I was told a million different times by a thousand different people, “Just hang on. It gets better.” I never believed them. I was firmly convinced that depression and anxiety would be my normal, that I would never stop hating myself, and that anorexia would rule my life until I ended it. I’ve never been happier to admit that I was completely wrong.
On Monday, I attended a meeting of my college’s Gay-Straight Alliance for the first time. Despite never having been at any of the meetings before, the small, welcoming group eagerly voted me into the position of secretary. In the past, I would have preferred to go unnoticed in the meeting. I would have listened quietly and left without talking to anyone. But, as Demi Lovato puts it, “What’s wrong with being confident?” The answer: absolutely nothing! I’ve gained quite a bit of confidence over the past few months, and I’ll put it to good use in my new leadership position.
As the GSA’s newest officer, it was my job to run our booth at my school’s Club Fair today. This entailed a great deal of talking to strangers, designing and printing fliers, and baking cookies. This is a lot of work for any individual, but my mental illnesses decided to throw some extra challenges at me. Yesterday, I was having a pretty bad psychotic episode. The voices in my head were suggesting that it would be a good idea to set myself on fire, stab myself with a pen, or bite the unsuspecting student next to me. Past experience has shown that hurting myself quiets the voices, but I was not willing to give in to them this time. Instead, I talked the situation out with my wonderfully supportive mom, and eventually the voices went away on their own, leaving me free to bake eighty cookies.
Anxiety has always been a challenge when it comes to social interactions. It can make even the most superficial conversation seem as daunting as a sword fight, and twice as tiring. I thought about making up an excuse not to go to the Club Fair, thus avoiding having to explain to people what the GSA does, when we meet, and so on. I was scared to talk to strangers and act friendly when I really felt like hiding. But, hiding has never been much fun, and I had a job to do, so I told anxiety to take a hike and I headed to the Club Fair with my fearless face on.
The Fair was a success. I talked to lots of people and even reconnected with an old friend from middle school who is now the president of the Democrat Club. I’m learning not to minimize my successes. It’s easy to say, “Oh, anybody could have sat at a table and said ‘hi’ to people,” but I did so much more than that. I overcame huge hurdles to do what I did, and I am very proud of myself.
The GSA has already made a huge difference in my life. I’ve finally found a place where I feel I belong, and I’m thriving. I wish I could go back in time and tell my miserable high school self just how much better it gets. I am so glad to be where I am. I’ve worked hard to get here, and I intend to stay.