Parts of the whole – by Rachel
My name is Rachel. This is the story of my depression and self-harm, and the few bits about my self-harm could be triggers.
I first realized that something was wrong with me when I was 14. I was so sad and anxious all of the time that I was barely eating or sleeping, let alone doing my homework and just generally functioning. When I was 15, I cut myself for the first time. When someone asked me about the marks on my arm, I blamed my cat. Either I was a really good liar or they just really wanted to believe me. I stopped cutting and started scratching myself because I didn’t want to have to worry about being caught with a knife. I didn’t want to be caught, but, at the same time, I must have because I told a friend what was going on, and I also told my brother. My brother was clever and used it to blackmail me into lying when he broke a rule, and I was scared of how my parents would react so I usually went along with what he wanted. Eventually, I got tired of keeping everything together and lying to everyone, and I told him that he could tell whoever he wanted. I didn’t care anymore, and I wouldn’t stop him. He got mad at me and he told my mother (conveniently, avoiding being grounded).
My parents confronted me, asking if my brother had told the truth. I said that he was, and that things had been bad for months. They helpfully told me that what I was doing was stupid and that I needed to get my crap together. I was crying and yelling, and they asked if I wanted counseling. They asked in such a way that I knew my answer was supposed to be no. I said I did not want counseling. I did not get help for my depression. I somehow made it through high school a complete mess. I turned my sadness and anger and frustration inward, and my self-harm became worse than ever. I still have scars from all of the times I hurt myself to avoid yelling or upsetting anyone. I realized that I was out of control, and I did not want to go to college still harming myself. I made the conscious choice to stop harming before I went to college. I stopped cutting and scratching, for the most part. (Fun fact, I starting grinding my teeth so badly while sleeping and during stressful or triggering situations that I now need a night guard so I don’t damage my teeth anymore. More damage and I’ll need veneers or caps of some other sort.)
I was optimistic going into college, although I dealt with some home sickness. I got involved and started going to youth group meetings and church, hoping that making friends would keep me from having another bout. What it did was make me realize that, although I’d never thought about it, I was an atheist. I stopped going to churches, and started making friends outside of religion. I started having fun, and I spent most of the next year happy and healthy. I still did not deal with stressful situations very well, and had difficulties controlling my anger, but I was trying very hard to be happy.
The fall that I was 20, I started having emotional issues again. I wasn’t going to class or doing homework. Most days I didn’t leave my dorm room other than to go get food. I spent most of my time sitting on my bed crying, and wishing that I could drop out and run away from everything. With the encouragement of my boyfriend at the time, I sought counseling. While I felt that it wasn’t very helpful because I didn’t trust my counselor enough to talk about my self-harm, I did realize that my anger was a manifestation of my depression. With the encouragement from my counselor, I came out to my parents as an atheist, and let them know that I was seeking help for my depression. My mom mocked me for the counseling, my atheism, and the drop in my grades, so without the support of my family I muddled through it again. I didn’t drop out of college, or start hurting myself (besides the whole teeth grinding thing) or do anything but make it.
I graduated last year. I’m currently dealing with some anger and depression surrounding issues with my job, but I think things are going to be better for me this time around. I have a boyfriend who loves me and wants me to be happy, my crafting, and my friends. I did not sink as low as I have before. They are helping me make it through, and I will.
I will not be defined by my depression, just as I will not be defined by my atheism. They are parts of the whole, but they do not explain my whole story. I am doing better, and that’s really all that matters right now.