The beginning of my story starts when I was in 5th grade. I was completely oblivious to what what going on because I was so young and thought everything was one. However this was the year my parents told me they were getting a divorce. I was completely blindsided, although the fights they would try to hide my my brother and I should’ve been an indicator. Nevertheless I was was devastated because my family dynamic was changing and I didn’t know anyone else who had gone through this. Fast forward a couple of years I was pretty adjusted to having divorced parents. It obviously wasn’t ideal, but I was doing alright. I still remember the day very clearly in 8th grade when my parents asked if they could talk to me privately. I once again was completely oblivious and had no idea what they wanted to talk about. They made a lot of small talk and leading up to their news I actually thought they were about to tell me that they were getting back together. I couldn’t have been more wrong. This is when my dad told me the reason for the divorce. He was gay. I had no idea what to think and just sat there for a couple of minutes. I can’t exactly describe what it feels like to have someone who you’ve been told your whole life to trust just reveal that they’ve kept something life-changing from you, but it’s not great. I then thought this must be terrifying for him to do this especially since this wasn’t exactly the time when he wanted to tell me. Apparently my parents wanted to wait until I was 18, but my brother had figured it out and confronted them. That day I told him I would love him no matter what and I was glad I knew. What both my parents didn’t know at the time was I felt broken. I had been lied to and while I wanted to completely support my dad like I was always raised to do, I had never felt so distant from him.
Moving on to my sophomore year, after going to a few different therapists I was fully supportive of my dad and I had even met his partner. However, once again, I had another bump in my life. My dad had decided to go get married in San Francisco and didn’t tell me or my brother. Again, I fully support my dad and I like his now husband, but I still feel betrayed to this day. That is such a huge part of your life and to have not been included in it or even notified has left me with a lot of pain. As a result of this experience, I experienced a lot of depression and anxiety. While all this was happening I tried to find comfort in my best friend at the time of almost 10 year, but ultimately she completely cut me out. That completely destroyed me at the time because this was the person that I told everything to. This was the time I needed her the most and she completely took off. This was also around the time that I was being bullied by two girls on my soccer team. I didn’t look like the ideal girl (trust me, middle school was a rough time) but these two girls constantly made fun of me for how I looked. At every soccer practice they would poke fun at my frizzy hair and anything else they could think of to make me feel even more insecure. At the time (believe it or not) I didn’t actually think this was bullying, so I never really told anyone. One of the girls went to my school, so I would just avoid her when I could. After a while I moved teams so that stopped, but everything they said followed me. Instead of hearing their voices, it was mine in my head. My self esteem was practically non-existent and has been struggling to be rebuild since. Today I still really struggle with my self esteem and how I see myself. All of these events have made my mental health a nightmare to deal with and ultimately has left me lost.
While most of my story is in the past, I continue to struggle with areas such as this. I want to participate in this project for two reasons. One being I want my story to help someone. Parts of my experience are unusual so that made resources and finding comfort hard for me. I hope that someone will read this and find comfort in the fact that someone else has gone through this. The second reason for doing this is for me. I’ve never written out my story or told it to this extend and I think it’s important that I do this. While I’m not 100% there, I have definitely come a long way and I’m proud of that. One of the ways these experiences have affected me is that now I have a lot of trust issues. It takes me a long time before I feel like I can fully trust someone. I’m very careful with picking my friends now because of the people I’ve encountered, and often times I have a harder time making friends. I also have a lot of social anxiety because of how much I was made fun of. I’m terrified of what others will say or think about me so I will often stay in rather than going to a party or social function because talking to new people terrifies me. That also just enhanced every negative thought I have about myself and has made my insecurities an even bigger burden on myself. Academically, when I was dealing with my family issues I didn’t feel motivated. It happened sporadically so sometimes I would be fine, but other times I would just shut down and lay in bed.
The hardest thing about all of this was putting on the fake side of me. Most people had no idea that these things were going on and I wanted to keep it that way. As far as my dad, I kept it quiet except for about 2 people, mostly for my mom. At the time I didn’t feel like others needed to know our business and I wanted to protect my mom so I didn’t talk about it. That put me in a hard place because I always felt bad about lying about my dad because he also didn’t deserve that. He was very brave for telling us and I felt like I was caught between my parents. I also just struggled a lot with myself. The end of middle school and all through high school is already a tough time but I felt like I was dying inside for most of it. Again, no one would ever know that because when I left my room I was happy, funny Alyssa who liked to crack jokes with my friends and would tell my parents school was okay or good. A lot of this I tried to ignore and that was just my way of dealing with this. Eventually I started seeing a therapist. I went through a few before I found one the summer before my senior year, that finally started to work for me. I was also able to work through this by doing drama throughout high school. Over the years the people in that class became a support system for me and my teacher knew everything. Performing was a way of escaping for me and that really helped keep me sane when things were getting out of control.
Of course both my parents have always been supportive through every step of this experience. They were always there for me, even if I didn’t want their help at the time. As I mentioned, my drama teacher Mr. Bowden was also a huge impact. He knew everything I was going through and did his best to give me advice, but mostly just listened to me. He was a big supporter and really believed in my in times that I didn’t. That really stuck with me because I think he was the only person who did that for me and wasn’t related to me. I also turned to music. I feel like there’s so much music out there and when I find an artist or band that has similar ideas or thoughts of what I’m feeling, it really calms me down.
The primary reason I didn’t share this on social media was for my family and for the most part I was protecting my mom. I completely understand this was incredibly difficult for my dad, but this was also hard for my mom. She had her marriage ended and her whole life changed because of this experience as well. She’s been a real rock for my brother and I but I didn’t feel like other people had to know about this. My mom also goes to a church where it just wouldn’t be best for her if she kept this for herself. I’m honestly just embarrassed about my internal struggles and still kind of am. It’s a lot to deal with and I didn’t/don’t want everyone knowing. I feel like a lot of people can relate to that, they want people to think they’re cool and have a great life. Most people won’t share on their social media mainly for appearance. If I were to share it on social media, I think in terms of family I would share a picture with me, my dad, and my stepdad. I’ve never posted anything with him on social media before because most people don’t know. I know that there would people that support this, but it would also be shocking to some and I may get negative response. As for my person internal struggles, I feel like I would get a lot of support, but I also think some people would brush it off. I really don’t know what the effect would be like if I shared it. I would hope it would be positive.
To someone going through a similar experience: This happens! You are not the only one experiencing this and everything you are feeling is completely valid. You are allowed to be angry, sad, scared, or any kind of emotion. The main thing is you have people who love you and support you through this. Also, therapy is so helpful and it does NOT meant you’re crazy. It’s a great first step to helping yourself and I really recommend it. Whether it’s because you’ve had a dramatic life change, battling internally, or both like me, it’s a great first step to feeling better.