This Is My Story: Lauren Storm
(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 sixth article of an eight part series.)
Mental health is something I have been struggling with for as long as I could remember. Specifically, I have been dealing with anxiety that later led to depression.
My first memory of dealing with anxiety was in second grade when my parents had a conference with my teacher and I was so nervous. I started to have a meltdown while walking to art. From that day on, my parents knew that I definitely had a problem with anxiety.
However, my anxiety went from mild in second grade to extremely severe in middle school. I remember not even wanting to go to school because I was worried about getting made fun of for how I looked and acted. By the time high school came, my anxiety caused me to be extremely depressed and unhappy with myself.
When I was a freshman at Pascack Valley, I knew high school would cause me extreme anxiety as there are so many changes that come with the adjustment. At the beginning of freshman year, I believed that I was doing great. I did not feel any feelings of sadness or loneliness. Yet, by December of 2016, things took a turn for the worst.
Almost every night, I would sit in my room and just cry for hours because I felt so sad and alone. I felt like I was stuck in a never-ending cycle of sadness where I would feel happy one minute, but with the snap of a finger, I felt depressed again. This cycle continued into the summer before sophomore year where almost every day, I had an anxiety attack. At this point, I knew I needed to reach out to somebody and get help, but I was too afraid because I did not want to be judged.
Going into my sophomore year, I was in the worst place I had ever been. I was so depressed and anxious to the point where certain actions like getting out of bed, going to swim practice, doing things I love, and looking at myself in the mirror became extremely difficult. Sophomore year was the most difficult time in my life because so many things in my life went wrong: my parents got divorced, I was struggling with friends and academics, I struggled a lot with body image, and two people who I cared about very much passed away that year.
I had no more will to live anymore because I felt as though everything was falling to pieces. Needless to say, life during this time was not easy. Thankfully, my parents noticed I was having a rough time, so they decided to send me to therapy and put me on medicine to help me get out of that deep dark place. At this time, I was diagnosed with anxiety disorder and depression.
After getting help, I began to get better. I felt less anxious and less depressed. For about six months, I was doing well and I did not have any bad thoughts or felt very anxious. But, that all changed in October of my junior year and lasted till the beginning of my senior year.
Everyone knows that junior year is the hardest because of the balance between having a social life, academics, and studying for the SAT or ACT. This was especially hard for me because I began to relapse and feel those terrible feelings of anxiety and depression. I got to such a dark place where I could not get out of bed or even go out of my house without breaking down in tears and hyperventilating. I was also having an extremely tough time with my self-confidence because I didn’t feel like I was enough for anyone. I began to feel hopeless and depressed on a daily basis.
In December of my senior year, I decided that enough was enough because I did not want to feel sad, depressed, or anxious anymore. I decided that I would do whatever it took.
My first step in feeling better was that I started to go to therapy on a more regular basis because it really benefited me to talk about how I was feeling and not keep it inside. I also decided to be myself and not how others want me to be. However, I would say the most important aspects that helped me feel better is that I decided to worry about myself, love myself, and take care of myself.
After experiencing a couple of terrible years with my mental health, I can definitely say that I actually feel good mentally. From time to time, I do get episodes of depression or anxiety, but I have learned to embrace it instead of shying away.
You need to do things that make you feel good. Some activities I enjoy when I feel depressed or anxious are reading, doing makeup (or any art), watching funny videos on YouTube, talking to a friend I trust, and binge-watching a series on Netflix or Hulu.
I know it sounds cliché, but if you are dealing with anything like me, you are not alone.
One thing that I have realized is that so many people suffer from mental illnesses and you do not have to suffer alone. There are many resources inside and outside of school you can reach out to like teachers, parents, the wellness center, hotlines, and therapists where if you tell them anything, they have to keep it confidential.
In the end, I have learned so much about mental health from my experience and I am so grateful for the people I was able to reach out to for help. I feel that mental health should be talked about more openly since so many people are dealing with it or have dealt with it.
It is so important that people know that they are not alone, and if we bring up mental health more in conversations, more people will get help.