Thinking back, I believe it was around the age of 15 when perception of what was acceptance was skewed. Not to say that it didn’t begin at a young age, but these memories are the ones that stand out, and for a lack of a better word…haunt me.
I was a natural athlete growing up. I’m not sure how I learned or even when I learned, but I had a “killer” arm. I could throw a runner out at home (on the fly) from right field, and that wasn’t even the position I regularly played. I won ever throwing competition in Track and Field, and I was MVP every year I played softball. As I got older, volleyball was made available, and guess what, once again I excelled. It brought be comfort and confidence to be on the field/court; that’s where I was most me. I loved it beyond words and thanked God that I had these abilities. It literally was my whole world. Then came High School. 🙂 I made Junior Varsity as a freshman and had to listen to the ridicule from the older girls who did not appreciate a freshman being a starter over them, but I didn’t care. I put up with it because I wanted to be there, I needed to be there. My entire life worked around my games and practices. I traveled with teams during our off-season and left for camps during the summers. To me, it defined me.
Then one decision changed everything. I wasn’t Miss Popularity, but I wasn’t really anything. I didn’t fit into any one clique, but I did feel invisible. I had my friends and they were great, but I felt like I was missing something. I wanted to feel accepted. So, my friend and my (older) neighbor wanted to skip school one day. I was really nervous and wasn’t sure I really wanted to do this, but I wanted to be “cool”. I did everything they said and it worked. I was at the mall hanging out, while my parents thought I was at school and my teachers thought I was home sick. I was sick most of the day because I knew it was wrong, and I was going to miss practice that night.
Long story short, I got caught. I had three days in-school suspension and my starting position wasn’t the only thing taken from me. I was removed completely from the court for weeks. At that point, in my mind, I lost me. I lost my parent’s trust, my teacher’s trust, and my own identity. When asked why I did it, I could only answer that I wasn’t sure, but I knew I was tired of being invisible. I didn’t know it then, but depression was beginning to make itself comfy in my mind.
This may or may not have been the beginning, but it is what I remember vividly, the hollow feeling in the pit of my stomach, wanting desperately to scream out, “Help!”, but fearing that no one would understand, or worse, they wouldn’t believe me or would think something was wrong with me. I often wondered how anyone could understand something that I myself could not explain. How do you tell an adult (as a teen) that there’s a lump in your throat, when you think about what your friends might say? Will someone understand the empty, aching feeling you get in your chest when a boy sees right through you as you pass in the hall? How do you tell your parents that you are unhappy, but you don’t know why? I remember feeling alone and completely lost. I no longer knew who I was or who I wanted to be. I began to drift from day to day, pretending that I was happy and carefree, but inside I was tormented by my own thoughts of inadequacy.