Autobiography of a Dysfunctional Writer –The Extended Version
I’ve dealt with anxiety and depression for my entire life, I think. I spent my first fourteen years in a “perfect” family setting (perfect for me). We had cook-outs and parties for holidays. We had a nineteen-foot Christmas tree in our two-story living room, and when I was ten years old, my parents brought home my baby brother, Josh.
Family: The Early Years
I remember feeding him and changing diapers. He was my real-life baby doll. When he would whimper from his crib in the next room, I would run to see if he was okay. Of course, my parents thought it was so sweet. I loved him.
Several years later, we had moved into a bigger home, built a pool, and I started the middle-school/high-school climb. I began doing all the normal stuff that you have to hide from your parents—smoking, drinking, smoking pot, sneaking out.
My dad smoked pot my entire life. It was normal to me. I thought all adults did it. On the weekends, my parents had parties where eight or nine people would sit around getting high and playing cards or dice. All I knew was that I wasn’t supposed to tell anybody at school what my parents did because it was our business. I never told… until it became cool. Then I bragged. “Yeah, I swiped this bud from my dad’s stash. It’s some good shit too.”
High School and “Mindy”
Looking back, my high school acquaintances probably thought my dad was cooler than I was. I was overweight, and to me, that defined who I was. I had a couple close friends in high school. One in particular, I’ll call her Mindy. Mindy was my best friend for many years, and in many ways, she always will be.
Mindy was tall, slim, blonde, and gorgeous. She was the girl all the guys wanted to be with. On the weekends, we’d spend our time talking about her boyfriend or the three guys she had to choose from, while I would obsess over some guy I’d never even spoken to and would never have a chance with… but whom I loooooooved so much!
While I realize she really did love me and was a true friend (still does and still is) and never thought of me as any lesser of a person, I couldn’t help but notice the differences between us. They were stark. At this point, I’d became a pro at manifesting my depression and low self-esteem through anger and hate. I. Was. Mean. If you ask anyone from my high school to describe me using one word, their word would almost certainly be “mean,” “brutal,” “scary,” “hateful,” or something similarly angry.
While Mindy attracted the attention of all the guys, she inadvertently managed to also attract the attention of several female enemies—jealous bitches. Mindy wasn’t hateful though. She was sweet. She was innocent. The other girls scared her. They would try to gang up on her and scare her.
I remember once, I walked into the front doors of school and saw her standing alone and facing a group of six or seven other girls who were calling her a whore and threatening to “whoop her ass.” I simply walked up, stood between them, faced the mob of girls with my usual “go ahead and try it” expression, and said, “Is there a fucking problem?” They walked away. Immediately.
That’s who I was. I bullied the bullies. I never made fun of or bullied anyone for actually being deficient in looks or ability. I bullied and tormented the hateful bitches who thought they were really something, the ones who thought they were scary.
Another incident I had forgotten about until Mindy recently reminded me involved a girl who had a problem with Mindy because the guy she liked, liked Mindy instead… or some stupid shit. This particular girl had a slightly lazy eye. One eye was straight, and the other would float just a little off-center. However, she was a member of the “badass” club. You know the type? The group of girls who have a reputation for sleeping with a bunch of older guys and who all dress grungy and slutty and act like they could whoop anybody’s ass at any given moment?
Well, this girl approached Mindy and me and began shouting at Mindy. Something stupid and cliché like, “Bitch, I am going to stomp your ass!” Without even taking time to think about it, I calmly stepped forward, squinted my eyes at her like I couldn’t understand what she was saying, and said “You know, I really can’t tell which one of us you’re talking to because one of your eyes is looking at her, and the other one’s looking at me.” She stormed off in humiliation.
At one point, one of Mindy’s friends launched this jealousy-fueled attack on me. If I remember correctly, I had told Mindy something that made Mindy mad at this girl, and she was pissed. In my defense, I didn’t do it to cause problems in their friendship. It was legitimately something that the girl was doing behind Mindy’s back. I was looking out for my friend. I couldn’t have given a shit less about the other girl. In fact, the amount of shit I don’t give is so substantial, I won’t even censor her name. It was Jenny.
Anyway, I guess she hadn’t gotten the memo that I truly didn’t give a damn what anybody thought about me, and she came at me in the hallway one day. Her boyfriend, who stood at least six-foot tall, stood beside her while she began yelling threats at me, and when I dropped my duffel bag and spread my arms in the “come at me” gesture, she ran behind her boyfriend and acted like she was trying to climb over and around him to get to me. In reality, he was just standing there. I laughed at her.
I guess, to an outsider, some may believe that Mindy kept me around strictly for utilitarian purposes, to shield her from the dangerous parts of high school. I know this isn’t true. I’ll be honest here. She had friends that I think were strictly for “popularity” sake, but she and I were true friends. We were there for each other through all the bad stuff, and the bad stuff is what matters.
Around this time, while I was putting wanna-be bullies in their places, something was happening at home. I guess I wasn’t paying close enough attention to catch it or something, but my mom had become an alcoholic, and my dad was no longer only smoking pot. Because of this, they rarely got along, and by the time it began to impact me, it was too far gone to do anything about. This was smack dab in the middle of my high school years.
My mom would stay up all night drinking. First beer, but eventually Vodka. I would usually end up trying to talk to her, and it always came around to my dad. How he was doing this or doing that or she thought he had cheated or how he’d be mean to her, take her for granted. I spent countless hours giving her pep talks. Telling her to stand up for herself. Trying to convince her to tell him to go fuck himself.
I’d never been a pushover. I definitely got that from my dad because my mom’s middle name was “doormat”. At the time, my naïve mind believed I’d actually get through to her. I didn’t. I would bring friends over and be embarrassed when we’d look down into the living room and see her passed out on the couch with nothing on but a robe and her legs spread. One year, she knocked over the Christmas tree in the middle of the night and told me it was the cat. The cat had been upstairs with me.
She took my brother and me to a Christmas parade once, and when I realized she was so sloshed she couldn’t stand up straight, I made her take us to the car and watch from there. Once she picked me and Mindy up from the mall drunk and got arrested on the way home. My dad was at the Harley drags and couldn’t be contacted (this was before cell phones), so Mindy’s mom picked us up from the police station.
By this point, I had started letting my brother hang out with me and my friends because it was better than him being around her. Once she banged on my door because my brother, two of my friends, and I were watching a movie, and she heard my brother giggling and telling me to stop because I was tickling him. She accused me of molesting him because he was always in my room and she’d heard him telling me to “stop”. That was pretty much the last straw. Let me tell ya, I’d been embarrassed and emotionally ruined by this woman, so I moved out.
She went to rehab, and it didn’t stick for long. They told us on “family day” that one out of three of the people in the program would die within a year. That was in January 2002. My mom died on June 6, 2002. Heart attack in her sleep. Apparently she had developed heart disease. Too much alcohol will do that too ya.
Once Mom was gone, I began to realize some things about my dad. He wasn’t around a whole lot before. I guess because he didn’t want to be around my mom any more than I did. But suddenly, I’m looking at him and thinking, “what’s wrong with him?” Come to find out, he was into more than pot by that point.
He blew $90 thousand on drugs after my mom died while I kept my brother occupied. He lost the job he’d spent 25 years climbing the ladder to, and he lost our house. After his first positive drug test at work, they’d sent him to rehab for a month. Deja vu. To me, rehab meant hope, disappointment, and then death.
There I was, twenty years old, my mom had been dead for less than six months, and I had a ten-year-old brother to take care of full-time while I worked full-time. We spent our first Thanksgiving and Christmas after Mom died without Dad too. Just me and Josh. He’d go to work with me. I managed a Burger King, and he would hook his Playstation up in the break room and play games all night and eat free Whoppers.
Even when Mom was alive and Dad was home, I was the one he would come to when he was sick. I was the one who would let him sleep in the bed with me and clean up his puke from the bed sheets in the middle of the night. Years later, when I was engaged and living with my future husband, my brother would come stay with me for weeks at a time. He was my little brother. I would have done anything for him. Anything.
Now that I’m 33, my brother is 23, and he is no longer a kid. He’s a grown man with a very amazing long-term girlfriend. But, the thing I cannot stress enough is that he is (second to my husband) my very best friend in the entire world. We are so close it’s crazy. We would do absolutely anything for one another. I love that kid more than myself. He has turned into one of the most amazing men you could ever know. He’s responsible, hilarious, sweet, so so smart, amazing to his girlfriend, and he’d do anything in his power for me.
I don’t really feel like it’s possible that I could have had anything to do with turning him into the man he is today, but I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if I hadn’t been there to buffer him from the years of ugliness. I hope I helped. Either way, he’s absolutely amazing, and not just because I’m biased.
My Dad – Part Two
So, my dad’s made mistakes. He made a lot of them. He actually made making mistakes a hobby for a couple of years I think. But I’d be lying if I said I was always perfect. There was a year or so when I could be found at my dad’s nightly parties snorting coke and being part of the problem. The difference was, I never lost sight of what was important. I’d had a rough time. I spent a year doing coke, morphine, meth, pot, and pretty much anything you don’t have to shoot into your veins.
A year is more than enough time to get addicted to this shit, and I loved it. I won’t lie. But. One morning, when I’d been up all night, high as a kite, playing dice, my brother came downstairs straight from the shower and was looking for his shoes to go to school. There were about eight junkies in the kitchen, and it hit me.
My brother was living in this house of dysfunction. The one stable person he’s ever had was sitting there on a serious speed trip, wishing he’d hurry up and leave so I could quit feeling guilty and go back to having fun. That was the last time I did coke or meth. I just stopped. For Josh. He doesn’t know this. As far as I know, he never even knew I did that stuff with Dad and his friends, but he is a lot smarter than I realize sometimes, so who knows?
In 2007, I met my future husband, Danny. By this time, I was working at a factory and living by myself in a one-bedroom apartment. My brother spent weekends with me often, and during the summer, weeks. A month after I met Danny, he and my friend were kicked out of their apartment and both moved in with me for what was supposed to be very short-term. He and I have lived together ever since.
We lived together for four and a half years before we were married, and we’ve been married for three and a half years. We’ve had our ups and downs. We are complete opposites, but we are more in love than any two people I’ve ever met. I thank my lucky stars every single day for the chance to know him, let alone be married to him. I know that sounds corny, but it’s true.
I started college in 2010, at the age of 28. I’ve had the best experiences of my life over the past five years. I love everything about college. I wish I could be a professional student. I’d love to keep on learning, and I plan to. I will graduate next year, but I will continue to learn.
My dad is completely clean. Mainly because he can’t afford not to be–money or health-wise. He lives with my husband and I and has been through some scary medical situations lately. His body is feeling the strain of everything he’s put it through over the years, but he’s doing okay now. Best part of all, I’ve got my dad back.
My demons have been with me through everything you’ve read above. They showed their asses, hid away, disappeared behind drugs, caused me to question every decision I’ve ever made, almost caused me to miss the college experience completely, have added many hurdles to my marriage, have turned some easy As into Bs or Cs, have made me fear normal everyday life, but most of all… they’ve made me who I am. I struggle with life every day, and that’s who I am.
People who have never experienced it, ask questions like “why don’t you just get over it?” or “why are you so worried about going to the grocery store?” or “don’t you think you might feel better if you’d just get out of bed?” They don’t understand, and they never will… unless they experience it themselves.
I realize this is a very long blog post, and if you’ve made it to the end, thank you for taking the time to share my journey. After a read through, I wanted to state that my mom wasn’t all bad. I know this post makes her seem terrible, and it even seems like her death was a relief to me. It wasn’t. I just have a hard time expressing my feelings toward her still.
Also… Yes, there are a ton of things I’ve left out, such as my year long lesbian phase, but the gist of it is here. I know there are millions of people who’ve had it worse than me. I don’t think my trivial life experiences give me a pass to use depression and anxiety as an excuse. I’m simply telling my story. Trust me; it isn’t a competition. I don’t envy anyone who’s had it rougher than I did. Not in the least. In fact, I pity anyone suffering from depression and anxiety… even those who’ve had easy lives. It’s ugly, no matter what kind of canvas it’s painted on.