EN: About inner wars

26/5/2016 – Rotterdam, Netherlands
Listening now: Chet Baker – Almost Blue

Here is a post about inner wars, the ones you fight within yourself for many years in silence, hoping that one day you’ll finally win. As I’m writing this, I can feel my heart beating wild and crazy. This is such a sensible, and obviously personal topic for me. Hopefully you’ll like it. If you do so, please like it and share it around you. Much love ♡

I was only 8 when my parents divorced. Resulting from it, my dad has been interned in a psychiatric hospital due to severe depression for a few months. Back in time, my parents lied to me, telling me that my dad would be working in Italy for a while. I guess they had their reasons to hide the truth, but never in my life have I been so angry and disappointed than the day I discovered their mascarade. It was the first time I felt truly betrayed by someone, and it happened to be by my parents. That exact same day, my mum took me apart, and told me how such a big, smart girl I already was for my age, and made me swear not to repeat it to anyone. So as I had no other choice, I promised.
There had been two times I failed to keep that heavy secret. The first one was the day I confessed it to my childhood best friend. Even today, I remember exactly the moment this happened, because it was such a huge deal for me. The first time I veritably opened up to her – and to anyone, really. I told her with my own words, my child, sweet naive words, that “My dad is in the hospital for people who are really, really sad”. And I still remember her reaction, a few days later, when she dismissed my talk, answering that her parents told her that there was no such thing. Today, I understand that her parents were trying to protect her. But back in time, you can only imagine how much I regreted not to have kept my mouth shut.
But life went on. I learnt to separate clearly what was going on at home – the strange illness of my dad and all the things that resulted from it – to the rest of my life. I established clear, distinctive boxes between all the different parts of me which, even today, I still have much trouble to transgress. There was -and is- what was going on inside me, and the rest outside, and I was very careful not to let any of my profound feelings get out in the external world. Also many times, I found myself crying all my soul at home for a while, before going out, displaying the big smile of the cheery, positive girl I was.

In order to exist by myself – so not through my dad’s sickness – I tried to distinguish myself from everywhere I belonged to. I guess that was my way to subsist in my parents’ minds, who were much preoccupied by their own problems. At school, I was a very good student – maybe even one of the best. I took drama lessons in order to have a stage where to express myself and played piano because my dad liked it so much. I was the girl every parent could have dreamt for. Never causing troubles, and so responsible. From outside, you wouldn’t have even tell that I was dealing with so much back in time, and guess what? That was exactly the point.

Sometimes,  I would have a break, the chance to play or sleep over at a friend’s house, being able to take some distance from the madness. But this would mainly act like a mirror, underlining the gravity of my own situation. Because unlike them, there wasn’t any happy parents who loved each other at mine. No dad to be angry at me if I didn’t do my homeworks, nor to read me a story before sleeping. On my lucky days, I could only hear his distant, sleepy voice over the phone. So while being reminded of his absence, I felt every time a bit more alienated from my friends, who couldn’t understand what i was going through.

But one day, I let it all go. As my educator wanted to force me to eat my lunch, I started to burst into tears, telling her that I wasn’t hungry since my dad was in the hospital. For the second time, I felt the colossal weigh of guilt falling all at once on my shoulders, as it seemed to me that I betrayed the promise I made to my mum once again. Coming back home that day, I was so shameful that I couldn’t even look at her in the eyes.

Not being allowed to talk about this disgrace with anyone and hearing other children (and even adults) making pun about psychiatric hospitals, while insulting each others of being insane and disabled, I thought for a very long time that this was exactly what mental illnesses were about: being crazy. As a child, I internalised that message, burying deeply inside me this perception of depression as a weakness, something to be ashamed of. Something so inglorious that I had to hide it from everyone.

So little by little, I started to fear becoming like my him. I was so anxious about catching this strange, nameless disease that would make me feel so much sadness inside my heart. This sore that would make me become so instable and extremely mad for no reason, or laugh with that weird expression that would even scare my own children. I started to fear that something was so rotten inside me that it would drive me apart from the people I loved. Also for years, I didn’t allow myself to feel unhappy. I believed that if I feigned happiness, then I would be a happy girl. But obviously that’s not how it works.. There was always this sadness inside.. This little bit of Caroline that still didn’t cope with the disappearance of her dad in her life.

Because even if he was a bit strange, aggressive and scary, he was still the guy who taught me how to ride a bike. He was the person with whom I found my first four leaf clover, started to drive a car and played cards with on rainy Sunday afternoons. He was the arms in which I would curl to have naps while watching Arte documentaries and the one who showed me how to make music out of a grass leaf. He was all that and so much more to me. He was my father.

Eventually, I got used to his absence, and accustomed to the fact of having to face all the challenges that life put on my way all by myself. And for a long time, it was doable. Until my accident. While hurting badly my head and facing physical damage from my fall, I started to find myself incapable to endorse any bad feeling anymore. I just couldn’t take it. It felt like my brain refused to absorb anything else, forcing me to let it all go. I was helpless. Slowly, but surely, depression found its way to me. I spent months curled up in a foetal position in my bed, not going out for days, unable to do anything but cry for no reason. More and more frequently, I went back home because it felt like it was the only place I did not have to deal with anything – not even myself anymore. It seemed that everything was collapsing around me. I was diving so deep that I felt submerged and suffocated by the weight of these dark years all at once. And just as I thought that things couldn’t get worse, my dad attempted to commit suicide.

Sometimes, I believe that you have to touch the bottom in order to be able to go back up to the surface. At the pinnacle of my vulnerability, I gathered all the strength I had left, and seek for help. If I am still not at a hundred percent at the best of my abilities, I can now see an end to that dark, winding road I took for so many years. I know this will be a long process, because I still have a few battles to fight before winning the war, but I am definitely ready to work on it.

My story is only a story among million others. 25% of the European population is suffering from either depression or anxiety every year. And more than a quarter of deaths in Europe are due to neuropsychiatric troubles. Yet, in 2016 people dealing with mental illnesses are still marginalised. The taboo linked to this condition is so powerful that some people feel ashamed to look for help. Asking for help isn’t a failure, it gives you a means to succeed. Don’t let the secret consume all your energy. Depression isn’t a sign of weakness, it occurs when people have been strong for too long. And if you don’t have any kind ears to listen to your story, nor a soft shoulder to cry on.. I’m here for you.

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