Thoughts after session with Hank

In an exercise Taylor and I did over last semester, I wrote out this massive document explaining my childhood and answering questions and prompts that the exercise asked. It was about 60 pages in total including pictures. One thing that I had learned about a few years ago came up in my writing, so I explained it all out in hopes to further analyze it. I then spoke with my mother who told me that she had also been concerned about that thing ever since I was really little. Taylor and I never discussed it as there were other issues more pressing at the time, so that was just put in the back so that we may discuss it in the future. Since I’m transitioning out of sessions with Taylor, we won’t get to talk about that, and so I’d like to bring it up.

Also, because you mentioned autism, I wanted to bring it up because I believe when I was really little, my doctors were concerned or something about autism, but it was ruled out. I didn’t know this until I mentioned to my mother the research I had done on this disorder, and she gave me more of an explanation which gives me more reason to believe it’s more likely than autism. She explained to me that she believed I had/have Selective Mutism but that she wasn’t able to get me testing or treatment because for some reason in our state you couldn’t see specialists unless you got a referral from your primary care provider. When she expressed her concern about me having SM, they basically told her I didn’t have it and that she didn’t know what she was talking about. They wouldn’t give her a referral for any testing or treatment, and for years, she tried to get the doctors to believe her that something was wrong. Since I was her first child, the pediatricians and nurses or whoever thought that she was just overreacting as a first-time parent.

However, my mother was not one of those parents, and she has always done extensive research on things she is concerned about, and more often than not, she knows what she’s talking about (which can be a bit annoying sometimes). I believe my mother knew what she was talking about, but she couldn’t convince the doctors or anyone, so I was unable to get treatment. My mom tried helping me when I was younger and did what she could to make life easier for both me and others who interacted with me. She made me these index cards with words and pictures on them so that when I would have to go to people’s houses to either play with friends or to stay the night and needed something, I could use the cards to ask. If I needed something but couldn’t speak to ask, I would just go without even if it was something I really needed. I vaguely remember one of the cards. It was a blue index card with a glass of water on it, and I believe it had the word water on it. I was probably five or six at the time, at least old enough to read the cards.

Another characteristic of SM that has been very present in my life is sensitivity to loud noises. When I was very little, maybe two or three, my parents first noticed I had sensitive hearing when we were outside somewhere at a parade along a street, and ambulances fire trucks passed us with their sirens on. I covered my ears with my hands and was crying as soon as I heard the sirens. I still have very sensitive hearing, and I still hate sirens and fireworks among many other loud sounds.

All throughout my childhood, there were places I could talk freely like at home and when I was with my best friend, and there were places where I would freeze up, shut down, and barely speak, like church, homes of other people, and around people older than me. I am still like this, and I would have thought that it would be something I would grow out of, but I never did. People keep saying you just have to get out of your comfort zone, come out of your shell. But I don’t think it’s that easy. I have gone out of my comfort zone, and I have put myself in situations that I normally wouldn’t, and I did well. After only two months of doing that, now I can barely speak to anyone in those situations. I’m slowly getting back to where I was, but I still have a long way to go.

Partially because of my second hospitalization in October and the trauma associated with it, I can barely talk to anyone in EP. It’s been getting better over the past couple of months but I still can barely look my advisor or AC Hannah in the face. I can barely act in theatre class, I barely speak in any of my classes (besides theatre and that’s only because it’s theatre and being on stage allows me to become someone else), I can barely walk through the dining hall now because I’m so overly anxious. I can barely even talk to my friends unless they first pursue a conversation with me. I’ve been gradually shutting down, isolating, trying to close myself off, so I don’t have to feel. It’s not healthy, but I can’t seem to get out of it. I’m barely speaking anymore, and while it feels safe, it’s uncomfortable, but I just can’t make myself talk. There are still places and settings where I don’t talk much to anyone at all like church, Bible study, a few of my classes, or around certain people like my roommate (that’s a whole other disaster story). At home, I can talk all I want to my family and my cats, but I can’t talk to almost anyone I know from back home. For instance, I can’t talk at social gatherings or activities, unless it’s to my family, but that’s only if there aren’t other people listening.

Sometime in either twelfth grade or during my gap year, I learned a little bit about SM and the symptoms and characteristics and wondered if I struggled with it as I fit most of the criteria I was looking at. I learned about this after I learned a great deal about depression and anxiety, so I was pretty sure I had both. I began considering whether that was one more thing that was wrong with me, one more issue to fix. I began scaring myself by thinking that SM was one more problem I’d have to deal with. I didn’t want to self-diagnose myself as I heard that was a dangerous thing to do because you can make yourself think there are more things wrong than there are. I unfortunately fell into that trap and began to worry about all the different things that were wrong with me. I don’t think I’ve yet managed to escape it, but I have at least not fully believed all the things my mind says are messed up with me.

Over the years, I have worried about so many different disorders and issues that I might have/had like anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, OCD, dermatillomania (or Excoriation Disorder), an eating disorder, ADD/ADHD, Selective Mutism, and there were probably a few others I was concerned about having that I’m forgetting. I have since learned why you don’t self-diagnose, but I know there is a place for wondering about things like this. I have learned not to believe everything my mind tells me about my mental state or disorders. I have researched SM quite a bit more since then, and I can see how it could be something I have been struggling with. I don’t know if my thinking here is right at all, and maybe I’m just not seeing it clearly or even thinking clearly.

As for trauma, my mother told me about this one time I stayed with my dad’s mother when I was about eighteen months old. Neither my parents, nor I, of course, know what really happened, but they had to leave me with my grandmother overnight, and my mother suspects something happened as she was not a stable woman (but she didn’t know that until years later). When my parents returned to pick me up in the morning, my grandmother was so angry because I wouldn’t talk to her. My mom said that I never talked in the morning as a toddler. I was like one of those people who need their coffee in the morning before anyone can speak to them. My parents just always let me be in the morning because they knew I just needed my space, and everything would be fine. My grandmother was mad at me for not speaking to her that morning, so she in turn would not speak to me. I was also eighteen months old, so she shouldn’t have expected that much from me, but also, I did talk a lot at that age, more than I think most children that age do. They never left me alone with her again, and for that, I am grateful. For as long as I can remember, she has not been great with children, and she has always scared me.

I was never close to my dad’s parents, so their deaths didn’t affect me. Honestly, and this sounds terrible, but it was somewhat of a relief because we could barely breathe in that house around my grandmother because we didn’t want to do anything wrong. I remember from a really young age, everything was always so tense when we visited their house. None of us wanted to move or breathe for fear of making my grandmother upset. She hated my mother though and was always nasty to her.

Speaking of being separated from my parents, I believe the first time I remember being separated from them was when I was either two or three when I would go over to our neighbors across the street to play with the kids. I remember bits and pieces where I had fun playing with them and then afterwards returning home. I don’t think I had any separation anxiety at that age, it was mostly I just was uncomfortable being around the adults and parents. I remember other times where I was left alone with a babysitter and I didn’t really mind that my parents left, I was just concerned and worried about being with the babysitter because I was often so scared around them. I know with one babysitter, Aimee, once I warmed up to her after a little while I was fine staying with her, but most times I was still scared of her just because she was a figure in authority, and I was afraid of doing anything wrong. It’s interesting though because I wasn’t nearly as afraid to mess up around my parents, but around almost anyone else, I had this crippling fear.

Since there were many legal problems that my parents had to deal with concerning my sister’s adoption, sometimes they would have someone watch me. There was one lady in particular that watched me a couple times during this mess. This woman was/is terrifying. I am still scared of her to this day. This is the first memory I have of being scared of people. I was three almost four at this time. I learned recently that she also scares my mother which made me feel a bit better because then that meant, hopefully, I wasn’t overreacting. My next-door neighbors, Wayland and her family, Elle, Victoria, Crysta, Daniel , and James, also scared me to a certain extent. I spent a lot of time with Wayland, Elle, and Victoria, and they still scare me. I guess I was just a fearful child. I was often intimidated by anyone in authority and by anyone who was my age or older. I did well with kids younger than me. The only memories I have of threats or abusive behavior are memories from when I spent time with Wayland. When we were very little like four and five, I don’t remember anything bad happening, but from six to probably eight or nine, she became very bossy and was always telling me what to do even if I didn’t want to. If she had friends from school or softball over at her house, she would always ignore me and play with them instead, like say if we were kicking the ball to each other, I would be pushed out of the game so that it was only Wayland and her friend. She would only talk to her friend, and rarely to me unless she was telling me to do something. And I understand it’s hard to pay attention to two people at once especially as a little kid, but because she ignored me and happened every time, it was an issue.

Resuming to her bossy tendencies, if I was playing at her house, she would tell me what we were going to do, where we were going to play, what we were going to play with, what toys I was allowed to play with because she wanted the best ones for herself. Sometimes she would play music and turn it up so loud that it hurt my ears, and when I would ask her to turn it down, she wouldn’t. She would say that it wasn’t that loud, then her mom or grandparent would come up and tell her to turn the music down. Looking back, I remember that when her mom or grandparents did come up to her room and open the door suddenly, it would scare me, and I would always be afraid that it could happen at any moment. Also, at my home, when my sister and I shared a room, my brothers would come to wake me up, and they would open the door so suddenly and yell, startling both me and my sister. My sister would also do the same thing when she’d come upstairs, not the yelling part, just the sudden door opening. It always scared me, and I didn’t realize until now that that was something that I was often worried about. I learned how to listen so carefully that I could tell, even in my sleep, when someone was coming up the stairs to my door. Here, I can barely hear anything outside of my dorm room, and I can never tell when someone is going to come through the door. Even when I lock it, I can barely hear when it’s being unlocked. Last year, I was able to hear my roommate, because her keys would always jingle, and I could hear her footsteps. The lock was also pretty loud, so it was easy to hear unlike this year.

Getting back to Wayland, my parents heard and noticed how she was treating me and told me I needed to confront her and stand up for myself. They said I needed to tell her that how she was treating me was not okay. I eventually did, and things got much better after that but only for a little while. Around the ages of eleven to sixteen, she and I were best friends. Our friendship was what I thought good friendship was. It wasn’t until a few months ago that I figured out our friendship really wasn’t good at all.

She and I would always sit in the back seat of the car together, normally me on the driver’s side and her on the passenger side. We used to play this one game where we had to see who could smack or hit the hardest which consisted of her and I slapping each other’s hands or legs resulting in red handprints and sometimes bruised skin. There was another similar game of who could punch the hardest which was basically the same thing, except it was punching instead of slapping. There was another one that was a variation of rock paper scissors, but it included something about a giraffe and pinching, but it was basically just an excuse for Wayland to pinch me. There were a few times where she would punch me so hard that I was on the verge of tears, not because it physically hurt so much, but more because she would keep at it even if I asked her to stop. Normally, if it got to that point, I would ignore her until she realized what she did was not okay.

For the majority of my childhood, I was always worried about my house catching on fire and burning down while we all were asleep at night. Many nights when I’d go to bed, I’d lie there for hours worrying about housefires. I would stare at the smoke detector in my room, watching the green and red lights flash, indicating that it was working. Most nights, I would watch it until I fell asleep. I often dreamed about our house and my neighbors’ house going up in flames. I would dream about how we’d escape, what we would do if we were trapped and how we were going to get our pets out of the house. Fortunately, after several years, this fear subsided. I’m not sure how, but it did. I never told anyone that it was something I was afraid of or worried about. I just dealt with it on my own.

From whenever I was able to read, maybe six, to about fifteen or so, I would read almost every night (most nights both reading and worrying occurred simultaneously and I’m sure reading distracted me from my worry). Normally, I would stay up late into the night, sometimes well past one in the morning reading. My parents would tell me when they came upstairs for bed to turn the light off and go to sleep. I would turn the light off and pretend to sleep, but as soon as they had shut their door, or I could hear them asleep and snoring, I would close my door, turn on my light, and read for as long as I could keep my eyes open. I always got the best sleep when I had a book in my hand, my fingers on the paper still marking what page I was on.

I usually read small chapter books like the Boxcar Children and Magic Tree House books. These I normally read for fun because I found them interesting, how they had to solve mysteries. I found that my favorite genre was mystery, and I especially enjoyed suspenseful paranormal or supernatural mysteries. Well, at least as paranormal as kids’ books can get. I was also very into books about vets, dogs, and horses. Later, when I was about twelve or so, I was introduced to Percy Jackson, and that became a new favorite as I enjoyed everything about Greek and Roman mythology. Since I was older when I was reading these, I never really had a time when I had to be asleep by, so I would stay up so late reading, sometimes until two or three a.m.

Speaking of fears, I remember we went to New York for my great grandmother’s funeral, and the one most scarring things that happened was at the house we were renting.

One of the bedrooms was ocean themed and on at least two of the walls, it looked exactly like under the water. There were so many fish and plants, and there were dolphins as well. The blue of water kept going on and on, and this is when I first realized my fear of everything underwater, both seas, oceans, lakes, etc. Not so much small rivers, streams and creeks because they’re shallow, and you can see what’s there. My mother has a fear of sharks and of things underwater. She can’t even look at a picture of a shark without freaking out. I’m the same way. I can’t even go in pools anymore because I have such an irrational fear of the blue abyss even though I know it’s a contained abyss full of bugs, chemicals, and leaky children, which should probably scare me more than the blue abyss… Before I developed this fear of all pools, I had this fear of pool tiles because they reminded me of underwater creatures or just anything that I could see out of the corner of my eye that would terrify me. Later, it developed into the fear of all pools and bodies of water, and it goes so far that I can’t even eat seafood because it freaks me out so much.

I also remember when I was younger, my dad taught me how to shoot, but I hated how loud his guns were. I went hunting with him a couple times, but because his gun was so loud, I didn’t want to go anymore afterwards. I did help with the processing of a successful hunting trip though. I normally helped with grinding the meat (the grinder was always so loud, and I hated it (still do), but I liked helping, so I suffered through it) to make burger and sausage, while my sister, before my brothers were old enough, would wrap the meat in plastic wrap then freezer paper and label it.

One day during class of my first year at our homeschool group, we were learning about the basics of probability. Our probability activity was about how many different combinations of toppings we could put on a pizza. I don’t quite remember how this was related to probability, but there were several different toppings, cheese, pepperoni, mushroom, pepper, and sausage. I tried to give my answer, sausage and something else, but when I tried to speak, I couldn’t say sausage. I stuttered so awkwardly, and I was so embarrassed. I remember it as if it were yesterday. It sounded like, “Sa-saw-saw-saw-sausage…”

After that experience, I felt too afraid to speak in class again or really to any classmate, parent, or teacher. I had already been somewhat nervous around the kids in my class, but I got along with them pretty well and made some friends. I wasn’t completely asocial when I was seven, but this embarrassment affected me. Even today when I look back on it, I cringe even though I’m sure no one remembers it because that was fourteen years ago, and it really wasn’t that big of a deal.

In this same year, my first year of our homeschool group, I tried to do what we call Memory Masters where over the course of the school year, some students try to memorize all of the memory work from that year. That memory work included the entire timeline of one hundred sixty events, twenty-four sentences of history, twenty-four science questions and answers, multiplication tables through fifteens plus squares, cubes, conversions, and math laws, continents, countries, states, capitals, and physical features from around the world, twenty-four definitions and lists from English grammar, Latin vocabulary lists, conjugations, declensions, and John 1:1-7 in Latin, and forty-four presidents. In order to be memory master, a student would have to go through several proofs where they recite all of the information multiple times. I tried to do this my first year when I was seven, and I remember very distinctly this one time where I was trying to memorize the Bible verses in Latin.

So, my mother was sitting there in her chair, holding her Foundations guide as the afternoon sun was streaming into our living room. I was trying to remember what part came next in the verse. I had repeated these verses multiple times, but for some reason I could not retain it. I remember sitting there cross legged on the floor in front of her trying to think. I was saying I couldn’t remember the next thing over and over again because it just would not stick. My mother was getting frustrated, and I began saying that I didn’t know, then I think I started crying. Still sitting there, I blacked out and fell backwards onto the carpet and laid there until I came back. I have no idea how long it was, but I don’t think my mother knew I blacked out. When I sat up, she said, “Are you ready?” in what I remember to be an irritated tone. I had no clue what had transpired in that moment except for what I explained here. I don’t know why I blacked out or why this was overwhelming. I tried to complete the proofs and be memory master, but I failed, and it was just not something I could do.

Another similar experience happened when my mother, sister, brother and I were in California for my aunt’s wedding. At the time, my grandmother, two aunts, and three cousins all lived out there. I believe I was seven or so at the time, and the youngest cousin about nine or ten. She went to a private Christian school where my grandmother worked, and while I was there, I went with them to sit in on class one day. I remember this was the first time I was in a real school in a real classroom filled with so many other kids. I think I began to get overwhelmed by the amount of people, and the next thing I knew, I had blacked out with my head resting face down on my arms on the table, and someone was trying to get me to get up to leave. I think it was my grandmother. I don’t think anyone knew what happened that time either.

Another instance where I felt overwhelmed as mentioned before, was when I was either ten or eleven, and it was almost eleven or so at night when my mother and I were trying to complete my paper for class in the morning. We had our Faces of History presentations, and, as an enthusiastic Latin student, I had chosen Julius Caesar. For most of my life, I have been a terrible writer content wise. Grammar was absolutely no problem. Punctuation and grammar are two of my favorite things, but for school papers, trying to get me to write something with lengthy content was near impossible. I think it mainly had to do with my fear of not writing well or writing what I was actually thinking and then being judged for it.

When I was trying to complete this paper, my mom as my scribe, she kept asking me what I wanted to write. She told me to say anything, to just say something to put on paper, and we would edit it if needed. Normally, whatever I suggested was stupid and got shot down. I told her numerous times that I didn’t know, saying the same phrase I say in sessions, “I don’t know.” My mind had seemingly gone blank from the pressure, all that was there was the voice yelling at me to think of something to say. Sometimes when saying “I don’t know,” it was in that croaky, cracking, hoarse voice, other times it was in a shaky voice on the verge of tears, or in an annoyed, upset tone because she wouldn’t believe that I didn’t know. Sometimes it came out monotone because I was at the point where I had shutdown but not yet so overwhelmed, I was crying. This time it started with the flat, dead voice, then evolved to the shaky, brittle voice. Eventually, I was in tears because I was overwhelmed, and there was too much pressure to figure out what I needed to write.

By the end of the night, after I had been yelled at and scolded for not having started this paper sooner, my mother and I wrote the paper after she supplied most of the writing with the facts I had learned. She did not quite understand that I couldn’t think under that kind of pressure and has only, within the past several years, just learned this about me. Instances like this one happened quite often as I usually forgot the things I was supposed to do, and I always waited until the last minute to do them because I had forgotten. Instances similar to this happened frequently from fourth grade to at least eighth grade, maybe tenth.

In my 18th c. historical interpreting group, I could not speak, and I beat myself up for it every time I was there at meetings and at events. I was always being told to smile at events because I looked like I was hating my life because that’s just how my face is (but also, I was hating life because I was depressed so maybe it was a combination of both). As a laundress, it was my job to wash the laundry, hang it up to dry, and try to engage visitors or guests to help me. As a middling or gentry lady, I was supposed to talk to visitors, engage them in conversations or teach them how to play pocket games.

When I was twelve my sister and I joined Young Marines. Since my sister, her friend, and I were the first and only females of our bootcamp and unit, we were somewhat favored by our female registered adults (RAs). We had three drill instructors who were the meanest teenage guys I had ever seen, and as they were supposed to, were always yelling at us. I wasn’t as tough as I have become now, so when they yelled at me, I was overwhelmed and on many occasions, would start to cry. We also had to participate in a physical fitness test, which I failed each time because I have never been athletic or fit or any sort of that. Fortunately, I still graduated bootcamp. Over the four Saturdays, we learned how to properly march; we learned a variety of YM knowledge and basic survival skills, and drug and alcohol facts.

The weeks leading up to bootcamp, my dad tried to teach me and my sister about some Marine Corps knowledge like attention and yelling. He wanted me to yell, so he was yelling at me, not to be mean or anything but to show me how to yell, and each time, I would breakdown and start crying, one, because it was so loud and two, because it scared me. I’ve always been scared of yelling, and I don’t really understand why.

In Young Marines, there were people I could talk very well to, and there were others who I could barely move around. I was often very social in this setting, but I don’t really understand why. Even though I was more social in this situation, people would always joke that I didn’t speak, and I wouldn’t smile. The RAs made it a sort of contest or competition to see who could get me to smile. We had this one training exercise and game called Keep Your Bearing. The YMs would stand in formation, and they weren’t allowed to smile. The platoon sergeant would go up to each YM and do or say stupid things to make them smile or laugh. Once you cracked even so much as a little smile, you were out until the next round. Almost no one could make me smile except for my sister and maybe (rarely) a few other people.

Later, starting when I was in eighth grade, I was expected to participate more in class at our homeschool group and contribute to the conversations we were having. This was the year I had started to withdraw myself more, not speaking much at all to anyone. I didn’t really have any good friends in this class. There were people I really admired and wanted to be friends with, but I guess because I was so insecure with myself, I withdrew socially and made no attempt in friendships. The person I was closest with was our director, and she used to be my favorite person. I say used because I no longer have a favorite person, or at least I don’t believe I do.

I noticed that in this year I wasn’t talking to people and that I was kind of alone. I mean I knew these people, and we were sort of friends, but they all had their own little groups or cliques I guess, and I was just never in those. My mom would also try to bribe me to get me to speak just once in class. Whenever our director would call on me to answer a question, even if it was a question I should have known the answer to, I would answer with the “I don’t know” phrase usually in the croaky, hoarse voice as I would have barely spoken at all that day.

At our homeschool group, from eighth grade to twelfth grade, I could not speak fluidly to anyone except to one of my directors. But I could talk perfectly well with my sister if we were walking downtown or through a store, but as soon as someone was too close to us, my voice stopped working. I have always wondered why I can talk in some situations but not others, and I know it’s partially because of my social anxiety and my comfort with the environment.

In ninth grade, I felt the depression hit. I began to isolate myself more and more. I still didn’t talk to anyone, I never spoke in class, I would normally eat lunch by myself at my assigned seat in class, (normally all the girls would sit in one area usually with one other guy, Sheridan, who was very popular among the girls, and the other guys would sit either together in their group or they would split up into smaller groups; there were thirteen of us altogether, eight girls and five guys during this year), my personal appearance was horrendous and was just going downhill from there. I began having almost no energy or motivation to do homework or really anything at all.

For one of our seminars in the second semester, we were studying Shakespeare and reading Taming of the Shrew. During class, we would all assign each other different characters, then read the play aloud. Each time, we had different assignments, but my classmates would always do weird voices. This went all the way up until twelfth grade. There were two in particular that I remember. Sheridan, of course, always spoke in a very high-pitched voice for his character. He often volunteered for a woman’s part, which would have been historically accurate. Then there was Nick. He was a quiet guy, always very reserved and would draw nonstop through every class. For his characters, he would normally speak with a very stereotypical ‘gay boy’ (that’s what they call it) voice including a limp wrist and hand gesture. On the rare occasion, he would speak in the Batman voice, supposedly a very low, deep voice. They both did this throughout ninth, tenth, and eleventh grade when we read plays. When I was given a part, they would try to get me to talk in some weird voice or something funny, but I denied every time because I thought I didn’t want to, but looking back, I really was just too anxious and unable to speak in any voice except flat and monotone.

In tenth grade, I distanced myself from everyone. I was fifteen, and I still really didn’t have any friends. I was becoming more and more distant from my family. My sister and I were still somewhat close, but around this time, my eldest younger brother and I were always butting heads. Almost daily, he would tell me how stupid I was, how illogical, fat, ugly, disgusting, and weak I was. This started mildly in ninth grade and continued to worsen through eleventh grade and possibly into twelfth grade. I don’t quite remember when it stopped but definitely sometime before I graduated high school. This would have been when my brother, Charles, was seven or so until he was ten or eleven, maybe even twelve.

During this year, I could feel my depression weighing on my shoulders almost every day, but I didn’t realize until the next year that that was what it was. I also realized that I was becoming overly anxious during class, aware of everything about everything and everyone as well as everything about myself. I didn’t realize that I was anxious all I knew is that I didn’t want to be around anyone because it made me so uncomfortable and scared to be around people because there was the pressure to talk to them and I had no idea how to do that. As the school year continued, I started to fall behind in my work as I was barely do any of it because I just couldn’t get it done. I had no energy for anything. I would spend hours on the couch doing nothing, staring at my papers trying to figure out what was going on, what I was doing, and how I was going to get the work done. When I would go to class, I wouldn’t know any answers so that when I was called on for a question, I could truthfully say I didn’t know.

During these three years, my mother and I were pretty distant, not physically because we spent a lot of time together, but I was closed off and didn’t let anyone know what was going on in my mind. I mostly didn’t know myself what was going on, but I at least knew something was wrong. My mother mainly thought it was just because I was being quiet and shy around people as well as lazy and lethargic at home. She didn’t realize that I was struggling with anxiety and depression. I was also very irritable because of my depression. I was always so exhausted and never wanted to do anything. I thought I was being lazy because my parents were often telling me, but what I – and they – didn’t realize was I was actually so mentally dead from fighting my mind that I could barely function. My mother and I grew apart because I was always so irritable that I didn’t want to talk to anyone. All I wanted to do was sleep or lie on the couch and pet my cats.

Sometime in eleventh grade I believe, I received a Samsung tablet as a gift, so I had unlimited access to internet. I set up an Instagram account, and was able to access my Pinterest account as well. I began to spend a lot of time on the internet, mostly because it was a distraction from my mind. On these social media platforms, I started researching, mostly on Pinterest, what I was feeling and experiencing. I learned some of them were symptoms of anxiety and depression, and I started to question whether this is what I was struggling with. I found a lot of posts on Instagram from these accounts that mainly posted about depression and how it felt to have depression. I liked a lot of these posts, at least fifty a day, and one day, one of my mother’s friends who also had an Instagram account saw what I was liking. She took screenshots of some of the posts and sent them to my mother asking if I was okay. My mother was not at home at the time, and I was home alone.

When she got back, I could tell something was wrong as soon as she walked in the door. She sent my siblings upstairs, then confronted me about it. She asked if I was doing okay and told me that I had been liking some pretty dark stuff on Instagram. She then asked me if I was hoping someone would notice. I told her I wasn’t. She asked me if I was depressed to which I responded that I didn’t know. Then she asked me if I had ever cut. I said no to this because I had not.

At this time, I had been self-harming, but I didn’t realize that’s what it was. I didn’t cut, but sometimes at night, as I was lying in bed awake, with a million things going through my mind, I would remember stupid and embarrassing things I had said or did. It would cause me so much internal and mental discomfort that I would rake my nails up and down my arms repeatedly until they were red and burning. I didn’t tell anyone I did this because I didn’t quite understand what it was, and of course I knew that it was something that would be frowned upon. It also left no physical evidence or damage, so no one could tell that I was doing it. After our conversation, my mother and I never really talked about me being depressed again.

As I mentioned before, I got a tablet sometime in 11th grade, and it caused so many problems for me. I mentioned in another piece that my childhood best friend Wayland made these profiles for me online to find guys but instead put her picture. Well, I believe when she visited and stayed with my family for a few days sometime in March or April of 2015, she convinced me to get this app, Kik, and just writing about that word is bringing all those horrible memories back. She and I would text on this app sometimes because she preferred talking on it rather than texting. I guess it was more secure and private than texting. She showed me how to get to the extra messaging platforms within the app. She asked if she could use it to create a profile for me to talk to people. I don’t think I realized at first what she was doing.

After she got me to agree to that, she began creating profiles on other messaging places and “swiping” pictures of guys for me. She told me that she was going to go through the pictures because I was so innocent and sometimes the pictures were really inappropriate. She also said that she was going to find someone for me to talk to that I would actually have a chance with. On some of these, she put her own picture as the profile picture, telling me that I would get more guys that way because no guy would want to talk to me if my picture was there. There were other instances where she hinted as well as mentioned that I was ugly, fat, too innocent, a goody two shoes, things like that. I already had my own insecurities and worries about myself, and when she told me these things, it just confirmed that I was right. She was my best friend, so I believed her. I didn’t think she would lie to me, and I took what she said as truth.

Twelfth grade wasn’t all that eventful. I spent most of my time watching my brothers, doing homework, and mentally beating myself up. Towards the end, there was drama with graduation and this one girl talking about me behind my back.

In May of 2016, I graduated high school. For the next five months, I spent the majority of my time online or in my basement watching Doctor Who. I binge-watched this show from the time I got up in the morning – about ten – to when I went to bed – about midnight or one, sometimes even two. I was lonely and depressed, and I didn’t know what I was doing with my life. I guess I was trying to distract myself from my depression and my anxiety of school. I had plans to go to community college, but I didn’t know how to enroll or how anything about college worked, and I didn’t want to bring it up to my mom as she was nagging me all the time about it. I think it felt like it was just too overwhelming for me to think about, so I was avoiding it to keep myself from feeling that.

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