I honestly don’t know where to begin and I’m certain this is going to be long. I hope that’s all right.
First and foremost, my name is Jenn. As a kid and into my teens, I was always extremely introverted. Shy seemed to be my thing and I have no idea why, now, looking back. I never had trouble making friends. But my group of friends were always extremely small and tightknit.
And outside of school, I never spent time with anyone but my parents and my sister. I was just happier that way. Fortunately, I was never bullied in school. I don’t know if we just didn’t have a lot of that in the school I went to, or if I was just blissfully unaware because of the fact that I so often just kept to myself. If I had to guess, I’d have to go with the latter.
Throughout high school, instead of hanging out with my school friends, outside of school, I spent my afternoons, and nights, and weekends on the internet, in chat rooms, talking to people online. People I didn’t have to see. People I didn’t have to worry were judging me. My self-esteem pretty much sucked, even though I was never given a reason for it to.
I found a community of people and learned about fan fic and “shipping” and realized that there was this whole, seemingly, underground world that I felt like I just fit into without question. In my late teens, I made a friend who I am still friends with to this day. I can officially say that I have known her for over half my life. We’ve visited each other several times over the years and she has continuously been a person I could count on no matter what was going on in my life.
I spent my last couple of years in high school and even after I graduated, I immersed myself in television shows like Buffy and Roswell. And at some point I even decided that I didn’t want to just read fan fic anymore. I wanted to write my own. I’m not quite sure I ever went through that ‘awkward teenage’ phase that so many teens seem to go through these days. I guess I was a late bloomer. It was during all of this, going into my early 20’s when I started to realize that I was more drawn to the females in these stories. In the TV shows that I was watching. And I began to see that there was a reason I never wanted a boyfriend and felt completely put off by the one that I dated in my late teens.
It was my friend who helped me realize that whatever was going on with me was okay. That no matter what, she supported me and loved me. And come to find out, I was lucky all the way around. I found myself occasionally making comments about girls here and there and I never had to officially ‘come out’ to my parents. Unfortunately not everyone is lucky and for that my heart truly aches.
But. Even with all the support, albeit silent, I still found myself struggling with day to day things. Like simply being happy. Through most of my 20’s I struggled with depression and the only time I ever felt okay was when I would dig into my shows and lose myself in this somewhat ‘underground’ world of fanfiction and fairytales. It was my way to hide. But it wasn’t a way to heal.
My little sister, four years younger than me, was a little bit more social than I was. We didn’t have a whole lot in common, but at the end of the day… she was my sister and my best friend, and I couldn’t tell you a time when we were *ever* at odds with each other.
We always had each others backs. Whether it was silently, or by spending time with each other. Our parents split up around when I was 21 and my sister, 16 going on 17. It was around that time I noticed that she had started to hide herself away like I had been doing all my life. I knew she was depressed. But so was I. Regardless… we battled it out together.
That’s what sisters are for, right?
And soon I found out that like me, she liked to lose herself in fictional worlds as well. It’s always been such a great escape. She watched the same shows I watched and loved them just as much as I did. She enjoyed reading books as well. She hid things so well that I can only assume that it was her way of taking a mental vacation from life…
For the next several years, we did everything together. She was there for me through my first big break up, and I was there for her through hers. Though… some days, now, I wonder if I truly was.
We both knew the other was struggling, but we always seemed to keep each other afloat. And please understand… we have the best parents any kids could ask for. They were never once a factor in any of the issues that either of us had. Even through their separation.
I realize that a large part of the Ugly Duckling society is based on anti-bullying and self-esteem and whatnot… but I think there is a form of bullying that a lot of people don’t even consider or realize exists.
It’s something I guess I would call “Self-Bullying”.
When you’re depressed, you continually beat yourself up and find or make up this grand amount of things that you think are *wrong* with you -or about you-, and you just sit on them. And you soak them up, and you beat them into your head, all the while fighting with that small voice still inside there that tells you that none of what you’re feeling or thinking is true.
It was in 2007 when I realized that things in my sister’s life were beginning to spiral out of control. She started drinking. A lot. She would drink to the point of not knowing who she was or where she was. She would have what I can only think of as panic attacks and black outs.
She would fight me and cry and say she wanted to die. I can remember a night we went out with a few friends and before any of us knew what had happened, she had drank so much she was nearly passed out. But then the rage came out and it reached the point where we had to actually lock her *inside* a vehicle until she calmed down. You see…she was so out of it that she had no idea that she could get out. Later that year, I found out she had been self-harming. Cutting. And not just small cuts. Horrific, huge cuts on her legs, in places where no one could see. But one night in late October, I got a call from her and through all the screaming and crying and freaking out, I managed to realize that she had cut her wrist and gone too deep.
I would apologize for the graphic visual… but I’m not really sure that I want to. So many people are suffering with this form of depression and self-harm and self-bullying that… if I tell my story and it makes a difference in at least one person’s life that’s all that matters to me.
We managed to get her help. But sometimes “help” isn’t exactly help. She was committed for three days and released, because she convinced the doctors that she was fine and under the pretense that she would see a therapist and take medication to try to balance things out. For the next few months, she seemed to be feeling better. Kind of getting back to her old self. The little sister I remembered. She was even living with me by then, and seemed to want to get back on her feet.
February 12, 2008. I was at work, and got a call from my dad. My little sister, Nicole, had hung herself from our front porch.
From that day on… my life has been forever changed. My outlook on life has changed. My outlook on people… has changed. I talk about her whenever I can, to whoever will listen.
Sometimes it doesn’t matter how many people are there for you… but sometimes hearing someone else’s story… is all it can take to make someone change their mind.
In the following couple of years, I dealt with an extremely mentally abusive relationship. One which I suppose could have been avoided, had I just walked away. But I was so desperate to hold on and terrified of losing someone else that I just kept fighting.
But through all that… from the day I lost my sister… I made a friend. Someone who I had actually gone to school with my entire life. But we never knew each other until that day. She stuck by me. Kept me afloat. Kept me… sane. And eventually, was there for me when I finally broke free of that bad relationship I’d let myself sink into. And somewhere in the year or so that we were friends, we fell in love.
She brought me back from that edge I was always constantly on. She supported me when I started seeing a therapist and taking medication for depression of my own. In our time together, I even managed to wean myself off of therapy and the need for medication. Though, looking back now, I’m not sure was the best idea. I honestly think that some people need one or the other or both to function at full capacity. Sometimes for life.
She and I were together almost 3 years. For the past 8 and a half months we’ve been separated. She is still my best friend and someone who I believe would be there for me at the drop of a hat, should the moment of need arise. But… for the past 8 and a half months, my head has been an emotional rollercoaster.
And there was a time or two when I thought to myself that my little sister got it right and that I was stuck here because she was gone. I blamed her for taking my option away. My option to take my own life. And I reasoned with myself that the only reason I couldn’t follow her lead was because I had seen what losing her put my parents through and I knew…it wasn’t an option. I’m not sure my parents would have survived losing me too.
And with that… though I know my story has been extremely long winded and detailed, I’m finally reaching my point. In the past 8 and a half months, somewhere in there, I discovered an outlet. That thing that seemed to save me so long ago. An amazing TV show to lose myself in, fan fiction to read and the will to write again. Though I’m no longer writing fan fiction, but instead, actually working on writing a book.
I know some might think it’s farfetched to accredit a simple television show…it’s characters…and the actors who play them. But to a person who is surviving because of said show(s), it makes complete and absolute sense.
I discovered Once Upon A Time and instantly, I was in love! I felt myself being happy again. Having something to look forward to. Something to invest my time in. Its amazing actors like Jennifer Morrison and Lana Parilla and Ginnifer Goodwin who bring these characters to life. Who give you a little piece of their selves in those characters, and a little something that anyone or everyone can relate to.
Everyone has demons… just as the Evil Queen. Everyone has been damaged in some way… just like Regina. And sometimes good people do bad things. They just need someone to see that there’s still some good in there somewhere. Because you know… even though a bully is a bully that bully acts this way for a reason. And even though it’s no excuse, that bully is dealing with something of their own as well.
And just as much as everyone wants a Savior, I believe everyone *deserves* a Savior…
Sincerely…with *much* love and respect…
– Jenn (@JLeigh1780)