2024 – Awardee – Isabelle Wetsel – Viewmont HS

Mar 26, 2024

It’s Worth It

My name is Isabelle Wetsel, and I am an 18-year-old senior at Viewmont High School who suffers from anxiety and depression.

The worldwide pandemic of 2020 affected many people in a variety of ways. For some, the isolation was crippling. For those like me, it was a welcome relief. I feel safest at home, surrounded by family and familiarity. Staying home was not an issue for me. My angst came when it was time to ‘return to normal’ after I’d developed a ‘new’ sense of normalcy that felt peaceful and safe. I dreaded entering the school and seeing my peers’ faces masked for safety reasons. My dance classes felt stifling, breathing through a cloth mask. Sanitizing and washing after entering or exiting rooms, stores, churches, and buildings filled me with worry. At this point, I began pulling away from all activities and prior places of enjoyment, only finding security in the darkness of my room and the comfort of my bed. I would go for days, never leaving my room except to use the bathroom and eat. I would sleep up to 20 hours a day, constantly tired, never rested. When it came to eating, my habits plummeted, and I began hoarding junk food, hiding it in drawers and under my bed, searching for the initial feelings of satisfaction the sugary sweets would bring, only to crash harder when the effects wore off. As the weight came on, additional feelings of despair settled in. My parents were beside themselves with worry, fear, frustration, and disappointment at my inability to make myself go to school and dance and church activities. My mom would plead with me each night to get where I needed to be the next day. I would reluctantly agree to try. But my parents work outside the home and leave before I do. They trusted me to be where I was supposed to be. And I wanted to do what they asked. I knew the importance of school. I was a good student, a great student. I realized the sacrifice my parents made to enroll me in dance. I was aware of my talents there. I wanted to be a part of that community and to feel welcomed and safe with my peers. And I have great faith and a deep love for my church. I knew I’d find solace in that place…if only I could show up. Even knowing all this, I still could not force myself to show up anywhere. I was spiraling downward at an accelerated rate, and the hopelessness was suffocating. I started to self-harm. My stomach, which represented nearly 75 lbs. of weight gained, made me feel ugly, angry, and volatile. I wanted to take a knife and cut the whole thing off. Since I couldn’t do this, the minor cuts acted as two-fold. They gave me physical relief from the emotional turmoil I was feeling, and they marred an area of my body that I hated. Luckily, this self-harm didn’t last long. I was able to turn to my parents and ask for help. Together, we found a therapist who agreed to see me immediately. The idea of talking to someone about everything in my mind was terrifying. But the idea that I would be stuck like this forever gave me just enough motivation to ‘try.’ This was a lifeline that, quite literally, saved me.

I want to say that everything is sunshine and rainbows now. But that would be a lie. I have to fight every day to get out of bed. I have to make a conscious choice to be where I am supposed to be. And I fail—a lot. There are still many days when I miss school. But there are many days I make it there, too. The point is nothing magical happened to take away my pain. But I discovered additional inner strength and different, healthier ways to cope. A nighttime drive to the local McDonalds to get a diet coke can soothe an anxious mind, thinking about school the next day. Sitting in the sunshine with my mom and talking about what I learned in class that day helps me see my progress at school. Choreographing dance routines for my dance team gives me the purpose and drive to be there for others. Holding callings in my church elevates my faith and shows me I can do hard things. None of it is easy, but all of it is worth it.

My name is Isabelle Wetsel, and I am an 18-year-old senior at Viewmont High School who is learning to live with anxiety and depression in a healthy, symbiotic way.

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