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Mental Health

How I Taught Myself to Recover

Living in an abusive household my entire life was a curse built upon the idealized image of a perfect family.

There is nothing that prepares you for the tribulations of learning that things had never been as you had perceived them to be when you were young and naive.

Nothing that satiates the pain of not just finding out the biggest family secret, but finding it through monthly mental breakdowns and severe anxiety and depression.

When I was thirteen years old I discovered a word that struck every cord in my body. Narcissist

“A person who has an excessive interest in or admiration of themselves.” (Webster)

My mother, the woman who endlessly stated that she put no one above herself, I realized fit every single textbook parental narcissistic trait perfectly.

My mother had once told me that she thought a demon must’ve taken her child, because there was no way I could’ve been. I was ten.

My mother had once held me down on the couch and dug her nails into my wrists after I had said I didn’t want to get up to feed the animals yet, and then acted deranged as I begged for her to let me go. I was eleven.

My mother had once told me that the only reason my friends invited me to the movie theater was because they pitied me. I was fifteen.

When I was sixteen, I confessed I needed mental help. I begged her to listen to me, convinced I was going insane. I was deep into suicidal ideation, and I just wanted answers.

I later heard, as I was walking through the hall, my mother discussing this with my sister.

She mocked me, putting on a show of my mental breakdown that I had trusted she wouldn’t judge me for. Her and my sister laughed.

And in typical narcissist fashion, she denied this and gaslighted me into submission once again.

After months of endless mental breakdowns and severe bouts of (then undiagnosed) depression I began to see through the makeup that my family had put over their personalities and my childhood.

I had found the connection to my pain, and it was the very thing that was supposed to make it all hurt less. My mother. My family. My home itself.

I began to recover memories after obsessing over this newfound discovery of the word narcissist.

Very personal memories that revealed very private truths that no one outside of my family would ever know about.

Not my grandparents, not my cousin, not my friends, not the kind teachers that complimented my family on our closeness and compassion.

It would be a secret.

But secrets have a way of being forced up to the surface the harder you try to push them down. And silence is fodder for the one who perceives themselves to be in control of you. 

So, I decided when I was sixteen that I had a mission and there was a purpose for what I had gone through.

I was passionate about stories, about people and love and true human nature.

I was done with the narcissism that exuded from my controlling, over bearing mother and the enabler my dad had become.

I discovered this through months of agony, where I had to confront my emotions every day. I was on the verge of suicide with every passing hour, and in October of 2016, I made a weak attempt to satisfy my depression.

I stood outside of my shower holding a sharp object, intending to harm myself and then sink into the water. I even thought of it as revenge, as this occurred after my mother had made me feel less than human for making a very minor mistake.

I remember very clearly snapping out of it, the tears stopped and my throat felt less tight. I realized, funnily enough, that I didn’t want to die naked.

And somehow that ended up sticking with me. I had injured myself that night, trying to work my way up to suicide, and I have the scars to prove it.

But I realized that day that I didn’t want to die, I wanted the chance to live free of my broken family and free of my hurt.

I made my hurt a weapon and I wrote, for hours, every day new poetry after every panic and anxiety attack and every hurtful word from my parents, I turned my self-hatred, my guilt, my suffering, into poetry.

It was a curse that I ever had to go through this hell in the first place, but it was also a very human blessing.

I found parts of myself that were truly magical. I could heal myself through my own creativity and imagination. I believed in myself. For the first time in years I could look at myself and see a woman who was stronger than her past.

Who wrote herself a new future with every line, with every word, with every single furiously typed letter. 

I realize every day what it takes to be alive. It takes hurt. It takes resilience. It takes trusting yourself and trusting time. It takes hard work and it takes creative outlets. It takes you.

Without me, I wouldn’t be here.

Without you, you wouldn’t be here.

It’s such a simple thought and it is such a simple thing to say, but the love you have in your life that is exuded by your friends and even your family, well, it wouldn’t be there without you.

Like this post? View similar content here: Lessons From A Recovering “I’m Not Good Enough” Addict

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by ajremarks

My name is A.J Riley and I am passionate about empowering women, LGBT+ and people in general to share their stories and be able to relate to instances in my own. I have won multiple small awards for my fiction and non-fiction works and am working on becoming employed with a career in journalism, editing, and publishing.

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