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Mental health issues can be a nonstop battle for the duration of many people’s lives. It can be a minor inconvenience to some, but a threat to the life of another. On behalf of Mental Health Awareness Month, I would like to share my story. I want to talk about the highs and lows of mental health, and how they’ve greatly influenced my life.

Before I talk about my own mental health, I want to talk about the history of my family’s mental health. For generations, my mother’s side of the family has been known to struggle with many mental health problems, and they seem to pass down to almost every generation. From social anxiety to severe depression, my family really has had its issues. My mother would tell me about the times she saw her grandmother having panic attacks, and some got to the extreme point where they would have to bring her to doctors; at that time, mental health wasn’t exactly talked about. My family has a history of dealing with heart palpitations caused by anxiety, as well as severe panicking episodes. Mental health has always been a thing, but it was always seen as a taboo subject for many years. 

My first experience with mental health started at the beginning of my middle school years. Like every other 12-13 year old, I was dealing with a very awkward stage of life. We all go through it to a degree, so we all can have similar experiences. At the same time, I experienced my first form of bullying. I went to elementary school with the same 15-20 classmates, so we all pretty much grew up together. Every now and then, a new student would come and completely change the dynamic of the class. One girl showed up in the fifth grade, formed a group with my old friends, and started selectively picking on certain people; I was one of those people. I lost my original group of friends, and felt isolated for a little while. Luckily, I gained some great friends that I never even thought of becoming friends with, but the experience with my old friends got to me. I also started becoming self-conscious of my size and my looks; I always saw myself as the ugly girl. I began to eat only one meal a day, and lose a considerable amount of weight. I wouldn’t eat breakfast or lunch, and only eat dinner. Occasionally, I would eat a wheat roll with butter for lunch, but this was rare.

I was diagnosed with severe social anxiety and a minor case of depression. I was only 12 years old at this time. The doctors recommended that I go to therapy to talk out my struggles, but I was too afraid to try it; I thought it was an easy way out, for some reason. My doctors then recommended medication, which my family easily rejected, as they didn’t want me mediciated at such a young age. Finally, the doctors recommended that I talk to the school’s administration, including the school’s guidance counselor. I ended up doing this, but the guidance counselor took the side of the other girls...to this day, I don’t exactly know why. For a while, I felt trapped — I didn’t know what to do or feel, and felt as if I had no solution to run to. After a while, I got into my first passions, such as fashion and makeup. These brought me comfort in such a strange and uncertain time in my life. 

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High school brought me into a new life with completely new people. Due to my struggles in middle school, I decided to attend a high school that nobody else from my elementary school went to. My town is small, so once we left elementary school, we got a list of choices for high school. I chose the one high school in New York that I could choose; everyone else in my class went to my home-state schools in Vermont. I was excited for a fresh start, and had a great time for the first few months. But then I got into a relationship, as well as a few friendships, that resulted in continuous toxicity and self-confidence problems. It caused me a lot of mental scars that I still battle to this day. This caused my anxiety to heighten more than it was in middle school. I was like this until I hit my senior year of high school. I had an amazing set of friends that loved me unconditionally, and accepted my struggles and flaws. To this day, I still speak to most of them. I have lost some that got me through my battles, including my old best friend since freshman year; but I’m still so incredibly thankful for him, and I’ll never be able to thank him enough for helping me through the worst times. For a while, I felt free from my anxiety and depression, and felt like a normal person again. When I graduated high school, I started feeling anxious, but ready, for my college years.

College really hit my mental health like a baseball bat, pretty much right when I stepped foot on campus. I spent my first semester of college at a school I immediately didn’t enjoy; it wasn’t my top choice school, but it was my most realistic option. I was accepted into my dream school, but had to reject the incredible opportunity. Within three weeks of going there, I applied to Siena. My depression was at an all-time high. I was afraid and unmotivated to leave my dorm room, especially at night. I wouldn’t get water for over 24 hours on the weekends, because I was scared I would have to interact with people I didn’t like on my floor. My dorm hall was one of the worst on campus in regards to police visits; they were usually there bi-weekly to search two specific rooms. I felt like I was constantly walking on eggshells while there, and I was ready to get out. Once the semester finished, I packed my things and immediately moved on with my life. I did meet some great people there, but it was not worth staying. Once I came to Siena, my mental health went back to normal; I still remain with social anxiety issues, but nothing that stops me from doing things. I feel much more normal than I have in previous years, even though I’m currently learning remotely. 

Everyone is going to have their ups and downs when it comes to mental health. This can be caused by certain experiences, adjusting to new things, or struggling with self-confidence and self-love. Through the many years I’ve dealt with mental health, I’ve learned one important thing: it’ll most likely never go away, so we have to learn to live with it, and to live with it with absolute pride. You can’t feel like you’re alone in the fight, because you’re definitely not (and you never will be). [bf_image id="w5htcvxtc6qhxpq3xmxpjs"] Even the people who have the strongest egos might have some form of mental health condition. We all deal with our own battles, but we can also determine how we fight those battles; we can choose to ignore them and let them consume us, or we can fight them and defeat them to the best of our abilities. It’s okay if you’re letting them consume you right now, but the best way to approach life is to embrace them when you’re ready. So let’s allow ourselves to heal, and get ready to face the beautiful world we live in! Thank you all for listening to my story, and I hope you never feel alone in your battles.

Madison Savage is a Senior at Siena College. She is currently majoring in Marketing with a concentration in Strategic Human Resource Management. She hopes to one day be either a cosmetics marketer for Sephora or Colourpop Cosmetics, or a fashion journalist for Vogue. Her passions and hobbies include doing makeup, fashion, skiing, and writing.
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