mini memoir

Every day that I live I am at war with my own mind. I envy the blissful, healthy minds who’ve never experienced a mental illness. I envy how comfortable you are in your own skin. I envy how easily it is for you to be vibrantly yourself amoung strangers. But being envious isn’t going to heal me. Learning to accept myself (and my mind) the way it is, and to love myself for who I am, is how to heal. I know this. I know this but I still cannot function properly without the aid of Clonazepam.

For the portion of my life I’ve been self-aware — and by this I mean since I was old enough to articulate my own thoughts — I always claimed to be an extravert but somehow trapped. Trapped by thoughts that wouldn’t allow me to fully live out who I am. Thus, I was always seen as the shy girl growing up. I hated being called shy. To this day, actually, it still bothers me if someone says I’m shy because I really am not; I have anxiety and I simply cannot be myself in this moment.

Back in elementary and high school, I had no knowledge of mental illness. I didn’t know I could be diagnosed with something and didn’t know you could take medication to control it. I didn’t know something could be wrong with my brain. I thought I was simply suffering from extreme shyness. Since everybody stated that that’s what it was and who I was, I started to believe it. But then I’d remember occasions with close friends; I’d be outgoing and goofy and I’d remember how normal and real that felt… how it felt like me. But this shyness? What was happening? This wasn’t me. I couldn’t talk in the halls. I couldn’t make new friends. I couldn’t stand up and give a presentation. I couldn’t flirt. I was bullied not only in school, but at home. I had no support system, no one to talk to, no one to hug. I wouldn’t even hug myself. In fact, I hated myself and who I was. My body never received love and I’d scrape hearts into my skin just deep enough to see a peek-a-boo of red.

My funeral existed in my mind very vividly and almost daily; who would attend, what life would be like without me and who would care that I’ve vanished. But I was a coward then, as you’ve come to know because I couldn’t even slit my own wrists. I couldn’t cut deep enough to leave scars and make myself bleed. It hurt too much. Hanging myself would hurt too much and it would leave too much time for my mind to wander and second-guess my choice. Same with drowning. So I would often Google guns, how to purchase one and which gun I’d want to be the “the one.”

I wanted to love me. I wanted to love my body. I gave it those hearts to let it know: I hate you and myself but I want you to be loved. It wasn’t until I reached university (I’m quite shocked I made it here, too) when I finally found freedom and love. I had so many aids for my depression and anxiety that some days would pass and I’d completely forget about the years when those two demons held both my hands. There was nothing to worry about; I was either living the best life or escaping from it to temporarily feel even better. New friends. Alcohol. A social life. People who liked me. Parties to attend. Clubs to join. Stories to tell. People to hug. Friends to cry with. Drugs. My first boyfriend. His love. His need and want for me. All of this… all of it washed over me and hid depression and anxiety away with the undertow.

The downward spiral came when three losses catapulted into my life all within a week. Goodbye, childhood dog. Goodbye, love of my life. Goodbye, Baba. I didn’t know how to grieve, given all of these things were suddenly nonexistent simultaneously at the beginning of 2009. Since my happiness, my self-esteem and my life was tied tightly to that first love of mine, when he was gone, so was all the joy inside me. How could I live without my best friend? How could I live without his love? How do I live without that sense of security I had being in a relationship? There was no one else I’d want to marry, ever.

To cope, I drank… and I drank a lot. I partied and went to bars and kissed so many people. I was desperate. I tried winning him back, I tried letting him go. He came back a few times, but always left, never stayed. He repeatedly smashed my heart and didn’t seem to notice how emotionally abusive it was. Oftentimes when I drank, I’d cry over him during these university years. I’d black out. Sometimes I’d see him at parties and pretend to be okay. Sometimes I’d see him purposely making out with a girl to make me jealous. I was suffering and the more I suffered, the more I drank.

When I wasn’t drinking, anxiety followed me around again… this time, to a much greater degree. In 2011 I saw my campus doctor who diagnosed me with anxiety. He prescribed Citalopram — or some C-word medication — along with good ol’ Clonazepam. I was studying psychology and knew I had anxiety, which is why I sought help. I couldn’t go to classes without taking shots because the anxiety was too extreme. Rum scared it away and brought my confidence back. I intoxicatedly learned so much through these psychology textbooks (rarely through classes because anxiety wouldn’t let me attend), and I was finally learning how I came to be this way.

I was sitting uncomfortably with my mind across from this caring man. He loaded me with information about anxiety and it’s comorbidity with depression and tons of other undesirable things. “I’m giving you Clonazepam because it will have immediate relief for you and you can go to your classes. It may take a few weeks for the other medication to kick in. But… I’m hesitant. This drug is addictive and I don’t wan’t to turn you into a monster.”

Do you ever have those moments in life and the instant they happen you know it will be a memory that will stick with you forever? The instant I heard that kind, old man sigh, “I don’t want to turn you into a monster,” I knew those words would forever haunt me. I never knew what he meant. I didn’t understand how I could become a monster… I wasn’t evil. I had no evil intentions. Monsters are evil, are they not?

Life still sucked but at least I was able to function, thanks to Clonazepam. Those magical, little orange pills. I was still heartbroken. My grades were awful because I struggled with this whirlwind of depression, anxiety and loss. I knew I was going to fail out of university and it wasn’t because I didn’t care; I was going to be a drop out because of my mental health. How was this fair? Why was I given this extremely difficult-to-control brain? One random day I approached my mom, “Why did you drink and smoke when you were pregnant?”

The best mark I received in all of my psychology classes was in a course titled ‘Developmental Psychology.’ I did so well and during the entire semester, I started putting the puzzle pieces of my life together. Everything began making sense. The whole problem manifested before I was even born. My mom’s answer to that question was “I didn’t know I was pregnant, I only drank the first month.” I’m not sure how much I believe but she did smoke the entire time (she was a heavy smoker up until a few years ago when she quit). “You’re so, so lucky I wasn’t born with fetal alcohol syndrome.”

My childhood and teenage years strongly contributed to the anxiety I currently have today. I have terrifying memories of running away from my mom, screaming in horror as she threatened to beat me. “Dad, help! Mom is scaring me!” He never did anything. I don’t think he knew what to do. I have scarring words she’s said engraved into my brain so deeply that it has caused me to feel uncomfortable giving my own mother a loving hug. It’s uncomfortable, today, to touch her in any way that is more than a quick high five. The words bleed in my ears…

You were a mistake.

I wish you were never born.

I’d wish you’d just drop dead.

There’s a reason you have no friends.

I was tormented by my own mother. Drop dead? I tried. I tried not existing for you. I spent nights alone in my room curled in a ball sobbing, scraping those hearts, wishing I had a different mom. And God, if I ever mentioned I wanted a new mom she’d freak out, transform into an angry demon and threaten me. “I’m going to call the cops if you hurt me!” My two siblings tormented me, too. And so I wrote in my journal often; I was lonely and I wasn’t sure my dog or cat were even listening anymore.

I was isolated; completely… alone.

I jotted notes to solve the mystery of my unfortunate mind in university notebooks. I realized that if I had a better childhood, a better teenage life, hell — an actual supportive and loving family, I probably wouldn’t be struggling as harshly as I am. Or, very importantly, if I was educated on mental health upon entering high school, maybe I’d be further down recovery lane by now.

I have no memories of being an infant but based on everything I was studying and by observing interactions in the past and present, I knew I did not have a secure attachment to my mother (what a healthy baby should have). After analyzing my first relationship with my first love and what happened when it failed, it was evident that I had an insecure-resistant attachment. When I discovered this initially, I was saddened. It all finally clicked. That’s why my mother frightened me and that’s why I can’t hug her.

Discovering all of this upon being diagnosed with anxiety made me feel very, very insecure. There was never any confidence in me unless Clonazepam was working away on my neurotransmitters. The attachment style someone has as an infant lays the foundation for the attachment style in romantic relationships later on in life.

Unlike securely attached couples, people with an anxious attachment tend to be desperate to form a fantasy bond. Instead of feeling real love or trust toward their partner, they often feel emotional hunger. They’re frequently looking to their partner to rescue or complete them. Although they’re seeking a sense of safety and security by clinging to their partner, they take actions that push their partner away.

So that’s what I’ve done all my life: push people away. I became the monster the doctor warned me about. When I don’t have access to Clonazepam, my brain needs something else to numb it — like alcohol. I ruined friendships and relationships. When my last relationship ended two years ago, I didn’t react the same way I did when I was 19, thankfully. Instead, I moved across the country. I developed a deeper relationship with yoga and meditation. I focussed on mindfulness and I actively attempted to move on. But without those orange pills, I still cannot function. I am still searching for the magic within me to free myself from them. I’m getting close, though. I feel it.  My goofy, confident, outgoing self… she’s in there and I can’t wait to find her.

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