Looking back it’s hard to believe how much things have changed.
Growing up I loved everything about my life in small-town Illinois - I had parents who supported me in everything I did, and a younger sister who was my closest friend.
Emmie and I had shared a room for as long as I can remember, and we’ve been through absolutely everything together. So at the start of my junior year in high school it was easy for me to see that something was clearly wrong.
I didn’t know exactly what it was at first but something was ‘off’ about her. Eventually as Emmie’s personality started to fade I noticed she was crying herself to sleep every night in our room. Right next to me.
Night after night I would sit next to her, trying to calm her down and talk her out of the horrible things she wanted to do to herself. I would rub her back, hold her hand, and assure her that everything would be okay.
But how could I convince Emmie of that when I wasn’t even sure of it myself?
At this point I had been struggling with my own severe anxiety for quite some time, and now I was worrying constantly about Emmie as well.
Eventually I lost all hope in my own life; I felt like I was just a burden on Emmie and that I wasn’t helping her at all.
I fell fast into a deep depression. I couldn’t get my mind off this storm that was consuming me, and I could feel it eating away at me slowly. Causing so much damage. Swallowing me whole. Clogging my vision. Killing my motivation.
At night I would stay up late, trying not to let my own mind wander to where Emmie’s went. But each night it became more and more difficult.
Depression consumed me as I allowed these thoughts to flood my brain and take over my body. I didn’t think that anyone would ever understand what was happening to me when I didn’t even understand myself.
Day after day I felt it getting worse. I only slept three hours a night at most, and many times not at all. I had given up on myself. Given up on my schooling. I wouldn’t turn in assignments. I didn’t participate in anything. I slept through every class.
My grades dropped further and further as I kept falling deeper and deeper into a black hole. But I didn’t care. Getting out of bed each morning was almost impossible, and I couldn’t focus on anything except the dread of living.
I tried talking to friends and doing things to try and get my mind off of the demons inside my head, but I felt completely hopeless. I had nowhere to go, and every night seemed to creep by more and more slowly. I felt like my family was falling apart. Nothing was ever in my favor - even dance, which I’d relied on as an escape for the past fifteen years, was starting to seem hopeless.
People in my life started to notice the drastic changes in me and were rightfully concerned. Eventually my mother set me up with a therapist and a psychiatrist so that I could get some professional help.
I was put on medication right away and began weekly therapy sessions. At first I was extremely skeptical of it all. I didn’t think that anything could cure me, and I didn’t think anyone could understand what was tearing me apart inside both mentally and physically. I just wanted to get away from it all. Forever.
About this time I had also started reconnecting with an old friend of mine. She had gone through something similar herself, and I remember her telling me that the only way to go from here was up. I may not have had hope but others did, and I realized that I was not alone.
Over time I started to warm up to my therapist. She knows absolutely everything about me, and I’m so thankful that she came into my life when she did.
My therapist is the one who taught me that if I started believing in myself and putting in the work I needed to at school that I would be able to get away. I would be able to go to college and get a fresh start. That’s when everything kicked in for me - I knew I had to get away. That’s all I wanted.
I started doing everything that I could at school - tutoring, after school programs, activities, and more. Around that same time my medications also started to kick in. I could feel my anxiety start to decrease. I was able to sit still. I didn’t care so deeply about what others thought of me. My grades started going up. I started doing better in school. I started taking care of myself and wearing new clothes. I started talking - to anyone and everyone - because I began loving people and having company around. My focus was on having fun, making friends, and getting into college.
I am in an entirely different place in my life than I was just a year ago. In fact it feels like it’s the exact opposite. I am thriving, and so incredibly happy. I’ve made several great friends, started a new job, and my family and sister are doing so well.
This isn’t to say my life is perfect - far from it. I still have my ups and downs, but I can also look back at where I was a year ago and smile at how far I have actually come. The difference in how I feel is just astonishing - I’m so glad that I am alive and healthy today.