My name is Christine. Catering Manager, Mother, Wife, Writer, Public Speaker and Blogger. I have lived a fairly ‘normal’ life. With a fantastic family whose day to day mirrored that of the typical ‘Leave it Beaver’ episode. I am the oldest of three children. With all the traits you will find in a typical first born. My younger sister and brother would describe me as protective but bossy. Smart and organized yet a bit particular about how my things were kept. I was also the oldest of my cousins; many times asked to babysit when aunts and uncles would go to movies or other outings together as they sometimes would. My family was very stable and close.
I was an overachiever at home, work and school; always looking for approval and trying to make myself feel validated and valued. My parents were attentive as much as they could be, each in their way. My father worked a lot for the family business. My mother worked as well, mostly advocating for my sister and her right for equal education opportunities as a disabled student. My sister is smart (Mom would tell me that she thought Jen was smarter than all of us) but is dyslexic. Mom often had to go to bat for her with resistant teachers who would not want to go along with the recommended accommodations so she was often exhausted by the yearly struggle with getting my sister’s teachers to go outside of their routine lesson plan to make sure my sister was also able to get her education. My mother told me I was lucky because I was normal so I could learn like everyone else. I did struggle some in math but thought maybe I wasn’t as smart as the other kids.
The effect of my Mom’s effort on my sister’s behalf on me and my brother was that we were in charge of our own education. Years later I was told after taking a proctored IQ test I agreed to for a cohort’s thesis project that I actually had a genius level IQ at ~138. I also found out I was dyslexic myself. Once I found both of these facts to be true I researched different learning strategies and never earned below an ‘A’ or 4.0 again. I learned how to be my own educational advocate. I eventually graduated with my bachelors in business (BBA) with Highest Honors, Summa Cum Laude.
Eighteen months later as a single parent, working one full time and a part time job I finished my MPA. I think I was given a gift by instead of being advocated for, learning to advocate for myself. But it did also make me feel like the only person I could depend on was myself, in spite of having parents that cared very much about me. I was never a ‘squeaky wheel’ and I never learned how to ask for help. I never wanted to be a bother or burden.
Behind the scenes of my ideal childhood the nightmares lurked. The things I didn’t talk about, and still don’t, even to my therapist. I have alluded to abuse and the ‘things I knew were bad’ but have never described them in detail. Maybe I never will. I don’t think these abuses or witnessing violence led to my mental illness which is why I don’t address them often. It may contribute to my ability to disassociate (become numb to) physical and emotional pain but the onset of this pain and my inability to feel happiness is the illness that I firmly believe is biological and a chemical imbalance in my brain. I know this started in childhood and I am aware of relatives that suffered from the same condition which also led to suicide attempt(s). I didn’t know about this connection until after my hospitalization.
I want to live. I would like to enjoy life and I would love to enjoy living again. I see glimmers of this again but I also still feel darkness. I find myself thinking, “If it gets too bad I can just die.” I recall even in adolescence, telling myself this much more often without realizing how dangerous that thinking was. So, I am writing about my mental illness; and donating to suicide prevention causes; and talking to people who have lost loved ones to mental illness so I can look back on that the next time my pain gets too big.
My diagnosis in the hospital was Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder and OCD. I tend to sacrifice my own health and well being for what I perceive as the greater good and had an aversion to hurting other people even if it hurts me. For somebody to call me lazy, selfish or mean are of the worst a person can do to me; aside from feeling alone and unloved. But I suppose this makes me somewhat human.
Singing was my first love. It made my happy. I recall being happy singing. My mother tells me I sang with understood emotion along with music at 6 months old. She has pictures of me doing this. She cannot “carry a tune in a bucket” so she thought this was amazing. Growing up I wanted to be an opera singer. I was very good at reading music and could match tone flawlessly. I had fantastic relative pitch and felt power and complete cohesiveness performing with a gifted choir on stage. I was not a good soloist. I had an okay solo voice but the more I studied, the more I saw those with this gift and knew that was not mine. And I was content with that. My parents never missed a performance. For all that I felt I lacked in attention with my household contributions, school and educational needs and silent pain they could have known nothing about they made up for with my music appearances. THIS made them proud of me. My parents thought I was truly gifted and it made me feel incredibly loved. I lost 50% of my hearing due to an airbag in a minor car accident in 2007 and music hasn’t sounded the same to me since. I threw myself into my marathoning and charity fundraising but I don’t think my parents realize how important these are to me. They haven’t supported me in either by donating or seeing me finish any of my races and I haven’t ever let them know how much this hurts me.
I am 38 years old, and know I am too old to base my well-being on my parents at this point. They are wonderful people and love all of their children equally. I would just love to see them at a marathon finish just once.
My children; I am here for them. I mean that in every way it can be translated. I have no doubt I would have killed myself years ago if I didn’t have their little faces in my mind and their voices telling me they love me in my memory. Because I know no matter how much I may be hurting or how sick I am, they do really love me. They would miss me if I was gone and most of all, their chances of committing the same harm to themselves increases if I were to complete this act. I pray that will always be enough to keep me alive. Sometimes, the thought that they would be better off without me wins the analytical war in my head and it is these times I am most in danger from myself.
In spite of all of my mistakes, I have a boyfriend who loves me, friends who know about my hospitalization and haven’t abandoned me, my career is going well, my children are still in my care full time and I have decided to speak and write about it all in hopes that I get to keep all of those. I hope I also get to somehow help others. I can’t think of anything more healing than that.