In my days on Facebook in have spouted a lot of “laundry” out there. I initially did this as a way to repel my inner toxins. To vent when I had nobody to vent to face-to-face, or even over the phone. Writing the poison out of my blood, bluntly, vehemently, and point blank (as it were), was my sanity during an insane time.
I didn’t go about that the right way at that time. But it DID keep me from losing my mind entirely.
Since those early days of finding my voice, my posts became more about socially sensitive topics. I speak a lot now about my own encounters with suicide. Of my own walk with faith. Of abortion. (I am pro-life btw, but I also don’t believe that holding judgement over others is beneficial so you will get none of that from me.) I’ve spoken of social inclusion and exclusion – and have highlighted time and again that I believe we are ALL human and deserving of peace, happiness and love no matter our race, religion, sexual orientation, past, or place of origin.
I write in hopes of shedding new perspective. In hopes of helping somebody who’s drowning internally to escape their own emotional waters in a safe and healthy way.
My own life has not been easy or comfortable. I have been through a lifetime of emotional and physical abuse. I was raped at age 13 by a “friend”. I was ostracized and ridiculed when I finally told somebody about it a year and a half later. My first suicide attempt came that year in a bottle of Tylenol. Nobody even noticed. Clearly it didn’t work because I’m still here.
At fifteen I tried cutting my wrists but couldn’t bring myself beyond the pain threshold. So I had minor slits on each wrist that clotted rapidly. Again, nobody noticed. And I suppose, looking back, that’s okay.
I was told over and over again – by people that “loved” me – that I was worthless. I was ugly. I was fat. That I was incapable of being really loved.
I got married at 19 and was married for twelve years. I’ll skip the ugly stuff there, as the ex and I have since become amicable “frenemies”, but I did leave that marriage. At the time, it was my only option. But it took a long time for me to realize that it was indeed the right thing for me to do.
A few months later I tried to kill myself again. What brought me to that point was a combination of a failed marriage, deep depression, a job loss just 4 days after moving into my new “single abode”, whilst leaving my children with the ex for the time being in order to avoid uprooting them more than need be – I later realized how wrong I was to do that, as I think they felt I was abandoning them, even though my mind was telling me I was doing the right thing for them… I had bills pile up (as one does when there is no income) and I remember getting a cut-off notice from the electric company one day and that notice – silly as it sounds – was the final straw for me. That day I left a note in the bible on my bed with instructions for my funeral and I left the house to kill myself in a field far from home. I started cutting my wrists with a box cutter and eventually escalated to digging violently into them with my own fingernails. A friend stopped me. Thank God.
After that attempt, my wrists became so inflamed and infected that I couldn’t even carry a loaf of bread for months. Another friend called social services and I was picked up by police one night and taken to the psyche ward. FUN times.
That was sarcasm. No. It was not fun times.
When I was released, I spent the next four months laying on my living room floor staring at the ceiling and talking to ghosts in my mind. I lost my mind during that time and much of it is blurry… I remember laying in bed and not wanting to move. I remember I didn’t even want to eat. I dropped 80 pounds in four months… yes. 80.
I would sit at my kitchen table doing puzzles from morning to night and conversing with demons that I perceived to be very real. I remember having this feeling as if a switch was being flipped from one reality to the next, and I would jolt – physically jolt – from being mentally present to being mentally gone. And even once I began healing – actually really healing – I still felt that switch for many years. Just not as often.
I lied to a lot of people in the early days. I told a lot of people I was fine when I really was not. I made up excuses for my behaviour and for things that were going on. I found reasons to cancel appointments and outings. And I left a lot of people thinking I didn’t care when, in fact, the trouble was how very much I did care. I cared so much that I couldn’t get out of my own head long enough to know how to care properly.
I remember laying on my living room floor one night in my empty house alone and hearing God tell me – audibly – that I would be okay. THAT was my turning point. Whether you believe or not, I heard that voice as if he’d been standing beside me. The next day I started seeking counselling. And I went to counselling twice a week for 6 months. Once a week for the next six months. And once every two weeks for the following six months. Then I downgraded to every month or so as needed.
During this time – my dark times – I was also in a relationship with somebody who was incredibly manipulative. He threatened to kill me (odd, reflecting now, that I wanted so badly to leave this world but the thought of being killed by somebody else was so terrifying to me…) This was a man who tried violently shoving me out of his moving vehicle on the highway. A man who was mean to my kids. A man who physically abused me repeatedly. Who insisted that I drive to Vegas with him for a pool tournament – entirely on my dime – and then accused me of making him lose the tournament and told me he was leaving me there and I could find my own way home – while he held onto my bank card. This was a man who cheated on me with multiple women. Who always had an excuse not to be there when I needed him but would spout hatred at me when I had to go to work and he needed something. It could be as simple as needing a pack of cigarettes but if I wasn’t providing for him I was threatened, screamed at, and belittled. This was a man who, when I finally told him I was leaving, threatened to kill me and kill himself. A man who called me several times telling me had drank a cup of bleach, that he was driving into river, that he was heading into the mountains to drive off a cliff and each time I called 9-1-1 he told them I was crazy and I was making it up. I still have the voice mails and emails that I got from him at that time. But oh no, I was the crazy one.
I stayed in that relationship far too long. Six years. I still ask myself why. But in hindsight I’m glad for it. Because THAT period of my life made me stronger. It broke me in many ways, yes. It left scars on my soul that will likely never heal. But it made me stronger. When I finally had the courage to walk away, I walked away knowing myself better than I could ever have without that trauma. I walked away more determined than I ever thought I could be. I walked away and decided to be confident. To use my voice. To be me. And to hell with what anybody else thought of that.
I walked away knowing that I would never allow myself to be abused again. Not like that. Never. Ever. Again.
These things here… these are fragments. These are small pieces of the puzzle that is Erin. These are; however, incredibly and undeniably important pieces. And I am as thankful for the sorrows as I am for the joys – and despite my melancholy ramblings above there were, of course, joys.
I remember being asked – more than once actually – how I could stay so un-jaded.
It’s because I choose to be so.
I will not allow my past to determine who I am. Not for one moment. Does it affect me? Yes of course. Do I have moments where I am thrown back into how I felt back then? Absolutely. Are there times when I react based on instinct brought forth by those traumas? Indeed there are.
But despite those moments, I won’t let my past control how I view the world. I refuse to become bitter and angry and I refuse to shelter myself “just in case”. Of course I have days when I’m angry, and of course I have moments when I’m bitter and snippy and down-right ugly inside. Of course I have moments when I want to hide in the safety of solitude. And in those moments I will dance with my darkness for a bit. But I won’t let it consume me. I cannot.
Today, I try to use my own experiences in walking through hell to help others get through their own hell. Today I try to express to people that I understand the waves of depression, the way it can play tricks on your mind, and the way it alters our perception and our actions. Today I try to let others know they are not alone. That these moments – as painful as they are – are simply slivers of our bigger picture. That we all walk through our own versions of hell. And that even when we stumble we are indeed capable of getting back up and finding our way back to ourselves.
And more than anything I try to express to people how very important it is to ask for help.
There is no shame in asking for help. And there are so many people who can and will help others in need. Discreetly. Lovingly. And emphatically.
Friends… I have waltzed with the devil. If you ever find yourself on that same ballroom floor, please reach out. I will listen. I will be here. I will never ever pass judgement for your past, or your thoughts, or your actions. But please don’t ever let your demons pull you down to that place where you can’t see anything but death. That is indeed a terrifying, albeit romantic, place to be. If you find yourself there, reach out. To anybody. But my arms are always open and I always have a free hand to help you up. Knock on my door and I will answer and I will help you find your footing again. But please don’t let the illusions that depression can bring become your reality or your end. They are just that – illusions.
We must remember that these thoughts are tricks. You are not worthless. You are not unloved or unlovable. You are not a blight on this earth. You are valuable, and you are needed here. And more than that – you are necessary.
Much love to each and every one of you. No matter your walk.