The intensity of emotions and mental struggles of a high schooler can be compared to a raging cyclone. My high school experience consisted of some of my highest highs and lowest lows. One moment I’m staring at my ceiling, laying flat on my back muttering “I just want to die, I just want to die…” And a week later I find out a girl is interested in me and I have newfound hope, which eventually morphs into bliss after I ask her out and she replies affirmatively. My first girlfriend. But that goes downhill eventually as well, and after breaking up with her I go to my summer job the next day resisting the temptation to flick the steering wheel towards a light pole. And of course I don’t mention my breakup or anything I’m going through to any of my coworkers at the oil change shop I worked at.
I realize that these are heavy thoughts, some of the heaviest words I’ve written to date. In fact, few people know of the frequent suicidal thoughts I had in high school. But one thing that always confused me is how I could be truly happy at school one moment, joking around with my friends, and once I got home I would go upstairs and lie in bed staring at the ceiling for hours. My mother will tell you to this day about all of the “naps” I took in high school. But these morbid words support my argument, so I had to include them. Because I eventually reached a point where I had to do something. I was depressed, yes, but I was also self-aware. I knew that it could be remedied if I could confide in someone, but who? I surely wasn’t going to ask my parents to sign me up for therapy. I hardly ever even told my parents when I felt happy that I won a soccer game. I was stoic, unchanging, and people frequently asked me if I ever expressed emotion (I still get that, due to my monotone voice, but I do feel things). I certainly wasn’t going to tell any of my friends my deepest, darkest thoughts. Although I realize now, four years later, that those same friends are highly compassionate, understanding, and would’ve talked me through it without hesitating or joking about it. So I did what I felt I needed to do. I sat down and started to write. I let the riptide inside me pour through the ink onto the paper. The next day I would probably feel insecure about a piece existing about my depression, so I would tear it up and throw it away. But it helped, and it developed a habit. I began to write about my happy days as well, my revelations. The epiphanic writings I often kept, stored in an old school folder in my closet behind a bunch of old school essays. I also began to express myself through my writing in my advanced placement literature classes, and the teacher and class took notice. My teacher still uses one of my essays as an example for her current students. I had discovered an escape and a passion.
I still struggle with anxiety, a lot of it if I’m honest. But I’m glad that I at least want to stay on the face of this earth for the moment and that now I’m publicizing my writing. One of the hardest things for me to do was to surmount my unemotional wall of indifference and tell my friends and family about my writing (although most of them still don’t know about my Medium, shhhh). But I know that there are too many men and boys out there who simply need to let their emotions break the levies holding them back. I know because I read the news. Suicides, violence, drug abuse… these are all byproducts of years of repressed emotion and false confidence. Being emotionally unavailable can degrade a mind so quickly. That’s why I’m here to encourage those men, and I’m sure there’s women out there who need to hear the same, to sit down with a pad and pen or a computer and write. Let your stream of consciousness flow, no matter how dark you think it is. Dreaming of filling your brains with lead? Yep, I’ve been there, get it on paper. Hell, try to be a little bit poetic and put it on a site like this. You are not alone in feeling that way and you need to let yourself loose. Self expression and opening yourself up to sensitivity will be one of the most freeing things you can do. I have conversations now with my friends that give me hope because I know that they’ve been in many of the same mental chasms that I’ve been. My sister’s initial reaction when she read my writing for the first time went a little like, “Wow, I’m impressed! But it’s pretty dark…” That’s because I put the darkness I encounter on paper so that it can get out of my mind. Coming to terms with your mistakes, insecurities, and depression will help to set yourself free of them. Thinking of them over and over like a skipping record will immobilize you.
In a time where mental health is being promoted more every day (but still not enough people are acting on it), I would also recommend seeing a therapist. Not because you’re crazy, but because you’re human and sometimes just thinking about why the hell we’re here can drive us to the brink of insanity. Just imagine a life without facades and pure authenticity. It’s weird and scary, sure, but so relaxing also. Lose the tough guy act, your testosterone makes your emotions arguably more intense than women’s anyway, it’s nothing you can help. Oh, and smile for the camera for once, humor your mother.