In Their Own Words
Sponsored by our community partners Pain Free Life Centers
Essays from local teens dealing with mental health challenges.
Teens involved in UMatter at the Friendship Circle in West Bloomfield periodically submit essays to the organization’s website that deal with their own personal struggles with mental health. Friendship Circle is sharing these anonymous essays with the JN.
Don’t Go It Alone
During my sophomore year of high school, my friend and I had a huge falling out that left me devastated. The whole situation made me sad, but a type of sad I had never really felt before. I would cry myself to sleep at night, and during the day I would pretend like everything was fine.
Using my outgoing personality as a mask to my real feelings, I became the life of the party, constantly trying to make my friends laugh. When I got home, however, I was a completely different person. It started off as me being sad about my friend, but then my mind started wandering and, suddenly, I was just always sad. Honestly, in that moment, that’s all I really wanted to be. I began to feel comfortable being sad, like it was just something that was a part of my day.
As I reflect on that time, I think about what advice I would give to my past self or anyone struggling like I did. The thing I came up with is so basic yet so important: Talk to someone. This is definitely easier said than done, but bottling up your feelings will not help you. I understand this is such a difficult thing, and I get how nerve-racking it is to choose a person to confide in; but talking things out and seeking help — or treatment if needed — can change your life so much.
I know talking to someone is not going to instantly cure your pain, but it does open the conversation to help you feel a little less alone in your journey. Without the support of my friends, I cannot imagine where I would be today. They listened when I needed them to and held me up when I was feeling down.
As you go forward, please remember you are not alone, and there are so many people in this world who love you and want to help you.
Want to know the fantastic thing about Generalized Anxiety Disorder? Imagine a snowball. Each snowflake is an anxious tendency that gets rolled up into one giant snowball. Isn’t that great? Maybe it’s terrific for a snowman, but not for me.
It all started when I was little and terrified of tornadoes and being kidnapped. Eventually, I went to therapy because I was paranoid to a point of ridiculousness. Therapy helped, and my fears were temporarily subdued. However, that was only the beginning.
My freshman year, I began to feel dizzy all the time. I didn’t know that what I was experiencing was anxiety. The doctors didn’t initially consider anxiety and ordered a hospital test to make sure my heart and brain were functioning properly. The results came back normal, but I didn’t feel any better.
Then sophomore year started. I was told this would be the best year of high school, the easiest and the most fun. Boy, were they wrong! I struggled immensely with friends and my grades, and constantly felt down about myself. I tried to make new friends by joining a youth group, but both times we went on overnights, I got sick. My mother even drove four hours in the middle of the night to pick me up. Anxiety was preventing me from doing something as simple as sleeping out, and I felt horrible about myself. I convinced myself there had to be something wrong with me.
Junior year was shockingly better than sophomore year, at least concerning grades and friends. Although my anxiety had a different idea; life couldn’t be too great, right? My anxiety decided to think the most obscene, morbid and unrealistic thoughts. Constantly. I thought it was normal because every time a thought would pop in my head it would be mortifying. I distinctly remember once walking toward school and a FedEx guy was standing near me. For no apparent reason, I thought, “What if he stabs me?” This kind of thought was normal! Obviously, the likelihood of that scenario playing out was next to nothing, but I still thought it.
My anxiety has prohibited me from being social. It has stopped me from going out and acting my age. It has me constantly overthinking, and I’m my worst critic. I used to always feel nauseated, and my head and shoulders would hurt. My chest would constrict and slowly the world would end.
After all this, what may surprise you is I’m a generally happy person. I run cross country, play soccer, do school plays and volunteer on a regular basis. I’m always busy. I like being with people, learning and making friends. I’m a social butterfly with a chip on her wing.
I’ve struggled long enough that I’m done letting anxiety rule my life. I’m open with my struggles because it feels good to share with people. I’m learning to cope and learning that the dark moments will eventually end. Thanks to my family and friends, whom I’m very lucky to have, I know that the bad days will turn into good days, and I’ll be OK.
Never give up; life is truly worth living because you only get one shot. Even the happiest and luckiest person in the world can have dark moments. Reach out to the people around you or pick up a hobby and find something that makes you happy. Don’t listen to what other people say because the people who deserve to be in your life are the ones who will stand by you no matter what. Find those people; be yourself and keep fighting.
Fighting An Eating Disorder
The first time I forced myself to throw up, I was elated. I felt lighter, happier and strangely more in control of myself. I had found a way to prevent weight gain but still eat whatever I wanted — or so I thought. I was 12.
Over the years, my preoccupation with food grew to the point where I dreaded waking up in the morning because I didn’t want to face eating. My whole life revolved around food. I was stuck in a vicious cycle of dieting, fasting, binging and throwing up. I was left feeling depressed, exhausted, irritated and fed up with my body and myself.
Looking back, my six-year struggle with eating disorders was triggered by the crushing pressures of being a competitive athlete and not having many friends as a young girl. I was lonely in elementary school — the weird fat kid who everyone loved to exclude. I was told I was too fat to be friends with anyone. I turned to food for happiness and somehow throwing up took my mind off things. It made me too tired to deal with the stresses of life. In turn, my schoolwork suffered. I barely turned assignments in on time because I just wanted to binge, purge and sleep. My athletic performance was destroyed, and I ended up sacrificing any chance I had of swimming in college.
My rock bottom — the point where I knew I had to turn things around — was when I found myself crying in a bathroom after throwing up at my own nephew’s birthday party. I spent years lying to my family and friends about why I had red eyes, constant fatigue, throat aches and stomach pains. My overly conservative family would never accept the truth.
Today, I am in a better place. I still cringe at the words “eating disorder,” and I have many, many relapses — but I’m stronger now. I am still working on loving my body and myself, but I’ve learned to depend on my family and friends to show me true happiness — not food. I have embarked on a journey of healthier living and building up a circle of support around me.
Volunteering at Friendship Circle was one of the many things that pulled me out of this hole. Working with teens and kids who are so capable of genuine love and affection gave me a positive way to channel my energy. I now have an amazing friend group who has lifted me up and supported me through rough times.
I came clean to my family about all the times I hid food, the disappearances of large amounts of food and why I skipped so many days of school — 77 days a semester during my junior and senior years to be precise.
I’m still not better, but that’s a part of life. Sometimes you will face uphill battles, but you are never alone. Find hobbies to invest yourself in, hang out with people you love and know that one day you will look back at your battle scars and they will give you the strength and determination to keep fighting.
Teenage years are incredibly difficult, but by creating an atmosphere of love and acceptance, no one will ever have to walk that road alone.
Deciding To Live
I was 15 when I flew head first through
a back windshield.
I was 15 when my best friend died right
in front of me.
I was 15 when I had to relearn to read,
write and walk.
I was 15 when I stopped sleeping at night.
I was 15 when I had my first suicidal thought.
I was 15 when I became consumed by depression,
anxiety and PTSD.
I was 15 when I was too anxious and sad to eat.
I was 15 when I first attempted suicide.
I was 16 when I started having seizures.
I was 16 when all of my friends decided that I was too
different to hang out with anymore.
I was 17 when I attempted suicide for the last time.
I was 17 when I decided to live.
I was 17 when I painted my room white and decided
to start with a clean slate.
I was 17 when I decided that I was going
to be a success story.
I was 18 when I figured out that I wanted to help
as many people as I could.
I am now 21 and I am the happiest and strongest
that I have ever been.