How I Bounced Back to Make Depression and Anxiety My Friends

beach volleyball block at netEditor’s note: This article contains detailed accounts of self-harm.

The second I was born I went into emergency surgery. I was born with VATER syndrome. VATER syndrome encompasses abnormalities in the body which may occur in the vertebrae, anus, trachea, esophagus, or renal (kidneys). I had T, E, and R: problems with my trachea, esophagus, and renal. My esophagus wasn’t connected to my trachea, and my kidneys were malformed. In addition, I was born with three deformed thumbs. They took one off, so today I only have two deformed thumbs, which makes for a pretty awesome thumbs-up. I am completely fine now, except for some minor complications such as not being able to snap my fingers or eat without a drink.

I grew up in an incredible, loving family. I am the youngest of four with two parents who will go above and beyond for us. We were raised Catholic, went to mass every Sunday, and attended Catholic schools. We went on a family vacation every year to places like Africa and Europe. We were involved in all sports. My dad was our coach for several teams, and my mom was always our biggest cheerleader. On the outside, we looked like a perfect American family.

If we were ever that perfect family, it all changed when I was 13. My parents began to fight. My eighth grade year, my dad moved out and moved into my best friend’s house. My mom was a wreck. It felt as if my whole family began to collapse. My dad moving into my best friend’s house put a strain on my friendship with that friend. Since I was a baby, I had been there every day. But I didn’t want to be anywhere near her house when my dad moved in. All I thought was, “my best friend gained another dad, and I lost mine.” She got to see my dad everyday, when I only saw him on Wednesdays when he would pick me up to get bagels before school.

One night in February of eighth grade, my mom told me the reason my dad moved out. I was lying in my bed about to fall asleep when my mom came in. I put my head under my covers, because I didn’t want her to see my reaction. She finally said, “Tess, your dad is gay.” I had never cried so hard in my life.

I was going into my freshman year of high school with all of my friends from grade school. I made the volleyball and track team. I made lots of new friends and was doing what every high school kid does—going to parties, dances, and events. I finally found an escape from my family issues and things started looking up.

Then sophomore year came, and I was becoming depressed. I stopped eating. I began to take three-hour naps every day and sometimes couldn’t get myself out of bed in the morning. I hated my life and didn’t care about a single thing. The only thing helping me get through all of this was volleyball. It was my life. I loved playing it, and it was where I could get my frustration and anger out.

As a junior, I tried out for the varsity team and didn’t make it. I was devastated. My parents were in the process of getting divorced; my siblings were off to college; and I was the only one out of my friends who didn’t make the varsity team. At that time, I thought I had lost everything.

I didn’t want to be a junior on junior varsity, so I decided to transfer to a public school. You may think that I was running away from my problems, but I just wanted to be a part of a volleyball program that was better for me. I became the starting libero. I received many awards.

Even though I was doing well in the sport I love, my depression didn’t get any better. Additionally, I started getting bullied. An anonymous number would text me every day for a few months and bully me. The person said hurtful things that made me cry myself to sleep every night. I was embarrassed to show my face at school. I never felt more worthless.

Everyone thought I had the perfect life, but they were wrong. They didn’t know the real me, and honestly, neither did I. I was filled with anger, frustration, hate, and sadness, but no one knew because I put on a façade for four years. I hated my life. I kept trying to tell myself I had a great life with wonderful people who loved me, but I couldn’t believe it. People would always tell me, “It’s going to be OK,” but those words didn’t mean anything to me. I was always a person to put a wall up and not let anyone help me. I shut everyone out of my life.

I began to cut myself almost every day. On my lowest days, I would go into the kitchen, grab a knife, and start cutting my arm. I sometimes would drive to a place near my house and belt out to music, crying to get all the pain out. Cutting was my getaway. I finally told my sister I was cutting myself. She told my parents, and before you knew it, I was seeing a counselor. I hated her for telling them. I didn’t want people feeling bad for me or knowing I was depressed. I also hated telling people how I felt. I always kept everything inside me. I was put on many medications, but no medication seemed to help me. I almost felt worse while taking them.

My family problems weren’t getting any better—my parents didn’t talk; my siblings were still off in college; and I still hated my life and who I was. My mom and I began to fight, and I ran to my dads a few times without telling her where I went. I eventually moved out of my mom’s for a couple of months. I also got into an abusive relationship my junior year that made everything way worse. How could I commit myself to someone if I didn’t even love myself?

Deep, deep, deep down, I knew I didn’t want to die. All I wanted was for the pain to disappear.

In September 2012, I attempted suicide for the first time. I took 14 ibuprofen pills when no one was home. I texted my sister, who was away at college, and asked if I was going to die. My sister, of course, called my mom, and I was taken to the ER immediately. I ended up being OK. Deep, deep, deep down, I knew I didn’t want to die. All I wanted was for the pain to disappear.

On April 1, 2013, I received my acceptance letter to the University of Oregon. I thought it was a joke, because it was April Fools’ Day. I really wanted to go and move on from my problems, so I buckled down and started to tackle my depression. My parents, as my biggest advocates, helped me get out of bed every morning, made me work out every day, and eat healthier.

In the fall of 2013, my dad, brother, and sister moved me into my dorm. I was doing so well, and I loved college and all of the freedom I had. However, I still had my bad days and was sleeping way too much. Sorority rush was starting and I only made it the first day. Since I was still battling depression, I didn’t have the energy or desire to be in a sorority or go through the laborious recruitment process. However, all of my friends joined a sorority and were always busy, so I was constantly lying in my bed watching Netflix or sleeping. I wasn’t taking advantage of college. I wasn’t involving myself in extracurricular activities or attempting to make new friends. I was starting to fall back into my depressed life.

Five weeks later, on November 1, I woke up wanting to die. I had these thoughts many, many times before, but this time was different. I turned on my depressing music (which I always did when I was in the mood), wrote my first suicide note, got my scissors, and starting cutting my neck. Usually I cut my arm or leg, but this time I really wanted to die. I lied back down in my bed, fell asleep hoping I would bleed to death. It was the first time I had absolutely no fear of dying.

I woke up perfectly fine physically, but a lost girl inside. Just like the cutting before, I had texted my sister and told her everything. I am not sure why I always called my sister, but I guess it’s because I wanted someone to understand my pain. She, being my best friend, was the person I felt as if I could tell anything and everything to. She always knows what to say and how to make me laugh. She called my parents immediately. I kept getting calls and texts from her and my parents trying to make sure I was safe. I could hear the worry in their trembling voices, but I kept telling them I was fine. They told me they called the counseling office and I needed to go. As the stubborn person I was, I didn’t go.

Before I knew it, three policemen knocked on my dorm room. I started tearing up. I had never felt so embarrassed in my life. I felt betrayed by my family and blamed it all on them. The officers told me if I didn’t cooperate and go with them to the counseling center, they would have to handcuff me. I was so angry and was only thinking that it was my family’s fault. I texted them saying things like, “Go rot in hell,” and “Stay out of my life.”

And to think I was “fine.”

The police took me to the place that has scarred my life forever—a psychiatric hospital. I gave all my belongings to them, took off all my clothes and put on scrubs, sat in a room with nothing on the walls, and cried my little eyes out. I didn’t have my phone. I just had some green beans, steak, a cookie, and apple juice.

I didn’t know what was going to happen to me. My family wasn’t close, and it wasn’t easy for me to go home. I was completely alone. Except, I did meet the lady in the room next to me. She sang for hours. She saw the tears in my eyes and the young, innocent girl that just wanted to live a normal life. She said to me, “It’s going to be all right.”

I got to the psychiatric hospital at 4 p.m. I wasn’t able to leave until a family member came and got me. I thought that I was going to have to sleep over in the hospital and I wouldn’t see my family until the next day. The thought of sleeping there terrified me. But my sister had gotten my dad a plane ticket. When I found out my dad was coming, my heart melted and I had the biggest smile on my face. I would look out my room every time I heard a male voice, hoping it was my dad. He ended up picking me up at the hospital that night. I had never been so comforted and happy in my life. The next day, I packed up my belongings and left the University of Oregon to move back home.

My parents put me on a regiment of healthy eating, work, and exercise. I was getting better and better every day. Eventually, the cutting, suicidal thoughts, and depression stopped.

I went to countless doctors to see if anything was wrong with me—like a thyroid problem, or something. I was hoping something would come back positive so I had something to blame. However, all my tests came back negative and I was perfectly healthy. My parents put me on a regiment of healthy eating, work, and exercise. I was getting better and better every day. Eventually, the cutting, suicidal thoughts, and depression stopped. I had found the light out of the deepest, darkest tunnel. Don’t get me wrong—I still have my bad days, but instead of going to the knife drawer, I get my running shoes on and go for a run or put my headphones in and listen to music.

I finally thought I conquered all of my issues. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the end. After I finally started loving myself and being content with my life, I started to get really bad anxiety. I had been a worrywart since I was little and I had a few panic attacks due to my antidepressants, but this was (and is) intense.

I started to worry about every little thing. I worried about my dog dying, dying from cancer or having something wrong with me, not being able to help those who are depressed and suicidal, and much more. I started to have more and more anxiety attack, which were like drowning with no possible way of coming to the surface.

I’ve had several horrible anxiety attacks, but the worst was this past summer. I had NEVER felt so horrible in my life. I just wanted to die. It felt as if I was drowning at the bottom of the ocean. My mom rubbed my back and gave me some tea, but nothing was working. I made her take me downstairs and call the EMT.

I said the worst things I have ever said to my sister. The anxiety took control of my body, which led me to say these things. I didn’t realize how bad I hurt my sister’s feelings until we didn’t say a word to each other for two weeks. I just wanted her to understand that the anxiety was talking to her and I didn’t mean those words.

I have been through a lot, but some of the most important things will never change. I conquered depression, but I live with anxiety and always will. My dad has never stopped being my dad. He loves me unconditionally and will move mountains for me. I left Oregon my freshman year, but I came back the beginning of my sophomore year and even joined a sorority. GoDucks!

I am a different person than I was a year ago. I am able to work through my anxiety and bad days by myself. I can control my negative thoughts. I am able to take the positive out of everything.

Believe that you were put on this earth for a reason. And I believe I was put on this earth to tell my story to you, and especially those who are depressed and want to commit suicide.

I am thankful that I had depression for four years. I am thankful I have anxiety. I am able to see the good in everything; I am able to be happy over the smallest of things; and my joyfulness is something I can’t even explain. As Passenger says in their song Let Her Go, “You only know you’ve been high when you’re feelin’ low.” My lowest of times have made my highest of times, higher than I could ever tell you. Depression and anxiety have made me so much stronger. I am now a better person from it.

You can conquer anything, as long as you believe in yourself. Believe that you were put on this earth for a reason. And I believe I was put on this earth to tell my story to you, and especially those who are depressed and want to commit suicide. For those of you who are in the position I was: you are not alone, and I believe you will conquer it, too.

I pushed my loved ones away when they were hurting just as much as I was. Not only was I suffering, but they were also suffering. Not only did I put myself in danger with the pills and knife, but I was also putting my family and friends in danger. I was ignorant to my family’s and friends’ feelings, and I can’t tell you how bad I feel.

If you know someone who is depressed, anxiety-ridden, suicidal, or even having a bad day, reach out to them. It can mean a lot more than you think and you could possibly save a life.

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The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • 10 comments
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  • Percy

    Percy

    November 23rd, 2016 at 7:54 AM

    You sound so happy and healthy now- good for you!

  • rich

    rich

    November 23rd, 2016 at 9:16 AM

    I think that for many of us we believe we are doing a better thing by just backing off and not bothering someone when in actuality it would be better to reach out to them to show them that we care.
    I think that this probably stems from being afraid of things that we do not understand and having very little knowledge about the right thing to say or do.
    What we fail to see is that there is no right or wrong thing. The best thing is to simply show someone that you care by being there when they need you to be. That’s it.

  • Thomas

    Thomas

    November 24th, 2016 at 7:09 AM

    I find that I am the most comfortable when I have a goal toward which I am working. That gives me meaning and it gives me a reason to be up and moving when I may not generally feel that way.

  • Dalton

    Dalton

    November 24th, 2016 at 5:50 PM

    A large part of this comes from finding a way to get to know who you are and by becoming comfortable with that person.

    It does not mean that it will always be easy or that the things that you are up against will always present you with the smoothest sailing. But you come to a point where you must understand that life is what it is, and it is always going to be yours and yours alone to live it to the fullest.

    I think that for many of us once we get to that realization then it becomes a little bit easier to leave some of the other things behind us and in our past for good.

  • dustie

    dustie

    November 25th, 2016 at 9:04 AM

    That has to be a terrible age to learn something like that about your dad

  • sharna

    sharna

    November 25th, 2016 at 5:01 PM

    There will always be those things in life that could boil down to what bend in the road am I going to take?

  • Terry

    Terry

    November 26th, 2016 at 8:55 AM

    There have been so many times when I know that on the outside it must have looked like I had everything but on the inside I felt like I was falling apart.

  • clint

    clint

    November 27th, 2016 at 7:29 AM

    I would have to say that it takes a very strong person to be able to see things like this as part of who they are, a clear picture of who they are and what they have been through, and see this as something good, something that has made you who you are, and not anything to be ashamed of.

    I would hope to one day be that strong and confident to know that hey, these are the experiences that have led me to become the person that I am today and there is value in that.

  • Rickie

    Rickie

    November 28th, 2016 at 3:01 PM

    I think that it can make a huge difference when you have something other than the pain toward which you can direct your attention

  • Savannah

    Savannah

    November 29th, 2016 at 11:17 AM

    Don’t you think that the more perfect that others perceive your life to be then the harder it is to face depression? There are people who think that you have it all and they have no idea of the real hurt that is going on inside of you.
    I am not sure how to approach that one, because you don’t want to be vulnerable all the time and always wear your thoughts and feelings on your sleeve, but at the same time it can be a huge burden that is lifted when you can finally reveal your true self.

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