Student shares experiences in dealing with mental health issues

Dealing with mental illness through high school is difficult and exhausting to deal with. Often high school is when students realize they have a mental illness. A Webster student shares life experiences with mental illness and what was done to combat these issues.

With any disability, life is just a bit harder. You have to go a little slower, need more help from others and can’t do some things.  My disability is invisible.

I have a mental illness. If you saw me walking down the hall, you wouldn’t know that I was counting to seven in my head. You wouldn’t see all the scars underneath my sleeves. You wouldn’t know that I avoid the hallway crowds.  Going through high school with a mental illness has been one of the hardest things I have ever done.

I have been diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), social anxiety disorder and depression, but these are just diagnoses; they don’t define me. What those words mean is that I obsess over events or what people say more than normal. I am scared that everyone hates me, and I feel sad more than I feel happy. Many people have told me that these things are normal teenage hormones, and that it’s just a phase. The severity of my obsessive thoughts and the distortion of how I see myself aren’t just teenage hormones. The first time I realized this was freshman year.

I was put into an out-patient program after my parents found out I wanted to kill myself. Instead of going to school every day, I would go to the hospital for therapy and for doctors to keep an eye on me.

During this program I was diagnosed with depression and was given my first individual therapist. The only thing that I really learned in those 30 days didn’t come from the doctors, but from the patients. They taught me how to self injure. They taught me the places that would cause the most damage, how to keep it hidden and how to use it to cope with all my emotions. That started my four-year relationship with self-injury.
Coming back from the program, I was in a worse place than when I entered. By now, my classmates had started to realize something was wrong. I didn’t know what to tell my classmates about why I was gone, so I isolated myself from my friends. I also didn’t know how to deal with all the missing homework I had. Instead of reaching out for help, I wouldn’t talk to teachers.

After a while, people just gave up on me and stopped trying to help. I almost failed all of my classes, and no one understood why I was drowning.

I started losing friends rapidly and found myself alone by sophomore year. My friends didn’t understand why I was changing so much and why I was so sad all the time. They knew that I was self-injuring, and they got frustrated when I wouldn’t stop. I thought I didn’t deserve to have healthy friends. I started making connections with other kids that were using unhealthy coping skills just like me. Instead of self-injury though, they would use hard drugs to deal with their emotions. I would do things that I didn’t think were right or were dangerous just to be their friend. I think part of me wanted to get caught. I wanted to get punished because I thought I deserved it.

Junior year is the hardest year academically for most students. I enrolled in honors classes thinking I could handle the curriculum, and I could. What I couldn’t handle was how I compared myself to all the other students. In every one of my classes, I thought I was the dumbest kid in the room. I was so scared of being thought of as stupid that I kept quiet and didn’t turn in homework. I wanted my teachers to just assume I was lazy and to give me a zero on my assignments, rather than actually judge my work and see how stupid I thought I was.  I was in a constant state of fear throughout the whole school day, and it was too much for me to handle. My self-injury became very serious and almost fatal.  This is when I had to go into my second rehabilitation center.

The program I went into was S.A.F.E Intensive at Edgewood Children’s center. In this program I had 14 hours of therapy for 30 days straight. I could go on for pages about what the program did for me, but the best way to explain it is that it taught me how to live again.

I got on new medication, found new ways to deal with my emotions and raised my self-esteem. The days were very long and tear-filled.

I learned that I was not a victim but my own villain. The real obstacle was my mind and the irrational thoughts it gave me.
I learned how to speak without fear of judgment and accept that I’m not perfect. I was constantly asked to do things like art that would highlight my imperfections, and it taught me that’s okay and to keep going.

Just because my life was on hold for my treatment, doesn’t mean school stopped. I was given one hour a day to finish my school work. That was one thing teachers didn’t understand when they would send me work. School work and keeping caught up wasn’t my main focus, and even now, it is never my main focus. My main focus is my mental health.

I eventually came back to the high school 45 days later. Although I was a changed person, the school had stayed the same. I couldn’t tell my classmates why I was gone for so long, and I couldn’t tell everyone of all my accomplishments.

My old friends weren’t able to look past my mistakes and be my friend again. Just because I was better, didn’t mean I was able to sit in class and raise my hand without a thought. I had to start slow and work up. I would have to come in at 6:45 a.m. and talk to my teachers in the mornings to ask them questions. Another baby step was counting to seven in my head throughout the halls instead of obsessing. Finally I was able to sit in the lunchroom.

I see recovery as a life-long thing. I will always have these intense emotions, and I will always have urges to hurt myself, but with time, they will be easier and easier to fight. My growth from my freshman to senior year is unbelievable. I wish I was able to say I don’t regret anything, but I can say I am proud of my story.

This year graduation day will be my one-year anniversary from the last day I self-injured. It’s a big day, and I am glad to share it with my class who has seen me at my worst and will see me at my best.

3 thoughts on “Student shares experiences in dealing with mental health issues

  1. Congratulations! How brave of you to share your story. You did an excellent job. You will go far! I’ll be anxious to read the next chapter. Joni

  2. Wow! I appreciate your candor in describing the journey through your high school years. I am proud of you and your accomplishments. I wish you only the best as you continue down the road of recovery! Carl

  3. Thank you for your comments! Comments like those help me with the fear that came along with writing something this deep! Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!

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