Since I was young I can’t remember a time where I didn’t feel self-conscious about my body. Even when I was in first grade, six years old, I would change my outfits because I would tell myself I looked too fat in them. I was never happy with the way I looked. Being a minority, growing up I thought I wasn’t beautiful because the pretty girls were always depicted as this blonde hair, blue eyed girls. The way I saw myself only got worse once I got into middle school. With so much changing in my body, I couldn’t stand that I was gaining weight and changing in ways I wasn’t educated on.
When I would speak up about the way I was feeling, the sad thoughts, the self-conscious feeling, the isolated feeling, I always got the same response, ‘That’s normal.’. It’s not their fault, though. That’s what we’re taught. It’s normal to feel that way. It’s normal because we don’t talk about it. We need to talk about it. Educate parents to look for the signs.
I have a diary entry from when I was eight. I wrote in my Lisa Frank diary, that I just wanted to die. I wrote in vivid detail for an eight-year-old, how I just wanted to die. At eight you’re not supposed to want to die or be self-conscious about the way you look. Is it still normal?
It is normal to be sad, we are human. A little sadness is what keeps us balanced. The thing is I was sad most of the time. I was sad starting at such a young age. You’re not supposed to feel that way from your earliest memories. I stopped speaking up about it because I was constantly told it was the way I was supposed to feel. I was raised with people making fun of me for crying at movies, but why is it bad to have empathy?
I was scared to show who I was so I bottled up how I was feeling and isolated myself. I wanted to be in control in all of this pain that I couldn’t control. I started to self-harm at twelve years old. I was the one making me hurt, so I could finally be in control. I began feeling more and more isolated from my peers. I didn’t want people to know. I would hide it. All I wanted was to die. I never wanted to be at school. All of the tendencies just got worse over the years.
I thought everyone felt the way I did until my freshman year of high school. I was fourteen and one of my classmates said, ‘I don’t get why people are depressed, just be happy.’. That’s when it really hit me that most people are just uneducated on the subject. At this point, I started to educate myself on what was going on in my head.
Soon after I opened up to my parents about how I was feeling. I still didn’t feel like any of my emotions were validated. Up until I explicitly asked for help from a professional, I didn’t receive any. It’s not their fault, though, they were never taught about this disease. They were raised on the idea that someone with a mental disorder is supposed to be in a straitjacket locked up somewhere.
Once I finally started receiving the professional help I started to see a turnaround. I finally had someone to tell me I’m not crazy. Have someone explain to me that I’m not to blame for being depressed, having anxiety, or self-harming. It all has to do with chemicals in our brains. I finally started to get better. Now it was a long process. I still self-harmed up until over a year later, but it’s been over three years since I last did. Up until the summer, I turned seventeen I really didn’t feel okay.
That summer I sailed the BVI’s and saw life in a different light. Likewise, I had so much time to reflect by myself. I would spend hours by myself thinking about how I want to be able to do this year from now. I thought about how I wanted to bring my future family here and show them what I saw. I knew I couldn’t do that if I didn’t make the choice to be okay.
Now I am beyond happy with where my life is. If you would have asked me three years ago where I see myself in four years I would have answered, ‘dead.’. I never expected to be as happy as I am now. I am the optimist I envied. I used to have a hard time getting out of bed to go to school, but now I love going out and making new friends. Granted there are still hard times, but that’s life. There are hard times, but not hard times like before.
It’s possible to get better, you just have to surround yourself with people that understand you. Every time I speak out now I only receive an outpouring of love. I’ve had some people tell me they went through the same thing but never told anyone. They were too afraid to speak up. It was so difficult for me to speak up, but once I did, things only got better.