From time to time, someone will ask me about myself. “Tell me about you.” “What’s your STORY?” My story? What is my story? Each and everyone of our stories are changing and writing themselves every single day. Our stories don’t end until we die, or that’s my belief. But what is my story or experience that led me to where I am today? I’ve been transparent about my struggles for a couple of years now because I am in a position where I feel that it is worth sharing my past and because I am much stronger than I was when I was 15 or 18. So, my story?
When I was 15 years old, I started self-harming. I spent my ninth grade year sad and lonely and hating myself as well as my life and for some people, it is just a natural part of growing up.We all probably have one year of high school we hate. But for others, it is chemical. Its deep inside of yourself. It’s mental illness. I didn’t realize that I was recognizing the beginnings of a struggle with depression. I just focused on a pain I could control. When everything feels outside of your realm of control, focus on what you can control. The physical pain that self harm causes is entirely up to you to cause or not to cause.
So, I started cutting my wrists…along the veins. That’s a rookie mistake. One cut too deep could have caused severe damage to myself. I didn’t truly WANT to kill myself or cause enough pain to end up in the ER. I just wanted the pain, loneliness and hatred of myself to go away. I wanted to feel in control. Self harm became an addiction that had control over me throughout high school.
Self harm as a result of depression is bad enough but pair that with an eating disorder. It all started when I saw a photo of myself and was disgusted- it triggered another demon. That turned into a disgust I felt every time I tried on clothes or looked in the mirror. I began skipping meals or making myself puke if I felt I had “failed” because of what I ate or how much I ate. I believed I was only “allowed” to eat that donut if I’d worked out that day. Or it became “I ate breakfast so I’m not allowed lunch.” I made myself throw up multiple times a day. I’ve thrown up in home bathrooms or bathrooms of friends, gas stations, restaurants, school, malls, etc. I have a very harsh relationship with food and view certain things as “bad” foods.
These two struggles lasted throughout high school. By graduation in 2012, I had been clean from self harm for a year and a half. But was still struggling with my eating disorder. My mom had even tried to send me to a therapist for that. I went twice and then never again. The one thing that helped me through sleepless nights, emotional breakdowns where I cried for hours, nights where I wanted to die and the loneliness was music. That is where my passion for live music and for the bands I love come from. It all started with Boys Like Girls. My story in relation to them and Martin Johnson is another story in itself and one for another day. But they started it all for me.
I moved to Denton, TX for my first semester of college. Now that I look back at it, I was trying to outrun personal problems as well as outrun a small town where I felt as if I didn’t belong. But you can’t outrun your problems…even with the great support of girls in my dorm that I had. I started crying every night. I relapsed into self harm and those months, I self harmed more seriously than I ever had. I started skipping meals and forcing myself to puke everyday. I relied way too heavily on a few long distance friendships too. At the time, I only saw it in a sense of “I’m hurting. I need you. Please don’t leave me.”
That semester was my lowest point. I lost some friends along the way. Cried on the phone to others day in and day out. I spent many nights not wanting to leave my dorm room. I went out with my group of friends and pretended like everything was fine. Then when I was alone, I cried or turned to cutting. Most people didn’t know how serious it was. But I was having panic attacks all the time and when I slipped up and someone accidentally saw my wrist and forearm, man…it was bad. I think one of the worst days was when I made myself puke four times that day.
The turning point that fall was when I met Martin Johnson of Boys Like Girls. He noticed my wrist and took me aside to talk to me. He encouraged me to stop and he helped me see a light deep inside of me with strength I didn’t think I had in me. The other turning point was losing a friendship I relied so heavily on throughout these years. He helped me see that only you can save yourself in the end. Took four years, but I am finally at peace with how things ended there too.
Fast forward four years and here I am. I moved back to Florence to finish college at the University of North Alabama. I double majored in Entertainment Industry Business and Public Relations. I am four years clean from self harm. But I’m not perfect. I still struggle with my eating disorder. I still have a fucked up relationship with food. I still battle with that. Mental illness doesn’t just go away.
I also realized how deep my anxiety runs. I struggle more with that than depression now. I am prone to panic attacks and can barely enter a packed room without panicking or crying. There are days where I cannot walk into a local bar alone. I tense up, my breathing becomes labored, I start shaking and freeze up. Sometimes, things are fine and I can go to a concert or bar alone. Some days, I can’t even handle a line of 3-4 people at the counter at work. Anxiety is not something easily explained. It is different with different people and situations. I am only trying to explain Anxiety from my perspective.
But I am finally at a place in my life where I can handle shit. I have good friends and am gaining the confidence I wish I always believed was inside of me. I graduate college in two weeks and then plan on moving back to Chicago.Life truly is looking up these days. My story is not over. Neither is yours. There are better days to come. Not all days will be the best day of your life. But believe me when I say this- the worst is over or soon will be. You are not defined by your past, your struggles or your mistakes. That light, that better day, it is still to come.
Find Help: To Write Love On Her Arms.