The Difference : Some Words on Depression and Anxiety (Part 3)

Although, I cannot let myself dream. Because this is my reality.

This life of just making it through the day, every day. A life where my potential has shifted from becoming a scholar or a Juilliard musician; now, if I can get out of bed to shower and brush my teeth, that is an accomplished day for me.

I live like a broken record. Every day the same feelings plague me in almost everything that I do. This vicious thought cycle that I spend so much time and effort attempting to dissolve obstructs me from ever being able to be my best self or the kind of person I want to be to others. This disease continues to eat away at everything in my life and my ability to even function as a productive member in society.

 But all that most people care to see is the girl who always has her headphones in, doesn't care about much, and always seems to be in an off mood.

Deep down I know that is not my identity. It’s hard to remember that when your brain tries to make you feel like the whole world is against you. And I’m here to say that it's not.

If you read this and it sounds like you, I'm begging you to reach out. Don’t wait as long as I did to get help. It won't make you any stronger, it only means that you're getting worse when you could be getting better.

I know too many men also who are struggling yet refuse to accept any outside help. It breaks my heart to know that the hyper-masculinity standards pushed onto our boys keeps them from seeking the attention they need for the sake of their mental health.

Furthermore, the toxic mindset of "everyone has problems, just wait for it to pass" has cost far too many lives, as well. It’s not something that can simply go away with sheer willpower and positive thinking. Eating well and staying hydrated doesn't reverse the chemical reactions in your brain. You can't expect to pray the depression away, either. (Please remember that. Don't let it add to your guilt that you blame yourself because you think you're being punished for something.) Those things help a great deal, but they're not a permanent solution.

This is the truth. This is real. Depression is inside of 1 out of every 8 teenagers. It’s happening, every day, all around us, with a national average of 5,240 suicide attempts occurring in teens EVERY DAY. 5,240 HUMAN BEINGS who are someone's child, someone's sibling, someone's best friend. 

            Everybody is somebody else's everything.

When you break your arm, you need a cast. When you become depressed, you need to get help. It’s as simple as that.

The hard truth is that your family and friends won't always feel supportive. This isn't the case for everyone, but it's a very real possibility. I say "feel" because the majority of this initial concern is just another cognitive distortion: worrying you'll "annoy" your loved ones with your burdens. But despite what your illness tries to convince you, this does not mean you are alone. There is alwayshelp; someone is always more than willing to talk with you, and there is always someone out there who is able to understand and empathize with what you're going through.

It took over a year and a lot of stress at home for my parents to accept that what I was dealing with was serious, but now they do, and we are able to work together and create solutions for me to improve. Just know that most of the time, your loved ones are doing the best that they can, and they show it in different ways that might not make that feel obvious at first. Be gracious towards them as they learn to understand all of this, too.

The only "support" I received from my friends for a long time was them telling me how entitled or dramatic I am. I still have "friends" who do this. I won't lie, it's hurtful. It’s deflating to put effort into a friendship with someone who doesn't give what you're going through a second thought. But please don't assume that all of your friends will respond that way.

I don’t say all of this to discourage you, but because I want you to know that the harsh reality is that not everyone will care enough to want to help. In the same way you might have to focus on self care before others sometimes, some people need to focus on themselves, too. Others aren't psychologically or emotionally mature enough to be able to help you in the way you need. And it's sad, but sometimes many are just plain insensitive. But you cannot concentrate on those types of people or blame yourself for the way they treat you, because it's impossible to build a healthy relationship with someone else who fundamentally doesn't care about your well-being. That’s a reflection of the person they are, not of you.

No matter how long you've known them, how close you are, if they're your family - your value doesn't depreciate just because somebody else can't see it.

The important relationships are with the ones who are happy to talk to you and make an effort to help in any way they can. Even if there are only a couple people in your life like that right now, at the end of the day, those are the only ones that matter. You have to be careful not to depend on them, but always be sure to keep in mind that they love you in a way that you can't love yourself in this time.

And no matter what people tell you, you know better than anyone else what you're going through. Push through and seek help anyways, because, I’ll say it again, it is ALWAYS out there. And if you're having trouble finding it, then come talk to me. I mean it.

Because living with depression and anxiety is swimming underwater in an upstream river, medication are the goggles that help you navigate until you can reach the shore, and seeing a counselor and other forms of therapy teaches you how to swim. (My first step was talking to my school counselor and getting some resources. their job is to help you, and they're more than happy to. that'd be a good place to start.)

Now, too often high school feels like a competition of who's the most miserable. So if you read this and this isn't you, on behalf of everyone who relates to this, don't romanticize any of it, or feel inferior or jealous that you're not as "damaged". Just be grateful. Be grateful because there's millions out there who would kill to have your happiness. Treasure that happiness. Treasure the friends you have who are sensitive and supportive. Be grateful because there is nothing idyllic about "living" with the life sucked out of you. There is no allure in the scars on someone's skin. It is CERTAINLY no poetic gesture in someone committing suicide.

And even if you've read this far and you still can't understand, that's okay. It IS something you have to go through to understand, (and I hope you never do), but in the meantime, just be sensitive. Smile to everybody you know and as many strangers as possible. Don’t judge anyone for the way they deal with their demons - whether it be depression, anxiety, OCD, social anxiety, death, any of it - because you cannot trivialize somebody else's pain if you've never had to endure it on your own.

Saying things like, "Why don't you choose to be happy, it's that simple," or, "Just change your mindset, don't be so negative," not only invalidates someone's pain, but could potentially be adding to their stress of somebody who already has to go home to parents who say their problems aren't real, whose friends don't support them, or have no way of getting help. What they hear is: "Your problems aren't concrete like mine, therefore they are trivial. You are weak for not being able to deal with your thoughts as easily as I can."

Frankly, don't talk like that because it's not the truth.

Now, I don't necessarily speak on behalf of everyone dealing with a mental illness. Some people have it easier than me, some have it worse, everyone's walk with a mental illness is a different story. Somebody else having it worse doesn't mean that you aren't entitled to feel your problems. By that logic, everybody would have to take turns being the sole person in the world who's allowed to feel sad about their life compared to everyone else's. It'd be like saying, "You're not allowed to be happy because somebody else might have things better".

And "mental health" doesn't equate to being happy all the time; that's just repression. Fully experience your emotions. Let them flow through you, no matter how scary it feels at first, because that is how you can begin to achieve emotional independence and stability.

Even though I am not freed from this yet, I know that I am more than my illnesses. I may not have accomplished everything that I've wanted to at this point, but that's because that's not yet where I'm intended to go. Maybe someday I won't be playing a solo concert in a symphony hall in Europe or off somewhere curing cancer. But maybe someday I'm able to offer words of encouragement to someone in my shoes and save a life. Maybe I'll make a career out of that kind of impact. Or maybe someday, I can look at my past and stop wincing at the pain, but rather stand taller knowing what I have overcome.

Because here, there is no finish line. Depression and anxiety don't just disappear, but you don't have to feel 100% depressed or anxious 100% of the time, either. They become manageable as you learn how to live with them.

                So I'm working for a new normal. I'm striving every day to take back charge of my life. There is so much more I have yet to do, even if I can't imagine it in this state. Despite my heart and my mind trying to tell me otherwise, I know in my soul that this won't last forever.

Originally I intended for this to be more for the "7 out of 8" teenagers; so they could "understand" more. Really, I think I just wanted to validate what I was feeling because of the attitude that I’ve been surrounded with.

So as for my fellow 1 in 8'ers, I hear you. I am with you. These feelings are so hard and all of them are valid. You are important. You deserve the world, and someday you'll have it. Not only does life get better, but so will your coping skills. These teenage terrors won't last forever. It doesn't feel like it now, but it's true, so keep reminding yourself of that until it becomes your reality.

And if you really feel like you can't go on anymore, then carry on for the people who love you. Keep living for their sake, and eventually when things get better, you'll see how it all comes together. That moment could be hours, days, weeks, months away - but it's coming. Live for that moment, because when it comes, you'll overwhelmed by how glad you are that you decided to stay. That I can promise you.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read my story. Really. This hasn't been easy to write, but being able to make an impact on people is what's starting to make all of this feel worth it.

I am recovering to that point with perfect timing; exactly where I need to be in every season of my life.

And so are you. Happy healing, my friends.

~

If reaching out to a friend, family member, or counselor feels uncomfortable at first, come talk to me. I know far too well how painful it is to go through these things along with the added sting of feeling like no one cares enough to talk to you about it. I want to hear you. I wrote this for you. I've basically put my whole life story on the internet, so I won't judge you for opening up about anything personal (not that I would anyways, but you know what I mean). I understand. I REALLY do. Wherever you start, just don't stop reaching out until you can get the help you need. I’m right here.

~

I’d also like to mention my good friends Lauren Cook, Reina Lee, and Mitchell Mrozek. Lauren has been my rock for all of high school. She’s supported me in some of my loneliest times, and provided me with powerful insight in my most hopeless states. Reina is so selfless and has helped me out with some really hard decisions. Even though she lives in a different time zone, I feel like she's one of the people I’m closest to because she understands me so well, and for that fellowship I am so grateful. And Mitchell was the person that I called at my lowest point. He goes above and beyond (even brings me fast food without me asking what a guy) and is the best reminder that there are good people out there who still care about me. 

You all mean the world to me. There’s nothing I can do to repay all you've done, so I’m saying thank you publicly for being so amazing. Thank you to everyone who's waved at me in the hallways and talked to me when I was alone. I literally would not be on this earth today without you guys. Thank you so much.
~
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        "Medical Integrative Neuro Diagnostics." Medical Integrative Neuro Diagnostics. M.I.N.D., 2015. Web. 22 Nov. 2016.

        "The Biochemistry of Anxiety." The Biochemistry of Anxiety. Calm Clinic, 2009. Web. 22 Nov. 2016.

        "Positron Emission Tomography (PET) Scan." PET Scan of the Brain for Depression - Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic, n.d. Web. 22 Nov. 2016.

        "All About Depression: Causes." All About Depression: Causes. All About Self Help, LLC, 2013. Web. 22 Nov. 2016.

         "Youth Suicide Statistics - Parent Resource Program." Parent Resource Program. Jason Foundation Inc., 2016. Web. 08 Dec. 2016.

Posted on June 14, 2017 .