Life had always been easy for me. Despite everything that was going on around me, I was happy. I grew up in Ogden with my mom, and every other weekend I would go to my dad’s house in Brigham city, and eventually Woods Cross. I went to junior high in central Ogden and most of my friends had either mental illnesses, family issues, or both. The fact that I grew up a happy camper made me stick out like a sore thumb, although all that came crashing down on me when I was 14. I have this friend named Autumn who, at the time, was having some serious family problems and was on the verge of committing suicide. I had never had any experience with mental illness and it scared me. I tried my best every day to give her reasons to stay and keep trying, I had her talk to the school counselor, but I felt helpless as I watched her struggle. A couple months after Autumn started having suicidal thoughts my other best friend, Becca, started to act the same way. I was doing the best I could to fuel them both with hope and help, but it never felt like enough. One weekend Becca and her family went hiking in southern Utah and she almost jumped off one of the cliffs. She later told me that my voice telling her that I love her and need her is what stopped her from taking the leap. I felt the weight of the world on my shoulders. I felt that their lives were in my hands and it took me to a dark place. I had pushed down all my sad thoughts for years. I had to be their hope, I had to be happy so they could be happy. It wasn’t until my friends became stable that I realized that I wasn’t; I stopped feeling emotions and started to push people away. I pushed my sweet dad away and eventually I completely cut ties with Becca and I never knew why. My mom started to notice the change in me and later I was diagnosed with emotional numbness. At this point, I had switched schools from Davinci to Woods Cross High School. I quickly made friends but I had a hard time paying attention in class. I would sing a sad song every morning and force myself to feel an emotion I knew I should have been having. The lyrics that hit me were this,

“I’m never gonna let you close to me
Even though you mean the most to me
‘Cause every time I open up, it hurts
So I’m never gonna get too close to you
Even when I mean the most to you
In case you go and leave me in the dirt”

This purge of feeling was the only way I was able to go to school ready to learn. I started praying and singing all the time to free my emotions, even if it was only for a little while. During the 2nd semester of my sophomore year, I took a get fit class and it was then that I found a powerful outlet through exercise. Little by little I found ways to express myself, only through singing, praying, working out, and a lot of talking with my mom, was I able to keep myself together and thrive in the first public school I had been to since the 1st grade. As a result of all the work I had put in to keeping myself afloat, I was able to cry in the summer before Junior year; I cried for the first time in a year and a half. Of course, my emotional numbness came back here and there and I would have panic attacks every time they did, but I was freer than I had been for years. For the first time in my life, I started taking Honors English Classes and AP classes. Now I am in my senior year, I haven’t had a panic attack in over a year, and I have 4 college classes in my schedule. It may have been a bumpy road getting to where I am now but I am grateful for it. Not only have I become stronger because of my mental illness, but I have learned to appreciate my education, and the good and bad in the world around me.

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