An Origin Story

mental illness, mental health, mental health stories, teenage years, self harm, this stuff is golden,

I had a blonde crop of hair, chubby cheeks that made me look like my granddad, and a rosy complexion. I would sit at our kitchen breakfast bar in our first family home for hours, drawing and colouring in pictures of people I knew, characters I made up. I went through a phase of making pretend school books with pretend tasks inside them, just so that I could flip through them and mark them with a red pen. I wanted to be a teacher then.

My mum kept my hair short until I was practically begging to grow it out when I was around ten. Popstar was my new ambition, my friends became my new obsession. We were a clique in primary school – the popular girls that swapped boyfriends, par me. I stayed with that boy for far too long, but that’s a whole other story in itself.

That clique was a sneak peak of what life would be like in secondary school. Barely in our pre-teen years, we were already body-shaming, bullying, and bitching. Maybe that’s what we thought it meant to be a teenage girl. Maybe that’s just who we were at the time.

Things started to fall apart. The group had fall outs all the time. I did whatever I thought I had to so that I could impress whoever was at the top of this food chain. I bullied. I even sent a threatening email to another girl in our class. I’ll always be ashamed of that.

I was clueless about being a teenager. The only activities I really enjoyed were riding our bikes around the neighbourhood and making up dance routines to our favourite pop songs. At home I would write terrible songs of my own, thinking that I already understood love and relationships.

Reading one of those girly magazines, I believed their mini-article about writing down something you want to wish for and tucking it under your pillow for it to come true. I wrote down that I wished to be pretty. I wanted boys to fancy me and girls to like me.

Secondary school came and I became even more clueless. Groups formed quickly. I lost my primary school friends to other friends. I started to doodle pictures of my gravestone on pieces of lined A4. I imagined my funeral being empty apart from my family, but even then, they would only attend out of obligation.

I started to hurt myself for attention from my classmates, showing them a couple of cuts on my calves. At one point, a group of them surrounded me in the hall, all looking at my red and white leg, asking me questions. It felt good to have so many people want to talk to me. Loneliness is more powerful than you may think.

I joined the wrong groups of girls and got rejected, even shamed. Everyone around me seemed to know exactly how to be a teenager, how to fake their confidence, how to hide their insecurities. I just wanted to blend in.

I could never see past myself. When I made a true friend, a friend who was hurting in ways I couldn’t quite understand, I still saw only my problems. I felt sympathy for her but not empathy. When she was away from school for a while, I almost forgot all about her. She had tried to kill herself. She’d been writing me poems beforehand – a few years ago I stumbled across them again. They made my heart heavy with guilt.

I didn’t belong in a group like the majority of the other girls did. I had a few friends and was included in some groups, but I always felt lonely. Maybe that’s why I sought out the attention of men so much. The attention I got however was never enough, was never the right kind of attention that I needed. It only gave me a temporary high, and when I got back home, I would feel just as worthless and alone as before.

Is this the origin story of my mental illnesses? Maybe. Is it important to try and understand these origin stories? Maybe.

Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.
– Søren Kierkegaard

There has been some recent discussion in the news that those with depression tend to look back at their past and see only the bad. I think that is true with me sometimes, but I’m sure a lot of people feel the same way too. Everybody has skeletons in their closet, things they regret, difficult periods of their lives that they realise they’ve learnt from.

We all have stories of survival. You could say that we are all living through our stories of survival right now, as we all try to move on from the past and move ahead into the future.

We’re all just trying our best.

Sometimes even to live is an act of courage.
– Seneca

10 Comments

  • Emelie says:

    This is beautiful. I remember being a girl very similar to this one. While I never did injure myself physically, I certainly did emotionally. Perhaps some of those self-inflicted wounds are the product of growing pains? Some, obviously, are much deeper. Thank you so much for sharing your story.

  • You’re absolutely amazing. Thanks for writing this. It takes a really strong character to be able to look back and truly reflect on the past. It also takes a really strong person to learn from experience, but also let the past be.

    Something my therapist has repeatedly said to me is that I need to let myself off the hook for things from my past that I’m ashamed of. Like you, I know there are people I’ve hurt, intentionally and unintentionally. I constantly look back and wish I could have been the bigger person or the defender for people who needed it. But I can’t. I took a step once and reached out to someone I hurt, and we had a great chat. She said she had all but forgotten about the situation (which I had beaten myself up over for years!). So let yourself off the hook. Odds are that most of the people from your past have moved on, and you have built yourself to be a good person, which is all the atonement you need to fulfill.

    Depression loves to show us where we fucked up in life, but it conveniently leaves out that it is okay. Humans are flawed. Even the noblest characters had skeletons from their past. It is our “nature” to learn from trial and error.

    So forgive yourself. Odds are that everyone else has already done so.

    hugs,
    Two Book Minimum

    • Lauren says:

      That’s definitely something I need to do more, but you’re right – depression likes to remind of us of these things!
      Thank you for such a lovely, thoughtful comment. Hope you are well <3 xx

  • Quinn says:

    ” It only gave me a temporary high, and when I got back home, I would feel just as worthless and alone as before.”

    Hello, my teenage years! I haven’t missed you!

    I think I was lucky during my teenage years – anything outside of home felt like an escape so I actually had quite a good time. It’s all relative I suppose, and no teenage drama could top my feelings of home drama. In some ways I miss how reckless I was at that age, how I would just fling myself into situations without thinking because I felt invincible (read: I was offensively naive).

    But I would never go back. I learned a lot of lessons on my way here; they’ve given me a better life and made me a better person. My recklessness was just desperation coated in a never-thick-enough layer of cuteness. For today’s post I have written down “Do you think you were more mean as a kid or now as an adult?’ which isn’t really what you talked about here but it’s tangentially related… You’ve given me more to think about as I write!

    • Lauren says:

      I did that too – said yes to as many ‘crazy’ adventures as possible, all the unwise things that most of my friends thought to be very reckless. I suppose we are all offensively naive at that age!
      Glad that this post has given you more to think about! Look forward to reading your post later on 🙂

  • All too familiar.

    “Everyone around me seemed to know exactly how to be a teenager” — remember that ‘seemed’ is the operative word. We were all just winging it, just like our parents did, just like kids at school do now, just like future generations will. Life is essentially The Art of Blagging.

    The description of bubba Lauren is so sweet. I’m excited that in a few years you’ll make pretend school books again but for Violet to mark in red pen to her heart’s content! It’s like you get a second childhood but with the benefit of knowledge and experience. You’ll have such fun 🙂

    And that’s an amazing quotation at the end. I really needed to read that today so thank you! I’m writing it down in my journal. All good things, as always xx

    • Lauren says:

      That’s very true – everyone was just trying to survive, even back in secondary school. Maybe even before that.
      Aw that made me smile! I imagine encouraging Violet in her creativity as much as possible, so maybe she will have her own little fake school books to mark at home!
      It’s one of my favourite quotes actually. Really helps me too. <3 xxx

  • Gloria says:

    Like I’ve said before, you’re a lot braver than me for sharing your teenage angst. I’ve never had the courage to share my embarrassing, painful teenage years. I’ve tried hard to forget them. The beauty of getting older is you gain wisdom and can put it in perspective. Yes, it’s true what you say, we all go through agonising insecurities. Even, as I discovered later in life, the most seemingly confident people. It’s surprising, but we all have our skeletons. In my generation there wasn’t really any body shaming around. I think that came about with teen magazines and social media. When I was at high school, it was all about being in the ‘in’ crowd, and I never was. You see, I wasn’t good enough; I had severe acne. I felt like a leper and longed for the day when I would be normal like everyone else. It blighted my teen years, until I was 21, but by then I had gathered other insecurities, some of which probably had their roots in the shameful acne. It took a long time to overcome all of that (would’ve been quicker if EFT had been around in those days.) but I learned loads about naturopathy, herbalism, homeopathy etc. I love that quote above ‘life can only be understood backwards but must be lived forwards’, perhaps that’s our biggest life challenge. I think that’s the basis of why wisdom grows with age., because that’s exactly what happens. Thank you Lauren, for giving me the opportunity to be a little bit brave and sharing just a little of my origins

    • Lauren says:

      Thank you Gloria, for sharing part of your story. You’re an inspiration to me and I can’t wait for you and Violet to meet! xx

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