I believe in making lemonade.
“Nothing will change,” Dad said. “I’ll still be around.” He hadn’t been around much for the past few years. I swallowed hard, ignoring the wound carved into my heart that summer of my 14th year. “You’re on your own. You’re not worth sticking around for.” For over a year, the toxicity of what I buried that day quietly boiled and blistered under my skin.
With 3 kids (2 in college) and a mortgage, Mom had to take more shifts at the hospital to keep us afloat. I often came home to an empty house. Depression doesn’t describe the darkness I buried myself in. I grew angry. It was a more comfortable mask than the pain of being left alone. I hated everyone at school. I pushed people away and created enemies.
In my junior year, I derailed my life with the click of a mouse. In a desperate attempt to vent, I wrote a list of people at school and prefaced it with intent to kill, and published it online.
I was arrested and expelled, and it hit hard. My life was over. I wouldn’t finish high school. Forget college. That night I locked myself in my room and cut my wrists. I had nothing left and I wanted it to be over. The angst swelled up and down and back again. Maybe I was too exhausted. Maybe it hurt too much. Maybe some part of me hadn’t given up yet.
After a week locked up in psychiatric care, my defenses had worn down and I finally admitted I needed to be there. That’s when healing began. I started to realize the mistakes I’d made, the people I’d hurt, and the weight of the anger I’d been carrying. It was an infection. The hate fed off me, and I coveted the adrenaline rush it gave me. I could feel it in my blood and in my thoughts. It wasn’t worth the weight; it never made my life any better. I had to let go and face the pain of being abandoned by my father.
I continued with therapy, medication, and started going to church. It took time for the tide of regret to carry me out. That summer I was reborn. I shed my leaded overcoat and charged through the storms overhead. I confronted the dark side of myself that had been in control for so long. I began the journey back to the wound at the source of all the turmoil.
A year later to the day, I awoke to a sunrise overlooking Cape Town, South Africa. On a mission trip vital to my psychological mending, I became better equipped to recognize and fight off my demons. I enrolled in community college that fall, earning dual credit and graduated from high school on time with my class. I enrolled at NIU the following year.
I believe when life turns to lemons, you squeeze as hard as you can.