When You Grow Up Your Heart Dies, So Fuck It

ErinLife Events16 Comments

Depression ruined high school for me but I refuse to grow up and let my heart die breakfast club styleOn the first day of Grade Nine, I started high school with drama class, only we didn’t talk about drama. First, we talked about this student from a few years ago who killed himself in his first year of high school. Because of his death, our school started The Breakfast Club.

With a clear reference to the legendary movie, The Breakfast Club at my high school had students in their last year at the school mentor us newbies. They helped us get used to high school. I made friends with the Breakfast Club drama kids, mainly one of them. I started high school wanting to be like the girl in my drama class who was there to help people adjust. To help them live.

The thing was, when the leaders of The Breakfast Club that I knew graduated, I stopped liking school. I no longer saw leaders of the school and I thought I was too young still to be in the Breakfast Club. I had to wait four whole years until I could help other people.

In hindsight, I probably could’ve joined the Breakfast Club as soon as I wanted to, but instead I felt excluded. I looked around me at all the other students and only saw other people having fun.

I didn’t understand how people could smile and laugh so much. How they could get drunk at parties and not care, how they could become obsessed with tv shows and wearing the right clothes at the right time. I hated them all for being so happy.

I did have friends in school, somehow. I’d fallen in with a bunch of kids that had come from a different elementary school. They were pretty awesome, but again, I felt on the outside since no one knew what I was really feeling. I wouldn’t let anyone know. I shut them out.

By the end of high school, I refused to go into the cafeteria because I was so scared of everyone looking at me and judging me. I painted my eyes black and went to the library every chance I could, reading at the back of the room with my headphones blaring. I faced the wall, watched the clock, and went everywhere I was supposed to go on time.

Except for pep rallies and other forced interaction. At those times I knew no one missed me. My guidance counselor knew how much I skipped out on supposed mandatory events, but I don’t think anyone else did. My invisibility was my cloak and my shield.

I hated everyone so no one could hate me. It worked in protecting me from others but I felt like the saddest girl on the planet.

Ever since then, I’ve been trying to undo the damage of high school. I think most adults either go into work or more schooling without looking back at their high school selves. It’s too painful.

I don’t blame them. I wish I could be like them a lot of the time, because they seem happy now. I look at myself and see no pay cheque, no husband, no family. The me of today doesn’t fit in with adults. She sure as hell doesn’t fit in in high school, any more than she ever did.

The only person she fits in with is the fifteen-year-old me from Grade Nine, all the way through to the graduating 19 year old, miserable and alone. She was looking for someone to look up to. Someone who cut through the bullshit. Someone who was real, who cared about things beyond what was “hot” in magazines and what was spewed out on tv. She saw unhappy kids and unhappy adults and cut herself because at least that made her feel real. Her pain mattered in those moments.

I’m turning 30 soon. That’s grown-up, right?

Like the “crazy” one in the Breakfast Club movie, I’m aware that “When you grow up, your heart dies.”

Most of the time, it feels like I’m never going to have any adult life or security because I refuse to let my heart die. I’m stubborn as hell and every workplace I try to squeeze into makes me feel exploited. It’s a result of abuse, of all the bad things in my life, I still see enemies everywhere. Everywhere.

Except here, with you.

I can be real here. I imagine friends out there past computer screens, skipping into hungry eyes and hungrier hearts.

You are filling their shoes. Thank you.

My younger self reads this blog. She likes it. It makes her hate herself less.

I’ve always hated numbers. A birthday is just a number on a calendar designated by other people. I don’t ever want to define myself by other people’s choices unless they fit with mine.

I won’t let my heart die. I won’t.

I promise.

ErinWhen You Grow Up Your Heart Dies, So Fuck It

16 Comments on “When You Grow Up Your Heart Dies, So Fuck It”

  1. Joe

    High school. Yeah. It’s a hell of a place.

    While I didn’t have as bad a time at high school as it seems you did judging from this post, I can completely relate to your feelings of not fitting in, especially in the early years. I’d always been the “arty kid” at school. A title earned by drawing over *everything.* In primary school it didn’t matter, but suddenly in high school if you were a guy into art you were a “fag,” “poof,” “homo” and so forth.

    The town I grew up in is a mining town and is full of all the boganisms that are associated with that. It was all about who had the biggest ute and was the best at football. I couldn’t have cared less about those things. Rather I was into art, comics and books.

    I was ridiculed, made fun of, treated like some kind of freak, just because my interests didn’t gel with the majority of the school population (I should point out that not everyone treated me like that. I had some really good friends in high school who I still consider to be some of the most important people in my life, but enough people did that it was an issue). At this point I didn’t know I had depression so I didn’t know what to do to stop all this from affecting me, or at least how to lessen the impact.

    Then, one day, when I was being bullied by one of the flat-headed jocks something clicked. He was laughing at me with his mates who were all off to PE class to play footy while I was off to art class. This was towards the end of year 12 so everyone had already dropped the subjects they didn’t want. Anyway, as I walked past this idiot on the way to class he called out “going off to paint your gay pictures, homo?”

    Without missing a beat, and completely on instinct- I still don’t really know where this thought came from – I turned, smiled politely and said “Yeah, I’m off to a class of 14 hot girls in which I’m the only bloke, while you and your mates go to play with balls and jump on top of each other. I’m reeeeeeally the gay one here.”

    They were stunned. They had nothing to say and I just sauntered off to class. It was in that moment that I realized “fuck them.” I was doing what I wanted, what I loved, and fuck anyone who can’t handle that. Me not subscribing to what they think is “normal” isn’t me being a freak, rather it’s them being small minded and ignorant thinking I *should* subscribe to those things. From that moment on I’ve fully embraced my love of art and all things geeky. I wear “geek” as a badge of honour rather than the insult people try to use it as. I didn’t hate those people who try to insult me for being arty or geeky, I just feel sorry for them because their world is so small that they think those works *are* insults.

    Now, like you, I’m almost 30. My closest friend recently visited me in my somewhat-new apartment. On walking in he said “wow, you wouldn’t think this place belongs to an almost 30 year old.” But he didn’t mean it as an insult, he meant it in a “this is really *you*” way. And he’s right. My apartment, covered as it is in shelves of graphic novels and comic boxes, toys, action figures, plushes, posters of Wonder Woman and Sonic the Hedgehog and The Phantom, does *not* look like an apartment owned by a 30 year old. What it does look like though, for those who know me, is an apartment owned by *me*.

    For most of my friends, no one else they know is as into this stuff as I am, no one celebrates the simply beauty and history of, say, the Sega Mega Drive enough to have one on display on a shelf. No plugged in to play, but *displayed*, like a piece of art.

    And that personality trait, that “weirdness,” is what separates me from everyone else. And that is something I’m very proud of. I do grown-up things like pay bills and do tax and work, but that’s all secondary. What I’m *really* about is reading comics, drawing, and collecting toys. And if people can’t handle that, well, fuck ’em.

    Oh, and what happened to those jock that teased me? Well, one got so pissed he put his fist through a pub wall and lost 8 pints of blood. Another got kicked out of business school. So yeah, whose laughing now?

    And while you might have been looking for someone to look up to when you were in school, know that you have people who look up to *you* now! I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again here; you’re a *huge* inspiration. This blog is a *huge* inspiration. While I understand school was very hard for you, the strength you are giving people now can not be measured.

    In the words of Sonic the Hedgehog, you are “*way* past cool!”

      1. Erin

        Hi John,
        In hindsight, I really wish I’d switched high schools. A lot of my stress during my high school years was due to the crowding in the hallways at school, everyone being so freaking close to me physically when I just needed space. I also think I was so stressed out that I also didn’t feel like I could handle the additional stress of switching schools and starting fresh somewhere.
        I wish I could go back now and attend the art high school here in London, Ontario. I would have loved it there, had I been able to switch schools. :)
        Thanks so much for your comment and question!
        Erin

  2. Laura Garcia Ros

    Thank you Erin:) I just recently discovered your blog and it helps..alot! Trying to go medication free after being on antidepressants for most of my life..going strong now and truly hope you keep writing..you have a beautiful gift that helps others..myself included

  3. Elizabeth

    I will be 60 this year. You both are way past cool. Two brilliant blogs. Thank you. A great start to my day!

  4. Michelle

    Erin,

    “Normal”, I’m beginning to realize, is a social construct that is designed to guilt people into believing that their natural state of being must somehow be transformed in order to satisfy the wants and beliefs of strangers. However, normality only rests within one’s thoughts. As Shakespeare states through Hamlet, “There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.” Whatever wires got crossed to make me the person that I am, I have to learn to understand and accept the way that I am designed. What is “normal” for someone without mental illness may not be “normal” for someone who is clinically depressed. I’m not deficient, I just function differently. It’s taken me a long time to accept this fact, and even now I sometimes need convincing to believe its logic.

    You have to recognize what your boundaries are and where your strengths are located. Like you, I feel like I’ve lost so much of my childhood/young adult hood, and that I’m fighting right now to get it back. I’ve coped by isolating and hiding myself for so long that I’m not even sure of what I want or how to function in society. So far it’s kept me alive, but smothered. My true self feels like a jack in the box that’s been closed so tight for so long that no amount of cranking will ever allow it to pop out again. But I hope someday that I will finally find the tools to release it.

    I turned 30 last month and I still live with my parents, partly to save money, and partly to make sure that I am in an environment where I can stay safe. A couple of years ago we lost my only brother to suicide and it’s been especially hard ever since. We had a strong love and hate relationship, but I felt that my brother was the only one who ever really understood my depression. The stress had been building up for a while and I realized that if I didn’t make a change in my life I might well lose it, and then my parents would be without both of their children. I quit my stable job as a hospice nurse and am using the money that I saved to go back to school online to earn my bachelor’s degree in nursing. I feel that it was the right decision to make, but I also fear and dread the time when I have to go back to work. How can I take care of other people when I have trouble taking care of myself? I was told that I was really good at what I did and my colleagues were sad to see me go, but at what personal cost could I afford to stay? Sometimes we have to recognize and accept what we can and cannot do, what is “normal” for us, and the hell with what anyone else thinks.

    The day before New Year’s Eve a teenager came to my parents’ door asking for help with her public speaking class. She stated that she was in high-school and was hoping to go to Virginia Tech in the fall. What her real purpose was, I’m not sure; she said something about gaining points for her class, but I think she might have been soliciting for her college fund. Either way, the fact that her intentions were not clear indicate that she probably needs to refine her public speaking skills regarding presenting an understandable intent and purpose.

    She then began to ask me personal questions. “So what kind of awesome jobs do you and your husband do?” She automatically assumed that I was married. I haven’t even had a really stable romantic relationship in my 30 years of living! It was as if she was seeking advice or approval from me in how to live a successful life. Her optimism and enthusiasm stunned me and shot a hole through my chest which seemed to settle like a huge boulder upon my rib cage. I felt that this girl had no idea of what hardships can bring, or the feeling that ensues when the dreams we have when we are younger seem smashed to pieces. I felt inadequate. I should have lied, but ultimately I foolishly stumbled out a response that I was unemployed and still lived with my parents. She then looked at me with an air of incredulity and asked how old I was. I lied and said I was in my twenties. I felt like slamming the door in her face after shouting “What in the hell do you think you are doing here? You must have an abundance of audacity to ask such personal questions! Public speaking my arse!” But again I mumbled something to the effect that the owners of the home were not available and could not respond to her request. THEN I shut the door in her face.

    That night I cried myself to sleep and fought hard to resist the urge to do something stupid. My best friend invited me out to celebrate New Year’s Eve, but I was so distraught I spent most of the day in bed and stayed at home with my parents. Then I realized that a number is just a number and I can’t let my age, or ignorant girls with public speaking classes, dictate how I feel I need to live my life in order to LIVE it.

    My classes end soon and eventually I will have to decide what type of job I can and can’t handle. I hope to go back to nursing, but I may have to rethink to what environment or position I am best suited. I refuse to be a slave to my job or put my life in jeopardy. My counselor tells me that a vocation should be where “one’s deepest joy meets the world’s deepest needs”. I’ve been sad for so long I’m not even sure I know what real long lasting joy is, or what can make me happy. I used to sing and do ballet, but my talents have faded from want of practice and my lack of enthusiasm makes it hard to focus on any one activity. I haven’t even really listened to music in ages. I used to love to read, but lately its hard to focus on any reading other than my studies, and even then I find it difficult. I find moments with my friends and force myself to go out and engage in at least one social activity a week. Thanks to this blog I have finally felt inspired to start writing by putting my thoughts to print in order to make sense of all my “mind ramblings”. Erin, you truly have a gift of writing and reaching out to other people, and maybe this “joy” of yours is exactly what the world “needs.”

  5. Growing Positive

    Really moving. I always felt similarly in high school and could never stop thinking about how content people were doing what seemed pointless at the time. It’s difficult and leaves me kind of emotional looking back on it. I disagree with you saying as you get older the heart dies. If you stay true to your heart it’ll get stronger, just don’t feed it any bullshit :). Stay strong Erin.

    Growing Positive

    1. Erin

      Thanks so much for your comment! “If you stay true to your heart it’ll get stronger, just don’t feed it any bullshit.” – That just might be my new motto. :D I think our heart only dies when we ignore what it’s trying to tell us. I want to keep listening to mine.
      Erin

  6. Jenny

    Hi Erin,
    It’s Jenny again (the one that wants to be a doctor and loved your post on why we lose interest in things with depression). I loved this post as I could totally relate to high school. Although one thing that I have realized is that high school is mainly a love/hate phase of our lives. I was the girl that was friends with everyone and was yet completely lonely at the same time. However, that was when I learned that the people from high school didn’t make me love it, but more as the things I did in during high school made great memories. This did, however, take a few years for me to understand this.
    I learned to feed my heart and soul the things it needed. For instance, I really loved dancing and theatre, so I did that. Although I wish I had the friends experience like most people, I am also grateful for what I was able to participate in and make myself feel better.
    However, you have such a wonderful and real blog where so many people inspire you and look up to your perseverance and your amazing strength. All of your followers are the people you didn’t have in high school when you wanted them. One thing my mom has taught me is that sometimes people don’t meet their friends at the same time as everyone else. It just means that the best ones are being saved for you at another time.
    I hope I didn’t ramble on too much. :)
    I hope you are doing well and know how loved and support you are through this journey.

    Love always,
    Jenny

    1. Erin

      Hi Jenny!
      Thank you so much for your awesome comment. I love what you say about how our high school years are a love/hate phase of our lives. And how even when we don’t have the friends we want or need, they still might be waiting for us down the road. I’ve definitely found that to be true!
      Take care! Thanks so much for your feedback!
      *hugs*
      Erin

  7. Let's Talk Kate

    The older I get, the more I think the idea of “adulthood” means almost nothing. It’s just a concept that some people seem to naturally be better at fitting into (the graduating/getting a job/getting married/whatever else thing), but it’s pretty arbitrary! The fact that it’s hard for some people (a lot of people!) isn’t surprising at all – how could one way of existing in the world work for everyone? I think that might be part of the reason that high school is such a nightmare so often. It’s kind of the beginning of that idea that if you just follow the path and do everything right, you’ll be happy. It’s no wonder so many people struggle in their 20s (and beyond).

    I think it’s wonderful that you are able to talk about it here though, Erin. The more people who are brave enough to say, “this doesn’t work for me, I don’t fit in”, the more others will realize it’s okay that they don’t fit in either (and, hopefully, that it’s totally okay that they don’t, as well).

  8. Mar

    My eyes are welling up with tears. Ever since I was 14 I’ve felt lonely and miserable, and I went undiagnosed for years because people thought I was just a moody teenager. We’re not the same age, but I feel like I could’ve been friends with High School you.

    1. Erin

      Hey Mar,
      This is the sweetest comment ever! Thank you so much. I could have been friends with High School you. We’ve found each other now, though. Thanks so much for reading along and taking the time to commment. Take care – you’re worth it!
      Erin

  9. Lyle Harris

    It’s small comfort, espectially for anyone dealing with depression, but I found 30 to be a great time (relatively speaking, of course). Thirty is a nice sweet spot between too young and too old. Although I’ve battled against depression more or less my whole life, I found my thirties, especially the first half, to be one of the better stretches. I hope you find some joy in it.

    Besides, virtually anything is better than high school.

  10. Sarah

    I can’t believe it, but you just nailed my high school experience. I too hated everyone rather than face their rejection. I too was the saddest girl on the planet. The worst part about having shitty high school years is that they are never forgotten..never truly left behind. I’m older than you, and the ghost of my high school self is still haunting me. I’ve just discovered your blog, and I already feel I’ve found a kindred spirit. Thank you.

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