My stream of consciousness saved me

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Illustration by Michelle Phillips

 

Tuesday, January 2, 2018 - 1:06pm

I found myself completely alone, lacking a soul to call my friend.

It sounds melodramatic, but that was my reality. I didn’t choose it, nor—in my view at the time—was there much of an opportunity to escape it. 

Essentially, the group of guys I had become friends with through association in elementary school and the beginning of middle school started to see me as something different than a friend. I became a punching bag — the recipient of every joke. That’s how it started and it quickly spiraled into an incredible social exclusion that pushed me into near isolation.

I vividly remember wearing a brand new pair of loafers to school thinking I was the coolest kid in the halls that day. I strolled up to the group of guys I hung out with at school and before I could open my mouth, I was called a “faggot” for the shoes I had on. To my mom’s dismay, I never wore them again.

I can’t lie — even after the bullying started in seventh grade, I kept hanging out with these guys and didn’t stop associating with them until high school. Every person who has heard some rendition of my middle school days always asks why I didn’t just find a new group of people. Here’s the thing: No middle schooler really wants to admit they’re being bullied and have no friends. To me then, conceding that reality was worse than putting an end to the mental, physical and emotional abuses I was subject to.

I had my family, but how much does a seventh-grade boy want to hang out with just his family?

I started feeling depressed and anxious before I even knew what that meant. The summer after seventh grade, no one called asking to hang out with me. That memory is burnt into my mind and still stings as I think back on it.

But that’s the first time I put a pen to paper for the first time something other than an assignment. I can’t remember what exactly pushed me to do that — it seemed insignificant at the time — but what matters is that I did.

I poured myself into my writing because at that point, that was all I had. I couldn’t bring myself to talk about anything to anyone, but writing oddly seemed to be some sort of less than, but still sufficient, alternative to a friend I could ooze my reality into.

I wrote and wrote on Friday nights, Saturday nights and all the other nights my “friends” were together, all of which was extensively documented on Facebook. I had the pleasure of having all my anxieties confirmed when I went on social media, finding they were, in fact, hanging out without me.

To ease the pain of constant exclusion, I wrote about it.

I wrote anything that came to mind, whether it was fiction or poetry or just an account of my day. Writing not only gave me an outlet for what I was dealing with but also the opportunity to put my thoughts into a single stream, silencing the anxiety that sends my mind off in what seems to be hundreds of different directions.

My emotion-filled spiral notebooks are scattered throughout my room, purposely. I haven’t reopened most of them since I filled in the final lines. I already relive so many of those painful memories through flashbacks; the last thing I need is to remind myself about how I was exactly feeling between the lingering memories.

Writing has been the most constant thing in my life since I started over eight years ago and is now how I want to support myself once I’m on my own. It’s grown into somewhat of an obsession and the most sustained emotional outlet I have.

The bullying didn’t end until the end of my freshman year of high school, when I found actual friends. Instead of being in the midst of the trauma, I had to then deal with post-traumatic stress disorder. And even though I now had friends, the depression and PTSD were so isolating that I often didn’t feel like I had people around me that cared.

It wasn’t long after I first self-harmed that I found myself in the chair of a therapist and then a psychiatrist. From then to now, I made my rounds through the offices of about 10 therapists and three psychiatrists (I lost exact count over the years).

But the writing remained constant as I continued to fill journals with sometimes my lack of will to live and other times a brief recollection of a happy moment.

Writing, luck, friends and family kept me alive through most of high school. And I mean that in the most literal sense.

I give writing the most credit in helping me grow from a high school sophomore who tried to overdose to a college student three semesters away from graduating. Darkness was all I knew for an untold number of years, but through it, my passions and reality today have been shaped.

Sometimes, even now, it feels like my journal is the only given in my life that understands, especially as the PTSD has transformed itself into bipolar disorder. But even with the shift in how my trauma manifests itself, why I write hasn’t changed.