It’s Your Turn Series: Post 8 “I Am Not What Happened To Me, I Am What I Choose To Become.”

 When I emailed with Sarah, she told me that she had pushed aside her anxiety out of how I might sound to someone else. She’s not the only one. There are so many people that have experienced various traumas, almost all of which are out their control, but yet they take on shame. We are not the problem. It is not our fault. Sarah’s story hit me in the stomach. As children we don’t understand our surroundings and the experiences are created for us. People don’t realize that when children experience violence, that they will become adults who remember and react to violence.

I can not remember a time in my life where I did not have anxiety. My home life was a war zone in my eyes. I was the third of four girls. My mother was a full-time single parent and my dad was as drunk as he could be on a daily basis. We never knew when he would come in smelling of whiskey and ready to yell at my mother. He never was physically abusive, but we watched him verbally abuse my mother for years. We tried to protect her, but four little girls can only do so much.
This home life caused me to be a little girl that was terrified of everything. I would cry as soon as the fire drill went off in class, I would have to held aside to walk with the teacher because the anxiety over took everything I had. I wasn’t afraid of the loud noise or the chance of a fire, I was upset by an unplanned commotion. It reminded me of home and how happiness could be burst like a bubble. My eldest sibling poked fun at me for my anxiety and called me names like cry baby and scaredy cat. As a little girl those names hurt and when you can’t describe why you are so shaken with fear, you then yourself brush it off that you are just being a baby. I can recognize now that I had anxiety issues as a child, and a 2nd grade teacher even wrote to my mother suggesting that I see a child psychiatrist, something my mother felt was not needed, or she just didn’t have the time for. I got better with my anxiety at school but at home it always remained alert.
As I entered middle school my father was sent to prison. He ended up in and out of jail most my teenage life. It was always weird to me because he would get sober there, come out and I would have to get to know a different person. Just for him to turn around and within months to maybe a year be back in jail. We wouldn’t have contact with him other than a shared phone call on the holidays or letters he wrote. I held a lot of resentment towards him. My mother saved us all by staying strong but we watched her suffer a lot. Once my father was out of the picture, my eldest sister took the role of verbal abuser. I watched her treat my mother and siblings like we were garbage, say horrible things to us and insult anything we did.  It didn’t help that we were all chubby in my family. I think my mother felt if we were fed well we were being taken care of. My older siblings had a bigger weight issue than myself and my younger sibling but we all suffered and struggle with it. I can’t even get into all the problems we had though my teenage years. We dealt with suicide threats, cutting, bulimia, anorexia and extreme low self esteem at times. I had thought we had the worst behind us as we all started to become adults. The worst was yet to come.
My sister who shared the middle spot with me was starting to show symptoms of a mental illness. In the next two years we would be on a roller coaster from hell of never knowing if the police or someone would call saying she got in trouble or was sent back to the psych ward. We tried to help her in every way we could. It became more difficult to help because she kept getting into trouble with the law and taking things out of our hands and hers. In May 2014 I came home and saw police cars and ambulances all parked in front of my house. I remember leaving my car parked in the middle of the road as I ran to the door. No officer would let me in, they said they didn’t want me to see her that way and that she was gone. My father was the only one there. He was the man who helped her buy a gun, she convinced him that it was hobby. I was there alone waiting for my mother to get home from work. I had to break the worst news to all my family. I was numb. For the year following I would have breakdowns and depression that I just couldn’t control. My boyfriend (now husband) would try to comfort me but we both knew that neither of us knew what to do.
 Since then my life has continued on but with different struggles. My oldest sister is an alcoholic and my younger sister is basically one foot out the door of never talking to anyone in my family again. It will be five years this May since my sister passed. I always say to my husband, I don’t even know what part of my life has caused me more pain. And I don’t think I ever will. What I have come to realize that helps me is that I can’t control what caused the pain but I can control how I deal with it. I get anxiety and depression to this day and I feel horrible when I think I am not being the partner my husband deserves because I mentally and emotionally am not there. I continue on and refuse to give up.
I believe I need to be strong for my family and try to help keep together what little bits we have left. I do not want to give up. My sister wouldn’t have wanted me to give up. Before she was sick she was every one’s cheerleader. She was brilliant and beautiful and I do not want to let her down. I know she is my little extra push when getting out of bed is the hardest thing for me to do. I have learned from being skinny to being over weight, the scale number never matters. I always want to think it does because it is the only thing I can control. Bad things , anxiety, and depression have all happened to me at all different weights. What I want is to be healthy now and listen to my body and not with a diet. I want to be healthy to keep my mind healthy not look skinny.
I am going to be 31 this Jan, and I want to get it my best yet because I believe I deserve it. Thank you for giving people, including myself, this outlet to express their story. You are an amazing , strong and very intelligent woman. I know I will continue to look forward to your many adventures, stories and personal shares.  I wish you nothing but the best on your journey.

If you or someone you know is at risk for hurting themselves or others please contact the Suicide Prevention Hotline – 1-800-273-8255
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