Papers and lists on a table with a vase and flowers | Mountainside Addiction Treatment Center

“Breaking Bad Habits”

A winning essay from our Brighter Future Scholarship contest

Dealing with mental health at a young age is the most damaging thing I’ve experienced. I would know because I have a list. Yeah, I know. Why would I have a list of the most damaging things I’ve gone through? Easy question to answer: my therapist told me to write one. Now I have a list of almost anything. Whether that be the things I want to accomplish or the groceries. I have never been the kind of person to express my emotions but I’m proud of how far I’ve come.

At the age of 12, I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder. Being diagnosed and knowing what you have is a privilege. But for a 12-year-old, it was confusing. Not knowing how I was capable of these feelings. Not being able to get up from my bed most days. Not bothering making friends because I didn’t want them to feel burdened with me. My mom did not understand me most of the time and she would get angry because she thought I wasn’t trying to get better. My father being non-existent in my life but seeing him build another family ruined me. That’s when 12-year-old me found that even unconditional love has conditions.

I attempted suicide when I was 15 years old. I was diagnosed with clinical depression 3 years before that. People with depression, people like me, are afraid. We are afraid of looking like we want attention. We are afraid of being judged. But most of all, we are afraid of appearing weak. We feel stuck most of the time. We feel like a liability. But since my attempt I’ve learned so much. I’ve grown so much as a person. My section [of the facility I was in] was from the ages of 8 to 18. Not only did we spend all day together, but we played cards or board games. We were comfortable around each other. Being in the ward is the only place where I felt like I wasn’t being judged. I felt disconnected from the world. No pressure from school or parents. I was there for ten days. I missed my mid-terms. While being there, I met amazing people. The staff were the kindest and most patient people I have ever met. After leaving it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. It took me a few days to come back to reality. But the experience is something I’ll never forget.

My family has a long line of mental illness, which can be passed down. Multiple times I’ve found myself questioning as to why I was picked to get it. Now I believe things happen for a reason. Maybe all the things I’ve gone through were done so that I could grow and be resilient. I’ve always been told that I’m selfish for wanting better for myself. That I’m not “grateful for what I have.” I’ve always felt bad about wanting to live in a better place and have nicer things. For wanting to feel better. I’ve always been grateful for what I have because I know some people have less. But there is nothing wrong with working and being driven for the things I want to achieve.

Since then, I’ve learned that life is so much more than pain. I’ve broken so many bad habits. Still working on some. I’m still getting the help I need. Progress is all that matters.


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