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Just Another Statistic

By , Henrico, VA
It’s September sixth, the official first day of my junior year in high school. Friends are hugging each other in the commons, gabbing about their schedules and hoping, praying, that they end up having lunch together. I suppose I should be used to this after two years. There’s a difference between the desperate freshmen, easily spotted while they frantically refer to their schedules in the middle of the hallway between classes, and myself. Quietly navigating the congested hallways with an indifferent expression on my face, occasionally “trying” to restrain myself from rolling my eyes at the morons who are walking behind me. But that doesn’t stop the awful pains in my stomach, churning and greedily possessing all my attention. I arrive at my fourth period class, and our teacher hands out a questionnaire designed to let him get to know us better. The typical inquiries are listed: favorite TV shows, extracurriculars, hobbies, etc. And then I get to the last question. “Illnesses/allergies I should be aware of” (or something along those lines), followed by two and a half blank lines. I bite my lip. What can I say I’m allergic to? Happiness? Normalcy? Because, let’s face it. Most people really don’t count depression as an “illness,” let alone one critical enough for your high school physics teacher to know.

Despite the NUMEROUS, and I mean numerous, TV and magazine ads advertising Prozac, Celexa, Zolaft, and every other antidepressant that sounds like it should be a character out of a Tolkien novel, and the few days we spent in Health class talking about suicide and how to spot the warning signs, there is an unofficial taboo on depression. It’s just a joke to kids my age. And the commercials and ads make it seem like you can just go to your physician and say “I’m depressed,” and the doc will say, “Great! Let’s get you some Prozac!” I envy anyone whose depression was silenced by a simple doctor’s visit and monthly refill. And all of the people in those commercials or pictured in those ads are middle-aged adults. There are TONS of authors and celebrities who have spoken about their experiences with depression, but nobody understands what it’s like to be in high school on top of it.

I read somewhere that the stress put on teenagers is at its highest in today’s society. By third grade we’re being given standardized tests to decide what types of classes we should be in, by middle school we’re taking exams, and then high school is a whole new ballgame: pep rallies, seniors, finding people to sit with at lunch, GPA, midterms, final exams, AP exams, PSAT’s, SAT’s, ACT’s, college recommendations, college applications, volunteering. And in addition to all of this, we’re expected to have hobbies, jobs, clubs, sports, and time to spend with friends and family. Take a moment to imagine that. Now add in the effects of self-esteem issues, family/friend drama, dating… And last but not least. Add ten minutes of crying after seeing yourself in the mirror. Thirty minutes of not being able to fall asleep because if you sleep it means you’ll have to wake up and go to school the next day. Ten to fifteen minutes to hate yourself and remind yourself that you’re not good at anything, you’re a burden to your family and friends, and whatever else you are insecure/worried/depressed about at the time. Now try to find the motivation to do your homework.

Those are all the things that make me a typical depressed teenager. But I’m also going to add that depression has given me gifts that I will never regret receiving. I will never regret the day I spent making a list of things I would miss if I committed suicide. I will never regret learning how to be compassionate to ANYONE I see, no matter who they are or what they look like, because I really don’t know what they’re going through. I will never regret learning to fight against blind judgment and hatred. I will never regret learning to love others more than myself. And most of all, I will never regret learning to cherish everything I see, everything I read, everything I encounter… the feel of cold Maine water splashing against my feet, or the smell of honeysuckle on a peaceful drive in the country at sunset, or the smiles of my niece and nephews and the adorable things they say, or the love of a friend. My world may seem dark and lonely when I am sitting in my bed dreading the next school day. But the one thing I am confident in is that I am a good, loving person. And that is more important to me than any grade, any scholarship, or even just a night to feel “normal.” I am NOT a statistic. I am not just another high school girl. So take a walk in my shoes before you start putting labels on me or my disorders.





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Sumana2 said...
Sept. 14, 2011 at 10:35 pm
I don't know you, but i know somethings you're good at: Writing, cherishing and appreciating. Never give up the fight. No one can tell your worth now, just hold on a little longer.
 
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