Alone in the Crowd

By Amy BabichOctober 29, 2015

I’ve felt lonely for as long as I can remember, but I was never the one who showed it.

I always played the part of the social one. Or the funny one. Or the class clown. Or the life of the party. I was the one people wanted to be. In reality, the roles I played couldn’t have been further from the truth.

I grew up in a household that was unsafe. It was a place where aggression flourished and showing any sort of emotion was frowned upon. In my family, reality happened behind closed doors, and everyone was required to wear their best smiles as soon as they walked outside. As a child, this incongruence felt normal. I never, until recently, understood the meaning of the word home.

So I became the girl who was involved in everything. I was the athlete, the dancer, the comedian, the rebel, and the party girl. I was anything that would take me away from the pain that was happening inside myself and in my home.

Around the age of 13, I began struggling with a cluster of addictive behaviors: self-injury, binge-drinking, starving myself, sleeping with men, and getting involved in abusive relationships. As soon as I would make even the slightest progress in one area, I would lose control in another. It was an endless game of Whac-A-Mole that I could never win. I continued that way for years, silently struggling.

It wasn’t until my senior year of high school that I realized how out of control things had gotten. I ended up in a psychiatric ward over the holidays after attempting suicide. My life was at a new low point. My desire to live was no longer visible to me, and all of the “parts” that I was playing were getting too exhausting.

When I came back at school, no one knew how I had spent my holiday break. I was scared to be honest about where I had been, so I smiled and continued on as if nothing had happened. It worked for everyone but me. Once again I put myself right back where I started: Alone in the crowd.

Flash forward one year later. I had just finished up my first semester of college; little did I realize it would be the last one that I would complete in years. My sickness was visible in ways I could no longer hide. I entered myself into my first eating disorder treatment center and then the next. This became my life for the next 18 months.

I was no longer the funny girl, the social girl, or the life of the party. My role had switched from person to patient. I went from living what looked like an independent life to suddenly becoming someone to take care of. Feeling that way only fueled my depression.

It took years for me to come around, and although it could look like I “lost” so much time, I actually gained so much more: I’ve learned that we are not broken beyond repair and that second chances exist.

Today, I feel alive. Not only do I feel alive, but I also want to be alive. I have genuine and meaningful connections. I’ve found my people, the ones who have shown me what home is.

I’ve learned that it’s OK to be the girl who feels sad, who feels happy, who makes mistakes, and who shares her story. It’s OK to be the girl who finds a new home. It’s OK to be the girl who lets other people in.

Now I know there is only one person I have to be: the girl who stays.

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Comments (16)

  1. Sam

    That was beautiful! It was an amazing read, but also a little painful considering I have been threw some of that as well.

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  2. gloria

    loved this

    Reply  |  
  3. Katie

    Hi, I was wondering if I could possibly talk to you? Although our situations are a bit different, I feel like you could understand how I feel.

    Reply  |  
    1. Claire Biggs

      Hi Katie,

      We wanted to let you know that we respond to every email we receive. If you need some hope or encouragement, we’d love to hear from you. You can email us at [email protected].

      Reply  |  
  4. Sarah

    I find being the girl who lives to be a struggle a lot of the time. I am a 36 year old woman with treatment resistant major depression. My bouts have been going strong for 30 years. I find comfort in reading the stories of those who do or have struggled, making the loneliness somewhat bearable. Thank you for sharing yours, and keep your head high. XO

    Reply  |  
  5. Darian Wolf Surigao

    Thank you.

    Reply  |  
  6. Anon

    “The girl who stays” needs to be on a t-shirt!
    I’m glad you stayed. Thank you for sharing this beautiful peace so hopefully many more who are struggling will be inspired to stay too. Cheers!

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  7. sarah

    Thank you for sharing your story, it’s helped me a lot. I’m in the middle of recovery that’s lasted for several months. Several people around me tell me I should be over it and done by now. I’ve dealt with several of the things you have and to hear it took you several years to heal and it’s ok is such a comfort to me and gives me hope.

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    1. Ron

      Don’t ever listen to people that tell you that “you should be over it by now.” That’s so counter-productive to the healing process that it almost breaks my heart a little. It’s not unlike people who don’t understand mental illness who say “You’re depressed? Just think about things that make you happy. Think positive thoughts. Just be happy!” It doesn’t work that way. Healing takes time, and energy. I too have had people tell me “You’re still working through this? Shouldn’t you be pretty much back to normal by now? It has been a couple of years.” and the truth is, with my struggles with anxiety and depression, I’ve noticed that things have improved. That is to say, the periods between bouts of depression have extended, and the bouts of depression have shrank in duration a bit. I’ve also noticed that, while I still struggle with anxiety daily, I’ve gotten a lot better at coping, and just not listening to that inner voice when it fixates on things and starts the overthinking cycle. So, in a way I am a bit “better by now.” But to place a timetable on healing, or recovery, it’s just counter-productive. It can make somebody feel worse for not being better yet. So don’t take it to heart much when they ask questions like that. You do what is best for you, keep working through your recovery. Just know that you are not alone in your struggles. Good luck, and God bless.

      Reply  |  
  8. ANON.

    That last sentence gave me chills. I too suffer with depression and an eating disorder. Even though I “don’t look it” because you cant “see my ribs yet”. Thank you so much for sharing.

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  9. Anonymous

    This is so heart-wrenching, and yet oh so beautiful. As someone who has struggled with this so much myself, I just want to say thank you, thank you, thank you.

    Reply  |  
  10. Dajtina

    Just one in a million of stories that makes everyone different and the same ,at the same time. I may not be good on my english ’cause I’m albanian, but I would like to say something to you: Pain is what unites people all around the world , you’re never alone in pain and life has always that another door where light could get in. Blessed are those who have pattience to find it.

    Reply  |  
  11. Laura

    I’m 24 and still have not saught help. It’s so daunting. It took you as long as it did. I simply don’t have the energy or strength to seek recovery. I don’t know how you got to that point. But it’s awesome you did. I’m happy for you.

    Reply  |  
  12. Kj

    I love the way you wrote this article! I so relate to your story. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply  |  
  13. bellla

    I’ve always hidden in acting like this, the it girl, the friend, the slut, the smart one, the less smart one, the whatever it took.
    Now, after 32 years, I’m trying to be me. In whatever that looks like in each given moment. It’s hard, and glorious. Painful and worthwhile.
    If anyone wants to be themselves, I’m happy to talk.
    God bless

    Reply  |  
  14. Jonny

    So beautiful; honest, tragic, and inspiring. Thank you for sharing and for being you.

    Reply  |  
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