You’re Not Alone

Juliet Lepre, Staff Writer

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I don’t know why bad things happen to good people, but I am a strong believer that everything happens for a reason. In life we experience setbacks that at the time seem unbearable. It feels like the world is going to end and we will never overcome, but we do. We prevail and come out stronger than ever.  Flashback to December 31st, 2015, I was Juliet Lepre, Varsity golf player and honor role student. Next day, January 1st, 2016 my world went dark and I was no longer the same.

My story starts in December of 2014. I was hospitalized because of my asthma. I was in and out within the day, but little did I know that day changed my life forever. I was given a steroid because I was having a very difficult time breathing. This steroid cleared my lungs, but later I discovered I had an allergy to it. Short term allergic reactions were chills and numbness. Through 2015 this steroid was causing problems in my brain, messing up proteins, and causing an imbalance with my serotonin levels. In December of 2015, all of these dormant, long term effects came out of hiding. When my serotonin levels got messed up, it led to panic and depression.

On January 1st, 2016, I had my first panic attack. When I have any sort of panic attack, my body is present, but my mind is not. I didn’t know what was happening to me. My panic came out in physical symptoms such as trouble breathing, hands shaking, trouble swallowing and disorientation. The worst part of a panic attack is the fear it presents. Questions flood the mind, and the body doesn’t know how to react. A panic attack doesn’t last forever, but it feels like an eternity. In that moment all you want is for it to end, all the crying, all of the physical symptoms. I felt trapped and helpless. My sister helped me through these difficult times. Sophomore, Lizzie Lepre said,“Living with someone with a panic disorder can change lots of things. You learn how to see the world in a new aspect. It’s different, but you adapt”.

It’s amazing that during 2016, I had so many people helping me, but I never felt more alone. After I developed my panic disorder, I then developed severe depression. I stopped going to school and avoided going places after a certain time. There were days I wouldn’t get out of bed. I missed 6 months of school, but now I am back. Even though I am back in school I struggle everyday, but fight through it. Something as simple as sitting in a classroom can take all of my energy and bravery.    

According to Ineedalighthouse.org, “Approximately 20 percent of teens will experience depression before they reach adulthood.” Senior, Bailey Schmidlin, described depression perfectly. “Depression hits you like a truck, all of the pain hits all at once and the recovery from it is long and difficult.” Recovery is difficult, but it is possible,and when I recovered I came out stronger than ever.

I now go to a psychiatrist every other week. When I first started getting help for my panic disorder, I was nervous that getting help made me look weak, but in fact made me so much stronger. I went through CBT(Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) which taught me skills that helped me recover. I turned anxiety into my ally. I made the most of my recovery by trying to learn new things about myself. I let my friends, family, and teachers be my support system.  My good friend who is a senior, Rebecca Garloch, was always there for me. She said “It’s scary to see your friend transform into another person because of their panic disorder. You feel incredibly helpless. All I wanted to do was make my best friend feel better again, but I had no idea where to start.”  I would not be where I am today without my parents and sister. They stood by me and now as a family we are stronger than ever. I was lucky enough to have a great support system because for some people, that isn’t the case.      

   Senior, Talia Pittaluga stated, “I think that adults often overlook teenagers with anxiety/depression because our problems seem minuscule compared to theirs. The truth is that being a teenager is hard and to us our problems can be so huge and overbearing that sometimes we feel trapped and unable to go on. Adults need to realize this and that teenage depression/anxiety is not normal or just us being moody and lazy. What we feel is very real and very serious.” According to ElementsBehavioralHealth.com, “one-quarter of teens will struggle with an anxiety disorder at some point in their lives.” Researchers have looked at mental health data from 1938-2007 and have found that symptoms of mental illness have increased with young adolescents, especially anxiety.  

It’s so despairing that mental illness in young adolescents isn’t being taken seriously. Society needs to realize that mental illness is a serious thing and not a joke. Senior, Greg Knob said “I think the lack of education about mental illness results in  discrimination. So many people make jokes about mental illness that are just not funny let alone appropriate. Many don’t understand the difficulty of something as simple as getting out of bed can be for someone with mental illness and it’s never something to joke about. Mental illness is serious and more people need to take it serious instead of joking about it so carelessly.”

This generation should stand up and put an end to the stigma of being labeled ‘mentally ill’. People who suffer from mental diseases are just as valuable to society as someone classified as normal. People with mental illness can have healthy relationships and successful careers in society with the right treatments. It’s time to help instead of discriminate.

It’s hard to seek help for something as serious as mental illness. Just remember that there is nothing wrong with having something that makes someone special and it’s always ok to ask for help. I have learned so much from my panic disorder and I am better for this experience. When I first started my journey, I wanted to be rid of all the fear that comes with a panic disorder. Then I learned why we need fear and anxiety in our lives. It protects us and prepares us. I no longer am afraid of the fear. I face it headstrong and usually come out victorious on the other side. When I fall down I get right back up. I am no longer the Juliet who was afraid to leave her house, or no longer the Juliet before I got sick. I am a new version of me, one who is stronger and happier than ever.

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You’re Not Alone