We are all on completely different walks of life. While we may be going in different directions, the one thing that will always tie us to each other is the familiarity of the struggle that we face in the process of reaching our destinations. Whatever you are going through, there is a mathematical certainty that you are not alone. I hope you find a sense of comfort in that.
12 brave people chose to come forward in their honest, raw vulnerability and disclose the most difficult life experience that they have had to face:
1. “Finding out, in the middle of one of my parents’ fights, that my father had cheated on my mother, and she suspected he was cheating again. They are still married and together, to this day. I hate it.” – Jordan, 22
2. “Deployment, not knowing if one of my guys had died on a flight I put them on.” – Tyler, 24
3. “Brace yourself. It’s about to get personal. Growing up, our family was perfect. That is until our mom got back into drugs and alcohol when my twin sister and I were seven-years-old. She would stay out for days at a time on binges while our dad worked to support the family. At that time, he would distance himself from the kids because he didn’t know how to parent alone. I would make dinner, take care of my sister and myself, and clean the house at that young age. Dad decided a divorce was best, and the situation between my parents got very violent and crazy for a while. Throughout the divorce, child protective services tried to take us from our dad many times. When the divorce finalized, our mom was given the choice to go to rehab and try to fix things, or take $12,000 and go. She chose the money over her family.
Months went by, and she was into heavy digs. She called our dad on February 3rd, 2006, screaming that she was going to kill herself. Then, there was silence. She had wrapped her car around a telephone pole in the worst neighborhood in Detroit.
She survived with minor brain damage, memory loss, broke her ankle, knee, and shattered her hip. She was in the hospital and nursing homes for about two years, getting herself back together. She was also in and out of rehab. She never fully recovered. She still drinks and has many mental issues. For us, it was hard, but also easy, because she had already left us. History repeats itself because she abandoned both of my older brothers when they were young, too. It was just a matter of time. When she chose the money over us, we knew we didn’t matter to her. So why should she, to us?
Well, she’s our mother. We will always love her, which is painful as hell, still to this day, at the age of 21. She is now living with a rich man who is giving her the dream life where she doesn’t have to work at all. All the while, my small family of me, my dad, and my sister are still struggling to pay for basic life needs. We’re going into debt with school, and she doesn’t care about what we are doing at all. She couldn’t even tell you what my degree in college will be, and I’ve been in school for 4 years. Her leaving has not only been the hardest moment of my life but the aftermath of which still hurts daily.” – Ashley, 21
4. “At first, it was leukemia, now it’s multiple sclerosis.” – Heather, 26
5. “Moving back to Michigan from Colorado was unbelievably hard. I walked away from where I wanted to be, and who I wanted to be with more than anything in the world.” – Anonymous
6. “The hardest thing I ever had to go through was probably a breakup. I loved that girl… more than anyone or anything. I don’t even know why I let myself because I knew what would happen. But the way she made me feel when we were together, or the way we fooled around, nothing ever matched that. In the end, she wasn’t up to putting in the effort to change things, and she broke my heart. But what made it worse was we were talking after and she stabbed me in the back, like it was nothing. I just can’t understand how a person could do something like that to someone who gave them everything. People are shit. Then, even after that, I tried again and just ended up even more hurt. I don’t know why I kept going back. Probably because she was the only person to ever make me feel that way, and that sucks. Honestly, I think I’m over it now, but I’d be lying my ass off if said I didn’t think about her pretty much every day…. at least once a day.” – Kyle, 25
7. “The hardest thing I have ever had to go through would have to be the heartbreak and torture of seeing our father and mother split up because our dad chose to date a girl my age. To make matters worse, that girl just happens to be a former friend of mine from my hometown, who moved to Tennessee to be around my family. I would have to say the most traumatic part of this whole experience is seeing how bad it hurt my mom and my siblings. Seeing my 17-year-old brother be put into a hospital because he is going through a nervous breakdown as a result of our father choosing to move a 29-year-old woman into our home so he can play house with her and her three kids, is definitely challenging for us all.” – Sara, 29
8. “The hardest thing I ever had to go through was watching the process of how my grandpa passed away; seeing him go from 200+ pounds and gradually shrink down to maybe 130 pounds when he passed from Lou Gehrig’s disease. First, a stroke took his voice box, rendering him speechless. He had to write down on a napkin or post-it note when he needed something, and he shook uncontrollably while doing so, often causing his writing to be illegible. Then, he fell down the stairs and punctured a lung. He was rushed to the hospital, and it was pronounced that he had only hours to live. I got the call as I was leaving the rifle range in basic training and just qualified 40 out of 50 targets down. My drill sergeant told me I could go home right then and visit my Grandpa, or wait to see if he would die and go home and see him in a box (thanks, Sergeant, for sugarcoating it).
I went home and spent three days in the hospital with my grandpa, in and out. I left him my dog tags, knowing I’d get scolded later, but I didn’t care.
He held on for a year in that room.
I watched a man I respected slowly fade away over the course of those few years and be eaten from the-inside-out from his illness. I hope I never have to watch the slow decay of a person again.” – Luke, 28
9. “My brother passing away in 2016. It’s still the hardest thing I’m dealing with, and I think it always will be.” – Lauren, 24
10. “My brother’s suicide. It was surreal, and months later, it still is. I remember that day, how everything kept moving when I felt like time itself should be standing still. I remember thinking why are those girls laughing and joking around? My brother is dead. How can that man be watering his garden at a time like this? My brother is dead. Why are the birds singing? Why is the river running? Why is the sun shining? Doesn’t anyone care that my brother is dead?!
The sound of my mother crying. Trying to be strong for her when all I could to do was crumble into pieces on the floor. Rebuilding myself from those shattered pieces was the hardest thing I ever had to do, and I’m still doing it. It gets a little easier as I continue to put myself back together, but I feel that I’ll never be whole again.” – Sierra, 23
11. “Facing my immortality through every single death of a friend. Every time I had to look down and see the body of someone my age, or younger, laying in the coffin. Every goodbye. Every single dream where I see their face. The survivor’s guilt, feeling like I’m not living my life as well as any one of them could have. Carrying the weight of the grief of losing people before their time is the hardest thing I have ever had to do.” – Gina Clingan, 24
12. “My main affliction in life has, without a doubt, been my experience with unplanned teenage pregnancy. I never had the choice to keep the child. My parents made their own decision. It probably sounds terrifying and absurd to most, but I wanted to keep my baby. I didn’t care who was going to judge me. I didn’t care about myself. When I saw those pink lines, I threw my life out the window. I decided it wasn’t going to be about me anymore. I was, of course, also shaking in my boots thinking of giving birth…but overall, I was kind of happy about the idea of being a mother. I understand it may look like complete naivety on my behalf, but I promise you. I promise, five years later, I still feel the same way. I honestly believe my life would have panned out a little more positively.
I’ve spent my teen years agonizing over the loss. Imagining its face. Was it a boy or a girl? (I was far along enough to have been able to learn the gender within one week.) Would she have had my eyes? Would he have loved to read, too? I imagine what their smile would have looked like and the sound of their laugh. I pictured being their mom and played scenes from their life in my head like a movie. I’ve spent this time feeling like I had my life ripped away. Countless nights have been spent having mental breakdowns in the privacy of my room, too embarrassed and afraid to reach out to anyone for help. I felt like no one could possibly understand what happened to me, or why I was so upset about it to begin with. I knew my friends/ boyfriends over the years saw the idea of having children as their own lives being over, where I saw it as the shaping of a new one.
I 100% support the right to choose, and I think if abortion is in your best interest, then you should absolutely go for it. I just didn’t get that choice. After the procedure, everyone in my family, including dear old mom and dad, pretended that it never happened. It was completely swept under the carpet.
As I started to try to heal myself, I wanted to talk to my mom about how everything went down. I never got any closure with my parents, to this day, and they still don’t speak about it. Being lost and in tremendous emotional pain, it would have been beneficial for me to at the very least have had my mom on my side. She never attempted to reach out or offer any support. I was alone in it from the jump. Some of that was my own choice. I was angry, and I isolated myself from anyone who could have helped me. I just wanted my mom to acknowledge it. Sometimes, you just need your mommy. That was just the cherry on top of it all. I’ve never had a good relationship with her. I thought that, because she had gone through similar things, she would have had something to say. Not a chance.
Anyway, I’ve mostly rigged my heart back together. It still hurts, and it always will, but the safety pins and Elmer’s glue are keeping it from falling out of my chest completely. I wish I could say I’ve won the battle in my head and be able to give some sort of inspirational insight about it all. This just isn’t that kind of story. I do think I started making life choices more carefully. I started to see the value in my own life and the things I am capable of, but I would trade any of it just to have had that situation turn out differently.” – Kaitlin, 19