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I'm A Survivor, Pt. II

Updated: Jun 5, 2020

Hi, everyone. My name is Nessa.

I have "issues". I was bullied in high school. I thought about ending my life when I was in London for the summer. I hurt so many people without even knowing it. But I'm also something more. I'm a SURVIVOR. If you've taken the time to read my previous blog in the three-part blog series, you would recall that I have three mental health illnesses: major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Mental health awareness became part of the conversation and sharing my day-to-day experiences with living with three disabilities hopefully shed some light on what I and millions of us go through. The only way we can normalize mental health is to make it a part of the conversation and erase the stigma and taboo surrounding it. Be silent is part of the problem, just like sitting there and doing nothing. For a long time, I kept details of my personal life under wraps. Some parts, like politics, are between me and the people closest to me that know me and I'm not sharing. But there were parts that I deemed too ugly and too much for others to know about. But the beauty of these blogs is that I not only can share them, but I can also find healing and closure. But beware - it's going to get really heavy really fast. If it's too much for you to handle, stop reading beyond this paragraph. Ok, here we go.

I'll come out and say this right now: I had issues when I was younger. And the cause of that was living in an unhealthy home. To make matters worse, I didn't realize that the actions from what I've seen would be reflected in my actions. To put things in perspective, I had hearing problems when I was very little, and that impacted my behavior A LOT. I couldn't hear very well, and becoming deaf wasn't an option. So, I had surgery to get my hearing corrected and it was successful. But that still didn't stop all the bad things that happened at home. If you ask people their opinions on spanking, much of the response says that it's needed to keep children in line and respect their elders. All that research nonsense about it impacting mental health is a lie. Well, I can tell you from personal experience that I am a product of what spanking does to people's mental health. It didn't make me respect my elders. It made me FEAR them. My father spanked me. On a number of occasions. My first daycare experience when I was a kid was terrible. My childcare provider was absolutely cruel. She would spank me on a regular basis even if I did nothing wrong. My mom didn't know about it. My father could care less. I kept those horrible memories for a long time. Don't tell me that spanking doesn't make an impact on mental health. It does. And you need to listen and understand that spanking should NOT be an option for discipline. There are more ways to correct a child than resort to violence. A child should not be afraid of you. As I got into school, I struggled even more with my "issues." I was not a model student all the time. In fact, I was the exact opposite. I would say gross things to the kids just to get attention. I would act out at my teachers. I even acted out at my principal one time. She was disciplining our first-grade class, and I just lost it. I started screaming at her, shouting things like "KIDS RULE AND TEACHERS DROOL!" Yeah. I was pretty messed up. Don't surprised to hear that I was sent to the principal's office numerous times. Things were especially bad when I didn't get along with people I didn't like. There was one particular boy that I absolutely HATED going to school with. I won't say his name. He knows who he is. But he would give me an absolute hard time and pushed my buttons constantly. I was taunted, belittled, and picked on me because of so many things that were "wrong" with me. This started in second grade and continued on for the next five and a half years. There were classmates that stood behind me and supported me. But there was one memory that haunted me for a long time. After a recent sparring match with my dreaded enemy in sixth grade, my teacher took our two desks to the front of the room and separated us from the rest of the class. Basically, if we couldn't get along with each other sitting with the rest of the class, we don't deserve to be with the rest of the class. I was in tears. I've never felt so isolated before then. I don't blame my teacher for doing this. I was quite a handful with all of my teachers throughout elementary and middle school. Another part of my life that made things difficult for me was the constant transferring of schools. I was at one school in preschool but then moved to another school in kindergarten. After that, I was sent to another school from first to sixth grade, or in this case, 5.5. During the first half of sixth grade, our new pastor raised the tuition amounts and made all sorts of new rules that many of my friend's parents disagreed with. That caused them to leave school. I was crushed. I hoped to stay with this group of friends that I was close to for a long time, and then we have torn apart. My mom ended up doing the same for me as soon as Christmas vacation came around. I was pulled out of the school that I called home for so many years and was sent to a new school. At my new school, I was the "new kid," and I hated that title. I had to start all over again with making new friends and settling into a new school. If you thought I was a handful then, I was worse throughout middle school. My first gym class was a nightmare. We played dodgeball and I got so upset I hit one of the boys with a ball while holding it in my hand. I cursed at my teacher and got reprimanded by the principal. Twice. In seventh grade, one of my friends was teased and I tried to stop it. When that didn't work, I threw a book at one of the students. I was pulled out of the classroom yet again and got a long lecture from the principal. In other words, I was an utter mess. But for the most part, I kept my head in my studies and worked hard. Even with the "issues." High school wasn't a walk in the park, either. I was insecure, out of place, and trying to navigate life as an adolescent. To add to the misery, I was overweight for three years of my high school career, and I was most definitely picked on for my weight. One day, I was picking up money from the ground and several of the upperclassmen laughed at me. As the school bell rang, I hit one of them with a book and walked away crying. In gym class, we were playing baseball and tried to throw like a professional pitcher and alternatively hit the ball. I was laughed at by the student-athletes. When a student was acting up in a classroom, I threw my book at them again. And I got called out by my teachers on numerous occasions. One memory stood out in my mind for an especially long time. Our French class had a substitute teacher one day, and we were supposed to watch a movie. Practically the entire class acted up, and our professor knew about it the next day. That was in part because as soon as the class left, I left a note for the teacher explaining what had happened. Only my best friend knew what had transpired. Somehow, the seniors in my class had found out about it, and to this day, I don't know how or why they found it out. At lunchtime, some of the seniors from the French class came to where I was sitting and began taunting me. I tried to ignore it, but I couldn't and I snapped. I rushed out of the lunchroom in tears again. There were plenty of trips to the counselor's offices and several conferences with teachers. It was pretty bad. And yet again, I still kept to my books and studies. Even with my "issues." You might be asking, "does this ever get any better?" In a word, yes. But not for a long time. I was finally starting to calm down by the time I got to college. But when I transferred schools at the end of my freshman year, the issues came back again in full force. I was navigating life on a big, public college campus, trying to make friends, keep up with my studies, and deal with the problems back home. It wasn't easy. For one part of my first year in the dorms, I had to switch roommates because she was not being amicable or respectful to me. I had even thought about transferring again to somewhere else, but I decided to stick it out. To make matters worse, I switched majors from theatre to music performance at the end of my first year because I wasn't getting any roles and still going through growing pains of acting. One day, I set up a meeting with one of the theatre professors to talk about what's going on. I tried explaining to him my fears and problems, but all he said was, "why don't you come back in 50-60 years and explain to me your problems then?" I was just looking for advice and counsel. Even a friendly ear. I didn't get any of that. I had joined clubs and groups to make new friends, explore new ideas and creative outlets, and have fun. But the "issues" were still there. I remember when I was at a ballroom competition and I acted like a petulant child because my mom missed me dancing in my first competition. All I cared about was trying to make it to the next round but not having fun. I still feel like I gave everyone a hard time. There was even a time when a videographer came to record our group dancing, and I really wanted to be in the video. I ended up not being included, and I said something along the lines of "I wish I was included." I somehow feel that after I left our practice that day two of the board members discussed what I had said. And it wasn't all positive. I always wanted to study abroad, and England was my first choice. I was thrilled when I got accepted into the summer program. But it would turn out to be more of a lesson in frustration than enjoying myself in a new country. I was once again navigating culture shock and getting used to so many things. But the one thing that I struggled with was finances. You see, in order to combat my issues and struggles, I shopped. A lot. And it showed in London when I bought new things and used the money the program heads loaned me for clothes, jewelry, and other souvenirs. I almost got kicked out of the program because of my shopping habits and not using the refund from a loan to pay off the rest of the tuition for the program. Thankfully, I was able to get another loan and stay on for the program. But my "issues" followed me across the pond. There was one time when I was VERY late for a theatre performance I had to see with my class. As enjoyable as the performance was, I couldn't focus fully and was ashamed. As we were walking back, I broke away from the group and raced back to the flat we were staying in. At that moment, in my tears, I just wanted to end it all. "This is too much," I thought. "When will this stop? I can't take this anymore!" I was scared. But I ended up not going through with it. However, I did end up losing my roommate from the program when she moved to another room. There was one time when the head of the program called me into his office to discuss what was going on. I was very upset and confused. I tried screaming and shouting at him because I had had it. No one seemed to get it. I was full of issues and I'm trying my hardest. But the one thing he told me, which still sticks with me to this day, is to calm down and take a few deep breaths. He did not tolerate anyone shouting or screaming at him. We were then able to talk about what was going on in a more relaxed way. And yet, I still stuck to my books and my studies, even with my "issues." Go ahead. You can say it. I'm messed up. Girl's got some problems. I'm a lost cause. I'm too sensitive. I have "issues". The thing that surprises me throughout all of this is that I was still a hardworking student and person, and my teachers enjoyed my studious nature. Even with all my "issues." It's amazing that they didn't leave after I moved onto the next grade, although one did leave. And I loved her dearly. I still feel like to this day that the reason why she left was because of me. It was because my "issues" were too much for her to handle. Looking back, I realize that many of my "issues" were because of what was going on at home. As I mentioned earlier, growing up in an abusive household was the norm for me. Seeing how my father treated us, disciplined me, showed a lack of love for me, and how it reflected in my sister and even my mom, it was a pretty bad place to be. But that's another blog to tell you about in more detail. But it does prove a point that what happens at home does make a difference at how you act in school or at work. For a long time, I felt misunderstood, unloved, and scared. I was never taught how to vocally express my needs in ways other than screaming, cursing, slamming doors, crying, throwing things, losing my temper, and just being a bad person. I know what you're going to say. "You didn't know. You didn't realize how bad the situation at home was." But there's a part of me that did know and I didn't act on stopping it until many years later when I was so broken and damaged I didn't know if or when I would be back to my old self again. I wish I could take back all of the things I said, I did or acted upon. But I can't. No matter how I try, I can't go back. No matter how much I want to. All I can say is I'm sorry. I'm sorry if I made your life miserable because of my actions. I'm sorry if my "issues" were a burden to you. I'm sorry if I wasn't the person you expected me to be. I'm sorry for acting out on so many occasions. I'm sorry if you thought my neediness was for attention. I'm sorry if you didn't get it. I've wronged plenty people on social media as well. Particularly on Facebook. Even if we were having a conversation that leads to a disagreement, I would act on emotion rather than logic. Another symptom of my "issues." And that ended up having both sides get hurt. And as much as I would reach out to the affected parties and apologize, a part of me was hoping for a response from them as well acknowledging that they've received it and even forgave me. But I had to learn the hard way that as much as I could go on chasing them for a response, at the end of the day I have to let them go and move on with my life because they've already done the same. It's painful and it sucks, but that's another hard lesson I had to learn. I wish I could take back all the hurtful things I've said or done, but I can't. All I can say is I'm sorry and know that I'm a different person from what I used to be. And maybe understanding where I'm coming from will shed some light on why these "issues" have so much of an impact on my life. So much of what I've experienced was because of a lack of love in my family. And so much of what I was forced to learn the hard way was because of how unhealthy things were. And so much of what I had to face was because I saw with my own eyes how painful and scary things can be as a child. And even as an adult, it's still scary.

If there was one thing I wanted more than anything, it was love. All I knew was that it had to be better than what I experienced at home or at school. To me, love was hugs and kisses from mom. It was warm and fuzzy. It was laughter from the things that made me feel good. It was taking walks along the beach. It was the whole family being together without any reservations or disagreements. It was the fact that I was not a lost cause or a failure. It was being accepted for who I am unconditional. If you go through my Facebook pages from over the years, you'll notice that much of my posts kept on asking the question, "why?" Why is no one responding to my posts? Why didn't all of my friends wish me a happy birthday when I did the same for you? Why didn't you respond to my polls? Why aren't you talking to me when you're talking to all of your friends? Why aren't we hanging out together and making memories? Needless to say, I've matured a great deal since then. It may slip out from the cracks from time to time, but I've definitely noticed my growth from looking at past posts to now. Do you? To put things in perspective, I was EXTREMELY needy, and in some ways, I still am. But that's because I never received any of the love, attention, or care from home that so many people were lucky to get. It's amazing people haven't left me at all. I mean, it really is amazing that people haven't given up on me or told me that I'm only doing it for attention. The same could be said for a lot of us who grew up in unhealthy households or had a rough time in school with their "issues." We're constantly stunned by the individuals who refuse to give up on us and say "figure it out yourselves. You're not worth it." We must be worth being heard, understood, and cared for by others who want to comprehend what we've experienced and guided us to live out our best lives away from the hurt and confusion. We may have our "issues," but please don't write us off as lost causes or troublemakers. We are none of those things. We grew up in unhealthy households, schools, workplaces, neighborhoods, and life hasn't been kind to us. We didn't receive the adequate or substantial amount of unconditional love, empathy, guidance, trust, warmth, hope, or bonds that was important for our upbringing. To tell us to come back in 40-60 years to discuss how tough life is or not even listen to us isn't the answer. To tell us that our "issues" are too much to handle and you're giving up on us means that we should give up on ourselves, and that's the last thing we want to do when we want so much to break the pattern of hurt and anger. All we want is the chance to be heard, understood, treated with kindness even when we don't deserve it, and we want LOVE. It's almost like comparing one's race against the other. You never know what that person has gone through until you've walked in their shoes. Whether that's being denied healthcare, a job, a mortgage for a house, a higher salary, or anything of the kind, don't automatically assume that because the individual is different from you on the basis of color, sex, or religion they should be feared and locked away from society. At the end of the day, we're all human beings. We walk on the same ground, breathe the same air, and we all want LOVE. And the only way we can truly begin seeing and understanding that is if we all take the time to talk and listen to one another. And also address the ways that we can change the current status quo to make it more accessible to provide necessary healthcare, counseling, mediators, and other resources for those who have "issues" due to an unhealthy upbringing. To tie the two blogs together, we need to make mental health and "issues" a normal part of the conversation by sharing our stories with others who aren't aware. We're not out here to get attention, no matter how much we lacked it in our lives. We're here to tell you not to throw us to the side. We're here to tell you that we need help and understanding. We're here to tell you that we want valuable resources to help individuals and their families comprehend the symptoms and illnesses so they can be supportive and not give up. We're here to tell you that we want outlets at our jobs, schools, churches, and other places for "taking a moment." We're here to tell you that as long as you keep on sweeping things like this under the rug, you're part of the problem and are resisting the change we want to see. Every problem has a root cause. My mental health illnesses and "issues" all lead back to what I experienced at home. How do you ask? It will all come together in the final blog of this series. In the meantime, please don't judge me by the ugly parts I've shared, and learn to love and appreciate the bad parts along with the good parts of yourself. It may as well contribute to your personal growth as a human being, and allow you to love and forgive yourself on a regular basis. And that's something that I have to remind myself how to do on a regular basis. Hi, everyone. My name is Nessa.

I have "issues". I was bullied in high school. I thought about ending my life when I was in London for the summer. I hurt so many people without even knowing it. But I'm also something more. I'm a SURVIVOR.


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