I remember one day in English class we were talking about traditions around the holidays. The conversation moved to family, the funny, zany, crazy family. We also talked about what family we didn’t really didn’t like seeing, but went to see anyway, out of obligation. I said that for me it was my grandmother, but we don’t see her anymore. My teacher said “Yes finally! You had the courage to stop the madness!” Honestly, I would have wished that we all just mutually said that we would rather spend time with people we really want to be around, and let each other be, but that isn’t what happened.
My grandmother is not the best person to be around. To fully grasp what I will later tell you, you need to understand more who she is. She is manic-depressive. I have heard stories from my mother about how when I was born she wanted my mother to leave me with her for the day, I being an infant. So when my mother said no, my grandmother got mad. My mother was the bad child and my grandmother didn’t take the refusal of her service well. After I was a year old, we moved to California. Then, when I was 7 we moved back east and reconnected with my grandmother out here. Everything seemed okay to me, but I never really liked her.
Looking back recently at pictures I realized that I gained a lot of weight on the move back, and I was pretty overweight. This rubbed my grandmother the wrong way. She thought that I needed to lose weight. So for Christmas and birthdays she would ask my mother what my clothing size was, and every time follow it up with what was my weight. She knew what I wanted was books and music and slippers, but every year she tried to get me clothing. And she would ask why my mother didn’t weigh me more often. I remember one time I went out to dinner with her, and with my mother, father, and siblings there, she proceeded to cut my burger in half, then again in half and deemed it appropriate for me to eat the fourth of my original meal.
My grandmother is extremely overweight herself, so one would think that she would understand and be kinder, but that was one of many occasions. It not only hurt me and my self-image, but also would anger my mother. It all became worse, however, when she moved in with us to recuperate after a surgery. We moved the dining room table out and a bed in, hung curtains in the doorways to the room. We fed her and helped her with her physical therapy. She even had to be helped to go to the bathroom. We did everything to help her. But I hated having her here. It was bad enough to have to have her hang over me when I was at her house, but now I felt that I wasn’t even safe in my own house.
So I ate less and less at meals. And I snuck food up into my room. I would snack when she wasn’t around. This little habit turned into a battle with binge eating that lasted 3 years. I gained weight, thought about possibly trying to throw up, but since that is one of the two eating disorders that schools talk about, telling you all of the dangers of it, I decided against it. Well of course this led to a worse self-image.
And this was the start of my freshman year of high school. That’s right, the pimples, the crushes, the popular girls, the everything else that can make high school suck. And for me it was magnified. This eating disorder and this thing with my grandmother putting me down, and the fact of high school being high school and me being a hormonal teenager didn’t help. So this all gave way to a bout with depression. It wasn’t as hard as some of the stories you hear; I never harmed myself physically, thank God. And because it wasn’t “hard-core” depression, I thought it wasn’t bad enough to warrant help. I believed that it was regular and one of the necessary evils of growing up.
Depression is destructive. I would sit alone in my room; eliminate any and all sources of light, anything that could shine on my desperation and anger. One common misconception, depressed doesn’t mean sad. I was angry. Seeing-red, biting my lip until it almost bled angry. I hated and hated and hated. I hated how I looked, how I interacted with my parents, my siblings, my friends. I would try to get out of going anywhere. I loathed going to school or anything after school that I committed to. I despised going to church and seeing people at youth group. I felt as though I had to hide who I really was, like I had to be fake. I was mean to my younger siblings. I threw around biting remarks and burning glances. I listened to harder music than I normally did, music that would speak of the type of anger I felt. And I became angrier. I shut off people and built up walls, walls made of bricks of anger and loathing and fear.
This is where Unglossed came in. I was a frequent visitor and poster. I read one of the Ordinary Testimonies, “o-Gravity,” and it completely changed my view of it. Of everything. The minute I finished I walked into the kitchen and asked my mother if I could speak to a therapist.
I won’t go into the gritty details of everything past that point. The important thing is that I got better. So much better. And I thank God for that.
Now for the lesson behind all of this. This story wasn’t poetic. It wasn’t a devastating Shakespearian tragedy. It sucked to live it, though. Don’t ever think that you aren’t depressed enough to get help.
When I become a senior, I will be asked to give senior advice. I have two words of advice that I would share.
One, Breathe. When everything is crashing and colliding and caving in, when you feel like it all is getting to be too much, take a deep breath. Pull yourself out of the situation. Think. And always remember, you are never alone. “For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you. (Isaiah 54:10 ESV)
Two, Never Regret. Ever. When this bad stuff happens, it sucks. You will hate it while it is happening. But my constant comfort is that God has a plan for my life. That all of this has a purpose, and while I hate that this all happens, it happens for a reason. Remember that whatever happens, good or bad, it shapes who you are and who you will be. I am not saying that you should be happy that this happens. Not at all. It is horrible that people have to deal with these issues. But because of God’s love and mercy and flawless, incorruptible plans, we can take comfort in the fact that it will turn out ok. Looking back, I can see how this experience has helped me. Helped me to relate to a friend in need when she came to me with the same problems. Helped me to be able to write this and hopeful help people who are hurting see the hope, that there is the light at the end of this darkness. Because there is. And it is a bright, warm, welcoming light.