In Grade 7 I received a lot of behind-my-back judgment. I got it from peers, other grades, even my own brother, because I was too weird and different. Looking back, if I had to guess, it was because I was small, freakishly skinny, I wore clothes that I didn’t fit into with colours that didn’t match, I watched anime, did things that were considered weird like make awkward situations.
I wasn’t bothered by my English class trying to make the boys wear a skirt for a day, I played squash when most other guys my age played hockey or basketball, and much more. This judgment became routine so often, I began to believe it myself. Societal norms that label what is normal and what is not can really mess with a developing mind, and for a long time it did. I said, “Screw it,” but in doing so I didn’t realize I went off the deep end.
Now this topic is what most people don't know about me. “Most people” includes my parents and family, who I will most likely be getting a call from once they’ve read this. As you may have guessed by now, the topic of my speech is depression, and for many years I silently struggled with serious depression.
I tried to comply with society and be something I wasn’t, and in doing so I became miserable. I didn’t understand. Most of my friends were nice to me, my family was supportive and my parents gave me more love than what I deserved. The amount of social interaction shortly after became minimal and the friend count I had became countable on one hand. It seemed that I was no longer the one that wanted to get away from me. I’d spend school days in my own head telling myself what I should say, then yell at myself when I made awkward comments or situations.
What people tend to forget is depression is more than ever a pandemic infecting people all around the world, most of them being us, the youth. Look around. Statistics report that “between 20% – 30% of adolescents report symptoms of depression.” At least one in five, that is.
In Grade 8 one day, I sat in one of Carmen Campbell’s senior English classes. They were doing a positive reinforcement exercise where you'd walk up to a mirror, look yourself in the eyes and say, “I love you.” Going with the crowd, I did as well. I got in the bathroom, looked myself in the eye and just stopped. For the first time in what felt like forever, my mind was silent. I said the words, but I didn’t hear it back. It was like my mind cut it out because it did not believe it. This moment is when I realized I had a problem, and this problem followed me from Grade 7 to Grade 8, Grade 8 to 9, 9 to 10, 10 to 11. It seemed that there were only three things I was happy about. One: I had a friend I could talk to and be me; two: music; and three: the fact that I could hide it so well from everyone.
Once I recognized there was an issue, I privately took action. I started to make changes in my life. The first thing I did was stop caring what people thought about me. I started to do what I wanted to do, and what was most efficient and convenient for me. After breaking free of norms, I became aware that the power of perspective and opinion is nearly unchallengeable. Looking back in the mirror, this is what I now forced myself to say, but soon became what I saw… There was a tall kid who was athletic, he wore the clothes that were most comfortable to him and colours he felt good with, he made his best friends from awkward situations, played the sports and games he wanted and did what made him feel happy.
But for some reason, all this, sadly wasn’t enough to make me feel better. I did change my perspective, but there were still many things I was unhappy about. The biggest factor was that I felt completely alone most of the time.
I started spending late nights online and confessing my depression to strangers. I did this because I was able to interact with people and be invisible. Being anonymous made me comfortable to confess how I felt, and for the first time I had a way to vent and express myself beyond music. I received constant positive reinforcement and an idea: with enough confessions online, I’ll be more comfortable to speak up IRL.
October 8 of 2020, something inside decided enough was enough. So I did myself a favour and finally told an adult. October 8 was also my birthday, and that was my birthday gift to myself.
Now you might be asking yourself, what's the point in all of this. My point is : please please please GET HELP. An unhappy life is a life no one deserves. But you must be willing to help yourself first and take steps on your own. Only then can you begin to make yourself happy. Waiting only prolonged the experience I felt, and I wish I had spoken up sooner, but I am grateful I did sooner than later.
So embrace yourself, your flaws, your strengths, your passions, your taste, your opinion. At the end of the day, you are your own god.
To conclude I would like to give a thank you to my support. Tere, you were always there as my support, and I will always be your support no matter what. Thank you for not finding me super weird four years ago, and thank you for being the best friend I ever had. If it weren’t for you, I don’t think I would be standing here today, and I can finally say I love myself.