My illness is genetic, purely chemical—a result of mistaken neurons and confused DNA. I am blessed to say that I have been constantly surrounded by love and support for my entire life. And it is with mountains of guilt that I admit that, for me, this love has never been enough to make me feel okay.
I have suffered from anxiety for as long as I can remember, but in the winter of my sophomore year of high school, something inside me shifted. I would wake up breathless, palms sweating and tight-chested. My straight-A report card began to crumble. On good days, I would bide my time fighting back tears, gripping my pencil as I struggled to focus in class. On bad days, I begged to stay home from school, sobbing into my uneaten cereal, being sent on to the bus with red, puffy eyes.
Nothing in particularly pushed me over the edge. I vaguely remember a 63 on a biology test, a ski race in which I essentially tumbled down the mountain, and a growing proclivity for WebMD. I was a hypochondriac, I was depressed, I was scared. I told myself that I wasn’t suicidal, because I didn’t truly want to die—I wanted to get better.
But I found myself clearing the pills out of the upstairs bathroom, afraid of what I might do to myself in a half-conscious desperation in the middle of the night. I could fight the urge to swallow 15 Tylenol during the day, but I didn’t trust myself to abstain while the world was asleep. I suppose this was my own version of suicidality—a fear that in a moment of despair, my strength would fail me, my logic would falter and I would succumb.
I am lucky that I spoke up. I am lucky that the people in my life knew what to do. And I am lucky that, to this day, I have two orange prescription bottles sitting on my bedside table. My medication has allowed me to travel the world and thrive here at Middlebury and enjoy a quality of life that otherwise may not have been possible.
Choosing to use medication was a thoughtful process, but it wasn’t difficult, and I don’t regret it. People often act surprised when I tell them this– “don’t you hate that you have to take medicine to feel normal?” In truth, I don’t hate it at all—it’s hard to hate something that saved your life. Do I ever feel ashamed, or frustrated about my medicine? Of course. Do I hope to someday stop taking it? Absolutely.
But for now, I will continue to take the pills. Because I still have bad days, and even bad weeks and months. I still sometimes wake up feeling hollow, and go to bed feeling lonely. It’s difficult to come to terms with the fact that I will always be affected, in some way, by my depression and anxiety—it is never going to go away. However, on most days, my laughter is real and genuine and abundant. For now, I am here, and that is enough.