This Is My Story: Raven Albert
(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 eighth article of an eight part series.)
The unfortunate truth is that I remember struggling with my mental health as early as sixth grade. Of course, I didn’t know exactly what I felt, and not until a few years later did I realize I was feeling depressed.
Defined by Live Science, depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain that results in an overwhelming feeling of sadness, isolation, and despair that affects how a person thinks, feels, and functions. Lots of different things can cause this imbalance, such as any sort of abuse, certain medications, life events, and even genetics.
For me, I don’t think one specific thing caused the way I was feeling, and to this day, I’m still not very sure why I felt so sad.
Since I was young (I was only 12 at the time), I never said anything about it because I didn’t know what I was feeling and I was in denial that I was not happy like my friends were. I didn’t know if something was wrong with me for feeling the way I felt. I was also scared of what could happen if I told an adult about how terrible I felt. So I did probably the worst thing you could do — I kept my feelings to mainly myself for many, many years.
When sophomore year came around, my depression kicked in in a way it never had before. I was sad, overwhelmed with schoolwork, and there were mornings where I couldn’t make myself get out of bed. I hated having to look at myself in the mirror to get ready because I was so unhappy with the way I looked.
I felt very alone, even though I wasn’t, and soon enough, all of these things made me stop going to school.
Since I felt so alone, I wanted to be alone. I spent almost all of my time in my room and I developed really bad sleep patterns. I would stay up past 3 a.m. every night and wouldn’t wake up until 12 p.m. During this time, I was moody, irritable, and went days at a time without talking to anyone — even over text — besides my mom.
Although I wasn’t attending school, I was in touch with my teachers and still doing my schoolwork, so after some time, I found myself ready to head back to school since I wanted to complete my sophomore year and stay on track.
Things were normal when I went back to school. I was scared people were going to treat me differently since I basically disappeared for two months, but it wasn’t like that at all. Classes were good and my peers treated me normally. Everything was fine, and soon enough, the school year ended and summer came which was just as good as any of the summers in the past.
When it was time for junior year to start, I was scared since everyone says junior year is the hardest year in regards to schoolwork. The first couple of months went by just fine, but in the winter, I started feeling the same negative feelings that I did sophomore year. For some reason, I felt quite uncomfortable being in school, and I spent lots of time crying in the bathroom.
Around this time, I was told for the first time by a professional that I was depressed and should start seeing a therapist, both of which I was already aware of.
From everything going on in my life and from this encounter, I felt very hurt and sad and it made me stop attending school yet again. However, I did listen to what the doctor had said. I tried talking to multiple therapists around town, but I didn’t like any of them, so I stopped trying to fix my problems.
Months went by and although I wasn’t in school, I got in contact with Dr. Steven Myers, PV’s Student & Family Resource Liaison, and we started talking regularly. The first couple of times, we actually talked about what was going on in my life and it was a big help. It made me start to feel better.
I remember at one point, I wanted to go back to school because I did miss it, but I was too scared because the thought of being around all those people who I thought would judge me made me very anxious. So we talked about it: why I wasn’t going, why I wanted to go back, etc. We decided we would work on it and we ended up talking all those feelings out for a couple of months.
I wasn’t fully ready to come back to school until the beginning of my senior year, but by that time, I was more ready than I could ever imagine. And since, I’m the happiest I have probably been since middle school.
I don’t care as much about what people think of me (something that negatively impacted my mental health for a very long time) which has allowed me to make so many new friends. I enjoy being at school even though I hate getting up early and I’m very content in the school’s environment now.
I’ve also been receiving some of the best grades I have received all throughout high school this year. There are so many ups and downs with mental illnesses and it’s a constant battle, but pushing through it and not giving up has allowed me to look forward to all the little, exciting things the end of senior year brings, such as prom, graduation, and committing to college for the fall — something I worked very hard towards.
I still talk to Myers, but it’s not as often. And whenever we do talk, it’s not always about my problems. Sometimes we even play uno. He’s a great resource to go to if you need someone to vent to and maybe give you advice without judging you.
Besides counselors, your typical English, math, and other teachers are also great resources to reach out to. There are many teachers in the school that I have made connections with who I know always have my back and are always there for me when I need it. They always have their door open when I need to talk and are always willing to try and help in the ways they can.
With that being said, don’t be afraid to reach out to someone if you feel you need to. Life can be really really tough sometimes and you should talk to someone about it if you want because you don’t have to go through it alone.
However, I understand talking to adults about your feelings is scary and it isn’t for everyone because that’s exactly how I used to feel. Just remember that you will get through whatever it is in life that’s troubling you even though it may feel like you won’t. I truly never thought I would, but I did. So don’t give up because it will get better.