I’d like to focus my next post on family and how they react to and affect our mental health. When I was seventeen, I felt my black hole expanding. It had always been there, responsible for homework assignments I left at home or times I had trouble regulating my emotions.
As a junior in high school, the hole began consuming me.
Although I’ve always had trouble sleeping, I would now lie awake for hours, my heart hammering out of my chest. My thoughts would endlessly circle, a looping record of self-hate and my worst fears:
No one likes you.
You’ll never get into a good school.
You won’t get a good job.
You’ll always have a miserable life.
No one likes you.
Before I had to give presentations in front of the class, I’d shake like I was trapped in the cold and my stomach would empty everything it could besides my internal organs.
My dad knew something was up. He didn’t know the full extent of what I was experiencing, but he caught a glimpse into my world when he helped me rehearse a dialogue I had to give in front of my Spanish class. Last time I had had to do this, I was so nervous my mind morphed into a vacant room. I needed to go back to my desk to take another look at my lines, which I then forgot. Again. Meanwhile, the class gawked at me. I could hear them thinking how awkward and strange I was. Their thoughts were audible. My dad looked at me incredulously as he noticed how flustered I was getting.
“Leah, you only need to remember four lines. Why are you getting this worked up?”
At that point I was crying. I told him I’d forget the lines again. That even if I practiced a thousand times my mind would just freeze under my classmates’ stares.
That’s when my dad made an appointment for me to talk to someone. Gradually, I learned to share my looping record, my black hole. The thoughts didn’t really grow quieter, but acknowledging them (and their ludicrousness) out loud seemed to dull their edge.
I wish my mom had been as supportive as my dad. It isn’t that she doesn’t love me; my mom loves me incredibly, she just has a difficult time showing it outside of just throwing “I love you’s” at me. She also can’t relate to anything outside of what she’s experienced firsthand (which I guess is the case with most people). Specifically, she cannot understand suicidal ideation/extreme depression. Here are a couple scenarios to illustrate my point:
I was seventeen and at the mall with my mom; this is the year I previously mentioned when I experienced serious black hole expansion. Somehow, my mom got onto the topic of her friend’s son’s mental health–let’s call him J. It wasn’t quite what she said about J which irked me, but how she said it.
“J has been depressed for a while. He was threatening to hurt himself and [J’s mom] had to pick him up from school. He’s always had a lot of issues.”
There was disgust in her voice. My mom talked about J as if he had a flesh-eating disease that he willingly gave himself. She whispered it while we were by the clothing racks because it was too taboo to discuss at a normal voice-level. Depression might as well have been Lord Voldemort. Unbeknownst to my mom, it was also my enemy.
I sat in the passenger’s seat of my mom’s car. We sat in silence for a while while 70’s music (always in the background in her car) whined from the speakers. It had been months since I felt like myself. I decided to broach the topic with her. I was summoning Lord Voldemort in the flesh.
“Mom, I think I might be depressed.”
“Depressed? What do you have to be depressed about?”
“Different stuff. I don’t really know where to begin.”
“When I was your age I didn’t have a care in the world. You’re seventeen—you’re not depressed.”
I began seeing a therapist a few months later–after much coaxing from my dad–and indeed I was depressed. As I previously mentioned, I never would have gotten help if it weren’t for my dad. For every parent reading this: PLEASE, please listen to your children if they suspect they’re feeling more than just down. If they’re acting abnormally anxious. Speaking from firsthand experience, everything is probably much worse than your child is even letting on.
However, the way you react to it can make all the difference.
For now, I am signing off. I hope you’ve enjoyed the ramblings of my black hole mind.