I was nine years old when my life completely changed.
I had always been a happy kid, but anxious. Being an only child with overprotective parents ensured that when I had to face the world on my own I had no idea about what to do. Every social interaction was awkward, every word-exchange a gamble, almost scripted, and not very well. Having to go to school was dreadful; I tried to make myself as invisible as possible, but even then, I got noticed, bullied and harassed. I hated the whole experience, and knowing that I would have to continue going through it for many more years would almost put me in a relentless panic.
One Monday morning I woke up and the fear had been replaced with emptiness; a sad void that stemmed from my heart and protruded to my limbs, rendering my useless. The colors of the world had disappeared, and everything was in black and white now. I had the constant sensation of falling into a bottomless abyss, not knowing when I would reach the bottom, if there even was one.
My mom failed at getting me out of bed that morning. She could tell that something had changed, something serious. In the midst of things, I’d lost my purpose to enjoy, to look forward, to live, to breathe. All there was left to do was lay in bed and stay soaked in sadness and sweat, barely more alive than dead.
My parents and everyone else that knew of my condition could not explain how a nine-year-old could be so sad. Life was just beginning, there were so many things to look forward to! But I kept struggling with purpose, because I had convinced myself there wasn’t any. Going to a doctor was not an option. Taking me to a psychiatrist would mean that I was crazy, and I wasn’t crazy, just really, really sad. So, my parents resorted to what they knew best; prayer and Bible passages, as well as forcing me to go to the park from time to time to enjoy the fresh air.
It didn’t work as well as they would’ve liked to.
The stigma and lack of information regarding mental illness at the time made my journey immensely difficult. I spent decades self-medicating with alcohol and drugs, ruining friendships and relationships, damaging my family beyond repair. I didn’t know what else to do, where else to turn. Sometimes I just wanted to feel numb, others I needed to feel something, something that would prove to me that my heart was still beating somewhere inside me.
I had to hit rock bottom several times to have the fortune to meet doctors that took the time to understand me, to be able to begin the slow crawl from the hole that I had dug for almost 20 years. It was painful, almost impossible at times, but I feel fortunate to have succeeded. That is the reason that children and parents are my focus nowadays; we must educate society to look for warning signs of mental distress early own, and we must end the stigma that tells them not to ask for help. We have a great responsibility, as a society, to help that nine-year-old child that might feel purposeless find a way to have hope, and to smile again.
The Flawed Ones is a novel that touches on the subject of depression, addiction, mental illness, the humanity that still surrounds those that are afflicted, and the stigma that we must eradicate to help the ones that feel helpless. You can have a chance to win a free copy before its official release at theflawedones.com
Photo credit: Michał Parzuchowski