Growing up, I was always surrounded by the Catholic faith. I was baptized and raised Catholic. My family and I went to church every Sunday. I knew how important it was to go to mass and to receive holy communion. I even attended a Catholic school from the ages of six until I was fourteen. I always had religion in my life whether I was at home or at school. Unfortunately, after I graduated the eighth grade, private school was too expensive, so my parents decided to send me to the local public school and have me attend a youth group. I knew I would be facing difficult challenges, but I didn’t realize how hard they would be until I faced them head on.
I remember feeling both excited and nervous to start high school. I was excited to begin a new chapter in my life; I was ready to meet new friends and feel like an older kid. I was ready to start a new beginning. At the same time, I was also scared. I was going to a completely different school than the kids I grew up with. I was going to a school where I knew only a couple of people, and some of the people had already hurt me in the past. I was also going to a school where I knew my faith would be tested.
I went into high school with too many expectations. I knew of a girl, a year older than me, that had attended the same Catholic school I went to. She went to same high school as me. I saw right away she had no trouble make friends. I’ve seen multiple movies where everyone was interested in the new kid. For some reason, I expected that. However, what I got was the exact opposite.
The minute I walked down the hall, everyone just knew I didn’t belong. It was a small school where everyone knew everyone. The students had been going to school together since Kindergarten. So when a new girl walked in, they’re focus turned there. I could feel the eyes on the back of my head, and I could hear people whispering about me. They wanted to know where I came from and what I was doing at the school. The worst part, no one came and asked me. They just talked.
It didn’t take long for everyone to know where I came from. It took about a week to know where I came from: it didn’t take long to be known as the ‘Catholic girl.’ Without wanting to go too much into it, I will mention that two boys picked on me for weeks. Multiple times they sent me home in tears and wanting to transfer schools.
I spent the rest of my freshman year kind of alone. Sure, I had some acquaintances. I had people I could sit at lunch with to eat. I had people to talk to at lunch, but other than that I really had no one. At the same time, I was going through what every teenager goes through. I dealt with low self-esteem. I hated the way I looked, and I hated the way I weighed. I felt so ugly, and I felt like no one should be around me. I felt so isolated. I It wasn’t until my sophomore year I made a new friend. In this paper, I will call her Lucy.
Lucy was a freshman. The minute we talked, we clicked. We had the same sense of humor, we liked similar music, and we overall we had similar personalities. The one thing that drew us together was that we were both battling depression. We had each other to cheer the other up and make each other smile. For the time being, it helped me get through.
It wasn’t until February that everything changed. Lucy messaged me and told me that she wanted to kill herself. I remember immediately bursting into tears and begging her not to. Long story short, I got her to calm down and everything was fine for now.
Unfortunately for me, this was a vicious cycle we went through. Lucy would message me that she was feeling suicidal, and I would do everything in my power to calm her down. It got to a point every time my phone would vibrate, I would be terrified to even look at it. I couldn’t sleep most nights, and I had trouble eating. My grades never slipped drastically, but they weren’t want I wanted them to be. I couldn’t focus for the longest time.
This went on for a month. Then, in the middle of March, everything changed. Lucy messaged me and told me she overdosed on pills. Terrified, I tried calling our school counselor, but I couldn’t get ahold of her. Eventually, I called 911, and they sent an ambulance to her house. That night, I could not sleep. I kept thinking about Lucy and how terrified I was for her. That night, I myself wanted to die, for I could not handle all the pain and anxiety I was dealing with, but there was a voice in my head telling me not to remain strong and to keep going. So I did.
I had hoped after that incident Lucy would get help and everything would be better, but it didn’t. Exactly one week later she tried to harm herself again, and for the second time, I called 911. My heart was broken, and I was completely lost.
For months after that I felt like I wasn’t in my body. I felt like I was somewhere else. I was so sad. I was also angry. Angry at Lucy for putting me through this over and over again, but I also felt angry at God. I didn’t know why he was allowing all of this to happen. I was so confused. I knew God had all this power, so why didn’t use to it to make it stop? Why didn’t he take away my pain? Why couldn’t he make Lucy be better?
I never stopped believing God, but I doubted very much. I doubted the power of prayer. I kind of just gave up and stopped praying. At this point, I was just trying to get through school without having a mental breakdown. The trauma of Lucy weighed on me for a very long time.
I wish I could stay the story of Lucy ends happily, but it does not. Lucy attempted suicide a third time. Luckily, she did not die, but at this point I was at my wits end. I could not handle this anymore. If she was not going to help herself, then there was not anything I could do. I finally had to put myself first. I finally ended my friendship with Lucy, and said my goodbye. My journey after that still remained rocky.
For the longest time I carried the trauma of almost losing a friend to suicide not one, but three times. I spent multiple nights waking up in the middle of the night dreaming of the messages. I to leave class some days because of how bad my anxiety was. That lead me to one of my worst habits: self-harm.
I knew how wrong self-harm was. I knew if anyone in my family found out they would be heart broken, but at the time I did not care. I just wanted a way to deal with the pain I was going through. I did not want to have to think about my depression anymore. I wanted something knew to focus on.
This went on about a year. I went through my junior year feeling like a zombie. I was there, but I didn’t feel there. I still felt alone, and I had nobody to turn to. Either no one cared to listen, or they didn’t understand to listen. I was fighting a war I never asked to be in. I just wanted it all to stop.
I remember one night I seriously contemplated killing myself. I was so tired and my heart ached too much. I sat down on my bedroom floor, sobbing my eyes out. I had written to my little brother, telling him how sorry I was. I told him that this was not his fault, and I begged him to promise me he will try to move on and to be happy.
I thought about my best friend, we’ll call her Anne, and how I would be leaving her behind. That was my biggest battle. I knew I couldn’t leave her, but at the same time I felt like I couldn’t stay. I continued to cry and beg God to make this all stop.
After about what felt like ages of crying, my phone buzzed. I looked down and saw it was my friend Cindy. She had asked me to try a retreat. It was a weekend for teens to get away and to learn about God. When I received this, I knew it was God telling me my journey wasn’t over yet, and he was right. With Anne on my mind, I decided to give it a try.
Going into the retreat, I was very nervous. I was still very shy, and I did not know what to expect. However, that weekend changed my life. I had never been in an atmosphere where I felt so loved and accepted. Everyone there welcome you with open arms and love. It was there way of saying that everything was okay. It gave me the opportunity to leave me baggage behind and to talk to others.
Being able to hear other people’s stories made my own heart open. For the first time in a long time, I felt confident enough to talk. I told my new friends about Lucy and how she hurt me, and then they hugged me. It was such an emotional and beautiful moment for me, and I will never ever forget it.
When the weekend was over, I was on such a God high. I wanted to tell everybody about my new faith. I felt so close to God. Going to church never felt like a requirement after that; it felt like a privilege. I was back on the road to God.
I wish I could say after that, I was completely happy. However, I was not. I still went through my daily battles of self loathe and loneliness. I still had my days where I wanted God to allow me to come home to him, but I never gave up. Knowing I had a family in Christ having my back, I fought through my battles and I graduated high school. I won the war.
Now in the year of 2016, being a college freshman, I have never been so happy. The lord has continued to bless me with wonderful people in my life. Without my family, and without my friends, I would have never gotten where I am now. God lead me to Alverno, and I never felt so much at home before.
Even now, I have some days where I battle myself, but thanks to God, I have a new strength that allows me to fight them. The one thing that motivates me to keep going is a verse found in Pslams 37:5; “God has a reason for allowing things to happen. We may never understand his wisdom, but we simply have to trust his will.” Without the battles I fought through high school, I would have never have become as a strong as I am today.