I’ve learned not to judge and not to fear judgement.
I’ve learned that love conquers all as well as love conquers hate.
I’ve learned that this country is not equal in all aspects and that we as a nation fail to provide every American to their rights of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of…
2 years seems like a long period of time yet so short. I suppose it depends on whom you talk to and what had happened within those 730 days. You can do a lot in 2 years: you can get an associates degree or even complete a graduate program. You could be considered in a long-term relationship with a partner or become an upperclassman in the educational system. Getting your driver’s license and becoming an adult may also happen in a 2-year time frame. Perceptibly you could accomplish some respectfully great things for the stigma of being a functioning person in our society because, well, you “need” to do these things. What have you accomplished for yourself in the past 2 years to gain a sense of self-fulfillment? Sure, success is great but how could you feel about that success if you’re well-being is not at its peak? Perhaps you’ve done more subconsciously for yourself that you may want to reflect on; you may surprise yourself.
A lot has occurred for me in the past 2 years. Some things were out of my control yet were brilliantly presented to obtain so much more and allowed significant opportunity for discovery in myself. 2 years ago I had terminated from my first valid relationship with my first girl friend. Anyone can tell you in the lesbian world, the first break up is the hardest and THE one girls stem the rest of their relationships from. In the midst of the relationship, I had been trying to process what exactly it meant to be gay and, basically, figure how much I had been holding back from. Being honest with myself and my loved ones about the gender I mostly connected with and longed for on a romantic level was a journey I had started just a few months before this unfortunate ending.
When I was finally able to get out my feelings to others I started to realize who my true friends were and who was going to support me through this journey I’ve inevitably begun. Hearts were broken in the process too. A child who is close with any of their parents is bound to fear the rejection and disappointment for their presentation of their “nonconforming” identity. That certainly was on my mind when it came to exposing myself to the most important person in my life, my mother. Without surprise exactly what I feared happened. Feeling disconnected from your best friend who brought you in this world for exposing who you are is one of the most heart-wrenching rejections I’ve ever dealt with. Nothing says you’re scum to my life more than “you’ve destroyed all of my hopes and dreams I’ve had for you” from your mother. Yeah, ouch right? I did that. Anyway, this isn’t particularly about her, but I’ll get back to that.
Despite the fact that breaking up with someone so influential in my life was hard, I had suffered from depression and self-esteem setbacks since I was a young girl. When big things happened such as complications with best friends or family was occurring, my mind plunged into an isolated, miserable place. The break up was a trigger to what was no different than any other relapse, besides that it may have been the most severe. If you’ve ever felt sadness so agonizing as when you’re depressed like I had been, you may be able to relate to part of my story.
Waking up the Saturday morning after was so silent, cold, and unpleasantly still. I immediately woke up knowing what had happened the night before. I remembered that I had cried for hours alone in the house until my brain couldn’t function from the amount of emotion released. After being conscious of the previous events I checked my phone to see if she had another “change of heart”. She did not. I threw my cell phone across my room then I lay back in my bed with swollen eyelids and racing thoughts that initiated the scorching pain in my chest. I felt the urgency to wrap myself with deep pressure from under my heavy blankets that late-January morning. Intense stress to the chest then took place in my stomach and porcelain had become my place of release from time to time that day as well as many days following.
When it came to go to work during the following week I produced a flat affect and slight burdening attitude of motivation to direct my client to do any normal routine functions or intervene in behaviors that needed correcting. The inescapable burst in tears arose a few times a day and a rush to the women’s bathroom was in order; standing there staring myself in the face and biting my lip, giving myself the “Allison, get a grip” pep talk. Meals were probably the most excruciating times of the day, simply because they were nonexistent due to my nerves preventing me from keeping solids down. In fact, swallowing was the first challenge of the task. Trying to eat some of my favorite meals began to feel like I was eating the most vile things imaginable or like trying to swallow a balloon. Wasn’t happening. Vividly I recall getting through the day with a bag of saltines and water to flush them down without gagging on the crumbs. My daily vice of caffeine was absent from my diet due to feeling condescending on the purpose of the product, which was to wake up. Metaphorically speaking that’s not what I had in mind for the time being.
I wasn’t the only one who took notice in my inability to focus on my work with my favorite kiddos on the Autism Spectrum. Every week I had supervision for an hour to vent and seek help from my supervisor who specialized in the diagnosis. I attended these meetings with the same 3 women and my supervisor so we all knew each other pretty well and our cases. Remorseful expressions were offered and the obligated question, “how are you doing”, from my supervisor when I’d depart to go to my client’s school. I openly spoke of my shame for how I had been feeling about my life and not being able to focus on what meant so much to me.
After nearly 2 months of sulking like a slug in mud every day something unanticipated happened at supervision. I was slumped in my usual seat and swimming in my favorite gray wool sweater which appeared to fit me 2 sizes too big due to drastic weight loss. My supervisor Karen was reviewing a portion of a training packet we did occasionally and she was lecturing to the group on the integrity the agency has for our clients. In a diverted daze in the middle of the session, I stared intently at my client’s name printed on my voucher. I sat up in my chair and took a breath of reassurance and glanced out the shaded window in the room persistently involved in my own thoughts. When supervision concluded I anxiously got out of my chair to head to my destination but paused when I reached the front door with my hand pressed on the doorframe to stop myself from exiting. “Karen, I want to get on a new case”, I spoke with sincere confidence. Karen halted in the lobby and turned to give me her full attention. She looked at me as if her child spoke to her for the first time. She was timid to respond but when she did she asked me if I was sure. “Absolutely”, I said, “and I want a challenge. I want to work with someone that’s going to make me work like hell to help them.” Karen’s eye glossed and her smile lines were deep. “I think I know just the case for you. Call me when you get out of school and I’ll let you know what I find out.” I told her I would and was on my way.
A few weeks later I started working with Savannah, or often addressed as Shood, her nickname given by her parents. Her previous TSS was moving to California to get her masters and a replacement staff was needed. Karen felt I was a good match to work with the family and with this mystery of an 8 year old. When I said I wanted a challenge I was serious on my enthusiasm to face new behaviors I would feel uncomfortable with. Savannah’s behaviors to work on are particularly on assisting her with decreasing anxiety and those behaviors she produced when agitated. Agitated defined for Savannah is throwing a tantrum of crying, screaming, shouting, conducting in self-injurious acts, stomping, and other acts considered being typical for this youngster. Savannah rarely hits other people or throws or breaks objects but the behaviors she displays are still rather violently stimulating for others to tolerate. I kept at it and worked with a proactive team of family and a behavior specialist to help Savannah de-escalate and try to minimize her agitation in time.
I’ve worked with Shood for nearly 2 years now and we’ve become what we like to call ourselves “girl friendies”. I’ve gotten to know this young girl and seen her make drastic improvements in socializing and frustration tolerance. Reflecting on how Savannah is doing today and looking back at that day when I requested her case, I realized that she’s become my pride and joy and, in a way, my liberator for who I am today. My relations with Savannah has driven me to push myself more and more every day to work hard and do well for others as well as for myself.
From working with Shood I’ve discovered traits about her that counterbalance traits of my own. Savannah displays impatience to get what she wants. From working with her on patience I’ve realized it had made mine stronger and my compassion was burning more to understand how to give her what she needs but to make her work for it. One of the most standout traits that I have grown to admire in my youngster is her capability to collect information, especially feelings in others, when you think she’s not paying attention. She can sit through her CCD class and color or draw and she will still stand up and recite the prayers she is learning. Savannah has also improved immensely with recognizing other people’s feelings from her actions. She’s able to be empathetic towards others when she detects sadness. I use visual tools to express that I am sad then I ask her if the pictures match how I look soon after her uncooperative behavior. In time Savannah was able to detect sadness from her actions by searching for facial cues used simultaneously with verbalization. Along with recognizing those feelings from others Shood has been able to communicate more “typical and engage more often than when initiated by others to socialize with her. From my weekly encounters working with my Shood, we’ve developed a trusting and affectionate bond as if I were a member of her family. I will always remember the way she would ask me to repeat silly phrases and giggle at me or how when I am on my way out the door she would wrap her arms around my mid-section and look up at me with her lips puckered. Her piercing blue eyes looked at me as if she was communicating that I had made her day a pleasant one and she was appreciative for my presence and I make a difference every day I spend with her.
Now you may wonder how this story is relevant to the point of talking about 2 years besides that it took place that long ago. I failed to mention that before yearning for my acquaintance with Shood this was the most severe relapse I’ve had in 15 years of a dismissed case of PTSD caused by an aggressive alcoholic father and developed a nature of major depressive disorder. Not that the “diagnosis” part is important because clearly I didn’t seek help for the issues I’ve had and part of me is appreciative that I never did. That gratified feeling currently contents me because I can reflect on everything I have been through and pride myself that I did it all on my own and found it in a succeeded challenge. No therapy or treatment plans, no medication, just hope and keeping on with my life and surrounding myself with positive, supportive, loyal people. It took a long time to find that hope and apart of me knew it was out there considering I am here today to tell you my story.
I have been depression free for nearly 2 years and it’s the longest I’ve gone in 15 years without relapsing and I certainly don’t see any alteration in my mentality of high expectations or confidence in myself. What I discovered made me the most content and made me optimistic everyday has been simply being open with who I am and what I am capable of achieving. I believe part of the reason I was so miserable for so long was because I was afraid of myself and I feared what could happen being apart of a minority group or that I would defeat myself for my past horror. I experienced bullying for the accusations of the “label” and because people presumed I slept with a soccer ball and a backwards baseball cap on every night. My encounters with others on the topic today have been astoundingly pleasant and filled with open-minded gestures. Sure, there have been some unfortunate moments of threats and uncivilized hateful people with their noses in the air but who needs people like that? They will certainly get theirs one day when they realize their hate is worth nothing and that is precisely what they’ll get.
Through the confusion, agony, and desperate desire for assuring answers I have discovered a lot of things besides that I have overcome all of these obstacles. I know there is always room for growth but I feel like the search for my soul has come to a conclusion. I am an upbeat cheerful person with compassion to reach out to others in need of a companion with an open ear. I am a strong woman who desires hard to gain the rights she has like everyone else in society. I also realize I am not perfect but I have made significant improvements. Who was once a short fused, impatient, untrusting, pessimistic person and blaming everyone else for my problems my whole life, I’ve gained clarity that it simply just was life happening. Constantly competing in this world to be well-liked or living in little dreams that seemed unattainable was not something I needed to focus on. I don’t believe how your life feels is out of luck, karma, or that you deserve for it to be that way. Life just is. We were all meant to live to succeed and a fail from time to time. It’s all about what you get from those challenges and being able say to yourself, “I have succeeded and learned something from this to guide me further in life”.
Growing up with low self-esteem and confidence for such a long time has made a drastic U-turn. I’ve been able to look at my flaws as minor details on who I am as a person and I’ve created the idea for myself that these flaws are none-the-less quirks that make me unique. I find my terrible handwriting and inability to be artistic or creative an oddity that makes room for things I am good at. I’m not good at snapping my fingers and am unable to master the task of hair braiding but I’m strong, athletic, and have some average capability when it comes to rhythm in music and dancing with a group of people. I’m not a size 6 and I will most likely always have “more to love” but the largest part of me resides in my chest and pounds hard and loud as if it were trying to breakout. I feel I have nearly mastered in being open with how I feel and expressing myself appropriately to keep myself healthy and keep others around me comfortable to talk about them. I’ve succeeded in being an excellent listener and have developed compassion for resiliency and lending a hand to facilitate others who need someone to trust and confide in.
For 8 months now I have been working in a psychiatric hospital working primarily with children ages 4-17 who deal with depression, aggressive behaviors, and are apart of an estrange family unit like I have been. The work every day is mentally draining, physically demanding at times, and requires patience of a saint, or so I’ve been told. Although the work is stressfully stimulating I’ve been able to connect with numerous individuals for simply just being a person to talk to about why they are being hospitalized in the first place. The fact I have lived through a lot of the issues these kids have been through helps invite my compassion and drives me to encourage them to be open about their problems. I’ve verbalized to some kids I’ve developed a good rapport with that wanting and learning to open up early in their life will save them a lot of grief and they’ll find happiness sooner. I’ve seen that little bit of attention and advice makes a difference. I hope to do the same with this memoir and more to come.
With all being said maybe someone will be able to take a piece of this with them. Maybe no one will. I hope whoever got to this point was moved by my story and gained a sense of urgency to get themselves together and start living for themselves or for the possibility of achieving greatness that lays ahead of them. Greatness is surely out there if you want it bad enough. I understand the struggle to see the light at the end of the tunnel of relentless sadness and self-defeat. Within the past 2 years since I have reached to this point I have not only learned so much about my strength in character but I’ve developed an increased desire to reach out to others who have dealt with or are currently fighting internal battles as well as environmental situations that need a little push to get through it.
I’ve given in to being open about my history of depression and to blog about past experiences that have been tough for me. Those tough situations left me with memories that were haunting for quite some time but today I see them as fuel for my fire to never go back to the “old Allison”. One of my latest and most inspirational people I have discovered is a musician who goes by City and Colour but his real name is Dallas Green (where he got the name of his band from). I discovered this band in the middle of my last relapse and his music has been very motivating and I’ve gained an aura of comfort from someone who has felt what I have with some of my issues. He describes tough moments as “Little Hells” which was the name of his most recent album and he states, “you have to go through those little hells to get to the really great parts of love and life”. I find Green’s figurative illustration extremely appropriate. The hardest moments have potential to mold someone into a really patient, strong, and wise person who has learned from the hard times and their mistakes and take the lessons with them everywhere through life. The bad doesn’t always mean it will be that way forever but it could be temporary and it always happens for a reason.
I advise you to stay patient and keep your chin up. Seek help from others if it’s absolutely necessary and don’t hide your heartache that could potentially deteriorate your motive to get through life peacefully. You are not alone in this world and those among you can help you. Above all, stay above the negativity from those who provide it. Life is not meant for allowing others to defeat you. You have a voice and you have a spirit that is meant to be good and if you know what is right in the world, live by that. Surround yourself with positive and supportive people who understand you or make the effort to try. I always say, “have no regrets”. You’ll never hear me say, “I wish I never met _____” because they were put here for a purpose. It’s incredible how toxic people typically have the most affect on a person in a bad way but could perceptively be the most influential to you in a nurturing way. For example my mother hasn’t been the perfect support for me to get through my struggles. Ultimately, this is about you and how you take control of your life. Don’t become your own worst enemy. Forgive yourself and others for your pain that had been caused. If you have good people in your life, feed off their energy and take it as fuel for your confidence. You are loved and you should love yourself and fight like hell to get what you want and be who you want to be.
I hope to learn what you’ve found within yourself. You may not gather anything considerably from what I’ve revealed today but perhaps in 2 years time, you will.