Anxiety, Depression, PTSD, OCD and recently Compassion fatigue are all things that I’ve been diagnosed with – and struggle with every day in my life and in my work. Without explanation, these terms often equal to “mental case.” I’ve endured psychological and physical abuse, abandonment, trauma and a lot of hurt. It’s something I’m open about – but usually only if the subject comes up.
When you look back at the great writers and minds of the past, most of them likely had serious psychological disorders. Ernest Hemingway, Hunter S. Thompson, Spalding Gray, Sylvia Plath and one of my favorites, David Foster Wallace, are a few among the many brilliant writers and essayists who committed suicide. These were often combined with drug and alcohol problems – some type of escape from reality. Thankfully, I’m not in that place – but a long time ago, I was.
I had all the characeristics of a child who was perfect for being picked on: Glasses, boy-cut short hair, weight gain and early puberty. I also was thrust into the spotlight as a minister’s daughter – which didn’t help my self esteem but made me more shy than anything. And I had some emotionally abusive members of my family. All of these things contributed to a low self-esteem.
My childhood traumas – so many I can’t even list them all – eventually came back to haunt me in my young adult years. I had serious anger management issues. I remember yelling at my roommates for borrowing my cheese to cook something. Or withdrawing from them when they needed friends. I craved attention and made a lot of things about me. And if I wasn’t withdrawing, I was worrying too much about others. And I developed an eating disorder – bulimia nervosa.
In my mid-twenties I went through a lot of self-destructive behavior. Alcohol was my drug of choice, and combined with my antidepressants, it made me unafraid, but also made me vulnerable. I had joked about my many male conquests – even writing my experiences in dating and sharing them with my friends. But I was unaware that I was enduring a lot of emotional abuse by men who didn’t treat me like a person. In the midst of all these troubles – about five years ago, I was raped. By a stranger. At a friend’s house. When I was drunk. And when I told my supposedly closest friends about it, I suddenly became the Girl Who Cried Wolf. I wasn’t believed, I didn’t report it because I was a reporter and didn’t want my coworkers and colleagues reading about me – and I stopped trusting.
Then, four and a half years ago, my mother happened to be moving up here the day I was being laid off from my reporter job. I soon moved in with her, and her already bad health became worse. I now serve as her caregiver; while she’s very independent in many ways, I struggle with balancing a social life with a life at home, where I often feel tethered.
So I have all these neuroses. I could put them in a giant book, but I’ve laid them all out here. And it isn’t easy. Each day I wonder if I’ll ever be “normal.” I wonder what “normal” even is. I wonder if a romantic partner will see me and love me for who I am, and be understanding that I have baggage and I can’t help but have it. And that I’m not going to be able to take vitamins and supplements and exercise all this pain away. I’ve found in my dating life that men just don’t want to hear about your drama. No matter how much they have of their own and have bottled up because that’s what Manly Men do.
So this is my job, and it’s also my outlet. And this is who I am. I can’t change it. But I can manage it. And I can be open and honest about it in the hope that others will realize they have nothing to be ashamed of.
This is me.