Today is the day I reveal something that very few people know about me: for years, I have struggled with low self-esteem and depression. It started in middle school and hit it’s peak in high school and only within the past few years has drifted away.
So I guess I’ll start from the beginning.
The Beginning (2002-2005)
When I was around 11 or 12, the world I knew as a child had drifted away and I was introduced to a world that made mine seem more like a fantasy. Prior to those years, everything was carefree. I had not been exposed to things such as race, body image, sex appeal or “fitting in”. I just lived in a place where you were just accepted even if you were different and you did not have to match any particular criteria to get along with everyone. That was my life in Oklahoma. However, when I moved back to my parent’s hometown in New Jersey, I was exposed to a world I was not prepared for. Here, most girls my age were already talking about sex and what boys they liked or were focused entirely on what clothes would show off their bodies.
Diversity was also almost nonexistent here. My home in Oklahoma in comparison to my new surroundings in New Jersey were like night and day. The place I’d grown up was predominantly white, and here it was predominantly black so needless to say the culture was different. In middle school, when a white kid joined the class, it was like almost like a shock. Everything had become about color and it was here I was told for the first time that I “spoke like a white girl. It took me a while to figure out what that even meant.
It seemed everything was odd about me here. Though I was only in 6th grade, many of the girls had developed physically while I was the odd girl out with my thin frame, gapped teeth and unusual height. I lost count of how many times “wow you’re so skinny” or “you need to eat more” were said to me. I began to focus on my body image more than ever and it didn’t take long before I did not like what I saw anymore. The seed had been planted.
Over the years leading up until high school, my family became fairly religious. As a practice, I began to wear skirts exclusively which didn’t help with my feelings about not fitting in. I only continued to further isolate myself.
My thoughts were confined to my journals and the only way I knew to deal with my issues was to pretend I didn’t have them. I took to sarcasm pretty quickly. When people would joke about how skinny I was or something, I would join in. I figured if I laughed at myself, people wouldn’t catch on to how insecure I was. That was what made sense to me. People liked when I was happy and funny so that’s the persona I took on.
Middle school got better when I gained a few close friends (whom I still have to this day). The three I hung out with the most were my close friends Christiana, Jasmine and Ian. They distracted me away from my insecurities and had never made it a habit to bring up anything about me physically. They simply liked me for me and I didn’t have to pretend with them.
High School & Depression (2005-2009)
When high school rolled around, I had decided to pursue an education at a vocational school rather than the regular high school because it would open up more opportunities for me academically. I acknowledged this meant leaving the people that had helped me cope but I figured I was ready for it. I didn’t realize how wrong I was.
My high school years were the most emotional for me. Aside from being away from my friends and my continuing struggle to accept myself, my parent’s relationship was in flux which left me feeling a lot of different things. I was both learning and witnessing things that were altering everything I had ever thought and I just remember feeling like the world was not a promising place anymore. Also, a guy I had liked and trusted had let me down and I found myself shutting down more and more and, worst of all, pretending even more. It wasn’t long before my insecurities transformed into a full on depression.
Once depression set in, everything made me upset. My low self-esteem had now turned into just pure hatred with myself. I became frustrated with the fact that I could not gain weight and even began overeating in an effort to slow down my metabolism. But all that did was make me feel more miserable and made me break out. I stopped watching TV because I was frustrated with seeing girls with big breasts and curves and I figured if I made myself oblivious to the world, I’d feel better about myself. I was not satisfied with anything about myself. My hair wasn’t long enough, my gap was too wide, my head was too big or my eyes seemed too far apart. Any critique I could think of was a valid one to me. I critiqued every inch of my body and there was nothing I liked about it. I started to hate taking pictures because anytime I saw myself, I was just disgusted.
I would smile and laugh with everyone throughout the day but get home, close the door and just hate everything about my life. Everything mentally was caving in and pretty soon, I was having issues trusting anyone. I convinced myself that I didn’t need anyone to help me and that I had the answers to my problems, I just had to figure them out. I wanted to fix myself by myself because I just knew people would find a way to let me down.
The was one of my online journal entries from November 3rd, 2008:
In my mind, this was just a phase I was going through. It would pass and I would look back and realize how disillusioned I was. I even justified my feelings about myself as “normal”. I used my gift of words to make it sound like everything in my life was fine and I even mastered talking about any and everything enthusiastically but my problems. I even mastered giving advice to help them with their problems as if I were in any place to do so. I had succeeded in tricking the people around me into thinking I was fine and that I had it all together while behind closed doors, I was simply not happy with much of anything. I was miserable.
The one thing that gave me a sliver of hope was college. I liked the idea of having a fresh starts and leaving all the negativity behind. I figured if I changed my surroundings, I would be better. I started to believe that the way I thought was not my fault and instead placed the blame on the people around me. So when college started, I just knew I would be better. However, it did not happen as quickly as I’d hoped.
College Years (2009-2011)
About a week into college, my enthusiasm about starting this new life was wearing off and I was beginning to feel more alone than ever. I started to realize a lot of what was wrong with me was not so much everyone else’s fault as much as my own. Though I was essentially beginning this new chapter, I was finding it hard to close the previous one and I was still finding it hard to accept who I was. I was this girl who preferred not to party or drink in a place where this was the norm and I found myself unsure of what to do socially. I debated giving in and just doing what everyone else did. Being different wasn’t giving me any answers and I hated feeling the way I did. After a while of listening to the devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other, I decided to just go back to my roots and joined the Highest Praise Gospel Choir on campus.
Here, my transformation began. For so long, I had convinced myself that I needed to be away from people in order to help myself but here, I learned the opposite. I met people who understood me and assured me that I was this smart, beautiful and just all around wonderful person. While at first, I dismissed their thoughts, with time I accepted them as fact. I met people who actually wanted to hang out with me. I met people who understood how important my spirit was to me and people who nurtured that and made sure I stayed true to it. College soon became the best two years of my life because of them.
I began to fast and pray more than ever, listen to motivational music, read self-help books and bury myself in the bible because that was what I knew helped. I was finally beginning to accept myself and not allow the negative thoughts to take over.
Don’t get me wrong, I was not instantly cured. In fact, I still had phases where the feeling of inadequacy crept in. It was like I would go for quite some time feeling really good about myself and then, something would instantly click in my mind like “what are you doing? You’re not supposed to feel this happy,” and just like that I would listen give in. I even got into the habit of going home most weekends in college because sometimes, I just did not want to be around people. I let the thoughts get to me and went right back into isolating myself because that’s what I was accustomed to. However, it eventually becoming easier and easier to quiet those thoughts and emotions and I found that some weekends I really wanted to stay and hang out with everyone. I had finally found the acceptance that I had been looking for all those years.
Now, I can say I am in the happiest place I have ever been in my life and it is for a number of reasons. For one, those friends that I met all those years ago (both in middle school and college) are still in my lives and are proving to me that just because certain people let you down does not mean everyone will. Not to mention I have a great family that has instilled in me the values that I have now that have allowed me to be at this stage. Though I didn’t see it then, all those bible studies and Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday church services did plant a seed in me. Another reason is this blog. This blog has helped me open up in a way that I never have before because I remember how keeping things inside tortured me for way too long and part of moving on from that is opening myself up to the world and letting you guys know that life is a journey that is best traveled with others. Lastly, I do have to acknowledge someone who has been my personal angel for the past seven months and that is my boyfriend, Shamus O’Connor. He has succeeded in making me feel more beautiful and special than I ever have. And even though my insecurities creep up every now and then and he has to give me a pep talk by telling me how crazy I am to think I’m anything less than amazing, he deals with it all and for that I am forever indebted. I have no problem telling the world how amazing you are Shamus because you deserve it entirely. <3
Again, I do still have my moments. There are times I turn on the TV or see a magazine and some of the old thoughts creep back up but I can proudly say they do not last very long. The bulk of what I feel is frustration for girls who are growing up seeing things like that because I know what they did to me. Just this past summer even I noticed myself questioning myself all over again and I had to shut it down with the quickness because I refuse to be that person again. Now, my main concerns are the typical figuring out what I want to do with my life and moving forward.
I am just excited about life and everything it has to offer me and quite frankly, I am now happy about everything! I try not to embrace negativity because I remember what that was like and I can never do that to myself again. I even try everything in my power to make others happy.
Sooooooo my entire purpose for this entry is to say this: do not neglect the importance of having good people in your life. Life is not meant to be lived alone and it took me almost a decade of struggling to acknowledge this. God places people into your life for a reason and, quite frankly, some of those people are meant to hurt you. But that does not mean that everyone around you is a bad person. It just happens so that you can grow from it and not take for granted the good people that will be placed in your life later on.
And also, depression is not just a thing that happens to certain people. In fact, some people may be going though it right now and you may not even know it. Denial is not an uncommon thing with depression. It took me a while to even admit that was what I was going through. As I said, I wrote it off as a phase. And also low self-esteem is not to be overlooked either. I mean honestly, it sucks and can be destructive mentally, spiritually and physically.
So thank you to everyone who took the time out to read this entry. Continue to read and share and most importantly, love everyone! No matter who it is or what you think of them. I am living proof that you never know what someone is going through.