The Birth of Mental Illness

GROWING UP

Growing up, life was hard. My mom and dad were always working. My brother wasn’t always the nicest. He abused me verbally and sometimes physically. My older sister was put in charge of me most of the time. I had significant anxiety starting in my youngest years. I was an emotional and sensitive child. I never felt like my emotions were ever validated. I remember at 5 years of age my dad wouldn’t let me scream and I didn’t know how else to release all the anxiety and emotional turmoil I was feeling so I started scratching my feet. I would sit on the floor, trying to cry as quiet as I was able and dig my fingernails into my feet, as hard and as deep as I could. It released all the emotion and helped me feel better. I also had significant food allergies and my diet was significantly restricted because of this. I remember sitting at the dinner table and I’d see some food that looked or smelt different and my dad would just say “Oh don’t worry. That’s adult food; you can eat your kid food.”  I was never forced to try anything. I was a master manipulator and pitted my parents against each other. I got my way 24/7. I remember one Thanksgiving my dad paid me to go have dinner with the family and be sociable. I was quite strong-willed. At some point during this time, I discovered that I had complete control over my food intake and that when I stopped eating I actually felt my anxiety improve. So anorexia was forming at the young age of 10.

SCHOOL BEGINNINGS – ELEMENTARY SCHOOL

In the fall of 2003 I started public school. Academically, I wasn’t really learning. I had to repeat kindergarten three times. My poor mother tried so hard to teach me but it just didn’t work. She had tried to home-school me, but did not work either. For my age I should have been put in 5th grade but for my academic levels I should have been put into 3rd grade. My mom enrolled me in 4th grade so I wasn’t too old but I could still hopefully pass my classes. I now know I had an undiagnosed learning disorder. It started out fine, but it got to be pretty awful. At first, I made a whole bunch of friends. I was always outgoing and extroverted. I always made sure everyone was included. I remember reaching out to a girl in my class that would later be labeled as “special education”. One of the other girls in my class really didn’t like me. I don’t know why. She ended up getting the whole 4th grade class to not talk to me at recess or lunch. At my elementary school, each class had their own lunch table. I remember that I would be at one end of the table all by myself and everyone else would be at the other end. The bullying I experienced was one of many problems I faced: I was in 4th grade and should be in 5th, way over my head academically, isolated socially, and lacking some basic skills.

In 5th grade I was simply ignored. I still struggled with my undiagnosed learning disorder, all my anxiety, and my forming eating disorder. All these things weighed on me. I head into 6th grade and I got really depressed and felt worthless. I didn’t know where my place in the world was. I was really struggling to make friends. Looking back, I really had no social skills so I was picked on and bullied for how I would act. I just didn’t know any better. My school teachers became my friends. I would go to school early and stay late to talk to them. I was an extrovert desperate for conversation from any human being who wouldn’t hurt me and who could understand me.

MIDDLE SCHOOL

I remember it was fall of 2006, winter of my 7th grade school year, and I was in so much emotional pain. Teachers did not believe me that I couldn’t really read and that I didn’t really understand class. I was still bullied and picked on. My parents were absent from home. I was feeling worthless and pointless living on the planet. One night I was in my bedroom and I found a back of an earring and I used it to scratch myself. When I scratched myself I felt all this relief. That’s the night cutting began. I was standing on top of a slippery slope and my problems were about to get worse and worse. The group of “friends” I did have were starting to separate from me because I had became an anorexic, depressed, suicidal, cutter who had minimal social skills. I remember the end of my 7th grade school year this group of people created a restraining order against me and passed it out to a lot of people in my 7th grade class. I remember so clearly, there was one guy who purposely came near me and kicked me till I was far enough away from him. It was miserable. I did not want to wake up and face the day to day reality. Life was dark and scary. When I would cry out, I felt like I was muted and no one could hear my cries. I felt like if I screamed for help no one would come.  All the efforts my parents made I rejected because I hated them. I blamed them for what I felt was a lack of parenting, for not having skills, for not being able to make and keep friends. If anything went wrong I blamed them.

My parents had decided that I wouldn’t be returning to this middle school for my 8th grade school year and they enrolled me into an online school.

During the summer of 2007 I tried to commit suicide. I took 6 ibuprofen because I was simply done with it all. I didn’t think anyone would miss me or care if I was gone. My cutting was out of control. I was in this deep dark place, where I couldn’t see anything. I didn’t do my 8th grade school year. My mom helped me pass. That year I didn’t eat. I lived off of Pepsi. My sister’s dog ate most of my meals. I got down to about 90 pounds. I was 14 years old and only 90 pounds.  By spring 2008 you could see all my ribs, my spine, and I had cavities in my knees and elbows. Not eating for days was easy and normal. I started feeling pretty and started to wear skimpy clothes. I was delusional. At the end of my 8th grade school year my teachers were concerned about my academics. They said even for the little work I did I should be doing better. They decided to test me for learning disorders. Finally at the age of 14 I was diagnosed with dyslexia. All the academic struggle wasn’t truly my fault. I wasn’t lazy. I just could barely read and didn’t really understand anything. Dyslexia is crazy. It is more than numbers and letters jumping up and down, letters being blurry, letters being flipped; it also affects your eye sight, depth perception, and comprehension. If I didn’t know a word when I would read, II would replace it with a word I did know and the whole sentence would be messed up. I would have to re-read things four or five times to get any sort of meaning or understanding. It was like I was trapped in my own mind.

PASTOR HUGS

Summer 2008 I decided to attend the annual church picnic and baptism. If you could call  hiding and shaking behind a tree “attending”. My pastor came up and introduced himself. I refused to leave from behind the tree. I was frozen in fear. He gave me a bottle of water, smiled, and left me alone.  I was terrified of people. Between the abuse and the bullying I just didn’t trust anyone. But something shifted and changed and I started to really like my pastor. At the end of the summer I wrote my pastor an email telling him all the things that were wrong in my life. I was in therapy but that was quite a joke and ended right before I started high school. My pastor then got me connected with some people in the church. One Saturday night at church, my sister had had about enough of me and my anxious, clingy self. She couldn’t get 2 inches from me before I freaked out. She finally said, “Screw it! You need our pastor to help you get out of your weird mindset.” and walked right over to him because she knew I’d follow. Sure thing I did. He noticed something wasn’t right. During our conversation, he made a deal with me. Every time I would go to church I would get a hug from him. Touch was a really big thing for me. I never really got hugs from my dad. To this day I am not sure why touch is/was such a huge thing in my life. But that thought of something constant, never changing motivated and kept me going for my hug. I kept going for my hug probably up until a year ago (summer 2013) when I didn’t feel the need to go up to him after every service. But without fail, I’d go up to him, smile and he’d give me my hug and I’d walk away. No words needed. Something started shifting and changing in my life. At church, I started seeing people free and light and happy and I wanted some of that.

HIGH SCHOOL IN

During that summer, even though some positive things were happening, I still was not free. I lied my way out of therapy and convinced her that I was ready for high school and that I could handle anything. She knew I was lying but knew I was refusing help so therapy ended with the summer. I started high school that fall and it was pretty hard. I was even worse mentally and socially than I had been in middle school. Luckily, I had some academic help. My teachers took it seriously that for me, learning was hard. I was always at the lowest level of my peers. At my high school, they divided the freshman class into 4 different “houses”. Each house was for your core classes (math, English, science, history). You had the same class during the same chunk of time all year. My core classes were in the A.M. The teachers could teach their classes if they wanted to but since we had a whole morning I remember sometimes we skipped class and did other stuff. We were with the same group of students during our whole freshman year. Assigned to each house was a teacher who would go to all four core classes and have a special study hall where she would help with all the homework. I really loved that study hall because with her I was able to actually able to be social and form a friendship.

Spring of 2009, I went to an event called Freedom Weekend. That weekend sparked a fire in my heart that it was time to get clean and leave all this stuff behind me. That June, I got baptized, which was huge because I had a fear of drowning. I had a lot of trust issues with people and water. Around the same time I also started guitar lessons. I was finally starting to feel more free and happy. It was an amazing summer. The summer of 2009 I turned 16 and one of my birthday presents was a puppy and I would walk her five times a day and spend the rest of my day practicing guitar. Then I went into my sophomore year. It was hard: I was still bullied, had some friends and I still struggled academically. The stress buildup came and I couldn’t keep my recovery up and after about 6 months of being clean I relapsed. And I relapsed hard. I upgraded to razors in the bathroom. During sophomore year I couldn’t wait to get to the bathroom; I needed to cut now. I cut under the desks. That intense feeling where you are overcome and you have to cut because if you don’t you will explode was my daily reality. If I had food that whole feeling of going to explode was even worse. I remember making goals for myself to see how long I could go without eating. I remember I only allowed myself 500 calories a day. I hated being three numbers on the scale. And death was always a thought. I always had plans for when, where and how. My poor teachers. I was a horrible student. I would cry and meltdown. I couldn’t function in the least bit. By the end of my 11th grade year, I would be in my school counselor’s office 4-6 class periods of the day. There were only 7 class periods. I then became very rude and very disrespectful to all my teachers. If they had a packet, I would hand it back to them and say no thank you. Even though I gave them such trouble, I seriously give the credit to my high school teachers for saving my life. They kept me alive during high school because they became my friends. I didn’t really have friends. I had people to talk to now and then but I would usually scare off people with my mental illness and lack of social skills.

 

On September 25th, 2010 I was at my typical Saturday night church service. Ever since I was diagnosed with dyslexia, I prayed for it to be healed. There was a team praying for people after church and I got up enough bravery to go ask for prayer. The lady prayed once and she told me to read something. The letters stopped flipping around but they were still bouncing up and down. She prayed again and the letters stopped bouncing. She prayed once more and I could read again! Dyslexia was healed! I was no longer trapped and stuck. I was actually free and alive. I felt so excited to go to school that week because I could actually learn something. It’s a hard thing to explain to people that you got healed of a learning disorder that can’t be cured. But I was. And I was standing at the testimony not moving. I started being able to learn things in school. I was still mentally ill but when I actually tried to read and understand I could. Dyslexia was a huge thing between me and God. I had constantly thought, God if I am supposed to be in the medical field you have to heal this learning disorder. And He did. He proved Himself faithful once more. No need to ever doubt Him.

HIGH SCHOOL OUT

Life at that high school ended June 1st, 2011 when I got kicked out. I got kicked out a week before the year ended. The school deemed me a danger to myself and others. Having multiple pairs of scissors in my packet added to their whole suspicion. My suicide plans became known. The weekend of Memorial Day May 2011 I went to the hospital to get a referral to go to a treatment facility. However, while trying to get a referral, the hospital said that I could be dead before I made it to treatment so they were trying to admit me. That didn’t go so well for me, so I made my parents let me leave. I had wanted to go to treatment but every time it got close I got freaked out and got scared. I was bound and determined to never step foot back into that high school as a student and even more convinced that I would not go back to treatment. I was at a seeming crossroad in my young life. I was experiencing some healing and some freedom at my church, but it was not the majority of my focus. I had not yet recovered. I was not completely surrendered to God. When would I learn to trust Him? To let Him in? To allow Him to heal me? This is the beginning, or birth, of mental illness. The question that hovered over my life was this: would my mental illness die before I did?

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