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Lowell High School, Lowell, Massachusetts

Sixteen. An age I looked forward to growing up. Why? I would finally get to have my sweet sixteen party. From planning my pretend sweet sixteen in my daydreams, to just hearing about it made me so excited. I’d also be able to start driving and wouldn’t need to rely on someone to drive me somewhere. Turning sixteen felt like the biggest age milestone I was going to reach.

But when I turned sixteen, the first few months were not what I expected. My sweet sixteen that I dreamed of for so long was indeed magical. All my friends, from my friends in band to my friends from elementary school were there. We got to laugh, dance, and spend time together. But the next day I had an emotional breakdown over something trivial. A few months earlier, something happened to me and the outcome of that was my mental health had begun to decline. When I turned sixteen, it was around the time I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder. Receiving this news was a shock to me. From the outgoing girl who loved people, I now felt like

someone else. Someone who wanted to hide from people, someone who panicked at the slightest amount of stress. In the following weeks came my depression. The more days that passed, the more I struggled, and soon enough I reached rock bottom.

It was almost a month after my birthday, I was performing with our school’s color guard in front of elementary school kids. It should have been a wonderful day, yet things don’t always go according to plan. Instead of it be- ing a happy day, an incident happened that brought out all my negative emotions. It was then that I felt I had reached my lowest point. I grappled with the choice of whether I should keep fighting or I should give up so I wouldn’t have to continue fighting my sadness that I was so sick of. Those moments were the scariest moments of my life, but somehow, luckily, there was still the piece of me that knew I had to keep fighting. I still had dreams to complete. I had people who loved me and a team that needed their captain. I couldn’t give up yet knowing I still had a whole lifetime to live. With these new positive thoughts, I set out to overcome my struggles even if it seemed impossible.

A month later I got prescribed antidepressants and soon slowly my depression and anxiety began to decrease. Along with the medicine, I had begun practicing coping strategies. I decided to take care of myself before I cared for others. I took a step back when something seemed overwhelming in- stead of continuing to put myself in that situation. With all my new strategies and medicine, I found myself smiling and laughing more. I wasn’t panicking in giant crowds, or at the slightest amount of stress. I was soon on the road back to the old me, the one I thought I had lost.

I still struggle with my anxiety and depression. But, it no longer affects me daily. I have grown. I’ve learned to take care of myself. It’s been more than my medicine that has saved my life. I’ve had the constant support of my family, my therapist, my friends, my significant other. Every single one of these people helped me in the strenuous battle of my mental illness. My favorite activities, color guard and band, keep me going every day. Without the joy I receive from spinning a flag and dancing or playing my trombone, getting through the fall would have been very difficult. Growing up isn’t always wonderful, as much we want it to be. There are always unexpected problems we’ll have to face. However, the person who we are after our struggles is someone different. Someone who is stronger. Someone who is fearless. Someone who is human.

© Erika. All rights reserved. If you are interested in quoting this story, contact the national team and we can put you in touch with the author’s teacher.


  • Health and Illness
  • Friendship and Kindness