Unpacking mental illness: Early years and relationships.

“That’s so petty.”

I remember in fifth grade, one day, sitting at the lunchroom table with a group of people that I was friends with at the time.

The conversation, about someone in another group. Making fun of, calling that person names. Everyone chiming in something that, every other 10 year old at the table, deemed valuable.

Except me.

Fifth grade was the start of my “shift” so to speak. When I began experiencing episodes of depression and anxiety. When my thoughts started shifting. When I suddenly grew up. Too fast.

Things I would not fully realize until much later, in my adult years.

That conversation was a pivotal moment. It was when my own, similar behavior, started to stop. When my thoughts, feeling, emotions, even related to other people, were pushed deep down. When I quieted.

I started really listening to the way people talked about others. How people talked to others.

I felt myself, even though staying connected, disconnecting at the same time.

I limited how much I told friends around me. This action carries with me, even today, 25 years later.

I glean off the top. I never dig deep.

Part of it is fueled by my anxiety. That part, just under my skin that vibrates out of control when I think of how many different ways anything I tell someone can be twisted, turned, made into a lie, or used against me.


Because, that’s exactly what anxiety does.

And anxiety, and depression, robbed me of the rest of my childhood, and my youth.

Depression tried to override my control of myself, pulling me into darkness, while anxiety had me fully believing one slip, either by step, by action, or by tongue – I would be reduced to nothing.

Friends called me “mom”, and everyone else around me called me mature for my age. I believed them.

I believed that at some point, overnight, I just grew up, and too soon at that. Because that would be the only way to explain what had happened. I hadn’t experienced anything before the age of 17 that would cause my world to be so shaken up, that I had to grow up so fast.

I continued to believe that for years. Even after finally reaching out for help in my early 20s. Even after years, during my late 20s and early 30s of counseling.

It wasn’t until last year, really taking a step back and looking over everything, that I realized what had happened.

When the doors of my mind released depression and anxiety to have their run over it, is the day everything changed. Rewired my brain, my way of thinking, my way of taking in and looking at everything. My way of experiencing life.

And it’s more human relationship focused.

How I connect and converse with people. Always leaving myself just on the outside, looking in.

That’s still my anxiety. Only partly. Because, well, every now and again we do actually find ourselves in the company of people who just are not good at heart.

Having had people like that in my life over the years, only fuels that anxiety that keeps me from ever fully opening up to anyone. Seeing screenshots, from conversations with others, about me, speaking about me in the exact manner my anxiety has told me they would, only has my anxiety sitting smugly in a plum leather chair, grinning and telling me “I told you so.”

So what do I do?

I continue to move forward. I continue to unpack it all. I continue to recognize how my depression, how my anxiety play roles in my current, day-to-day life, and things from the years before.

It’s sometimes a relieving process. Opening a door to a realization that makes things make sense, actions, decision, etc.

Othertimes, it hurts. Holy hell, does it hurt. It leaves you feeling lonely, and in the dark. Because you never really opened up to anyone, so no one is there, or wants to be there when support is needed.

You’re left sputtering around, ramming your shins into side tables that are just that right height, searing for the light switch.

But I will carry on.

Because I deserve better. I deserve happiness. Unattached, and fully. It’s taken me this long to open my eyes to that, and I’m not letting go of the quest for it.

Posted by

Mother. Photographer. Writer. Founder of Fit Fridays for Mental Health. Former powerlifter turned weightlifter. Coach & Nutritionist. Spondy/PCOS/Endo. Bully breed advocate.

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