As a teen, I was obsessed with the Holocaust. I read biographies, historical accounts. I even waded through "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich". I did my school presentations on Holocaust survivors and even did one on Josef Mengele.
As a teen, I felt trapped in my life. Trapped in an abusive relationship. Trapped in a school system that I felt pressured by. A school system where I felt like I was just another cog in the wheel. I felt trapped in a religion that expected no less than perfection and a mother that mirrored her chosen faith with stoic adherence. I felt trapped in a mind that had questions about love, the universe and everything in between. Who am I? Why am I here? Where am I going?
I remember my first panic attack. I was sitting in accounting class. I had this wave of heat surge through me. My brain kept repeating, You have to get out of here. You have to escape. You have to leave. I ran from the classroom and locked myself in a bathroom stall. I sat on the back of the toilet and just cried and cried. I had never felt so alone. I was 15.
When I read Holocaust survivor stories, it was usually the ones of escape. The stories where the heroes managed to evade the Nazis and emerge from the war to live again. I couldn't read the stories about those who died. I never read The Diary of Anne Frank. I knew how it was going to end and I didn't want to face that after having built up a relationship with her through her diaries.
Whenever I would read of the Holocaust I wondered what kept these people going. What motivated them every day to keep living. Why more of them didn't commit suicide. At 15 all I wanted was for my life to end. It seems funny to be back here at 33. To be facing the same questions. The same fears. The same feeling of being trapped. Of feeling so utterly alone. I think about killing myself constantly. Ways, plans, timelines. Yet I don't. What makes me continue on? I'm scared.
I used to think the Holocaust survivors were brave, courageous people. But maybe they were just cowards, like me.