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Tarnished Angel? Psh. Angel will do.

July 27, 2010

Awhile back I hosted a very conflicted teen as one of my Anonymous Teen Readers. At the time, one of my favorite bloggers, Cat, stepped in completely without prompting and offered some truly moving words of encouragement. Cat and I spoke about it, and she was generous enough to agree to write a guest blog post to my readers.

As most of you know, I don’t usually have other people guest blog here. This place is sacred to me. A place for you and me to connect for real – and most importantly a place for me to connect with the teens who read my books. I never want to turn it into a promotional machine.

But as a once-conflicted teen herself, I think Cat has so much insight to offer. Not only to teens who are going through it, but to those of us adults who might be in a position to offer encouragement and love. It takes guts to open up like this on such a public venue, and I adore Cat even more for being willing to do so.

This is from Cat. From her heart to yours.

<3

What I think I want to Say:
Z

When I wake up in the morning I feel like the 14 year old girl I once was. When I look in the mirror confusion sets in as the face staring back at me is 20 years older than the girl I feel I am.
Z

Here are the things you need to know about me:  I was bullied incessantly from the ages of 9 to 12. My first suicide attempt was in the fifth grade to try and escape the torture of going to school every day. My depression got worse in high school and I didn’t fit in. I had a group of friends, but nothing they were interested in interested me in anyway. Boys made fun of me, girls bullied me. I had my first boyfriend at the age of 19 but was so shy and anxious about my lack of experience I hardly did anything other than hold his hand. I had a long-term relationship with a girl from the age of 21 to 26. I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder when I was 20. I have more than a comfortable number of suicide attempts to my name. I was diagnosed with dyslexia and synaesthesia during my second attempt at University while I was still undiagnosed with depression.
Z

I have had a major mental breakdown where my boss at the time found me on the floor in the stockroom and it freaked her out and almost ruined our friendship. I have been sedated, hospitalized and medicated.
Z

I never thought I would live to see 25 let alone 34.
Z

I never fit in in high school. I didn’t trust anyone due to the bullying from my elementary days. I thought I was abnormal with my fits of rage, cutting and liking things that others didn’t. I didn’t care about clothes or makeup or boys. I loved reading. I was going to be a Rock Star. I didn’t like school – except English class and I was an excellent creative writer.
Z

I never thought I’d have real friends. Ones that I could trust. I never thought I’d amount to anything and in fact one of my elementary school teachers told me just that when I got a bad mark on a composition I’d written.
Z

I thought life would be better if I was dead. I tried more than once, but never more than sleeping pills because I was too chicken to cut myself enough to bleed out. I knew that no one would care that I was gone because no one had even noticed how I was drowning and suffocating right in front of them. No one cared. I was so sure.
Z

When I was 14/15 years old and someone in their 30s told me it would all get better, I scoffed. What the hell do 30-year olds know, I’d think. They don’t understand.
Z

And it’s true. Many do not understand. Why? I’m not sure. Maybe it is because they didn’t have a tough time growing up. They didn’t suffer the same way that others do with bullying and depression and sexual orientation. Maybe for them high school was that blissful time you used to see depicted on television, in books, in the movies. Maybe they were the Head Cheerleader or Teacher’s Pet.
Z

Why people think high school is the greatest time of a person’s life is far beyond me. High school is the most stressful, passionate, depressing, Biggest Thing In The Whole World That Sucks time of your life. You don’t think you’ll survive, and lately too many people do not. But you will and one thing you’ll learn, especially if you’ve had as miserable a childhood as I did, is that high school doesn’t matter in the future – except to make you the person you will become as an adult. Choices you will make in the future will be based on what you experienced as a teen. You might not realize this until you’re almost 30 like I did, but those people? The ones who pick on you and don’t get you and tell you that being different is wrong? They do not matter. They will stick with you. Things said to you that really upset or scared you will stay with you and come back to you one day while you decide how to treat another person or what kind of job you might like. But those people, unless you’ve stayed friends with them all those years? They’ll fall off the grid.
Z

It’s so much harder now than when I was younger. Hell, I was bullied by rotary phone for God’s sake. I don’t think I would have made it to my 30s had the internet been around back then. There is so much to navigate through and so many more land mines to avoid. I wish I knew back then that admitting I much preferred to read at home (rather than go hang out at the mall for no reason other than to gossip or wait for a particular boy to pass by) would just be better for my health.
Z

In my late 20s I officially stopped caring what people thought because I had given up on people. I didn’t trust anyone. I knew people would just stab me in the back and not care a thing for me. When I stopped looking for people to befriend – they started to find me. I have a husband who loves me (whom I met while in the other long-term relationship and almost lost him in the process); I have some of the best friends a person can ask for in my life right now. These are people who came to me when I gave up on the world and brought me back from the edge. It took a long time, almost too long, and I had refused to believe in it when it happened but like a wounded dog I came around.
Z

My parents have even started to understand that depression is an actual illness and not just laziness on my part. However with all the work I did myself and with the help of doctors, who finally listened to me, I have been medication-free for 7 years and the depression that I had from the age of 3 until 7 years ago has been under control. This isn’t to say that I don’t have the manic episodes I used to have because the manic part has stuck with me but the fall from that high is nowhere near as steep as it was. I’m also rather OCD about things but the people who love me accept that. They know that I will not go out to a bar with them because I do not like it and rather than shun me for that, they tease and call me the Old Granny who needs her soup and Matlock before tucking into bed at 8PM (in all honesty I do stay up until at least 9PM most nights!) and then they find other things do to with me during my “waking hours” as they put it. Why? Because they love me and want to spend time with me. They are fine with the fact that I don’t like crowded bars and late nights and drinking. They do other stuff with me because that’s what friends do – they accept you for who you are and want to be with you because they like you.
Z

I’m finally glad that none of those suicide attempts actually worked. I would not be the person I am today without the bullies and the high school silent treatment because I didn’t own a pair of Levi’s jeans. Giving up on the world helped me discover a new world where people care and can be trusted.
Z

I survived when I thought I wouldn’t. I survived because I did actually have people around me who cared but I didn’t know it. I survived because I knew I was stronger than that, I knew that being myself had to be the right answer but I was too frightened to show it at the time.
Z

I am not perfect. My halo’s tarnished and my wings are moulting. But that’s ok. That’s why people love me and care about me. They don’t mind the discarded feathers and they help polish the halo. Once I stopped pretending everything was just the way I thought people said it should be and let the real me shine through it made a huge difference.
Z

Be yourself. It sounds cliché but it’s not. It’s harder to do than to say, yes. But I can assure you that when you are yourself like-minded people will find you. They will seek you out and you’ll discover that the world isn’t that bad a place and you can stick around for a while longer.
Z

But don’t be surprised if it takes a while to find out who you are. That’s what being a teenager is all about.

21 Comments leave one →
  1. October 5, 2010 1:58 am

    Unique.
    Honest.
    Valuable.

    I’m sending you those three words, and I hope you understand what I mean.

  2. July 28, 2010 10:15 pm

    My Dearest Cat…

    I respect the hell out of you for this! How you found the courage is beyond me…. I admire you in so many ways. (This now being one small reason.)

    I loved you before I read this, and I love you even more now. I can’t imagine a world without you… my world without you and honestly just thinking about it, makes me upset… verge of tears here, verge of tears.. okay not thinking about it any more….

    Thank you for being the friend to me, that you so obviously needed all those long years! (I wish I could have been there for you then)

    You deserve so much more credit than you give yourself. Thanks for being an inspiration!
    <3

    kristi

    • July 29, 2010 9:43 pm

      Kristi, you’re one of the newest friends I have made in this book blogging world and I have thanked fate every day for that. And you know I’m older and you totally have to respect me when I tell you to not let the haters get you down because there are people out there (like ME) who love you for you – and if I have learned anything in my old age (ha!) it’s that that’s the thing that matters the most.
      Plus dog people just GET dog people. Thanks so much for your comment because you know how worried I was about you reading this post. ;) xoxo

  3. July 28, 2010 10:07 pm

    Such a beautiful post, Cat. Thank you for sharing it with us! I count myself lucky that my abuse only lasted through sixth grade (some in middle school, but it wasn’t nearly as bad). I spent the last three years of elementary school hanging out with the only kids who would “allow” me to hang out with them–but doing so came with a price, because they constantly made me feel left out. I had to change what I wore, what I listened to, how I talked. I had to behave they wanted me to behave and even that was rarely enough. They loved leaving me hanging on their strings…dropping me from time to time, so I would desperately crawl back to them. The other kids in my class teased me mercilessly, made me feel horrible about myself, teased me about how I looked and the fact that I couldn’t pronounce my R’s correctly. In middle school, once I got friends who actually accepted me as I was, which was a blessing in itself, I was still teased. The only plus was that I had friends who were willing to help me stand up for myself…one of them actually dragged me down to the dean’s office to report harrassment on another classmate once.

    But after all that…after all those years have passed and all those “friends” are gone and I now have the most amazing friends I could ask for…I still feel the pain of those words from elementary school. I think I always will. What kids say hurts and people who have never had to experience that can’t possibly understand. Sometimes when I tell people that it’s those years in elementary school that I look back on as the worst years of my life…that those years are the ones that still hurt me at 23 years old…sometimes people scoff at me. They think it’s petty. It’s always helpful to hear stories like your’s, Cat, so that those of us who have been hurt by our peers know that we’re not actually alone.

    • July 29, 2010 9:34 pm

      As much as I wrote about not worrying what people think of me, I of course have been doing nothing but worry about how my post would be received. ;) The fact that so many of you have gotten what I was trying to say means the world to me. I was concerned it would just be written off as “whatever”.
      I had a difficult 20s as well. It wasn’t until I was close to 30 that I made the decision to just move on from the people who weren’t really participating in the friendships as much as I was. Relationships, whether platonic or romantic, go both ways. You’ll find your niche soon enough and now with the friends you say you have, I think you’ll start to find that your days will be more on the happy side than the down. Having friends like that makes a whole world of difference because they chose you because of who you are. ;)

  4. Angel Young permalink
    July 28, 2010 12:46 pm

    This entire post is incredible. I’ve been through several of the same things, on top of multiple other things, and I’ll be turning 20 on Aug. 24th. My experiences really have shaped who I am during these years. I spent a considerable amount of time enslaved to my depression, because it always seems that when I just manage to get my footing, something else hits me like a brick in the face. My best friend died two months before my 15th birthday, I was bullied from Elementary school to High School and sadly even now in college all for being different in some way, my own father even left when I was a week old, giving up his rights to me and claiming if he had his way he’d leave me in the woods to die. I’ve been abused, nearly raped, attempted suicide far too many times, have struggled with cutting, fought with depression, schizophrenia, and so on. And for a long time, I honestly thought I deserved it. I felt like it wouldn’t ever get any better, and that’s why everything kept getting worse.
    I realize now that maybe, as bizarre as it sounds, I’m SUPPOSED to have gone through all this. I’ve noticed I’ve helped and even saved the lives of some of the people dearest to me in this world, all because I’ve gone through the exact same thing. They always tell me they feel like they can confide everything in me, and that they would’ve been worse off without knowing me. I’ve considered going into Psychology, so maybe SOMEONE out there will know what they are talking about when someone confides in them about all the things going on in their head. I want to be a writer, though, first and foremost. I know through writing I can convey the things I want to say, and hopefully something I write WILL get published someday. And I hope it reaches some other girl out there like me, and it makes her feel like maybe she isn’t as alone as she thinks she is.
    Thank you so much for opening up like this, Cat. I really appreciate hearing your story and recieving a comfort myself that maybe I’m not so alone, either.

    Wow, I hadn’t intended to post such a long comment! Sorry about that.

    • July 28, 2010 9:16 pm

      Your comment could have gone on forever and I would have cried longer. Your comment is the most wonderful, passionate thing in the world and something YOU said resonated with me! I lost one of my best friends when I was 18, she had just turned 17 2 months before she and her mother were killed in a car crash. Her mother and my mother literally grew up together and we had grown up together saying our kids would do the same. I lost all faith in the world and God and everything that day in October 1994 and I didn’t understand how two people who did nothing but help the world be better could be taken from us like that. So I understand that pain so very much as well.

      Thank you for letting me know this meant something, that’s so important to me because I was worried that people would just think I was trying to tell them it will all be fine and just not get it, but I do. And in case you get this reply and ever need to talk to someone, please follow the link to my blog (beyondbooks.ca) and contact me. I might not be the best help but I would love to let you vent and help you that way. (also? I wanted to go into psych, too, but then realized how much research and essay writing it was and knew I couldn’t do it. so I never did finish University.)

  5. July 28, 2010 10:32 am

    There’s a reason why I’ve also read you for years, Cat.
    It’s your honesty about life.
    Thank you for sharing this.
    It made me cry to think of the pain you have been through.
    I have been through the same, the suicidal tenderloins, and thank goodness never did it.
    It wasn’t life that was doing me in, it was frustrations, frustrations with love, that’s the only issue that sends me crazy, still does. I am trying to make a big decision right now that will allow me to blossom instead of wilt.
    It’s tough but I have spent too long waking up each morning with doubts about the direction my life, quite wonderful I have made it to, is taking.

    • July 28, 2010 8:03 pm

      You will bloom, my darling Mysterious Mildred. You will bloom. You have one of the most free lives I have ever seen and I read you because I admire your courage and effervescent nature and your ability to be yourself.

      Also your insane use of emoticons when you leave comments on my blog. ;) xoxox

  6. July 28, 2010 7:25 am

    Cat,

    Thank you so much for this post. The honesty in it was beautiful.

    I was a troubled teen too. I grew up in a physically abusive home and was bullied at school all the time. I had many suicide attempts (obviously none of them successful) and figured I would be dead by the age of 30.

    I’m turning 32 this year.

    Through out my life, I’ve struggled with who I was, who I am and who I am meant to be. I am still struggling, in fact. I suffer from a double depression (critical on top of a clinical) that comes in waves. Some days are better than others.

    My respite and my salvation during the dark days of my youth, and today, are books. The stories were always able to take me away from a world I wanted nothing to do with.

    By my late teens, I had virutally no friends and had isolated myself almost completely, afraid of getting stabbed in the back from those I cared about.

    After a long time of searching, I’ve been able to reach a comfortable plateaux where, while not perfect, life is better. It is still a daily struggle to get up every day and conquer the darkness that waits inside of me.

    But there are people in my life now that make it worth it. I am able to do what I love with my writing and my art; while I can’t support myself on it (woudln’t that be a lovely dream) I am doing what I love.

    All of this to say thank you. Thank you for this post. It resonated with me in so many ways; I was stronger then I knew too. I am stronger. And I will be stronger still.

    Thank you for sharing this. It is because of people like you that there is beauty in the world.

    • July 28, 2010 8:00 pm

      Your comment has left me speechless (to which my husband would probably fall over in shock to hear me say – ha!). Thank YOU so much for your comment. I have tears in my eyes and I can not believe that something I would write and admit to could have had such an effect on the reader. Honesty is so important to me and I really hoped that I could convey what I was TRYING to convey in this post. Your comment leads me to believe I did since people are getting it. So thank you. This whole experience from reliving my pain while writing to reading the comments from Michelle’s readers is just amazing and leaves me short of breath (in a good way).

      You’ll live to see 34, too, I imagine. ;) Warning – it’s sort of boring and I’m 6 months in. ;)

  7. Jayne permalink
    July 27, 2010 10:26 pm

    Beautifully expressed, Cat. Thank you for sharing your experiences <3

    The part that really struck a chord with me? Depression was misconstrued as laziness for me too. I would read for hours on end (to escape) and not do my chores as a teen, missed school, stopped trying and 'wasted' my high IQ. Yet here we are, alive, and that is a wonderful thing.

    • July 28, 2010 9:48 am

      I spent hours in my room, in the dark, just listening to music (and reading by candle light – so dramatic!) and some days it was even hard to get out of bed. This carried into my 20s too while I was trying to find the right balance of medication and therapy. You can’t really call into work and take a day off because “you feel too sad to move”. So many people have this problem and they are just looked down upon as lazy. It’s sad. And yes, we have lived to tell the tale and hopefully help others realize they are NOT alone! ;)

  8. July 27, 2010 1:20 pm

    I think I am only just now beginning to start to fully realize how beautiful being different is. And this point really adds to that. This just goes to show that people of ALL ages can benefit from the sort of honesty that Cat expresses here with her whole, large heart. I wish I had this online community of people, most of whom I have never met in real life, yet whom I feel I can be myself with, when I was a teenager. But I’m glad I have it now. <3

    • July 28, 2010 9:59 am

      Steph, you made me so happy with this comment. And you hit on one of the GOOD things about the internet – the fact that you have access to finding people who ARE like you and make you feel less alone. You’ll find common interests with people you may never meet that can live half-way around the world. Sometimes that helps build up the confidence you need to go out your front door and deal with the people in your own town. :) Sometimes, not though, but it does help with self-esteem a whole bunch.

  9. July 27, 2010 1:10 pm

    What a touching post. Thank you so much for sharing, Cat. Your honesty and courage are inspiring.

  10. July 27, 2010 1:02 pm

    PS – I had wonderful, loving parents growing up who just didn’t understand the depression thing. My mother was my only friend for so much of my life and to this day I STILL tell her everything in my life and she still comforts me. I should have mentioned that, but it’s one of the few things I missed writing about. I love my parents and survived a lot of this because of them.

    Also? I think I tried on my first ever pair of Levi’s jeans when I was around 24 or so. I hated them. So I don’t feel so bad about that no-name brand of jeans any more. Plus now I buy no-name brands JUST to get petite sizes other wise they are all too long for me! Anyone who is over 5’4 is an Amazon to me. HA!

  11. July 27, 2010 1:00 pm

    What a beautiful post. Many thanks to bith of you for posting it.

    As a mom to three kids, I worry about bullying because I was bullied myself. And as you pointed out, it’s no longer just on the playground, bus or home phone — bullying has many delivery mechanisms these days (texting, social networking sites, blogs, etc). As an adult and parent, I want to put a stop to it.

    • July 28, 2010 9:54 am

      I know for a fact I wouldn’t have survived had the internet been around. It’s hard enough when you see the kids every day but at least you can come home to a sanctuary (in most cases). With the internet and cell phones – you can. no. get. away. You are found 24/7 and there is no place to hide and feel safe. I’m not surprised there is an elevated number of young people committing suicide, just really depressed by it. We need to put a stop to this and teachers and parents aren’t always the solution, sometimes they are part of the problem (as in my case, though not my parents. My parents tried to help by speaking with teachers/parents and it just made the bullying worse.)

  12. July 27, 2010 12:53 pm

    You are SO beautiful for sharing. I absolutely ADORE people who speak with this kind of truth and honesty. Having had some issues such as these, myself, I know it’s not easy to come to terms with. You’re an inspiration:)

    • July 28, 2010 9:51 am

      Thank you very much for this comment. I was honestly very nervous about writing and posting this. Almost did it anonymously but then thought – it would be more honest if I let Michelle post is as ME. So I appreciate your comment a whole bunch!

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