How I Overcame Severe Depression And Near Homelessness To Become A Qualified Doctor
By Dr Cyclic Fire • October 17, 2018
This is my family's story from a poor, broken background that I've been meaning to share for a long while. Life can be really difficult for many of us and I feel like I have something to offer to those of you that feel low, unmotivated, or stuck in a difficult situation. It's a bit lengthy, but definitely worth the journey :)
So! On that note, here I begin. (This starts off pretty tragic.)
Ever since I was 11 years old, I wished I was dead. It began immediately after my father who, one day, beat me ruthlessly for asking him why he was drunk. He punched me, threw my tiny body across the room to the wall, and told me I was stupid for asking such questions, and that he regrets having such a dumb kid. He slammed the door to my room as he left and I remember picking myself up and stumbling to bed so that I could cry as quietly as possible.
Usually, my mother tries to stop him, but she was shopping for food at this particular time for our dinner. She, as well as my brother and sister, were all victims of my fathers abuse. One vivid memory is how misshapen my moms wooden broomstick became as he beat her with it. He destroyed the place, and made her clean it with that same broom. When he was angry at us, she would often divert his attention to herself to free us of harm, which didn't always work. Why didn't she leave? Because she was stuck, like most mothers in abusive relationships are. We were poor, and she was a housewife, with no job, and only wanted the best for her children.
I wish I was dead. This sentence haunts me to this day, and is my biggest secret. Since I was 11, I would repeat it to myself every day whenever I made a mistake, or did something stupid. I later learned that I was grammatically incorrect, and that the correct sentence is "I wish I were dead", but these words became so ingrained in me that they would not change. When I failed, I would say it. When someone made me feel small, I would say it. Whenever I was beaten, I would find a quiet place to repeat it over and over, sometimes for a couple of hours, until I found solace in my inevitable death. It is clear that the abuse I had sustained had a bad impact on me, (OCD, anxiety, depression etc.) but this was my way of dealing with it. My favorite place to recite this was my room window. It was pretty high up and I would open the window and look down to the concrete floor, as I whispered this sentence to myself. It was liberating to know that if I ever wanted to, I could just jump head first, and it'll all be over.
As the years went on, I got a bit better. I made friends, got a girlfriend, played sports, but without fail, every day, at least once, I would remind myself that I wished I were dead. When I was 15, my girlfriend dumped me, and I was so irrationally heartbroken that I was ready to jump and end my "worthless" life. I skipped last class and came home early enough that only my mother was home, and I told her class was cancelled. My dad was at work, my siblings still at school, and mom was about to go food shopping. I couldn't believe how perfect my luck was. I was ready to die.
My mother left, and I waited for her car to be clear of the driveway, when suddenly, my worst nightmare happened. My window was locked and I couldn't find the key. I frantically searched my room, and subsequently the whole house, and the key to my window was not there. The only way I wanted out was from my window, and I panicked. I didn't even know why it was locked. It was never locked, and the key usually isn't too far from the window. Usually on the sill or in the draw. But it was gone. 40 minutes had passed and my mother had come home. I was broken. While she was unpacking, I began beating myself as hard as I could by punching my head. I did it until I felt like I was going to faint, and got into bed and passed out. My mother woke me up at 7pm and asked why I was asleep. The light was off and I told her I felt sick. She knocked on my door an hour later and I told her to go away as I was still sleeping. She slowly crept in 10 minutes later and I pretended to be asleep. She had left a bowl of my favorite soup at my bedside and kissed my head before she left. When the door closed, I began to cry.
What if the window was unlocked? What would happen to my mother? Her whole life was her children, she suffered tremendously just to give us a shot at life, and as small and worthless I could ever feel about myself, I was the whole world to her. I knew that I had issues with myself, but also knew that somehow, I would have to push to become someone worth all this suffering for.
She was my anchor.
I began trying really hard in school. The domestic abuse never stopped, and my failings would lead me to repeat these suicidal thoughts, so I essentially studied as hard as I could to avoid failing wherever I can, to save my own life. It was a grotesque paradox to be in. Depression became a dark shadow that chased me through every success I ever made. It chased me all the way into being accepted to medical school, an accomplishment I never felt I truly earned. But I did it, for my mom. Only to be at the forefront of the hardest time of our families lives.
Only a week or two after being accepted into medical school, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. She told us with such strength and courage that I thought it must've been a mistake. It became real when a few weeks later, her beautiful, long hair, which she was renowned for, was falling off her head. My father, for a brief moment, seemed supportive, but then abruptly left the country for "business". Since I was a child, he had been taking regular trips abroad for his business, which was a foreign employment agency of sorts. He would be gone months at a time most times.
On this particular time, while he was abroad, and I was starting university, a family friend had come to visit and brought some evidence to tell my mother the truth. That her husband had been unfaithful to her on every single trip he had taken, and had multiple partners. It destroyed her. The only person she could rely on, had been unfaithful to her for most of her marriage, and was even being unfaithful while she was in the middle of chemotherapy. She called me, wailing, screaming in agony, and I was stunned, hundreds of miles away, in a dorm room where I couldn't help her. My father got word that we found out and came home a few days later, only to call my family ridiculous for believing it, despite all the proof given to us. The more she wanted answers, the angrier he got, until he beat her furiously. My brother and sister tried to defend her, but were also beaten. Her last effort to protect her children ended up with another monstrous beating, which ended with him saying the words "I hope the cancer finishes you off". He then packed a bag, and left. He stopped paying the bills, he didn't pay the remainder of my tuition fee, and he left her for dead.
I flew back home as quick as I could. With the help of the local council, my mother had fled with my sister to a small, one bedroom apartment, as she feared he might return and end her life. I went to see her, in a rough, crime infested apartment complex that still made her feel more safe than her own home. She opened the door with a huge smile and hugged me tight. I could see the chemo had taken a huge toll on her, as well as the destruction of her marriage. She told me she was okay, and that my sister was in a new school for the time being.
She cooked me my favorite dinner and we sat and ate. We avoided the topic for a while, and after we finished eating, and the dishes were washed, I saw in her eyes that she was about to break, and as I held her head, bald from the chemotherapy, close to my chest, she cried the deepest, most sorrowful cry I have ever heard in my life. It shakes me to my core even to this day, to hear such genuine suffering, especially from my mother.
"Did he do it because I am ugly? Because I don't have hair? Did he ever even love me? What did I ever do to deserve this? All I wanted was to be a happy family. I want to die."
I didn't know how to reply. I had never been in such a situation before. Most of my sorrow had been in my own worthlessness. In that moment, my mother had fallen to the pits of hell, and saw no way out. My first exams at medical school were coming and I had no money to even afford the tuition fees, but for the first time in my life, I felt that despite all the odds, all the insecurities I have, all the self-loathing I sustained, that one thing was extremely clear.
I will be her anchor.
I lifted her chin, wiped her tears, and told her a sentence that would define my foreseeable future.
"Mom, I don't know how, or when, but we will get through this. And when we get through this, I will make you a Queen"
I did my best and passed my first semester of exams, but with my tuition fee deadline looming, I was preparing to drop out of med school. I came home after my first semester to visit my mother. We were being evicted from the house since my father stopped paying the mortgage, and her small one bedroom apartment looked to be our new home, for all four of us. My siblings did their best to be strong for our mother, who had spent our whole lives being strong for us. I told her that my tuition fees were due and that I might need to drop out, but she had already transferred a whole year of tuition fee money into my account by the time I got home. I was so confused as to where on earth she could've gotten that much money so quickly. She explained that the council directed her to a charity that gives grants to cancer patients to make their lives more comfortable. She gave me every penny.
In order to fully understand what my mother did for me, you must know that the money she gave me was to make her chemotherapy processes easier. Without this, she had to wait in the rain for a bus that would take her to the hospital, all alone. She would have to go to public toilets to inject herself with medication. She budgeted her meals for as long as she could. She once fainted at the bus stop, and the bus driver took her straight to the hospital. She suffered tremendously just to see me through one more year of medical school. The pressure on me passing was immense, and the fear of failure still loomed over me, but I defeated it, and made it to second year.
When I came home after passing first year, I found out our old house was being sold, so we returned there to pick up what little we can salvage, so that we could sell it at a garage sale. My family would wake up at 4am to get to a venue to sell out of the back her car, only to make $25 each time. Our one bedroom apartment contract was ending soon, and we once again found ourselves hopeless, with nowhere to go. However, shortly after, we received a letter saying that a fraction of the equity on the old house could be given to us. We saw it as an opportunity to try and scrap more money for my second year, so we jumped at the chance. Unfortunately, news came to us that my father had gotten wind of this information, and was flying back to take the money to court, as he wanted as much of it as possible, probably to render us more helpless and have no choice but to run to him. Fear crept up on us, but we were not prepared to let that happen.
My mother, still bald and weak, told us she will see him in court, and do her best. We got a lawyer, and on court day, we saw him. The police didn't allow him to talk to us, as we had successfully put a retraining order on him. Mom remained strong and we hugged her as she went into the courtroom to face her abuser. We waited outside and a short while later, she came out smiling. A few minutes after her, I saw my father storm out of the court and leave the premises. He had asked for 90% but the judge had said that since mom had children to feed, he would only get 60%. Mum composed herself proudly, with all the appropriate documents the judge needed and in orderly fashion. She was happy with any money, but my father was greedy. He got angry with the judge, which was a big mistake. The judge, intolerant of his childish behavior, gave him just 10% and we ended up with 90% of the equity.
My mom had finally won.
She came out of the courtroom, hugged us, told us the amazing news. She yet again, without hesitation, gave me every penny. I was overwhelmed. Was it luck? Was is strength? All I knew is that we did it together, and I went from the kid who kept telling my university that I was short on money, to paying the whole of my medical degree off in one go. I told them it was a long story.
With my degree secured (granted I never failed or repeated a year), the only problem was our housing. We heard that people have to wait for years on the housing ladder before a council can give suitable accommodation, and until then, we might be placed in a cramped hostel. The number of years we wait for a house would be related to where we are on that ladder, based on circumstances. A price we were willing to pay. We told the council that we would like to enter the housing ladder, but when a local minister heard about our story, he gave us a phone call detailing 3 addresses. They were houses, and he told us to take our pick, because we were on the top of the list.
The amount of times our family has cried together is more than I wish upon anyone, but I was glad that slowly, we began having more tears of relief and happiness and less of sorrow and despair. Mom and I went to see the houses. She was so excited that she accidentally ran two red lights, and I jokingly begged her to not kill us before the happy ending to our story. The first choice was big, but in the middle of nowhere, and the second was more local but was small and had no parking. To make this seem even more like a fairy-tale, the third house was just right. It was a semi detached house, local to us, with a drive way, with everything we'd ever need around it. We moved in, and our life has been improving ever since.
So what happened since? We never heard from or got hurt by our father again. Mom went on to get the all clear from cancer. Her bald head, after losing her beautiful, long, straight hair, surprised us all by growing back fully in fabulous curls! She came to my graduation in 2016. Safe to say, while most parents there were proud of their kids, I was one kid that was extremely proud of his mother.
Right now, its 2018. I'm a doctor. I've been grinding to bring my family's life up to a normal standard. I'm a few exams away from being a junior surgeon. We're still in the same house. I don't have much in the way of savings because I blow way too many paychecks on my mom, and she is super spoilt (although she'll never admit it). We have enough money to eat, go on holidays, buy eachother gifts, and truly appreciate eachother. She's still far from the Queen I said she will be, but soon, I will give her the life of comfort she truly deserves. I promise. Oh, and yeah.
I've stopped wishing I was dead. I don't know when it stopped, but it was sometime after the last time I saw my dad, and when took responsibility for my family. Life is beautiful, even with the ups and downs. Up's can't happen without the downs. Even your ECG needs to go up and down just for your heart to beat.
To be clear, this isn't a story of how money and education equate to happiness, but rather is it about the correlation between suffering and compassion. I know a lot of "successful" people that fail to live happy lives. When you or someone you love is suffering, money does very little to solve it, yet compassion is a source of strength that can pull us out of even the most darkest of places. Putting yourself aside for the good of another who suffers can help pull yourself out of the dark too. That is the true message I am trying to give here.
So, if you're someone who suffers from depression, or someone who feels lost, hopeless, or any of the things my family and I may have felt above, know that there is a way to happier days. It is not meant to be easy. Our weakness is often the perception we have of ourselves and what we assume others perceive about us. Depression is a malignant disease of that perception. See the suffering through the eyes of those around you and tap into your true potential.
Prove your demons and your enemies wrong and you'll know true freedom.
Dr Cyclic Fire
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