My mental health journey began when I was around 12 years old. Today, I am almost 20 and after many years of struggling with depression, anxiety, and an eating disorder, I am in a much better place and am so grateful to be here today. For so long, I felt alone in my struggles. I felt like a burden to the people that I loved, and I felt guilty for feeling the way that I did. I pushed away the people who cared about me and wanted to help me, because I felt ashamed for something I could not control, and felt that I wasn’t deserving of help. When I was 17 and in the darkest place I had ever been in, I decided to finally open up to one of my best friends. That one conversation is what changed my life and was the first step in my road to recovery. I realized that keeping all of my feelings to myself was only making it worse, and once I let it out, a weight had been lifted. I also realized that I truly wasn’t alone, and I just had to accept the help that I deserved. After initially reaching out, with the help of the people who love me the most, I was able to get the real help I needed by going to therapy. At first, I was hesitant to do this, because I thought if I can barely open up to the people I trust most in this world, how could I open up to a stranger? But over time, it became easier to talk and I felt more comfortable each time I went. Eventually, I realized that I am worthy of help, and I am deserving of a happy life, just like everyone else. Therapy taught me the tools I need to cope with the dark thoughts and the bad days, and gave me the strength to fight through them, knowing that there are always better days ahead. Everyone has their own story, and their own journey. Your story is yours to write, and there are so many chapters left to fill. Your mental illness does not define you, and it does not make you weak. You are so much more than your dark thoughts. Reaching out and asking for help is a sign of strength. Whether it is medication, therapy, or something else, help is always available. You are never alone. Check up on your loved ones and reach out if you are struggling - it is so worth it. The world can be a dark and scary place, but you can make it better by being here and spreading your light and love wherever you go.

I am a victim of anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder which led to depression. The
reason I’m writing this is because I was inspired by one of my very close friends. I was taught to
not be scared and to not be afraid of my mental health.
I was diagnosed in the year 2017 and accepted the prescribed medication in early 2019. I
went to a psychiatrist in the summer of 2019 and when I first got prescribed medicine, I said no.
As soon as I stepped outside with my mom I denied the medication right away. I was worried
about not being able to drink and party with my friends. I thought it was going to change me for
the worse. I thought I was going to be looked at differently. These illnesses drove me to a point
of wondering when the pain would stop.. I felt like there was no way out. No way out of the pain,
tourment, and anger. During a time like this I thought drinking would minimize the pain but
really it made it worse and made me feel more alone. After I would drink I would regret it but
didn't care. I was scared that I was making my life go downhill which I was but I continued to
drink because it temporarily numbed the pain. This is when I knew something needed to be
changed.
My mental illness goes back to when I was a little kid without noticing until recently.
Inside I knew the whole time that my compulsive thoughts were doing this to me but didn't say
anything. I had a huge ball of guilt inside of me knowing that I was about to have my parents put
me through a procedure because of how sick to my stomach I made myself. But, this is just
where it started.
I have always been that person to motivate myself and others whether it was in school,
sports, or mental health letting them know they can overcome anything. I always had a positive
outlook on life but then my OCD and anxiety turned into depression. It took my hope. That’s
when everything became eye opening to me. A few years later sophomore year of highschool
came around. I became very depressed and the OCD reached a very high point. I felt like I wasn't
enough to anyone. My grades dropped significantly, and I had no idea what to do but lock myself
in my room and not talk to anyone. I isolated myself. I didn't care what I was missing in school, I
just cared about getting out of there as soon as possible. I skipped class, didn’t do homework,
and was calling my mom to pick me up everyday. My family noticed my lack of motivation and
my lack of energy. The thing with OCD is the thoughts, they're hard to explain but they aren't
very comforting thoughts. I would pull my hair, punch myself, or destroy my room. Life didn't
make much sense. I felt nothing good was coming out of me. My family at first thought I was
just having normal “teenage” breakdowns and didn’t understand me but that's because I hid my
depression from the world for so long. But mid-sophomore year it became noticeable, I saw the
serious concern in my families eyes and I didn't have a reaction, I just felt numb. I lost friends
and disappointed people. My thoughts and actions became noticeable. I became very distant
from my parents specifically. I did not tell them anything and I would leave the house
unannounced. I wondered if anyone would come looking for me. Everything that went on in my
head was meant just for me and my head only. I just didn't care anymore about anything.
There are many stories I can tell you about my mental health but, I think the OCD sticks
out the most. The OCD formed an eating disorder and so many thoughts and actions. My OCD
has had a big hold on my life. My routine every night before bed is about 20 minutes downstairs
then about 10 more minutes in my room and then another 10 minutes in my alarm clock app, and
that's just before bed. Every night I will have to make sure I go to the bathroom at night so i can
do my OCD check. I try to plan out my timing, not too late or not too early so I don't have to do
it again. I make sure I touch the toilet handle a certain amount of times (1,2,1,2,3,1,2, and one for
good luck) and I do the same exact thing for the water, the amount of soap pumps, and the light
switches. In order to be satisfied I have to do this process twice in order to walk to the kitchen
and do somewhat of the same process. This also happens twice. Every room I do this in I have to
step over the door threshold a certain amount of times and in a certain pattern, and if I mess up,
the process starts again. If I do not do this I fear something will happen to my family and that it
will be all my fault. There are times where I will be the only one awake in the house and go into
my family's bedrooms to make sure they are ok. Also, during the day if I say something to
anyone I say the word “sorry” between every word almost. I was worried people would start
thinking I was crazy because of how much I said that one word. If I didn't want to say the word
“sorry” in front of someone again I just wouldn't speak. This one little thing out of many things
had such a huge impact on me interacting with anyone. If I didn't say it I would say it out of
nowhere to the person for no reason even if it was three hours later. I couldn't stand the fact of
me not saying sorry and people being disappointed in me even if I did nothing wrong. Even
writing papers, reading books, and walking down the street became a problem….. daily life
routines. I would erase an entire sentence and rewrite it, reread an entire two pages numerous
times, and walk back a specific amount of times in a certain pattern down the street. I didn't
know how much longer I would be able to deal with the constant thoughts running through my
head. I still do a lot of this every night but over the past year I have realized how many people
are there for me and it makes me want to fight my mental health even more.
People may think that they are alone, I tried convincing myself for years that I was alone
but you're not and I promise you that. People who suffer from illnesses like these suffer in very
similar ways. Think of it in a way that we face these challenges to make us that much different in
the best way. We learn how to fight harder ways and go through larger obstacles in the future.
These illnesses make us that much stronger in the end. We may feel wounded but we find a way
to heal those wounds. We have to push ourselves to do our best even though I know it is hard at
times. Don't let people decide on who you are because of your illness, your illness does not
define you, your courage does. And that's what we are meant to show people. For anyone
suffering from mental health illness I have faith and you should have faith in yourself as well.
Never would I have thought that I would be sitting here in my bed at 3:30am in the
morning writing an essay letting people know about my personal mental health obstacles. But, I
was inspired to put my story out there and I hope that this inspires people as well.
- MS

I always grew up very fortunate and grateful that I had not suffered much loss in my life. My junior year of high school that all changed. When Devin died, it changed my life forever. My eyes were opened to the world of mental illness. It was something I was so unfamiliar with before Devin. After Devin died, it was becoming very evident to me that the people I loved were suffering in silence. Several of my close friends would confide in me about their mental health issues and I would try to help in every way that I could. I was dedicating my time to helping the people that I loved, and I lost myself in the process. I was always seen as happy and someone that people could rely on. I was seen as someone that my parents, siblings and close friends would never think was suffering. I was really good at hiding my pain. This feeling started to drain me.

 I wasn’t practicing what I was preaching. I told everyone around me to reach out and talk about what they were going through but I myself wasn’t doing that. Throughout my junior and senior year of high school I suffered from severe anxiety. I was constantly anxious that something bad was going to happen to the people that I loved. I constantly worried about everything. I worried about my friends and my family. I worried that at any moment I was going to lose everything, like I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. I worried that if I had a bad thought and I didn’t knock on wood 27 times (that exact number) that the bad thought would come true. I had a little voice in my head that made me second guess every single thought that I had. I wouldn’t want my family to leave the house because every time they did, I feared that something bad would happen to them. I felt completely out of control in every aspect of my life. I would have intense chest pains that wouldn’t go away until I fell asleep at night. I was in so much pain and I suffered in silence. These worries still haven’t gone away.

When I got to college my anxiety worsened. I would find temporary “fixes” that would get me through a few weeks until I found myself having panic attacks and feeling the worst I have ever felt. I would burst into tears and be inconsolable and I had no idea why. I began to not feel like myself at all. I felt so stuck. I have felt this way for 3 years. It wasn’t until my sophomore year of college, this past month to be exact, that I told my mom and my therapist that I was ready to see a psychiatrist and wanted to go on medication to help my anxiety.

It took me 3 years to finally admit to myself that I wasn’t okay and that it was time that I take care of myself instead of always putting everyone else’s needs above my own. I held assemblies at school, started clubs, and preached about the importance of mental health and yet I still could not face my own problems. I feel suffocated by the anxiety I’ve faced in my life. That is why I dedicated myself to helping others because I never want people to feel like there is no way out. There is a way out. There is always a light at the end of a dark road. You will get better. There are people in your life that love you and would do anything for you. All you have to do is ask.

I hope my story can help whoever reads this to know that there is someone in your life that can help you get through this. Although it took me a long time, I found that light through accepting that my mental health is the most important thing. I would have never come to this realization and gotten the help I needed without the strong survivors in my life. SR

November 16, 2020
There Is Hope

 

Mental health was never a thought in my mind. I did not know what mental health even was. I
have heard of it briefly and was very, very misinformed on it. I would always think “wow, I am
lucky I don't have to deal with those issues” about people who deal with mental health issues.
This was not the case starting February of 2018. One of my classmates at Canisius died tragically
and I started a downward spiral from there. This was really a trigger to everything starting in my
life and not in a good way.
I was sitting at Frankie Primo’s in downtown Buffalo with my family for dinner in February of
2018. I started to get very hot and agitated. I did not know what was going on and the next thing
I knew, I was having a full blown episode. A wave of panic and nervousness washed over me
and did not cease. I soon learned that there is a name for this: a panic attack. This was just the
start because over the past couple of years I have had many of these attacks and many sleepless
nights filled with worry and concern about every possible thing.
From February of 2018 to August of 2020, I kept my issues under wraps. Constant anxiety,
constant intrusive thoughts and incessant OCD. I knew I had these issues but they were
self-diagnosed. These issues at the time, were not the worst that they could have been. Over the
course of these two years, I stayed to myself asking for no help and receiving no help. This was a
time of self-destruction and constant hurt. I could not get out of my own head and therefore
became depressed at times and contemplated the worst. I did not want to hurt myself but I
thought that was the only possible way to relieve the pain. These thoughts never came to life,
thank God and I do not wish those thoughts on my worst enemy. Now, fast-forward to
September 2020.
I was diagnosed with COVID-19 on September 1st. This was the start of a dark storm that was
soon to come. I was having anxiety and intrusive thoughts about my diagnosis and they tore me
apart for two weeks. After these two weeks, things were looking up. I recovered from my
sickness and I was feeling a lot better mentally. Around the fourth week of September, I was
watching a show with my dad about unsolved crimes and murder. I went to bed thinking nothing
of the show. The next day, I was getting ready for bed and a rush of anxiety shot through my
body. The next thing I knew I was once again having a full-blown panic attack. In the ensuing
weeks, I would obsess about the fact that I must be like the horrible people in the show. Over the
course of the next two weeks, I was in a deep state of depression and anxiety. Everything anyone
did made me angry and the level of irritability was immense. It was finally time for me to speak
up and ask for help. By no means is asking for help an easy feat at all but it has to be done at
some point. I was at my wits end and I needed help. If I did not ask, I do not know if I would be
here today. Luckily, I had a great support system including friends, family and counselors.
With that being said, the road to recovery is not an easy one. I still work everyday to better
myself mentally and physically. I do not wish mental health issues upon anyone but it is
something we cannot control. There can be many factors but we cannot control these. There is
nothing you did wrong and nothing you can do to change it. You have these issues and you need
to learn to live with them. It is not easy but I promise there is hope and there is a reason to start
and keep living. You can benefit from talking to someone no matter who it is. I recommend to
anyone to seek professional help because it is truly life-altering. You are not alone. It will get
better even if it doesn't seem that way at the moment. God Bless and keep your head up.

 

LS
Canisius High School ‘18
John Carroll University ‘22


Only the Strong Survive: the story of how I survived.
 

People always ask the question would you ever want to go back in time? However,
everyone’s answers vary. If I could go back three years, I would completely
change everything.
Going into my senior year I slowly developed an eating disorder. I never
woke up one day and just stopped eating, it gradually becoming more significant.
Just like most high school girls, I wanted to be “skinny” and “hot” and the girl
boys drooled over. Before that year I never felt like I was any of those things. That
said I decided to change. At first it was very difficult, I would watch workout
videos, how to eat healthy but I just couldn’t add any into my lifestyle. Then, one
day I realized I could easily control it all. First, I decided to make my own lunchesmaking
sure portions were measured, working out after school and not putting
myself in situations where “unhealthy foods” were. These small changes gave me
attention; people started noticing my weight loss, saying how good I looked and
that’s when it all went downhill.
After those 5 months, I was down 10 pounds, mentally I knew I could lose
much more. Working out once after school turned into working out after dinner
which turned in to doing abs in my bed. Those portion sizes became smaller which
then led to me spitting out food. I was becoming sick without even knowing. I’ll
never forget the day when one of my classmates texted me saying she was worried.
She pointed out everything- how I watch people eat and ask if they want more,
how I needed to always workout and how all I looked at was food in class. I was
starving though didn’t believe it. When my classmate texted, me I refused to
change. Actually, I told her to fuck off and mind her own business. The reason I
freaked out was because I knew it was true but did not want to be stopped, I did
everything in secret.
After those 5 months, I was down 20 pounds. 20 pounds is a large number
and my family started to notice my unhealthy habits. Just as I responded to my
classmates was the same way I responded to my family. I always told them I was
fine, that I was happy. Though I was starving and exhausted. My hair began to fall
out in clumps, my nails were breaking, and you could see my entire spine. To most
people this is unattractive however I thought the skinnier the better; my mind told
me that in order to be beautiful you must be stick and bones. One day, my mom sat
me down and told me she wanted me to talk to someone. I obeyed her command
and went to a therapist who specialized in eating disorders. After explaining my
situation to her, she looked me in the eyes and goes “___you are anorexic”. At that
moment I knew I actually had a disease yet I was not frightened. I loved it. My
sessions were weekly and each time I would lie. I would tell her I am feeling better
and eating much more. Yet I was getting deeper and deeper into.
After that month, I was down 30 pounds. Even though I wanted to stop I
couldn’t. My mind would not let me. I had a demon constantly telling me not to
eat, that if I took a bite of a cookie, I would instantly be fat, that water would make
me fat, that I could only eat half a banana, no bread and no avocado. I was terrified
of food. Going out to dinner, not working out, eating more than 4 pretzels were all
sins. I started off in control but now I had none.
Like any other family my parents were worried about me going to college
with this disease. I told them I would be fine, see someone at school and promised
if I lost more weight I would drop out. That was a full lie. College led me to my
worst phase. I would walk 9 miles a day, workout and do hot yoga. And if you
think that’s a lot imagine doing it on half an apple two small bites of PB2, 5
pretzels and a small bite of a protein bar (that’s all I ate in a day). I started passing
out, my body could not handle it anymore. Therefore, I knew I needed actual help,
I went to the school therapist. When confiding with this therapist, I was degraded.
Unlike my one at home, here I was told that I was having eating issues because I
was homesick, that “most girls go through this”. No. most girls are not sleeping
because they are thinking of food, looking at themselves in the mirror and seeing
an obese person or scared to eat a nibble of food. From that day, I once again
refused help.
Now I could go on and on about how severe my eating disorder was, but I
am not. I am not going to because I survived. I made it out. Although I am in
recovery still, I see the world with a different light. Yes, I still have “fear” foods
but I am not afraid of what’s going to happen. Want to know why? Because I know
I am strong. I will not die at 25 like I was told, I will not let this disease take my
life over anymore. I am loved by so many people, not because I am skinny or
beautiful but because I am me.

My Reflection
 

The onset of my mental health story was insidious, but even today, I can still recall every second of the
emotions I felt during the most painful episodes of my life. Everything was great. In high school I had a
supportive group of friends, a loving family, hobbies I enjoyed, and a concrete plan for after graduation.
I had no reason to be unhappy. The struggle with my eating disorder, anxiety, and depression is like
many, and the similarities between my story and others are uncanny. Like so many, my story began
long before I thought I did. I always thought I had a ‘normal’ relationship with food but essentially,
every time I looked in the mirror, I discovered a new reason to hate my body. The anxiety I felt
wondering if I was the largest in my friend group, forced me to set goals to eat less and work out more
than the others. Little did I know that it was not my behaviors that were a problem, but the thought
process behind them.
Eventually my whole life revolved around food and yet I barely touched it. I found myself clocking out
late from work just so I could skip dinner with my family. The fall of my senior year and, the capstone to
my childhood, I woke up at 4:30am to workout at the gym then go on a run right after my early
dismissal. No matter how tired I was, I powered through until I stopped feeling the anxiety that
consumed by body. My life was a cycle of restrict, hate myself, attempt to purge the little food in my
system, and restrict again. My routines began to be the only form of comfort and release. The hardest
part of my secret was going though it alone. The constant thoughts of whether or not my peers like me
because I am not skinny enough, or if am annoying my friends for constantly asking for reassurance, or
whether or not anyone would even notice the pain and animosity I felt toward myself on a daily basis.
The constant pressure of pleasing my friends and family with the facade of my outgoing personality
and humor became merely exhausting.
When I started my freshman year of college, I was lost. The routine I held onto so tightly was ripped out
of my hands and became lost in the confusion of finally living on my own in a city 3 hours away from
my home in Buffalo. This was the perfect time to cut my old habits and make the changes I needed to
live a healthy life. Instead, I fell deeper in my hole, strangled by new toxic friendships and an influx of
insecurities. I was not happy in Buffalo, and I was not happy in college. I did not have a home.
Sophomore year rolls around, and my habits hit rock bottom. Since no one knew of my struggles, my
mind convinced myself that no one would care to know or even understand. I felt alone, yet I trusted no
one. On November 2nd, 2019, I was admitted in the Cleveland Clinic at 3:00 am for alcohol poisoning
after a night of celebrating my birthday and Halloween. My delirious night in the clinic all could have
been avoided if I did not starve myself and drink a 5th of vodka prior to the event. I had no one to call to
comfort me, all my friends were still out and having a good time without me. This is when I realized I
needed help. Three days later I signed myself up to visit the school psychologist and eventually the
psychiatrist. Even after the several months of therapy sessions and medication I thought there was no
hope for me. My future seemed bleak and every minor inconvenience felt like the end of the world,
which gave me more and more reasons to consider the end of my life.
Even haven been raised in a Catholic family it was hard to believe in any sort of higher being. At this
point in my life I was so depressed and alone the only man I could turn to was one I did not even
believe in. I made it a point to pray every night, hoping that one day therapy would work, and I would
feel comfortable to opening to my loved ones about my illness.
Towards the end of the fall semester of my sophomore year, I received something I never thought I
would. Every night, as I continued to pray away my loneliness, God gave me five wonderful friends who
I now consider my family. Immediately after agreeing to live with them for my junior and senior year,
my anxiety diminished, allowing me to feel a sort of comfort around a group of people I have never felt
before. Days, weeks, and months pass, and my depression and anxiety slowly drifted away as I began to
feel comfortable sharing my feelings to my new beloved friends. At this point, I have only known them
for a few months, but in this case, months felt like years. I could trust any of them with my life, knowing
that any of them would be there for me when I needed them. I learned several lessons during my new
relationships with them. I was not alone. It took me 19 years to realize I really was not the only person
dealing with mental illness.
As sophomore year came to an end, I learned to always check in on your friends. I learned to not be
afraid to share the feelings I thought were so invalidated. I learned to be there for my loved ones more,
even though on the outside it may seem that everything is okay. The story of my mental health is far
from over as I still struggle with several of the unhealthy habits I have grown accustom too, but at least I
know that I have been given an unbelievable support system that will be there for me when times get
rough.
-Anonymous

They say the five-year anniversary mark of a loved one’s death is significant to your personal growth and overcoming of such a trauma. It’s nearing close to six years now and I still struggle to find the right words to describe this supposed growth. I wish it were as straight forward as the advice forums I read as a sixteen-year-old girl coming to terms with my sister’s suicide.

 

I still cry when I remember our last conversation. I still get that tingling, numbing sensation in my fingertips when I remember the day we found out—the cops at our house, mom’s screams answering my questions the moment I stepped inside. I still excuse myself to bathrooms just to mash my teeth, pull my hair, and shake when people joke about offing themselves over the most trivial shit. You wouldn’t make light of such darkness unless you took the time to understand how apparent suicide is. Even five years later, I can’t rid myself of the thickness that chokes my throat when people mention your name and ask how I’m doing. What a loaded question.

 

Every feeling in grief is irreversible and unavoidable. I was at once at a restaurant with friends feeling the most self-assured I had in a while. While holding onto my stomach from the pain of laughing too hard, I caught a glimpse of a girl at the other side of the restaurant. She didn’t look like you, but she did that thing you used to always do—flexing your facial muscles to curl the lip upwards without opening it and scrunching it towards your nose. It kind of looked like a strange grimace. But it was your grimace. I don’t know if the tears were from laughing hysterically seconds earlier or from seeing what I thought was something uniquely yours in a stranger—probably a combination of both—but all it took was a memory of you to bring me back into that looming void of nothingness I tried so desperately to escape.

 

These glimpses of you are natural reminders of how fleeting grief is. However, grief isn’t the only association I have with you. More recently than ever, I can hear the way your laugh used to echo from the living room when I was in the kitchen. Sometimes, on nights I find impossible to sleep, the videos you posted on Facebook transport you back with me, enveloping me with this aching, melancholic blanket of memories that calms me into a deep sleep. Discovering your Instagram account a year ago was another rude awakening since I saw a closer timeline leading up to your death. All I could think about for days was if only you could know how much guilt flared up inside me as I pieced together a picture of what had happened that I’ve already subconsciously understood since day one.

 

While it’s a disservice to merely say that grief is complicated, it’s a feeling I’ve grown to live with, rather than move on from—if that’s even possible. It’s the only way I’m able to wake up every day with an active reminder to never repeat the mistakes I’ve made when mistreating others. Losing you in no way has made me a “better” person, but it’s made me come to terms with the darkness in my life and how to make sense of the trauma I’ve experienced since that day. I want to leave an impact on this world that would not only make you proud, but also keeps your remembrance and beautiful soul alive with the people in my life.

 

My love of writing makes this possible, even if it’s at a private level. Through my informal poetry, letters, and journal entries, I try my best to keep you alive through all the pain, love, and beauty in this world—especially filling you in on the parts of life you weren’t here for. As I’m getting closer to the age you were when you died, I’m flooded with not only sorrow, but finally bits of understanding the situation you were in. The world is a scary, unsure place when you’re straddling the border between one life event to another. All I want is to squeeze your hand one last time and let you know how I’m beginning to understand how terrifying and lonely your demons must have been. And I’m so sorry you had to experience them on your own.

 

Here is a poem I wrote when I was 16, a couple weeks after your death:

 

Lost in a place between reality and a dream,

I thought everything would eventually pass,

Just cry in the night and you’ll be healed,

Just smile and no one will ask.

 

Lost in a place between emptiness and anger,

You had all of us but still chose to go

I will never be sure where to go from here,

If only I offered all the love I should’ve shown.

 

Lost in a place between guilt and pain,

So many words you deserved to hear,

Maybe they could’ve saved you from it all.

Now I can only dream of having you near.

 

Forever lost I may be,

Stuck in that place between you and me.

 

 

I like to imagine that you can read my poems and letters for you; it makes losing you a little more bearable, but never easier.

 

I love you, sister.

I always miss you, even in my happiest moments. 

When I first started writing this, I filled my story with flowery language and pointless anecdotes
that distracted from the purpose of this project. Seriously, I started my first sentence with: “I remember
my childhood in flashes of blonde pigtails and floral party dresses...” I will not be doing that this time
around. This will be short and to the point, but probably not that sweet.
I was diagnosed with clinical depression during my freshman year of high school. When the
psychologist I sat in front of explained the chemical imbalance in my brain, I refused to listen. I ignored
my mother and sister when they shared their own experiences with depression. They were both already
taking medication. They told me I should too. I refused to listen to those who wanted to help me because I
refused to believe that I was “crazy.” That’s what we all think, right? When we hear words like
“depression” or “mental illness.” Those people are crazy, or they’re overdramatic. They use fancy words
for “sad” so people will give them sympathy. At least that’s what I thought at the time. But, of course,
none of this is true. People with mental illnesses are neither crazy nor overdramatic. And if I had
recognized this all those years back - that depression and mental illness are very real - then I probably
could have avoided a lot of pain and self-destruction. I probably wouldn’t be writing this today.
Between that point of being diagnosed and finally accepting medication three years later, I’d
“accomplished” a lot. I’d developed a full-proof system of smoking weed before and after school without
my mom noticing. I had started drinking to the point of blackout every time I was given an excuse to
consume alcohol. (I ruined many polite family gatherings and passed out on far too many lawns). I’d lost
my virginity to a random man that I wouldn’t recognize even if he was standing a foot away from me.
And I had attempted suicide twice. I thank the world everyday that neither attempt was successful.
In hindsight, looking back on the years that I try very hard to forget, I realize that I acted the way
I did because I wanted people to see that I was struggling. What I couldn’t say with words, I said with
destructive behavior. But wouldn’t it have been so much easier to just say that I needed help? Had I
spoken up, I probably wouldn’t have so many embarrassing stories from my early teens. I probably would
remember the story of my deflowering, and I probably would be proud to share it. Had I spoken up, I
probably would’ve spared my mom many sleepless nights spent worrying about where her daughter was
and who she was with. Had I asked for help, I probably would’ve found my happiness a lot earlier than I
did.
If I could say anything to that 14-year-old girl, sitting in the office of a concerned psychiatrist, I
would say to accept the help he was offering. I would tell her that accepting help doesn’t make her weak.
I would say to her that taking medication for a mental illness doesn’t make her crazy. She wasn’t crazy.
She was simply struggling.
I would tell that girl with bags under her tired eyes and a fake smile that she too will be happy.
She will wake up one day and smile, without it being forced, and she’ll dance in her room for no reason at
all. I would tell that girl that life will become better once she accepts that life can be better. Life should be
better. I would tell that girl to acknowledge and accept that she needs help, and that’s entirely okay. We
all need help sometimes.
Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence, “ mankind are more disposed to
suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are
accustomed.” I know I can’t ask Mr. Jefferson if my interpretation is correct, but I think his quote applies
here quite nicely. For far too long, I’d ignored the signs that I needed help because I’d become
complacent about my unhappiness. I was comfortable with being unhappy. Being self-destructive. I didn’t
want to put in any effort towards changing my life. Six years later, I can proudly and gladly say that I
eventually did put in that effort. I abolished the forms to which I was accustomed and became a better,
happier person. I faced the sadness that I couldn’t explain and accepted the help that I’d, for so long, been
refusing.
If you’re continuously despondent, waking up miserable most mornings, don’t ignore it. Don’t
accept it as all that life can be. Ask for help. Work towards change and I promise that you won’t regret it.
Life is beautiful when the chemicals in your brain are balanced :).