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Upset crying girl sitting and hugging her knees surrounded by the dislike symbols / editable flat vector illustration, clip art

In Their Own Words

The silhouette of a head pointing left is made up of black and blue hands. Above the head reads "spotlight on," and in the head reads "teen mental health."

Shining the Light: Spotlight on Teen Mental Health logo

Sponsored by our community partners Pain Free Life Centers

Teens share their stories of dealing with mental health challenges.

Battling With Your Brain

My brain is a bully. You are ugly. You suck. You will never be good enough. You are a failure. You are a disappointment. You have no talents. You have no skill. You are dumb. You are worthless. You will never achieve anything in this world. You have no purpose in being alive. Nobody likes you.

Every day I wake up in what seems an unexplainable dystopia reminding myself of my non-existent worth. I am worthless. It is a vicious cycle of negativity. The sun is just a lost planet, and darkness is all I see. It chips away at my brain. Each day that passes, a little part of me falls off and disintegrates.

Countless days and nights in agonizing pain, it feels like I’m being stabbed in the chest by a sharp knife. I feel completely and utterly alone. I begin to question what I am in this world and why I’m alive. I am scared of myself.

The tears pour out of your eyes. Your chest aches of anxiety; your head pounds from hours of crying; you are nauseous; your leg shakes; you feel weak; your body feels heavy as steel.

There is no word to perfectly describe depression. The closest I can get is horror.

It is your childhood nightmare. It is your teenage nightmare. It is your adult nightmare. It is your worst nightmare. It is a nightmare except for the fact that you can’t wake up from it.

“The semicolon was chosen because in literature a semicolon is used when an author chooses to not end a sentence. You are the author and the sentence is your life.
— The Semicolon Project

Through all the suffering, I am still here today. How? When your mind tells you that you want to die, how can you survive?

The fury. The anger. The fuel.

This was something I didn’t learn until one of my darkest periods. Those months were the worst I had ever felt in my life. After a never-ending battle, I finally was on the right track with the right help. This was only because I used the power of my words to speak up and communicate. If I didn’t, my life would have turned out very differently.

Life can suck. A lot. For many reasons. Everyone has their personal struggles, and everyone goes through something in their life.

I used to let mental illness define who I was. It controlled me. Now, I learned that the hardest things you face in life only make you stronger. My illness is my drive. My fuel. It fuels me to face it head on and not let it win. I am tired of quitting. Tired of not seeing the sun rise.

I matter because I know the pain. I know it. I feel it. I experience it.

I matter because every day I strive to let that dark hole inside of me spark a soaring light on the outside.

I matter because I have been through the worst of times. If I can make it out alive, so can you.

Alternate Paths

That path begins with school. We are taught to work hard in school so we can be accepted to a prestigious college or university so that we can be trained to enter the workforce and exit with a fabulous job that pays well. This pathway is enforced so much so that I didn’t once think about an alternate pathway until I was exposed firsthand to a new way of life.

Yosemite National Park, CaliforniaWe were seven miles into our backcountry hike on Upper Yosemite Falls when we came to a consensus that something wasn’t right. We hadn’t seen a mile marker for hours. We were all out of water and completely lost in one of the densest forests on the planet.

“Everyone dies but not everyone
lives, so go outside and live!”

Just when all hope was lost, a flashlight began to shine in our direction. The man yelled for us to come toward the light for help. We finally reached the man and were amazed to see the cleared-out section of forest in which he and his wife had been living in for six years.

After hours of small talk, we learned that the couple were fed up with their middle-class desk jobs; and the two picked up and ventured into the wild. Six years later, they are happily living one with nature; they hunt for food and hike down to the lower Yosemite Falls to shower.

On my travels, I found that the core of our spirit comes from new experiences.

Supporting Yourself

When I was young, my sister and I were on Disney’s website making a fairy version of ourselves after watching Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure. When I asked my sister what she wanted to look like, I was at a loss when she pointed to a fairy that was white. When I asked her why, she said, “I wish I was white.”

girl with head in arms and backpack looking upset. mental illness. mental health. teen mental health

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At the time, my mother was in our room putting our clothes away in a closet and she immediately scolded my sister for saying this.

Fast forward a few years and now I am in her situation. I often find myself staring at the white people in my classroom thinking about how much easier their lives are because they don’t have the added barrier of being black in America.

Even though I know that being white won’t solve all my problems and that being black is amazing and beautiful, I still can’t help feeling my blackness is a burden.

I want to hear more black people who have problems feeling like they matter, so I thought that I should start with myself. And I guess this is my way of overcoming this feeling because writing this is like lifting a weight off my shoulders.

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I strive to remind myself that I’m important and that I have so many people who love and support me. I need to love and support me, too.

These anonymous essays are from teens at Friendship Circle.

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