Trigger Warning: This story contains mention of sexual assault and self-harm that may be triggering to some.
“‘I am not a depressed person. I am simply a person.’ This was a quote I read on a blog entry from To Write Love on Her Arms. Since I read it, it has always resonated with me. For most of my life, I’ve struggled with major depressive disorder and anxiety disorder. I wasn’t officially diagnosed until 3 years ago, but growing up I always felt out of place.
My family moved around a lot when I was young. I didn’t really feel like I had a sense of stability or a solid foundation early on from the start. When I was 7 years old, we officially moved to a small town in Ohio that would essentially become my hometown for the next 13 years. Growing up, I was very lucky in a sense I had a solid roof over my head, loving parents, a twin sister, and an older brother. I made friends easily and I always did well in school. My sister and I were hams together. We performed in talent contests together and we loved pretending we had concerts in our bedrooms. There was no shortage of love in my life. I grew up with a lot of amazing family and friends around me, but not everything was good.
When I turned 8 years old, my parents informed us they were separating and my father moved an hour away. That summer was also the summer I was molested in my sleep by my brother’s friend. One hot summer morning, I was asleep in the bottom bunk of my sister and I’s bunk beds. As I was waking up, I felt a hand on my buttocks, underneath my undergarments, slowly moving around. When I opened my eyes, I saw him on top of me. I asked him what he was doing and he told me he was checking on me because I guess I was breathing weird. Not really understanding what was going on, I just instinctually punched him in the jaw as hard as I could. I remember grabbing something heavy to swing at him to chase him out of my room. It wasn’t long after that, I informed my mother and stepfather in the room next door what happened.
The days following all of this became a blur to me in my mind. Sadly, when I try to remember all the details, I can’t. As I got older, my parents started to fill in the blanks for me. My father found me in my bedroom playing with my Barbie dolls as if nothing happened, but I also was screaming and kicking at the nurses and doctors trying to do a rape kit test on me. My story was shared in the local newspaper, so throughout junior high and high school, it was made aware to most of my classmates what happened to me.
I think that’s where I started to notice how closed off I became. As a coping mechanism, I began writing screenplays. I fell in love with the television show, Smallville. For me, it was Clark Kent. I connected to him so easily because he was so different and I felt like that a lot of the time. In high school, I immersed myself in film, writing, and music. There were a lot of things I kept from my parents growing up, about what I struggled with when it came to my identity.
One of the most memorable memories happened when I was 14 years old and my best friend was walking with me after school to the local park across the street. I think a few days before this, my stepfather had given my sister and me purity rings. We took purity vows together. I hated wearing that ring, honestly. After school, I told my best friend, D, I didn’t feel pure. I felt like I had no right to call myself that because a part of me always felt as if my innocence was stolen from me a long time ago. Also, the idea of being near a guy in any intimate way made my body tense up with fear.
After we graduated, I was beyond excited to pursue my dreams as a screenwriter and director. I was moving to Orlando, Florida in 2013 to attend Full Sail University and study film. For the first time in my entire life, I felt empowered and ready to see who I could become. Going to college was one of the best decisions I ever made because I finally felt like I had a place to really get to know myself. I started performing live and sharing my personal music with others. New friends and places inspired me to be more creative and challenge myself on new levels. Unfortunately, I do believe this now more than ever: you can move away in hopes of escaping your demons, but they always find you if you carry them within.
I learned that the hard way on October 4, 2014. The day after I graduated college, I was alone in my apartment, overwhelmed by this pain in my chest. There was a knife under my pillow, something I started doing after what happened to me. I grabbed the knife and I sat down in the corner of my bedroom in the dark, clinging to my chest as I felt my heart beat faster. Tears ran down my face and I felt so alone. The only noise was coming from my head and it was screaming, loudly at me.
‘You’re not good enough! You will never be worth it! You are alone! No one loves you or cares about you!’
As the voices got louder, I felt more and more like dying. In that moment, all I wanted to do was turn off the pain. This was the first time I ever felt something that terrifying within myself and since I never experienced anything like it before, I didn’t know how to combat it. Thankfully, I called a friend of mine who talked me down, but I didn’t know it would happen again.
Months kept passing and I struggled with finding a job in my industry. Suddenly, I realized I made a huge mistake. Trying to run away from what I went through caused me to put my entire identity into my career and I started to feel like if I wasn’t doing what I loved, I wasn’t worth anything. If I couldn’t play my music, if I couldn’t make movies or tell stories, then who was I? Isn’t that always a terrifying question for us to face?
Over the last 5 years, I’ve experienced some of the hardest challenges in my entire life. Back in 2016, I met someone with who I got into a relationship for 2 years. He was the man I lost my virginity to. The morning after it happened, I tried to scrub my skin raw in the shower because I felt broken and less valuable. Being intimate with him was a struggle. No matter how hard I tried, I felt used up. I felt like garbage every single time. Sadly, I was convinced I was nothing. To make things harder, our relationship became toxic. Whenever we fought, he would say things to make me cry and when I asked him why he did that intentionally, he told me it was so he came out of our fights less hurt than me. I broke up with him after 2 years and had to put myself back together, which took me a year and a half.
My first effort was therapy. I started seeing someone who prescribed me anti-depressants. The first time I sat in the bathroom holding the bottle of pills, I couldn’t help but fear this medication would alter my personality. While I didn’t continue seeing this therapist, one thing he said to me hit me hard. The reality was I was so used to feeling depression and anxiety I no longer knew who I was without those feelings. It was as if my mental illnesses became my default setting. Once he informed me of that, I realized I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life in my default mode.
The medication didn’t work very well for me. In the beginning, I felt apathetic to a lot of things. While it did help me function on a normal level, I didn’t really feel like myself. My doctor and I had discussed upping my dosage when I began to feel depressed again. When 2020 hit, I was evicted from my home in Nashville. I spent several hours in a mental health facility being evaluated when I broke down at the courthouse trying to fight my eviction. A woman found me crying and saw I had cut up my arm, which sadly was occurring a lot over the previous year. Being in that place was one of the most horrific experiences in my life. The room I was in was cold, dark, and depressing. I felt more isolated than ever before.
My big brother took me in for a few months while I tried to get my feet back on the ground. He had a house in North Carolina I stayed at for a few months. While I struggled during those months, I loved being able to be around my big brother again because it felt as if we lost touch for the longest time. He has been through a lot over the years himself and being there with him brought us closer together. When I made the choice to come off of the pills, he was there for me knowing full well it wasn’t going to be easy. We would sit outside on his porch playing guitar together and singing songs that we grew up singing. My brother and I fought a lot growing up, but as I’ve gotten older, I realized he and I are very similar. I got through one of the most difficult parts of my life because of him.
Through all of this, here I am. I’m still learning to manage my depression and anxiety. The reality is that it’s always going to be a battle, but the most important thing I hold onto is I’m not a depressed person. I’m a person. No more. No less. My mental illness doesn’t define me. My past doesn’t define me. I’m currently with a new therapist. I’m pursuing my dreams as a filmmaker and musician to this day, despite how difficult it can be at times. I still believe I’m going to do amazing things and I want to inspire others too.
After everything I’ve been through, being with myself is the most important thing I’ll ever do. I’m not rushing the process. I understand healing is a long journey, but I won’t give up on it. While it can be a lonely road at times, I only surround myself with people who can be real too. It can be absolutely terrifying to bear your soul with others because you never know if they will accept who you really are. I’m learning accepting yourself first is more vital and once you do that, you attract real, authentic people. Now, my closest friends allow me to feel how I need to feel and allow me to express myself without judgment. I’m also fortunate enough to have meaningful conversations with these individuals because you realize you’re not alone and a lot of people feel the same way you do.
Despite everything, there has always been a spark in me that kept the light burning. I know I’m worth it. Being my most authentic and vulnerable self is the most valuable thing I can be in this world. And I really do love her.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Kristin Grice from Orlando, FL. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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