'I grew up in a dysfunctional home. My dad is an alcoholic who nagged my mom so much that I can barely recall a peaceful and relaxing day at home growing up. Since I am an only child, I had no one to talk to about my resentment for my dad and the guilt I had for not being able to stand up for my mom. I was always crying myself to sleep but nobody knew how lonely I was.
“Have you ever experienced the kind of loneliness so strong that you can literally feel it seeping through your bones? I have, and It’s making me wonder if there’s any reason to go on.” This is an entry in my journal when I was nine.
Other kids were thinking about games and fun while I was writing such depressing thoughts on paper.
Hiding My Secret
I learned to live a double-life. No one knew about my home situation and I learned early on how to be a “functional extrovert”.
I “acted” friendly, outgoing, and sociable. My acting must have been convincing since I was one of the most popular girls in high school and even in college. While I socialize with everyone, I didn’t let anyone get too close, for fear that my secret family life would be discovered.
To compensate for having an alcoholic father and abused mother, I worked hard to live a perfect life on my own. True enough, I graduated at the top of my class and eventually landed a job in a large firm where I flourished and became recognized.
Since I was living in another city and far from the drama at home, I felt much better. I worked long hours and loved my job. I was only 24 years old, but I have already achieved my goals – a nice apartment, car, money, and a high position in the company.
Whatever feelings of deep loneliness I have in my heart, I buried it by working like there’s no tomorrow.
My Depression Crept Back
My greatest fear was marrying a man just like my dad. But I was too insecure to date good men because I was afraid they will abandon me as soon as they knew about my family situation.
I brought the curse to myself. I married a man who was verbally and physically abusive. He hated that I worked a lot and that I earned more than him, so he made sure to make a fuss whenever I got home from work.
After draining my energy, confidence, and hope in the three years that we were together, he abandoned me. I was devastated. The thought that an incompetent man couldn’t even stand to stay with me brought back the loneliness I felt before.
I was like a robot programmed to merely go to work and come home after the day is done. I could barely sleep. I had no appetite. I was living but it sure didn’t feel like it. I felt exactly like my 9-year-old self who was writing in her journal about “loneliness that seeps through the bones”.
I kept to myself and no longer bothered to wear my “extrovert” mask. I was irritable and yelled a lot. My friends were concerned but I pushed them all back. I couldn’t stand being pitied.
There were days I could hardly force myself to get out of bed. I was late for meetings. I missed deadlines. My boss was concerned but I didn’t care.
My headaches seemed to not go away, and I couldn’t stop my eyes from shedding buckets of tears. I hated the evenings because the darkness and silence seemed to suffocate me. I was a mess.
I read about depression and its warning signs. I knew my case was textbook. I was afraid, desperate, and panic-stricken. I knew deep in my heart that I needed help.
Finding the Will to Fight Back
I was fortunate to have a friend who didn’t let go of me, even when I was the worst friend anyone could have. She found me a good counselor who helped me deal with my sadness and emptiness.
I was hesitant at first, but I realized after a couple of counseling sessions that talking helps. I poured my soul out to a complete stranger. It was refreshing to let go, take off my mask, and not care about what other people thought of me.
I told the therapist about my alcoholic dad, my deep-seated insecurities about not being enough, my hellish marriage – everything. I cried, shouted, cursed during sessions and it was cathartic.
It has been three months since I first went to counseling and I am feeling a lot better. Although there are still times when I feel empty, I force myself to get out of bed and write.
I have always loved writing since I was a little girl. I have several notebooks filled with thoughts I had when my parents were fighting or when I felt sad and alone.
I knew that writing is therapeutic even without my counselor telling me. Jotting my feelings down on paper serves as an effective way to release all the overwhelming emotions I keep inside.
I write everything since nobody will read it anyway. When the emotions are too intense, I even burn what I wrote and think that I am being freed from those emotions as the pages slowly turn to ashes.
I know that I am far from being completely free from the shackles of depression since it fought hard to stay with me, but I try to remind myself every day that I have come a long way. I give myself a hug every morning and greet my reflection in the mirror with a smile. Little things help. Little things matter.
If you can relate to my story because you also stared depression in the face, know that there is hope, and help is available.
Give yourself a tight hug, close your eyes, and whisper, “It’s okay. You can do this.” '
Charles would like to thank "Holly" for the time she gave in discussing her past for this article, and I would like to thanks Charles for the opportunity to share "Holly's" experience.
CREATING MY ODYSSEY