I’m okay: the lie that nearly destroyed me.
I’ve decided to share a story with all of you. But before I start I feel like I need to issue an apology to some of you. To those of you who know me personally, or follow me on social media, I have lied to you. And I am sorry. But if it is any consolation, I’ve lied to myself as well. This whole year I have told you all that I’m okay. And the truth is I have not been. But I thought if I kept telling myself that I was okay eventually I would be. And I was wrong. This is the story of my decent to rock bottom and what I learned from the fall.
I started the year extremely optimistic. We had recently moved an hour away from our previous home. We switched schools, church, and everything else so my husband could take a new and exciting job in Salt Lake City. And even though our contracted buyers on our former house were being slow and difficult, things were looking up! We had a fresh start, a new beginning, and we were excited. We quickly and relatively painlessly adjusted back to living as a family of 5 again, as my husband had started his job the previous summer while the boys and I stayed behind to sell the house. Selling the house and raising kids by myself was extremely stressful, so I was so grateful to be done with that. The boys adjusted great to their new school and our 2 youngest sons celebrated birthdays within the first month of our arrival. We loved the neighborhood and the new church. We finally sold our house in February, and then I left to attend a family party in Portland. I arrived home a few days later, blissfully unaware of both the looming global catastrophe and our own personal tragedy that was about to arupt.
My husband and I had been my Grandparent’s primary caregivers for the past 12 years. My grandpa died 9 years earlier, but we kept taking care of my Grandma as best we could. Taking care of an aging relative is stressful, especially when other people get involved. But the advantages outweighed the disadvantages by so much, and I truly loved the time we spent with her. Even though she was mostly in an assisted living home, we did everything for her. And the decision to move and leave her there was a difficult one. But we weren’t too far, and we had already waited so long for this oppurtunity, so we had to do it. But just a few months later, right after I got home from my trip, hospice called me to say she was going fast. And a few hours later I held my Grandma’s hand as she quietly slipped away. And even though she was 102, I was completely devestated. I planned the funeral, which was simple but turned out beautiful. I dressed her in her traditional religious clothing, whispered how much I loved her in her ear (and asked her to hug my dad for me) and said goodbye.
But there was no time to grieve, because on the way home from the funeral we found out we were being quarantined. No more school, no more church, no going out. My husband was sent to work from home and overnight I became a teacher to my kids and a coworker for him. His job became more demanding from home and that added pressure on me to keep the kids under control. And shout out to all the teachers out there, because I couldn’t even handle my own kids, let alone a classroom full of them! I really tried my best to make sure everyone had everything they needed all the time and were happy. But was always discouraged because it felt like nobody was ever happy. And I was sure my kids were going to fall so behind in school. I was so worried about their futures. They were frustrated and scared and refused to do much of anything educationally, leaving me even more concerned. Getting them to accomplish anything was such a fight, sometimes it didn’t seem worth it. I was being pulled in so many different directions. I felt like I was a juggler with 1000 balls and absolutely had to keep all of them in the air. I feared dropping a ball and disappointing someone so much that whenever I did drop a ball it was always my own. But still I felt like I was failing. I tried to ease my own fears and anxiety of what was going on by learning new skills. I learned how to do family history and discovered one of my favorite actresses is my 7th cousin! And I taught myself how to sew and started making masks for anyone that needed one. I made 100s of them for friends, family, and local hospitals and nursing homes. In June I bought season tickets to anything close to us that was open, and took the kids anywhere and everywhere I could to keep them entertained. Except with 3 of them came 3 ideas of what they wanted to do. And whether I took one and not the others somewhere, or forced them all to go to the same place, I was always in the wrong. Someone was always mad at me and not afraid to tell me. In August we did escape on a beautiful vacation with my sister and her family all the way up to the Canadian border. We hiked, swam in the ocean, camped in a rainforest. It was magical! And it was there that I decided it was time that I started living my truth. I needed to be brave about the things I felt and thought, and stop worrying what other people thought. And the extent of those truths are definitely for another blog post, but they were big and it was life changing for me. Except with that came more anxiety. I wasn’t overly concerned about what my friends and family thought, because the ones I had told were accepting and still loved me. But the idea came into my head that I might be disappointing the people who were looking down on me from heaven. And with that idea brought more guilt. By my birthday, which was the end of August, I had been hit with another inner conflict. I turned 39, which was the first birthday I got to experience that my dad never did. He died when he was 38. I had officially lived longer. And that brought on more grief and guilt. And on top of that we were quickly approaching the 6 month mark of my grandma’s passing, which I had been warned was the hardest time. The warnings were correct. I was falling apart and my grandma wasn’t there anymore. I ached to talk to her and see her again. I missed her more that I could ever describe. I started having panic attacks where I would end up in tears. I felt like I was always walking around with millions of pounds of sadness, grief, shame, and anxiety weiging on top of me. And it was getting harder and harder to breathe. And when I wasn’t able to control the anxiety anymore with exercise and medications, I fell back on an old bad habit that I thought I had conquered earlier in my life….cutting. I started cutting to control the pain, except it was a temporary control. It always came back. And I told no one because I was embarrassed and ashamed that I couldn’t handle my life, when it seemed like everyone else could. Except there was one person I told…..
Very unexpectedly and right in the middle of everything I made a friend! Making friends has never been hard for me. I get along with 95% of all the people I’ve ever met. But quarantine had made meeting and connecting with new people a lot harder. I spent every moment of my life for months with my little disobedient boys in a town where I knew no one. So she popped into my life when I needed someone the most. She was a performer at the amusement park where we had season tickets. The day I first saw her I was cranky because I was tired and ready to go home. But the kids insisted on just one more ride. So I sat to wait for them and saw her performing from outside the theater. Her energy and passion struck me immediately. Not long after, we finally met and I adored her right away. She was warm and sweet and not afraid to hug me, despite stupid COVID! Nobody had hugged me since my Grandma’s funeral and I am a hugger, so that alone was healing. I had prayed for a friend and I was sure she was an answer to that prayer. I thought we bonded pretty quickly, we had so much in common. She would invite me to come see her sometimes when she was performing. And as dumb as it sounds, when I watched her perform or talked to her all of the anxiety and grief and guilt I was always carrying around with me would go away for a little while. I described her once as the eye in my storm. The calm little break in the middle of a catastrophe. She made me feel safe. I was so grateful to have met her. She had her own struggles with anxiety, so I felt like she understood me. She told me once I could talk to her if I ever needed to, and I believed her. I had incredible friends up at home. They were there for me through so much and always had my back. I could tell them anything. I guess I’d been spoiled by them because I expected her to be like them. Which was completely stupid of me. She couldn’t be that type of friend, nor did she want to be. Not really at least. And I should have never expected that out of her. The more I counted on her the more she pulled away. She began to lie to me, I know now to push me away. I literally have no idea if anything she told me was true. Which made me telling her everything about me even worse. But I would ignore the lies, make excuses for her, or just blame myself. I figured I drove her lie to me. But I needed a friend and liked her so much that I brushed everything off and kept trying. And that ended up being a terrible mistake.
My friends and family warned me to be careful. My husband begged me to not to get involved with her. He knew I was going to get hurt the first time he met her. He’s very intuitive! But I didn’t want to not have her in my life. I was so sure we were meant to be friends. I thought if I could be better or more interesting she would like me like they did. Until the day I realized how very wrong I had been. On a Friday night I excitedly got on to social media to give her what I thought was good news. But I couldn’t find her anymore. I was sick when I realized she had blocked me from everything. No final words or explanation. Nothing. I was blindsighted. I couldn’t figure out what I did and it was driving me crazy. So I contacted a mutual friend, who I had seen just one day earlier and a wonderful brief conversation with. I told her what happened and she immediatly blocked me too. I had no idea what to do. I didn’t sleep at all and cried all night. By the next morning I was deperate to know what happened, or at least be able to apoligize for whatever I did. If they had just told me anything about what I had done, but they hadn’t and not knowing was killing me. It made my head spin feeling like I had invested so much into a friendship and seeing it end so abruptly with no explanation. Eventually I looked for other ways to contact either one of these girls. Which made me say and do so many more stupid things. Really stupid things. I was not in my right mind. But the grief and the confusion took over and I had no control. My husband and I had planned on taking our kids to the amusement park so they could see the Halloween decorations. I kept that promise despite everything I was feeling. But during that visit our mutual friend facetimed me through instagram. I knew I shouldn’t answer, but I needed to know. It was hard for me to get a word in because she had so much to say. She used every insecutiry I had against me. I was a bad mother, a bad wife, a bad friend and flat out crazy. My friend’s mother attended the same gym as me, although we had had only one brief conversation that I’m sure she doesn’t even remember. So I was obviously a stalker as well. She just went on and on about everything that she and my friend didn’t like about me. At one point I did say I just wanted to know what I did because my anxiety was so bad I was cutting over it. She told me flat out “We don’t care. Cut deeper”. I was destroyed. Not only did the friend who I had been so grateful to have now hated me, but she also hoped I died. Or at least didn’t care if I did. She was the only one who knew how much I was hurting. But instead of talking to me directly she let her friend rip me apart. By the time I hung up the phone, my heart was completely broken and I collapsed. Quite literally actually. I passed out right behind the little theatre I had met this girl at only a few months earlier. When I came to a very sweet young worker helped me up, which I was very grateful to know not all the employees there didn’t care if I lived or died. But remembering my promise to my kids I dusted myself off and acted as nothing had happened. A bit later we saw my friend working there, and my kids got excited and started to wave. When she saw us she ducked away and hid. And I made an excuse for her then too so my kids wouldn’t get hurt. We played there the rest of the night. Then we came home, I read to them, put them to bed, and finally after so many months of keeping everything inside allowed myself to fall apart.
The days after the phone call were very dark. Losing my only new friend in such a harsh and heartbreaking way was the final block the knocked the whole tower over. Everything over the past several months that I had kept inside had boiled over and I couldn’t function anymore. All of the grief and anxiety and fear came at me like a tsunami and I felt like I was drowning. I was so broken, so ashamed, and felt so small. I had dealt with depression and anxiety so many times before, but this was different. It was intense and terrifying. I was cutting and having panic attacks. I was throwing up and had constant migraines. I was afraid to go in public, especially to the gym, because I was worried I would see one of them. As a once social person, I couldn’t even bring myself to go to a grocery store. People were suddenly all bad and I thought any one of them could hurt me. I would hide in my bathroom and cry for hours. Finally I went home to my mom and let her hold me as I sobbed. I told her all I wanted to do was go home to my dad and Grandma. And I meant it. I saw nothing in front of me, I just wanted to die. Everything I had been carrying around had worn me down to nothing. I wasn’t good enough for anyone, I wasn’t worth anyone’s time. I couldn’t make anyone happy. I just wasn’t enough. We went to the cemetery together to visit my dad’s grave. My name is printed on the back of his headstone. I always thought it was kind of creepy, but that day I found it comforting. I imagined as I traced the letters of my name with my fingers seeing my name on the front of a headstone. My very own headstone. I found out my mom still owned the plot right next to my dads and I begged her to let me have it, so I could be buried next to him. My mom wanted to take me to the hospital, but I didn’t go because I didn’t want to fight for my life. I didn’t care enough to get help. On the ride home that night I told my husband in detail exactly how I wanted my funeral to be. Then when we got home I packed up most of my belongings, so my family wouldn’t have to do it. A few days later, though still thinking I would soon die, my husband convinced me to call a crisis center. I was assigned a crisis advocate, who almost called an ambulance. But I assured her I was going to be okay, which I obviously didn’t believe. I cut myself every single day. I kept hearing those words in my head. “We don’t care, cut deeper.” My husband went through my room and bathroom every day looking for razors, but I always had more. There was blood on my bathroom floor, my carpet, and in my shower. It was on my bedding and clothes, and I started wearing long sleeve shirts in 85 degree weather to hide the marks. I tried to continue to coach and attend my kids’ soccer games and keep up with everything they needed to keep things normal for them. But then the night came that I was ready to die, I was ready to cut deeper. I was officially done. I couldn’t pretend or handle everything anymore. I sat on the bathroom floor, with pills in one hand and a razor in the other, prepared to end it all. But I couldn’t do it because of my kids. Not because I didn’t think they were better off without me, because I knew they would be. But I knew they would probably find me, and having gone through the trauma of watching my own father die when I was just 7, I feared it would damage them as much as it damaged me. I watched him take his last breath. I watched my mom start CPR. I watched the EMT’s work on him until a neighbor pulled me away. But I went back in after the ambulance took him and saw the gloves and tourniquets left on the floor. And his shoes and glasses set neatly in a corner, waiting for him to come back. That expeirience 30 years earlier is the only reason I didn’t die that night. I just couldn’t do that to my kids. That very night I dreamed about my Grandma. She came up behind me wearing all white. I grabbed onto her arm and begged her to never leave me. She had tremors from as far back as I can remember. And in my dream she said nothing, but patted my head with her shaky hand. It was so real I could feel it. I realized soon after that that she had appeared to me in that dream to tell me that she was always with me, and that she was still proud of me. But it wasn’t my time to come home, and I needed to stay. So I finally let my friends, family, and advocate rally around me. They called, texted, and visited every day. My sister and her family even came all the way from Washington to be with me. Even perfect strangers who heard one way or another what was happening offered me help and support. And with all these people backing me up, I slowly started to fight. I started going places with other people, so they could support me if something happened. Although I don’t know when I’ll be strong enough to go back to the gym. I handed over all of my razor blades, which was not easy. I offically retired from sewing masks because it was now a painful reminder everytime I tried. Plus I didn’t have any more sharp objects to cut fabric with. I began to rely on a faith I had almost completely given up on. And I started working with a therapist who is helping me learn to control my thoughts and anxiety, along with dealing with everything that happened this year in a more healthy way. He often tells me I’m the most level headed person he’s ever worked with, which helps me feel more confident in myself again and forget some of the harsh things that were said to me. And my family is working with a family member who is a therapist too to know how to help me. I’ve even been making new friends. Women who are my age, over lying and playing games, and in the same life situations. I have armies of people standing behind me, ready to defend me or help me fight. I am so blessed with so many good people who actually care in my life.
My journey through this is not over. Its only just began. I still get sad and worry about things I can’t control. I still get mad. I still cry and listen to those voices in my head that tell me I’m not enough. I still fight the urges to cut. I still have panic attacks to the point where I can barely breathe. This will take me a long time to overcome. But I’m still fighting. And I’m still reaching out and accepting help. And when I do fully heal I believe I’ll be so much stronger. I’ve been asked if I regret trying to be friends with someone who ended up hurting me so much. The answer is no. I regret some of the things that happened of course, especially how it ended. But she made me smile when the world felt so heavy. She gave me much needed breaks from everything swirling around in my head. Knowing her helped me hang on just a little longer. And I am still grateful for that. I wish she knew how much that meant to me and how much that saved me. But she’s made up her mind who she thinks I am, and all I can do is move on. I have learned some very valuable lessons from all this. Things that are important enough to make me share this journey.
1: Words Matter! Words hurt just as bad as physical pain sometimes. And a word spoken in anger or frustration can make a permanent mark on someone who is struggling. You don’t know what someone might be going through, and your words may be literally the difference between life and death. What you say may seem small to you, but can change a person’s whole world. So choose your words carefully. 2: I have an incredible support system. I am so extremely lucky to have so many amazing people in my life. People who love me and want to protect me, they’re truly my world. Which is why it seems so crazy now to think about how hard I fought to keep one person in my life. And I don’t know if she ever really liked me. It’s been suggested that she didn’t want a friend, she wanted a fan. And I know as heartbreaking as that is, it’s probably true. But I have learned to hold on to the ones who love you. And don’t waste your time on the ones who don’t. 3: (And most important): If you are struggling, say something. Reach out for help. Don’t tell everyone you’re okay even though you’re not. You just never know when a hateful conversation will happen or someone you care about will dump you without a word. And if you are holding things inside that are already slowly destroying you, something like that can make you tailspin. And If you are considering suicide….just stay. I met a man recently who told me to stay for the surprises. You never know what’s lying around the corner. What if I hadn’t stayed? What would I have missed? What’s waiting for me still out there? The same man told me a story about how on the 2 year anniversary of his suicide attempt he proposed to his girlfriend and became engaged. He’s so happy now! What if he never got to experience that? He has been such an inspiration to me. Life can suck sometimes. And I mean suck! But stay for your family, stay for your friends, stay for the surprises. Nobody and nothing is worth prematurely leaving this earth for. Talk to someone, reach out, and fight! Don’t hold it all inside and pretend everything is okay. Just stay!!