Skip to main content

High School Depression, Family Secrets and the Big Apple

Picture of Myself at 22

I was twenty-two in this picture.

I was twenty-two in this picture.

Wanting to be Something More

High school was an innocent time for me, but it was one of the worst times in my life also. The days of Harry Potter and losing myself in a good fantasy book, when fantasies were still real enough to be worth reading were still with me. All the joy hadn’t yet been sucked out of life and reformed into the dry, blank white slate that characterizes being an adult. I wrote with a devil’s fever, and the stages of young adult life and development of a teenager were, for me, marked by the constant desire to be something greater than myself. Dreams of moving to New York and being a famous writer, almost the only motivating factor in my life, kept me going.

Depression and Family Secrets

Neither of my parents were big believers in therapy, and when I hit fifteen and thought I was experiencing depression, I didn't know what to do. My dad was an in-the-closet drinker and probably needed therapy just as badly I. His drinking was a well-kept family secret that I didn't even know about it until I was twenty-two. My mother belittled and made me feel ashamed of my self-diagnosis. She said to me, “oh, you poor thing, what depression? Seriously? That’s why you can’t carry your weight around the house? Your life is so hard, Brooke. Sooo hard. I have to come home after a long day’s work and clean up after you, seriously? I do all the work around here, all of it! You need a therapist?”

My dad's take? It could be summed up with a single memory: a few years back I was sitting on the floor of the living room, after having yet another bad fall out with Mom. I was screaming and crying and tugging at the ends of my hair, but knew in the back of my head that no one would care or notice. Dad walked through the room looking completely dazed and out-of-it-like- he cast one look my way and went on to the back of the house. The look on his face and was of someone completely checked out. That was my support.

Devising An Escape Plan

I finally could take no more of it and began trying to think of ways to get out of there as quickly as I could. I was young, broke, and recently had gotten my degree. I had a four-year education and literally no assets. My first attempt at leaving it all by way of a teach-abroad program was a complete flop. I spent the ensuing five months that I was in Chongqing, China, pining after the wrong guy over Facebook and, try as I might to overcome my internal demons, could not complete the year-long contract with CIEE. Depression and conflict with coworkers and staff hastened the cut-off, and I flew back to the U.S. halfway through, again landing back with my parents.

After two months of being back I started on Plan B. I applied for the TESOL program at NYU and used the tuition I received from financial aid to pay for my first Airbnb. That August, I booked a flight when my parents were on vacation and soon after found myself speeding to the airport in a friend’s car. I had a cat in one of my hands and a bag of clothes, plus computer in the other. In codes, I managed to give my father the general location I was heading to, making him swear under oath not to tell my mother where I was.

NYC, Heartbreak and Trauma

The next few years I spent wandering around the Big Apple. They were marked by constantly changing apartments, sundry sales jobs, and selling alcohol or doing whatever I could to get by. I left the TESOL teaching program halfway through, for reasons similar to those which prompted me to leave China a few months earlier. I lost my financial support from the school and when you're fifty dollars away from starving, you learn to ask. The natural safety net was selling. I had never asked for help and didn't have much experience with people, so it was even more surprising that I picked it up so quickly. Desperation TALKS.

My life there was characterized by hunger, fatigue, heartbreak, constantly throwing myself over the brink, and letting myself be pulled back just in the nick of time. It wasn’t until the pandemic of 2020 caused me to leave the city for good that I was finally forced to pause and take a hard look at where my life was headed. While staying with my parents for a couple of months the first May after Covid hit, trying to decide where to go and what to do with myself, I came across the app which ultimately led me to where I am now.

Now is why I’d like to go back and apologize to the lonely girl who dealt with so much trauma and received no hugs on so many lonely nights.

A Note to my Past Selves

To my fifteen-year old self:

I’m sorry for all you had to go through. I am sorry your mom bullied you and your dad ignored you. I am sorry that these high school years were some of the loneliest and hardest you would ever go through in your life. I’m sorry you were insulted for trying to be open about your emotions and punished for trying to be independent. I am so very sorry all this happened, because you did nothing to deserve it. Know that you are a loving, good person and your anger at the time was a product of circumstance.

To my twenty one year old self:

I’m sorry you found out that your father was an alcoholic and that both your parents have been lying to you for many years. I am sorry that they have not been there for you and now you understand why. Know you've become a strong, independently minded young woman, and are on your way to finishing an education, despite everything that has worked against you. You barely got through school but pushed through, and somehow kept your grades up in the process. Proud of you!

To my thirty-year old self:

I’m sorry that you spent five years chasing after nothing and that you became more broken and confused over time. I’m sorry no one in the family supported you as you were barely getting by in the city and became entangled with one wrong guy after the next. Know that since you never knew how to face these issues your behavior was understandable. I am sorry you started to drink and smoke and found depression meds the only viable way to try and save yourself again.

To my present self:
You are thirty-two and things have turned out okay. You are with a man who loves you inside and out, and any complaints you have are of a physical nature. Your body will pay for the lifestyle you've had over the past eight years, but it will not be terrible, because you will have the love and support of your best friend and partner.

© 2022 Emerald Fox

Related Articles