Updated: Aug 11
In this blog post, there is a discussion on topics that could be triggering, including sexual assault, depression, alcohol, overeating and bullying. Please continue with caution if those topics are sensitive for you.
I won't pretend I have all the answers, because I don't. What I can do is share my experiences and hope that one day I can help someone.
So here's my story.
I've battled with depression for a long time. So long, that I didn't really realize I was depressed until someone actually told me that I was.
My emotions have always been quite the rollercoaster ride, lots of ups and downs. I just chalked it up to being a lady and sometimes it really do be like that.
Well, boy, was I wrong. It was never because I was a woman or any particular event that had happened in my life. It just was what it was...
Why is there such a stigma behind the word? Why do we feel like we need to whisper when talking about it? Even worse, why do we feel embarrassed when asking for help? Therapy and Counseling are so important, whether you think you need it or not.
Sometimes the world can be ugly and sometimes we decide to listen and believe these lies as truth.
The fact that you're reading this probably means you're struggling or maybe you're unsure of what you feel right now. Either way, I'm glad you're here. Pull up a seat. Let's get started.
Listen up, I'm only going to say this once.
DEPRESSION IS NOT YOUR FAULT.
It is not, and will never be YOUR fault. It is time to stand up and fight this ugly monster in your mind. Once you do this, I promise you will finally be taking the first step to getting your power back.
Maybe you fought this battle before... You were on top of the world... For a while.
Then, one day, all of a sudden, someone creeps back into your mind. That ugly monster you fought off is back. Depression isn't something that hits you instantly. It creeps in and feeds off of you for a while. Sometimes you don't even know it's there, until it hits you like a ton of bricks.
Just lays you out, right where you are.
It can happen at work... at home... on a trip... with friends... alone... What I'm trying to say is it can happen anywhere to anyone. It can take complete control over you in the blink of an eye. I don't want this to happen to you and I wouldn't wish it on anyone.
Unfortunately, it did happen to me. I've been holding my story so close to my heart for a long time, but doing that helps no one. Hopefully my story can steer you in the right direction.
My story starts long, long ago. To set the scene for you, I am 6 years old. My family had just moved to Memphis, our 4th move since I was born.
My family of 6 (2 brothers, 1 sister, and 2 amazing parents) became super close through all the moves. Seriously, there really are no secrets between us. I was always an athletic, funny, courageous little child. Well, I was.
At some point after our last move, something clicked off in my brain for a while. Maybe it was the move, maybe it was that I had to make new friends once again at a new school, or maybe it was that I was repeating the first grade. For some reason, I always felt the need to explain why I had repeated the first grade, how silly! Regardless, I'll never really know what triggered it, but after all that, I stopped being athletic. I started to lose my tan and I turned to food.
I was the baby of the family and always got what I wanted! Haha.
Cue a year or so later, I had gained around 30 pounds. Then, that became 50 pounds... 70 pounds... 100 pounds.
By the 5th grade, I was probably around 150 pounds, and at my highest, 180 pounds. At that time in my life, I wouldn't have even known what depression was, but I have come to realize it all started there. It was no one's fault. It just grew and grew over the years.
When I look back, I really just want to give young me a hug and tell her:
You're gonna be alright. One day, this will be all behind you. You got this!
Before I go on, I feel it is important to note that I have been so loved my entire life. Most of the time, I was generally a happy kid. It wasn't until I was alone that my mind would wander. That ugly monster would creep into my head.
And, unfortunately, kids are mean sometimes and that ugly monster in my mind became my reality. My. Every. Day.
Early in middle school, the bullying had gotten so bad that I started to not like who I was. I didn't want to be me anymore, because clearly that person was not good enough.
Once I reached the 8th grade, I took the first steps at taking my power back. I lost 50 pounds and started a new chapter. I wanted to be a new version of myself and put all the bullying behind me.
My problem was I still never truly addressed my depression.
You know what's wild about depression? I had been living with it from the time I was 6 until I was 25 years old. It took me THAT long to finally get help and to talk to someone.
Even more unfortunate, it took me being sexually assaulted and my virginity being taken away from me for me to really hit rock bottom.
Remember what I mentioned earlier? When depression finally hits you, it. takes. you. out.
I was floored. Laid out. I meant nothing. I was nothing. Jessie Cali really was just a loser.
Man, this is painful to write. Mostly because of how real this conversation is. I was in a very dark place and just continued to blame myself for everything. But, none of this was my fault. Not my depression, not my assault. I didn't believe that though.
The year following my assault is pretty hazy. I went through the motions of life, I continued on. I probably seemed fine to most strangers, friends, and family.
I was so ashamed of what happened to me and I didn't want anyone, especially my friends and family, to find out.
Do you hear the monster knocking?
At this point, depression had complete control of my life. I drank, a lot. I made poor decisions, a lot. I gained weight, a lot of weight.
I was that same kid again. Except now, drinking and eating helped tame the monster.
Another year goes by, I move to a new city, start a new job, and make new friends. Life went on, but these friends were different. They cared and they asked questions. They wanted to know more about me. All of my closest friends and family were far away, so I had been able to shield them from seeing what was really going on with me. I had begun distancing myself from everyone because it was too painful when they asked questions.
I'll never forget the night I took my first jab at the ugly monster, depression. It was a wine night at my friend's house. I had become close with these new friends, but we hadn't had any deep talks up until this point. We all had a few glasses of wine and the conversation became more personal. Before I had time to plot an answer, my most dreaded question came up. It always does.
"How many people have you slept with?"
What does someone who's virginity was taken away as their first time say to this?! Even worse (in my mind), I had also had sex two other times which only could be described as cries for help.
I've always been described as the most "authentic, brutally honest" person you'll ever meet. So, the years following my assault were seriously the worst of my life. I always felt like I was lying and was never truly opening up to anyone.
I wasn't me and as far as I knew, that girl was gone.
Well, thank God for my friend, seriously, she's an angel. I start to answer the question.
"3. Well, I don't know."
She digs deeper. She could tell there was more, so she pressed on. So, I continue...
"Well, I was really drunk with the first one. I don't remember anything. I don't even know how it happened... I... I... I..."
I was rambling, I was ashamed. She stopped me, grabbed me, and looked me in the eyes and said...
"Jessie. You were raped."
Well, as you can imagine, I am a MESS at this point. Blubbering... Crying... It was bad. I had never told a soul what I had just said out loud. All my locked up emotions began to flood out of me.
She asked about the other two times which had been consensual, but had just been my attempt at patching the big hole in my heart.
We talked about my family. She knew how important they were to me. She asked if I had talked to them. I hadn't, I was ashamed.
She continued to assure me that none of this was my fault and pushed me to call my mom. It was time, I was loved and I couldn't keep holding onto this.
So, I went upstairs and called my mom. I don't know why I was so scared. I don't know why I thought she would be mad. The phone rang and she answered.
"Hey Baby... Jessie... are you okay?"
Yes, yo girl, Jessie, was STILL a crying, blubbering mess. I finally got the courage to tell her and even though she was clearly shocked, she was nothing but loving and supportive.
That was the first step at taking my power back. I had successfully taken my first shot and even though the ugly monster still had me in a headlock, I was breathing a bit easier and feeling a bit lighter.
The first few months of this realization were not easy. It was an upward battle, for sure.
I didn't take my mental health seriously, until one day, when I literally could not get out of bed. I woke up and couldn't move, think, or feel. It was 10 AM, I should have been at work, but I couldn't go.
At this point, I was good from an opening up perspective. I had told my family and closest friends, but I hadn't called it what it was... Depression.
I called my boss and confided in her about my assault. She told me to stay home and take the time I needed to find help. The fact that this was now taking over my ability to function as a normal person meant it was time to seek help.
I started my search for therapy. This. Was. Not. Easy. Finding an in-network, available therapist was legitimately a nightmare. It made everything so much worse.
Every time I got the courage to call or email my story to another therapist, I got the same response.
"Jessie, That's terrible. I'm so sorry, however, I'm not taking new clients at this time."
It was like a gut punch every single time.
Breathing became a bit harder again. Someone was tightening their grasp.
I closed up. Old habits came back. I was waving goodbye to the old, happier Jessie. She was very lost and wasn't to be found anytime soon.
This rang true until one margarita-drinking happy hour with a new friend. She was very open about her struggle with depression and before I realized I was opening up, I told her my story. I also told her I had given up on my search for a therapist because it was too painful.
She encouraged me to reach out to her therapist, which I did, but of course got the same answer: not taking new clients.
I was done. I couldn't keep being rejected.
In the coming weeks, my friend continued to check in to see if I had found a therapist. I still hadn't, but what she did next, I'll never be able to thank her enough. She gave me her next session. She said she wasn't taking no for an answer and gave me the date and time.
If that special friend is reading this now, thank you for doing the most selfless thing a person can do. Even with how much pain you were in, you shared that time with me and I will never be able to repay you. I love you.
It's a lot easier to fight a monster when you have help.
The hardest thing I've done to date was opening up my wounds and letting all the pain flood out. However, this was the only way I could find myself on this road to healing and recovery. A road I am still wandering down today.
I know it's hard, but if you are unhappy and something doesn't feel right, your first step is talking to someone and being vulnerable enough to accept their help.
After that first visit, I began going to therapy pretty regularly, once a week. The most interesting thing to come out of all these visits for me was that my pain wasn't because of one instance, but had been a build up.
The most tears I shed throughout my time in therapy was when I talked about my bullies and how I never truly felt I was pretty or good enough for anyone. Of course, my assault was painful and traumatic as well, but my healing and road to recovery was not solely focused on that. In order to truly heal my depression, I had to address and open up about the most deeply rooted traumas of my life, the ones I had become a master at hiding.
You are so much more than the traumas weighing you down.
We all have a story. We all have been hurt in life. Each one of our stories is different. It's important that we share and care for each other before the pain takes over and consumes us.
I am so thankful for my friend who pushed to know more, for my family who loved me unconditionally, for the friend who wouldn't take no for an answer, for the therapist who looked deeper, and for everyone who has listened throughout my journey.
I love you all and I hope my story can help someone take the next step to getting back to the real you.
I'm still working on myself every day. Some days are up and some are down, but what I can say is:
I love who I am, inwardly and outwardly.
I make better choices.
I believe people when they compliment me.
I hold myself accountable to the decisions I make.
The rest will fall into place and I'm excited to see where this journey takes me.
If you feel compelled to reach out, click here to find out how. I don't know all the answers, but I am here for you and will help in anyway I can.
Until Next Time,