There Is Strength In Numbers

In the middle of my 10th Grade, I was diagnosed with Seasonal Depression.

 Around the seasons of Winter/Spring, I would always catch myself feeling extremely empty. It negatively motivated me to skip school, isolate myself from others, and go through painful, long periods of time not understanding why I felt depressed, and beat myself up mentally because of it. This disorder was the result of my approximate 2 months of absences each year in high school. 

There was never a week where I didn't hear the question, "Why haven't you been in class?" Each time it got harder to answer with the phrase "I was sick," because many would look at me as if I were just making false excuses. People such as peers in my grade, teachers and even my own parents.

The fear that would build up in me, pushed me to do pretty ridiculous things. I recall one time, I left the house in the morning to go to school. But, instead of heading to school, I hid behind a tree for about 2 hours. I waited till my parents would leave to work, then I would find myself running straight home and locking myself up in my bedroom to cry.

I couldn't explain why I felt so empty for random periods of time, since there wasn't an exact reason for it. Which is why I kept to myself, believing that it'll eventually go away. So, why am I able to share such a personal topic of myself today? It's because of the huge impact of peer support.

My first supporter, was my Home Economics teacher, Ms. Ma. She pulled me aside one time, to have a little chat. Like most teachers, she has noticed my huge amount of absences, and asked how I was doing. Since I couldn't explain my situation, I just replied that I was doing fine and apologized for not being in class often. She was very understanding despite my response. "Cheryl, before you go, I just wanted to let you know that I have always looked over you since you were in grade 8. I care about you, and love seeing you engaged in class. You are welcome to come to me if you ever need to talk." She was the first teacher I ever cried in front of.

This helped me lead up to opening up to my counselor, my next supporter. She always tried her very best to push me to attend classes as much as possible. Even though it is her job, I knew the help she was giving me, was genuine. I am so thankful to her for not giving up on me.

Fast forwarding to my last year in high school, I finally managed to open up about my illness to my best friends, Anthony, Maricon and Edrene. Definitely not easy, knowing that I've kept it in so long to the people who support me the most. I was afraid of offending them! But, of course, the best friends they are, were very understanding of my situation. I believe that being vulnerable to them, has made our friendship even stronger!

It wasn't easy to talk about my mental illness. I went through a series of emotions of guilt, shame, hate, embarrassment and many more distasteful feelings. But, I am so glad to have taken the initiative to do so because, this feeling of being content with myself right now, wouldn't have been possible without the support of my peers. People who are there for you, who love you, and go out of their way to help you. I know it's so hard to reach out, when you've already convinced yourself that you're all alone. But, I can promise you that there are lots wanting to be there for you. All it takes is yourself to make that first step. Please don't feel as if you need to go through it alone.