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My next boyfriend was all of the things I thought I wanted at the time. He was a punk-rocker with tattoos and a mohawk who thought that brainwashing religion and corrupt politics were for the mindless masses. I fell in love instantly.
A few months into our relationship, we decided to get matching tattoos. One of our favorite mutual bands was Bad Religion, a punk band with hate for Jesus and the Bush Administration of the day. We decided to get matching Bad Religion tattoos.
Without really considering the consequences, I walked into the tattoo shop and let some greasy understudy draw a permanent anti-cross onto my arm. It wasn't even well done, and it definitely didn't take long before I regretted it.
I had just been set up for an internship at a major broadcasting network and was applying to study abroad the next year. How could I face the politically correct public with an anti-cross on my arm?
I sat in my room alone every night for weeks after I got that tattoo. I just sat there and stared at it, and the more I stared at it, the more the thoughts flooded into my head:
You're a bad person. You will never amount to anything. You'll never get a job with that on your arm. You're so stupid. You're just a waste of space. You should just kill yourself.
Depression set in. I felt horrible about myself, about my past, about my choices, about my bleak future. I felt a rush of guilt for everything that had ever gone wrong in my life: for my parents' divorce, for my abuse at the hands of men, for my drug and alcohol abuse, for my addictions, for the stress I'd put my family through, for my disrespect for socially acceptable society. It just seemed like everything would be so much better if I weren't around to fuck it all up.
"I'm depressed," I told the doctor at the walk-in clinic.
"Okay," he responded. He rifled through his sample drawer. "Here, take these. See how those go to start."
He had handed me some sort of antidepressants, but God only knows what they were exactly. Basically he gave me whatever was left over in his drug drawer since the last pharmaceutical rep paid a visit.
I started taking the pills and actually revelled in the fact that I had a problem serious enough to warrant medication. In a way, I finally felt like my demons had been given some credibility. My problem was real. It had a name and a cure.
But the pills didn't work. They made things worse, if anything. I fell into a deep pit of despair that I thought I would never come out of. There was no light at the end of the tunnel.
I got my tattoo covered up within a month after getting it done. My mood began to lift a bit, but I'd developed a knack for anxiety attacks, which began waking me in the night. My breathing would get shallow and short, and I'd jolt out of bed, gasping for air.
It was also during these interrupted nights that I learned that my boyfriend was not the man I'd hoped he was. As it turned out, he had a late-night porn addiction. I started to catch him in the act, night after night, and when I would confront him about it, he would tell me I was the one with the problem. I was crazy, and clearly I was not sexually satisfying him because I was the one driving him to porn. Once again, it was all my fault. I blamed myself for his problem, and the anxiety got worse.
One day, my mom and dad got into a massive fight via email and started calling each other every name in the book. I was privy to the insults that were being hurled back and forth and ended up writing a seething email back to my father that landed us in family therapy, where my father spent half the time screaming at me like it was all my fault. My guilt, anxiety and depression worsened to the point where I needed personal counseling.
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