This Is My Story: Julianna Tsokanos
(Editor’s Note: May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and The Smoke Signal asked Pascack Valley students that struggled with their mental-health to tell their stories, some of which may contain sensitive content. This is the third article of an eight part series.)
Throughout life, everyone faces challenges. We all have obstacles we try to overcome. For me, these obstacles are mainly depression and anxiety. I have spent a lot of my life trying to run away from these challenges, thinking if I shut them out, maybe they would actually disappear. I wish that was actually the case.
In reality, running from these problems was me running from myself, and until I faced them head on, I suffered through years of unhappiness and discontentment.
The moment I first realized something was wrong was in sixth grade. I had been bullied in elementary school and had lost all my friends leading into middle school. On top of that, my parents were in the midst of a messy divorce. This made my first year of middle school tough, but I knew it was more than just these issues when I found myself too tired and somber to engage in anything I once enjoyed.
I felt like I was just floating through the days. The feeling of happiness was foreign and I even lost the feeling of contentment. This is how I spent my years of middle school, while things at home and in my personal life continued to worsen.
I would go to school and smile even when I felt like I was dying inside. There have been times in which I was so sad that I often wondered if it was worth it. Why was I struggling? I felt like I had tried everything to make me happy, but nothing was working. I felt like I was drowning. I often said that I wanted to die.
My mom had heard me say I wanted to die, but she did not take it as lightly as everyone else did. She saw the whole thing, and unlike the rest of the world, she saw how I really felt: broken. She knew that I needed help, so she took me to therapy.
They told me I had depression and anxiety, and I was scared. I did not want that. My friends, family, and even my parents had told me I did, but I did not want to believe them. I had been hiding behind a happy mask, and I just wanted it to be real. I wanted to be normal, to be okay, to be strong.
Then high school came along. This is when things got even worse. I saw the therapist as well as a doctor who prescribed me medication to treat my depression and anxiety.
For a while, I was okay. Everything was the same as usual, but I began to feel more and more numb. For the first time in my life, I was losing my will to live.
The doctors continued to increase my medicine, but it only heightened my thoughts. After a few days on my increased dosage, my therapist sent me to the hospital for the second time, and this time I was committed.
The hospital was a blur for me, a mix of doctors and new medicine. All I remember is the feeling of fear and helplessness, but when I was released, I felt something that I had not felt in a long time: hope.
I was put into High Focus and re-entered into school. I was determined to be better and I was ready for this time to be different.
I realized that no matter how many days I wake up feeling like I am nothing and that there is no point in getting up, I can not listen to that voice. Even if my mind betrays me, I need to remember that I am worth something, that I am good enough.
Because I am.
I want everyone to feel worthy, to know they are good enough. And as I learn to love myself, I hope others can too.
I believe the first step in helping others practice self-love is to break the stigma on subjects like depression and anxiety. I do not want people to feel ashamed like I did. I do not want people to feel like they can not speak out because it will make them seem weak or helpless. I want people to know mental illness for what it really is, even if that reality is a harsh one.
Everyone should feel like they are worth something, like they belong. No one deserves to feel lost, alone, or empty. Everyone deserves happiness, and we cannot stop working until we achieve that.
If you have felt anything remotely similar to me, you are not alone. No matter how alone you may feel, someone is always there. Someone cares.