Monday, May 7, 2012

Riki's History Part 1: Depression & Anxiety

I've been trying to figure out how to work up to a certain entry, and I think this is probably the best way to begin.  It'll take a few installments, but, I feel like it will help me deal with some things and bring some lesser-known info to light.

When I was six, I started having terrible stomach aches every night.  I'd wake my mom up and she'd sit in the bathroom with me while I waited to puke, but it never came.  After awhile, I stopped waking her up, and I stopped rushing to the toilet and accepted the fact that my stomach hated me.

We tried different diets, as suggested by my doctor.  The no-dairy one was the hardest, because I'm a true Sconnie.  I missed milk.  And cheese  And ice cream.  (Oddly enough, they let me have yogurt, so I didn't have to miss that.)  The worst part was that none of the diets worked.

As years passed, the stomach aches either became less frequent/bothersome or I was so used to them that I didn't notice anymore (most likely a combination thereof).  It wasn't until I was an adult that we discovered the most likely cause of my stomach aches was anxiety.  Maybe it had been more apparent if I had told my mom about the recurring images in my head of someone murdering my family and leaving me behind.  Or if I had told my parents that every night I worried that our locks weren't good enough or that my parents wouldn't wake up if someone broke in.  Or if I had told them that so many of my nightmares didn't come while I was sleeping, but while I was laying in bed hoping to fall asleep so the thoughts would stop.  But I didn't tell them, so they never knew.

When I was thirteen, the topic of suicide came up.  I don't remember how or why.  I didn't exactly want to try it, but the idea intrigued me.  Around this age, I started to write poetry.  Two poems in particular threw up a bright red flag.

Life is like a nightmare,
in which I have come,
it grabs me and holds on tight,
until the morning sun.
Don't smile, don't laugh, don't even cry,
not a hint of sympathy,
life is like a nightmare, 
it has gone and embraced me.
Life is never easy, 
life is never fair,
life is like a nightmare,
so why do I even care.

And the more succinct (and scary) 4-liner:

Life is never easy
Causes lots of stress
Life is all my problems
The answer must be death.

My friends were, needless to say, concerned.  I tried to assure them that they were only words, and they backed off for awhile...

Until some of my friends on the school newspaper decided to start an advice column.  They asked us to submit a few questions to get the ball rolling, and along with the more trivial, "I like this boy, but I think he likes someone else.  What do I do?" questions, I submitted one about  contemplating suicide.  Big mistake.

My friends took this as a cry for help (and, maybe it was... I'm not sure what my 13-year-old self was really thinking or capable of doing) and alerted a teacher or two.  Next thing I know, I'm being hauled off to the school's psychologist to take what I now know to be a simplified depression screening test.  "I am happy... 1) Rarely or never. 2) Occasionally. 3) Sometimes. 4) Most of the time. 5) Frequently or always."

Here's the thing... I was a pretty smart kid.  I knew I couldn't flat-out lie and say I was all sunshine and sprinkles, but I knew that if I let them think I was miserable, I was in big trouble.  So, I answered with mostly 3s, threw in some 4s and 2s for good measure, and asked if I could go back to class.  I had to go back to the psychologist's office once a month or something for awhile.  Every time I would make sure to wear sparkly makeup and do my hair up fun.  I'm not sure if it was an attempt to say, "See?  I'm fun and fine!" or "Look!  I'm different and weird!"  Either way, they eventually stopped making appointments for me and all was well in the world of Riki.  If my parents knew about it (and I have to expect that the school called them), I don't think they ever mentioned it.  

The worst part about this experience was the friends that I lost.  For a year or so, I had been hanging out with the other 4.0s (other straight A students), even though I think I had a 3.8 or something.  We all had a passion for writing, and would stay in at lunch, reading each others' stories and plays, developing characters, all sorts of things.  It had been one of the 4.0s who had told on me, and while I wasn't mad anymore, she and the others were apparently scared or bothered enough by the ordeal that they stopped reading my plays and stopped hanging out with me.

I latched on to another group of friends, and while they weren't interested in writing their first novel, they were nice to me and accepted me.  Those few friends were my lifeline for the rest of that year, and some of them for even longer.  In fact, ten years later I met my husband through one of the people who helped me through that time.  

Since I could write a whole mini-series on my high school issues, I'll save that for the next installment.  Until then...    

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