We Are America

Voices of the Nation's Future

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Photo ofMary Grace Passmore
My story begins when I was living in Indiana at 12 years old. This is around the time when my anxiety fluxed significantly, allowing for feelings of hopelessness, high stress levels, and a “martyr” mindset. In a significant change of events, my family and I moved to Virginia for my dad’s job, leaving behind the place I had known my entire life. I wanted to move because where I lived was small and uninteresting, but I feared rejection going into a new place with new people. When we got there, I made sure to surround myself with anyone I could find at school, but my battle with mental illness quickly escalated, trapping me in a bubble of self-loathing and fear that I stayed in for almost three years. I didn’t understand why I felt the way I did and I created a fiction of the true reality to make my feelings seem valid. 

My friend group left me out a lot and my mind told me that it was because I wasn’t good enough, but we were just immature and petty. I learned to adapt to unhealthy and toxic situations before I realized that I had developed defense mechanisms, leading to an unhealthy and lonely lifestyle all because of my need to feel accepted. 

From an outside perspective, I appeared to be a good, hardworking student. I never got into fights or cried at school, and I always supported my friends, even when lack of support from others made me want to run away from everyone. Internal conflict is invisible and so blaming others for what I was feeling came easily. It got to the point where I felt as though nobody cared about me or what I was going through. I thought my friends didn’t like me, my parents would be better off without me, and I came to the conclusion that there was no point in anything. 

Because I never opened up about what I was feeling with family, I started going to counseling, which, for me, caused intense anxiety. I would force myself to go even when I knew we were getting nowhere. I would always say I was fine, but they weren’t. I distanced myself from the good people in my life and I sank deeper into a lifestyle full of hate until I just stopped caring.

Unfortunately, one impulsive act was the event that changed my life for the better. I ended up needing professional help, and I found some perspective within a therapeutic group of people going through greater hardships than I could’ve ever comprehended. Perspective is what taught me about the power of the human experience and how, when steeped in negativity for so long, the smallest of events can bring you to your last will, and every experience, whether traumatic or common, is valid. 

The most surprising thing about the time I spent with these people is that even then, they still had the will to talk with me and with one other, regaining mental strength while listening and relating. It made me see the good in opening up and listening to others in order to figure things out. It wasn’t easy to feel hope again, but I found ways to cope with what I was feeling.

After being so low for so long and having this experience among others who were recovering, I have regained my feelings of hope and gotten the help I needed to feel joyful once again. I now look at my experiences in a more positive light, trusting that I’m on the right path and trusting myself to keep taking steps toward a better life. I’ve learned that perspective is everything and what you’re feeling right now will never amount to the feelings of joy and elation you’ll feel in the future.

© Mary Grace Passmore. 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.