I will never forget the way I felt the day we "covered" mental health in my advisory class during my freshman year of high school. I remember the fear that rushed through my veins as I listened to my teacher explain what depression and anxiety could do to a person. I remember the bottomless pit I felt in my stomach when he explained how these mental illnesses are permanent for some people and must be managed. I vividly remember thinking, "no matter what, I'm never going to have depression or anxiety, because it lasts forever". When I was fourteen, I was peacefully naive. I thought mental illness was a choice I could simply opt out of—a box on the "Abby's Future Plans" I could choose not to check. Perhaps the reason I remember this day so vividly is because the vow I made to never experience mental illness turned out to be full of shit. Mental illness has been a part of my life for quite some time now, and while being naive was peaceful, I have fortunately learned to find peace in my chaos. My high school experience felt like a game of dominoes that I had not elected to play. It was as if the world had decided to toil with my inner peace, and after one inner-peace-domino was knocked down, another would crash with it. I had no control. I lost myself and could not pick myself back up.
My sophomore year of high school was a turning point for me; I had once been confident, happy, and at peace, but in what seemed like the blink of an eye, I lost it all. I was absolutely repulsed by myself, I felt like a burden to the world, I could not slow down my mile-a-minute thoughts, and despite my efforts, I struggled to find any light at the end of the tunnel. It felt as though the consuming feelings I was experiencing would never end; I felt like a ticking-time-bomb. I felt ashamed for feeling this way because with a good family, education, and opportunities ahead, I had no right to. I felt embarrassed. I felt alone.
If you think I'm about to reach the "I'm okay now though, so keep fighting" part of the story, I'm not, because I’m not even there. I still struggle with the same things I did four years ago. I still have trouble managing my mile-a-minute anxious thinking; I still have trouble with my body; I still wonder if these feelings will ever subside. And while therapy is valuable and I've gained important skills from each program and therapist I've encountered, throughout the past four years, the most important skills and lessons I've learned have come from myself. No one is as capable as you are when it comes to understanding your strengths and weaknesses and what exactly your "peace prescription" should entail. Personally, my peace prescription, or plan to bring myself a sense of inner peace and relief, is primarily concerned with transparency. I have trouble acknowledging struggles I'm experiencing, because oftentimes, they're painful to face. I have a particularly hard time being transparent about my mental health with others — I have a tendency to conceal, not feel, and not heal, primarily due to the fact that I do not want to be looked at differently, despite my understanding that I shouldn't be. I'm working on being a more transparent person with myself and with others, hence why I'm writing this.
This article has failed to make any substantive points; I hopped on the self-reflection train and per usual, once I got on, I couldn't hop off. But by simply sharing my experiences and taking the step of sharing it, I’ve made a big step in terms of my peace prescription by forcing myself to build transparency with myself and with others. So if anything at all, I hope that my effort to be transparent encourages you to reflect on your own journey and do the same. I hope you take the time to reflect on what you’ve been through and where you are at. I hope you take the time to ask yourself important questions: are you at peace? If not, what does your peace prescription entail? If you are in fact at peace, I encourage you to remember that despite the masks that can be very convincing, there are a lot of people who are not at peace, so display empathy and always express love. And regardless of what your journey may be, how “big” your problems are, or of how alone you may feel, remember that reaching the light at the tunnel may be a long road, but it will be worth the trip.
by Abby Samuelson
About the Author
Abby Samuelson is a junior at Lake Forest College, she is working on her major of communication and a double minor in gender, sexuality, and women’s studies and entrepreneurship. She also devotes her time to her sorority, Alpha Phi, as VP of recruitment and her internship at CROYA; an organization dedicated to helping young adults discover their identity, while learning values and self-worth.