I was driving home from work. It was pretty dark for 5PM—I was still in that initial shock of getting adjusted to “falling” out of daylight saving time. I was used to going home when it’s still light outside. It was also cold, and it felt like something in between rain and snow was lurking in the air.
I was born on a rainy Monday morning on one of the shortest days of the year. I know it was a Monday because I Googled it. I know it was one of the shortest days of the year due to its proximity to the winter solstice. And I know it was rainy because this guy I used to see/date/be enamored with/be manipulated by told me this, because he found an old journal with an entry on my birthday, and he wrote about how much it was raining, which is a bit peculiar for December in our geographical area.
I used to feel like I was doomed to be stuck in a horrible, downer of a life. When I think back to the way I was raised, it makes me really sad to see the absolute pessimism that surrounded me. My parents weren’t horrible, but they were pretty disconnected. I look back now and see that my mom had some pretty serious mental health issues that weren’t addressed. My dad was abusive toward her, often as a result of her issues. My brothers were a perfect genetic blend of also being abusive toward me, while having their own unattended mental health and learning issues. I didn’t even know my grandmother was my grandmother until I was about six years old—I thought she was a maid. I was somehow attuned to this idea that my family was atypical, which I associated with being “wrong” and “bad.” Really, it was just incredibly unhealthy.
I think at my core, I’m a pretty hopeful person. I mean, I don’t think I could be in recovery right now if I felt totally hopeless. But my home environment definitely influenced who I am. There was an attitude of, “You can do it … but don’t try; you might fail.” We couldn’t have more than one dog, because we would never be able to love them equally. We couldn’t have friends over, because what if they weren’t our BFFs? There were so many excuses for not living life fully. I wanted to be girly when I was pre-school aged; I wanted long hair (“Too much of a hassle.”) and to wear dresses (“Nowhere to wear them. Don’t get your good clothes dirty.”). Very few photos were ever taken in my family—”No one to show them to”—and in those photos, my mom was rarely present, because she would say, “I don’t know how to smile.” While my parents never directly told me “You can’t do it,” their actions and self-esteem told me otherwise.
The hopes I did encounter were unrealistic expectations. “Someday, we’re going to win the lottery. Someday, we’re going to move. Someday, you will be beautiful.” I fell in those traps of black-and-white thinking pretty early in my life, and I like to say it got me through life—but it got me through in the way a few slices of bread and a glass of water can get you through a day. It might allow you to survive, but you sure as heck aren’t going to be running a marathon after eating that as your daily meal.
I used to feel like I was destined to live the life of a cold, rainy, dark Monday. That it was my birthright I was born into. I used to feel like I was born into such an unstable family that I was meant to be depressed and abusive just because I share the same genetics as them: dark hair, light eyes, suicidal. Or maybe it was less biological than that, and more like an unhealthiness caused by osmosis.
I was driving home from work. It was not a Monday. It was not raining. I realized, in my younger years, I had never thought I’d feel a steering wheel in my hands or know the view from the driver’s seat. I never thought I’d be able to go home from my job (in an office!) to my house that I rent all by myself. I never thought I’d be able to go to the store and buy the food I want to eat. I readjusted the seat belt, thinking about how I was an overdue baby by a few weeks, and how the elderly obstetrician finally decided to give my mom a C-section to pull me out of her womb on that rainy Monday. Mom told me I was the only baby in the nursery at the small hospital.
I peered through the silhouettes of trees at the dimming sky of a day I never thought I’d survive to see. I was no longer that dried out, reddened newborn, alone in the nursery on a dark, rainy Monday. I was something beyond that baby, not just in age and experience, but something more. I thought about the hopeless doom that dark, rainy Mondays bring … and then I remembered that the week gives us six other days.
“When I think back to the way I was raised, it makes me really sad to see the absolute pessimism that surrounded me.” – Yes. I’m still sorting that kind of thing out myself. That environment leaves you without a wellspring of support, or any sort of guide to success (as a person) – instead, you default to failure and self-sabotage because it’s what only really truly makes sense, deep down. And as you say, it’s often the case that this happens in families that otherwise look intact, with parents who otherwise mean well. It’s just that there are so many, many unresolved larger issues, which you had no hand in creating or control over, but which shadow your life in ways you can’t even see on so many levels. Thank you for writing this.
Thank you for your story, I’m glad that it found me today.
Thank you for this. I related to a lot of it.
this is beautiful. thank you.
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Hello. I’m 19 and I’ve been fighting depression for two or three years. I was taking it well but my grandmother died a few months ago and I feel that everything that has cost me so much to overcome is getting to me again. I’m scared. I don’t want to fall again, because I feel that if I fall I couldn’t get up. I never told my parents, but I ___ my arms for a few years to now. I thought about killing myself and since my grandmother died-we were very close-I cry every night to fall asleep and was in one of those nights when I found this page. You have no idea how much it meant to know there are people who also live this struggle daily and have overcome depression. I understand that is something which you must always deal but this page has given me that little hope, hope for life when I thought I was losing that battle. However, there are still times when I get really upset and do not know what to do to stop feeling that way. I don’t know how to ask help. I don’t know how to speak about this to someone. People around me think my life is perfect, but it’s not like that. I am not well. I feel lonely, fragile, broken. Especially broken. And I don’t know what to do to feel better.
Thank you so much for your comment and your bravery in sharing part of your story with us. We’re so sorry to hear about the loss of your grandmother. It’s OK to be scared, Yazmin. We believe in you and your story, and we know you can pick yourself up – even if you fall. Do you think you can open up to someone – your parents, other family members, or friends – about how you’re feeling? We’re so sorry to hear that you’re crying yourself to sleep; we encourage you to seek out the people in your life and let them know how they can support you during this time in your life.
We’re so glad that finding our site helped you feel less alone. You are certainly not alone in how you’re feeling and what you want. It’s OK to get upset that you’re feeling this way. Yazmin, you’ve already proven how brave you are by writing this comment. We believe in your strength and in your ability to ask for help. We recommend reaching out to someone you trust and letting them know how you feel and what they could do to help. Please know that we believe in you. We believe you can do this.
If you ever need a reminder that hope is real, please email our team at [email protected]. We answer every message we receive.
” I fell in those traps of black-and-white thinking pretty early in my life, and I like to say it got me through life—but it got me through in the way a few slices of bread and a glass of water can get you through a day. It might allow you to survive, but you sure as heck aren’t going to be running a marathon after eating that as your daily meal” That cut me deep. Really. In a good way that results to relief. I have always lived off of this principle of surviving on my early life but i havent even remotely thought of describing it in words let alone recognized it was called positive self affirmation until recently because no had bothered teaching me terms ever since i got in to school. I remember staring sternly at a reflection of my 12 year old self telling it with all certainty and authority that it is going to get better after i have grown up a little and that i would no longer have to feel so freaking alone and sad anymore. Well, it didnt quite turn so well as i thought it would be. I am 19 and i am still that same 12 year old living off of that tiny hope to get through the day but now only sleeping over regret, broken dreams and promises, and ugly raised scars on myarm thinking every night before i fall asleep if someone would open the door and see my arm lying carelessly above the blanket to see the evidence of my stupidity and shame. Reading posts like this written in beautiful prose i could relate to somehow adds up to my little bubbles of hope. Thnk you. This helped.