As a senior in high school, introspection has become increasingly prominent, and a specific period of time that I have not deigned to think about in detail since its occurrence has been brought to mind. Thus, for the purpose of not only sharing my experience with the reader, I will do so to bring closure to myself. Like many others, my entrance into high school was marked by the formation of opinions of my own and the realization that certain things that I had been taught to believe were perhaps, not so at all. This alone caused a series of conflicts that were both internal and external, and brought about a slew of upsetting personal and family matters. However, it was in the tenth grade when things really started to go downhill. Perhaps my memory eludes me now, but I cannot pinpoint how or when exactly my mental health began to decline: not even an in-depth review of my past journal entries can give me an exact date or play-by-play of how exactly I fell into the grasp of an illness that trapped me for almost two years. What I can recall, however, are flashes of specific memories. For example, if I close my eyes, I can still remember the cold yet vague feeling of the unfriendly bathroom floor digging into my back, increasingly familiar when it shouldn't be. I can still recall that nauseating feeling of loneliness, sinking into me even when I was around others… I can still remember the overwhelming hollowness that was too much nothing and still not enough substance to fill that ever-growing lump of nothingness... I can still taste the bitter aftertaste of frustration and disgust on my tongue…the sharp tang of metallic anger, a lingering ghost of a memory. There would be stretches of time when it seemed that I was numb to everything including myself. There would be times when I was sensitive to the point that one snarky little comment would tip me over the edge and everything would collapse unto itself. There would be times when I could give a little smile and convince myself that I was doing alright, and then suddenly, I would have a sort of emotional collapse and find myself taking refuge in a bathroom stall, overwhelmed with shame. This cycle occurred again and again, and to be honest, it didn't seem to make any sense at all. I was fortunate in my circumstances and extremely privileged. I had never once been deprived of my basic needs or individual rights. I had everything, recognized this indisputable fact, genuinely was grateful for it, but the rest of me could not seem to follow my rational mind. I was still completely and utterly desolate, only now, I was only more disgusted at myself for feeling so. How could I claim to be suffering when there were those who were suffering with much less? These questions attacked me everyday, and those who have not experienced this feeling cannot truly understand the terribleness of this personal dilemma where one is suffering, knows that it is irrational to suffer, but still suffers. Now, of course, I know that depression itself is somewhat arbitrary in the selection of its hosts, quite similar to a virus. It's surprising how many overlook the obvious; that it really is an illness in the sense that it grips you often without much reason and changes you. Like a fever, it leaves you incapable of doing and feeling and enjoying, and the recovery is slow, and often uncontrollable and unpredictable. For me, this was certainly the case. Months crawled by with ups and downs, and often rock-bottoms but slowly, almost unnoticeably so, I improved. This might not be what you expect or want to hear, but I found it significant to accept that I was alone, not necessarily because others were unwilling to help, but because ultimately, they simply did not have the ability to. Though this might seem incredibly counter-productive, and for a while it was extremely debilitating, the realization that no one could truly help me except for myself became strangely empowering over time. In the end, I learned to not only love myself, but to also like myself. I turned my pain into wisdom, directed my focus outwards and focused on helping others, which gave me a greater sense of purpose. My own experience has opened my eyes to the importance of seeking to understand instead of to criticize, and I want to communicate that you must not undermine, or let others undermine your suffering. Be warned; I don't mean that you should barrel ahead in an oblivious state — you must recognize and have gratitude for what you have, and have deep empathy for those who have less, but suffering is suffering, and through it, we can learn more about the world and ourselves. Yes, my greatest enemy is myself, but in being so, I am also my own greatest weapon.
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