My story is not an uncommon one I’m afraid. Being in and out of mental hospitals I’ve seen people better off than me, like me, and a lot worse off than me. It started, I think, with my adoption. Being abandoned by your birth parents, even when your adoptive parents say “your birth parents loved you, they just couldn’t care for you”, it still lingers in the back of your mind. Nobody wanted me. I was stuck in an orphanage for over 6 months before someone came and got me. I know that’s not that long of a time, but I think the conditions in the orphanage were bad enough and because they had dozens of babies at one time, it was hard to provide proper care and nourishment for each baby and child. Everyone deserves to be cared about. I’ve never met anyone I thought wasn’t worthy of care. And people such as serial killers and the like, well people don’t care about them because they weren’t cared about in the first place. That’s what turned them into serial killers.
When I got older I was bullied a lot because I went to this elementary school filled with rich people. I don’t know how my parents afforded it because we were never rich. At this school there was this girl who loved to pick on me. For my race (everyone else was white, I’m Chinese), for my size (I’m very small) for my demeanor (I’m a little off). They would pile lunch boxes up making a barrier between me and them during lunches to eliminate me from sight. The kids would speak in “Chinese” and make pig faces at me because of the way my nose is shaped. I went home and I told my mom the things they did to me and she became angry with me. She would give me the silent treatment for days, weeks even; not talking to me, not acknowledging me or anything. I changed schools a couple of times. Nobody wanted me. My dad was never around because he worked all the time. The doctors say the bullying and my mom probably contributed to my depression.
Over the years I became more and more depressed and more and more isolated from my peers. I hated myself so much. I’m going to jump ahead in my story to middle school. Things were still going downhill, but picked up a bit, only to fall back down again because I changed schools (again). I went from public school to another private school and things were a bit better because the school didn’t tolerate bullying, but I was so depressed and isolated it wouldn’t have mattered either way. I started cutting myself on a regular basis.
Skip to high school and I became suicidal and went in and out of hospitals. I met some scary people but really they were just like me; sick and scared. So I started seeing a shrink and taking medication.
My life rolled down hill and I just got worse and worse. My suicide attempts got more and more intense. Eventually I graduated High School and went to a college. I lasted 3 weeks before going into a hospital for three and half months (that’s a much longer stay than average)! The hospital was Hopkins though so it was a good hospital. It sounds funny to say but Hopkins was the best hospital I’ve ever been to, and I’ve been to over a dozen in my lifetime.
I tried going to community college after getting out of Hopkins but went back into the hospital after an overdose or two. I went to two residential places for months each, and nothing worked. I felt so helpless and hopeless. Nobody wanted me. Nobody could help me. I was so alone.
And now we reach today. My parents are divorce and I still go in and out of hospitals every month or so for suicidality.
So that’s my story. I hope people reading it feel less alone in their depressed worlds. Now I want to tell you about one my coping skills.
I have a box and I call it “my box of hope” because everything inside of it gives me hope. These boxes have been called by different names by different people, but the point is to collect mementos, stress balls, letters from loved ones, quotes and affirmations–all together in a box. So when you get depressed and lonely, you can open your box and be greeted by a bunch of things specially picked out for you, by you, to make you feel better. You know yourself best and what types of quotes or letters will make you feel more hopeful.
Decorate your box, make it personal and your own. Don’t feel embarrassed by it–you can keep it a secret if you want or share it with the world. Here are some ideas of things you can put in your box:
- Small candle and matches
- Candies you enjoy
- CD to listen to specifically when you are depressed
- Quotes you appreciate
- Self affirmations such as “I am strong”
- Letters you will re-read, from loved ones
- Letters you wrote to yourself in case you got in a bad place again*
- Stress ball to squeeze
There are other variations of this, such as a quote jar–collect good quotes in a big jar and take one out (and add one) whenever you’re feeling down.
*Think about how you would approach a friend who was saying the things you’re saying to yourself “I’m not good enough”, “I hate myself”, etc. And write a KIND, LOVING, letter to your depressed self. Tell yourself to stay strong and keep fighting because you’re worth it–you really are.
Deep down you are worthy
Depression takes a hold of you and doesn’t let go until you take action against it. Know deep down that you are worthy and cherished and beautiful. Know that you’re not alone in this universe, in these bad feelings and thoughts. Together we can reduce mental health stigma and raise awareness, together we can fight our illnesses and find hope.
I hope you were inspired by the concept of a “hope box” and that you’ll consider making one yourself, putting it aside for a future moment when you’re feeling depressed or anxious or overwhelmed. It’s a way to take care of yourself. Because you deserve to be taken care of. You are BEAUTIFUL. And you are NOT your illness! People become so swallowed up by their illness it becomes a part of their identity but you are not your illness, you are a beautiful, smart, funny, wonderful person with a ton to offer.
And you’re probably thinking, who’s this girl who thinks she knows whether or not I’m a good person? But I believe you are, because most people are good in this world. Maybe you’re an exception, but I doubt it because you took the time to read this, and for that I am grateful.
Photo credit: Judit Bozsár
My name is Kristen. I love helping people and discussing, writing about, and contemplating, depression and reducing mental health stigma.