A brief history of everything
I don’t have chronological memory. This is something most of my friends and especially my close friends know about me - if you ask whether I remember a specific event that I was at, the chances are high that I do not.
Most of the time if something was recorded, if there were photos, or if something major happened, I will remember the event but not when it happened or how it fits into my personal history. I find it easier to remember memories that I retrieve often and people that I regularly interact with, but things that I don’t think too much about or constantly remind myself about I will forget or misplace.
So with all that in mind, this is going to be a pretty hard post to write, but I think it will be valuable for me to do some sleuthing about myself and dive back for a bit.
Trigger warnings for mentions of depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, drinking.
I won’t share much of my childhood and high school things today. I don’t like talking about it because the longer I dwell on those years the more I’ve realised how much damage happened then. I have learned at therapy that omissive trauma is still trauma, which (surprise, surprise) I had never considered applying to myself before. I'm still processing all of it.
An important thing that I will share, however, is that I have no memories before the age of 6. All my conscious memory begins with one particular night of shouting. I have photographs of my life before that, and I seem to have been happy then. For many years, I reconstructed childhood memories from photos and home videos, before I realised in therapy one time that if those memories were true, I wouldn’t remember them in a third person point of view.
2011 was probably the most depressed I’d ever been. I have maybe 3 or 4 memories left from that last year of high school. I had, at that point, been living in the same place for 6 years (still to this day that is my longest living in any one place) in a dramatically toxic environment, through a period of self isolation and being constantly dissociative. Any time I wasn’t physically at school I had no reason to need to pretend like I was a human, and I lost interest in hobbies, in music, in friends, in life. I narrowed my entire field of vision down to studying and a promise with my mother to somehow move out of where I was in the next year, even though we couldn't afford it and I was barely keeping my grades where I wanted them.
I and all the subsequent therapists I have shared details with from this time in my life are amazed I made it through that year with no medication, support or external help. It was an absolute stroke of luck and timing that I did not end up killing myself, and I do not recommend it to anyone. I didn’t have any understanding of how dangerous it was until I started processing it in 2017, with my first regular therapist.
In contrast, 2012 became what I considered to be my happiest year to be alive. I had moved out, I had gotten into my first choice university and degree, I had met someone I considered to be The Person For Me, and people I considered to be life long friends. I had just left a church environment that had decided it would no longer support my decisions after a break up, I had Emotions for the first time in 5 years, and I was in a place I considered safe and warm and good for me. At the end of 2012 I thought I couldn’t be happier than that so therefore, in a moment of drunken madness, I thought that maybe I should just end it. Someone found me before I could. I relied on that person for the next 3 years. They turned out to be a sociopath and I didn’t truly understand that until I had left their side for 3 years.
I almost didn’t go abroad as planned because I was so attached to the group of friends I had at the time. Even in hindsight, I don't consider it all bad. I felt at peace for the first time in my life and was scared to leave. But I did.
I left at the beginning of 2015 for a year abroad in Switzerland and, in a hilariously cliche fashion, it changed my outlook on life. I had several different kinds of friends for the first time, I began to understand my own forms of attachments, I realised for the first time I required a small group of people to retreat to if I knew I was about to not be well, and I went through a break up in the company of people who fully supported me and my decisions without immediate criticism for the first time.
I came back to Australia after a year realising that, though each person in this group back home I had been involved in weren’t bad people, we had created a culture that was incredibly toxic and bad for me, them and each other. I eventually left the group.
By the end of 2016 I had gone through (in the words of my last psychologist) 2 different “cultish situations" with different groups of people I had considered my closest friends, who demanded in different ways that I not be friends with other kinds of people. The isolation and passive aggressive backlash of leaving the second group combined with the last year of university and various other things got the better of me. I spent the majority of the year in some other strange state of dissociation and alcohol fueled impulsive decisions.
I had a life changing break down in August 2016 and desperately called a long time but distant friend who I had known to be familiar with mental health things since high school. They booked me into a handful of appointments. I made it to one appointment and started going to therapy, but more about this another time - my therapy journey is a whole post in itself.
With the beginnings of the How To: Work On Yourself under my belt, I took a gap year after graduation and, mostly at my mum’s requests, traveled an absurd amount. I had family all over the place to try and visit, regardless of if we were related or not, and took the opportunity to go to places that I had always wanted to revisit having no recollection of past vacations as a child.
At the beginning of this hectic year of ferocious forward marching, I met someone. I wasn’t as cautious as I am now, was arguably in the middle of another 2012-esque situation (hindsight here is an absolute bitch), and pursued them relentlessly even as I professed to them, to myself, and to anyone who would listen that I was not be ready for a relationship... and I wasn’t ready, but we dated. It didn’t work out, but I don’t have any regrets about it. Maybe I should? No doubt I will have more insights about it given another few years. Check back then.
Past that, I consider myself to have mellowed out since then. I got a dog, I moved back in with my mum (though she’s not around often), I got my drivers license, I did some internships, I got a job, and then another job. I did a little more traveling, I went to therapy, I wrote a couple of zines, I sold things at markets. I had a couple more jobs in between that didn’t work out. I've met a lot of people, talking about all of this.
I learned about myself, continue to learn about myself, and now we’re here. I'm alone, managing better than ever, figuring things out to break patterns, still depressed, still anxious, with new labels like ADHD and borderline traits, and am as incapable as ever of seeing beyond 2 years time. I’m happy to be alive, and it’s taken a lot of work to be that way.
Happy to be here,