Past: Depression Found Me
I spent the first thirteen years of my life in a northwestern Philadelphia home under my grandparents care. My Mother was in and out of my life given the fact that my father did not want me and she married another person during my childhood and left to lead her own life. My only duties at this time of my life were to go to school, do well in school, and prepare myself for high school. On the surface my life was easy, however this was only the beginning of finding out that I feel emotionally inadequate.
I recall the first time I felt out of place and that was when I was in Kindergarten when I waited for my mother to pick me up from school. I lived right across the street from my school and my grandmother would meet up with me to walk across the street. Things started to change when I was told that my Mother would pick me up. At the time this was important to me because my relationship with my Mother was distant. My Mother didn’t really do much for me, and treated me like I did not exist. When I found out that she was going to pick me up from school, it meant the world to me, even though I was not aware that this would be the beginning of feeling like an outsider. My mother suffers from cerebral palsy and has a walking impediment, as you can see this was probably a challenge for her to get out in public because of how the public viewed disabled people in 1992.
When my Mother walked me home, I noticed people started to stare at me like an outcast. I did not exactly know what this feeling meant, but it felt uncomfortable. I recall that the cheerful and energetic boy that I once was did not feel good inside. I was hurt by the looks of other people’s faces and the way that they looked at my mother. I didn’t feel like it was okay to be here in this world, I felt like everything was wrong and I could do nothing to make things right. I was powerless.
The following day, children started to mock my mother and ask me why I did not walk like my mother did. They asked if I would become like my mother, some kids even called me retarted. I no longer was just another kid who attended the public school system. I became a victim to bullying. That day was the beginning of the rest of my life, I became the kid that no one liked.
Unfortunately, making fun of my Mother was only the start. Kids made fun of me for the mole on my face, for doing well in school, and for trying to be a nice person. This bullying never stopped, it continued for the rest of my life and in some ways the bullying still does continue.
After Kindergarten, I transitioned into the catholic school system for eight years. During this eight year span I learned that I was generally not liked by kids my own age. No matter where I went whether it be my neighborhood, school, or church, I was considered an outcast and a victim of bullying. The neighborhood and church kids made fun of me for speaking properly. The catholic school kids made fun of me for trying hard and doing well in school. This was only the beginning of feeling inadequate. These catholic school years should have been formative and constructive years, but instead these years were the years I found low self-esteem, and depression.
When I was in school, kids made fun of me for trying hard and excelling in school. I attended speech therapy in the 2nd grade and the neighborhood and church kids would make fun of me for speaking “white and proper.” No matter where I went I felt that people sought a way to rip me a part. If it was not my intelligence, it was my face, if it was not my face it was my body. I did not have a safe space, even my family members treated me like a black sheep. My elementary school years are considered the time I developed an identity crisis of being too black for the white kids, and too white for the black kids. I didn’t know where to fit in, I had nowhere to go except for a book.
When I was in my middle school years, I made some friends, but the bullying never ended, it got worst, for all the same reasons. Catholic school middle dances were my place where I learned that the wall was my place of comfort, the game spin the bottle was a girl’s worst nightmare when the bottle was spun on me. Instead of being kissed I was skipped. Finding approval from the opposite sex was not my only problem, I started to gain weight and become one of the many overweight children of the 90s. I picked up martial arts and even during my martial arts training I was made fun of and called “cheesesteak boy.” I started to develop body image problems, my self-worth was reaching a new low and my hopes for making things better in high school did not look very bright.
High school was not much better at this point of my life and I developed a guilty complex. I felt that no one could care about my existence and that everything I did was wrong, even if I did the right thing. The world was not exactly my oyster, instead it was a cruel place where people reminded me of how much I didn’t mean anything to them.
At the age of 16, I found a new interest in Psychology. I liked this topic because it was a study of human behavior. I had an interest in why people acted the way that they acted. You could only imagine after 16 years of rejection, bullying and pain, I was more interested in why were people so mean.
Psychology class with my teacher was the best thing I had to look forward to every week. By this time in my life, I had lost weight, excelled in school, I had a healthy relationship with my Taekwon Do community and competed. I had friends, but I was still bullied, I was treated like a disease by people and I just did not feel good about myself at all after years of going through bullying. This class was the class I found out I had a problem.
I ended up in a lot of arguments in this class, these arguments turned to harassments which almost turned to fist fights. I almost fought a kid who put me in the corner for caring too much about my course work. I flipped out at him and my Psychology professor said that we needed to schedule some one on one time with each other next week to talk. I knew it had nothing to do with how I was doing in the class, but more about my behavior. After arguing with this kid, I started to think about killing myself, I wanted to die, I didn’t know why, I wanted to die and I had no plan, I just was tired of existing. I was tired of not having a place to feel comfortable, I just wanted… to… die.
The weekend before I met with my Psychology professor, I got very drunk with some friends, went home looked into my bathroom medicine cabinet chugged a bottle of mouthwash, downed an unknown combination of my grandparents medicine pills, called my friend Jim and told him it was nice to know him. I started to hallucinate went to sleep and woke up disappointed that God had given me another day to live.
The following Monday, my friend Jim called me out about what I did, he thought it was funny that I chugged mouth wash and told my other friends at lunch. I frowned and eventually told him and four of my other friends the truth. I told them that I did not feel right and I wanted to kill myself. I told them I had thoughts of bringing a gun to school and killing myself. I knew it wasn’t okay, and they were the only ones I knew I could talk to about this. My other friend Dan, suggested that I go to the guidance counselor, this day was the beginning of my emotional recovery.
During the week after I committed suicide, I spoke to my guidance counselor and psychology professor. My guidance counselor scheduled biweekly meetings with me and my professor referred me to a therapist. My grandparents were in a state of shock and disbelief about my state of emotional depression. However, they were supportive and did everything they could to help me recover, and hopefully become the energetic young boy they once knew at the age of five. I never could become that boy again, and things started to become more difficult.
You would think weekly meetings with your guidance counselor and a therapist would be the end to fighting depression, but it wasn’t. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and given various medications. The pills did nothing but destroy my mind and hurt my perceptions of the relationships I did have. Things did not work for the better, they became worst.
Fortunately I graduated high school with a high GPA and transitioned into one of the top Engineering schools in PA, Lehigh University. I eventually left the medication, therapy, increased the drinking, found more bullies in college, and experienced more rejection. I ended up trying to attempt suicide again. Except this time there were greater consequences, I had been suspended and put on a hiatus with the terms that I had to recover.
I worked at a doctor’s office for a few months and attended therapy sessions three times a week. I finished my first book, The Hurt, The Horny, The High School Nerd and I slowly developed new coping mechanisms with my depression. I became a new person, and slowly started to recover from this crippling sickness. However, this was not the end to my depression, it was the beginning to my management of depression.
As you continue to read this story, you will learn that bullying was not my only problem, it was just the catalyst to me finding out that I have a problem with myself. When you are reminded by your peers that you do not matter in this world, and have no foundation or concept of having self-worth, it can lead to self-harm and hatred. Some people who are bullied can recover by losing weight, getting a makeover, playing a sport or finding a greater sense of meaning. This was not the case for me, no matter how much I did, how much I accomplished, my self-worth was questioned. It did not matter if someone else wanted to bully me, I became a bully to myself. I became an overly sensitive person, I did not know how to accept myself and sought other places to find acceptance.