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  • Writer's pictureLexy Spreitzer

Mental Illness and Struggling in High School [Trigger Warning]

[originally published January 25 2020]

I was a sophomore in high school when I was going to see my psych doctor almost weekly.

Previously, I had been suffering from much negative thinking regarding my own life and its purpose. I was constantly thinking of deep and dark thoughts that were affecting my ability to operate daily. Going to school was the ultimate struggle. At a time in life when teenagers, especially young women, are at a peak of insecurities and stress, I was ready to end it all. Bullies (many of whom were girls my own age) and fair-weather friends didn't help my situation. Most people are not aware that I went through such a dark time while always 'keeping a smile on my face.' While I feel comfortable discussing it now, I used to feel so deeply ashamed of my illness and emotions. I tried so hard to 'go through the motions' and 'keep on keeping on.' Every. single. day. It was exhausting and I always tried my best to pretend like I wasn't dying inside. The high school I attended was huge. I graduated with over 900 other students and our graduation ceremony was longer than my university one. I grew up in schools with children of millionaires. My amazing parents did not qualify as such. My mom always taught me to be kind, understanding, tolerant, and humble. If I ever acted 'spoiled' I was taught to correct my behavior. Nonetheless, most of my classmates lived in their parents' gigantic homes and only some of them were raised like I was raised. I remember that wearing the right clothes and carrying a designer handbag was worth more than a good friendship to most. I didn't own what other girls my age "owned" so I was often silently hurt by jokes and conversations I overheard in class. That sucked too. I know that everyone had a different high school experience, some emotionally worse than mine, but this is a part of my story. It didn't matter to me that I had what all the other girls had, but it was hard to find people who valued the same things I did. It took a few years before I found high school friends that I still love to this day. This high school experience just added to the emotional and mental struggles of my mental illness. I didn't have a personal trainer to look svelte and I didn't want to get fake tans like many girls at my school did. My body image plummeted - this is why I am so passionate about body positivity today! So many guys my age cared so much about popularity and image that I never even dated anyone in high school. My struggles in high school didn't exactly include academics. My mental illness did impact my ability to work efficiently and responsibly. I graduated with a 3.6 GPA while crying nearly every day at home and spending time disassociating from life for hours on end. This era spanned from last freshman year to the end of junior year. High school was the worst time of my life. There were blessings that happened and good things that occurred, but I would never choose to do it again in that same mindset. I don't know if I would have survived it a second time.

I think there could have been a better policy at my high school about mental illness. I felt immensely uncomfortable with the thought of ever discussing my problems with a teacher. It's so sad - it only takes one teacher to teach a student that personal problems matter. Teachers: if a student is unable to go into detail about why they haven't been working hard in class, don't belittle them. It is your paid job to make sure students feel safe and learn successfully in your class. Ask your student if he/she/they are okay and inquire why they can't tell you the reason behind their work ethic.

In my sophomore Honors English class, I had a teacher who was absolutely awful. I had this class at the same time every day - coincidentally the same time I often had to leave school to go to the doctor. I began falling behind in a major assignment. I missed two deadlines on this assignment. One day, my teacher asked to talk see outside of the classroom during a free-work period. He asked me why I hadn't been turning in my rough drafts on this assignment. I began to cry a bit and repeated: "I don't know, I don't know...." I could not bring myself to tell him the truth for two reasons. First, everything that I'd learned about my mental illness up to this point had been discreet and shameful. I didn't feel like my truth was good enough. I didn't think that other people thought that mental health was serious. Second, this teacher was borderline yelling at me in the hallway. He told me that saying "I don't know" was a modern-day "my dog ate my homework." I was scarred.

I guess my message in this article is to remind people of two things. One is that high school sucks and both students and teachers need to learn how to be more respectful of one another. Two, no one is alone. If you could relate to ANY of this article (my own, unique experience), I hope you know that I am learning to be my best self. I am trying, and you can too. High school sucks (apparently I cannot stress that enough) but you, an individual with thoughts and feelings, do not suck. In fact, you're amazing. I believe in you. You got this.

Sharing this with you lifts weights off my chest. Thank you for reading this article and any other article I've written. xx

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