From a young age, I've always known that something wasn't right. I would have really depressive episodes with a lot of anxiety and nervousness. That wasn’t helped by being at school, because I was always bullied a lot and never really felt validated when I would ask for help in those situations.
It got to a point in third grade, which is the first time I remember, that I was talking with my mom in the kitchen, and I was sitting on the counter. She was talking about things that were happening at school and I said, “I'm just kind of tired of everything. I feel really low about myself, and I don't really feel like I fit in here. I just want to cook myself in the oven.’”
My mom was like, “Well, why do you want to do that?” and I said, “Because I don't feel like I fit here anymore.”
I guess that was my way out and what I had thought of at that moment. Fast forward a few years, and it was just the same cycle over and over again. I would get to a point where a lot of things in my life weren't going right, and I would try to ask for help from either school administration or friends and other resources. There was a stigma that no one really talked about, and it was like, “But why do you feel that way? You have such a good life.”
But clearly something was up. It was about seven years after that first moment in third grade and the same thing happened again where I didn’t feel like I fit in. I didn’t feel like I was succeeding in anything and felt like a failure. I felt like I could end my journey here and find a way out. I just felt like I was drowning again. So, again, I went to my mom and told her “Hey, I'm feeling this way, and I don't think this is right.”
She basically said, “Well, we’ve provided you such a great life, so why would you be depressed?” So, I just kind of absorbed it, took it in and moved on.
I continued to have problems with kids at school and I tried going to administration about it. They pretty much said that I was overreacting, and it was all my fault. Because of that, I had so much anxiety about going to school and I was nervous that something was going to happen. I thought maybe people were going to hurt me and I would catastrophize all these scenarios. That's where I really started to notice the anxiety, even much more so than the depression.
I had even gone to a boyfriend I was seeing at the time and said ‘I think something's wrong. I feel sad all the time and nervous that something bad is going to happen. Do you ever feel that way?’
He was like, ‘There has to be a reason why you feel sad, nervous and upset. If not, that's messed up.’ So, again, I just absorbed it, walked away and tried to move on.
About five years later, I was 25 and I had my first child and that's when I reached my breaking point. I was anxious all the time that something was going to happen to him. It was a low point where I felt I wasn't adequate as a mother, and I was failing him. I knew something was going on and that’s when I knew I needed to try therapy. So, I saw a therapist for the first time and finally learned that it wasn’t just postpartum depression, this was clinical depression and anxiety. I've had this for a long time, but I never had the right resources to help me progress through it or get the help that I needed.
I've been in therapy for almost four years now. I feel like I've really found myself. as well as ways I can manage my anxiety and depression. I’m stronger and I feel I am beginning to find my true place in the world now. I'm also letting go of some of the trauma from being bullied and verbally abused all those years.
I think it was important that I stood up for myself and advocated for what I needed. That's a big thing, especially when it comes to mental health, because the person that knows you the best is yourself.
While school districts often have policies addressing mental health issues, bullying, and harassment, my personal experiences during my school years reveals a stark reality. Despite the existence of these policies, victims of bullying and individuals grappling with mental health challenges often find themselves navigating 21st Century challenges.
I strongly believe that there is an opportunity to improve training for educators and school administrators in dealing with such issues, as they have the potential to play a pivotal role in aiding students. Doing so would help by addressing immediate concerns while also guiding them toward available resources. This proactive approach has the potential to spare many individuals from enduring the prolonged hardships that I personally faced throughout my school years, which played a huge role in the issues that I have carried with me many years later.
Through therapy, I've had the opportunity to educate the people in my life about what I need and what's going on. I now know it wasn't just some phase, merely having a bad day or getting really down on myself. This is something that significantly affects me, and I need assistance to help manage it.
From my experience, if you are in a place where you may have not considered therapy, it's definitely something that can support your mental health. I’ve found that it is very peaceful and brings a lot of clarity and validation. It was especially helpful for someone that was in my situation, where there weren’t the right resources or the people in my life weren't educated about the benefits of therapy.
Sometimes it's nice to know that you're not crazy or delusional for having these feelings and that there are people out there to help you. It is something that's not talked about enough. I do feel like it is becoming more accepted now, but there is still a stigma at times.
I also found that self-care is really important. I do a lot of painting and crafting, tarot card readings, CrossFit classes at my local gym, where I've made new friendships, with which I find a lot of comfort in. I also do a lot of outdoor activities like yoga, meditation and going for walks. Through therapy I’ve spent time reevaluating the circle of people I have in my life. I've found some new friends that I'm able to relate to, or old friends that I've reconnected with.
Some of my anxiety came from people pleasing and wanting to do anything and everything I could for people to like me. I remember taking on a lot of anxiety with that. It shouldn't matter who likes you and who doesn't like you; it's a matter of liking yourself. Getting to know yourself is very important for your mental health.
Another big factor for me is advocating for yourself and just knowing that there's more out there. Even though it might not seem like it, it's one of those things that there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. Sometimes people post on social media about just changing your perspective in life, flipping the switch and being happy, but it's a lot more than that. It's knowing that there is happiness and it’s a matter of being able to care for yourself enough to find it. It’s also knowing that self-care isn’t selfish.
– Brynna Foster