Depression, Anxiety, PTSD, Self Harm. What happened between "then" and now. It hurts. It hurts to have been born with depression. It hurts to grow up with the burden of an anxiety disorder. It hurts to have grown up in an emotionally and physically abusive household. It hurts to have been raised under the care of a parent suffering from severe mental illness. It hurts to think about having been molested at the age of 8 by a family friend. It hurts to remember being sexually assaulted in the 8th grade by someone I mistakenly gave my heart, and my trust. It hurts to remember “falling in love” for the first time, and then having my self worth shattered by that same love. It hurts to think about the 4 consecutive years that I underwent bullying so severe that I lost all of my self respect, my ability to think rationally, my dignity. It hurts to suffer from PTSD as a result of the many things I have been through. Not a day goes by without all of the above, at the very least, crossing my mind- if not choosing to fully occupy it. I used to attend Leander High School- I was a Pre-I.B. student. I had a GPA of 4.85. I was taking all A.P courses. I was hardworking and dedicated to my studies. And then I was crushed under the weight of my own soul. I have always suffered from depression, and an anxiety disorder. Dealing with the consequences of both is far from “new” to me. But while they can be manageable, extreme stress can amplify the “symptoms” of both. In my case, nearly all of my stress was a direct result of being so harshly bullied (receiving death threats, being told to kill myself, being made fun of, and at one point, stalked) that I considered ending my own life on several different occasions. What drove me to the breaking point wasn’t the bullying in itself, which had gone on for 4 years...but the fact that nobody, not even faculty members, was willing to do something about it. I had a mountain of evidence to suggest (and prove) who was responsible for sabotaging my social life. This included screenshots of death threats from the girl herself, admissions from friends of the bully that said she had ASKED THEM TO DO THINGS TO ME, and screenshots of messages she had sent to other people, describing in detail, what she had done or planned to do to me- and yet, my own assistant principal couldn’t bring himself to deal out actual consequences when my bully was caught - only empty threats of juvenile detention, which obviously never accomplished anything, because the girl never stopped harassing me. They were all too afraid to “ruin” this girl’s life by punishing her for her actions, many of which were tantamount to felonies. I lost hope once I realized that I didn’t have a voice in combatting the harassment. My motivation by sophomore year died completely. The stress caused me to lose weight, and energy- I was always weak, and I always had a burning feeling in the pit of my stomach. My eating habits changed- sometimes I wouldn’t eat for days, and other days, I would binge due to severe stress. I stopped caring about my hygiene- it was as if I didn’t even have enough energy to take a shower, or find clean clothing. I couldn’t bring myself to do my schoolwork. I had so many ambitions I wanted to fulfill, including my involvement in the I.B. program, and the school newspaper- and I failed in nearly every way, as I barely participated. Every day after school when I got home, I went straight to bed- because sleeping was a way to escape the painful memories and experiences bouncing around in my head. By the last 3 months of the school year, all of my grades had dropped to averages of 60’s and 70’s. I passed many of my classes by the grace of some of my teachers, who recognized to an extent that something was wrong. But the circumstances had “cracked” me. I crumbled under the judgement of peers and strangers alike, and the pain and betrayal I felt. And in the end, I was pulled out of the school permanently. No going on to the I.B. program- I lost the opportunity to participate in classes I was genuinely excited for, and I missed out on fantastic teachers I had developed friendships with. I had also lost contact with friends I loved dearly for their support and kindness. So, I was moved to another school in the district. And I decided that a “true” fresh start would be perfect for me- and it was. My best friend, disgusted with what she watched me go through at Leander, switched to my new school to be with me. I started off my Junior year with all AP courses, and was able to get into senior level advanced courses early, as well. I joined a program meant to compete with the I.B. program. I discovered that many of my new teachers had connections to my favorite teachers from LHS, and found that they were also wonderful people. My best friend and I have been able to develop a comfortable, healthy social group, made up of intelligent and kind people- and since the end of sophomore year, I haven’t had to deal with harassment of any kind. But despite all of this… something lingered. My memories. My mental and emotional wounds never actually healed. The source of the problem was gone, but there was never a true resolution to the conflict I endured. Little did I know that I was suffering from PTSD as a result of what I had gone through. My crystal clear memory of every conflict related to the bullying, of every word spoken, every lie told, every person manipulated, every situation twisted haunted me. I would have dreams repeating especially horrific incidents over and over again… or I would be in the middle of math class, when suddenly, thoughts of the bully crossed my mind. Once, I saw her in a grocery store- and the pain flooded back to me after almost a week of feeling “okay”. I wanted to scream at her, hit her, kick her, ask her why: and at the same time, I wanted to run and hide, curl up into a ball, and pretend I didn’t even exist. Who could have guessed that my suffering would lead to the development of a chronic, pain based illness I would have for the rest of my life. My Junior year of high school started off well… Until I began having stomach cramps at random times during the day. At first, they were manageable...but they evolved into stabbing pains that would leave me hunched over in agony, unable to move. And these stabbing pains eventually became constant- no breaks between episodes. I was always in pain...And then I started throwing up- daily. I began missing school; in total, nearly 3 months of it, spread across the entirety of the first semester. But... It wasn’t until I threw up blood that I found true cause for concern- and after a “wonderful” array of tests and laparoscopies, I was diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome. “Irritable Bowel Syndrome”- it doesn’t sound like a big deal. It’s a “diagnosis of exclusion”- meaning that it’s diagnosed only when no other tests can determine a more obvious problem. But the name of the illness hardly suits it, as it mimics the symptoms of major gastrointestinal illnesses like Crone’s disease- and as such, it is, in itself, a major illness. I.B.S. is incurable. Little about it is understood, except for one thing- that it correlates strongly with stress. I was stressed to the point of developing a chronic condition that has left me in physical agony for the past 7 months. The implications for my grades are obvious- although luckily, my school has been very understanding, and my teachers have worked diligently to ensure that I finish all of the schoolwork I have missed. And I am in the same situation now, as I write this. So you might wonder, where is the silver lining to this story? Unfortunately, there isn’t one. I’m as lost as you probably are, reading this. So why write at all? Because I know there are others who can relate to my story, in one way or another. Because I want people who have been through the same pain I have to know that while it doesn’t necessarily end, you can still find a way to get through it. I could have given up 4 years ago and taken my life then, when the bullying began. I could have given up 3 years ago, when I was raped. I could have given up 2 years ago, when I was alienated by peers and ignored by those responsible for protecting students. I could have given up a year ago, when my grades faltered, and my motivation and ambition faltered. But I didn’t. I don’t quite know why, myself- I don’t know where the energy comes from, because I don’t feel like I have any left. And yet, My will to live burns under the cloak of depression, PTSD, anxiety, and pain. I’m still doing well academically. I’m maintaining healthy relationships. I’m forcing myself, each and every day, to pause in the middle of a “negative” thought-train. I recognize that I’m lucky enough to have a select few people in my life that I genuinely love, who love me back enough to support me despite the burdens they already carry. And so, I’m still trying. For my loved ones, but most importantly, for myself as well. Know This: “You wake up every morning to fight the same demons that left you so tired the night before, and that, my love, is bravery.”
To Our Readers:
All of these are people's real stories that they were brave enough to write and share. Please be kind when commenting, and help contribute to an encouraging atmosphere. We hope you are able to connect and grow from these stories.
When commenting please only use your initials to maintain the anonymity of the website's communication.