This week on Thrive or Survive, I’m sharing my personal journey of dealing with abuse, anxiety, and depression. My hope is that anyone who may be having a hard time will be empowered to confront their problems, and work towards healing and creating a fulfilling life. I also hope that friends and family who may not have known I was struggling will remember to be kind to the people around them, who, regardless of how things appear, may or may not be in a very difficult season of their life.
Growing up, I learned early on that appearances were everything. My father would often violently beat my siblings and I, then kindly take a call from our church pastor while we were still crying in our bedrooms. Confiding in family members backfired horribly. No one took me seriously; no one wanted to believe that my father was anything other than a good guy. When Britney Spears’ song Happy Go Lucky came out, I memorized every word. Though most people probably thought of it as a depressing song, Happy Go Lucky became my anthem. You can still seem successful even if you’re unhappy, Britney assured me.
I decided from then on to only show people what they wanted to see. Though I was forbidden from making friends, playing sports, being out past dark, and many other things, my appearance was one of the few things that my father didn’t exert total control of. I modeled myself after Britney – blonde hair, blue eyes, the perfect outfit, slim figure, and big smile. I tried my very hardest to please everybody, hoping that somebody would love me. Nobody did. When people did seem to like me, I always worried that they were actually making fun of me or looking down on me, the way my father did every day. Opening up to anyone, even my peers, was impossible.
After going through school as more or less a loner, I was embarrassed and ready for a new start at college. Away from my abuser, a huge weight lifted from my shoulders. But I couldn’t afford to stay at school, even with numerous scholarships and part time jobs. After dropping out, I ended up moving in with my boyfriend, DJ, and his roommates. Living in sin, as my family said. I was desperate to seem cool and aloof, to hide my crushing failure. Nothing worked out like I had planned. Instead of earning my degree, I partied all the time. Drinking and smoking became my new daily routine, trying anything to appeal to my cool new “friends”.