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Past experiences influence future decisions

When I was a junior in high school, I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression. I wasn’t surprised — in fact, I was happy. A diagnosis meant treatment, something I desperately needed at that point in my life.

When I started taking medication, I felt better and felt like I could conquer the world for the first time since I was 12 years old. Now, as a freshman in college, I know how to handle the ups and downs of my future, all because of my past.

My childhood was seemingly idyllic. I grew up with two loving parents and a little brother in a small, but cozy home where we had space to run around and plenty of dogs to adore. Being a child, I was quite oblivious to everything going on around me, as most kids are. There was a point in time, however, that I started to notice my life changing. I was about eight years old when we moved to a new house in the same city. It was huge, had a swimming pool, and everyone in the neighborhood always came over for parties and such. But that dream didn’t last long.

In 2008, when the housing market crashed, our house was foreclosed. I didn’t understand completely at the time, but I was sad. We ended up moving back into my childhood home (we had been renting it out). My dad had his car repossessed soon after that. It was the first time I remember seeing him cry. We are resilient, though, and we made it through. We reached a level of normalcy again, but not complacency.

Middle school is a daunting time for most people. Social groups start changing, you start losing childhood friends — oh, and puberty happens, causing new anxieties. My friends started changing — they were changing the way they dressed and acted, and I thought that in order to remain being friends with them, I had to do the same. I started retreating from my family, to the point where my brother thought that there was something seriously wrong with me. Maybe there was.

I had changed myself for people I considered my friends and, in the end, it wasn’t enough. They ignored me and I eventually faded out of the group all together. That was the first time I had to pick up the pieces of my life and build something new. I found new friends, including my best friend to this day. I reverted back to my old personality and reclaimed the cheerful, talkative person my family knew me to be. Things were looking up. But while my school life was gaining stability, my home life started to fall apart.

My parents divorced when I was in sixth grade. At the time, I thought it was the worst thing to ever happen to me. Of course, now, as an adult, I can see that it was for the best. After that, my mother became an inconsistent figure in my life. She drank too much and broke too many promises. At 13, I didn’t know how to feel. My friends always talked about how great their moms were and I couldn’t relate. I love my mom unconditionally, but everyone has boundaries. All of our fights and my resentment towards her built up in my chest and my mind, to the point where I seriously considered cutting her out of my life if she didn’t change her ways.

Here I was, making this huge personal life decision at 13. Could I really cut my mom out of my life? I didn’t get to think about it for long because in the fall of 2012, my mom was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Suddenly, I felt like a terrible daughter — like somehow I was responsible for it. I remember the night she told my brother and me — I cried myself to sleep. Whenever someone tells you they have cancer, you automatically assume they’re going to die. I kept having dreams where she did. But she didn’t. Luckily, her cancer was detected early at Stage I. She had a hysterectomy, went through chemotherapy, and things returned to normal. All of the events that happened beforehand didn’t seem to matter as much anymore—I moved on. I tried my best to strengthen our relationship because I didn’t want to live without her in my life.

By the time eighth grade ended, I was exhilarated. I was actually excited about going to high school. Freshman year was a blur — I honestly don’t remember much of it. I do remember how excited I was at the end of that year about being able to join the newspaper staff.

I had a plan in mind for the future, but it didn’t matter. The summer after ninth grade, my dad, brother and I moved to Humble, because my dad had accepted a teaching job at Atascocita High School. Beaumont ISD was crumbling and it seemed like a great opportunity for us. Sure, we would be leaving friends and family behind — Beaumont was my whole world — but the chance seemed too good to pass up.

We were all optimistic, but the move was damned from the start. I don’t really believe in “signs” or whatever, but if I did, there couldn’t have been clearer ones. We ended up moving one week before school was supposed to start, which added anxiety to already overwhelming amounts of emotion.

We couldn’t afford a moving company, so with the help of some friends and a rental Penske truck, we loaded up and set out on a new adventure. As we were driving down the street away from my childhood home, my dad drove under an oak tree that ripped off the entire roof of the moving truck. We didn’t realize how bad the damage was until we opened up the truck when we arrived at our new house — after we had driven through miles of torrential rain. Suffice to say, it wasn’t the most promising start.

I wasn’t deterred, yet. I was excited about being able to start a completely new life in a place where no one knew who I was. I wanted to get over my social anxiety. My junior high insecurities ruled my life, causing me to be extremely shy and hesitant to talk to new people. Attending a school twice the size of my previous one was extremely daunting, and I ended up retreating back into my old habits of never talking and being perpetually embarrassed anytime someone even looked at me. The few friends I made didn’t last, everyone was constantly moving away. Plus, I was homesick for Beaumont and wanted something familiar. I cried myself to sleep most nights.

To add insult to injury, my family was once again in financial trouble. My dad’s car broke down three times, each time needing an expensive repair. The stress kept building up, to the point where we had all lost significant amounts of weight. We were miserable. It seemed as if we lived in a sit-com, because life was getting pretty ridiculous. As much as we had all wanted it to work out, it didn’t, and in the summer of 2015 we moved to China, 10 minutes from Beaumont, just in time for my junior year. I went back to the same high school I attended freshman year, and finally joined the newspaper staff.

The first half of junior year went really well, I was still shy but I was branching out and everything seemed to be looking up. By spring semester, everything from the past four years of my life had become this unbearable weight on my shoulders. I wasn’t happy and I always felt terrible. I was in a really dark place but I didn’t say anything because I knew other people had it worse. I realized I needed professional help when life seemed like it had no purpose. So, I went to my doctor and told her everything that I was feeling. She prescribed me anti-anxiety and anti-depressant medication.

Then I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, a chronic condition that causes enlarged ovaries with small cysts on the edges. I know, it isn’t the most “glamorous” syndrome, but it impacts more people than you think and I didn’t even know it existed until I was diagnosed.

PCOS can also cause severe depression and anxiety. Everything was coming full circle. There’s no cure for PCOS, but medications like birth control definitely help ease the effects. So I started taking birth control. No one told me how much birth control changes your emotions. I delved even deeper into depression even though I was already in a pretty dark place. I couldn’t take it anymore. Fortunately, I was put on more medication, and my emotions leveled out. I was happy again. For the rest of junior year I could say I was genuinely happy and glad that I was alive.

Senior year prompted different kinds of stress about my future (plus, we ended up moving again, back to Beaumont this time), but I was excited to leave behind my formative years. Some people judged me for staying behind and attending Lamar, but it was the best decision I could have made. I know what it’s like to be in a completely new place where you don’t know anyone, and I wasn’t ready for that.

Sure, I have my bad days, but I know how to handle it. I went through four years of severe depression, but I made it through, and that is all I need to get through hard times.

I’m a full-time college student who works three jobs, all while having to share a car with my dad. He works two jobs and is a full-time graduate student and I live at home — we’re living the American dream, or, at least, the American reality.

I’m OK, though. I’m not complete yet. I still have a lot of life left to live, but if there’s one thing that I take away from my experiences, it’s that bad times pass. I know that’s cliché but it certainly carried me through some rough patches.

The first step in dealing with an issue was realizing I had a problem. It can be hard to realize that life isn’t perfect and things will not always work out how we want them to — and just because I made it through one rough patch doesn’t mean I won’t have another.

As a kid, I thought everything was great. As an adolescent, I thought everything was terrible. Now, I realize that life is somewhere in between. I have high hopes that my future is bright — I will always keep working to see my ambitions become a reality. I’m not going to give up on myself because I deserve to see myself accomplish great things. Everyone does.

Learn more about Lamar University at lamar.edu

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