Mental health is a journey that often takes us through uncharted territories of emotions, thoughts, and experiences. It’s a battle that sometimes wages silently within, leaving scars that are not visible to the naked eye. In this article, I’ll share some of my personal journey through the darkest times of my life – in childhood, youth, and adulthood – highlighting some moments when a few words of understanding, guidance, and care could have made all the difference.
A Glimpse into the Shadows
A Time of Vulnerability
As a child, I navigated the complexities of emotions with little understanding and even less support. The innocence of youth often conceals the internal struggles we face. Of course, in my case, it was also an intentional hiding of said struggles. What I yearned for during those tender years was a sense of security and stability. I remember wanting to be, well, just me. Simple words of reassurance and an environment that encouraged self-expression could have offered solace during some of the roughest storms.
The Turmoil Within
The adolescent years were marked by a whirlwind of happenings, amplified by societal pressures and personal insecurities. What I craved during this time was genuine guidance – someone to listen, to ask how I was truly feeling. No counselor, parent, or friend really seemed too keen on sharing the burdens. In a world filled with chaos, a little bit of empathy could have helped me navigate the storm more gracefully. Especially after my family broke apart, and the bullying started.
The Weight of Isolation
As an adult, the battles evolved and became more ruthless, while the old scars remained. The weight of Borderline fear of abandonment often overshadowed the need for self-care. What I desperately needed were interventions that showed someone cared – professional support, a network of understanding relatives or other peers, or even a mentor who recognized the signs of struggle. Without a doubt, a few thoughtful words of concern could have shown me I wasn’t alone.
Childhood Dreams Unfulfilled
Looking back, I wish someone had told me that my dreams were valid and that my thoughts and feelings mattered. The lack of affirmation and encouragement stunted my growth in ways I couldn’t comprehend then. While as an adult, I would not go around asking for validation, I feel that the child would definitely have benefitted from it.
I always got a ride to swim, for example, and nobody paid much mind to my wants or desires. It was a short battle between my wishes and the wishes of my parents. I ended up giving away scouts, that I loved, for the sake of swimming. My father wanted me to do so, so what am I, a child, going to do about the situation? Who would’ve known that this would end up making me prone to giving up on my hopes and dreams, my lifelines to who I truly am? And now… now I need to put it all together again.
Let your children be who they are, without telling them what to be passionate about. This is their life, not yours. They need to find their place in the world, one that they adore and love. You, as a parent, can only expose the child to a variety of things and hope they find it. Stop living your life through your child, you’ll not only destroy your life but theirs too.
Youth’s Longing for Connection
Amid the chaos of adolescence, I yearned for meaningful connections – discussions and caring that went beyond superficiality. The absence of such conversations left a void, a sense of isolation that only grew over time. My parent’s separation and the bullies didn’t really help, either.
While I did have some talks with my parents, they were always quite tame and not really about the reality of life. Well, at least not about my reality as a teenage, love-starved girl. Eventually, I found myself closer and closer to the edge, and that’s when I got access to the internet.
Oh boy. Back then, one only had to worry about everyday predators. The people who prayed for young, vulnerable girls. And while it wasn’t about indoctrinating me into an ideology, it still got pretty scary. Men old enough to be my father would hit me up, even when they knew I was about 14. I even met one by accident right outside my father’s place, which was creepy as all hell. But hey, they told me I was pretty and clever, and interesting. Nobody had ever told me that before.
It was one of these connections I made in the chatrooms of isolation that I met someone. Someone nearly 10 years older than me. A person who would go on to groom and hold me for nearly two decades. All I can say is: Do not be the parent that has their child run straight into a trap due to not feeling like they are good enough.
Craving Care and Understanding
In adulthood, the need for genuine care and understanding became more pronounced. The lack of interventions and the dismissive attitude towards my mental health perpetuated the cycle of pain. I often wonder why nobody did anything later on, even when I was about to go down the path of no return. But that was a time before my husband came into the picture. And it is behind me now, thank heavens! Let me tell you, Mr. Vana does not play games with the lives of his loved ones.
Unfortunately, the quest for understanding and belonging can sometimes lead us down darker paths. The vulnerability of struggling with a broken mind often makes us susceptible to manipulation by individuals with ill intentions. As mentioned before, the lack of care and proper bonds combined with the shame I felt for not being enough was all it took for me to be a prime target. For the better part of my life, I was stuck at the emotional level of a teenager. At the cusp of adulthood, not able to break through. Oh, the rage and cowardice I carried within my twisted identity.
Children need protection, safety, and stability. I didn’t need my parents to be my friends, I needed them to be my parents. The lackluster way everything came down after their separation left me dull, floating in a void of insecurity. I lacked boundaries, rules, and a lot of guidance. the wrong roads and hanging out with the wrong people sucked me in. I am only too happy I didn’t end up in some truly messed up, dangerous situations.
The angels kept working hard in my teen years, as I started to pre-emptively isolate myself without realizing it. I got into self-harm and started to make ‘friends’ online. I wonder what would’ve happened if someone ever asked me who I kept chatting and playing games with. After all, It wasn’t as if I could’ve hidden the screen. It was placed in the living room proper.
One thing I must say about my adult life.
I would’ve hoped that people understood that while mentally ill, I was still very much an adult. It isn’t anyone’s job to enable or coddle the person with an illness. It got so bad, my friends, that people would tell me they’d put me in a ward for making some of the sanest decisions of my life.
I suppose I’m trying to tell you, in a very lengthy way something quite simple: As a parent, be a parent. If you are a friend of someone afflicted, just be there within your limits. And if you are a spouse… well, call that god damned ambulance and stop sniveling in the corner, waiting for something terrible to happen before you step in. And most of all, do not forget that this is a person. We, the afflicted, are not stupid. We know what’s up, most of the time. Treat us with respect and as capable human beings. That’ll be a good start.