18 'Red Flags' That Might Mean It's Time to Talk About Your Childhood Emotional Abuse

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Editor’s note: If you have experienced emotional or physical abuse or struggle with suicidal ideation, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

It’s no secret that our experiences in childhood and adolescence often play a role in who we end up becoming as adults. This can be especially true for people who experienced emotional abuse growing up. Sometimes, when a parental figure or loved one in your life didn’t act the way you needed them to in the formative years of childhood, it can significantly impact the way you relate to the world as an adult.

Maybe you had a parent who made you feel unworthy of love growing up. Maybe you were bullied by your peers and it affects your ability to form and maintain relationships now. Maybe you’ve never even associated your upbringing with the word “abuse” and are wondering if you might have experienced childhood emotional abuse.

If you live with the effects of childhood emotional abuse, we hope this post can help you on your path to recovery.

Although everyone’s personal “red flags” are different, we wanted to know how people realized their experience of childhood emotional abuse was affecting their adult lives. To start this discussion, we asked members of our mental health community to share the “red flag” that let them know they needed to open up about their childhood emotional abuse.

Whatever your individual experience of childhood emotional abuse was, we want you to know your story matters. Your feelings are valid and you deserve to be heard. Though past childhood emotional abuse can play a part in your life as an adult, it by no means has to define it. Whether it be to a therapist, friend or loved one, if you are struggling with the effects of childhood trauma or emotional abuse, please reach out and know you are never alone.

Here’s what they shared with us:

1. “A red flag for me was my defensiveness whenever confronted with a criticism. I always thought people were attacking me because of my childhood trauma.”

2. “A journal entry of mine that stated, ‘I honestly believe I’m impossible to love.’ Reading that in a moment of clarity helped bring to light to the fact the emotional abuse from my past was haunting my future and needed to be resolved.”

3. “For me it’s that love always came with a price. So now I find it incredibly difficult to accept kindness, love, gifts and compliments. I’m always wondering what the ulterior motive is.”

4.“I realized I was avoiding all conflict like a disease, and that I felt guilty over anything that went wrong. I’d spent so long being told everything was my fault that, even when it wasn’t, my brain automatically searched for reasons why I must’ve been to blame.”

5. “[I experienced] racing thoughts and uncontrollable emotions involving the statements made by the individual. Flashbacks.”

6. “A red flag for me is my trust for males was nonexistent. By middle school I couldn’t have male teachers or be in the same room as male family members. I was emotionally abused by my father. I was so scared of males I had panic attacks nonstop.”

7. “I was both physically and emotionally abused. I realized in my teen years how angry I was. I would do and say the things done/said to me to others around me — especially to those who wouldn’t fight back (boyfriend). I hated my behavior but didn’t know how to stop. I [felt like] a monster. A negative, raging monster. Finally, after my first husband and I split (mostly because of my behavior) I got the help I needed. Therapist, self-help reading, different circle of friends and a lot of self reflection. I still live with the other baggage that goes with my childhood (and other trauma things) but I’m not a hateful person any more. I seek and offer love and compassion.”

8. “When wanting so badly to just be loved and safe meant a simple hug could bring me to tears, and make me never want to let go.”

9. “Being in so much emotional pain I wanted to die. I fought every day not to die — I was not living, I was barely even surviving.”

10. “I noticed I was very codependent. I apologized way too often and always felt guilty about everything I said or did. I needed validation and approval. I was living in constant fear that I would upset someone for doing something they didn’t like because my self-esteem was so low.”

11. “When I realized I couldn’t handle rejection or even constructive criticism. Everything felt personal and aimed at me, like I couldn’t ever do anything right. Any sort of rejection was something my brain used to reassure me that I had no worth, and even the smallest criticism seemed huge and felt like a personal attack. It ruined relationships and friendships. I knew I needed to start dealing with it.”

12. “I had reoccurring nightmares that I was killing my abuser multiple times over and over. That was the one huge sign that convinced me I needed to seek therapy.”

13. “After I got my first kiss and was then told it wouldn’t work out, I felt used and abandoned and reacted to that as if I’d been traumatized. After a couple of days, repressed memories from my childhood started flooding back. I remembered abuse. I knew then I needed to find a therapist who specialized in trauma.”

14. “I started hearing my father in myself when talking to my children.”

15. “[I knew I needed help] when I was no longer able to hide the fact I was self-harming and had been since I was 18… It wasn’t just emotional abuse I was being put through as child, it was mental, physical and social, too.”

16. “[I experienced] suicidal thoughts as an adult when I never got the attention or love I craved, especially after giving someone my everything in a desperate attempt to get them to love me, even though they were abusive.”

17. “My red flag was when I started acting out in school and people noticed I wasn’t acting like myself.”

18. “When it stopped me from feeling worthy of accepting love.”

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

Thinkstock photo via JZhuk.

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A Goodbye Letter to My College Therapist, From Your Thursday Afternoon Client

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To my college therapist,

It’s a forever goodbye, a “see you never again,” a “have a nice life.” It’s closing a book I can never open again. After graduation, I won’t ever be able to see you.

This goodbye is difficult. For the past year and a half, we met pretty much every week I was at school. You were everything I needed in a therapist.

Sometimes, my time at the counseling services was the one hour a week I felt like I was able to, and deserved, to get help. And sometimes, I didn’t feel like I even deserved that hour. You changed the way I think and feel about therapy. I no longer feel guilty for getting help — no person is any more or less deserving of therapy.

I cannot thank you enough for caring, listening, challenging me and believing in me. You supported me in every way you knew how, and found me the support I needed if you weren’t able to provide it.

You stood by me through sessions where I was stubborn, exhibiting patience and kindness throughout our entire time together. You were an advocate for me and taught me how to become one for myself. Hands down, you helped me get through times I didn’t think I’d make it out of.

You showed me what a good therapist looks like.

Looking for a new therapist is a daunting task. It’s not something that many people talk about when discussing the changes that occur leading up to, and after, graduation. I haven’t spoken with anyone who is struggling as intensely with such a goodbye — and I talk to others about therapy a lot. The struggles I’m having are a testament to our relationship, because it’s hard to leave something or someone so good.

I’m looking for you in every therapist I call. I’m scared. I’m afraid to leave you. I’m easily discouraged as I talk and meet with other therapists. My expectations of therapists are high, and frankly, the others I’ve come across just don’t cut it. However, it’s also because of you that I know I am capable of forming a relationship like the one I have with you, with another therapist. So, thank you.

I will miss you. Not only are you a good therapist — you are a good person. I’m thankful to have met you.

Thank you for renewing my faith in therapy, thanks for working with me through some dark times, and thanks for being you.

Love,

Your Thursday afternoon client

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via Kosamtu

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Sinead O’Connor Isn’t the Only One Struggling Alone With a Mental Illness

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This week, Sinead O’Connor posted a video on her Facebook page. In it,  she said she felt alone, abandoned and like she was only living not to die. That the “stigma doesn’t give a shit who you are.” It’s an unbelievably raw video and one that hit me hard because, like Sinead, I too have bipolar disorder. And I too have felt the isolation, loneliness and fear that comes with the illness. And the facts are this: 1 in 4 people worldwide will struggle with mental illness at some point in their lives. The WHO states that depression is the leading cause of disability world-wide.

So why do people like Sinead still struggle alone and in silence? It’s mind boggling.

1. Mental health care is not a priority for governments.

The cost of treatment for mental illness is staggeringly high and the irony is, many individuals who are struggling with illnesses such as bipolar disorder simply cannot work. Social assistance barely covers basic necessities, if that. In my experience, treatment is an out-of-pocket expense, therapy costing upwards of 200 dollars per session, and even more if someone requires multiple sessions per week. You do the math. I’ve found many individuals who need immediate care are relegated to waitlists lasting six months to one year. The only option for many is the emergency room where they end up waiting hours, only to be either discharged or held in a facility which does not promote what the individuals needs most: love, care, support, kindness. It is simply to keep them alive until they are discharged back into the world. Alone.

2. Stigma kills.

The stigma surrounding mental illness is still a major issue in many communities. Homelessness, poverty and poor nutrition is a major concern for individuals suffering and we, as a society, have a responsibility to not only refrain from judgment, but to offer compassion and understanding. We have to educate ourselves, challenge norms, question policies and call out intolerance when we see it. By doing so, we help remove the fear many people feel when struggling with mental illness. Therapy appointments should never be hidden. Bad days should never be spent alone. And emergency plans should be implemented among loved ones and friends of those struggling. Mental illness is just that — an illness. It’s just like any other illness and no one is to blame for that. So let’s not.

3. Asking for help should never be scary.

Videos like Sinead’s are not the first and I’m sure they won’t be the last. But what if there was always someone to call? What if asking for help was as simple as saying, “Can you come over? I don’t want to be alone.” We often view asking for help as a weakness or a burden. But the weakness is refusing to offer help. The weakness is looking down on individuals who find the strength to ask for help. Asking for help is a terrifying experience because when we do ask, we aren’t sure how we will feel if we are denied. What will happen if we are left alone? It may make us worse and that is not a reflection of us, it’s a reflection of how we perceive weakness. Asking for help takes courage, but so does saying “I’ll be right there.” We aren’t asking you for a miracle — simply company. Be with us. Let us cry. Hold onto us. Love us and care for us for a while, just as you would with any other sick person.

In Sinead’s words, “if you have a family member suffering from mental illness, care for them, tenderness, love. Care for them. Visit them in the hospital.”

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “HOME” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Lead image via Sinead O’Connor Facebook 

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30 Songs That Have Helped People With Anxiety and Depression at Night

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Nighttime has always been the most difficult for me. The “outside” world often serves as a great distraction from the internal battles I face during the day. But when I get home at night, the thoughts I’ve spent all day pushing to the wayside hit me like a freight train and semi-truck colliding — and I’m right there in the middle. My depression leaves me wondering what all of this is for while my anxiety causes my thoughts to spin endlessly. Meanwhile, all I want to do is rest.

So I put in my headphones to escape it all, if only for three minutes.

Music can be an incredibly effective coping mechanism. That is why we asked people in The Mighty’s mental health community who struggle with anxiety and depression to share a song that has helped them through the night. Because sometimes the only place to escape from the outside world, the inside world or the darkness of the night, are melodies and lyrics.

Here is what they had to say:

1. “Guns for Hands” by Twenty One Pilots

“It’s a very personal song about depression and suicidal thoughts. It’s message is acceptance from others and learning to overcome it; turn your gun into a fist.” — Ashely A

2. “21 Guns” by Green Day

“In the months leading up to my hospitalization for suicidal thoughts and actions back in late 2009 and 2010, I would listen to it on repeat to fall asleep because the juxtaposition of soft and loud worked perfectly to calm me down but also validate the way I was feeling and how it sounded inside my head.” — Myriah T.

3. “Praying” by Kesha

“It has brought me peace of mind and soul no matter the time of day. Every time I listen to it I feel like I am in control of my existence and I am worthy, which is one of the hardest things to accept when you are in that dark place. I let the tears flow and I am safe inside myself again.” — Rebecca S.

4. “Skyscraper” by Demi Lovato

“It really speaks to me and comforts me on those types of nights. The song is just so powerful and it gives me hope.” — Shanelle M.

5. “Let There Be Light” by Masketta Fall

“It has kept me going through rough times, it has a message that basically says no matter how hard it is, keep going, it gets better.” — Tayla E.

6. “The Night We Met” by Lord Huron.

“It just reminds me of good times and good feelings, like I’m floating in space or under a thousand stars. I feel ‘not in this world’ and just in a place where I feel only the good. Not this chaos in my head, but where there is another place I feel doesn’t exist.” — G.J C.

7. “Wonderwall” by Oasis

“As someone who struggles with depression and anxiety, it’s hard to get through a day, let alone a night. But one night, my husband sang it to me and told me when I’m feeling down to listen to it. It’s very calming. He said it will be like he’s there being my rock.” — Lizzie W.

8. “Breaking the Habit” by Linkin Park

“There are many habits associated with anxiety and depression and this song helps me scream out the words to break mine and tear my demons down. “ — Sheridan R.

9. “Demons” by Imagine Dragons

“The lyrics relate to how I feel with my own anxiety and depression as well as how I want to help my children to relate to theirs. — ‘Your eyes, they shine so bright / I wanna save that light / I can’t escape this now / Unless you show me how’ — To me, it says I want to help you and in turn you end up helping me.” — Melissa F.

10. “On My Own” by The Used

“It brought me down to earth and made me rethink a lot about what I was going to when I was younger. Sad song, but brings me back down. Everyone struggles and I’m not the only one. There is always a way to get help.” — Sean F.

11. “Breakdown” by Jack Johnson

“Aside from being very upbeat, this song reminds me to let go of the unnecessary stress in my life. Even if it’s for just a moment. Life can spin out of control in an instant and sometimes, the only thing you can do is breakdown. It reminds me that even when I do breakdown, theres so much beauty around. Look deeper into the tiniest of things and you will find great beauty! Sometimes, a breakdown is necessary to be able to carry on.” — Dania F.

12. “How Far I’ll Go” by Alessia Cara, from “Moana”

“It sounds silly because it’s a Disney song, but it just reminds me how much more there is out there and my life doesn’t have to be ruled by my mental health.” — Megan A.

13. “Superheroes” by The Script

“The first time I heard this song was when I was harming myself. I had my headphones in and this song came on in the middle of it. I stopped, listened to the lyrics and cried. It changed my life and I now have the lyrics from the chorus tattooed over my self-harm scars on my arm.” — Jordan E.

14. “Sleepwalking” by Bring Me The Horizon

“Actually all of their songs and Marilyn Manson’s songs. When my anxiety was at its worst, I felt grey; the world was a monstrous grey mess. I was afraid, I wanted to scream. And then their music happened. In the violence of the songs, in their power, in all the emotion, I felt whole again. I wasn’t the only one screaming. I wasn’t the only one suffering. I was not alone.” — Gianluca P.

15. “Under the Bridge” by Red Hot Chili Peppers

“I just love the feeling that this song gives me and just singing to it. It really relieves my anxiety. Many Red Hot Chili Peppers songs help me tremendously.”  — Rianna J.

16. “Peace Piece” by Bill Evans

“Bill Evans is my favorite jazz pianist and I have taken much strength and support from his song ‘Peace Piece.’ If serenity has a soundtrack, this is it.” — Matt L.

17. “Breathe Me” by Sia

“[It] embodies feelings of loneliness, anxiety, tortured thoughts, depression, relapse; being overwhelmed by your own inner demons and pain, having a breakdown and feeling suicidal, begging for help and hoping someone with listen.” — Rebecca H.

18. “Eye of the Storm” by Ryan Stevenson

“It came to me when I was driving home (literally in the rain) having a panic attack, scared I wouldn’t make it home. That song came on and instantly I felt the Lord’s presence in my car and I knew I’d make it safely home.” — Tia T.

19. “Try” by Colbie Caillat

“It helps bring me back into realizing that I don’t have to be perfect to be beautiful. This song helped me out a lot… It helps control the thoughts in my head saying, ‘You’re too fat. No one likes you. You never do anything right. You’re ugly. You only look good with a bunch of makeup on.’ Colbie has some amazing songs that seem to help with depression and anxiety.” — Sara K.

20. “Days Like This” by Van Morrison

“It tells my brain that days like this happen and they will pass. Sometimes it’s a real struggle and other means are necessary to cope, but sometime this song can lift the darkening veil over my mind.” — Shane E.

21. “Why” by Rascal Flatts

“It hits home for me because I struggle with depression/anxiety and have attempted suicide before. This song just makes me feel better and important. The words honestly speak for themselves. This song has kept me safe and from hurting myself.” — Stefanie L.

22. “Oh My Soul” by Casting Crowns

“When my depression or anxiety gets really bad I used to ride it out alone and in the dark. I know that’s not healthy, but I didn’t want to burden my family. I got to the point where I couldn’t function and I wanted nothing more then to be done with everything — with the anxiety and the pain, but especially with life. This song helped me realize one more day was all I needed over and over no matter how many times it was needed. I just needed to get through this one day at a time and that I was not alone.” — Morissa S.

23. “Let Go” by Frou Frou

“I first heard this song while watching one of my favorite movies, ‘Garden State,’ which also helped me through my anxiety and depression at the time. Some of the lyrics include, ‘There’s beauty in the breakdown,’ and that really resonated with me and helped me to start looking for the potential for growth in my depression and anxiety. The song is so calming and just amazing for a million reasons.” — Rhyan P.

24. “Beautiful Thing” by Grace Vanderwaal

“It’s a song she wrote for her sister and how she is her other half and wouldn’t be here without her. It has helped me realize I have so many people that feel that way about me, or I feel about them.” — Braydee H.

25. “The Lonely” by Christina Perri

“This has been my go-to song for years, and especially this past year. I find myself laying in bed, crying and contemplating whether to continue to fight or not. I’ll listen to this song on repeat and just get out of that dark emotional state. This song speaks to depression perfectly, at least how I see it and live it every single day.” — Sara E.

26. “Anemone” by Joywave

“I was struggling for a long time and this song specifically helped my to claw myself back from a difficult place in my mind. The tune is very calming, which is the first thing I latched onto. The more I listened to it, the more I realized the lyrics were resonating with me as well. They can seem a little convoluted, but it felt to me as though each line was expressing a different emotion. It cycles from a suffocating, inescapable anxiety into a warm and comforting embrace, ending with the line, ‘I’ve never felt alive in company,’ which is relatable for me.” — Wendy M.

27. “All That You Are” by the Goo Goo Dolls

“It’s on the soundtrack for ‘Transformers Dark of the Moon’ and isn’t very well known, but the lyrics resonate with me. I actually got a tattoo of some of the lyrics that reads, ‘I’m so wrong; I feel human and flawed. I’ll break down even though I’m still strong.’ It reminds me every day that even though there are times when I break, I’m still strong. I also love their song ‘Iris’ and that helps me as well.” — Chelsea S.

28. “Grateful” by Rita Ora

“The song really puts into perspective how much I’ve been through to get to where I am currently. It reminds me to be grateful for all the bad as well as the good. And that’s something I need a constant reminder of — that I wouldn’t be the person I am today without my anxiety and depression.” — Taylor S.

29. “Reflection” by Tool

“[It] has always helped me. The lyrics actually reflect my experience coming out of depressive episodes; it is at first a song about despair, but it becomes a spiritual awakening. I could only hope everyone comes out strong and awakened like that.” — Jayson H.

30. “Us Against the World” by Coldplay

“I feel as though the song takes me away from my situation and just gives me a break from all the negative thoughts and stress and just gives me a little bit of a breather. No matter what time it was, when I needed a break, I hit play and it just takes me to what feels like another world.” — Millie M.

What would you add?

Images from Linkin Park Facebook and Kesha Facebook

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What Recovery From Childhood Abuse Looks Like for Me

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Editor’s note: If you have experienced physical or emotional abuse or suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

Since January, I have worked so hard to grow as a person, a period of strong self-discovery. Facing up to the pain I have held inside for 34 years, I am now in what I think I’d like to call recovery.

I believe living through childhood abuse, of any kind (for me, physical and emotional), can often mean you do not gain an identity. You can grow up with a hole that cannot be filled. You can become an adult who truly believes it was your fault, that you are damaged — broken so badly you’ll never be whole again. That your childhood self must have been as disgusting as you felt. I often feel like the man in the story where everything he touches turns to gold — this is the effect I felt I had on everything and everyone in my life. Ruining anything I come into contact with.

Recovery for me means not just knowing these things were not my fault, but believing it. I am at the stage where I am believing it. OK, it’s not all day every day — I’m not even sure I’ve had a whole day yet. But it’s a start.

Writing has helped me gain the identity I should have grown as a teenager. I realized over the past few days especially, that my mindset is changing. At times, I find myself suddenly making “self-care decisions” automatically. That is coming from a person who didn’t know what self-care was, other than in destructive ways.

And I guess, recovery therefore also has to include forgiveness. Forgiving myself. I can look back, and feel angry and upset at the ways I’ve treated myself, the things I’ve allowed my brain to tell me, the way I’ve left the bully in my head to continue the abuse me into my 30s. And believe me, I am angry and upset at myself. But what does that produce other than more anger and destructiveness?

A few years ago, my mental health nurse at the time told me she was amazed at the strength I must have to still be standing. I shrugged off her compliments. She then told me she could see me one day writing a book about my life, and how I have survived. She said I should be proud, and could inspire others. I shrugged that off too.

That mental health nurse, although her journey with me was short, helped me more than she’ll ever know.

I have frequently thought about her words, when I see how far I’ve come in my journey. A journey which started a few years ago, with training I had about safeguarding and attachment. My world crumbled around me, as I realized I had been one of those children who needed safeguarding. I was a child who had displayed disorganized attachment. This was the cause of my mental health issues. My core beliefs all stemmed from my childhood.

I tried to ignore these truths, but deep down I knew. I just knew. I had always known. Even at the age of 4 or 5, I knew. The abuse I endured was not as extreme as cases you hear about in the news, but it was still damaging in every sense. It destroyed every part of who I was, who I could have been and who I am now.

Recovery has meant letting go of who I could have been. It has meant letting go of what I have been though. Letting go has meant looking at who I am now, and acknowledging the pride I feel. I have survived. I have survived physical and emotional abuse. I have survived two complete mental breakdowns. I have survived such extreme pain due to hypermobile Ehlers-Dalos syndrome.

Most of all, my pride surrounds my parenting. There have been no concerns about my children in the whole 9 years I’ve been under the mental health team. In fact, I’ve been praised over and over that I am ensuring my girls have the life I deserved. They are happy, polite, funny, intelligent and a general joy to be around. They are well-behaved when we are out and strangers often compliment me about my children — which I am often so taken aback at. And all of this is not caused by fear. They do not fear a battering or verbal abuse, nor being bellowed at in their faces. All of this is down to good parenting and mutual respect.

I am not perfect, I have made mistakes. All parents do. But I have made genuine, heartfelt apologies to my children, with no strings attached. And yes, at home, they shout and scream and argue with me. At times I’ve been hit, and told I am hated. Not once have I ever retaliated with my fists, nor my words.

The hardest thing to let go of, has been my fantasies. Fantasy is one of the methods that kept me alive. I got lost in books — without those books I read over and over, I’d not be here. I’m sure of it. Matilda by Ronald Dahl was one of them. I have lost count of the times I’ve read it. We took my children to see the theatre production last year. I cried silently, watching my children — so full of joy, watching one of their favorite stories, safe… And as I silently cried, I started to let go of the “Miss Honey” fantasy. No one was coming to save me.

All of these steps of recovery have come with great periods of grief. So much that it suffocated me. Some days, even weeks, it still does. But I have been through enough to know at some point, I will fight through it.

The grief often emerges as flashbacks fill my mind, of me at my girls’ ages. The pang of pain, like I’ve been stabbed not only in the centre of my heart, but in the centre of my soul. One of the toughest parts too has been to learn the quickest way to deal with this pain is to let it come. To let it wash over me like a tsunami — to stand and face it, but to remain standing until it has lost its power. Tears normally help with this. Lots of tears. But there are still many times, functioning as a protective mechanism, that my brain disconnects from the pain and my emotions. I cannot cry.

It took 10 months of therapy to get me to even be able to cry at all. That psychologist told me, if she could prescribe me anything, it would be tears, four times a day, every day. I thought this was such a strange thing to say, and I was so determined to not let anyone see my pain, that I fought it for years. I look back and think, What a silly girl I was. But this is where the last piece of the puzzle fits in. I now look back with kindness. I understand. I can empathize and be compassionate to all of my younger selves. Even the ones I’ve spent my life wanting to destroy.

I wanted to share with you a poem I wrote at the end of February, and the significance it’s had in defining my recovery from childhood abuse. The words obsessively went round and round my head until I put them to paper. It’s one of the easiest things I’ve written, the words flowed onto the page so smoothly.

Recovery for me means this poem, these words, they are still inside. They still visit me. They always will. Recovery for me means accepting that. Recovery means believing these words. My own words. Words that came so easily to my paper.

I realize, finally, that I have saved myself.

Death is calling

Death, you are calling me.
You call my name,
Louder, louder, louder.
Death, some days, all I can hear is you calling my name.

Death, you intrigue me.
Why do you call my name so loudly?
You have called my name since my earliest memories.
Death, you are persistent, but so am I.

Death, sometimes I beg for you.
Please, just make it stop,
Louder, louder, louder.
Death, you taunt me, just make it stop.

Death, you pretend to be my answer.
I have held you in my hands,
Many, many times.
Death, you are a liar, I am stronger than you.

Death, I will laugh in your face,
Over, and over.
This is my life, my precious life.
Death, now is not the time, I am not ready.

Death, you still may taunt me,
You still may call my name,
Louder, louder, louder.
But death, I will reply with life… My life.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via Archv.

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20 Signs You Grew Up With Mental Illness

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Growing up, we often aren’t taught about mental illness. So if you’re experiencing a mental health struggle, especially as an adolescent, it can be all too easy to believe you are alone in the way you feel — especially if the parents and adults in your life seem to believe it’s “just a phase.”

But there’s nothing wrong with struggling with your mental health — and no one is “too young” to feel that pain. The reality is, many kids and teens do experience mental illness, and we need to talk about it, know the signs and acknowledge their experiences. 

To find out more, we asked our mental health community to share, in hindsight, how mental illness affected their childhoods — for better and for worse. No two people are alike, so it’s important to remember that no matter what your experience growing up was, you are not alone in your struggle.

Here’s what they shared with us:

1. “I have always been hyperaware of what those around me may be feeling. Having borderline personality disorder, among other disorders, I could always pick out the smallest hints that someone may be upset or annoyed. Then I distance myself.” — Mia C.

2. “I always pushed people away before they had a chance to reject me because I was so accustomed to rejection from my dad and my mother. I never let anyone get too close or get to know the real me. I’ve only had four people in my life [who] knew the real raw me and loved me anyway and I’m almost 44.” — Julie L.

3. I never planned for my future or tried in school because I was convinced I wouldn’t make it to be an adult. Now that I am an adult, I’m sorta lost.” — Erica L.

4. “One thing I did? Decided not to trust anyone anymore. Because people didn’t understand, people let you down over and over again. So I don’t trust easily or sometimes at all anymore. One good thing I am often told is I’m not a judgmental person and people often like to talk to me about anything because they know I don’t judge them. Perhaps this is because I have been badly judged my entire life.” — Sophie S.

5. “I never judge a book by its cover. Just because someone seems fine doesn’t always mean they are. I know firsthand as a ‘high-functioning’ psychotic. I try to cut people slack and not judge quickly (except when my head does it’s thing and I get suspicious or paranoid).” — Jace P.

6. “I was/am an outcast. Too weird, too blunt, strange. I don’t know how to talk to people as a ‘normal’ person would. But I also love way too hard.” — Sarah W.

7. “I always had more compassion for people going through a hard time emotionally. I always try to be someone they can come talk to and trust, because I know how lonely and hard it is.” — Jennifer S.

8. “[I’ve] always had the underlying fear of abandonment. Maybe it happened once too often or just put a scar on my soul. It occurred more and more. I felt it was destined to occur.” — Tracy A.

9. “I performed sometimes very complex rituals to prevent my horrible — what I now know to be intrusive thoughts — from coming true. I stayed outside or in my room a lot. I listened to a lot of music and drew and played games to distract myself. I also ran a lot when I grew up some because it helped me release my energy. I got along with most people, but I didn’t have many close friends. I also had trouble planning for the future, because I felt the future was full of horrible things. I’m still scared of planning too much. It’s hard for me to see ahead because I can’t see myself being here so many years ahead sometimes.” — Serena O.

10. “I got really good at hiding my true self and feelings. After constantly hearing stuff like: ‘No one wants to be around someone who is sad all the time,’ [and] ’If you keep cutting yourself we’re taking you to counseling again,’ I learned to hide every part of me that wasn’t socially acceptable. People constantly tell me how ‘chill’ I am but I’m really screaming on the inside 24/7.” — Hannah L.

11. “I became a mental health advocate. Since high school, I’ve been speaking out about mental illness and the importance of incorporating mental health education into the junior high and high school health curriculums. I’m now an intern at NAMI Iowa and will be writing a blog about living with depression, ADHD, anxiety and borderline personality disorder. I would not be the person I am today, had I not grown up with mental illness.” — Sarah A.

12. “I live inside my maladaptive daydreams… I remember my first in kindergarten.” — Marybeth L.

13. “As a kid, I withdrew into myself as a coping mechanism. Even just having a general conversation with someone would nearly reduce me to tears because they would be intruding in on my little protective bubble I had placed around myself. Nowadays, I make it a habit to let people know they can talk to me if they need to, even if I come across annoying. I want people to know they don’t have to experience things alone and they have a friend in me.” — Sarah C.

14. “Searched for love in every direction I turned. It didn’t work out so well for me. It did however, teach me how to protect myself from people. It’s not 100 percent foolproof, but it’s kept my circle small.” — Joanna G.

15. “I legitimately always walked on egg shells as a kid because my anxiety was so bad I always thought I was going to be in serious trouble for small things. It’s not that my mother was horrendously mean, I was always so worried my brain would force me to think the worst. I also had a very small friend group and one best friend because I didn’t cope well in social situations. When me and that best friend would have any kind of spat, I shut everyone out for days on end because I didn’t know what to do or how to fix it.” — Brittany B.

16. “I turned to animals for love and trust. I would try to woo the most feral, and all the animals no one else wanted. Then I would help them to love and trust again. But never with humans until I was much older.” — Leslie P.

17. “Cried myself to sleep every night. Believed everyone hated me, and if anyone was laughing, they were laughing at me.” — Melinda R.

18. “I hated authority figures. I talked back often, and I was constantly in trouble at school. I would get mood swings and push away my friends without understanding why I was doing what I was doing. Only after being admitted into a mental hospital when I was 14 years old did I learn I was bipolar.” — Brandi R.

19. “I learned to keep my thoughts and opinions to myself. Because, I was never ‘good enough.’” — Hanni W.

20. “I took on the role of adult with the world on her shoulders. I avoided my issues to try and attempt to fix the issues of anybody who gave my life a little light and meaning. I buried myself so deep in the issues of those around me and ended up facing most of my demons there. However, these people returned the favor and not only did they help create the foundations of recovery, but they showed me I wasn’t alone in the journey either.” — Stacey P.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

Thinkstock photo via cat_arch_angel.

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