I’ve never talked about this before. I’ve never shown anyone this side of my mental illness except for the people who had to live it with me. I’m not sure how long this specific story will end up being, but that’s not the point. The point of me telling this, is to let anyone else who may struggle with things like this know that it’s okay. You are allowed to have breakdowns. You are allowed to feel completely defeated. You aren’t judged based off of how many times you’re knocked down, you’re judged based off of how many times you were able to get back up.
If I did my calculations correctly, the average school-year is around 180 days. This is a story about what it was like for me to get back up and fight every school-day from 4th to 12th grade— which is approximately 1,440 days.
Now, let me make it clear that just because I was able to get up and fight, it doesn’t mean I was always successful. The majority of the time, I was knocked right back down on my ass. So before I tell you what a normal school-day was like for me; let me give you a little information about why school was so hard for me.
Over these last eight years I’ve been asked by many people—friends, family, doctors— why I had such a hard time going to school. I was never able to give them a specific answer. To this day I wouldn’t be able to. If I tried to pinpoint a reason, I would land in the area around not fitting in. Now it’s not that I didn’t have friends, or that I had trouble making friends. It’s that I didn’t feel connected to my friends. I’ve always felt different. I’ve always felt somehow out of place at school. It was never a safe space for me. Everything about it seemed so pointless, and so robotic. The kids I was around were so obnoxious and arrogant. They always had a way of putting me down, when I knew I was meant to be so much higher. To say I felt out of place is true, but it was more than that. I just knew that I wasn’t meant for this kind of learning. I wasn’t meant to have information pounded into my mind, and have the books they force on us manipulate my awareness of the world.
The other day my dad made a really good point about school, and about the manipulation that’s involved. The books that they give us, are specifically written to have only the information they want us to know. Not only that— the authors of these books had the ability to write them whichever way they pleased, leaving huge holes in some of the plot.
So, my point is, I knew that if I really wanted to learn, I needed to go out and do it in the real world. I needed to experience things for myself. I wasn’t able to learn in an environment that had me submerged in kids who didn’t look at the world the way I did— and still do. **Not to say none of them did, but I can say that I never came across any.**
After all of these feelings are placed in action, there is also my mental illness; which was the BIG factor in all of this. Because I felt so out of place, I felt like everyone was watching my every move. I felt judged no matter what I did. If I wasn’t sitting in the back row, I felt vulnerable. I had my head constantly turned over my shoulder, or hidden under my arms. I programmed myself to always be aware of my surroundings and my feelings. I was way too intact with my feelings— so much so that just thinking about how I felt made the feeling grow immensely. With my anxiety/OCD, specifically, my thing is feelings— like I’ve mentioned a few times before. All of my senses are weirdly heightened and I can’t help but hearing, or smelling, or feeling something I probably shouldn’t be able to.
The majority of the time I was in school, my big worry was world-events. The entire classroom could be buzzing with noises; no exaggeration at all, it could be so damn loud, yet I could still pick up on conversations across the room about anything. I would hear words like, world, space, zombie, earth, scary, news, die, cry etc. etc. without even trying to, and my mind would be locked. It’s like my mind would be triggered by those words, then hyper focus itself onto their conversation. Once that happened, in my mind, the room fell silent besides the one conversation I was focused on.
The way my senses are so heightened is the craziest thing I’ve discovered about my mental illness so far. I think it’s more specifically based from the OCD, allowing the others to nag it on.
So, now I’ll try and give you an outline of what the average school-day was like for me— beginning to end. I’m going to tell this story based off of when I was a freshman.
Background on freshman year just to help:
This was when I really started resisting school more than I ever had before. This was probably the worst year of school I have ever had mentally. I couldn’t deal with people talking about… Well, anything. I couldn’t stand people looking at me. And it was impossible for me to sit and be controlled, learning stuff that didn’t seem to mean anything, for seven hours everyday…
There. So here we go.
For the sake of this story, lets say that I was staying at my moms house. During freshman year I lived with my mom the majority of the time anyway— because she was my safe zone.
Starting out in bed the night before, I spent almost the entire night tossing and turning. Sleep was the actual definition of impossible for me; I couldn’t find any. I would occasionally look at my phone, or read— but for the most part I was haunted by my thoughts, staring blankly into a dark room; which to me, looked like a pool of infinity. The places my mind would go—and actually still does go— are unexplainable, and quite honestly, places I’d rather not discuss. But some of the time was spent thinking of ways I could get out of going to school the next day. I always had some sort of plan figured out, although, it didn’t always work.
Eventually my mom would come into my room and wake me up, around an hour before we had to leave for school. The second my eyes opened, whether it be from sleep, or blinking because I’d already been up all night— my plan was now in affect.
Most of the time my story was that my stomach hurt; which wasn’t actually a lie… When I got anxious, my stomach hurt— and the more anxious I got, the more my stomach hurt. But because I’d used that so many times, it just became empty words leaving my lips. My mom would usually make a comment like, “You do this every morning. You’re fine, get up and get ready.”
I would argue for at least ten minutes until I finally got out of bed. I moved in slow motion, purposefully trying to get out of school. I would get in the shower and get all ready, before continuing to tell my mom that my stomach really did hurt and I didn’t think I’d be able to go to school. I was like a broken record, practically on my knees, begging to stay home some days.
Somehow I always ended up in the car and I would pout all the way to school. It wasn’t really a pout, though. Because I actually did feel like I was walking into my hell everyday. I would continuously get told that I was going to be fine, and I was being ridiculous— there was no way in hell that school was that bad for me.
When we finally made it to the school, Keaton would get out and go in. I would usually just look to my mom and just say, please. I could see in her eyes that she believed me, but she couldn’t let me stay home from school— I needed to go.
Once I started to cry, I always felt bad because I could see the hurt it caused her. But I couldn’t help it; school was so painful for me. I felt like I had no one once I crossed inside the front doors.
Usually after sitting in the car for around twenty-minutes, I knew that I had no other option but to suck it up and go in. I gave my mom a kiss and got out of the car to watch her drive away to work. My face was always all swollen from crying so hard— I knew that in order to avoid questioning I would have to keep my head down for a while. Walking up to the door was always one of the hardest things. I grabbed the handle and took multiple deep breaths before whispering some kind of profanity to myself, and opening the door to hell.
It wasn’t rare for me to be late. So I would go into the office to get a slip for my teacher. The judgement I felt walking into that office every morning hurt me so bad. I knew that to them I was just lazy, or didn’t care. I knew that they didn’t know the whole truth of what was really going on with me. Sadly, it doesn’t take much for someone to judge you and your story. But I dealt with it for five-years in total— so I guess, it’s whatever.
Walking into class late almost every morning sucked, to say the least. I already felt like I had people staring at me throughout the day— so walking into a room full of students quietly doing there work, I easily grabbed the attention of every-single-one. The person I sat next to would always ask why I was late. I came up with some lame excuse everyday, knowing that they didn’t believe it.
At this point, my face was still swollen and I was still on the verge of tears. Luckily, over the years, I’d become a pro at holding in tears when I needed to. But the downfall of not crying in-front of everyone was having to suppress my emotions, which only caused my anxiety/OCD to spike.
I remember how my body would just shake. My head would start spinning and I would sweat. Closing my eyes and doing my best to concentrate on anything but where I was, seemed to be the only option— but it never seemed to help.
I’d somehow manage to make it through the first to classes without losing control. It always seemed to be around third period where things would burst. Literally everyday, I would ask to use the restroom in third period so I could go have a panic attack where no one would see me. It sounds pretty pathetic. I remember I would practically run to the bathroom and lock myself in a stall, finally letting the tears explode out of my eyes, and sometimes even throwing up. The days I would throw up, were days where I knew I could go home early. Somedays, I would pretend that I threw up, because I couldn’t take another second of being in school. Others, I would do my absolute best to be strong, not wanting to bother my mom more than I had to— even though she didn’t mind.
Most of the time it just got as extreme as having a panic attack or two throughout the day. I texted my mom updates and she would do her best to calm me down through text messages. Sometimes I spent almost thirty-minutes in the bathroom trying to calm down. I would come back to class looking like I’d just gotten hit by a car. I think I did a good job of hiding the tears and the panic attacks, but I didn’t ever try to hide my obvious bad moods.
I was thankful for the days that I made it to lunch. Lunch was usually my time to chill— take into consideration that my chill is the furthest thing from what chill actually means. I tried to act normal around my friends, laughing and making jokes. Underneath I was a wreck, standing on the edge of a cliff, waiting for the rocks to break below me, allowing me to fall into another panic attack.
My friends did a good job of keeping me distracted, though, they had no idea what they were doing, or how much they helped me during those thirty-five-minutes.
I spent the forty-five-minutes of every class just doing my best to stay cool. It was nearly impossible for me to pay attention to the teacher, because if I even lost concentration on myself for a second, I’d be running to the bathroom breaking down.
Around sixth-period is when I usually had to leave class so I could calm myself down in the bathroom again. It was an everyday pattern. Every couple of weeks I would try and change which classes I left to go to the bathroom in, that way my teachers never caught on.
I had an entire process on how to survive a day at school without a public meltdown. I spent everyday I had in that hellhole in survival mode. Nothing mattered but making sure I didn’t lose my shit. When I was having a hard time in a class, I would read a book under my desk. I got in trouble a fair-share of times for doing that. But it didn’t matter to me as long as I could distract my mind.
Classes were spent rocking back and forth, trying not to listen in on conversations I didn’t want to hear. In Current Events, I spent the entire period shaking uncontrollably— my biggest fear was hearing all the bad things going on in the world. I came out of that class everyday in a trance.
The last hour of the day was always the slowest. I wanted nothing more than to be able to run out of the school. So when the bell rang, I did run out of the school. I left that place so fast everyday, hoping to erase the memories from my head. I had a hard time not being ticked at my mom or dad for making me go to school. I knew it wasn’t their fault, but it just felt like I had no one on my side. I had no one to believe what was really happening to me during the day.
After I got home, I slept. I was always so exhausted from trying to keep my head on straight, that when I finally stepped into the house, I wanted nothing more than to sleep and forget the day I’d just had— knowing that I was going to have to do the same thing the next day…
I survived through 1,440+ of my worst days. I continued to get back up and fight the next day. It’s not about the outcome of your fight, it’s about the fact that you had the courage to get up and do it again, and again. Regardless of what you’re going through in life, we really have no valid choice other than to continue living.
One day you will look back on all of those hard times—and laugh at yourself for how cliché you now find yourself thinking— and you will be so damn thankful that you had to go through them. The lessons they taught you will help you excel in the future. The realization that you can go through the worst and still come out better than before. But most importantly, the confidence it gives you— the confidence in knowing that no matter what life throws at you, you’ll be able to deal with it. Maybe there won’t always be a pretty way of handling it, but it doesn’t have to be pretty. As long as you come out on the other side, you succeeded.
You’re going to be put through some crazy shit. It will continue to make you question your existence on this earth. It will sometimes drill you so far into the ground that you can’t even see light anymore— however, that’s just an illusion. No matter how dark your life feels, or how cold your heart feels, there is ALWAYS a light at the end of the tunnel. Without fail, life will get better… So, keep suffering; keep getting knocked down; keep crying yourself to sleep; keep having panic attacks in the bathroom; keep holding back tears in public; keep fighting.
Eventually, after this phase of struggle is over, you will be able to look back and say, thank you. You will no longer question why you had to suffer through whatever it was, because it will lead you to a place you never knew you needed to be.
Things have a weird way of sneaking up on you when you least expect them. You may just be looking to go buy new clothes at the mall, and end up getting in a car accident on the way. You never wanted that; you never asked for that. You simply wanted to go look at clothes. But the Universe had a different plan for you. The Universe had a lesson it thought you needed to be taught— or an experience you needed to endure in order to grow.
When these things happen, when these moments where everything feels impossible come along, embrace the suffering. Deal with it as best as you can. If your best is going home for the day so you can sleep the pain away— that’s okay. As long as you’re doing your best, there is nothing to fault you for. And as long as you’re moving forward, you’re getting better; whether it feels like it or not.