Ciao Italia!

The summer before my jr. year in high school, I took advantage of an opportunity to be an exchange student in Italy.  It would only be for the summer, but it was really a no brainer for me.  I thought, a summer away?  A summer surrounded by people that don’t know me?  A summer where I don’t have to pretend?  A summer away from kissing my mother’s ass?  SIGN ME UP!

So, my parents drove me to the airport, and put me on a plane.  I was 16 and didn’t know a single soul.  I wasn’t traveling with a friend, I didn’t have a chaperone…just ME.  It was the most freeing experience (and terrifying!) of my life.  I waved goodbye and didn’t look back.  I will never forget the freedom I felt the second that plane took off.  What a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders!  It was amazing.

Then I got off the plane in NYC to switch planes to get to Rome.  Navigating my way through a huge airport at age 16 was a bit difficult, I had not flown many times prior to this…but I found my way, and buckled my seatbelt for a long flight to Rome.  I couldn’t stop smiling!  Sure, I was excited to see a foreign country.  Sure, I was excited to meet my 16 year old “sister” that I was going to live with for 3 months.  Sure, I was excited to be on such an adventure!  How lucky was I??  But what really made me smile, was knowing I was FREE.

I landed in Italy, and walked off the plane and looked around for someone holding a sign with my name on it.  It was then that I realized, I still had to interact with people.  They may be NEW people, who didn’t know me, but was the real me good enough for them?  If it wasn’t for anyone at home?  I decided to give it a try anyway.  I made a vow to myself that I was going to be Me.  The REAL me.

I met a few other American students and we all traveled together to the hostel we were going to spend the night in before we all got on our individual trains to head to our host families.  We sat down to dinner at the hostel, and there were big jugs of wine on the tables.  WINE.  I was 16…I felt like such a rebel when I poured that first glass.  And then another…two glasses of wine made my inhibitions fall away and I had such a wonderful night.  Talking to all these new people, not even worrying about them liking me…I was liking myself. 

When I first met my new “family” the next day, I was struck by how serene they were.  How connected.  There was now thick tension in the air.  The mom and daughter walked to great me at the train holding hands…I couldn’t remember ever holding MY mom’s hand unless it was for safety reasons when I was a kid…It just struck me instantly how close they were.  It was obvious that they shared a bond, a love, that I would never have with my own mother, and it made me sad…

I had such an amazing summer…and the experience changed me forever.  I gained more self confidence on that trip, then I ever would have if I had not gone.  I had a long way to go in that department, but I got a huge head start!  There were a few scary times on the trip that I wasn’t sure I was going to find my way home, but I did.  I made it through those situations on my own.  At 16.  In a country where I didn’t speak the language (more than a few key phrases…).  It was very empowering.

I came home a new person.  SO excited to tell everyone all about it and share my experiences with everyone.  Show the pictures, tell my stories.  I had a vision in my head of everyone sitting at my feet waiting to hear more…wanting to hear more.

That is NOT what happened.

See, my sister left for college while I was gone.  So, even though I had been in a foreign country, all by myself, that summer, to my mother, was the summer that my sister went away to college.  She listened to my stories, sure.  But never asked questions…never looked excited for me…never asked to see the pictures.  I had to pretty much shove them under her nose.  It was very disappointing.  I guess my expectations had been too high.

And my friends…well…all I can think of, is that many were jealous.  Something happened while I was gone.  I got back, and all of a sudden no one was talking to me.  No one was calling…I finally asked one of my friends why it seemed everyone was mad at me, and she told me, “It’s a shame you were gone all summer.  We all really bonded while you were gone.”  It was such a blow.

So all that freedom, that new found self confidence…was wiped out in the first 2 weeks I was home.  I longed to go back, I wished I had signed up for the whole year.  But now I was home.  My sister was gone.  My friends were not really friends any more.  I had to forge a new path for myself.  Again.

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The quest to feel Good Enough.

As a child I became a professional actress.  It’s true.  Not in Hollywood, or on Broadway, but in my life.  I guess you could say it was my own little reality show.  It was just never on TV, and I was the only person that knew about it.  I learned very early on, that my true, authentic self, was not someone worthy of unconditional love.  So, I invented a new character.  A new me.  Only, it wasn’t really me, and pretending got to be exhausting, and lonely.  I could be surrounded by friends at a party, and laughing on the outside, but sobbing on the inside about how lonely I was.

I don’t know WHY I felt unworthy of love being myself.  I can’t pinpoint a moment in time where it clicked that I wasn’t good enough for my mom.  And the more I look back and REALLY try to figure out what happened, the more confused I become about what really caused it.  My mom is NOT a bad person.  She was not a horrible mother.  I just think she didn’t know how to deal with me.  How to relate to me.  She is one that holds her emotions in, and doesn’t let anyone else in.  She is sarcastic and puts others down in an attempt to make herself feel better.  She didn’t interact with us much.  I really cannot remember a time where my mom played with me as a child.  No board games, art projects, etc.  But I know a lot of people that were in similar situations, and they didn’t feel unloved, so why did I?

I, on the other hand, have always been a “heart on my sleeve”, highly emotional, sensitive, needy person.  I NEED love.  I NEED validation.  And due to the lack of attention I felt I was getting, I became someone that NEEDED attention.  Lots of it.  But it seemed the harder I tried for her attention, the less I got.  The more I annoyed her.  So I became a character.  A new me.  I became a People Pleaser.  A Fixer.  I became a Kiss Ass.   And I spent the rest of my childhood, teenage years, young adulthood and well, really, until the past year, doing nothing but kissing her ass to get her attention and love.  To finally feel GOOD ENOUGH.  But even that wasn’t working.  I STILL don’t feel like I am good enough for her.

The damage that thinking does is tragic, really.  When you don’t feel worthy of love from the one person in the world who is supposed to just naturally love you unconditionally….how on Earth do you ever feel worthy of love from ANYONE???

So, in my reality show that I created for myself, I became this outgoing, silly, happy happy girl that did everything she could to get a laugh.  It became my goal to get everyone else to love me, so I could then say, “See mom??  Everyone ELSE loves me!  I don’t need YOU to.”    It worked to an extent.  Only, having others love me didn’t make me feel less needy of my mother’s love, it made me more resentful of her.  And then that resentment put a bigger wedge between us.  I would kiss her ass to her face, and hate her behind her back.  It was very damaging to our relationship.  I take some ownership for that now.

In my teen years, I would spend more and more time at friends’  houses.  I called my friends’ moms “Mom”.  I called my own mother by her first name.  I would get angry at my friends for complaining about their moms…I loved their moms.  Their moms talked to me.  Asked me how my day was.  Asked me about the boys I was dating.  My mom rolled her eyes.  My mom turned every conversation to be about Her.  Sending me the message that my day, my life, didn’t matter.

I remember my senior year,  the senior class voted for the yearbook awards.  “Best Smile”, “Cutest Couple”, etc.   I won “Best Personality”.  It felt like such a farce to me.  I remember thinking it should have been “Best Actress”.  No one knew the REAL me.  No one would have voted for the REAL me.  I felt like such a phony!  A fake.   But I had become so used to my character, it became method acting.  I didn’t know where *I* went…I couldn’t even really remember the REAL me.  I am just now finding her again.  And you know what??

She rocks!

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My first suicide attempt

I was in third grade.  Yes.  You read that right.

It was a Saturday.  In the afternoon.  My mom had just spent the previous hour screaming at me, accusing me of taking her best jewelry and losing it.  I spent the previous hour telling her I had not touched it and had no idea where it was.

Her and my dad left to go somewhere.  I don’t remember where.  My sister was outside playing with the neighbors across the street.  I sat in the house sobbing.  Tired of being yelled at.  Tired of never feeling good enough…Loved…Wanted.  Tired of being blamed for things that were not my fault.  I was 9.  I didn’t take her jewelry.

So I decided I was going to make her sorry.  Sorry she blamed me.  Sorry she yelled at me AGAIN.  Sorry that she hadn’t loved me enough.  So I went into the kitchen, took down the bottle of tylenol, and took about 5.  Yup.  5 Tylenol.  Chewable Tylenol because I didn’t know how to swallow a pill yet.  Then I laid down on the couch, closed my eyes, and waited to die.

Of course, I soon realized, that 5 Jr. Tylenol were not going to kill me.  And I understand that some may see this as a kid being stupid and attention seeking.  I get it.  However, to me, it was more than that.  At that moment, I KNEW what I was trying to do.  At age 9, I had already had enough of what life was offering me.

Now, keep in mind, I didn’t have what most would consider a rough childhood.  I grew up in Suburban America, with two parents, a sibling, and a dog.  We lived in a very average neighborhood with block parties, 4th of July Fireworks, and Christmas Carolers.  I didn’t want for much.  I was fortunate enough to have a nice home, a good education, and parents with enough money to provide almost everything I could have wanted as a child.

The only thing I lacked, in my mind, was the approval of my mother.  The full, unconditional love that I so badly craved.  I am not saying she didn’t love me, and that I didn’t love her.  It just didn’t seem like “enough”.  I always felt second best.  Not good enough.  Unworthy.

That day, as I lay on the couch waiting to die, I remember thinking that she would come home, drop to her knees next to my lifeless body, and proclaim how sorry she was.  Scream to the world how much she loved me, and how wrong she was to blame me for something I didn’t do.

But, I woke up.  And she came home.  And miraculously remembered that she had put all her best jewelry in a box under her bathroom sink to hide it, as we had some burglaries in the neighborhood in the weeks prior.   And, upon her discovery that SHE had hidden her jewelry, and that I had not touched it, I waited for her heartfelt apology.  31 years later…I am still waiting.

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Where to begin…

Hi.  My name is….well…I am not going to tell you that yet.  Not to protect myself…as much as it is to protect those I love.  See, I am planning on writing everything.  My whole story.  Unedited.  Raw.  Real.  MY story.  And, though it is all 100% real and honest, that honesty has the potential of hurting those I love.  So, for now…I am keeping this anonymous.

 

“Why write it then?”  You may be asking…well…the answer is simple, really.  Because I think my story may be able to help people.  My story is not all that unique.  Not all that uncommon. Yet, one that no one likes to talk about.  Not many people are comfortable coming out to the world and saying, “Hey everybody!  Guess what?!?!  I wanted to kill myself!”  Yet, I have come to realize, that if someone, anyone, had told me THEIR story when I was going through my personal hell, it would have helped.

 

Depression is isolating.  It is debilitating.  It is real.  It is scary.  It is horrific and tragic.  It sucks.  It really fucking sucks.  And in the depths of it, you feel alone.  You feel like a failure.  You feel weak.  You feel exhausted.  You feel helpless.  You feel sad.  You feel just flat out DONE.

 D.  O.  N.  E.

 

My story will come out…slowly…and my plan is try to post everyday.  I will try to piece it all together as well as I can, and I hope you can follow along, should you decide to.  And I promise to be real.  And honest.  And lay it all out there.  In return, I ask that you keep my identity a secret, even if you know who I am.  I ask that you don’t pass judgement on me, or anyone involved in my story.  And I ask that you pass the link to my blog along to anyone that you may think it could help.  Anyone that you know that is suffering from depression and could benefit from knowing that they are NOT alone, and that it CAN (and will!!!) get better.

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