person among many who loves you without ever having met you. That is why I have chosen to take a huge leap of faith and not post this journal anonymously as I first intended to. I have decided to be brave and put my past out there for you to see that past mistakes are not something to be ashamed of. I have also shown my support today for all who feel the pain of depression, addiction, thoughts of suicide and just plain self loathing by joining others in writing LOVE on my arms. It is my simple act of support to let you know that I know what you are going through. I know how you feel. I have been there. Let this day not be the end, but yet a new beginning. Let me and others like me love you.