After going to an inpatient program for anxiety and depression, Lauren Schostak shared her story of recovery at UMatter’s One Thing I Wish You Knew event in 2019.
When Lauren Schostak was a sophomore in high school, she had coffee with Rabbi Yarden Blumstein, a teen mentor at UMatter, and he knew something wasn’t right.
“He could tell I wasn’t myself,” she said.
A year later, after going to an inpatient program for anxiety and depression, Schostak, now 18, shared her story of recovery at UMatter’s One Thing I Wish You Knew event in 2019. UMatter is a program focused on empowering teens to shatter the stigmas surrounding mental health challenges.
Schostak started experiencing panic attacks when she was 10 years old.
“I didn’t know what to call it,” she said. “I had this overwhelming physical and mental feeling, especially in social situations.”
She had been a perfectionist from an early age, which caused her anxiety because, without realizing it, she was also struggling with an undiagnosed learning disability.
“It was very challenging for me,” she said. “When things weren’t clicking for me in school, it was even more frustrating.”
Teasing for her petite frame added to her childhood struggles.
“I felt very targeted,” she said.
The transition to high school at Frankel Jewish Academy was hard for Schostak. She was thankful to receive support after being diagnosed with social anxiety and a learning disability, but it didn’t help her mental state. Schostak found herself not wanting to do anything.
“I was afraid it wasn’t going to be perfect,” she said. “I ended up isolating myself. I got into this very depressive state. Anxiety and depression went hand in hand for me.”
Schostak was admitted to an inpatient program in February 2018. She stayed for about two weeks and was treated with a team of doctors and new therapies.
“I look back on it and think about its benefits but, in the moment, it was very hard for me,” Schostak said. “I felt like it was an intervention. Honestly, I just wanted to go home.”
Schostak’s biggest takeaway from treatment was the courage to advocate for herself.
“I was sick and tired of being depressed and anxious all the time. If you don’t want to get better yourself, nothing’s going to change,” she said. “That was a breakthrough moment for me. I was the one who had the power to help myself.”
Schostak used this strength to make a major change in her life. She told her parents FJA was not the right school for her. They listened and, in the fall of 2018, she started her junior year at Berkley High School.
“I have nothing bad to say about FJA,” she added. “It was just a little too small
After starting to advocate for herself, Schostak found a passion for mental health. She spoke out about her experience with mental illness and became involved with UMatter.
“It has brought a purpose to my life,” she said. “I might be little and quiet, but I’m more than that. I’m not afraid to speak up.”
With the help of a friend, Schostak brought a UMatter club to Berkley High School in 2020, which she considers to be one of her biggest accomplishments. Only five schools in Metro Detroit have clubs.
“We really just wanted to create a community at our school that was open to talking about mental health because it shouldn’t be stigmatized,” she added.
Schostak will be attending Lyman Briggs College at Michigan State University to study neuroscience in the fall. She said her experience with mental illness has given her a passion for the brain and how it works.
“I definitely wanted to be an advocate for mental health in college and for the rest of my life,” she said. “Dealing with mental illness is a process. Nothing’s going to change overnight. I still deal with anxious thoughts on a daily basis. I’ve learned ways to cope with that.”
This is the second in a four-part series on teens who’ve triumphed over mental health issues.
—-UMatter is a program focused on empowering teens to shatter the stigmas surrounding mental health challenges.
It is common to re-voice people trained to the above prejudice, but re-voicing them only empowers them.
Harold A Maio, retired mental health editor
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