I sometimes think that I was “given” the struggle of depression so that I could understand where darkness and wickedness come from. When people intentionally hurt others it is because they too have been hurt, it comes from a dark place of unresolved pain. This explanation in no way excuses the behavior it just adds some perspective. When people unintentionally hurt others it is due to ignorance. In my life I have been exposed to both on a deeply personal level.
My Aunt is the pillar of unresolved pain, in my experience the more devastating of the two. Throughout her childhood she felt bullied, unworthy, and never good enough. She was left with a desperate need to prove herself, to have everyone know that she too was of significance, important, and worthy. How she went about proving her significance was devastating… she sought to claim familial power and control through bullying and manipulation. Now I will not discuss what she has done to others, but I will share what she has done to me. For a very long time I was one of her targets. As the eldest daughter to the eldest sister and the closest granddaughter to her mother, I represented something to be conquered, controlled, and broken. If she could break me, she could break what to her I symbolized.
As the second oldest she was always compared to my Mother. And in her eyes she thought my Grandmother,her Mother, never really liked her. She didn’t perform well in school and would get caught lying about class assignments; which at the time and in the culture was a no no. She grew up feeling small and hurt, and she used that pain to fuel what she would later become as an adult.
So she took her anger out on me, but I was only one of her targets. She manipulated and bullied others as well. She even manipulated my Father against me. As a child, I distinctly remember the feeling of getting double teamed, being constantly bullied by two key figures in my life. The bullying didn’t begin to desist until I knew how to placate, until I learned to be the small quite one, until I understood where I belonged. She could not break my Mother or her Mother, so she went after me. By winning over me she had conquered over something…
The second pillar of suffering is ignorance. My Father is a good man but gullible and he has had to fight is own demons. As the eldest of seven children my Father was often the man of the house. His Father was a trucker driver, never really home, and ended up leaving the family when my Father was in his late teens. So he has had his own struggles, his own battles to fight. And when it came to raising a precocious and rebellious young girl he was lost so he relied on what he knew…heavy discipline and conformity. There was no room for my personal and individualistic growth…there was no space to grow in and nowhere to grow to.
It has been a struggle and continues to be a struggle. Did you ever get the feeling as a child that there was no one at your side, no one in your corner? Not only did my relationships with my Aunt and Father make for a toxic environment I would often get bullied at school by both students and teachers. All of this, I believe, is what led me to begin experiencing depression as a teen. I think I had finally had enough, had finally begun the process of giving up. I remember very long days of lying on my bed in my darkened bedroom playing with matches, fire, and rubbing alcohol. As I look back at it, I imagine that the fire must have seemed a live to me at a time when I didn’t feel so; at a time when I thought that my life would have served a greater purpose if given to someone else.
Although I am a work in progress, and working at the project of me, I still remember those feelings and sometimes they find space to reemerge. And I bring up this struggle because within in me has lived the pillars of pain and ignorance, the pillars of suffering. Pillars I inherited but was not born with. But instead of bullying others I chose to self-destruct. I bullied myself. I was/am a walking open wound exposed to salty wind and hard rain. I have OCD, Anxiety, and Depression. I am overweight, make poor eating choices, and mark my skin. But beyond that my mind is on repeat with continued messages of self-hate, disgust, and disdain.