Amanda's Story Part II: Leading Up To That Day
Before I tell you what happened following that day, I should give a little background of some life events leading up to it.
As a child, I remember worrying about everything all the time. I mean everything. I cried if a piece of paper flew away, because I thought it had feelings. It made me sick to see anyone struggling, or in trouble. I was always fearful of the unknown. I remember the worry consuming me. Growing up, I lived in a “conceal, don’t feel” household. It was a tough-love approach, and whether or not it was instilled in me by that type of parenting approach or not-it was something that has always affected my mental health. Not only did I fear to feel certain emotions openly, I often felt I was guilty in doing so. I also believed I had to be “the strong one.” Strong for everyone else in every situation they were going through, yet I never allowed myself to be seen as weak. It almost felt wrong to feel vulnerable in that way.
When I was a teenager, these feelings only intensified. I lost a friend to leukemia, was sexually abused by a family member in a church, our family faced financial struggles, and my parent’s marriage was falling apart due to infidelity. Through all of this, I learned that I couldn’t trust anyone. During these hard times, I really wish I could have trusted more openly. I yearned for someone to talk to, just to process everything I was going through. But as a teenager, appearance is everything. This is when the “conceal don’t feel” approach came in handy. I was a cheerleader at my high school, which meant I had to have the perfect persona. Not only that, but I was also nominated by my classmates to be a member of our school’s Hope Squad. The Hope Squad is a suicide prevention program, and my peers felt that they could come to me with their struggles. Little did they know, I was battling depression and suicidal thoughts of my own. How could I support them when I was feeling this way? My answer? “Conceal, don’t feel,” just get over it and move on. I figured I would use the Hope Squad trainings as a way to cope with my own depression. I remember sleeping all the time, missing school, making up excuses to stay home instead of being out with my friends. I had always been a good student, yet I failed my entire junior year of high school.
I saw a therapist for the first time in high school. My first time going, I felt extremely disappointed. I didn’t connect with the student therapist. I felt that she was just writing down everything I said and that she wasn’t interested in helping me. I would even say random things just to see if she was really listening or not. I gave up on her after a few sessions. Maybe things would have been different had I given her a chance, or tried someone else. But I didn’t, and things just continued to get worse.
When I turned twenty-one, I went on a service mission for my church. I was assigned to the beautiful country of Paraguay for a year and a half. During that time, I was only able to communicate with my family through weekly emails, and phone calls on Mother’s day and Christmas. I was so nervous to leave my family and my home, but so desperate to escape the reality of my life. Three months into my mission, my companion and I were robbed in our house late one night. (That’s a story for another day.) I was ready to pack my bags and go home if I survived. I did survive, but I chose to stay in Paraguay and finish what I started. The paranoia was awful. Almost a year into my service, I received the phone call that my sister in law had died in a tragic accident involving a gun. I was thousands of miles away from my family, I wanted to go home and be with them so badly-but again, I chose to stay in Paraguay. I don’t know if I did it because it was easier not to face the reality of everything or if I chose to stay because I wanted to share the gospel message with people in similar circumstances. Either way, I didn’t deal with any of it properly. In fact, I didn’t really deal with it at all. I just swept it under the rug and went on with life as though it had never happened.
Upon returning home and in the years that followed, quite a few things took place-both happy and sad. I graduated college, became a teacher, got married, had two beautiful babies, experienced miscarriage, my parents got divorced, we bought a house, I quit my job, my daughter was born with some heart issues, I lost my very best friend to a drug overdose, and more. Life hit, and it hit hard. Up until this point, concealing my pain had worked out for me. But my brain couldn’t handle it anymore. I had hit rock bottom.
Continue to Part III: The Beauty of Hitting Rock Bottom→