The first job that I ever had was at Build-a-Bear Workshop.
The first and only job that I ever got fired from was also Build-a-Bear Workshop.
The thing is, when you discover that you’re not just “sad” but “clinically depressed”, it’s a really difficult realization. You go from “Oh, I’m just down in the dumps, I’ll get over it” to “I have a mental illness.”
As if being an overweight fifteen year old who whose favorite show (in 2002) was Cheers (which went off the air in 1993) wasn’t enough, let’s throw in a MENTAL ILLNESS. And an Irish Catholic family who doesn’t want you to get help because they’re afraid they’re going to be blamed for everything.
So, there I was, learning how to navigate my fabulous new personality disorder when I became best friends with a group of popular girls. And by “popular” I mean, they had conversations with people and I didn’t. I blended as far in the background as possible.
So, I started hanging out with these girls and we had tons of fun. We bonded over things like show tunes and Chinese food and debating whether or not we’d sleep with the men from NSYNC or the Backstreet Boys. (For the record, I’m a BSB girl through and through.)
But as I mentioned, most of these girls were more social than I was. They had other things going on. They played sports while I quit dancing school due to my fear of wearing a spandex outfit once a year. They engaged in social activities outside of school while I ate Cheez Its on my couch while cheering on Sam and Diane. After a while, I became a little jealous and resentful of them. They had everything going for them and I was a glorified garbage person.
During those years, I put a lot of emphasis on others being responsible for my happiness. Now I know that it’s an impossible feat and I am responsible for my well being and yadda yadda yadda. But back then, I put a lot of blame on my friends. I thought they chose to not hang out with me sometimes because I was lacking something. Because I was boring. Because I was ugly. Because I put so much gel and hairspray in my hair that it wouldn’t even move on the most windy of days. I came up with every reason possible.
And then I believed those reasons. I literally made up stories and then actually believed the stories that I had concocted. Nobody ever said a single thing to me, it was never personal, but I believed every shortcoming I presented myself with. And the worst part was, I had other friends who didn’t make me feel this way. But my depression turned me into a masochist and I chose to surround myself with people I was angry with for being better than me.
And so I fell into a deep depression that I didn’t know how to navigate. I didn’t know what I know now about exercising and therapy and wellness and writing and The Four Agreements and oh, I don’t know, medicine. I blamed everyone else, let them know it and chose a life of hating myself.
Eventually, not surprisingly, people got over spending time with a person like that. And that drove me crazy. I thought, “How rude and selfish of you to not want to pity me!!!!” I was angry and infuriated and COMPLETELY insane.
So, I cut my wrists. The wrong way. Like, I couldn’t even do THAT well. But it’s not as if I wanted to die, or even harm myself at all. I mean, I was in the middle of the movie Clueless and I couldn’t miss the ending despite seeing the movie 30 times. Also, I won’t sit here and pretend that I’m not a pussy. It was 100% a desperate cry for attention.
And it totally backfired.
My friend, who I had been fighting with because she REFUSED TO PITY ME, went and told the guidance counselor, I was put in lockdown all day, my parents were called to the school, I had to get a psychiatric evaluation and my friend and I never spoke again.
And then I was immediately fired from Build-a-Bear Workshop. I guess they didn’t want someone with sliced wrists stuffing children’s bears or something. Weird, right?
So, that happened. And I turned out okay. I eventually worked at plenty of other jobs and found a career that I love, outside of the plush bear world. I am also turning 31 soon and I understand how to handle my mental illnesses!
The important lesson I took away from all that noise was this: Be yourself and surround yourself with people who make you feel good and love you for who you are. If you’re introverted, if you’re awkward and weird, if you fucking love Cheers (I mean, who wouldn’t? It’s a fantastic program) – who cares. That’s the stuff that people love about you. That’s the stuff that people will always remember. In high school, I hated myself for all the things I love about myself today. (Except that whole blaming others for my problems thing.)
And maybe, I don’t know, get your mental health in check. Don’t let your Irish family get in your way.