This post is presented in collaboration with Active Minds, the national organization dedicated to empowering students to speak openly about mental health.
December 19, 2017 – Middle School is tough. We all know that. Middle School and adolescence is a time of change and hardships for teenagers everywhere. For me, it was no different.
I entered middle school as a new student. I didn’t know anyone, in a school where students had known each other since kindergarten.
Talk about being the odd one out.
I arrived with the usual nervousness that all new students know, but with the added pressure of having to make new friends. To add to my stress and anxiety, throughout my time in middle school, I was struggling with my sexual orientation. The days turned to weeks, which grew into months, and my 8th grade year, I had no friends — and my confusion of my sexuality only continued.
Suffice to say, this all had a negative effect on my mental health. I became withdrawn and moody. I was struggling with social rejection, relational bullying and depression.
For those who say that depression is just feeling sad, or upset, they’re wrong. Depression, as I experienced it, was more of emptiness. The emptiness weighed down on me and highlighted all my self-esteem issues, doubts and anxieties. It was so heavy that I was afraid I would never be free. It felt as if I was trapped in a storm on a raging sea, in the dark. I was being pulled down, unable to swim to the surface.
The storm raging in my mind grew to the point that I saw no light. I just wanted to end the pain, and fear and anxiety. I had come to the conclusion that the only way to free myself from the darkness was to end my life. I felt I didn’t belong, and that no one would miss me. I attempted suicide twice.
Thankfully, I’m still here.
However, after the second attempt, I realized that I needed help, and that I couldn’t go through with it. I couldn’t do that to my family. It so happened that fate, or God, stepped in and showed me the faintest glimmer of hope. My parents, realizing something was wrong, took me to see a psychologist, who I starting working with until I graduated high school.
The one other thing that helped me to feel better, to feel like I mean something or have some worth, was when I started taking voice lessons. I loved music and singing, and that became my life raft that kept me afloat.
In 10th grade, I switched to a new school where I was able to excel academically and musically. I went to an arts high school, and I made some of the best friends in my life. The act of changing schools, finding something I was good at and enjoyed, and attending therapy session, worked together to raise me up out of the darkness. By graduation, I had overcome my depression, came to terms with my sexual orientation, and everything picked up.
Upon starting college, I realized I wanted to help others who are suffering and struggling as I had, and declared a psychology major. Over the course of my four years in college, I became incredibly active in the fields of mental health advocacy and suicide prevention.
I became a volunteer Field Advocate for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, a presenter for the Ending the Silence program of the National Alliance for Mental Illness, and a student leader in my school’s chapter of Active Minds, serving as Events Planning Chair two years in a row.
My experiences and my education have served to fuel my passion for mental health and suicide prevention. I have graduated from college with my BA in Psychology. This fall, I began working toward my MA in Social Work with a specialization in Crisis and Trauma. After that, I hope to pursue a Doctorate in School Psychology where I can work to help students who are struggling.
My personal journey led me from the darkest place to one filled with hope and joy, where I am working to advocate for suicide prevention and promote mental health among students. I want to say that recovery is possible and there is always hope. It can and will get better.
If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
If you are or know an LGBTQ young person who is struggling with thoughts of self-harm or suicide, please call The Trevor Project Lifeline at 1-866-288-7386.
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