I am alone and lonely, soaked in boredom. All I want is for something to change, some bit of happiness to appear that I can hold onto. But nothing comes to rescue me. And so, this dark and gritty place is where I have come to live. I don't think I will ever leave. Not with these worms of depression crawling within me, wrapping themselves around every drop of beauty. Only now they are more then worms, they've transformed into a monster, scraping, chewing, clawing at my insides. I clutch the pain of depression closely, until there’s no room to breathe. My knuckles turning white, I don't know how to let go. It is who I am, a sad, dark, depressed girl; a wilted bouquet of a person. I welcome sleep but not the morning. Every day I wake up with a tape player of ugly words swirling in my head. The melancholic theme of unspoken thoughts frightens me with crackled whispers. "You shouldn't even bother getting out of bed. There's no point in trying to go after the life you want, you'll never get it. You're not good enough for anything. You're worthless. You're fat and ugly so you'll never be loved. Nothing will ever change." Over and over these words scream in my head. I ask them to go away, but they won't. I beg, I plead, but still they stay. I believe them, so I detach myself from the world with only these self-destructive thoughts to keep me company. This was my reality - only none of this was real. It was a fictional place I created for myself. I invented reality and saw it as truth. It all felt so real. I was twenty-three years old, and I didn't want to be alive anymore. Nothing was particularly wrong. My life had all of the things a person needed to be alive. Actually I was quite fortunate by most standards. I had loving, supportive parents. Close girlfriends. A job that payed my bills. I was living in a city I loved following my passion. I was a pretty girl with an entire beautiful, magical world in front of her. Except I couldn't feel any of that. I watched the world from the outside and wanted what everyone else had but thought it was impossible for me to get. No one ever told me I wasn't good enough for this world. No one ever told me I was worthless or unlovable. That's just the dialogue I wrote for them. I was wonderful at manipulating reality. And so, if I was so talented at inventing my own reality, why couldn't I create one that was filled with hope and endless possibilities where all of my dreams come true? Because there was something incredibly sad living inside me that told me I couldn't. It laughed at me while I dreamt because it knew the life I wanted for myself would never be possible for me.
Wanting to die is the worse thing a person can feel. It wasn't just that I was depressed. I had a depression that was entangled in self-hatred, engulfed in hopelessness, and it all felt permanent. I hated my life, I hated every bit of it, including myself, and it didn't feel like it was ever going to change. I had tried to get better, I hadn't just surrendered to the darkness. I tried therapy, medication, losing weight, reading self-help books, meditation, I even started converting to Judaism. I spent time in an out-patient program at a psychiatric hospital. And some days I would feel okay. Some days strung together. But I always felt like I was faking it. This wasn't the real me, this was just a temporary version. And sure enough I would always slip back into the darkness. It was a lover that wouldn't let me go. With every attempt and every failure, the portrait of hope I so meticulously pained began to fade until I could no longer see it. And so there was a hopelessness to my life, like this suffering version of myself was how I was going to be forever. Everything was difficult. I just wanted something to come easy for me, one little present. Why did I have to try so hard for everything? Sometimes even moving was an unwanted challenge. Everything took so much energy. Sometimes, and by that I mean most days, even getting out of bed in the morning felt like an enormous task. I never wanted to greet the day. Snooze. Snooze. Okay, I'm up. Now just get out of bed. Come on. Get up. Get up! I'm up! I did it! Where's my parade? Buried in my depression it felt like I was collecting rationed energy to touch the world I'd escaped for a while. I was exhausted from trying to get better. Nothing seemed to be working. With all of these inexplicable feelings plastered inside me, I thought about what it would be like if I was dead. I fantasized about it every day for years. If I was dead, I wouldn't have to try anymore. I wouldn't have to feel this pain. And that's all I wanted, to not feel like my heart had permanent cracks in it. I could give up. I could let go. I could I be free. I saw no point in living anymore, not if my life was going to be like this. I didn't want it. I wanted to return my life to God and go wherever dead people go: the ground, heaven, oblivion. I was fine with any of that, because whatever I'd become I knew I wouldn't feel pain anymore. I wasn't living, I hadn't lived for a long time. I was merely existing in this world.
A LOOK INTO MY DIARY: JANUARY 16, 2014 I cried twice today. I cried because the loneliness is becoming unbearable. And in that mess of sadness and tears, I thought about which of my belongings I would give to certain people if I killed myself. And then I cried harder. I had done it again. I surrendered to the darkness and allowed myself to fall deep into the emptiness. I avoided feeling with bad TV, food, alcohol. All of which made the emptiness seem more permanent. I gained weight and felt ugly and even less worthy of happiness. When January 1st rolled around it seemed like an opportunity for a new start. Since then I've been fiercely going to the gym, eating right and really trying to embrace self-help articles. And for a while I felt happy, but like always, the happiness never lasted. I am so exhausted from trying to be happy. From forcing happiness into my life. I am just a fake. Part of me thinks I am happy, but if that's true, why do I feel so empty? Why did I spend all day watching TV? Why did I take two shots of vodka in my car right before work? I am ready for this struggle to be over. For just one part of my life to bring happiness with out me fighting for it to exist. Tomorrow I will try again. Because that's all I can do. That, or allow the darkness to engulf me and steal every bit of joy I hold onto.
I felt like there was something wrong with me, like I was different then the rest of the world. It was as though everyone had gotten a manual on how to be a human being and it was never given to me. I didn't know how to be a person. Life was a complicated puzzle and I couldn't seem to get my pieces to fit together. To me, the truth was that the things everyone else in the world could have, like a career they were passionate about, a loving relationship, peace with their body, happiness - these things just weren't possible for me. I couldn't imagine having any of them. And I felt alone in all of this. I didn't know anyone who felt the way I did or who saw the world as a hopeless and painful place. I had loving friends and family who I could talk to about my struggles, but no one who could look me in the eyes and say, "I know exactly how you feel because I feel all of those things too." So I pretended I wasn't any of the things I was. I got so good at pretending that even my parents didn't know the extent of my struggling. I plastered a smile on my face and went through the motions of a girl who was okay. On the outside I looked like I had my life together; I had graduated Magna Cum Laude from college, I just moved to California, I was following my dream of becoming an actress, I could hold a job (two actually), I was financially independent from my parents, I had friends and boys to keep me company. I was a girl who looked normal, who had a life that looked normal, except I wasn't, because my insides were corroding and I wanted to die.
If you had asked me, I couldn't tell you how I got this way. I do know that I wasn't always like this. There was a time when I was happy. When I believed in all the things I wanted for my life. The moment my life began to splinter was on September 12, 2009 when my brother was killed in a hit and run car accident. I became so sad and so depressed that I fell through the cracks in the earth and the longer I stayed there the deeper my hole got. When my brother first died, I felt numb. I didn't want to feel and so I chose to feel nothing. But emotions, they don't like to be controlled. And so the nothingness morphed into a heavy sadness and over time that sadness became depression. If you stay depressed long enough, if you isolate yourself from the world, if you rely on food and alcohol and sex to escape your pain, it's impossible for self-hatred to not creep into your mind like an uninvited guest you accidentally left the door unlocked for. Worthless, unlovable, ugly, hopeless, not good enough, unintelligent, disliked - these words began to accumulate and pile on top of me until I was buried beneath their weight. I had become a rotting carcass of my former self.
I wanted to kill myself, but I knew I would never actually do it. I couldn't do that to my parents and my sister, not after they had to burry my brother at twenty-one years old. I saw what his death did to them. And I could never be the reason for bringing that much pain to the three people I love most in the world. Every time I fantasized about killing myself, writing my suicide note in my head, debating between sleeping pills and a drug overdose, I pictured the broken glassy eyed look I saw in my father's eyes, the howling sobs I heard coming from my mom's bedroom window, and I knew my fantasy would have to remain a fantasy. Since I couldn't kill myself, I wished for death instead. I welcomed cancer or a car accident. Something that would justify me dying. This sounds horrible, I know. A privileged young girl wishing for cancer when an estimated 1,620 people are dying from it each day. But those were my feelings and a lot of times feelings aren't justified.
Because I wouldn't kill myself, I began to engage in self-harm in order to stifle the uninvited noise of my thoughts and make my life bearable. First there was the cutting. It was the only way I could find a release from that restless monster thrashing inside me. Scratches of my truths left scarlet decorations on my skin. Worthless...scratch. Ugly...scratch. Alone...scratch. Unwanted...scratch. Then there was the bingeing. I ate until my stomach swelled to resemble a pregnant woman, my skin puffy and hot, feelings of nausea. All I could do was lay down, I was in too much pain to do anything else. As soon as a binge was done, my body swollen and comatose, the voices got louder. Swimming violently in my head, but now shame was added to the mix. All the words, coated in shame. I started to gain weight, fifty pounds total. I was a swollen mass of my former self. My self-worth was so entangled with the way that I looked, I began to think that I was worthless. I was so ugly that I was unlovable. I didn't feel like I had anything to offer anyone. I hated myself. Soon the bingeing wasn't enough, I needed alcohol to drown out the noise of my shame. I liked to drink alone. To get drunk by myself with a pizza to keep me company. For years, this was my idea of a party. I began to isolate myself. I created a solitary life spending most of my time alone, locked up in my apartment bingeing in secret. This harmful behavior never changed anything. I was the same me, living the same life, with hurtful words still swirling around in my head. They just allowed me to escape my world for a bit. They brought me the happiness I couldn't find in my real life. I am not justifying cutting, or delving into an eating disorder, or being an alcoholic, because they are really harmful behaviors and they are all progressive. They kept me from moving forward for a long time. But they are also what kept me alive during the years I wanted to die.
I was wonderful at blaming other things for everything I felt inside me. I saw myself as a victim. Nothing was my fault, I wan't the problem, everything in my world was. I saw people who had what I wanted and I didn't understand why I couldn't have those things. Why were things so hard for me? Why was I given such a difficult life? I was a girl enveloped in self-pity pleading for a different life. I thought that if my outside circumstances were different, then I wouldn't feel so sad and hopeless and depressed on the inside. If I was skinny, then I would be confident, and then I would be able to go after what I wanted. If I didn't live in New York then I would be happy, because New York was the problem. If I had a boyfriend, if I wasn't a waitress, if I didn't watch so much TV, then I wouldn't be depressed. And so I tried to move around the pieces of my life. I moved from New York City to Los Angeles. I lost forty pounds. I got a boyfriend. I worked two jobs so that I was financially secure. No matter what part of my life changed, I still felt the same, because I was still me and I was the problem. It was the internal work that I was neglecting that would make me happy, not the things on the outside. I remember earlier this year stepping on the scale and seeing that I was forty pounds lighter then when I lived in New York. I had never been this low of a weight before (except for the time that I was on Adderall for two weeks straight in college and lost fourteen pounds only to quickly gain it back). By medical standards I was no longer considered overweight. I looked at the numbers and then I cried. I cried because I didn't feel any happier. I wasn't more confident, I wasn't free from the constraints of self-hatred. For years I had wrapped so much of myself in the idea that if I was thin my life would change. That my weight was the problem and if I could just lose it then I could have the life I wanted for myself. Now having done it and not feeling any happier I was scared. If my weight wasn't the problem to my miserable life then what was? I felt lost. The changes were never enough, I always wanted something more. My life bored the hell out of me and I was so tired of trying to make it different. Every time I changed one of my circumstances and didn't get the relief I was searching for, the idea of giving up and letting go became more and more appealing.
As miserable as I was in this unappealing world I created, I was comfortable there. Feeling depressed was all I knew and as much as I hated it, I felt safe in my depression. It kept me hidden from the world. Out there was scary, it was unknown. Living, truly experiencing life, that terrified me. In my own little lightless world, I was in control. I was the one inflicting pain on myself, and I knew how long the pain would last and how it would make me feel. Bingeing made me feel shame, cutting gave me a release, alcohol numbed me, TV drowned out the noise in my head, meaningless sex validated my unworthiness. If I was to put myself out into the world and really go after what I wanted, then I was left vulnerable to rejection. And that's what I expected, to be rejected. I thought I wasn't enough for this world and that is the story I wove around myself. I told the world it hated me before I even tried to experience it. I thought I was too worthless to get any of the wonderful things this world has to offer, and so I told myself 'no' before the world had a chance to. I was a picture of self-destruction. I held myself back from living because I was so afraid I would never be able to get the things I so desperately wanted. At least if I didn't go after them, I knew it was because I never tried not because I wasn't good enough. This idea of not being good enough was my own creation and I didn't want it validated by anyone but myself. And so I hid in this sad, ugly, lonely world where I could control my pain.
For three years I was alive when I didn't want to be. I didn't live my life consumed by my suicidal idealizations, but they existed in the background of my mind, like white noise that every once and a while I would notice and then I would turn the volume up to a blaring scream. Sometimes I would be so overwhelmed with sadness that I felt this way. I wanted so badly to be someone who was in love with being alive, but I wasn't. I just wanted out of my pain and I saw no solution but to die. And so here I was, a twenty-five year old girl wishing to die, and I had three choices: 1) I could kill myself. 2) I could continue to live my life miserable, numbing my pain with self-destructive behavior until the day I died a sad little old lady. 3) I could crawl off of the ledge, bloody knuckles and scraped knees and fight harder. -- I decided to fight. I had this image in my head of a small bit of light, faded and flickering buried deep inside me. That light contained all of the hope I had left. Even though the light was small, it was still there and it made me feel like I needed to keep going. The first and very difficult thing I had to do was admit to myself that I was an alcoholic and get sober. I knew I could never have the life I wanted or be the person I want to be if I was still drinking because alcohol had become the most influential thing in my life. And as much as I tried I couldn't have a healthy relationship with it. So on January 1st, 2015 I said goodbye to my lover, my best friend, and my favorite escape. I didn't want to be sober, but I saw this as my last attempt to save my life. I had already tried everything else and nothing seemed to cure my brokenness. Not drinking wasn't the thing that saved my life, although in many ways it has, but I have had very dark periods since I've been sober where I've wanted to die. What saved my life was finally connecting with people who felt the way I did inside and learning healthy tools to manage life. Since I don't seem to understand how to be a human being, I had to change my behavior in a way that felt unnatural to me. My perception of the world is skewed. As it turn out, the world is not a hopelessly dark place that I am not good enough for, that's just how I see it. And so I have to engage in certain behaviors to put my perception in the right place. Contrary action has become my best friend. My behavior tends to be self-destructive and so I often have to do the things that are the opposite of what my impulses are telling me. Like instead of spending the day locked in my apartment bingeing on food and TV and then calling a guy to have sex with me so I feel better, all of which bring feelings of shame and self-hatred as soon as their happiness effect wares off, I focus on treating myself with as much love as I possibly can and that love is usually not found in a box of donuts. Every day I pray and I journal and I meditate and I write gratitude lists. These aren't things I want to do, they're not as exciting as sleeping with a boy who doesn't care about me, but the happiness they produce is real not artificial and it lasts much longer then the length of any binge. I've also had to pay close attention to my behavior and recognizing when I am engaging in behavior that is unhealthy, even down to things like complaining or being selfish and then focus on the opposite of that like gratitude and humility. I try not to walk through this world angry but rather forgive people as best as I can. All of these things are hard. It's a process, one that will take my whole life, and they all go against my natural impulses, but I'm doing it to the best of my ability. And the best of my ability is certainly not perfect, I mess up a lot, but each day I work on it I get better. Acceptance, gratitude and abundance are the principles I try to live by. Developing a healthy relationship with myself has also been imperative in saving my life. I no longer hate myself. That didn't come right away, and it didn't come just because I wanted it to. But we gain self-esteem by doing esteem-able acts and I try to be the best person I can be. I act 'as if' I have the confidence and self-love that I want, and eventually my brain catches up. I also try to love myself as much as I can. To exercise and eat well and dress in a way that makes me feel good. The world still terrifies me, but I push through fear now instead of letting it hold me back.
I want to be alive now, and not only that, I'm excited about life. That's a miracle to me. A year ago I was a girl who wanted to kill herself and now I look forward to all the things I get to experience. If I had believed that the hopelessness would last forever, that I would be the sad dark depressed girl all of my life and decided to kill myself, then I never would have gotten to this beautifully exciting place. As permanent as my feelings felt at the time, in reality they weren't, they were just feelings and feelings are mobile. It hasn't been an easy journey, it's actually been rather long and hard, but it happened. I still have days when I feel depressed, it's a different kind of depression - not filled with hopelessness and fantasizes of death, but it's still dark and unsettling nonetheless. When I am feeling this way, I trust that the light will come back to drown out the darkness. Now the good days are strung together longer then the bad ones, the complete opposite then before. None of my outside circumstances have changed; I am still a waitress, I'm still single, I still have a body I don't love, I'm no further along in building my dream career, but my insides are different. I have my hope back. I love myself. And I believe I am good enough for this world. These are wonderful things to feel and I wake up grateful that I get to feel them. I am a girl who once wanted to die who now wants to be alive. If you are feeling the weight of a hopelessly dark world, I beg you to keep fighting. I am no one special, but I managed to get out of the darkness, and you can too, I promise you that.
Photograph by: Tyler Shields