How To Be an Iceberg This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

September 12, 2013
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Start by having a mental breakdown. Have your parents force you to go to a school where the motto is “Linking education and emotional support.” This school, because of its small facilities (the bagel store next door is bigger than this “school”), takes a maximum of 25 students. The scheduling of your breakdown was a little off, so you start in the last week of October, you are the 19th student.

Spend your first month just watching; keep your mouth shut unless you are complimenting someone or answering a teacher. This is called “The Honeymoon phase.” The others will think you're sweet and just a little shy or perhaps they will think you have social anxiety; maybe that is why you go to this school. Let them think that, you'd rather have them assume you just don't like people than have them know why you really go here. You hate it when people pity you because of your illness.

After this phase has passed be prepared for students to ask you questions. Some kids, usually the ones with Asperger's, might go straight to the point and ask you why you go to You mumble something very vague like “I'm a bad kid” and make them think you're as deep as a glass of water.

You start to get to know some of your classmates, like Lily, who is a grade above you, is short with brown hair that has bleached blond streaks in it. She always wears her hair in a ponytail and you can see her hazel eyes through her large square glasses. You learn fairly quickly she has depression and anxiety and refuses to do any work, but still manages to pass each year.

You learn that Lily likes to draw horses as well – that's basically all you ever see her do. You also become aware that she does not believe in rulers. “It's cheating,” she says to you, you nod and stay quiet.

Sports are something you obviously have to rule out of hobbies, so you start to draw. A senior named Gunner takes you under his wing. Gunner is the wittiest person you have ever met. You become close enough to ask him why he goes to this school and it turns out when he was 16 he went to rehab for popping pills. When you asked him what kind of pills he says anything he could get his hands on. You don't understand why he would still go to this school since he is now clean, but you don't want to pry. Lucky for you he doesn't ask why you go to this school.

Learn from him what pencils to use when drawing specific things and how to shade. Find out you're actually not horrible at drawing and in the very few times you have the energy to do something, you draw.

You begin talking to a very mysterious boy named Thatcher. He's tall and has long Justin-Bieber-like dark brown hair and deep brown eyes. He tells you he has obsessive-compulsive disorder, but he says he is still crazy and free. The scars that handcuff his wrists make you believe otherwise. You fall in love with him.

You tell him the truth about why you came to this school because you believe he deserves to know. Tell him how you were bedridden for two years, so you were homeschooled before coming here, but how you were really lonely being alone all day, so your parents sent you here. You tell him how you are slowly but surely regain your health, but still very ill. He holds your hands as you tell him and replies by telling you how you are an inspiration, how he's never met anyone who's strong enough to win battles no one knows about.

One day in English class you read a story by Ernest Hemingway called “Hills like White Elephants” and your teacher tells you about Ernest Hemingway's “Iceberg Theory.” He explains how in Hemingway's story only a little bit of information is visible and the rest in hidden, which is why, when you're reading Hemingway's work, you're very confused about what the characters are talking about. He continues by comparing the story to an iceberg because an iceberg is only 10% visible and the rest is unseen beneath the waves.

You start to contemplate how you are an iceberg because people can see you, but they cannot see the invisible struggles you must deal with internally everyday.

The next day you go to school and turn in homework that you know isn't anywhere near your best. You're having a particularly bad day health-wise because your doctor put you on a new medication and with that comes the “It Gets Worse Before it Gets Better” phase. During class you want nothing more than to lie down on the ground right in the middle of the classroom and sleep until next week.

The teacher makes you read your homework aloud and then she tells you how she thinks you are doing the absolute minimum to get by, that you can achieve so much more. She says this in front of the whole class and in that moment all you want to do is breakdown in tears, but you are too tired to even do that, so you just nod and stay quiet. Thatcher will be able tell you are having a hard time just by your silence. He holds your hand the rest of the day, even though you have unusually cold hands because it's difficult for your blood to circulate all the way to then end of your limbs. After class, he takes you to a corner and lets you bury your head in his shoulder while he tells you how strong you are and that if the teacher knew she wouldn't be this hard on you. He also tells you to hang in there because there is only one more period left before school ends for the day.

After school you go home and go straight to bed. You wake up the morning with a text from Thatcher sent at 2:00 am, saying he couldn't sleep but he loves you and hopes that you feel better. That day you feel a lot better than you did the day before.

After the semester is over you find in the comments on your report card that the teacher reiterated what she told you before, that you are not “maximizing your potential.” You want to have a chat with this teacher, but you realize what you would say to her is very disrespectful because she is an adult, so you decide against it.

A little bit down the line Lily will come to school with 20 Abilify in her jacket pocket. Abilify is an antidepressant, but you already knew this. You watch her come in that morning and go straight to the water cooler for a cup of water, while keeping one of her hands deep in her pocket. As she's carrying her full cup of water to a table, it spills a little and you see Lily take her hand out of her pocket to steady the cup of water. As she does this you see a small pink pill pop out of her pocket, she quickly picks it off the ground and puts it back in her pocket.
She continues to the table and set down the water. You go up to her and take her water and dump it in the trash. She asks you what the hell you're doing, but you look in her eye and put out your right hand. To your surprise, Lily won't hesitate and will give you her handful of the small pink pills. You thought you would have to force Lily to give them to you, but you're glad she made it so easy. You wonder what to do with these pills and end up giving them to the principal who acts totally nonchalant, like this has happened ten times before, you learn from the other kids that this is not the first time Lily has done this, but it is the first time another student has gotten involved.

The other kids say Lily “cries wolf” all the time and this sounds like the crudest thing you have ever heard. You feel bad because in the story where the boy cries wolf, the wolf eventually comes. You take a moment to pray the wolf is never able to get to Lily.

The principal calls your mom to make sure you aren't traumatized and they make you talk to one of the three therapists at the school, but you are already forced to meet with them twice a week.

After the therapist has confirmed you are not emotionally disturbed from this event, you go back to your normal routine. You don't see Lily back at school for a while, but you hear she went to stay at a treatment center. For a split second you feel a twinge of jealousy because no treatment center on the East Coast would let you stay with them because “your illness is physical, not mental.” They tell you “get better physically and you will get better emotionally. There is nothing we can do for you here.”

You start to ponder which is worse, being trapped inside your own body or trapped inside your own mind. You come to the conclusion that they both pretty much suck.

You become friends with a girl named Stacy, who has waist length curly brown hair until she decided to shave it all off. She justifies this by saying it was on her bucket list, but two weeks later she tells people she did it for cancer awareness, you have never felt so personally offended. You wish people would do things to show awareness for your disease with an unknown cure, but it's not as mainstream as cancer.
Later that day a boy named Tucker, who has Aspergers and gray hair because Stacy dyed it blue, but didn't leave the dye in long enough, asks Stacy how she got the cuts on her wrists. Stacy says her cat scratched her. You don't recall Stacy ever mentioning having a cat. You let it go because if it were you, you wouldn't want anyone to call you out.

You usually stay at school for lunch because you don't want to waste your energy walking when you can just bring lunch, especially considering how rare it is that you're actually hungry.

Stacy, Gunner, and Tucker always go out to lunch. You go out with them because you forgot yours. You find out they do not actually go out for lunch, they go to the abandoned train station behind the school to smoke. You want to tell them that you know what it's like not to be able to breathe, that eventually they will be able to feel like they're drowning without water and that they're in for a treat, but you decide against it. You justify it in your head that sad people smoke a lot and hope that it's not a regular thing for them.

You feel awkward just sitting there while they smoke their cigarettes, so you check you phone, no texts from Thatcher, lately that hasn't been so out of the ordinary.

When they're done with they're cigarettes they ask you if you have any gum or perfume because if the teachers smell smoke on them, they won't let them go out for lunch anymore. You give them gum, but you don't have any perfume on you. They thank you for the gum anyway.
The next day you go out with them again and bring perfume, you also bring scented moisturizer to help them get the smell off their fingers. They smile at you for being so thoughtful.

After a couple months you have gone through 13 packs of gum, two bottles of Taylor Swift's Enchanted Wonderstruck body lotion, and one bottle of Bath & Bodywork's Be Enchanted body mist. Even though you don't smoke with them, you still feel included and a little bit like a bad ass. You are no longer the shy girl who keeps her mouth shut.

Valerie, another girl you get to know, who's gorgeous, has long blonde hair and flawless skin. She is super tall and always wears shirts that show her midriff, shirts you wish you had the curves to pull off. She has ADHD and sometimes in class you watch her take glue and smear it all over her hand. You stare in amusement, as she waits for it to dry and peels it off piece by piece. You really want to like her, you really do try, but she and Thatcher always have these inside jokes and you always feel like a third wheel when around them. You start to believe she is part of the reason you and Thatcher fell out of love.

Thatcher shaves his head, says Stacy inspired him. He also says it's for cancer awareness and you have never felt so betrayed in your life. You dye your hair red because you want a change.

You start to wonder if you are still an iceberg since there is one person who can see all 100% of you, but you are no longer affiliated with him and you never want to be.

You start desperately searching Google for other things that are only half visible, but you find really crappy answers like the moon, which you know isn't technically correct because there are times where you can see more than 50% of the moon.

You feel you are getting too technical now. There must be some icebergs that are 30% visible or maybe even 70% visible. To you, the iceberg theory no longer just relates to a category of short stories, but to humanity as a whole. We are all icebergs.

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graydivisionThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
May 8, 2016 at 4:14 pm
This is amazing. Great work!
Kiwi. said...
Sept. 19, 2013 at 11:04 am
This is amazing... outstanding work, takes you rightto that headst, great ending and comparison I hadn't thought about before - definitely will now ;)
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