I'm sure most people read things they can relate to. There are a lot of books I read that I can't picture myself in, but which still resonate with me for some reason. That's partially why I read fantasy and science fiction - I've always had an active imagination and I love picturing other worlds and the people in them. I can relate to them because they seem like a place in which I would love to live.
I also read some non-fiction that speaks to me. I was sent a copy of Struck by Living by Julie Hersh through the Goodreads giveaway, and I was so happy I won because I have struggled with depression for a long time, and it was exciting to get to read a book by someone who's been there before.
First, a little background. From fourth grade through my junior year of high school I was bullied by the daughter of the school superintendent and her friends. In fourth grade she spent most of her energy on becoming my friend, then picking on me, then convincing me she was joking, and doing it all over again. I know, it was kind of dumb of me, but I moved to the school district halfway through the school year, I was the new kid, and I wanted friends. To be honest, the only memories I have of my life before I moved are happy, filled with friends and funny stories (even the ones in which I got into trouble). After I moved, there are still some happy memories, but a lot of my memories revolve around the bullying.
I obviously wasn't popular, if it was the popular kids who were picking on me. I did have a lot of friends, but we weren't what I would call the "in" crowd. We weren't very sporty, we liked books and make-believe, and yeah, we were all a bit "strange." But I'm thankful for the friends I had who got me through those years, because without them who knows where I would be by now.
In middle school, the bullying got so bad I had to have an intervention with the guidance counselor and the bully. For some reason, we BOTH had to apologize to each other, although I still have no idea what I was apologizing for. But I did it, because it was supposed to stop the torment, and I really needed some peace. Needless to say, of course it didn't stop.
By the time we were in high school, she had all her friends in on the game. In P.E. class, during our climbing session, she tried to push me off a log I was trying to cross. Some of her friends were in my biology class, and when I said I didn't believe in evolution nor did I follow the Pope's decrees because I'm not Catholic, they took that back to her. They all rode my bus home that day and made fun of me the whole ride - laughing at me, calling me stupid, etc. I tried to ignore it, but of course I heard it.
Finally, I'd had enough. I told my mom that I had been having dreams about beating her up, about killing her. I was so angry and frustrated and hurt, because I never did anything to deserve what she did to me. I spent a lot of time telling myself I was ugly, I was fat, I was stupid, because these kids made me believe it. I didn't have low self-esteem - I had NO self-esteem. I thought I was worthless. I wondered why I was even alive.
When my mom found this all out she took it to the bully's father, and eventually had to threaten a lawsuit to get her to stop. I had a relatively peaceful senior year, which included some of the "popular" kids acknowledging that I really wasn't so bad after all, which felt nice. But it was too little, too late, and I went off to college feeling excited that I never had to see any of those people ever again.
In college I started having panic attacks. I fooled around with guys because I didn't think anyone could possibly want me for anything more than that. After I graduated it only got worse. After several failed relationships left me feeling like no one could ever possibly love me, I realized the only thing I was good for was sex. That's all anyone wanted anyway, right? They'd get what they wanted, and then leave. No one ever stayed, no one who said they loved me ever meant it. I'm admitting this now because it's so important for people to understand exactly how little I thought of myself, and how little I cared about myself. At one point, after a very bad breakup, I almost drove my car over a cliff. The only thing that stopped me was my brother - he was in the passenger seat, and I couldn't take him with me. I couldn't do that to my family. I wasn't needed, but he was too important. I told him about it several years later - I told him he saved my life.
I dated a man who told me he wanted to marry me. By that point I was on antidepressants, and had just finished seeing a therapist because I was moving across the state, attempting to take control of my life by going back to school. This man assured me he was in love with me, that he wanted to marry me, and he also encouraged me to go off my medication because he thought he could fix me. I tried to make him understand that there was nothing he could fix, that it was up to me, and that the antidepressants really helped. But when I lost my health insurance and couldn't afford the pills anymore, I had to wean myself off of them. He got what he wanted - and he left me. He told me he was only joking when he talked about marriage. He said he loved me but he couldn't handle my depression. He said that it wasn't working out. How was I supposed to cope with that? The one person I thought would understand was the one who didn't even want to try.
Finally, I met Chris. I wasn't ready for what he was offering - I still saw myself as worthless. I knew that after he got what he wanted, he'd be gone, just like everyone else. But that wasn't what he wanted. I realized after a long time (yes, it took me a long time) that he was there for ME, and not what I could give him. At first I thought I didn't have the love left, I was prepared to be a spinster forever. He made me realize how much I still had left in my heart.
But yes, even with all the happiness he has brought me, I still struggle with depression. I feel disappointed in myself, I'm upset that I haven't accomplished anything with my life, and I feel like a complete failure. I'm on antidepressants while planning my wedding, which is supposed to be a happy time but for me has been a lot of stress. I'm so exhausted from not sleeping that when I take off my glasses it looks like I have two black eyes. Depression is still present in my life, but I know someday I will be able to live a fulfilling life. It's going to take time.
This confession was very cathartic for me, which is how I imagine Struck by Living was for Julie. She tried three times to kill herself. She thought her family would be better off without her. Despite being wealthy and despite having anything she could possibly want, she was still unhappy. She felt like she couldn't do anything. She felt disconnected from everyone and everything. Thankfully her family and friends were determined to keep her alive. Thankfully, she is still here to have written this book. I read it thinking, "This is me." I was never locked in a psychiatric ward. I never had ECT. I never made a plan for suicide. But seeing her feelings and her explanation of how she felt made me look at myself and realize, I will get through this, just like she did.
And if my post helps anyone like her book helped me, it will all have been worth it.