Victoria Kushner

@victoria-kushner12 | contributor
I am college student from Matthews, NC. Following my parent's divorce, I began writing and I haven't been able to stop since. For anyone who reads my articles, I hope you find as much comfort in my words as I did writing them. I have been featured on MSN, Yahoo!, YourTango, Teen Vogue, and Unwritten.

Depression Makes Me Shut People Out

Yesterday was just one of those days when my world feels like it’s unraveling and, suddenly, I’m back to being the 12-year-old girl who just wanted her mom. Unfortunately, I am not good at hiding my hurt. Something happened, and I snapped. In the moment, I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I wanted to sit at my desk and be left alone while I pulled myself together, but my phone kept buzzing. My sweet friends, whom I absolutely adore, were trying to be let in. They wanted to be there for me which is kind and so appreciated, but it’s not what I needed. You see, the thing about depression is that it isolates you. Most of the time, you feel so alone in your struggle. After a while, that’s all that makes sense. So, when those bad moments come, I do what I know; I go into self-preservation mode and my only goal is to wait for the moment to pass. At the time, I may seem short and angry. You may not understand why the goofy person I present to the world is sending one-word texts and responding to everything with a simple, “OK.” The truth is, that is how I want people to see me. I don’t want to be seen as a ticking time bomb or someone fragile who breaks like glass, so I keep to myself. I internalize and beat myself up about what I could have done differently. I appreciate people who want to help me; I really do. I know that it means you care about me and you want to help, but I learned a long time ago how to put myself back together. I learned how to hold myself together in those moments when I want nothing more than to explode and take out everything in my wake. Not telling you what is happening does not mean I don’t love you. In cases like yesterday, I didn’t know what had just happened. I needed a minute to process and form an opinion because I had no clue how I felt, much less how to articulate it. In all honesty, if I had elaborated in that frame of mind, I probably would not have had anything nice to say. For a long time I took my problems out on those around me. I pushed them away before I could get hurt and I am trying so hard to break that cycle. Sometimes, I need to be alone. I need to sit with my thoughts and figure out what the hell is happening. If you have come to me in one of those moments, you probably thought I was mad at you; I can assure you that I wasn’t. My “mad” is loud and explosive. Please don’t mistake my boundary for anger. Boundaries are how I know to protect myself. They do not mean I don’t want to hold you close and tell you everything. It just means I’m waging a war inside and I need to prepare the troops before we head out for battle.

Depression Makes Me Shut People Out

Yesterday was just one of those days when my world feels like it’s unraveling and, suddenly, I’m back to being the 12-year-old girl who just wanted her mom. Unfortunately, I am not good at hiding my hurt. Something happened, and I snapped. In the moment, I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I wanted to sit at my desk and be left alone while I pulled myself together, but my phone kept buzzing. My sweet friends, whom I absolutely adore, were trying to be let in. They wanted to be there for me which is kind and so appreciated, but it’s not what I needed. You see, the thing about depression is that it isolates you. Most of the time, you feel so alone in your struggle. After a while, that’s all that makes sense. So, when those bad moments come, I do what I know; I go into self-preservation mode and my only goal is to wait for the moment to pass. At the time, I may seem short and angry. You may not understand why the goofy person I present to the world is sending one-word texts and responding to everything with a simple, “OK.” The truth is, that is how I want people to see me. I don’t want to be seen as a ticking time bomb or someone fragile who breaks like glass, so I keep to myself. I internalize and beat myself up about what I could have done differently. I appreciate people who want to help me; I really do. I know that it means you care about me and you want to help, but I learned a long time ago how to put myself back together. I learned how to hold myself together in those moments when I want nothing more than to explode and take out everything in my wake. Not telling you what is happening does not mean I don’t love you. In cases like yesterday, I didn’t know what had just happened. I needed a minute to process and form an opinion because I had no clue how I felt, much less how to articulate it. In all honesty, if I had elaborated in that frame of mind, I probably would not have had anything nice to say. For a long time I took my problems out on those around me. I pushed them away before I could get hurt and I am trying so hard to break that cycle. Sometimes, I need to be alone. I need to sit with my thoughts and figure out what the hell is happening. If you have come to me in one of those moments, you probably thought I was mad at you; I can assure you that I wasn’t. My “mad” is loud and explosive. Please don’t mistake my boundary for anger. Boundaries are how I know to protect myself. They do not mean I don’t want to hold you close and tell you everything. It just means I’m waging a war inside and I need to prepare the troops before we head out for battle.

Letter From an Abuse Survivor

Last week in English class we had an assignment on style, where we were instructed to pick a topic we are passionate about and use our personal experience to mimic the style of Martin Luther King’s “Letter From A Birmingham Jail.” I wasn’t going to share what I wrote, but the more I’ve mulled over it and reread it, the more I have realized there are probably many people in my situation. If you can relate to any part of what I wrote, I have something to tell you. It is easy for those who have never felt vulnerable and unprotected in an unforgiving world to understand neglect, but when you have: waited in vain for your parent to come home; when you watched as grocery money was spent on bottles of wine and cigarettes; when you’ve been told to eat herbs and sugar crystals for dinner and to “stop being so ungrateful”; when you spent the majority of your seventh grade year running rampant around a shady apartment complex and taking refuge in a nearby dog park, because it at least could block you from the heat, and you’ve sat in a hidden gazebo you took shelter in while it hit you that you were treated no better than a malnourished puppy; when you’ve felt the jerk of the car as your drunk parents speeds down the shoulder of the highway; when you’ve spent your allowance tipping waiters because your parent got angry and walked out of the café without paying; when you’ve recoiled in horror as your hero pulled out a gun in the middle of a Buffalo Wild Wings; when your “protector” threw pencils at you that inevitably landed square in the middle of the wall; when cell phones have been slapped into your open palm; when you’ve overheard phone conversations where your own mother claims she wants you to “pay for what you’ve done”; when you’ve gone to bed with an empty pit in your stomach and been sung to sleep by the grumbles of your own tummy; when your friends have felt the need to take turns staying at your apartment because they knew their company might bring food and the façade of normality; when you’ve fumbled over an answer to the questions, “where is your mom?” and “why do you look so tired?”; when smuggled food comes tumbling out of your backpack after you tripped on a door, leaving you crying, hungry and judged by peers who have no clue what is happening; when you’ve been forced to put all your things in boxes for your safety as a drunk parent screamed obscene things at you; when you’ve spent hours on your hands and knees sobbing for your parent to come home and shattered when they traded you in for their boyfriend of the month and had to be forcibly held down by your father in a fit of frustration and desperation… Then you will understand how I learned to live off so little food, and why I still search for her face in large crowds — why I will never be the same. If while reading this passage you thought to yourself, “Wow, I relate,” there is something I need to tell you. I made the choice at 14 to leave my mother and move in with my dad full time after a series of bad decisions on her part. In the midst of everything, I didn’t see a way out. I didn’t see a future without her, and I certainly couldn’t keep living my life with her. At the age of 14 I made the best move for myself. I learned to be my own advocate. I’m not going to tell you it was easy by any means, but it is possible. If you are like me, you need to know: there is a way out. Keep going. You have so many days ahead of you. So many memories left to make. Your abuser does not define your story; only you can choose to do that.

Why Melissa Benoist Not Sharing Her Abuser's Name Is Powerful

I’ve been a big fan of Melissa Benoist from the moment she danced across my screen wearing a pageboy cap in “Glee.” I’ve watched as she got married, divorced and took to the skies as Supergirl. She’s always been someone who I looked to as a hero. Someone stronger than her character — and she’s a woman of steel. I never had a clue how strong she truly was. Benoist recently disclosed she is a survivor of domestic violence and intimate partner violence (IPV). In her emotional video, Benoist describes how she fell for her abusive ex-partner and elaborates on how her relationship turned from healthy, to emotionally abusive, before becoming violent. Throughout the entire video, however, Benoist refrains from sharing his name. The moment I started watching her video, it hit me just how strong Benoist is. Even while describing what can only be defined as pure and utter terror, she gave hope to others. I could never understand her pain, but what I do know is it takes a very strong person to speak openly about a painful time in their life without putting the abuser on blast. We live in a culture where “canceling” people is more important than objective facts, but that was not her aim. She simply wanted to share her story and provide others with the resources to do the same. There is nothing more selfless than that. She shared painful moments in her life, not to gain fame or sympathy, but out of a deep respect and love for the people who look up to her. As one of those people, I can tell you honestly, I have never seen her so strong. And that’s saying something because I’ve literally watched Supergirl carry buildings. If you can relate to her situation, take hope in her words. I’ve always been proud to call myself a fan, but this is a new level. Melissa, thank you for sharing your story. Thank you for showing us our idols are not perfect and they don’t claim to be. Your heartbreaking honesty gives thousands of people in your position the strength to do the same. I #StandWithMelissa.

A Letter to the Parent Who Abandoned Me as a Child

I know there are hundreds of reasons why people leave every day and maybe some of them are justified. But as anyone who has ever been left by a parent can tell you, it will never make sense to a child. No child will understand why mommy or daddy didn’t love them enough to stay. I should know, I am that child. I am a child of abandonment. It has been hardwired into who I am since I was 12 years old — since the moment I watched my mom walk out the door for the last time. I never got to say what I wanted to and I suspect I’m not alone in that. So if you are like me, let it out. Here it is. Mom, you left me on October 4th, 2015. I was sitting on the couch in sweatpants with my hair in a braid. My eyes were red and puffy from crying — my dog was sitting on my lap. Do you know why I remember every detail of that day? Because years later, I don’t understand it. I don’t know where I went wrong. I’ve been haunted for years. And to make it worse, you never had to see the ruins. You didn’t have to see me on the floor sobbing while I begged for you to come back. Watching what you did would bring some humanity to my pain, but you wanted to leave me with nothing. Mission accomplished. If you have never been left by a parent you won’t understand. It rips you up inside. You spend years wondering what you could have done differently to make your parent stay. The world becomes a scary and unforgiving place. Which makes sense — your parents are supposed to protect you, not destroy you. When you get left by a parent, you see their face everywhere. Strangers on the street begin to look like them. You spend your whole life trying to replace what you lost. M aking sure it doesn’t happen again becomes your sole purpose because the idea of living through that type of pain again is too much to bear. Losing you was the hardest thing I never chose to do. I couldn’t spend the rest of my life without saying that. You should know that I lived. Your attempt to break me failed. You cracked me, yes. But I have learned to be stronger than I ever thought I could. I know there are others like me. People who spend long nights looking up at the ceiling, reliving the moment their world crumbled around them. To those people I would say: You are stronger than you could ever know. This is just the beginning for you. You, like me, can rise again.

How Fear of Abandonment Makes Me Accept Less Than I Deserve

I have learned something about myself that I am afraid to admit. I am terrified of abandonment and because of that, I accept less than I deserve. At first, this seems contradictory. I mean, I am someone who is so afraid to be left, so you would think that would make me selective about who I spend my time with. For me, this seems to be the opposite. After losing people, I began to crave validation. I didn’t care where it came from, I just needed to be told that someone cared about me. It became my sole purpose in life. I needed someone to tell me that I was worth staying for. I needed to pour all the love I was missing into someone else. It was a dangerous pattern to fall into, and sadly, I still find myself trapped in the cycle. I look for people who pretend to care. What’s bad though, is those people never stay. Which only perpetuates the chain further. About a year ago, I met a guy. He was your classic smooth talking player. He would tell me how beautiful I am. It was everything I wanted to hear. Slowly, he started to break me down. He would say that no one could know about us. He was too embarrassed of me. He used me for attention and nothing else. I was one of many in his eyes. A conquest to be won by any means necessary. He did not care how much it destroyed me. And yet, I stayed. I protected his feelings and ignored my own. That’s what a fear of abandonment makes you do. It strips you of who you are until you will accept any sort of attention. In my mind, it didn’t matter how poorly he made me feel. Even though I went home crying 99 percent of the time, during that 1 percent, I felt visible. I craved love so much that I did not care how much it destroyed me. Day after day, I convinced myself that he was worth the pain because he kept coming back. It took me a long time to see the error of my ways. He did not come back for me. He came back time after time to beat me down further. For him, it did not matter how much I was hurting. I served one purpose: to puff up his ego. And even then, I could not pull myself away. If you are like me, take this as your validation. You do not deserve anything short of perfection. There is nothing wrong with you. You deserve someone who will treat you with respect. One day, maybe I will demand it for myself.

Anxiety Makes Me Feel Unworthy of Love

I’ve never thought of myself as an ugly girl, or a mean one, or one who is devoid of humor. But, I have always felt unlovable. For a long time, I’ve felt like an obligation — like someone people tolerate but don’t choose and I’ve never understood why. I thought there was something fundamentally wrong with me. And, to be honest, I still do because there has to be something wrong when every guy I talk to leaves once they get to know me. And hell, I couldn’t even make my own mother stay. I often joke that I’m an unparalleled expert at ruining relationships before they even begin. It’s absolutely miserable. When it comes to guys, I make a great first impression. They are always hooked upon first meeting me. But, once my mystery wears off and they start to know me as a person, they inevitably leave. I destroy friendships because I don’t feel worthy of my friends. It’s been said we accept the kind of love we think we deserve. This idea totally made sense to me when I took a step back. I’ve spent my life running from real feelings, running from people who could leave, settling for people who don’t care about me. It took me so long to realize that, while I’m flawed in so many ways, this is anxiety at its finest. You see, my anxiety tells me I’m nothing. I’m broken and no one could possibly love me because that’s how our brains are trained when we live with this illness. So, we start to believe it. It’s terrible and truly heartbreaking that I view myself as unworthy of love. More so that, as a result of this feeling, I push people away which leaves me alone and only proves my point further. It’s a vicious cycle. I’m so tired of letting anxiety make me feel like nothing. I want to be loved. I want relationships that are secure and balanced. I just don’t know how. My mind works in a way that doesn’t allow me to get close to the people who deserve it because they might deserve better. But what about me? Do I not deserve better? I have this belief no one will make sense of my senselessness, but I understand it’s anxiety and that’s the first step. Anxiety lies to you and invalidates you. It strips you of who you are. I’m done letting anxiety isolate me from people I care about . I’m tired of settl ing. If you feel unlovable, know that you aren’t. Someday, someone will come into your life and they will never leave. We are all worth so much more than our anxiety lets us believe. I have to believe that.

Anxiety Makes Me Feel Unworthy of Love

I’ve never thought of myself as an ugly girl, or a mean one, or one who is devoid of humor. But, I have always felt unlovable. For a long time, I’ve felt like an obligation — like someone people tolerate but don’t choose and I’ve never understood why. I thought there was something fundamentally wrong with me. And, to be honest, I still do because there has to be something wrong when every guy I talk to leaves once they get to know me. And hell, I couldn’t even make my own mother stay. I often joke that I’m an unparalleled expert at ruining relationships before they even begin. It’s absolutely miserable. When it comes to guys, I make a great first impression. They are always hooked upon first meeting me. But, once my mystery wears off and they start to know me as a person, they inevitably leave. I destroy friendships because I don’t feel worthy of my friends. It’s been said we accept the kind of love we think we deserve. This idea totally made sense to me when I took a step back. I’ve spent my life running from real feelings, running from people who could leave, settling for people who don’t care about me. It took me so long to realize that, while I’m flawed in so many ways, this is anxiety at its finest. You see, my anxiety tells me I’m nothing. I’m broken and no one could possibly love me because that’s how our brains are trained when we live with this illness. So, we start to believe it. It’s terrible and truly heartbreaking that I view myself as unworthy of love. More so that, as a result of this feeling, I push people away which leaves me alone and only proves my point further. It’s a vicious cycle. I’m so tired of letting anxiety make me feel like nothing. I want to be loved. I want relationships that are secure and balanced. I just don’t know how. My mind works in a way that doesn’t allow me to get close to the people who deserve it because they might deserve better. But what about me? Do I not deserve better? I have this belief no one will make sense of my senselessness, but I understand it’s anxiety and that’s the first step. Anxiety lies to you and invalidates you. It strips you of who you are. I’m done letting anxiety isolate me from people I care about . I’m tired of settl ing. If you feel unlovable, know that you aren’t. Someday, someone will come into your life and they will never leave. We are all worth so much more than our anxiety lets us believe. I have to believe that.

When You Don’t Know What to Say to Help a Friend With Depression

You’ve probably heard it before; there are good and bad things to say to someone with depression. However, the bad seems to be too easy, while the good leaves you at a loss for words. I mean, what do you say to comfort someone who doesn’t even have control of their own mind? In reality, there is no perfect thing you can say to make everything better. These are just the things that come to mind as someone who has struggled. 1. “I wish I could make this better for you.” I don’t know why I love this one so much. A friend said this to me a couple years ago after some tough times in my life and it hit me like a ton of bricks. It made me realize someone was there for me and they would love and help me through the pain. To this day, this is still the most comforting thing I have ever heard. When times get rough and I think about my friends, this is always the moment that comes to my mind. It stuck out amongst a sea of people saying, “it will get better.” 2. “A day is only 24 hours long. Tomorrow will be new day. It’s yours to make a change.” This doesn’t even have to just be for a depressed friend. These words are always what I want to hear on bad days. It brings me comfort to know that no matter how bad one day is, I have the power. I have time. The bad day can only carry out its reign of terror until 11:59 p.m. Then, it will be forever gone and I will have survived. The next day is a blank canvas, and that is everything. 3. “You don’t have to say anything. I’m just going to sit here with you.” There is such a push on people with mental illness to just talk about it. Sometimes, talking about it is the last thing I want to do. Sometimes, I don’t want to acknowledge it. I just want to hold on for dear life and keep going. Sit with me. Ride out the storm by my side. 4. “You have emotions of steel and I respect that.” A friend said this to me after I had just made a joke about how weak I am. Of course, I had meant it as a joke regarding my physical strength (I’m basically a string bean with legs), but he caught me by surprise and said something I had never even thought before. I had always hated depression because I felt it made me weak, but he thought it made me strong. It changed the way I saw myself. I’m not weak because I have issues. I’m strong because I get up every day despite them. 5. “Your feelings are valid.” Most of the time, I feel like a “crazy” person. I get upset about weird things, I am exhausted and there are days when I need tons of reassurance. By you validating my feelings, you are telling me I am not out of my mind. You give me the peace of understanding my feelings without being guilty or freaked out. 6. “I’m proud of you.” Everyone wants to be told they have done a good job. It’s human nature. We all want to be praised. It’s funny, though; for me at least, the times I need praise the most happen to be the times when it seems like I’m doing the least. The times when my grades suck and hygiene has gone out the window are the times when I’m fighting the hardest to get out of bed. Acknowledging it makes all the difference.

Community Voices

best intentions.

A long time ago, I decided it was best not to care
Not to put myself in a vulnerable position
Not to let my heart be broken
again
Determined to be whole, I put up a wall
Shutting out anyone who could possibly leave me
Because, if I didn’t trust people with my heart
No one could ever break it again
I would have complete control
I lived my life in the driver’s seat
Going everywhere with absolutely no one
Sometimes it’s better to stay alone
a life of nothing lost, but also nothing found
No late-night phone calls
No silly texts
No Facetimes
Nothing that could be taken from me
things never seem to turn out how I plan them
Because here I am
Despite my best intentions
I care
I care about sandwiches and balloons given to me on a bad day
time spent laughing about vines and corny jokes
hot chocolate and terrifying drives in the rain
days spent cuddled up next to someone, trying to stay warm
I didn’t want to
I really didn’t
That’s what always seems to happen, isn’t it?
We fight so hard
We put up walls
And then the right people come into our lives
They are funny
And charming
And everything we need them to be
they poke holes in our walls
and we allow ourselves to think
Maybe life isn’t better alone
Maybe things can change
Somewhere in the midst of it all
We forget what it feels like to have our hearts ripped out of our chests
We forget nights spent alone in the dark
We forget 3 a.m. promises
And we hope
I have hope for more
that not everyone will be the same
that no matter how many times my mind tells me to get out, I’ll stay
so I let people in
I’m scared
I’m vulnerable
I don’t like being unprotected
But I like them
They have bested me
I let my guard down for just a second
And it has been the best decision of my life
#MightyPoets

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