California — Editor’s note: This essay is about suicide, which may be difficult for some readers. Author is using their first name only to protect their privacy.
Too often, teenagers feel powerless during their formative years.
I am no stranger to this feeling, one that afflicts so many people and, unfortunately, can lead to depression and, ultimately, suicide. But I am a survivor who can say that I’m still here, that I overcame a historically poorly addressed problem.
At 14, I was in a yearlong emotionally and physically abusive relationship with my first boyfriend. He would berate me constantly, insulting my physical appearance and assaulting my confidence. He took advantage of my body, as the low self-esteem I harbored made me weep at my own reflection. He also frequently hit me. I felt powerless to defend myself because I always blamed myself for upsetting him.
I tried to get help. I told people what was going on, but I was met with attacks on my integrity.
Even after leaving that toxic relationship, its repercussions affected me for years. I had physical and psychological reactions to hearing people screaming or fighting. Seeing physical violence made me ball up and cry, bringing me back to when I was abused.
I suffered from an eating disorder for most of high school, constantly weighing myself and becoming angry every time I saw the number on the scale. There were days I wouldn’t eat at all. I’d cry myself to sleep and think about taking my own life.
It was only after I collapsed while running after not eating for two days that I realized I could no longer live like that. I decided that I needed to turn my life around.
I began opening up about my experiences to my family and close friends, all of whom provided affirmation and support. It was a needed sense of relief. Knowing that I mattered helped me address my long-harbored feelings of worthlessness. It helped me slowly climb to a healthy state where I could not only finally recognized myself in the mirror, but I was able to smile back.
Upon taking on these grueling struggles, I came to realize I wasn’t alone in battling and overcoming my depression. It motivated me to make more of a positive impact on others.
I recognize that I was lucky enough to have a loving family and friends to support me, which is not often the case. That’s why we all must make a conjoined effort to uplift others and aid those in need.
That’s why I strive for increased support and resources for youth struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts.
Schools throughout the country are often under-resourced and ill-equipped to adequately service students struggling with depression. It’s hard for teachers and administrators to notice students struggling with mental health issues, as they can manifest in overt or covert ways.
Schools need more state and federal funding to expand mental health care to provide all students with free and accessible therapy. Schools need to recognize that teen depression and suicide are major issues that require more than raised awareness. They need major increases in resources and services.
I’m now a college student, far away from Los Angeles. My experience makes school, work and being removed from my family tough. That’s why I’m involved in activities that align with my passions and culture, building connections with others like me. I prioritize going to therapy when I can, which has helped me address and overcome my eating disorder and recover my mental stability.
There was a time where I didn’t think I’d make it past my adolescence, but now I’m thriving as a survivor.
NOTE: If you are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741.
Unaffordable housing, rising tuition, lack of mental health resources and long commutes are part of the struggle for many young adults in California. Click here for more stories on how they’re trying to make it work.