I’ve been in and out of depression since I got out of high school and was suddenly and harshly thrust into the “real world” – a world full of expectations and tons of shit to compare myself to.
Time after time, I have sought to heal myself with external things. I thought if I followed a certain timeline in life and acquired all the things I was supposed to, I would feel happy and accomplished. If I found the missing pieces of my seemingly broken life, I would be fixed.
For starters, I relentlessly compared myself to everyone else. If any of my peers had something, I thought I needed it too. Otherwise, I was behind. I expected happiness and self-esteem to come in the form of external accomplishments and societal notoriety. I imagined life as a ladder I had to climb, and I often felt like I was at the bottom of it.
I was a late bloomer in every possible way, but even after I “bloomed,” I continued to wilt.
I moved into my first apartment when I was 24.
I overheard Dr. Phil say that anyone living with their parents past the age of 18 had overstayed their welcome. I watched friends and peers go off to college and/or rent their own place after high school. I lacked credit. I didn’t make nearly enough money to live off of. I continued to live at home when I was incredibly unhappy there. All of this made me hate myself.
I got my first real job when I was 23.
I wasn’t a successful writer like I wanted to be. I had too much time on my hands. I watched friends and peers work their asses off at full-time jobs and/or start careers. People repeatedly told me to get a job and do my writing on the side. Job interviews and the thought of working with people instead of working at home terrified me to the point of inaction. I nearly ran out of money after I spent a huge chunk of it to go see a man I loved and subsequently lost. All of this made me hate myself.
I got my driver’s license when I was 23 and bought my first vehicle when I was 25.
All of my friends started driving in their teens. I had severe driving anxiety. I constantly had to arrange rides. At one point in time, I considered moving to a big city with public transportation so I wouldn’t have to drive at all. Car hunting was a beast, and I seriously considered giving up on it once or twice. All of this made me hate myself.
I had my first kiss and my first real experience with heartbreak when I was 23 and got into my first serious relationship when I was 24.
I was teased about not dating, kissing, or having sex in high school. My peers got into relationships as early as middle school. I wasn’t overly accepted or desirable in my teens. I wasn’t allowed to date until I turned 16, and when I finally turned 16, no one wanted to date me. I was involved in a series of almost relationships throughout my life. I was rejected by every guy I ever pursued in some capacity. All of this made me hate myself.
I now have all the things I thought I needed to feel good about myself, but I still don’t feel whole. I still struggle with depression. I still hate myself. I have a nice apartment, a well-paying job, a functional car, and a loving boyfriend, but I still wake up almost every morning with the same gaping hole that has been inside of me since long before I had those things.
It has taken me this long to realize that maybe I’m the problem – that no matter how much I accomplish or how many times I attempt to fill this hole with things that are “supposed” to make me happy, my mind will still manage to convince me that I’m worthless and heavily flawed. I will still look at this little life I’ve built and wonder why it feels so impossible to enjoy it. I will still have to figuratively and literally pick myself up off the floor. I will still struggle to find any sense of meaning in the day-to-day monotony of attempting to maintain a respectable lifestyle in this society.
And I will still struggle with mental illness, perhaps for the rest of my life.