Rehab. What's the first thing that comes to mind when you hear that word? What's the first thing you're conditioned to think when you hear that word? I’ll take a stab and say that it's not a positive association. There's a reason I thought of it as a last resort.
Let's start this off right. If you think rehab is a place only for addressing substance abuse, then I'm sorry, but you're wrong. Out of all the things I have struggled with, substance abuse is not one of them. For me, everything started with the lockdown that happened because of COVID-19. It caused my depression and fueled my anxiety.
My learning disabilities made online learning rough. It was difficult when we first went into lockdown in March of my sophomore year. I had a hard time focusing on zoom calls. I felt like I wasn't learning anything. It seemed like I was reading articles and assignments and it all just left my brain as soon as I went to the next sentence. Nothing could keep my attention for more than a few minutes. Sitting at my computer for hours felt horrible. I knew something was wrong, but I had no idea how to fix it.
I never really could ask for help when I was a kid, and it was still hard for me to break the habit of keeping to myself no matter what. As a result, my grades plummeted going into junior year. Three months in and I was already failing every class. I felt like a disappointment. I felt like there was no point in even trying anymore; like I was just going to end up amounting to nothing because of my grades. I told my mom around October about my trouble focusing in class, but I resisted telling her how much it was actually eating me up inside. Then, finally, a month later, I told my mom the rest. I sent her a link to a rehab place I wanted to go, and told her that this was the support I needed. She was supportive of my decision.
On January 28th I went to the center. The first day was rather strange, I kept to myself, too scared and anxious to say hi to anyone. It hadn’t really hit me that I was going to be gone from home for a while. That first week, I spoke to a lot of different professionals, all asking me the same questions. Why are you here? What are you hoping to achieve? What’s your plan?
I thought going to rehab would be simple. I would tell them school made me depressed, they would give me some coping skills, and then I would go home. As it turns out, my journey was going to be a lot more difficult than I expected. My family therapist made me read a list of ten resentments I held against my parents, to them. In my family, I’m the peacekeeper. I try to keep everyone happy and together. I never wanted to cause any trouble. Whenever things bothered me, I just kept to myself. Telling them was the most difficult thing I've ever done. But it was worth it. It helped me realize that people deserve to know when they’ve hurt me. It’s not my fault if someone gets upset when I tell them how their actions made me feel, I can’t control that. My parents were very supportive and understanding and expressed their willingness to change.
In total I was in rehab for about three months. I didn’t realize how much I had actually changed until my first night back home. I was actually talking and laughing with my friends and family. I was eating. I was doing things I enjoyed. I was living. It was a lot of hard work to get to where I am today, but nothing has been more worth it. Help is not something you need to earn or feel you don’t deserve; it's your right. You have a right to be happy, and you have a right to go chase happiness.
© Lauryn Harris. All rights reserved. If you are interested in quoting this story, contact the national team through this website and we can put you in touch with the young person's teacher.