The Background Info

August 31, 2013
By , North Brunswick, NJ
From my early childhood, I have always been a positive, happy and friendly child. I was the kid who would have long and intelligent conversations with my elementary school teachers. I was the girl who would go out of her way to befriend as many new people as possible. I asked questions, made jokes, and got people smiling. Yes, I was quirky, in love with fantastical fiction. I marched to the beat of my own drum, but I was always confident. I was always happy with myself.

I remember vividly the day I felt that my raging fire had used up its supply of oxygen. The last day of fifth grade was a beautifully warm June afternoon, but walking home from the bus stop held no joy for me. There was no spring in my step, no excitement buzzed in my brain. I recall being worried, and confused. The emerald-green leaves above my head were just as beautiful as ever, but they had no effect on my monotone thoughts. This time last year, I would have been enjoying a high every kid knows well. Was this growing up? If this was what it felt like, then what was the point?

In the coming years, I would begin to suspect that the world was hiding a secret from me. The exciting world that I had reached out to with open arms, invited into my heart with the sincere wonder of a child had held back its true nature: no one was happy. Teachers, students, parents, and friends- everyone had misery locked inside their hearts. When people spoke, they complained. When they got something, they wanted more. No contentment existed, and humans wandered without destination. I would never succeed; I was not good enough, smart enough, attractive enough or different enough to mean anything to the world.

What began as a suspicion began to permeate my everyday life. Friends became shallow and uninteresting, classwork began to lose meaning. Sports became chores and sleep fled, or came only after a panic attack receded and left me gasping for air and covered in used tissues. Eleventh grade began and I was scared for my future, and for my life. Even though my once-expansive group of friends had dwindled into a precious few, with easily the most priceless being my boyfriend of three years, I was still shocked to hear the psychiatrist say, “You seem to have extraordinarily low self-esteem!”

Mental illness is a tricky subject. Families hide it, the media abuses it, and unless you have experienced it, it defies understanding. No one gets through life without having a cold or a fever, but not everyone will go through the trauma of depression. Junior year of high school is commonly accepted as the most difficult year of grade school. The stress piled on by high level academics, varsity sports, clubs, jobs and the upcoming college search is a struggle for just about every teen. Personally, my junior year was not just a struggle, but a tooth and nail battle. Clinical depression, anxiety, Obsessive Compulsive spectrum disorders and premenstrual dysphoric disorder are not easygoing classmates. Doctors’ appointments and softball practice collide. Anxiety stomachaches make for a miserable cross country practice. These private battles are difficult to hide, but even harder to explain.

These struggles are not all in the past for me. Every day I continue to wage a war for my happiness and sanity- no exaggeration is necessary. The difference between today and a year ago is still astounding. I am able to be proud of who I am and how far I have come. Being able to relax enough to smile and say, “I am enough and I have done enough” is a prize more rewarding than any I have earned so far in life. I have big plans, and I intend to see them through with ambition, confidence and pride.

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