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When Emotions From Your Past Unexpectedly Resurface

Editor's Note

If you experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

I’m not OK right now. Surprisingly it has nothing to do with COVID or lockdowns, or elections or protests. It’s my past, creeping out of the shadows to choke the breath out of my lungs and drag tears out of my eyes at unforeseen moments. Mixed anxiety and depression disorder is harsh and when things show up unexpectedly …

It started last week. My daughter and I went for dinner at my older brother’s house. He had contacted me a few months ago because he really wanted me to meet his girlfriend. I had the feeling things were serious, but I was reluctant because I thought he was living much farther away than he was. It turned out when he texted me this time that he had moved much closer a year or so ago and forgotten to tell me so we agreed to come since it would just be the four of us and his daughters.

It was nice seeing him. We connected in a good way, sadly most likely because our older sister wasn’t there. It was a fun night and his now fiancé was charming. Only one of his daughter’s made it over, and that was OK, but talking and laughing with my brother was interspersed with old family stuff. He still thinks that in high school I tried to commit suicide because my boyfriend broke up with me. Nothing could be further from the truth …

I tried to explain to him that I was suffering from uncontrolled depression and anxiety and my parents had sent me to the associate pastor and youth group leader at the Presbyterian church for counseling, which was hardly adequate in the situation. And that when I had tried to commit suicide a year and a half later, it was because the doctor had prescribed a medication that I have since learned amplifies suicidal symptoms in me. I told him he should read my book because it was all in there and he surprised me by saying he really wanted to and added “It’s called Stealing Marbles, right?”

I was impressed that he knew that much, though he made me give the full title to his fiancé, and I even emailed him the pdf so he could read it easily. We went back and forth a little bit, bantering, him still insisting I was a “Drama Queen” (jokingly) in high school but not jokingly connected to this idea that My suicide attempt was connected to this ex-boyfriend.

Now those of you that have read the book know that the counselor from the church told me, during the last session I had with him, because I never went back after he said this to me, that if he had been 10 years younger and single, he would have been trying to date me.

Even writing that makes me feel like an elephant is sitting on my chest.

At the time, when I was 17, I remember it felt like something sliced through my stomach, disconnecting me from everything else in the world and my brain started to float around inside my head. The feeling didn’t go away after that. I walked around like that for weeks until I tried to commit suicide. And I never even thought about saying anything about it to anyone. I never thought about telling anyone at the time …

The hard thing is, now, all these years later I am thinking about it, a lot. And I am realizing I couldn’t have told anyone because they wouldn’t have believed me. Everyone thought I was a “Drama Queen,” a manipulator. They would have thought I had tried to get him to do something for me and he wouldn’t so I was blackmailing or punished him. They would have told me I was a terrible person and I could ruin this guys career or reputation. That I was selfish, thoughtless, and a terrible person, which they were already doing because I was having outbursts from the anxiety. I was in a complete no win situation.

The scary part is, I was on a conference call with my daughter’s counselor and she knows that counselor, she worked under him and he was in trouble when she knew him. She severed ties ASAP. I told her what happened and she wasn’t surprised. The saddest thing was that my parents thought the guy walked on air and my ex-husband and I got sent to him for marriage counseling, he sided with my ex and I got evicerated in court, and my ex, who has since committed suicide, saw him as a personal counselor for years. Now my oldest child doesn’t have a dad.

So, yeah, sometimes stuff from the past comes back. It crawls up your throat and chokes you. It sits on your chest and squeezes the air out of your lungs, but you have to face it and feel it and acknowledge it and know it’s real and it’s OK to be NOT OK that that happened because that was definitely NOT OK. It was an abuse of power. It was a serious breach of trust in a place that could not withstand that kind of abuse and it ruined my life in a lot of ways. It led to a series of events that destroyed my relationships with my parents and siblings for the rest of my life.

Mental illness is hard. Bad doctors, bad behavior…

Photo credit: FotoDuets/Getty Images

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