My mental health issues started when I was young. I didn’t know it then, but I sure as hell do now. I started playing soccer when I was seven years old. By the time I was 10 I was becoming a pretty decent soccer player, so obviously my mom wanted me on the best team. My mom asked around to other parents with a daughter on the team but nobody said a word. My family wasn’t white-collar. My dad drove a white diesel pick-up truck. Even though we lived in the same neighborhood as lawyers, dentists, doctors, and brokers we didn’t have enough to offer others. The best soccer player I grew up with coincidently came from a very wealthy white collar family. Boy did the parents suck up to them and their daughters followed suit. But what made a difference? It’s not like they were handing out cash. It was all purely status. Keeping up with the Jones’s was the word of mouth where I grew up. I didn’t understand any of it at that age, but when I look back it makes total sense. My mom finally had enough and found a way to get me on the best team. I did well that season. There was always some sort of tension though. I remember playing a game indoor and nobody clapping but one other parent. I was just a kid trying to play a sport I loved but that never came without all the drama.
Moving on from soccer, imagine being in 6th grade and having full-blown acne? Yeah, that was me. I went on a very low dose of Accutane. You know that drug that got discontinued? My face was always bright red and so dry that there was nothing I could do to cover it. My mom remembers a full week where she had to force me out of the car when dropping me off at school. The guidance counselor told my mom that she saw me in the hallway with my face buried in my books. Making friends at this age was so hard and acne made it even harder. I remember I had these two girls over my house to sleepover and they were shoving my bed back and forth scraping the wall with the edge of the frame. They were so disrespectful and I was just embarrassed. Later in the year the same girl told me that everyone thought I was weird. I felt my heart drop and my face get hot. I cried so hard when I came back home that day. I just wanted to fit in and I was failing.
In October of 2007 I was 11 years old. I remember not wanting to go to a local race because my face was red and my hair was ratty. I went anyways because my mom signed us up. After the race was over I remember walking up the hill away from the stage and thought I heard my name over the loud-speaker. I ran back down to the stage and I saw my neighbor who was helping with the raffle. She motioned for me to come forward so I went up to the stage and she handed me an envelope. For participating in the race our names were automatically entered into multiple raffles, and I had won Pittsburgh Penguins tickets. Of course I considered not going, but I did. The Penguins won and my mom bought me a Crosby t-shirt. I remember seeing a screen outside the arena with the date of the next game, so I tuned in. This is how I became a Pens fan. It turned into my biggest escape. Turning on Pens games were the couple of times a week I could forget everything and watch a team I very quickly fell in love with.
Unfortunately, being so consumed in watching a hockey team affected my grades negatively. That was the year I started doing poorly in school. I stopped caring about a lot of things in my life, school was definitely the biggest. I realize now why I didn’t have the ability to care about my grades. I was protecting myself from all the negativity. I would obsess over things throughout the years to shield me from how I truly felt. I never put any effort into my schoolwork. I did the bare minimum; I was your classic C student. I hated doing chores. My parents would ask me to do something and I’d ignore them and forget until they had to scream at me. I eventually started drinking alcohol later in high school and my god I had no control. I was about 17 neglecting school completely, and slowly losing my passion for soccer. I was totally lost. I spent the next 2 years chasing after something I never was. I dropped out of college. I couldn’t keep a job without crying and never showing back up. I was “difficult” and nothing made my blood boil more than that. I didn’t understand why being called difficult made me so angry. It was because I wasn’t angry at all. I was broken inside and didn’t want to be. I constantly felt not good enough. Being called difficult was like getting laughed at for struggling and hurting on the inside. I felt like a burden to the lives’ of others around me. I was battling a mental illness and didn’t even know it.
Anger was the tip of the iceberg that exemplified everything that was going on in my mind. All the other emotions I had blocked out were brewing in my head waiting to boil over. When those emotions finally hit their boiling point the iceberg melted— my depression was ready to drown me. I spent almost a year treading water. What was the point of treading? I was exhausted; I didn’t feel like struggling any longer. But I did. I stayed above the water long enough. I called for help.
This was the beginning of my recovery. Upon a couple of months of therapy and medication, I was granted a boat. My shipmates were my dogs, Lincoln and Lucy. They made me smile when all I wanted to do was cry. I was able to keep my boat running smoothly thanks to my family and best friend, who gave me the tools and support I needed keep afloat. As I sailed the waters of my depression I was able to open my mind to the world. I started out on a little boat but now I’m sailing the ocean on a huge ship. Of course the waters might get rough from time to time, but I’ve learned how to navigate them. I can look out into the ocean at any time and remember how much I overcame. Every single day is another opportunity to make my ship the best it can be. I’m free to sail to wherever my heart desires. I can no longer waste my time thinking about my past when my future is limited. I don’t know how long I have to sail the world, but I do know I won’t be hitting an iceberg.