When I sat down on the bench swing on the front porch at 9:30 this morning to write a sketch of my life, I didn’t realize I’d be overwhelmed with so many memories that I’d spend half an hour staring at the blue sky and fumbling through music (*I cannot write without music playing) trying to decide what’s relevant and what’s not. There is a lot in my head for a woman who’s only 27. So I’ll start at the beginning, try to pick out the important parts, and bring you to where I am today.
My name is Maria Kathryn. I was adopted at birth by two wonderful parents, who were, are, and forever will be mom and dad. I don’t know anything about my birthparents. Two years and two months after my adoption, my parents adopted my biological half sister, also at birth. My earliest memory brings me to my third birthday. Mom in the kitchen, dad outside putting up birthday decorations, and little me flaunting pink overalls and tripping over the threshold between the kitchen and the living room, landing directly on my face. My second memory is a jump to fourth grade at a public elementary school. My sister was in second grade at the time. I’ll never understand my thought process on this one, but I decided to skip school to play in the ditch behind our school, dragging my sister with me. Of course, our absence from class led to panic from both parents and the school. As well as the cancellation of my planned birthday party. I quickly decided I wouldn’t try that again.
I was in both dance classes and piano lessons back then, and they continued through high school. My mom got a job at a private school teaching Spanish, as she is Cuban and fluent, right before I went into the sixth grade. So my sister and I were transferred to that school, and stayed through the end of middle School. (My sister tripped me one day and I landed in the mud. Not cool.) In middle school I found a group of friends I fit in with. We were labeled the “goth” kids… Lots of black, chained pants, the whole nine, except I refused to wear makeup, so no black eyeliner or black lipstick. (In hindsight, that was a good call.) Those three years I was introduced to both country and rock music, which I definitely preferred over Three Dog Night and Blondie my dad played throughout morning rides to school.
My transition from middle school to high school was rough to say the least. I was taken out of a very small private school and dumped into a huge public school. I didn’t realize it at the time, but that’s when I started to unravel like a ball of black yarn. Anxiety crept into my life, bringing with it insecurity, a lack of trust for those around me, and profuse sweating from uncontrollable nerves. My only comfort blanket was a huge, black Adidas sweatshirt I could hide in, and that covered the stains on my shirt from the sweat. I walked with my heavy eyes on the ground, hyper aware of other eyes on me.
I didn’t fit in anywhere it seemed, until one day the following year when I was invited to stay the night with a girl I knew from middle school. She was one of the most popular girls in school, so of course I agreed. That night, she put makeup on my face, straightened my long hair, and swapped my baggy clothes for hers: tight jeans, a tight shirt that showed a little skin, and a bra that magically made me two cup sizes bigger. The details of that night aren’t important. What I discovered, however, is important: if you change what you wear, make your boobs look bigger, straighten your hair and put makeup on, you suddenly become UNinvisible. And when you suddenly aren’t invisible to everyone, especially boys at that age, even with anxiety nipping at your heels, your head holds itself higher, and your eyes meet those of others. By no coincidence, I got my first boyfriend probably less than a week later.
I didn’t realize it then, but I idolized the girl that brought me “success” in the world of high school popularity. So the next time I went to her house, and she suggested we ride around town shoplifting, I ignorantly agreed. We both ended up arrested with felony charges at sixteen. My father, being a lawyer, got me into a program that handed me hours of community service and a separation from her for the rest of my life. We are only acquaintances even now, and rarely interact at all.
I had a few boyfriends in high school, none of whom are relevant now. I did well in school for the most part, having trouble in only a couple classes, and I was engulfed in extracurricular activities, still including piano and dance. When I auditioned for a few select chorus classes I found I had performance anxiety. But that didn’t stop me from making it into all of them. Nothing notable comes to mind until I was seventeen and in senior year of high school. An irrational anger that sprung up out of the blue every time my best friend would invite another friend to accompany us to lunch was the beginning of both a mood disorder (diagnosed first) and Borderline Personality Disorder (diagnosed years later.)
I graduated on time, in May of 2008. Things looked good. I thought I had a pretty promising future ahead of me; I was accepted into a university, and managed to land a good friend as a roommate. It was three hours from home, which meant freedom! And I was going to excel in everything and make my parents proud. My brain had other plans. Still in freshman year, depression introduced itself to me by slamming my world into pieces, turning it upside down completely, and leaving me unable to go to class, or get out of bed, or eat. Anxiety followed right behind, and I didn’t want to be around anyone, so for months I hid in my dorm sleeping and spending hours crying in the bathtub. My good friend and roommate decided she couldn’t watch me fall apart and moved out. So I was completely alone to sit in a puddle of tears and frustration and confusion and overwhelming sadness.
I chose to distract myself with boys that were bad for me. I spent as much time as I could with them, making a record of bad decisions, including losing my virginity to someone who, of course, wouldn’t matter later.
I failed out of that University and came home. My parents decided I should try a couple semesters at the community college in town, so I agreed. The first summer semester went ok. The second didn’t. I wasn’t sleeping at night, so I would get in my car, drive to class, and sleep in my car without ever setting foot in a classroom. After failing out of that college, too, my mom finally suggested I see a therapist. In short, my therapist recommended I see a psychiatrist, and referred me to one. I still see him today, nearly eight years later.
In all honesty, my life from that point forward is mostly a blur of nasty relationships (a couple labeled abusive), serious issues with interpersonal relationships, depleting self esteem, self confidence, and identity, increasing feelings of worthlessness, frustration, disappointment, and self loathing, losing several jobs, having two horses I loved dearly taken from me, two dogs taken, and so many visits to my psychiatrist I don’t think there’s even a number for it. In January of 2015 I was formally diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. Which suddenly explained A LOT. My doctor and I went through an extensive list of medication that either didn’t work, made things worse, or had crippling side effects. To this day I am still having medications adjusted constantly.
There’s a lot I left out, specifics like alcohol and pill abuse, trauma, risky behaviors, and even my parents’ divorce because there’s too much to tell. But that’s the beginning of me, my disorders, my depression, my struggle with mental illness.