About a week ago, I got asked to join a podcast to talk about life changing experiences (quick plug to the “Youse Guys” podcast if you want to listen – very entertaining!). I thought about it for a while, and decided to tell the story of my 4th grade crush – Nick R. I thought Nick was the cutest kid in 4th grade, but when he found out I liked him, him and his friends made fun of me for liking him. So what did I do? I found Nick on the playground – and I kicked him in the shins. The 5th grade teacher caught me and sent me to the principal’s office. I went to a Catholic school. All I remember was Jesus’ face staring down at me while I waited to be reprimanded. I don’t remember what the principal said or what my parents said when they found out, but I do remember how scared I was that it was the 5th grade teacher that caught me. I had her next year! What would she think of me!? She’d think I was a bully!! I literally let that fear dictate the school I chose to go to – I switched from my Catholic elementary school to the public school in the town I grew up in. Thankfully, the story has a happy ending – switching to a public school taught me to have thicker skin, to laugh more, and I ended up meeting my lifelong best friends and having a blast. I’m not quite sure what the lesson is here, other than maybe don’t kick your crush in the shins.
-Claire (OCD, GAD)
In 2012, I was the pool manager of an apartment complex. My job was to keep the pool clean and safe for everyone. In May, right when the pool opened, someone came in, tossed a cat in the pool, and ran off. I picked her up and wrapped her in a towel. She was a tiny thing, and shivering despite the warm day. I held her until she fell asleep, and she’s been with me ever since. It’s been hard to find a place that’ll let her stay with me. But I finally got papers for her, so it should be good now.
-Ruth (Mania, self-diagnosed)
I was a child prodigy who excelled academically, until my freshman year of high school. My father’s death triggered a major depressive episode that caused my grades and attendance to plummet to the point where I nearly dropped out. More than a decade later, I’m planning to go back to school for art therapy, and I know that the increased empathy and sensitivity I’ve gained from my mental illness will be a boon to that work. I want to work with young people, to help guide them out of the darkness I wasn’t able to escape at that age.
-Dana (MDD, GAD)
I was 22 and watching a TV show with a trans character on it. I found myself really relating to them. It was stressful at first–I was really panicking and trying to sort through a lot of questions in my head. “What does this mean? Now that I know about this, what do I do next? Do I talk to my friends? My therapist?” This was back in college, so I went to talk to the campus LGBT group and started researching what to do on my own. One of the biggest challenges was trying to figure out what my identity was. I realized I wasn’t a man first, but it took me a while to realize that I was a woman. I experimented a lot, kind of going through a trial and error process to figure where on that spectrum I were. My friends knew I was struggling with this. The moment when that cemented my gender Identity as a woman was when my friend said “You’re in a room full of cis women and you’re the most feminine one here.”
-Delia (Depression, Anxiety, PTSD)
If I could have a superpower, I would want the ability to manipulate time. Since third grade, I’ve envied Hermione in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, who gets a time turner so she can take extra classes. To be honest, that appeals to me too, especially as a rising college senior. I’m running out of chances to learn about anything from cardiac ultrasound to the history of jazz. But more time isn’t truly what I want. If I could have a superpower, I would want to slow down time … The people who are here with me now—friends, peers, professors, teammates, lab partners, my advisor, the baristas at the café in the engineering building, my dorm’s housekeeping staff—are what make my college experience invaluable. I don’t want college to be longer; I want my time to feel longer, I want to be better at savoring it. We don’t stop to smell the roses as often as we should.”
-Kendall (MDD, GAD, idiopathic hypersomnia)
I have a mental illness. It affects me everyday, but it does not define who I am. I am the caring, loving, and resilient person that I am because my experiences have shaped who I am, not my mental illness. I want to live in a world where saying you have a mental illness does not give you pity stares or hushed whispers. I want to reach a day where people are no longer afraid of getting the help they need. I want people to know they are worthy simply because they exist and their worth is not defined by their mental illness. It is time that we fight to destigmatize mental illness and be proud about our experiences. Beautiful people do not just happen and you are beautiful and worthy.
-Maegan (Depression and Anxiety)
I’m just trying to have fun, ya know? Always trying to make people feel comfortable, laugh, and have a good time. It feel so good knowing who I am – I think that it’s not something a lot of people can say. I center my perspective on my values: empathy, effort, and compassion. Also, I’m single, so boys, hmu.
-Max (Depression and Anxiety)